No Response IS Their Response … DONE: Department of No Explanation

DONE WATCH — To:   Grayce Liu, General Manager, Department of Neighborhood Empowerment

Re:     Treatment of the Neighborhood Council Budget Advocates in connection with the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment’s refusal to assist in the promotion of their City Services Report Card

Over the past few months, drawing on input from Budget Day and subsequent outreach to Angelenos, Budget Advocates have worked hard to develop a survey on how the City’s stakeholders view the services the City provides and its elected officials.

This was not done in a vacuum – Budget Advocates conducted numerous meetings across the City including soliciting input from Neighborhood Council board members and stakeholders.  We discussed a wide variety of issues and concerns in creating the survey and voted on these at open meetings attended by at least one DONE staff member.  Those staff members were asked and agreed to help get the survey out through DONE’s website, in its weekly newsletters, and through its citywide NextDoor link.

Our intent was to reach as many people as possible both within and outside of the Neighborhood Council system.

Our objective was to complete the survey by early January.  The results would then form the basis for Town Hall meetings we are planning to hold across the City in February.  This, in turn, would put us in a better position to accurately convey the concerns of its stakeholders to the City government which Budget Advocates believe is of primary importance to our mission, to DONE and to the Neighborhood Councils.

After several weeks of not seeing our survey go out through DONE, we contacted you to find out why the Department had failed to distribute our survey.

And just prior to the last opportunity for the survey to go out in your newsletter, we received a reply from you stating that you would not follow through on the commitment made by your staff members.  You objected to:

  • use of the Budget Advocates’ name without ‘Neighborhood Council’ appended – since we have been doing this for years for brevity with no previous comment, we fail to perceive this as a serious concern especially since our pins and letterhead, both designed by DONE staffers, simply state: ‘City of Los Angeles Budget Advocate’;
  • an A to F grading system with no room for comments – since we have a ‘Don’t Know’ or ‘Decline to Answer’ option, we fail to see any problem with this choice or whether it should be an issue (having to understand, input and address comments has slowed down and limited effective surveys in the past); and
  • it being in English – while DONE does circulate monthly Neighborhood Council profiles in Spanish, Korean and Chinese, the request is somewhat disingenuous given your weekly newsletter and website and links which reach far more people are English‐only; and why just these three languages when Tagalog, Farsi, and Arabic, Laotian, Armenian, Russian, Hindi, Polish and many other languages are in use in homes across our city?

We request an immediate review of the process by which you decided that the above issues were so egregious as to justify halting the promotion of this survey with no consultation with the Budget Advocates.  Given the posted end‐date for the survey, you had to know it was time sensitive and would have significant impact on the work the Budget Advocates would be conducting during the remainder of the budget year.

To make the modifications to comply with your demands would create confusion, delay the survey and impede our ability to have Town Halls to discuss the results in February and prepare presentations prior to the finalization of the City budgets.

Furthermore, the time involved would delay the completion of the White Paper and its reports which are ongoing through the end of this month.  This is not acceptable especially given your department has been aware of our schedule for months and no effort was made to raise these concerns before now.

Additionally, where are these guidelines which are implied in your e‐mail and have they been communicated and applied to all groups under the Department and to the Department itself?

While we welcome constructive criticism, it cannot happen in a vacuum.  Nor can it happen two and a half weeks after the initial formal request was made on a survey with a deadline less than four weeks in the future, considerably less if the holidays are taken into consideration.

We have discussed and rejected the issues you raised due in no small part to your delay in bringing them to our attention and given that we are all volunteers who have devoted considerable amounts of our often-limited personal time to contribute to the City in our capacity as Charter‐authorized Budget Advocates.

Since time is of the essence, we look forward to a response this week, i.e. by December 22nd.

Thank you for your attention to our concerns.