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Alarcon May Run for Mayor of Valley City

Politics: The state senator remains neutral on secession, but says he will probably seek the office if the issue lands on the November ballot.

April 05, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY and SHARON BERNSTEIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

State Sen. Richard Alarcon announced Thursday that he will probably run for mayor of a proposed San Fernando Valley city, assuming there is a vote for secession in November.

Alarcon (D-Sylmar), who has represented 850,000 Valley residents for 31/2 years, would be the first candidate for an office that would appear on the same ballot with a secession plan. If a secession election is held, it would also include 14 City Council races for the new city.

"Given all of the work I have done with the city of Los Angeles and especially the San Fernando Valley, I can't imagine not presenting my candidacy for mayor and not giving the voters an opportunity to consider it," Alarcon said. "I have tentatively decided to run if the support is there."

But Alarcon, a former city councilman, also said he remains neutral on the issue of secession. That puts him in the awkward position of preparing to run for mayor of a city that he isn't sure should exist.

He did, however, express general sympathy for secessionists' complaints about Los Angeles.

"I love Los Angeles, and to me the San Fernando Valley is part of Los Angeles," he said. "But I am also concerned that the San Fernando Valley is not getting its fair share of services."

The Local Agency Formation Commission is set to decide next month whether to schedule secession elections for the Valley, Hollywood and the harbor area.

Alarcon, 48, is seeking reelection to the Senate in November, which would raise legal questions if he mounts a mayoral campaign at the same time. He said he has received tentative opinions from City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo and an attorney for the state Legislature that he could run simultaneously for both jobs.

If secession passes and he wins both races, Alarcon said he would resign from the state Senate. A special election would be held to fill his seat.

Alarcon said he expects a dozen or more candidates to seek the office of Valley mayor.

His announcement comes at a time when the secession movement is drawing more attention citywide--including among Latinos and African Americans, two groups that had previously not been involved.

Last month, a Times poll showed increasing support for secession among Latinos in the Valley. A small number of Latino activists and business leaders--many of them political opponents of City Council President Alex Padilla--have joined the secession drive in the Valley.

On Thursday, the Rev. Frederick O. Murph of the Brookins AME church in South Los Angeles said he was considering supporting secession. He formed a committee to hold community meetings and form focus groups on whether the city should be made smaller.

Murph said he planned to ask the state Legislature to fund a study on the effect that breaking up the city would have on African Americans. Much of Murph's motivation appeared to come from his anger at Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn, who antagonized many black Angelenos by refusing to support a second term for Police Chief Bernard C. Parks.

Earlier this week, Councilman Nate Holden, who had previously criticized secession, said a breakup "looks more and more inviting to me every day."

Holden said African Americans and others in his South Los Angeles district would have more clout if the Valley, Hollywood and harbor area seceded, because the remaining city would be much smaller. Blacks would make up a larger part of a smaller Los Angeles, he reasoned, and therefore would carry more weight at City Hall and win more council seats.

Hahn called Murph's announcement "political opportunism," and said that secession would especially hurt those in South Los Angeles.

"I can't think of anything that would be worse for the African American community or the minority communities in this city than to break up this great city of Los Angeles," Hahn told reporters in Pacoima on Thursday morning. "I think some people need to take a time out here and reflect on the seriousness of the situation. There is no hope of ever putting this city back together again if we split apart."

Hahn could not be reached from comment on Alarcon's announcement.

The early timing of that announcement could give Alarcon an advantage over other candidates, according to Valley political activists, including at least one board member of the secession group Valley VOTE.

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Times staff writer Matea Gold contributed to this report.

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