Spotlight on the SLNC Bylaws & Standing Rules Committee

The Silver Lake Neighborhood Council’s (SLNC) Bylaws & Standing Rules Committee writes and revises bylaws and rules that dictate how the SLNC will be governed. Co-chairs Dacia Caswell and Anne-Marie Johnson and committee members work to insure that up-to-date bylaws and rules keep the SLNC running smoothly and are in compliance with the City of Los Angeles Charter.

We asked Committee Co-chair Anne-Marie Johnson to explain how the committee works–and why it’s important.

What is the mission of the Bylaws & Standing Rules Committee?

The mission of the Bylaws & Standing Rules Committee is, “to write and submit to the board bylaws (operating rules of the council) and standing rules (statements clarifying the bylaws) in collaboration with stakeholders and board members.” As issues and policies evolve, it is equally important that our bylaws and standing rules evolve to be as consistent and streamlined as they possibly can be.

Why does the SLNC need formal bylaws and rules?  Are there standard laws for all Neighborhood Councils in Los Angeles?

The L.A. City Charter requires all Neighborhood Councils to have bylaws that follow charter guidelines and adhere to the mandates of the Ralph Brown Act, which guarantees the public’s right to attend and participate in meetings of local legislative bodies. Each Neighborhood Council writes its own bylaws and rules, which must be approved by the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment.

Why do new bylaws and rules need to be added or existing ones updated?

Issues that impact our community change all the time and L.A. City Charter and state and federal laws also change over time. It’s always a best practice to update our bylaws to reflect those changes.

Please explain how this process works? Who suggests new bylaws or rules and how are they are written and approved?

Anyone who identifies him/herself as a Silver Lake stakeholder can submit a motion to the Bylaws and Standing Rules committee. If the co-chairs of the committee agree the motion is relevant, they can place the motion on committee meeting agenda. A motion can also be suggested, in person, during a Bylaws and Standing Rules Committee meeting. Once motions are properly noticed, vetted, and approved by the committee, they are submitted to the SLNC Governing Board agenda to be heard by the entire board. If the period of bylaw amendments is still open, the board-approved amendment or a new bylaw can be submitted to the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment and/or the Board Of Neighborhood Council Commissioners for final approval.

How does the work of this committee impact the SLNC and residents and stakeholders of Silver Lake?

As stated before, it’s important to remember that bylaws and standing rules are living, breathing documents, and must be updated, revised and streamlined whenever possible. This practice assists in making Neighborhood Councils nimble and more responsive to the needs of the board and its stakeholders.

Over the last year, what bylaws and rules have been added that you feel will impact the community positively?

I think the most impactful and practical amended bylaw increased the age of those eligible to vote and run for a board seat from 14 to 18. Because board members must be at least 18 to vote on financial issues or proposals to allow the sale of alcohol at restaurants, etc., it was not conducive or realistic to dedicate board seats to people who cannot vote. Although the both the mayor of Los Angeles and the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment tried to mandate that all Neighborhood Councils allocate board seats to those under the age of 18, the SLNC was successful in removing that arbitrary requirement.  I believe bylaws must not be “one size fits all” documents and should meet the needs of each community.

Does Silver Lake have unique issues that require special rules and bylaws?

Not necessarily “unique issues” but as I mentioned, bylaws and standing rules must reflect the specific needs of the stakeholders and board members they represent.

The SLNC began its new 2017-2018 term on June 1. What are the committees goals for the year ahead?

Neighborhood Councils are only allowed a limited period of time to amend bylaws. We have recently updated the SLNC bylaws and will now concentrate on revising and streamlining the standing rules, which only require Board approval.

If a person is interested in serving on this committee, what type of background is helpful?

No specific background is required. But I would recommend this committee to those who love to “get into the weeds” on complicated issues and who have a ton of patience.

How can people become involved?

Just come to a meeting. Check the SLNC calendar to find the date for our next meeting. The committee meets on an “as needed” schedule.

Co-chair Dacia Caswell is an attorney with 25-plus years of experience who specializes in worker’s compensation law. She has lived in Silver Lake for nearly 20 years and is a graduate of Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. Anne-Marie Johnson, a lifelong Silver Lake resident and at-large SLNC representative since 2011, is also co-chair of the Governing Board. She is a familiar face in motion pictures and television and served as the Screen Actors Guild’s (SAG) first vice president for four terms.