Citizens Cheated

In 1999, the citizens of Los Angeles were told when the new city charter was up for a vote, that the purpose of NCs (Neighborhood Councils) as described in the charter was to promote "...more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs..." The preceding is a direct quote from Article IX of the city charter "SEC. 900. PURPOSE" (Neighborhood Councils). The word "citizen" was used. To any reasonable thinking voter, citizen means "American Citizen." There was no label attached in the sample ballot that said "by citizen, we mean that absolutely anyone living in the community is a citizen."
Article IX of the city charter says that anyone who, lives, works, or owns property in the neighborhood is a stakeholder, and may vote in the NC elections and even run for a seat on the NC Board of Directors if they live in the zone.
DONE (Department of Neighborhood Empowerment) oversees the NCs, and BONC's (Board Of Neighborhood Commissioners) responsibility is to certify the NC's legitimacy. Both DONE and BONC have abandoned the original objective of "Citizen participation in government," and replaced it with the objective of diversity and inclusiveness. The community is being told by these city idealogues that the NCs must include absolutely anyone as long as they live, work, or own property in the neighborhood to accomplish the objective of "inclusiveness."
There is absolutely nothing in the charter that says anything about "inclusiveness." The city's obsession with inclusiveness probably stems from their ideological desire (against the will of the people) to include illegal aliens in the voting and governmental process. The broad "inclusion" requirement was made up after the fact, by the city's idealogues and is sanctioned by BONC, who will not certify NCs unless they agree to their interpretation of who is a stakeholder.

To any reasonable thinking voter being sold on voting for the then new charter proposition, knowing little about law like myself, the exclusion in the charter of who cannot vote in neighborhood council elections does not automatically mean that someone who is in violation of the law (for example, a fugitive wanted for murder) can vote or run for NC office. But the city attorney's interpretation that there are absolutely no restrictions as to who can be a stakeholder as long as the stakeholder lives, works, or owns property in the neighborhood, guarantees for example, that it is possible for fugitives wanted for murder to vote as a stakeholders and run for office.

The charter appears to have certain restrictions on who qualifies as a voter or candidate, but the city attorney explains in his legaleze that they don't apply to NCs. SEC. 901, even though Article IX says that "the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment shall have the duties and responsibilities set forth in this article and elsewhere in the Charter to implement and oversee the ordinances and regulations creating the system of neighborhood councils enacted pursuant to Section 905. Again I believe that any reasonable thinking voter deciding on whether to vote on the charter, would believe that elsewhere in the Charter meant elsewhere! But Deputy City Attorney Darren Martinez says that elsewhere in the charter means only elsewhere in Article IX. Were we voters missing something?

I believe it was no coincidence that after the voters voted for the new charter in 1999, that the city attorney (then James Hahn) used nearly the exact wording from Article IX of the charter to draft Sec. 22.800 of the new city ordinance, except the word citizen was changed behind the voters backs to "public." In fact, the word "citizen" isn't even mentioned in the ordinance. The voters didn't get what they voted for.

I requested an explanation from the city attorney's office and Deputy City Attorney Darren Martinez answered as follows:

The City Charter explains in Article IX, Section 900, that one purpose of the Neighborhood Council system is "[t]o promote more citizen participation in government and make government more responsive to local needs.. .. The next sentence in the Charter then states that, "Neighborhood Councils shall include representatives of the many diverse interests in communities.. .." (Ibid.) .

The reason that Martinez gave to support his opinion that non-citizens can vote or run for NC office presupposes that unless the community mix is made up of U.S. citizens and non-U.S. citizens, there cannot be "...many diverse interests..."

Can't there be "...many diverse interests..." of groups and individuals made up of American Citizens?...

Martinez' rational is itself in conflict with an earlier emailed opinion of March 17, 2003, when he told me

"The people in your community create the rules that guide and govern your Neighborhood Council. Subject to not violating any laws, your community defines its direction, its internal operations, its goals, its procedures, its method for conducting elections, its governing structure, its voting structure, etc.".

On the one hand, Martinez says that diverse interest necessarily means that illegal aliens must be considered legal participants in Neighborhood Councils, but on the other hand says that they can be participants only as long as they are not violating any laws -- illegal aliens are in fact, in violation of federal law.