Neighborhood Boards are for busybodies, whiners, and otherwise unstable people.
It’s a commonly held notion, given Proposal #30 made by a private citizen on October 22, 2015. Sadly, a small part of me believes it is true, although not for any reason that criticizes the individuals that tirelessly serve on it, nor because I believe that there is anything inherently wrong with those that seek a more grassroots community.
From the start, the intention was for the betterment of kama’aina. In fact, it was voters that decided in 1973 to form neighborhood boards. Yet somehow, on June 9 of this year, a meeting was to be held to discuss eliminating these very boards altogether. [Proposed Agenda]
A little sleuthing (well — given the state of the NCO website — a lot of sleuthing) has uncovered that the initial suggestion of board elimination was brought about by Proposal #30 and acted upon by the Neighborhood Board Commission. I am admittely a bit of a democracy voyeur when it comes to reading these documents first-hand. I excerpt some of my favorite lines from the proposal here:
I request the Charter Commission to research board membership . . .[and] consider the individuals who are voted to the boards. I believe some have mental issues, like there was one board member who claimed he was a law enforcement professional but admitted his police application was rejected, but since he always wanted to be a police officer, that was his profession.
I believe it is a waste of resources to have police and fire officials, who are required to attend, provide reports, many times giving common sense reports like, “turn pot handles away from the front of the stove”. . .
Ultimately, this citizen suggested eliminating the neighborhood boards altogether. This suggestion somehow found its way through a special committee of the Neighborhood Board Commission, which in turn — without ever having consulted elected Neighborhood Board Members — opted to hold a special meeting to discuss putting it on a ballot for citizen vote.
This is where the whole process takes a somewhat Kafkaesque turn. On one hand, a portion of hearing the citizen voice worked. After all, it was a private citizen who asked for the matter to be taken up. And to this citizen’s credit, there were some very valid points made, including, “Over the years, interest in these boards have dwindled where several boards do not have a sufficient number of members to even make a quorum. Another problem has been that through interpretation, the boards have expanded their advisory role to voice concerns directly related to pure state issues. Boards have also directly interfered with private matters and one board was sued.”
However, in this very spirit of democracy, a singular citizen voice needs wider validation before being applied to all. It was a referendum that brought about the boards. Only a community vote could be applied to remove it. Thankfully, the meeting to discuss board elimination was postponed indefinitely. It doesn’t take a genius to see that no one is going to vote to eliminate these boards that might one day be useful to them, even if they’ve never been to a meeting in their lifetime.
Returning to the Charter Commission’s agenda however, it was not necessarily their intent to remove citizen voice. The higher calling from a May 16 meeting was the question of: “Should the City increase citizen participation in the decision of government though the use of electronic communication, such as television, Internet, and email, and eliminate the Neighborhood Board System?”
It’s an interesting proposal — one that they’ve shown no proficiency in to date. 1. They put out the proposal on a site prohibiting robots, the ones that index the web so that others can search it. 2. They changed the link so that there is no permanent record of it existing, and 3. No one put so much as a courtesy advance communication out to ANY of the neighborhood boards so that they knew this October 22, 2015 proposal was in the pipeline.
It’s really the third sin that gets me hot under the collar. In any case, it’s pretty clear that citizens should reject the idea of board elimination until we find a better solution for broad community input.
As for the initial idea that boards are made up of individuals that defy the definition of an average citizen — it’s true, and for both positive and less positive reasons. I can rattle off a list of bizarre interactions that have taken place — and that’s just from reading the minutes, not having actually attended. Yet, at the same time, I can also cite proactive interactions that won’t cross your radar because the issue was taken care of before it became a bigger issue. Just remember, “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except all those others that have been tried.”