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Secessionists Revive Borough Plan for L.A.

Valley independence leaders, in meeting with four council members, suggest creating a panel to study reorganizing city government.

November 08, 2002|Patrick McGreevy | Times Staff Writer

In a sometimes-tense meeting with Los Angeles City Council members, San Fernando Valley civic leaders who supported the defeated secession proposals pressed Thursday for the creation of a commission that would explore a borough system for city government.

At a meeting in Sherman Oaks that one participant described as "Camp David of the Valley," secession opponents and supporters sought to smooth out their years of differences, which culminated in Tuesday's breakup election.

Some council members were lukewarm to the idea of a charter reform commission that would study boroughs and other possible changes at City Hall. But they agreed to continue talks exploring how such a panel would work.

"It was encouraging," said Bill Powers, chairman of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley.

Powers was one of about 20 Valley business and political leaders to meet with council members Alex Padilla, Wendy Greuel, Tom LaBonge and Dennis Zine at the offices of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn.

The Valley delegation also urged the council members to end delays on business tax reform, spend more on economic development and get the Valley more federal and state grants.

"We will be following up on these items," Zine said.

Powers and David Fleming, chairman of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, made the recommendation for a borough commission. It was endorsed at the meeting by VICA Chairman Fred Gaines and Assemblyman Bob Hertzberg (D-Sherman Oaks).

"I think it could be a truly exciting thing," Fleming said after the private session. He suggested the commission could include council members as well as residents.

Hertzberg proposed last spring that Los Angeles be divided into nine boroughs, each with elected boards. He got nowhere with Mayor James K. Hahn and the council, however.

"It's the future of Los Angeles, one way or the other," Hertzberg said Thursday about a borough system. "The question is when."

He also said a borough commission should have a time limit for completing its study, but that it is probably too late to get a borough plan ready for the March 2003 ballot.

Gaines said it was important to let the council members know that, even though secession was defeated, the Valley wants the borough study to move forward.

"The message is loud and clear that there need to be some changes in the structure of city government, and we need to get the council on a path to evaluating the proposals," Gaines said.

Zine and Greuel said they were receptive. Five months ago, Greuel asked the council to place on this week's ballot a measure that would have set up a panel to develop a borough system. The council voted down the proposal.

Greuel said Thursday she is interested in revisiting the issue.

"I'm committed to changing the governance structure, and we need to look at all avenues," Greuel said.

Zine said he is "a strong supporter of boroughs."

But there is little enthusiasm among other council members, Padilla included, for boroughs that would take over powers held by the council. Attendees at Thursday's meeting said Padilla was cold to the idea.

Padilla, who led efforts to keep the Greuel and Hertzberg proposals off the ballot, said Thursday that he still has questions about how a borough system would work.

"What is going to be the relationship between boroughs and neighborhood councils if both are made part of the future?" Padilla asked. "Who knows? But it's going to be part of this ongoing dialogue."

Meanwhile, four people who sought council seats in the proposed Valley city have filed papers to run for the Los Angeles City Council.

Jose Roy Garcia filed for the 6th District seat held by Ruth Galanter, who is stepping down because of term limits. In the 12th District, where term limits are forcing out Councilman Hal Bernson, Armineh Safarian Chelebian, Ken Aslan and former Assemblywoman Paula Boland filed papers.

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