Not In The Running!

In my 14 years of organizing my community of East Hollywood, I’m prouehnc1d of many things I’ve done: Establishing the “East Hollywood” identity for my formerly-unidentified hood, starting a neighborhood improvement association and the organizing the community’s first clean-up day in 1996 and forming the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council through to certification in 2007. I was also its first president and got us to be the pioneering neighborhood council in the City in terms of  embracing technology, cyclist-friendliness and highlighting our community’s unrivaled diversity.

But this week, I’m proud of something I didn’t do: on Tuesday, January 19, 2010, the 5:00 p.m. deadline for submitting my candidate application for the EHNC Governing Board to appear on the ballot in the March 20, 2010 NC election came and went, and I did not submit an application.

So to make this announcement official:

I will not be running for re-election to the East Hollywood Neighborhood Council Governing Board.

Many people whom I’ve known in the community have been surprised: “Why not?” they’ve asked. For some in the community/neighborhood council scene, my name has been synonymous with East Hollywood and the EHNC for many years. But that’s precisely the reason why: It’s a conscious decision I made in the Summer of 2008 for this one reason: Looking back, I’ve been involved directly in the EHNC for a little over nine years. Though I am legally eligible to serve up to 5 1/2 more years on the board, I have come to realize that I’ve dedicated nearly a decade of my life to the EHNC, and it’s time to step aside and give other people in my community a chance to serve.

My decision is not as extreme as it sounds – Thought it smacks of, “It’s time to move on,” I will still remain dedicated and involved to my community. And instead of overseeing the EHNC as a whole as I’ve done as lead organizer, Interim President, President and currently Vice President, I can focus on certain  things, like my current projects in the EHNC’s Youth and Education Committee.

Many neighborhood councils have seemingly over-inflated the board’s importance, some to vainglorious levels. Yes, the board has the power to vote, but neighborhood councils need the support and cooperation of community stakeholders to make it work, or else meetings are not much better than clandestine activities. Even worse are the stories of other NCs who operate like little urban fiefdoms, with the same people clutching onto power, operating in the same air of exclusivity, dealing with the same issues, and causing the same controversies. One neighborhood council, who shall be nameless, had a president for many years. A couple years ago, I learned they had new leadership, which surprised me. Then recently,  after the installation of “new” board members, the same old people were in charge again. I mean, really? Is this what “empowerment” was supposed to be about? I guess it depends on who’s being “empowered.” Empowerment is a wonderful concept, but it does not entail holding onto power selfishly nor does it involve creating make-believe fiefdoms.

Imagine if the other long-timers or neighborhood feudal lords of this City would consider passing on their knowledge and developing new leadership for their communities? What a concept!

In my 2 1/2 years serving as an EHNC Governing Board member, I’ve actually been inspired by our community stakeholders who are involved, concerned, dedicated. Some have demonstrated dedication at even higher levels than some board members. I feel it’s time to step into that role, and using my decade-long experience in the NC, become available as a resource and develop community leadership for the future.

So I was glad to have my phone blow up in the past few days before the Jan 19 deadline by a few of the people I’ve outreached to and help bring into the  EHNC fold, asking me questions about the candidate application. One of whom told me before the weekend that though he was interested previously, he didn’t feel he had the time to dedicate as a board member, but then he called just prior to the deadline to inform me that he filed — That made my day.

I started the EHNC in 2001 to make sure our community has a neighborhood council. In April 2007 (our certification), it was realized, in October 2007 (our first election) it was solidified. Beyond having an NC, I also wanted my neighborhood council to not fall into the same vicious cycle as many NCs in the City are prone to – namely dysfunction, exclusivity, needless drama, stagnation, fear of change and innovation,  and the fiefdom thing. Surely I’d be a liar if I’d say everything in the EHNC has been picture perfect – we do have our share of tension, disagreements, bouts of poor communication. But in the bigger picture, the worst of our problems are still small potatoes compared to some of the horror stores that some of the other NCs create. But at least now I’m comforted to know that at the EHNC Governing Board, if all goes well on their account, will be in good hands. It will hopefully be a healthy balance of experience and new faces, as I feel all NCs ideally should be.

But I’ll stop short of making this a farewell — I’m not leaving the plane, I’m still in it for the journey; I’m simply going to switch my seat from First Class to Business.

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1 comment to Not In The Running!

  • jen

    Elson,
    I’m proud to announce that I assisted in a student rep’s filing to run for EHNC. He faxed from my house after I called him to run. I know you talked to him first but I brought your hit home (so to speak.)
    Thanks for dedicating your time to initiating the EHNC. I know you’ll stay involved with EHNC. I look forward to seeing how you create new ways to connect with our community!!
    Jen

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