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Valley Perspective

Interest in Breakups Wanes

But charter reform could help to improve city services, schools

September 08, 1996

Now that the secession measure has fizzled in the Assembly and the forces that would break up the Los Angeles Unified School District appear to have lost their steam, what comes next for the Valley? A leap onto the charter reform bandwagon? A more concerted effort to institute the reforms of LEARN?

Both ideas have merit, but first, a reprise.

Let's face it: there never was any real grass-roots support for a drive to split the city. Some forces did their best to propel the issue to the forefront. And Assemblywoman Paula Boland got a nice ride as the bill advanced in Sacramento. Yet for once, the politicians who waffled may have had an excuse: they knew this wasn't an up-from-the bottom movement. As the week came to a close, the phrase that lingered was Scott Harris'. "I'm losing you," our columnist wrote after Mayor Riordan called from his car phone to clarify his views on breaking up the city. But the signal faded, as car phone signals do, and Harris was left wondering, once again, where the mayor was coming from. Or going.

As for Boland, let's just say that her own political ambitions sure did muddy the waters. The death of her bill, in committee on the last night of the legislative session, was an "abomination," Boland fumed. But we thought the more sensible post-mortem came from Boland's foe, Senate President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer. Lockyer said he had serious problems with the bill and said the complex issues of how to split apart cities could be revisited during the Legislature's next session. That's good enough for us.

On the other hand, let's not lose sight of some fundamental concerns. There is a genuine sense of unease at the grass-roots level that city services here in the Valley aren't what they should be. The core issues always have been real. Secession and school district breakup efforts are barometers of long-standing and growing frustration with the inadequacies of city government and schools. These issues won't go away.

Credit the secession debate with fueling serious talk about an issue we can support: charter reform. This is where significant change can be effected.

Likewise in the schools, LEARN--Los Angeles Educational Alliance for Restructuring Now--has shown results in most places where it has been implemented. Pushing for its extension should be at the top of administrators--and parents'--short-term to-do list.

The immediate challenge for city and school leaders is to demonstrate their own commitment to intelligent, well-thought-out reform. In the process, incorporation of the realistic concerns of secessionists and breakup proponents would make good sense.

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