GWNC Board Continues Rules Debates in 5-Hour Meeting


In yet another marathon session last night (this one stretching just past the five-hour mark), the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council continued its recent trend of lengthy rules debates, this time with committee leadership policies taking center stage.

Over the last year or so, the GWNC board has adopted a new set of Board Rules, a set of rules for Standing Committees, and a few sets of protocols for individual committees (including Land Use, Outreach, and Transportation).  The documents were created to help guide the board and its committees when questions and disputes arise, particularly on topics not directly addressed by the council’s bylaws or Robert’s Rules of Order (the two primary sources of rules and procedures for all neighborhood councils). But in recent months, it often seems the opposite has happened, as debate has intensified not only about specific rules, but also whether the various sets of rules, policies and protocols contradict each other, how the wording of various rules should or shouldn’t be interpreted, and who has the authority to make the ultimate interpretations.  The result has been ever-lengthening meetings, several of which have run well over three hours. (Two three-hour meetings were required to move through April’s agenda.  And last night’s monthly meeting for May topped five hours.)

At last month’s meeting, board member Cindy Chvatal suggested the Council engage the services of a professional Parliamentarian, James Stewart,  to help sort through the rules arguments, particularly on the question of whether the GWNC President is allowed to serve on and/or chair committes. That question sparked a lenghty debate at last month’s meeting, as new board members were seated and the topic of committees and committee assignments was necessarily addressed.  But because the Parliamentarian question wasn’t agendized for action at that meeting, no votes were taken for or against the idea.

This month, Chvatal provided a preliminary report from Stewart, providing his opinions on a several questions that have arisen at recent meetings, including thes issue of presidents chairing committees, how committee chairs should be chosen, and how other positions, such as webmaster and Zoom host, should be assigned.  The report also included several recommendations for bylaws changes to help clarify various policies, and to make them more consistent among the various sets of rules recently adopted.

But the appropriateness of Stewart’s report (since he has not officially been engaged by the board), where discussion of it should fall on the agenda, and interpretations of his specific determinations (e.g. whether or not he actually said that the GWNC president is or isn’t allowed to chair committees) all sparked new debates among not only board members, but also at least a couple of stakeholders, Max Kirkham and Jane Usher.  Both Kirkham and Usher are former longtime GWNC board members and have been, at various times and for many years, intimately involved with the creation of the board’s bylaws and various sets of rules.  Both of them weighed in frequently as members of the public during last night’s debates, often in opposition to each other’s positions.

The question of whether or not to formally engage Stewart was not on last night’s agenda, but in the board’s President’s Report (which was originally agendized after many of the committee leadership issues and required yet another debate and vote to move it up the agenda), board president Conrad Starr noted only that Stewart had provided suggestions for bylaws changes, and said they could be agendized for discussion next month.  Usher said that mentioning Stewart’s Bylaws recommendations without reporting that he also addressed the committee chair issue (and came down on the side of the board president not being allowed to chair committees) was a mischaractarization of Stewart’s report…while Kirkham said Usher’s comments were a mischaracterization, and that Stewart actually said that the board president could chair committees.

Meanwhile, after returning to the discussion of specific committees, committee chairs, and other staff and/or volunteer positions, the board finally voted to:

  • Postpone the nomination/approval of stakeholder (and former board member) Colette Amin as chair of the Outreach Committee.  (Amin had been recommended by the committee, but at last night’s meeting, new board member Gary Gilbert also expressed interest in the position, and was nominated by board member Owen Smith (seconded by Cindy Chvatal).  After a lengthy discussion about whether or not committee chairs should be board members if possible (Gilbert is, Amin is not), and whether or not they need to be prior members of the committee (Amin is, Gilbert is not),  a vote to choose between the two was headed off by a successful motion to postpone the item, which passed by a vote of 12 in favor, 8 opposed, and 1 abstention.)
  • Appoint board  member Charles D’Atri as chair of the Quality of Life Committee (by a vote of 14 in favor and 7 abstentions; with several of those abstaining expressing their view that voting on a chair for this committee while postponing the vote on the Outreach chair was not proper).
  • Appoint Philip Farha as chair of the Land Use Committee.  New board member Juan Portillo, Jr. also nominated himself for the position, citing Gilbert’s expression of interest in the Outreach Committee discussion as a precedent, but a vote to also postpone this appointment/election failed by a margin of 2 in favor, 12 opposed and 2 abstentions, while a vote to choose between Farha and Portillo resulted in 17 votes for Farha, 2 for Portillo, and 2 abstentions.
  • Form an Ad-Hoc Staffing Committee, with Chvatal as chair, and board members Patricia Carroll, Jen DeVore, Charles D’Atri, Portillo, and Gilbert as committee members.  The committee will review candidates and applications for the positions of Adminstrator, Webmaster, and Parliamentarian.

