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Valley Cityhood Leaders Step Into a 'Lion's Den'

Secession: Two mayoral candidates carry their breakup message to a skeptical audience of more than 250 downtown executives.

September 20, 2002|PATRICK McGREEVY and NITA LELYVELD | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

San Fernando Valley secession leaders told a skeptical audience of downtown executives Thursday that breaking up the city would force Los Angeles to lower taxes and take other steps to nurture business growth.

Venturing into what one executive called a "lion's den," Valley mayoral candidates Mel Wilson and Keith Richman addressed a forum of more than 250 members of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, Central City Assn. and Los Angeles Headquarters Assn.

The chamber and Central City Assn. oppose the Valley and Hollywood secession measures on the Nov. 5 ballot, and the Headquarters group is expected to come out against them soon.

Wilson and Richman found themselves outnumbered on a six-member panel. During several heated exchanges with the candidates, secession opponents said a municipal split would create financially weakened cities and damage the area economy.

"We believe secession will reduce Los Angeles' stature and political clout and will negatively [affect] its economy," Central City Assn. President Carol Schatz said.

City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski said Los Angeles does a good job reaching out to businesses. She said it is first among major cities in small-business start-ups.

"We are a city that is much greater together than the sum of our parts," Miscikowski said.

Councilman Tom LaBonge said secession would be "morally wrong."

"I don't know anybody who has had a good divorce," he said. "It hurts people. It's going to hurt our community for about 10 years plus."

Richman, a Republican Assemblyman from Northridge, said the secession measures were put on the ballot after the Local Agency Formation Commission found that the split would not financially harm the Valley, Hollywood or the rest of Los Angeles.

He said secession would improve city services to all parts of Los Angeles by bringing government closer to neighborhoods.

"A new San Fernando Valley city will be the catalyst for improvements here in the city of Los Angeles," Richman said, "a catalyst for making it more efficient."

Wilson, who manages realty offices for Re/Max, said the company pays much more in taxes on property transactions in Los Angeles than it does in the West Valley city of Calabasas.

"When we become two vibrant, thriving, independent cities, we all become better off," said Wilson, a former chairman of the United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley. "Maybe after we lower our taxes, Los Angeles will, too."

After Wilson and Richman made their initial case, a show of hands in the Wilshire Grand Hotel ballroom indicated only five of the business leaders support breaking up Los Angeles.

Also Thursday, Hollywood secession opponents alleged that breakup advocates are circulating material that falsely implies Miscikowski and L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, as LAFCO members, endorse a split.

Miscikowski voted against putting secession on the ballot, while Yaroslavsky voted for the election but is neutral on a breakup.

In a Sept. 14 letter to voters, secession leader Gene La Pietra said, "County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski and the other prestigious LAFCO members ultimately voted to bring the issue to the people of Los Angeles on November 5th."

A La Pietra brochure featured LAFCO members' photos next to a fragment of the agency's mission statement--"Essential to the social, fiscal and economic well-being of the State of California."

Andrew Glazier, co-chairman of the anti-secession group Hollywood and Los Angeles as One (HALO), called the material "lies."

La Pietra said the letter and brochure were meant to show voters that the LAFCO board is distinguished.

"We simply point out that Cindy Miscikowski was one of those people who was part of the process," he said of the letter. "It is very accurate."

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