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Plans for Boroughs Discussed

June 12, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY and NITA LELYVELD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

State Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks) and City Councilwoman Wendy Greuel said they made progress Tuesday in talks to combine their separate borough plans for Los Angeles, but the future role of the council remains an obstacle.

Hertzberg's plan would replace the 15-member City Council with nine borough presidents appointed by elected boards. Greuel has proposed retaining the council to deal with citywide issues.

The current council and Mayor James K. Hahn would have to approve a borough plan for the Nov. 5 ballot, where it would be an alternative to secession by the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood. It is considered unlikely that the council would put before voters any proposal that could cost panel members their jobs.

"There are a lot of issues to be resolved," Hertzberg said after his 70-minute meeting with Greuel in her City Hall office. It was their first face-to-face discussion on the borough proposals.

Greuel said she hopes the two plans can be blended before the July 17 deadline for getting a measure on the fall ballot.

"It was a very productive meeting," she said. "We agree on the goals and principles of a borough system."

The councilwoman's proposal is far less dramatic than Hertzberg's. It calls for creation of a 15-member commission that would have a year to draft a borough plan, which would include local elected boards and the City Council. Voters would have to OK the plan.

Under Hertzberg's proposal, each borough would have a five-member elected council, which would appoint a borough president. The councils would make local budget and planning decisions while the nine presidents would together handle citywide matters.

Hertzberg said the Voting Rights Act might bar an unelected board of borough presidents.

"We are doing more research," he said.

Neither proposal has generated much enthusiasm at City Hall. Council President Alex Padilla said he is worried about rushing a complicated plan onto the same ballot as the secession measures without more scrutiny.

"Something so fundamental to the structure of city government should be in the spotlight, not in the shadow," Padilla said.

A council committee has been holding public meetings on the Greuel proposal. A session in Hollywood on Monday night found support for boroughs in general. Even Ferris Wehbe, co-founder of Hollywood VOTE, the group pushing for Hollywood secession, spoke in favor of the idea.

"Put something good and sincere on the ballot and you will be amazed; it will win," he said. However, Wehbe said later that a vote on boroughs should come after the secession election, maybe in March.

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