Commission Rejects Powerful Councils Los Angeles’ Elected Charter Reform Commission has recommended the creation of a network of advisory neighborhood councils, but its decision not to give neighborhoods decision-making power has fueled more secession talk. Critics, outraged by the commission’s decision, vowed to push forward with efforts to break the San Fernando Valley away from L.A. and threatened to boycott a Constitutional Convention the elected reform commission has called for on Nov. 7. Erwin Chemerinsky, chairman of the elected commission, urged residents not to give up on reforming the charter. The commission has until March of next year to decide what to place on the June ballot, and the final product is subject to change. Secession Study Close to Goal Activists petitioning for a study of San Fernando Valley secession recently announced they have collected 172,000 signatures, putting them in good position to meet their goal of 180,000 signatures by the Nov. 27 deadline. Members of Valley VOTE, the group leading the petition drive, say they are confident they will get the required signatures, but they backed off an earlier projection that the effort would be wrapped up by the end of October. The group needs signatures from 25 percent, or 135,000 of the Valley’s 526,000 registered voters, to trigger a study of secession, which eventually could lead to the Valley’s breaking away from Los Angeles. The group hopes to collect 180,000 signatures as a cushion in case some of the signatures are disqualified by county election officials. MiniMed Takes A Pounding Despite reporting a 68 percent increase in third-quarter earnings, Sylmar-based MiniMed Inc. saw its share price drop 16 percent in one day after an investor newsletter questioned the company’s accounting practices. MiniMed shares fell $9.50 on Oct. 21, closing at $58.63, after the Rockville, Md.-based Center for Financial Research and Analysis Inc. said the sale of an insulin pump to one of MiniMed’s sister companies provided an artificial boost to MiniMed’s bottom line. Company officials discounted the accusations, saying that if anything the company’s stock has become a better buy. MiniMed reported third-quarter earnings of $3.2 million (23 cents per diluted share), compared with $1.9 million (14 cents) for the like period a year ago. The stock was trading around $60 the week of Oct. 26. Amgen Earnings Surprise Analysts Amgen Inc., the Thousand Oaks drug developer, reported a 23 percent gain in third-quarter earnings, an unexpected increase driven by sales of its popular anti-anemia drug Epogen. Amgen reported net income for the third quarter ended Sept. 30 of $221 million, or 87 cents per share, on sales of $700.9 million, beating earning estimates by 10 cents a share. The company sold $350 million worth of Epogen, a 23 percent increase over the like period last year, after Medicare loosened reimbursement guidelines for use of the drug in dialysis patients. VICA Supports LAUSD Breakup The Valley Industry and Commerce Association, one of the Valley’s most prominent business groups, on Oct. 19 endorsed dismantling the Los Angeles Unified School District. The panel’s board voted to support an initiative called Finally Restoring Excellence in Education. It would break up the 670,000-student district and leave the Valley with two independent school districts, northern and southern. In a position paper, VICA endorsed the FREE plan on the grounds that the optimum public education district is smaller than 100,000. Supporters say that two Valley districts would mean increased access to administrators and improved academic standards, and other benefits. Opponents contend a breakup would result in greater bureaucracy and increased expenses.