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Lawmakers See Little Push for Valley Secession

April 21, 1996|NANCY HILL-HOLTZMAN and HUGO MARTIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Despite some tough talk on both sides of the issue, most area lawmakers say they see neither the need nor a groundswell of public opinion to have the San Fernando Valley secede from Los Angeles.

Even some supporters of a bill by Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills) that would smooth the way for a Valley secession oppose the lengthy, expensive and divisive process that would be involved in breaking off from Los Angeles.

"I support voters having an opportunity to make their will known," said Councilwoman Laura Chick, who represents the West Valley.

"But if it gets on the ballot, I will be actively working to persuade Valley voters to stay part of the city."

Boland's bill would take away the power of the Los Angeles City Council to veto any request to break away from the city, a stipulation added to state law the last time the Valley tried to form its own city in the 1970s. As long as the council has that power, any secession movement is doomed, Boland said.

While Boland's bill passed an Assembly committee and has a good chance of clearing the Republican-dominated Assembly in the next few weeks, a vote on Valley secession is a long way from the ballot.

The bill will face tough sledding on the state Senate side, which is controlled by Democrats and where the city of Los Angeles wields greater power.

"I don't think it has much of a chance," state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles) said.

State Sen. Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley), a supporter of Boland's bill, predicted Los Angeles legislators will mount an organized fight against the measure.

"It will be detrimental to their people and their section of the city," Wright said. She favors narrowing the bill so it would apply only to the Valley to boost its viability in the Senate.

Among those lining up in ardent opposition to the concept is Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan. In a meeting with Times editors Friday, Riordan said he would take no position on the Boland bill, but would fight secession.

"I believe the Valley leaving will hurt the whole city and I will show the Valley what we have done and show them that it's not in their best interests to leave," he said.

In addition to Chick, Valley council members Hal Bernson, Joel Wachs and Marvin Braude favor letting Valley residents have a vote on cityhood, though none of them favors secession.

Indeed, there is no organized secession movement in place, though longtime Valley residents say the wish for independence is just beneath the surface and could easily be galvanized.

Councilman Mike Feuer, meanwhile, opposes the secession movement as a divisive distraction from the real issue of getting more services and power for the Valley.

With the exception of Harbor area Councilman Rudy Svorinich, the rest of the council generally agrees with Feuer.

Council members Ruth Galanter and Mark Ridley-Thomas expressed dismay at the idea of seeking to resolve issues by carving up the city.

"If we are going to solve our issues of the future, we must do it together," Galanter said.

Ridley-Thomas, who represents parts of South Los Angeles, said the secession movement "represents a trend that is quite unsettling."

Like the movement to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District and efforts to dismantle the state's affirmative action codes, the secession move is an effort to divide people, he said.

"I don't think that it's healthy for the whole body politic in the city," Ridley-Thomas said.

A motion by Councilman Nate Holden urging the council to oppose the Boland bill will be considered Tuesday. Holden is asking that all the city's voters have a voice in the matter, not just those who want to leave.

"The other residents of the city have no say," Holden said. "This is unfair."

In Sacramento, Valley legislators started lining up to support or oppose the Boland bill after it passed its first test Wednesday in the Assembly Local Government Committee.

Assemblyman Wally Knox (D-Los Angeles), who represents parts of the Valley, said the legislation is premature and he will oppose it. Knox, however, favors an analysis of what the Valley contributes to the city versus what it gets in return.

Assembly members Barbara Friedman (D-North Hollywood) and Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) also oppose the bill.

Friedman, who supported the school district breakup bill, said she's seen no comparable evidence that the Valley would be better off as its own municipality.

"We get our garbage picked up; we get out streets paved. The city is operating well," Friedman said.

"I'm leaning toward opposing the bill," said Assemblywoman Sheila J. Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), who noted the only inquiries she's gotten about Valley secession have come from reporters, not constituents. "There doesn't seem to a real real groundswell for this."

State Sens. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Los Angeles) and Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) are still studying the proposed law and have not decided how they will vote.

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