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Sunday, May 28, 2023


By HILDY MEDINA Staff Reporter Despite growing political clout in the San Fernando Valley, Latino leaders are sitting on the sidelines when it comes to Valley secession a stance that could hinder creation of a new Valley city if and when the measure qualifies for the ballot. Supporters of Valley cityhood say they have invited Latino leaders to be part of the process. But some members of the Valley’s Latino community fear the secession movement could erase years of political gains made in the city of Los Angeles. “If it turns out that the (Latino) voting population here isn’t quite as large as our voting population citywide, then we may not be able to get the proper representation,” said Xavier Flores, president of the San Fernando Valley Mexican American Political Association. “If we secede and end up with less Latino representation than in the city of Los Angeles, then what kind of benefit would that be?” Flores is far from alone. None of the top leaders of Latino political or community organizations in the Valley have endorsed secession, and while few openly oppose it, there is a widespread complaint that Latinos are being left out of a movement dominated by white voters in the West Valley. “In my opinion, it (secession) has always been a West Valley-dominated movement,” said state Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, D-Sylmar. “I’ve talked to some of these people and I’ve never gotten any strong feelings of a true sincerity of total inclusion.” City Councilman Richard Alarcon, however, said Valley Latinos as well as other minority leaders are simply awaiting more information on the feasibility of secession. “A lot of people say that the vanguards of the movement are often not the ultimate kings,” Alarcon said. “At some point, the minority population of the San Fernando Valley will get engaged in this.” But Alarcon acknowledged that minority group members “have not been in the leadership because they are concerned.” “The history of the secession movement had been one that some people perceived to be one-sided, ethnically,” he said. “At some point they (will get) involved in making the decision, I believe they’ll all go one way or the other,” Alarcon said. “And that is going to hinge on to what extent they feel they will be in a position of control.” Jeff Brain, co-chairman of Valley Voters Organized Toward Empowerment (known as Valley VOTE), seems perplexed by the complaints. Since the 12-member volunteer board was formed about 18 months ago, it has called on Flores and other Latino leaders for their input, he said. “We believe we’ve kept the Latino leaders informed. We invited them to all our meetings and asked them to name people to talk to us,” said Brain. His group also sent out newsletters to Latino leaders to keep them apprised of what has been going on, he added. Further, now that the Legislature has removed the L.A. City Council’s right to veto secession, Latino representatives will be recruited for the Valley VOTE coalition board. Currently made up of representatives of a dozen homeowner and business groups, the board will be expanded to 25 members to be more representative of the population of the Valley, Brain said. Valley VOTE currently has one Latino member, Carlos Ferrerya, who also is chair of Councilman Michael Feuer’s Livable Neighborhood Council in North Van Nuys. But many of the people Brain plans to solicit as board members say they can’t support a campaign they know little about. Before Latino activists will join the coalition, they want to have their questions answered, said Flores and others. Will they pay higher taxes and receive less services? Will they be better off under the city of L.A.’s thumb? “People have come to us (to ask for our involvement), and we’ve said, ‘Absolutely not, we still don’t have enough information,'” said Flores. “Let’s err on the side of caution.” Irene Tovar, director of the Latin American Civic Association, agreed, saying she doesn’t want to take part in a movement that could lead to secession when she doesn’t yet know whether it would benefit the Latino community. Tovar, like Flores, remains skeptical about secession. Her biggest concerns are economic and environmental. She fears that a city of the San Fernando Valley would be dominated by business concerns, and the rights of Latinos would not be as well protected as they are under the city of Los Angeles. “Some of the (secession leaders) are business people. For the most part I respect the need for their point of view, but many look at the Northeast Valley as having nothing more than a work force and cheap land,” explained Tovar. “What will the environmental impact be if companies keep coming in? Are we going to be the junkyard of the Valley?” If she had to vote on the secession today, without any tax issues addressed, “I would vote against it,” Tovar said. Brain concedes that many issues of concern to the Latino community have not been addressed, but that’s because the secession movement has barely started. His organization’s primary focus has been on lobbying the state Legislature to support the “right to secede” bill. “All we did was change the law,” Brain said. “Now is the opportunity to stop and take a breath and go to the next phase.” The next phase, in which a broad-based coalition to forge a cityhood campaign would be created, is the tougher half of the secession battle, say some observers. “People long for a united Valley. Well, the Valley is not as unified as people think,” said Cardenas, who is reserving judgment on secession until he gets “more real information. I’m waiting for the meat and potatoes for the secession to be taken seriously.”

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