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Vernon voters pass reforms

Voters approve a measure requiring officials to fill council vacancies through a special election and limit the council's pay raises to cost-of-living adjustments.

November 24, 2011|By Hector Becerra, Los Angeles Times
  • A single building houses City Hall, police, fire and other city service departments in Vernon.
A single building houses City Hall, police, fire and other city service… (Reed Saxon / Associated…)

For the second time this month, voters in the city of Vernon approved a set of reforms, including one that requires officials to fill vacancies on the City Council through a special election rather than by appointment.

Elections for council seats are rare in the industrial city, which has 112 residents. A total of 50 ballots were cast in the election on Tuesday. Voters also approved a measure to prohibit council members from raising their compensation beyond cost-of-living adjustments.

Voters approved other amendments to Vernon's charter, including requiring competitive bidding for city contracts, retaining an independent reform monitor for four more years and maintaining a Housing Commission.

In the past, city officials have traditionally chosen who gets to live in Vernon's few homes, most of which are owned by the city.

Despite its tiny population, Vernon has about 1,800 businesses. For years, state legislators, prosecutors and others have accused officials of running the city like a fiefdom operated for the benefit of a small group of individuals rather than a legitimate voting population.

Earlier this year, Vernon faced a legislative effort to disincorporate the city. The move failed after a group of politicians, led by Sen. Kevin De Leon (D-Los Angeles), voiced concerns that dissolving the city would cause a loss of jobs. De Leon responded by introducing an extensive reform plan, which prompted Vernon officials to put amendments on the ballot.

Voting by mail, residents overwhelmingly passed an earlier package of reforms Nov. 8.

Of the six measures that passed this week, only two received a single vote against them: The housing commission measure and the measure limiting how much council members can raise their pay in the future.

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