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NEIGHBORHOOD COUNCILS DISCUSS HOW TO EXERCISE POWER.

Byline: KERRY CAVANAUGH

Staff Writer

During the ninth Congress of Neighborhoods on Saturday, the question was not how the city's 89 neighborhood councils can get power, but how to wield their increasing influence.

Some 350 people attended workshops at the four-hour convention on themes ranging from how to get what you want from city departments to how to craft a media message -- signs that neighborhood councils are getting more sophisticated and flexing their political muscles.

Coastal San Pedro Neighborhood Council President Doug Epperhart said some neighborhood councils are ready for graduate-level workshops on empowerment.

This year, his group rallied to support the Sunland-Tujunga Neighborhood Council to oppose a Home Depot in that community. Now three neighborhood councils in his area have banded together to fight a major development.

"It showed that neighborhood councils can come together to act in a political way, to act like it's a campaign," he said. "That doesn't come from passing resolutions. It's about joining coalitions and showing it's not business as usual."

Others said they have been able to get long-sought community improvements. Joe Banuelos with the Watts Neighborhood Council recently persuaded the city to pave the dirt alleys in his neighborhood.

"It helped being on the council because I know which people in the city to call," said Banuelos.

Down the hall at the convention center, neighborhood council members debated the proposed Department of Water and Power rate increases, which will be considered by the City Council this week.

Neighborhood councils are leading the opposition to the rate hikes -- although two councils have supported the plan to raise electrical rates by 9percent over three years and water rates 6percent over two years.

Still, Woodland Hills Neighborhood Council members said activists can take credit for persuading the DWP to change the rate structure so residents in the hot, dry Valley aren't penalized for using their air conditioning.

"We did a real-world evaluation of the rate increases," said Stephen Naczinski. "And this big behemoth did listen. They listened and they changed (the rate structure) without us being threatening or being adversaries."

kerry.cavanaugh(at)dailynews.com

(213) 978-0390
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 28, 2007
Words:352
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