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THE SECESSION QUESTION

Breakup Backers Undeterred by Poll Results

Reaction: Those seeking Hollywood and Valley cityhood dismiss survey. But L.A. officials see evidence that bids to split the city are failing.

July 03, 2002|NITA LELYVELD and PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Pointing to the results of a new Los Angeles Times poll, city officials Tuesday labeled Hollywood secession a flop and said the San Fernando Valley breakaway effort is already stalling months before the Nov. 5 vote.

Secessionists countered that their campaigns are just getting underway and wrote off the poll results as irrelevant.

In Hollywood, Hollywood VOTE founder Gene La Pietra held a festive ribbon-cutting to open the offices of his new Hollywood Independence Committee, and said over the strains of a live band that he wasn't going to win just Hollywood's freedom, but that he would soon start a parallel campaign--to break Hollywood schools out of the Los Angeles Unified School District.

"A poll is a poll. You're going to have a poll every week from now till Nov. 5," he told a small gathering of supporters at an office strip he owns on Santa Monica Boulevard, now painted bright red, white and blue and decorated with stars and large letters reading, "Hollywood Independence.com."

He invited Los Angeles residents to come see the current state of Hollywood for themselves.

"Once they see how neglected Hollywood has been, and how ignored it has been by the city of Los Angeles, they're going to support this as the right thing to do," he said of secession. "These polls will change like the tide coming in off the ocean."

Valley secession supporters struck a similar theme: "We are confident that when voters have the real facts--not just the spin of the downtown power brokers--they will choose independence," said Laurette Healey, co-chairwoman of the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee.

The Times poll showed that fewer than a quarter of Hollywood voters support the secession of their area, and that 59% of voters citywide are against it. Meanwhile, Valley secession, leading 52% to 37% in the Valley, is lagging citywide, with 47% of voters opposed and 38% in favor.

Hahn Encouraged

Mayor James K. Hahn called the numbers encouraging.

"I never thought the support was there for Hollywood secession," he said. "Clearly people are not happy being stuck in that boundary."

Councilman Eric Garcetti, who represents much of Hollywood, said he is eager for a secession election. "To use a Hollywood analogy, it feels like this blockbuster we all heard about is turning into a big flop," he said.

Union Joins Opposition

Also Tuesday, the union representing Los Angeles police officers announced its opposition to secession, asserting that public safety would be jeopardized if the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood broke away.

The Police Protective League joins several other unions representing city workers that have said they will oppose secession.

"After careful study, the [league] has come to the conclusion that the answer to Los Angeles' crime problems clearly isn't secession," said union President Mitzi Grasso. "If secession passes, the public will get less police services. If they want 'same level service,' it will cost them more."

Valley secession leaders predict that an independent city would have better police services as it gained local control of deployment and streamlined city bureaucracy.

City officials said poll results for Valley secession indicate that people are beginning to see the pitfalls of leaving Los Angeles behind.

"If you look at the trend from previous polls, it's moving in the direction that indicates the more you know about secession, the less you like about it," said City Council President Alex Padilla, who represents the East Valley.

Leaders of the Valley's homeowner and chamber of commerce groups who support secession dismissed the poll, saying support for the breakup movement is much stronger than indicated.

"The poll in no way reflects the sentiments of the hundreds of people I've spoken with who are fed up" with L.A.'s bloated bureaucracy and unfair treatment of the Valley, said Gerald A. Silver, a retired community college professor and president of Homeowners of Encino.

But Don Schultz, president of the Van Nuys Homeowners Assn. and a former secessionist, called the results "an eye-opener."

"I see the secession movement starting to slow," said Schultz, who last month came out against breaking away because he believed that Van Nuys was slighted in the council districting plans for a new Valley city.

"It didn't seem like secession would be better for Van Nuys," said Schultz, who supports a borough plan being considered by City Hall. "If we can make L.A. a better city, why not keep it together?"

Meanwhile, the City Council voted Tuesday to formally request that the Local Agency Formation Commission reconsider putting Hollywood secession on the Nov. 5 ballot.

In addition, city officials said LAFCO's proposal to have the Hollywood city pay the remainder of Los Angeles $21.3 million the first year to cover the revenue lost in the split is inadequate. Los Angeles would need $86 million to $100 million to be made financially whole, a consultant for the city said.

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