“Voices for Skid Row-Retro edition” by Charles Porter

Interesting historical document from 2002 in which the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council spokesperson Michael Gagan describes how his fear of loosing Skid Row (Central City East) was a major factor spurring him to withdraw their application (a strategic theatrical move, as public comment period was closed, and he yelled from the audience). He references that this action influenced the Commissioners to reconsider keeping Skid Row within their desired boundaries. He also mentions having to endure (during the certification hearing) the ravings of a “fringe group of Skid Row advocates” as well as the “insidious race-based stereotypical whining about Downtown as white, rich, and powerful.”


#1 (transcript excerpts from Department of Neighborhood Empowerment certification hearing in 2002)

Hello. My name is Becky
Dennison. I work with the Los Angeles Coalition –
— from months of organizing work that has
taken place in this community which other people
will speak to. And although we need to do a lot
more research — I’m sorry — outreach and
organizing, we have made great progress, especially
since we’ve come back together as a new leadership
And support — to support our letter of
intent today we’d like to submit seven formal
letters of support from community-based
organizations and businesses in our neighborhood,
including the Volunteers of America and Salvation
Army, two very large community-based organizations
with decades of work in our community.
We also submit 203 signatures of area
stakeholders who support a separate Central City
East neighborhood association — council. And I
also submit the documentation of the history of our
organizing and outreach that took place over the
past year, as well as a formal letter from three of
our residents who were excluded from the process of
organizing in the greater Downtown L.A. Neighborhood
And we have formal letters to DONE
documenting those processes, so I would like to
submit all of that in support of a separate
neighborhood council.
Just personally, I don’t feel that a
separate neighborhood council would result in
community members finding themselves outside of
Downtown’s community processes as was stated in the
downtown L.A. Neighborhood Council application.
Just the opposite, our neighborhood council will
allow us to create our own power and put us on equal
footing in community processes.
Because of the structure and purpose of
neighborhood councils we do not feel that we need to
align ourselves with traditional institutions and
communities with power in order to create a cohesive
and impactful council.
Two to five seats available to our
community on the Downtown L.A. Neighbor council’s
board represents a very small minority of the 27
seats available, and historically low income people
speaking as a minority have not been able to create
power in community processes.
So for all of those reasons I feel that we
should be removed from their application.

#2 (transcript excerpts from Department of Neighborhood Empowerment certification hearing in 2002)

Okay. My name is Richard
Smith. I’m a five-year resident of Central City
East. I’m here in support of a separate
neighborhood council for Central City East.
I have submitted several letters. I
hand-delivered a letter to the mayor, to Nick
Pacheco, to Jan Perry, to Rockard Delgadillo. I’d
like to just briefly read one sentence.
“Mr. Mayor, you have stated in
your speech of May 14th that DONE should
be an incubator for empowerment, but in
reality it is acting as an abortionist to
kill off the dreams and aspirations of the
voiceless in the heart of our great city.”
I’d like to conclude my presentation by
re-emphasizing that last statement.
RICHARD SMITH: I thought I was coming to a
church, but this is an abortion clinic. I’m sorry.

#3 (transcript excerpts from Department of Neighborhood Empowerment certification hearing in 2002)

Good afternoon. My name is Rick
Mantly. I’m a long-term resident of the Central
City East area. I’m a veteran, honorably
discharged, I might add, and I’m also a member — a
proud member of the Los Angeles Community Action
Network, L.A. Can, which is a true grassroots
community organization, and our organization is in
the forefront of this effort to bring about a Skid
Row neighborhood council.
If this process is about empowerment, you
don’t empower people, over 11,000 residents who are
living in the — in the map that we’ve drawn up, the
boundaries we have drawn up, there’s been — there’s
11,000 residents in that area. You don’t empower
11,000 residents by giving them one or two seats on
a 27-man board. That’s not empowerment.
You don’t empower residents by giving
(inaudible) a voice on a — have a small voice. A
Central City East neighborhood council will not give
them a voice that will be barely heard; it will give
them a voice that roars. It will give them a voice
that will be heard loud and clear.
That’s not going to happen on this larger
Downtown Neighborhood Council. They will not have
that voice. They will not have that
representation. That’s why it is imperative that we
— that you allow us to go forward with the process.
And of course it’s difficult to organize
the people in this area. They’ve traditionally been
disenfranchised, they’ve been — traditionally been
It was curious to note that when we had
all these Power Point presentations that you have
the statistical breakdown of the ethnic and racial
diversity in the area. That was not presented to
you by the Downtown Neighborhood Council. And you
know why? Because the overwhelming majority of the
people in that area are African-American, and as one
of the Commissioners expressed, they are the people
that have traditionally been disenfranchised and
have not been included in the political process.
And you will further — you will further
add to that disenfranchisement if you will not allow
us to go forward and create a downtown neighborhood
council. That is what we ask for, that’s what we
demand actually, because we are not going to sit
back and be –
They talk about how we going to have a
voice. We’ll have much more of a voice being part
— having our own Skid Row neighborhood council than
being part of this larger group. We’ll have much
more of a voice being our own organization and the
determining our own destiny. We will not have a
voice and we will not be allowed — we don’t want to
be passengers on the back of a bus. We want to
drive the vehicle.

#4 (transcript excerpts from Department of Neighborhood Empowerment certification hearing in 2002)

Good afternoon. Frank
Tamberillo, L.A. Coalition to end hunger and
homelessness. I work in Skid Row area. I just want
to say we totally support a Central City East
separate neighborhood council.
This process is about empowerment, and
this is a group that has been ghettoized for a long
time. They’ve been ghettoized geographically. We
don’t want to ghettoize them further by making them
just a small subset of a huge Downtown city
There’s 11,000 people in Skid Row. They
need more than two representatives to be adequately
represented. The wealthy already have their
neighborhood council. It’s called city council.
And let’s just remember this neighborhood process is
about empowering the stakeholders, not the steak

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