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25 Candidates in Valley Chart Own Strategy

Cityhood: Group plans to reach out to voters separately from the activists who brought secession to the Nov. 5 ballot. Move comes after consultants' resignation.


Worried that the San Fernando Valley secession campaign is faltering, about 25 candidates for office in the proposed city say they will take matters into their own hands, reaching out to voters separately from the activists who brought the cityhood issue to the ballot.

The group, United Valley Candidates, has already planned a meet-and-greet event for voters on Oct. 7, and will hold a news conference today to describe the role members intend to play in the overall secession campaign.

The group, which began as an e-mail list that novice candidates used to trade ideas, is stepping up its actions in response to the resignation this week of the political consulting firm advising the broader cityhood campaign, several members said.

The firm quit because it had not been paid.

"There is a feeling that if we sit and wait for the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee to do everything for us, it's not going to happen," said Armineh S. Chelebian, a candidate in the Valley's 3rd council district who helped form the group. "We want to jump up and take the bull by the horns."

The group was careful not to publicly criticize the cityhood campaign, saying volunteers and campaign workers were doing their best with limited resources.

"I think they're trying, and I think if they had more resources they'd be more active," said Sidney Gold, who is running in the 1st district in Granada Hills.

But privately, some members expressed frustration with the consulting firm, Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli, which resigned Wednesday, and the longtime activists running the secession effort.

"If we're going to be victorious on Nov. 5, we have to take a very strong stand, not only for our own candidacies, but [for] cityhood," said Frank Sheftel, a candy-maker who is running in the 12th district. "We cannot be reliant on other people for that."

The group is organizing a park event at which residents will be able to discuss cityhood, as well as the Oct. 7 candidates' event, to be held at Sheftel's North Hollywood candy shop.

They also plan to campaign outside the Valley.

Others among the 121 candidates running for mayor and council in the proposed city are organizing themselves into caucuses. There are also organizations of liberal candidates, women candidates and, less formally, Latino candidates.

Most of the caucuses plan to stay together after November to work on local problems, even if secession loses. The offices they are seeking will exist only if a breakup wins.

"This group is not going away after the election," said Stephanie Spikell, one of just 16 women running for the offices and a member of the women's group.

"We now have all of these women who are committed to their communities, who wanted to focus on women's issues and who are getting to know how politics operate," Spikell said.

The candidates are working together despite their competition for council seats, Spikell said. Each group has focused on some key issues, such as women's safety concerns and services for the elderly.

"We have our own vision for the Valley, and whether or not the Valley secedes from Los Angeles, we're going to continue that vision," said council candidate Oscar Mendoza, who is running in the 2nd district and is part of the informal Latino group.

Last week that group held a breakfast in North Hollywood, and members promised to try to improve conditions in the heavily Latino northeast Valley, regardless of the election outcome.

"We said that we candidates would work together to bring more economic opportunities, improve public safety and also work with other candidates who get elected, whether in a Valley city or in Los Angeles," Mendoza said.

The women's caucus has held one event--a news conference to discuss crime and streetlights in the Pacoima area.

"We're looking at the problems of the Valley from a woman's perspective," said Terry Stone, who founded the 16-member caucus.

Richard Katz, chairman of the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee, said he welcomed the formation of the caucuses.

But he added that he would like to see the United Valley Candidates concentrate their efforts in the Valley, rather than in the Los Angeles Basin.

Secession needs a majority vote both in the Valley and in Los Angeles at large to win in November. Katz said the Valley Independence Committee is relying on a high turnout of secession supporters in the Valley to carry the citywide vote.

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