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Assembly speaker pushes ahead with Vernon disincorporation plan

Despite a loss of support in the California Senate this week, John A. Pérez plans to bring his bills up for a vote. Sen. Kevin de Leon is instead calling for governmental reforms in the troubled city.

August 27, 2011|By Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times

Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez will push forward in his bid to disband the city of Vernon despite a loss of support in the state Senate this week, his spokesman said.

Pérez (D-Los Angeles) plans to bring the disincorporation bills up for a final vote before the Legislature's session ends Sept. 9, spokesman John Vigna said Friday. The city of about 100 residents has been dogged by a series of corruption scandals and Pérez argues that it lacks an independent electorate.

Earlier this week, state Sen. Kevin de Leon (D-Los Angeles) withdrew his support for the disincorporation plan over concerns about the effect it would have on businesses in the industrial city just south of downtown L.A. De Leon instead called for governmental reforms, which the Vernon City Council unanimously supported at a special meeting Thursday.

Pérez remains "deeply skeptical" that Vernon can reform on its own, Vigna said.

"Vernon has had such a long history of saying or doing whatever they have to do to survive," Vigna said.

Critics argue that Vernon has for decades been run as a fiefdom by a small group of leaders. The city owns nearly all of the homes and apartments, and many tenants have close ties to city leaders. In the last six years, three top Vernon officials have been convicted on public corruption charges.

Pérez has written two separate bills to disband Vernon. AB 46 would dissolve the city's government, making it an unincorporated area of Los Angeles County. A companion bill, AB 781, would form a new special district overseen by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors to take over Vernon's power utility and Fire Department.

Although the plan has received strong support in the Assembly, it has been met with more resistance in the upper house.

Pérez is now focusing on gathering votes in the Senate and securing the support of L.A. County officials, who have expressed concerns over the financial effect of AB 781.

De Leon's recommendations include new housing, an independent reform monitor and an Environmental and Community Benefit Fund.

Vernon has also approved pay cuts for city leaders and formed an independent commission to oversee city-owned homes and apartments.

"Vernon can and will become a model city and should not be disincorporated," said Mayor Hilario Gonzales, who has been on the City Council for the last 37 years.

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