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VALLEY NEWS

L.A. May Be Asked to Aid a New Valley Municipality

Secession: Backers of breakup bid say transitional police and fire services could be requested from Los Angeles to give a new council and mayor time to organize.

April 27, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

To provide for a smooth transition, the city of Los Angeles may be asked to provide police, fire and other services to a new San Fernando Valley municipality for up to two years after it is created, secessionists said Thursday.

Providing an early glimpse of their vision of cityhood, leaders of the secession group Valley VOTE met with officials and consultants for the Local Agency Formation Commission to clarify issues as they revise their cityhood plan due May 15.

"We walk out of this meeting with a greater level of confidence that we can make this work," said Jeff Brain, president of Valley VOTE, at the meeting at Valley Presbyterian Hospital.

Issues addressed were the authority of the agency to order Los Angeles to provide water and power to the new city at the same rate charged others in Los Angeles, as well as the possible need for a longer transition period than had been previously proposed.

Also attending were representatives of secession groups from the Harbor area and Hollywood.

Last month LAFCO released an initial financial study indicating a new Valley city would be able to operate at a surplus, but that it might be required to pay $68 million yearly in "alimony" to the remainder of the shrunken city to make sure Los Angeles does not lose any funding it depends upon.

The report proposed an eight-month transition period, during which Los Angeles would continue providing services to the new city before that responsibility is transferred to the new municipality. Valley VOTE officials said Thursday one to two years may be needed to give a new city council and mayor time to organize.

"Our goal is to have a smooth transition, and a key part of that is letting decisions on changes to be made by the elected city council and mayor for the new city," said Richard Close, chairman of Valley VOTE.

The secessionists were assured LAFCO can set a longer transition as part of the terms and conditions it sets for breaking up Los Angeles, Brain said. But Los Angeles officials were concerned.

"I don't think it's practical to put off decisions," said Lisa Gritzner, chief of staff to Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski. "We need to know all the details up front."

Miscikowski chairs the council panel overseeing the proposed breakup of Los Angeles. For the Valley to become its own city, it must prove a split would not financially harm the Valley or the rest of Los Angeles. Cityhood requires approval by a majority of voters both in the Valley and the city as a whole.

One nagging concern of the secessionists has been what would happen to the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power. LAFCO's report last month said the agency could not be divided.

On Thursday LAFCO officials said they believe the commission has authority to require the DWP to provide water and power to the new Valley city at the same rate charged others in Los Angeles.

Larry Calemine, the agency's executive director, said the opinion is preliminary, but secessionists said it confirms their own legal advice on the issue.

"The biggest question we had was about water and power," Brain said. "The big thing that comes out of this is we will have water and power at the same rates that are being charged to the rest of Los Angeles."

The authority to set rates is very likely to be challenged by Los Angeles. The city attorney's office is closely researching the issue, "coming from the premise that that may not be the case," Gritzner said.

"That is not a done deal," she said of the assertion that LAFCO can set water and power rates.

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