Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Neighborhood Councils: Where government and community meet

Neighborhood Councils

Alice Walton/KPCC

Members of the North Hollywood West Neighborhood Council promoted their group at a welcome back night at James Madison Middle School.

KPCC has embarked on a series called Project Citizen, which looks at the rights, responsibilities, traditions and privileges that come with being a citizen. In this story, KPCC's Alice Walton looks at how L.A. citizens get involved in their communities through neighborhood councils.

When the city of Los Angeles reformed its charter in the late 1990s, no issue received more attention than the creation of a grassroots system of Neighborhood Councils. Now, more than a decade later, the councils have produced their first citywide elected official. 

Attorney Ron Galperin spent years on the Bel Air-Beverly Crest Neighborhood Council. That led to him being appointed to a couple of city commissions — experience that helped get him elected this year as city controller. 

"I view myself as having a special responsibility because of that," Galperin said. 


"Historic" drug sentencing reform bill on Gov. Brown’s desk

HTB, Flickr (creative commons)

Under SB649, prosecutors would be able to charge "simple possession" of cocaine or heroin as a misdemeanor instead of a felony.

The California State Assembly on Wednesday approved legislation that would give local prosecutors the discretion to charge thousands of non-violent drug defendants with misdemeanors instead of felonies. The State Senate already approved the bill, which now goes to Governor Jerry Brown for his signature or veto.

“We give non-violent drug offenders long terms, offer them no treatment while they’re incarcerated, and then release them back into the community with few job prospects,” said the bill’s author, Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). Leno noted felons have a much harder time getting a job than someone convicted of a misdemeanor.

Under SB649, prosecutors could charge someone accused of “simple possession” of cocaine or heroin with a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail. Currently, “simple possession” – or possession for personal use – is automatically a felony punishable by up to three years in jail. Leno said it doesn’t make sense.


Yvonne Burke’s daughter is following her mother into LA politics

Autumn Burke Campaign Website

Left: Autumn Burke as she appears in 2013. Right: Autumn Burke appeared in her mother's arms, then-Congresswoman Yvonne Burke, in a 1974 issue of Ebony magazine.

Autumn Burke, with William Burke and Kevin de Leon

Coalition for Clean Air

Autumn Burke hopes to follow her mother, former Congresswoman Yvonne Burke, into politics. She is seen here with her father William Burke, right, and state Assemblyman Kevin de Leon.

Her image first appeared in the news four decades ago. Autumn Burke was an infant in her mother’s arms on the cover of Ebony Magazine. The 1974 article featured Yvonne Burke as the first U.S. Congresswoman to give birth while in office – and the first to be granted maternity leave by the House Speaker.

“I am new to politics but not new to policy or to representing diverse constituencies,” Autumn Burke says on her campaign website.  She’s running to represent the 62nd Assembly district, which stretches along the coast from Marina Del Rey to El Segundo and east to Inglewood and Hawthorne. “I know what is expected of those who are elected to serve and I am honored and proud to be a candidate.”

The Burke name is one of the most powerful in regional politics. Her mother was the first African-American woman from the West Coast to serve in Congress, representing an L.A. area district from 1974-1978.  She was the first woman and first African-American to serve on the L.A. County Board of Supervisors (from 1992-2008). In 2012, President Obama named her as a Director of the national Amtrak Board.


Maven's Morning Coffee: Republicans win at local level, LAUSD funding questions, Mayor Garcetti takes a trip on LA River

Ballot counting machine

Sharon McNary/KPCC

The Los Angeles Times finds Republican politicians are succeeding at the local level at a time when they are disappearing from state government.

Good morning, readers. Welcome to the Maven's Morning Coffee -- a listing of the important headlines, news conferences, votes and announcements you need to know to fuel up and tackle your day.

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Today is Wednesday, Sept. 4, and here is what's happening in Southern California politics:


The Los Angeles Times looks at why Republicans are succeeding at the local level in California -- at a time when they've disappeared at the state level. "More than 75 cities in California have a majority of Democratic voters but Republican-run city councils; the GOP has toeholds in such otherwise blue bastions as Alameda, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties," per The Times.

The United Way of Greater Los Angeles and seven other groups want a say in how the L.A. Unified School District spends an extra $188 million meant to educate disadvantaged students, reports KPCC. The coalition will hold a public forum on Thursday.


They're lining up, already, for 2015 LA City Council race

City Council Los Angeles

Mae Ryan/KPCC

LA City Councilman Tom LaBonge will be termed out in 2015. His chief of staff and a former spokesman for Antonio Villaraigosa filed papers Tuesday to run for the Fourth District seat.

A former spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and the chief of staff to a current council member filed papers Tuesday to run for the Los Angeles City Council in 2015. 

Teddy Davis and Carolyn Ramsay will both run for the Fourth District, which has been represented by Tom LaBonge since 2001. Due to term limits, LaBonge is serving his final term in office.

Davis, who lives in Los Feliz, left the mayor's office earlier this year to work for Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley. He is now a fellow at the USC Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics.

"I’m running for city council because I want L.A. to work for every family in every neighborhood," Davis said in a statement. "Between now and 2015, I will be in every corner of our district talking with voters about how we can create jobs, reduce traffic, and keep neighborhoods clean and safe."