Calls for nominations for chair of the Environmental & Sustainability and Transportation Committee were not answered, so those positions were not voted on.

Meanwhile, the board did reappoint a number of Board Liaisons and Representatives, including:

Budget Representative – Jack Humphreville
Data Liaisons – Caroline Moser, Conrad Starr, and John Winther
LADWP Liaison – Jack Humphreville
Homeless Liaison – Joy McManus
Neighborhood Council LGBTQ+ Alliance Representative – Hayden Connor Ashworth
Neighborhood Council Sustainability Alliance Representative – Dan Kegel
Public Works Liaison – Hayden Connor Ashworth
Resilience Liaison – Conrad Starr

But the board did not act to fill any specific assistant and administrative positions (including Zoom Moderator, Assistant Secretary, Assistant Treasurer, and Webmaster).

In other business last night, the board voted to:

  • Approve its monthly expenses, allocate spending up to $250 for the city’s annual Congress of Neighborhoods event, and approve its proposed budget allocation packet for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
  • Award Neighborhood Purposes Grants to Our Big Kitchen LA ($1,000 for meal packaging and distribution), EnrichLA/Wilshire Park Elementary School ($500 for school garden maintenance materials), and the Anderson Munger YMCA ($500 for its teens and government program).
  • Appoint Colette Amin, Tucker Carney, Julia Moser, Patricia Carroll, Juan Portillo, Jr., Brian Curran, Caroline Labiner Moser, Joe Suh, Raphie Cantor, and Gary Gilbert as members of the Outreach Committee.
  • Appoint Brian Curran as Secretary of the Outreach Committee.

Also, on the recommendations of the GWNC Land Use Committee, the board voted to:

  • Oppose the construction of a new 4-story apartment apartment building at 930 S. Mansfield Ave., pending a presention to the committee, and neighborhood outreach..
  • Oppose the construction of a new 4-story, 22-unit apartment building at 505-509 N. St. Andrews Pl., pending suggested design changes.
  • Oppose a Demolition Pre-Inspection Application at 933 S. Gramercy Pl., pending an applicant presentation to the committee.

And, finally, it voted to file two Community Impact Statements with the City Council, including:

  • Expressing support for Council File 21-0352, urging LADWP move ahead quickly with a set of “no regrets” investments that would help the city move toward 100% renewable energy.
  • Proclaiming May 2021 as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and calling on people to observe the month through education and commemoration activities, and standing in solidarity against AAPI hate and discrimination.

The board also voted to postpone a decision on a third CIS proposal, expressing opposition to Council File 21-0407, which would encourage the city to standardize neighborhood council rules and voting procedures across all 99 of the city’s neighborhood councils.


[Note:  This story was updated after its initial publication to correct the description of Gary Gilbert’s nomination to the position of Outreach Committee chair, and the information about the outcome of the CIS proposal on Council File 21-0407.]


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About Elizabeth Fuller

Elizabeth Fuller was born and raised in Minneapolis, MN but has lived in LA since 1991 - with deep roots in both the Sycamore Square and West Adams Heights-Sugar Hill neighborhoods. She spent 10 years with the Greater Wilshire Neighborhood Council, volunteers at Wilshire Crest Elementary School, and is the co-owner/publisher of the Buzz.

One thought on “GWNC Board Continues Rules Debates in 5-Hour Meeting

  1. Unfortunately, none of this sounds like it’s serving the community and the needs and desires of the residents (stakeholders) that live in the area. Sounds like a lot of special interest bickering and a massive amount of wasted time. Do any of these members actually go and talk with stakeholders about neighborhood issues or are they simply too busy figuring out ways to muck up their meetings??? The article doesn’t sound like they ever have time to do that because they’re too busy trying to figure out their own convoluted policy.

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