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Citywide Secession Push Starts Slowly

October 22, 2002|Patrick McGreevy and Sharon Bernstein | Times Staff Writers

A new push by San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secessionists to build support outside those areas got off to a shaky start Monday when a kickoff event in Westchester drew only about a dozen people.

Later Monday, the last pre-election meeting of the secession group Valley VOTE got a bigger turnout -- about 100 -- in North Hills, where breakup leaders urged volunteers to step up their efforts for the final two weeks of the campaign. The evening gathering at an auto dealership got a surprise when Los Angeles City Councilman Nate Holden dropped by and gave the campaign a $500 personal check.

In Westchester, the Alliance for a New L.A., which claims to represent secession supporters across Los Angeles, held a news conference to open its headquarters for the citywide drive. But only three of the alliance's eight co-chairs attended the event, and among the no-shows was group President Bill Allen.

Also missing were co-chairs from Watts, the Valley NAACP president and the head of the Mexican American Political Assn. The slim turnout marked the latest setback for the secession campaign, which has struggled for weeks to raise money and marshal volunteers.

Undeterred, an alliance co-chairman, Robert Scott, said the organization intends to counter Mayor James K. Hahn's $5-million media campaign against Valley and Hollywood cityhood.

"We are really concerned ... [that] the campaign be run honestly and that the people look behind the blizzard of slick mailers that is being sent out by the billionaire boys club downtown," Scott said.

He also said that if secession fails, the group will stay together to pursue a city reorganization and fight the mayor's plan to change state law to make future breakup efforts more difficult.

"We will continue to fight through and beyond to whatever time it takes in order to achieve our goal, which is to reorganize Los Angeles," Scott said.

Among the predictions the alliance made on Monday was that harbor-area voters will back Valley and Hollywood secession by a wide margin. Conspicuously, Andrew Mardesich, a secession leader in San Pedro, was one of the co-chairs who skipped the event.

Contacted later, Mardesich said he stayed home to do remodeling work. He said he joined the alliance to promote reform of the city and, although he will vote for secession on Nov. 5, he is not confident about the outcome.

"I think its going to be unlikely to pass [citywide]," Mardesich said. "There is just too much money being spent by the city people to spread misinformation."

Valley mayoral candidate Mel Wilson said the alliance will help a grass-roots campaign overcome the opposition's media blitz with mass e-mailings and neighbors talking to neighbors.

"They are going to win the air war, but we can win the ground war," he said.

Wilson, meanwhile, picked up the endorsement Monday of a group of 12 liberal candidates for the proposed Valley City Council. Robert Goldsobel, a member of the Valley Alliance of Liberals, said Wilson "stood out as a leader."

At the Valley VOTE meeting, which attracted mainly longtime supporters of a breakup, secession leader Richard Katz noted that polls have shown the Valley and Hollywood measures trailing. "We just have to prove them wrong one more time," Katz said.

Holden delivered a short speech after presenting his $500 contribution. He stopped short of endorsing secession, but said he wants to give the campaign "a chance."

The councilman also said Hahn has exaggerated the potential harm secession could cause the city.

Also Monday, Hahn's office said he will address the pro-secession Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. on Dec. 10. Hahn had angered the group when he backed out of a Nov. 1 speaking engagement.

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