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Secession Hotbed Offers 7 Council Hopefuls

Cityhood campaign's roots extend deep in the southeast Valley's proposed 14th district.

November 02, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

The southeast San Fernando Valley is a hotbed of small-government activism where the secession campaign has some of its deepest roots. In Tuesday's election, seven true believers in breaking up Los Angeles will compete for the 14th district seat on the proposed Valley city council.

Expanding the police force and cutting business taxes are among the candidates' priorities. They also want to give more power to neighborhood councils and extend the Red Line subway to the West Valley.

If secession passes, the winner of the 14th district race will represent upscale sections of Studio City, east Sherman Oaks and Toluca Lake as well as middle- and working-class areas of North Hollywood and Van Nuys.

"This is an opportunity for citizens to step up to the plate and be heard," said candidate Stefanie Spikell, a Studio City businesswoman. "One of the reasons the Valley is trying to leave is to get some local control over our money and our destiny."

The other candidates are manufacturing director John Ferrero III, businessman Jerry Hays, marketing executive Laronce M. Henderson, actor Randall R. Read, tax attorney Gary M. Slavett and legislative deputy Scott Svonkin.

Svonkin, the former chief of staff for Assemblyman Paul Koretz (D-West Hollywood), has the longest list of endorsements and biggest financial backers, having raised $96,000 as of the latest reporting period.

His supporters include the county and state Democratic Party, Koretz, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) and Richard Close, who is chairman of both the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn. and secession group Valley VOTE.

Hays, a painting contractor, is a distant second in fund-raising with $9,500.

Svonkin's lead in fund-raising has made him a lightning rod for criticism by other candidates who question his ties to the community. He moved to Sherman Oaks from elsewhere in the Valley a year ago.

"He has not been visible in the community at all," Spikell said.

Svonkin, 36, said he has lived in the Valley for more than a decade and moved to Sherman Oaks so he would be in the legislative district of his boss, Koretz.

Having also worked in the administration of Mayor Tom Bradley and for Prudential HealthCare, Svonkin said he is uniquely qualified among the candidates. "I'm the only candidate with both government and business experience," he said.

He calls for doubling the number of police officers patrolling the Valley -- now 1,500.

"My No. 1 priority is to put more police in the neighborhoods and in the parks," Svonkin said.

He also proposes eliminating the business license tax, enlisting corporations to maintain parks in exchange for naming rights, preserving the Studio City Golf and Tennis Center, and building light-rail lines along the San Diego and Ventura freeways.

Hays, 65, also brings some leadership experience to the race.

The Studio City resident has been president of both the Studio City Chamber of Commerce and the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley. He ran unsuccessfully for a Los Angeles City Council seat in 1983 and 1987.

His first concern is public safety, and he supports contracting with the Los Angeles Police Department until the Valley can form its own police force of 4,000 officers.

He said a Valley city could hire more officers by cutting costs elsewhere, and charging other cities to use its police training academy. It could also, he said, do a better job of getting state and federal grants than Los Angeles does.

"Los Angeles has been terrible working with the state and federal government to get financial support," he said.

Hays said he would cut the Valley business taxes after studying how much they should be reduced. Hays said he also would support building light rail in the center of the Ventura Freeway, and would have a Valley city quickly apply to the state for its own school district.

Ferrero, 42 (no relation to former Councilman John Ferraro), is an eight-year resident of Studio City and works as a production manager for an aerospace manufacturer. He says he has become an efficiency expert.

He opposes rezoning the Studio City Golf and Tennis Center for housing, saying, "It's an issue of preserving open space."

Ferrero would strengthen Los Angeles' advisory neighborhood councils, giving them a role in local planning decisions.

"My top priority is to give a measure of control to the community, to make neighborhood councils more a part of the process," he said.

Ferrero said he backs contracting with the LAPD until the Valley can form its own force of 4,000 to 5,000 officers. He supports creating a Valley school district and building a monorail on the Ventura Freeway.

Spikell is on the formation team for the Studio City neighborhood council, serves on the board of the Studio City Chamber of Commerce and recently helped the Studio City Residents Assn. plant 100 trees in the area.

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