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Secession Foes Hold 1st Rally in Valley

June 02, 2002|SUE FOX | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bucking years of pro-secession fervor in the San Fernando Valley, a group opposed to breaking up Los Angeles held its first rally in an Encino park Saturday and then fanned out to supermarkets to preach the virtues of staying together.

Mayor James K. Hahn, an ardent foe of secession, revved up a crowd of about 50 people by jabbing his index finger in the air to the chants of "One L.A., One L.A.!"

The Valley secession proposal headed to the Nov. 5 ballot "looks like it will increase your taxes and decrease your services," Hahn said. "They call that Camelot! I call it a recipe for disaster."

The mayor, dressed down in a denim shirt, described his hometown as "the greatest city in the world" and said Los Angeles is "much stronger together than divided."

City Council President Alex Padilla, who grew up in Pacoima, also showed up to promote the cause, ready to hit a nearby Ralphs supermarket in khaki pants and jogging sneakers.

"For too long, this was a one-sided conversation," he said. "Secession is a bad deal, and today we are going to begin by going to the shopping centers, going to the neighborhoods to let people know what the facts are."

Elderly women in straw hats mingled with young union organizers with pierced noses, joined in the conviction that splitting up Los Angeles could jeopardize senior services and jobs for city employees.

Secession opponents, mobilizing under the umbrella group One Los Angeles, may also face a Hollywood cityhood plan on the November ballot. The Local Agency Formation Commission, a government agency studying secession, is slated to decide Wednesday whether to put the Hollywood proposal before voters.

Support for secession is stronger in the Valley than elsewhere in the city, according to recent surveys. A Times poll taken in March showed that 55% of Valley voters favored a breakup, compared with 46% citywide.

"It's time to fight back," said Florence Orenstein, 75, a retired insurance agent from Tarzana. If the Valley secedes, she predicted: "Nothing's going to change, except we'll have more politicians."

After gathering armfuls of literature ("Valley Secession--The more you know about it, the LESS you like it!"), some volunteers drove off to the supermarkets. But at least two dozen lingered in the park, still chatting and munching doughnuts an hour after the TV cameras left. Several said they had no plans to hand out fliers but just came to lend support.

Not Williana Johnson, 37, a volunteer from South Los Angeles who stationed herself on the sun-scorched sidewalk outside a Ralphs on Ventura Boulevard. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Johnson said she opposes secession because "there's power in numbers."

"Hi, sir, can I give you some information about One L.A., keeping L.A. together?" she asked a man in a plaid shirt.

"No, thanks," he said without so much as a backward glance. But other shoppers accepted fliers. Johnson said her goal was to educate, not to cajole.

"I'm not into confrontations," she said. "People are going to reach their own decisions."

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