FOR NEW BOARD MEMBERS:
*How Neighborhood Councils Work (Basics, for New Board Members)
On the surface, a neighborhood council is a government agency that holds public meetings. Because there are public funds, there is a budget that must match your expenditures and monthly financial statements that you must approve. Because meetings are public, there must be a descriptive agenda posted in advance. The public has a right to speak before you decide. There are Board officers, each with a role to play. The Bylaws and Board policies are your local rules, and then there are DONE, BONC and The Plan. These are the mechanics. This session will attempt to give you a summary of all of them. On another level, there are practical ways that councils work to be effective. One key is a strong committee system, where extended discussion and debate takes place. Another is continued communication with your community, through a web site, email, flyers and personal contact. At the core of it all, the neighborhood council is not a monthly meeting where people vote. You have joined a grass roots conspiracy to make positive changes in your community. The reason you can do that is that you work as a team. The surest way to discord is an attempt to be a lone sheriff. Make friends and allies on your Board. Try to disagree with ideas, not with people. Propose positive alternatives. Have fun! This is a people business.
*Who and What Do You Need to Know To Get Things Done?
Every neighborhood will have similar people that you need to know. This session will cover many of them, beginning with your councilmember's staff. You will learn how to contact the most important city departments directly for service. (This is especially important with cutbacks to the 311 help line.) You will also learn that when push comes to shove, elected officials control what happens. The Mayor, state Senators and Assemblymembers, school board members and other elected officials have resources that can help you. Schools are central to the health of your neighborhood. Learn how they work and how to work with them. Discover the power of community projects and the art of co-sponsorship. Find other groups with whom you can partner. Finally, discover city systems that can help you: the Early Notification System, the Council File system, and Zimas. Learn how and where to send your Board actions, and how to file a Community Impact Statement.
*How to Run a Meeting (procedures, fairness, order, time control)
Running an effective meeting is an art, not a science. At the end, the group must have accomplished real work, participants must feel that they had an opportunity to be heard, and people should believe that the process was fair. That's a tall order for a meeting chair, especially if you have never managed a large public meeting. Nevertheless, this is an essential skill, for committees as well as for Board meetings. A clear, descriptive agenda with time targets helps. Explaining the process to the public as you go (for example, accepting public comment for later action, so it can be placed on an agenda) is often helpful. Consistent application of the same rules, such as the Brown Act, builds public and Board confidence in the integrity of your meetings. Roberts Rules of Order and other meeting rules provide a framework for fair meeting control. The program will give you a quick overview. The chair also needs to use common sense and a feeling for group dynamics. Above all, the chair must be impartial in managing access and the meeting process.