Sat09202014

News

Neighborhood network, local advocacy group consolidate


Two local volunteer organizations are becoming one.

The Los Altos Neighborhood Network (LANN) is folding into Friends of Los Altos (FOLA), an organization founded by three former members of the Los Altos City Council in 2013. The boards of the two Los Altos organizations jointly announced the decision last week.

The consolidation under the FOLA name will result in the discontinuation of the monthly LANN newsletter, a local news source produced by volunteer residents for 14 years. According to the announcement, the newsletters will be “replaced by brief white papers periodically distributed by FOLA on topics of vital concern to Los Altos residents.”

“Since publishing its first newsletter 14 years ago, the Los Altos Neighborhood Network has served our community well as an independent voice for Los Altos residents,” the boards noted in a joint statement. “Consolidating with the Friends of Los Altos Inc. will enhance the values that LANN has stood for over the years and enable the combined organization to more effectively represent Los Altos residents in today’s environment.”

FOLA’s founders include former councilmen David Casas, Ron Packard and Lou Becker. The organization announced its designation as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt nonprofit group – a variety of nonprofit typically reserved for political action committees and civic leagues – in May. The trio also served as LANN board directors during the consolidation, with Casas as president. Packard initially joined the LANN board in April, according to an announcement on the LANN website (lannonline.org).

Evolution

Reached by the Town Crier, Casas said he wasn’t concerned about any public perceptions regarding the overlap of members serving both organizations.

“There will always be detractors, no matter what you do,” he said.

Instead, he called LANN’s transition into the FOLA organization “a natural evolution of volunteer actions and groups.”

“LANN has always been a community-based, volunteer-run organization. Similarly, FOLA is also a community-based, volunteer-run organization – but with a formal structure and bylaws,” said Casas, who added that LANN historically changed from a land-use advocacy group to an education-based effort to inform residents of neighborhood and citywide issues.

“We’re committed to the same values and principles that LANN has held dear for so many years,” he later added.

Members of the LANN board, including current Los Altos Planning and Transportation Commission (PTC) members Ken Lorell and Jon Baer, will join FOLA, Casas noted. Specifically, Lorell will join another current PTC commissioner, Jerry Moison, on the FOLA board, while Baer will serve as an adviser.

Casas added that FOLA’s board leadership is structured to prevent potential conflicts of interest, noting that no more than two board members serve on any seven-person city body like PTC at the same time.

“We will diligently strive to avoid conflicts of interest, just like LANN did,” said Casas, who added that the LANN website will be maintained as a resource and “a legacy.”

Reaction

Reacting to news of the organizations’ merging, former LANN Board of Directors President Kathy Putman said she was taking a wait-and-see approach. She added that she wasn’t surprised by the news, noting that the “very nonpartisan” LANN struggled in recent years to remain sustainable. The organization previously published a physical newsletter that was sent out to subscribers but switched to an online-only format a couple of years ago.

Despite its recent struggles, Putman said she was saddened that LANN will effectively end.

“I’m very sorry and sad. … I’m sorry to see LANN go away,” said Putman, who left the organization more than a year ago and was replaced by Casas as president. “It may be taking a new form, but we did a lot of good things in the community. I guess I don’t know what to expect now.”

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