Saturday, September 13, 2008

OPINION: The Long, Combative Road to Central Council ‘Accountability’

By Doug Epperhart

This week’s Central San Pedro Neighborhood Council election was the culmination of a lengthy tug-of-war between political philosophies.

One side appeared to believe the council’s role was to support special interests seeking favors (not unlike our highly-paid brethren on the city council).

The other side viewed the council as a sounding board for public opinion, amplifying the community’s voice.

The campaign that ended Tuesday evening really began a year ago when the first “accountability slate” of 11 candidates swept into office promising a new commitment to Central’s constituents.

These individuals, for the most part, worked together to forge new bylaws governing the council. They created a more open agenda-setting process, for one thing.

They also empowered the councilmembers to elect officers, replacing the past practice of direct election by the voters. It was this last rule that had caused most of the problems.

Because the officers were guaranteed two years, they didn’t have to be responsive to the other 12 board members. The council’s officers frequently seemed to confuse legislative leadership and executive authority.

Earlier this year, when some board members realized they didn’t have the votes to prevent bylaws reform, they tried to end the meeting by walking out. It didn’t work.

A month later, they tried to expel board members they didn’t like. That didn’t work either.

And now Central’s president, vice president, and secretary have been turned out of office by the voters.

Next month, board members will choose officers who will, presumably, understand their colleagues have given them the obligation to serve and not the right to command.

Democracy works.

Doug Epperhart is a San Pedro resident, business owner, Coastal council board member and Central council stakeholder.

No comments: