(photo & story by Connie Acosta)
On Saturday, July 21, the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates (NCBA) met for a retreat at Eagle Rock City Hall to engage in planning, and to establish deadlines for projects culminating in the annual Budget Advocates White Paper. The White Paper includes reports and recommendations regarding how the City spends its money, and is shared with both Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council.
What the Budget Advocates do
Budget Advocates are chosen by Neighborhood Councils across the City to represent the interests and needs of their local communities in determining how City services are delivered during the coming year.
The Budget Advocates and the White Paper they produce each year fulfill Section 909 of the Los Angeles City Charter, which provides that “each Neighborhood Council may present to the Mayor and Council an annual list of priorities for the City Budget” (NCBA Bylaws, II:3).
Their mission is as follows: “The purpose of the NCBA is to explore, research, study, seek input, prepare and present the concerns and interests of the communities of the City of Los Angeles about the use of City funds, City revenue collection, City budget and budget allocations, efficiency of City government, City finances, City obligations and other such concerns as related to financial matters of the City to the Mayor, City Council, Neighborhood Councils, and Stakeholders” (NCBA Bylaws, II:1).
Who are the Budget Advocates?
Though each of the 29 Budget Advocates have the common goal of upholding their stated mission, the considerable communicative and collaborative skills that each of the 29 Budget Advocates brings to their role arise from a diverse range of personal and professional experiences. Current membership includes JPL scientists, radio broadcasters, school and business administrators, bankers, CPAs, attorneys, contractors with the US Department of Defense.
NCBA goals and plans for the 2018-19 fiscal year
The major focus of NCBA for the coming year will be to engage Neighborhood Council board members and the public.
At the retreat, NCBA Co-Chair Liz Amsden identified preliminary assignments for teams meeting with City Departments and for liaisons working with City Council Offices. Major concerns and issues were identified, where enhanced City services are needed.
Budget Advocate Jack Humphreville shared tips for members to prepare for initial meetings with City departments. Prior to a meeting, Humphreville said, the Budget Advocates involved should review the department’s adopted or proposed Budget, including the number of employees and related costs. He also suggested good questions to ask, such as what a department’s budget had been for the past 2-3 years; what fund their departmental funding comes from, such as the General fund or schedule funds; and to request to see any previous Budget Memo a department might have that includes the Mayor’s funding reductions, as the information there may be worth knowing, even if it is out of date. Lastly, Humphreville suggested making a checklist of items being requested from City departments.
Budget Advocate Vice Chair for Administration Barbara Ringuette encouraged all Budget Advocates, new and returning, to attend trainings that will detail the work of the Budget Advocates, provide helpful tools, and allow them to share their experiences.
Regional Budget Day is being replaced with other ways of interacting with the stakeholders, such as surveys rating City services. NCBA Co-Chair Jay Handal mentioned that Councilmember Mike Bonin (CD11) has come out with an online survey worth looking at for inspiration. He emphasized that Budget Advocates need to engage our Neighborhood Councils, and move them to engage their stakeholders in the City budget process.
Treasurer Howard Katchen reported on donations to the Budget Advocates’ account: Twenty-nine Neighborhood Councils donated funds to NCBA last fiscal year, including a large donation from the Olympic Park Neighborhood Council.
Finally, there is a proposal on the table to change the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates’ name, to reflect its obligation under the City Charter to report on the concerns and interests of Angelenos.
Learn more about the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates on their website, at http://NCBALA.com
Connie Acosta is a Budget Advocate, board member of the Echo Park Neighborhood Council, and a member of the Los Angeles Press Club.