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The Valley

Secession Drives Shift Into High Gear

Backers as well as opponents of Valley and Hollywood cityhood plan weekend blitzes aimed at getting voters to the polls on Tuesday.

November 01, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

Both sides in the San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession campaigns geared up their get-out-the-vote drives Thursday, with breakup opponents ready to deploy several hundred union members to walk precincts, and supporters of the cityhood proposals calling on smaller numbers of volunteers to knock on doors.

Leaders of the campaigns said the secession measures will produce a strong turnout by Los Angeles voters Tuesday, more so than the governor's race.

"People realize this is an important issue," said Valley Independence Committee co-chairman Carlos Ferreyra. "They realize this could change Los Angeles forever. I've talked to people who have not voted in the last few years who plan to vote this time."

Ferreyra estimated the turnout could be as high as 63% in Los Angeles, and even higher in the Valley.

California Secretary of State Bill Jones forecast a 58% turnout statewide. He did not offer a prediction for Los Angeles but said the secession battle is expected to edge up the numbers.

"It figured prominently in our analysis because of the very large population base involved," Jones said. "Very seldom have we seen an issue affecting so many people."

Deputy City Clerk Frank Martinez predicted that if the statewide turnout is 58%, the Los Angeles turnout would be slightly higher.

In the last gubernatorial general election, in 1998, 52.8% of Los Angeles' registered voters cast ballots, and the statewide turnout was 57.6%.

On Thursday, Valley secessionists sent about 150 volunteers into the field to urge voters to go to the polls. They hope to have 600 to 1,000 people walking neighborhoods over the weekend.

The Hollywood secession campaign began an automated telephone effort Thursday that will reach 30,000 Hollywood voters and 100,000 in other parts of the city, according to chairman Gene La Pietra.

On Saturday afternoon, Hollywood secessionists will hold a rally to encourage women to vote, and about 250 volunteers will be out in neighborhoods supporting Hollywood cityhood, La Pietra said.

"I'm absolutely confident," he said.

County Federation of Labor chief Miguel Contreras said he will have 1,500 union members canvassing precincts to drum up votes against secession.

Mayor James K. Hahn, who is leading the anti-secession campaign, lined up a string of public events for the home stretch. Today he is scheduled to meet in the Valley with Police Chief William Bratton. Earlier in the day, Hahn will join Councilman Dennis Zine at a City Hall news conference in calling for a legal challenge of an environmental study that could advance the Ahmanson Ranch development.

Fighting the 3,050-home project is considered a vote-getter in the Valley because large numbers of residents have tried to stop it. And Hahn has promoted Bratton's recent hiring as the answer to demands for improved policing in the secession areas.

Hahn is also scheduled to have lunch with Bratton and clergy from throughout the Valley at Valley Beth Shalom in Encino at the same time the mayor was to deliver a "State of the Valley" speech to the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., which has endorsed secession. Hahn backed out of the VICA engagement.

On Saturday morning, the mayor will attend a labor rally in the city of San Fernando, after which union members will fan out into Valley neighborhoods. Hahn plans to walk precincts in the Valley.

"We are running around a lot, stopping by a lot of the phone banks and other operations that are out there in our final days," Hahn said, "We are making a big push."

He predicted a healthy turnout Tuesday.

"This is a very important issue for Los Angeles, the future of the city," he said. "I think that will help bring more people out to vote."

However, Larry Levine of the anti-secession group One L.A., said some turnout predictions may be overly optimistic.

As of Thursday, 486,000 people in Los Angeles County had requested absentee ballots, down from 501,000 for the same period in 1998, Levine noted.

He also said the failure of the Valley secession campaign to meet its goals for fund-raising and volunteers may blunt turnout in the Valley.

Observers disagreed about which side would get a boost from a higher turnout.

Because secession is considered by some a conservative proposal, and conservative voters tend to go to the polls disproportionately, the breakup measures could "benefit slightly" from a low turnout, said Fernando Guerra, head of the Center for the Study of Los Angeles at Loyola Marymount University. But he also said a turnout of 60%-65% in Los Angeles would not surprise him.

Republican political strategist Allan Hoffenblum said secession supporters are more passionate than opponents, so they might turn out in greater numbers.

Hahn disagreed.

"I would think a higher turnout would help us keep the city together," he said.

"The voters who are going to come out for secession would come out anyway, whether it's high turnout or low turnout. A greater turnout would have more people who are sympathetic to the idea of keeping the city together."

Also Thursday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which opposes secession, sent a letter to City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo voicing concern that secessionists were not given the same access as their opponents at an Oct. 5 public event held at the Convention Center.

At the event, a gathering of neighborhood council activists, anti-secessionists distributed literature from a table near the entrance, while secession supporters wanting to hand out fliers were told to leave.

The letter asked Delgadillo to respond by Nov. 4 with information on how the city will prevent such an incident from recurring.

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