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Key Latino Leaders Unite Against Split

Election: Politicians put aside their past rivalries to fight secession. Meanwhile, breakup proponents are cheered by results of latest poll.


Sweeping aside some long-standing political differences and rivalries, a broad coalition of Latino elected officials proclaimed their unity Wednesday in the fight against secession.

The officials gathered outside a Mission Hills fire station to brand cityhood proposals for Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley "too risky." They vowed to campaign vigorously to defeat the Nov. 5 ballot measures.

"Sometimes, some of us don't walk in lock step," said county Supervisor Gloria Molina, referring to the differences that have frequently split Latino leaders. "But on this issue, we are united, we are strong, and we are going to work hard to defeat the secession drive."

Meanwhile, breakup advocates were cheered Wednesday by a Survey USA poll conducted for KABC-TV Channel 7. The poll found that, among likely voters, secession was winning in the Valley 57% to 38%, but trailing citywide 43% to 53%. A poll in August by the same organization showed secession winning in the Valley 57% to 40% and losing citywide 40% to 56%. To win, secession must get a majority vote in both the Valley and Los Angeles as a whole.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday October 08, 2002 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 8 inches; 292 words Type of Material: Correction
Secession poll--A story in the California section Thursday incorrectly stated that Survey USA did not release the questions it used to identify likely voters among respondents to a secession poll. A Survey USA representative read the questions to a reporter.

Secession backers said the survey shows Valley secession gaining among people likely to vote. Both in the Valley and citywide, however, the changes from the August poll are within the survey's margin of error, which is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Further, polling experts have questioned the reliability of the Survey USA poll, which is conducted by computer rather than by live interviewers. Survey USA did not release the questions it uses to determine whether someone is a likely voter.

Joining Molina at Wednesday's news conference were City Council President Alex Padilla, City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo, Assemblyman Tony Cardenas (D-Panorama City), state Sen. Richard Alarcon (D-Sylmar), former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and San Fernando Mayor Cindy Montanez.

Most of the politicians had declared their opposition to secession earlier. But some have been at odds for years over other issues. Alarcon and Padilla, for example, once close allies (Padilla ran Alarcon's 1998 state Senate campaign), had a falling out after Alarcon decided not to back Padilla for the City Council.

The rift has endured over the course of several local elections, including last year's mayoral race. Padilla and Cardenas supported James K. Hahn, while Alarcon endorsed Villaraigosa, who lost the race.

Even on secession, consensus was not always a given. Alarcon initially expressed interest in running for mayor of a new Valley city. The week after a Times poll showed voters citywide leaning against the breakup proposals, he announced his opposition.

"The bottom line is this: The proposal that has been presented to voters is a proposal that has many flaws," Alarcon said Wednesday. "Simply stated, it cannot guarantee that [a Valley city] would provide the services that we have become accustomed to in Los Angeles."

Under terms set by the state commission that placed Valley and Hollywood secession on the ballot, Los Angeles would continue providing police, fire, sanitation and other services to the new cities for at least one year. After that, new service contracts could be negotiated.

About 100 people from both camps in the secession battle, many of them toting campaign posters, crowded close to hear the speakers. Pro-secession hecklers broke in with cries of "Free the Valley!" while a truck bearing a giant yellow "Free Hollywood" sign cruised back and forth.

Afterward, secessionists staged a news conference to accuse their opponents of using "scare tactics."

Geoffrey Garfield, campaign manager for the Hollywood Independence Committee, said anti-secessionists have lied by suggesting a breakup would threaten public safety. In a disaster, the new cities would be protected by agreements between their fire departments and neighboring departments, he said.

In another development, Gene La Pietra announced that U.S. Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) has endorsed his candidacy for Hollywood city council. Sanchez's spokeswoman, Carrie Brooks, said Sanchez is neutral on the question of secession itself.

The Hollywood campaign used the endorsement immediately. In one of two new ads that will begin airing today on Adelphia and AT&T cable channels in the Hollywood area, a list is presented bearing the names of Sanchez, late City Councilman John Ferraro, Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Gov. Gray Davis and others. The ad, created for La Pietra's city council campaign, states that all of those named have honored La Pietra for his work in the community.

Also Wednesday, the board of the Los Angeles Headquarters Assn., representing 150 major corporations, voted unanimously to oppose secession. Association President Sharon Kaplan said the breakup would hurt L.A.'s standing as a world-class city.

Secessionists have said downtown business groups such as the association are determined to protect their interests at City Hall. The breakup effort has been endorsed by several Valley-based business organizations.


Times staff writers Kristina Sauerwein, Nita Lelyveld and Patrick McGreevy contributed to this report.

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