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Hahn Pushes to Include Valley Secession Costs on Ballot

July 24, 2002|BETH SHUSTER and NICHOLAS RICCARDI | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Secession opponents moved Tuesday to ensure that the Nov. 5 ballot includes the price tag of breaking off the San Fernando Valley from the city of Los Angeles. But supporters of a Valley city labeled that effort an attempt to scare voters.

Mayor James K. Hahn, who is leading the anti-secession campaign, appealed to the Board of Supervisors to draft the secession ballot measure so that it reflects the annual payments that a Valley city would have to make to Los Angeles. The board will take up the matter Thursday.

The mayor said he believes that the financial information is legally required to be on the ballot.

"We think, like any other ballot initiative that people vote on

At the mayor's request, the Los Angeles City Council voted 12 to 0 Tuesday to support a ballot description of secession that includes the financial effect. The mayor and council are expected to seek similar language for the Hollywood secession measure, which is on the same ballot.

"People need to know without a shadow of doubt what it's going to cost to break apart Los Angeles," Councilwoman Janice Hahn said.

A state commission charged with overseeing the secession proposal has said that a Valley city would have to pay $127.1 million to Los Angeles in the first year after a breakup to make up for lost tax revenue. That amount would decrease by 5% each year for 20 years, officials said. A Hollywood city would have to pay Los Angeles $21.4 million the first year, with the amount also steadily dropping.

Larry Calemine, executive director of the Local Agency Formation Commission, said he has no comment on the ballot-language issue.

The Board of Supervisors is expected to vote Thursday to formally place the cityhood measures on the ballot. Supervisors Gloria Molina and Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said they will ask their colleagues to require the county counsel's office to include the financial information on the ballot.

"There's no reason to hide the information," Burke said. "I would think everyone would be for disclosure."

Molina said she was surprised that LAFCO did not include the cost in the language it submitted to the board.

"If you're going to make any sort of informed decision ... I think you should know [the cost]," she said.

But Valley VOTE Chairman Richard Close said the council action is a last-minute effort to muddy the water.

"It's an attempt by the city of Los Angeles to mislead the voters," said Close, who is heading the Valley secession movement.

Close and other secessionists say the payments would not involve a tax increase. They also point out that the payments would be required because the Valley and Hollywood now contribute more in tax revenues than the regions receive in the value of city services. In that sense, secessionists say, Valley and Hollywood residents are already making the payments.

"Their whole strategy is to falsely scare the voters," Close said of Hahn and the council. "They have no positive message."

Earlier Tuesday, Hahn said there are ways to improve municipal services other than breaking apart the city. To that end, the mayor issued an executive order requiring the city departments' general managers to meet quarterly with the 38 neighborhood councils. Hahn also said that those panels would have input in next year's city budget.

Meanwhile, the mayor picked up other allies Tuesday with an announcement that the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund would oppose Valley secession.

The nonprofit organization said a Valley split would probably not help Latinos and could dilute their political power. It cited concerns that worker protections and rent control would be vulnerable and questioned whether a Valley city would support immigrant rights--accepting identity cards issued by the Mexican Consulate, for example, as Los Angeles does.

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Times staff writers Patrick McGreevy and Nita Lelyveld contributed to this report.

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