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Vernon OKs reforms in effort to avoid disincorporation

City Council seeks to address criticism by expanding housing, adding Civil Service job protections for city workers and vowing to hold elections to fill vacant council seats.

August 26, 2011|By Hector Becerra and Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times

The Vernon City Council voted unanimously Thursday to adopt a series of reforms proposed by a state senator as an alternative to disincorporation, including doubling the city's tiny and controversial housing stock.

State Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles) had been an original co-author of the bill, AB 46, to disincorporate the city, but this week withdrew his backing and instead proposed wide-ranging reforms.

His announcement came on the same day that Los Angeles County supervisors expressed deep concerns about taking over Vernon if the bill passed, noting the city's large debt and downward financial trend. In its current form, AB 46 calls for the county to take over some parts of Vernon's government.

Among the changes adopted Thursday was the creation of about 50 "independent housing units." For decades, the city has owned nearly all of the homes and apartments within its borders and many of the tenants have held close ties to City Hall. Critics say the arrangement turned Vernon into a tightly controlled fortress with pliant residents and council members who get highly subsidized housing.

The council also voted to reverse the "at will" designation for city employees, including firefighters, who had long worked without the kind of Civil Service protections that municipal employees have in other cities.

In addition, the council voted to prohibit the historically common practice of appointing someone to a vacant council seat instead of holding an election.

In an interview earlier this week, De Leon said he was hopeful that if Vernon agreed to the reforms, Assembly Speaker John Pérez, the principal author of AB 46, would reconsider the disincorporation proposal.

Pérez was not immediately available for comment Thursday afternoon. His office said earlier this week that it still intends to bring the disincorporation bill up for a full Senate vote before the Legislature ends its session Sept. 9.

hector.becerra@latimes.com

sam.allen@latimes.com

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