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New L.A. Council Panel Would Address Secessionist Concerns

City Hall: President wants to focus on improving political access for neighborhoods.

July 24, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Addressing a major complaint of civic secessionists in the San Fernando Valley, Harbor area and Hollywood on Monday, City Council President Alex Padilla proposed a new council committee to focus on providing neighborhoods with better access to Los Angeles city government.

Responsibilities of the new Committee on Neighborhoods and Schools would include overseeing the new system of neighborhood councils approved by voters. The councils were intended to address complaints voiced by secessionists that outlying areas lack a voice at City Hall.

The distance many residents feel from their government is one factor cited by secessionists, who are pressing for votes in November 2002 on Valley and Harbor-area cityhood.

"People who are calling for secession and even some that aren't feel a frustration and dissatisfaction with the responsiveness of city government," Padilla said. "Creation of a committee on neighborhoods, and not having it buried in some other committee, demonstrates the priority of neighborhood councils and public participation for the whole council."

The new committee, part of the first overhaul of the council committee system since 1989, would also focus on ways city government could help to improve the school district, such as expediting approval of new schools and boosting after-school programs.

Dissatisfaction with the schools is another driving force for secessionists, who also are trying to break up the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"Several new council members campaigned on the issue of what role the city can play in helping the schools," Padilla said.

Under the reorganized committee system, there will still be 15 council committees, so that each council member will chair one committee. To create the new committee, other panels are being reorganized, Padilla said.

His proposal, to be introduced today, requires approval by the full council. Padilla said colleagues with whom he has shared his plan are "excited" by the new structure.

Valley VOTE Chairman Richard Close said the proposal is a good idea, because it signals that city officials are intent on focusing on neighborhood concerns.

"We have to now see if it's merely symbolic, or the first step in finding a solution," Close said.

Secessionists, including Close, have criticized the neighborhood councils concept, saying the advisory panels do not give neighborhoods decision-making power.

Padilla said the new committee should emphasize the importance of providing neighborhoods a say in city government.

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