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Vote No on Secession

October 13, 2002

The Nov. 5 ballot describes San Fernando Valley secession (Measure F) and Hollywood secession (Measure H) as a "special reorganization," government lingo that makes breaking up the nation's second-largest city sound as simple as rearranging a closet. It's not.

Breaking apart a city the size of Los Angeles would be an extraordinarily complex undertaking. It would not guarantee delivery of the sky-high promises made by secession leaders, whose top-choice name for a new Valley city is Camelot. It would be a drastic "fix" for a world-famous city.

No one between now and the election is going to convince die-hard secession advocates to vote against a breakup. But for residents on either side of Mulholland Drive who have not yet made up their minds, we recommend keeping Los Angeles united by voting no on secession.

Secession's Uncertainties

Passage of F and H would not mean a clean break. The measures call for Los Angeles to provide police protection and all other services for at least the first year. After that, new Valley and Hollywood cities could continue renting services from Los Angeles, contract with the county or develop and staff their own departments.

If it seems like a lot of trouble to secede from Los Angeles only to continue using the same services or rent them from the even larger, financially strapped county, it is. Starting a small city from scratch is hard work, and starting a Valley city with an instant population of 1.4 million people -- all of whom would need their garbage collected, their streets tended and their houses protected from fire -- is unprecedented. Developing city services could take years.

In addition to paying for the services they receive, the new cities would pay so-called alimony for 20 years to make up for lost tax revenues. Los Angeles officials claim that the payments aren't enough. Some Valley residents grumble that they shouldn't have to pay anything. That matter, along with water rights disputes, would end up in court.

Hollywood secession apparently has little support inside or outside Hollywood. Valley secession is more complicated. Because of its roots in the anti-tax and anti-busing movements of the 1970s, secession is seen by some as white flight. But just as the rest of Los Angeles has changed, today's Valley is not the white enclave it was 30 or 40 years ago.

An Unlikely Camelot

Anyone who has shopped for lavash bread, plantains and taro root at Reseda's Valley Produce or driven the length of Sherman Way knows that multilingual advertisements can now be seen on Valley streets. New immigrants and poorer communities have, in fact, taken up many of the old-line secessionists' complaints about inadequate services, a distant downtown government and citywide disrespect.

"Are you tired of unsafe streets?" the secession campaign's Web site asks. "Traffic? Gangs? Blight? A declining quality of life? Are you tired of bad schools?"

Who isn't? But breaking up the city would not change the school district, which is governed separately from the city. Breaking away from Los Angeles isn't going to wall off the Valley from the growth and demographic changes that have both energized and unsettled Southern California.

The Case for Unity

The Valley has long complained that it falls short on respect. But if clout equals respect, the Valley has plenty. The addition of a fifth City Council seat in the Valley gives it the largest voting bloc of any area in the city. That's clout. Angelenos may not be the type to carry on about civic values or hype a government that everyone knows has faults. But the Valley and Hollywood are both integral to Los Angeles' identity.

The Valley is the middle-class heart of a city increasingly split between the rich and poor. Hollywood is the personification of the city of dreams.

Sure, Los Angeles has problems; what city this large and diverse doesn't? But size and variety also are part of its energy and endless possibilities. Angelenos, don't give up on the dream. Vote no on secession, Propositions F and H.

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