Now the challenge is for Tharp to turn that message into reality. It won’t be easy. Managing the many and different personalities of the neighborhood councils and their board membership is a lot like herding cats. They have their own ideas about what works for their communities and it isn’t always what city leaders want to hear. Rather than forcing each one into a cookie-cutter mold, they must be allowed – within reason – to serve their individual communities. Nor will be it easy changing City Hall’s attitude about the neighborhood councils, which tends toward annoyed tolerance and sometimes strays into outright obstructionism. CAROL Baker Tharp may be just what Los Angeles’ beleaguered neighborhood council system needs. The new general manager of the city’s Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, or DONE, visited with a coalition of the San Fernando Valley’s neighborhood councils last week and said all the right things. Tharp, an expert on neighborhood participation from the University of Southern California who took over last month, said she will work to make the “backyard democracy” of the neighborhood councils work better. In part, she will do this by helping to remove some of the obstacles that the city has deliberately placed in their way. The city’s commitment to the seven-year-old neighborhood council system has varied from dismissive to downright obstructive. Indeed, an audit of DONE last fall by City Controller Laura Chick noted that the department didn’t have the resources or the expertise to aid the development of the young community empowerment effort. Still, Tharp’s words offer reason for optimism. In many ways, she could be the last best hope for the city’s neighborhood councils to finally realize their potential for putting some power back in the hands of the people.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!