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Agency May Seek Delay on Secession Vote

Cityhood: LAFCO leader wants a state law changed in case the panel is unable to put Valley, harbor area plans on the November 2002 ballot.

November 20, 2001|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The agency studying secession of the San Fernando Valley may seek permission to delay a public vote on the issue until April 2003, a key official said Monday.

Larry Calemine, executive director of the Local Agency Formation Commission, also announced a delay, from March until May, for his agency's decision on whether to place cityhood measures on the ballot.

Calemine said he will ask the panel next week to consider seeking a change in state law that requires cityhood votes in even-numbered years, when statewide elections bring out more voters. Calemine said he hopes to hold the election for the Valley and harbor area cityhood plans in November 2002, but the legislation would be helpful in case LAFCO can't meet the deadlines for next year.

Valley VOTE President Jeff Brain said Monday he supports seeking the change in state law as a backup plan, saying he hopes the election can be held next year but would rather have the election delayed by six months than have to wait for the 2004 election.

"We will support that legislation as a contingency," Brain said.

Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a LAFCO member, said he may not support holding the cityhood votes during the city's primary in April 2003.

"That's the lowest-turnout election there is in the city of Los Angeles," Yaroslavsky said. "A decision of this magnitude should be made by the maximum number of people."

Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski said she also would "have very serious qualms" about the change.

Assembly Speaker Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) said any election on secession should be held when a high voter turnout can be expected.

Yaroslavsky said holding the cityhood vote in a low-turnout election could provide a political advantage to secessionists, a theory endorsed by Fernando Guerra, who heads the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. Guerra said white conservatives and Valley residents traditionally represent a larger percentage of the voters in low-turnout elections.

Brain said Mayor James K. Hahn's recent announcement of plans to raise $5 million to defeat secession will boost the turnout whenever the election is held. Brain blamed the city for 10 months of delays in providing financial data required for LAFCO to do a fiscal analysis of the cityhood proposals.

Within 30 days of the release of the fiscal analysis of cityhood, expected Jan. 9, any citizen has the right to ask the state controller for an audit. The controller then has 45 days to complete the audit. Such a request is anticipated.

Calemine said he discovered that he may not release his own final report and recommendations on the cityhood proposal until the state controller's office completes such an audit, if requested. As a result, Calemine told a LAFCO subcommittee that the commission's action on whether to put cityhood proposals on the ballot has been delayed.

"The least little delay can make that November date not doable," Calemine said.

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