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Armenian American Group Comes Out Against Secession

Politics: Organization says breaking up L.A. could further split the ethnic community.

October 09, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The western board of the Armenian National Committee of America announced Tuesday that it opposes San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secession, an issue that some say has divided the large numbers of Armenian Americans in the two areas.

Leaders of the Armenian committee said they joined the anti-secession campaign because they believe a breakup of Los Angeles would be financially risky and could further split the Armenian American community.

There are about 100,000 Armenian Americans in the city of Los Angeles, with heavy concentrations in Hollywood and the East Valley, according to Steven J. Dadaian, board chairman for the committee. Two Armenian Americans are running for Valley and Hollywood city council seats in the Nov. 5 election.

"Hollywood has traditionally represented the gateway through which many Armenian Americans immigrated to Los Angeles," Dadaian said. "We think of ourselves as one community in Los Angeles. We did not want to divide up our community."

The committee has significant influence among Armenian American voters, according to Vache Mangassarian, owner and anchor of the Armenian National Network, a television station based in Glendale.

But Pete Abajian, director of the Armenian Assembly, said most of the calls he gets from Armenian Americans are in support of secession.

"The Armenian community has been drastically underserved by the city of Los Angeles," said Abajian, who supports secession. The assembly, a Los Angeles-based political advocacy group, focuses on national issues and does not plan to take a position on secession.

Garry K. Sinanian, a Hollywood council candidate, said the secession debate has been especially contentious among the 50,000 Armenian Americans living in the region.

"The committee does not speak for all of the Armenian community," Sinanian said.

The candidate added that secession would give Armenian Americans access to local political power. He said he could never run successfully for the Los Angeles City Council, which is made up of districts that contain about 250,000 people each and are drawn in a way that divides the Armenian population.

"It's just too big, and you would have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars," said Sinanian, who played an instrumental role in convincing the city to install a Little Armenia sign in east Hollywood.

Candidates for the five Hollywood council seats are running at large in the proposed city of 180,000. If secession loses, the Hollywood and Valley councils will not exist.

Armineh Chelebian of Winnetka, who is running for the 3rd district seat on the Valley council, said she also views secession as an opportunity.

"It opened doors for me," she said. "It allowed me to start my political career."

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