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Nine Candidates Vie for Valley's 8th District Seat

October 27, 2002|Massie Ritsch | Times Staff Writer

If a feeling of detachment from Los Angeles' core is fueling the secession movement, then residents of the 8th district of the proposed San Fernando Valley city council should be especially supportive of a breakup. The district of West Hills, most of Woodland Hills and part of Canoga Park is much closer to Ventura County than to downtown L.A.

"I love L.A. I love the things that make it uniquely and distinctly L.A. The problem is, all those things are over on that side of the hill," said Bill Cipolla, 42, a TV news producer who is one of nine candidates for the 8th district seat."I think we can create the city that we want," said Cipolla, who lives in West Hills.

None of the candidates -- eight men and attorney-accountant Joyce Pearson -- has held elective office. A few have worked in government. Others are running on a lark. The 14-member Valley council will exist only if secession wins on the Nov. 5 ballot.

"We're all grass-roots people who care about where we live and want to make this the best place possible for ourselves and the entire community," said Barry Seybert, who sells video equipment and lives in West Hills. Seybert, 46, calls himself a progressive Democrat. The council is nonpartisan.

Ron Littge, a West Hills contractor, did not file his candidacy petition until the last day possible. "I really felt that the average Joe like myself would have an honest-to-God chance of getting elected," said Littge, 49. "Of course, it's a moot point if secession doesn't happen."

The Times Poll this month found secession trailing everywhere but in the West Valley.One of the 8th district candidates, Woodland Hills attorney Johnny Walker, was an architect of the Valley secession plan. After more than six years of work, Walker, 53, says it is time to "complete what we started."

"The problem with the city of Los Angeles is, it's just too big," he said at a recent forum sponsored by the Woodland Hills Chamber of Commerce. "There are too many rocks for the scoundrels to hide under at the present time. We need smaller rocks and no scoundrels."

Most of the candidates oppose the 3,050-home Ahmanson Ranch project in Ventura County, not far from the 8th district. Ventura County would reap the tax revenue from the proposed development, they say, and the Valley would get the traffic.

Pearson, a 52-year-old Woodland Hills resident, echoes many secessionists' cries that Los Angeles business taxes are too high, and that the Valley does not get its rightful share of police and fire protection and other city services. Smaller cities such as Burbank and Glendale should be models for a Valley city, said Pearson, who urges voters to "make Joyce your choice."

The Valley needs more police, the candidates say, because gangs have crept into even Los Angeles' westernmost areas, where some neighborhoods are among the city's most affluent and others remain charmingly rural.

"You have gangs in Canoga Park -- that was unheard-of before," said Garrett Biggs, a 26-year-old political consultant who has worked for various Republican officeholders and candidates.

Biggs, a Woodland Hills resident, and his opponents hope that Valley cityhood will lead to the formation of a school district separate from Los Angeles Unified.

"It's not something that's going to happen automatically, but how does the state of California ignore the sixth largest city in the nation? How can they not give us our own school district?" Biggs said.

"I'd like to live in a city that has a school district I can be proud to send my children to," said candidate Eugene Butler, 53, a Canoga Park actor and teacher.

Like all secessionists, the 8th district candidates promise that the government of a Valley city will be more responsive to citizens, if only because it will be closer to them.

The candidates all have anecdotes to demonstrate that "Los Angeles is big, and they don't care," as engineer Mohammad Vafakhah put it. The pavement of the Woodland Hills street where the 51-year-old and his family live is "like alligator skin," he said.

West Hills private investigator Jay Rosenzweig said he has watched a new barbecue restaurant near his office jump through burdensome hoops to secure building and liquor permits. Rosenzweig, 42, wants to "bring city government to your doorstep."

"It can't get worse," he said. "It can only get better."

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