I hope our newsletter finds you well. There were a lot of great celebrations this week so please excuse my long message this week. Yesterday morning, we celebrated the graduation of our staffers, Sevak Paramazian and Jasmine Duckworth, from the famous Los Angeles Fire Department’s Leadership Academy. Sevak and Jasmine signed on for the four month training to becoming better leaders at work and in their personal lives.  I’m very grateful for their dedication in this important education and for the LAFD for continuing to offer this training for free to the City family.

After the graduation, we rushed back to work to finish preparing for our EmpowerLA Awards and Volunteer Appreciation Dinner last night, including our cool party favor rice crispie with white chocolate logo.  BIG thanks for our Neighborhood Council members who braved the traffic and windy weather to eat and celebrate with us! I’m so thankful to City Council President Herb Wesson, Jr. for being a major sponsor of our event and to Controller Ron Galperin, who co-presented several of the awards last night. Also, this event would not have been possible without the hard work of our EmpowerLA staff, especially our Awards Committee: Betty Wong Oyama, Kori Parraga, Lorenzo Briceno, Patricia Mares, Arin Abedian, Sevak and Jose Galdamez. Thanks very much!!  

After a yummy dinner, everyone gathered in City Council Chambers where Master of Ceremonies, Ted Chen, from NBC4 reporter kicked off the awards. The inaugural Neighborhood Council Civic Engagement Los Angeles Award (handmade by our talented staffers, Sevak and Arin, who also crafted the EmpowerLA Challenge Coin holders for the Neighborhood Council Spirit Award winners) was presented to Mohammad Blorfroshan, Senior Transportation Engineer, from the LA Department of Transportation for his outstanding collaborations with the Del Rey Neighborhood Council, which resulted in a number of stop lights, crosswalks and stop signs installed in the community. LADOT General Manager Seleta Reynolds was there to celebrate with Mo as Council President Wesson’s Chief of Staff, Andrew Westhall, and I presented him with the award.

Up next were the Neighborhood Council Spirit Awards to the Congress of Neighborhoods Planning Committee for their wonderful work in planning the 2016 Congress and to Jill Banks Barad for starting the first Neighborhood Council alliance 14 years ago in the Valley and assisting in creating other alliances around the City.

Finally, the EmpowerLA Awards were given for each planning region.  Here is the list of winners:

North Valley – Northridge West Neighborhood Council for removing dying  trees on the medians stretching a mile long and installing a drip system to help save the remaining magnificent pines for their community.  

South Valley – Reseda Neighborhood Council for creating a community space utilized by thousands of community members coming through its doors and successfully launching “I Love Reseda” and corresponding “Neighborhood Pride” initiative that spotlights the diversity within their community.

West – South Robertson Neighborhoods Council for organizing a Homelessness Town Hall to create empathy and provide assistance for the homeless in their community.

East – Echo Park Neighborhood Council for hosting a renter’s right forum for the stakeholders in their community to address the sharp increase in rents and an accelerated problem with displacement.  

Central – Mid City West Community Council for the revitalization of Rosewood Garden Park.

South – United Neighborhoods Neighborhood Council for holding major oil companies accountable for their negative effects on their community, leading to the hiring of the first Petroleum Administrator the City has had in over 60 years.  

Harbor – Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council for creating a LGBT+Allies Committee, which has worked to engage and educate the youth and stakeholders in the community.  

Congratulations to all of our award winners!  For more information about the winners and other EmpowerLA Award nominees, see below.

After picking up her third Neighborhood Council Spirit Award last night, Chair of the Congress Planning Committee, Cindy Cleghorn, was also honored in City Council today as the Pioneer Women of the Year for Council District 7 by Council President Wesson, who also honored Dominique DiPrima for Council District 10. Cindy was recognized for her amazing work on the Congress and the VANC Executive Committee along with her ongoing engagement with Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council. Congratulations, Cindy, for your well deserved award!

Speaking of Sunland Tujunga Neighborhood Council, they’ll be doing a Safe Streets Town Hall tomorrow to reduce traffic deaths in their community. I’ll be headed down to the EmpowerLA Award winner Northwest San Pedro Neighborhood Council’s Pathways to Employment for Youth 16-24 tomorrow. Don’t forget the LANCC also meeting tomorrow, and the Board of Neighborhood Commissioners meet in the west area next Tuesday, and we’ll be holding the subdivision elections for the proposed Skid Row Neighborhood Council on Thursday and the proposed Herman Neighborhood Council on Saturday.

If I don’t see you, have a wonderful weekend!