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Assembly Speaker John Pérez wins small victory in disbanding Vernon

A Senate committee approves a companion measure to the disincorporation bill, providing protections to businesses.

July 07, 2011|By Sam Allen, Los Angeles Times

Assembly Speaker John Pérez secured an important — but narrow — victory Wednesday in his effort to disband Vernon despite strong opposition from business owners and labor groups.

The Senate Governance and Finance Committee voted 5 to 3 in favor of AB 781, which offers protections to Vernon businesses in the event of disincorporation. Pérez (D-Los Angeles) sponsored the bill as a companion to AB 46, which would eliminate Vernon's cityhood and make the area an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County.

Vernon business owners and union leaders have strongly opposed both bills, saying that they would disrupt the local economy and lead to job losses. The 5.2-square-mile city is home to an estimated 1,800 businesses and 50,000 jobs.

"These are not hollow threats, these are just the real consequences of this bill…. AB 781 is our worst nightmare," said Greg Longstreet, chairman of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce and president and chief executive of Farmer John Meats. "We will lose the essential services that have drawn us to the city."

The business owners and labor leaders have joined the city in asking the Legislature for more time to reform Vernon's government. Pérez, however, has refused to back down. On Wednesday, he said he remains convinced that disincorporation is "the only way to achieve a truly independent electorate" in Vernon, a city of fewer than 100 residents that has rarely held competitive elections.

Pérez also said he was frustrated by the criticism of AB 781, which he contended addresses the key concerns raised by the city's business community. The legislation would establish a special district to provide services to businesses, maintain taxes and utility rates, and form two community advisory panels to oversee land-use and municipal affairs.

The two bills are likely to be brought before the full Senate next month, according to John Vigna, a spokesman for Pérez's office.

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