Taking a more prominent role on secession, the Los Angeles City Council on Monday formed a subcommittee that will weigh in on various aspects of the San Fernando Valley's bid to leave Los Angeles.
At the request of Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski, Council President John Ferraro appointed the five-member panel to coordinate the city's release of data for an upcoming study on breaking up Los Angeles, and to provide the council and public with a forum for discussion.
The committee would also decide whether the city should pay part of the costs of studying secession, expected to run several million dollars.
"Every person living in the city of Los Angeles, every citizen-taxpayer has a stake in this issue," Ferraro said. "It is imperative that the city's policies and procedures regarding secession be equitable and uniform citywide."
The decision to create the ad hoc committee was greeted with skepticism by breakup group Valley VOTE, which expressed concerns over the makeup of the panel and possible manipulation of study data by council members.
"I don't think the information should be going through the committee at all," said former Assemblyman Richard Katz, now a leader in Valley VOTE. "If they want copies, that's fine, but if they want to tinker with it, that's a big problem."
But the committee was welcomed by Mayor Richard Riordan's office, which had initially criticized Miscikowski's proposal because the mayor had already set up a process to collect the data for the study of municipal divorce.
An unprecedented analysis of the economic consequences of deconstructing Los Angeles, the study will require city bureaucrats to turn over reams of information on city assets, debts, revenues and operations to the Local Agency Formation Commission, the state-created panel overseeing the process. The study must, under state law, take place before a vote on the breakup--so it is widely expected to become a political football.
The new committee includes just two Valley-area representatives, Cindy Miscikowski and Joel Wachs. The other three members are newly elected Nick Pacheco, who represents the Eastside; Nate Holden, who represents the central city; and Rudy Svorinich Jr., who represents the Harbor area, which is also pondering secession.
Miscikowski, whose district extends from Van Nuys to West Los Angeles, will chair the panel.
Saying she wanted to create a more public clearinghouse, Miscikowski asked Ferraro to appoint the committee after Valley cityhood proponents expressed concerns over Riordan's plan to have all study data go through his office, the chief legislative analyst and city administrative officer.
Valley VOTE leaders feared that Riordan, a vocal secession opponent, and some city bureaucrats might manipulate the study data behind closed doors to complicate the chances of Valley cityhood. The study must arrive at certain findings before secession may legally be placed on the ballot. Secession would require a majority vote of the Valley, as well as the city as a whole.
Though they had lobbied Miscikowski to form the commission, secession backers said Monday they were concerned with where the idea may be going after they saw who was appointed to the panel.
Last week, City Atty. James Hahn issued a directive that all secession data be released directly, in raw form, to LAFCO and the public. Secession boosters fear that the council committee may represent an attempt to intercept and spin the information before it goes to LAFCO.
"I think this shows where the City Council is taking this idea," said Valley VOTE president Jeff Brain. "This committee was supposed to contain a majority of Valley council members."
The mayor's office initially expressed concern with Miscikowski's proposal, fearing it would cause confusion. But mayoral spokeswoman Jessica Copen said Monday that Riordan does not see it as any kind of threat to his goal of making sure the release of city data is coordinated.
"The mayor is looking forward to working with anyone who is interested in learning the facts," Copen said.
Svorinich, a resident of San Pedro, and Wachs, who lives in Studio City, have both been outspoken supporters of secession studies in the San Fernando Valley and Harbor. Both believe the makeup of the panel is balanced.
"It is absolutely imperative that we have a study that is as comprehensive, fair and objective as humanly possible," Wachs said. "I want to make sure the city gives every bit of information it can provide to make this as unassailable as possible."