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Tuesday, Sep 26, 2023


A new survey shows that nearly 60 percent of San Fernando Valley voters favor an independent city, giving new life to a secession movement that only weeks ago seemed in danger of falling apart. Bouyed by the new poll, Valley VOTE is moving forward with a petition drive to ask the Local Agency Formation Commission to study the financial feasibility of a separate Valley city. “Bert and I were surprised to find such a broad base of support for cityhood, self-determination and decentralization,” said attorney David Fleming, who financed the study with Galpin Ford owner Bert Boeckmann. The random survey of 1,200 people had a margin of error of 3 percent and was conducted by veteran pollster Arnold Steinberg. It found that 58 percent of Valley voters would be in favor of Valley cityhood if they had to vote today. An even stronger majority, 76.4 percent of the respondents, said that they would favor a study to determine whether it is practical for the San Fernando Valley to become a separate city. “We’ve instructed our lawyers to draft the petition (for a study of independence),” said Jeff Brain, president of Valley VOTE, the group spearheading the drive for a formal secession study. Brain believes it will take two to three weeks to draft the petition. The group plans to schedule the drive to take advantage of the efficiencies of gathering signatures during the city’s June election and to complete the process within 90 days of the start date. “We won’t start until we have all the volunteers and all the money and the attorneys say we can go,” Brain said. The LAFCO study is critical to any independence movement because it will determine whether secession would have an adverse financial effect on the city of Los Angeles, a finding that could prevent the formation of a separate Valley city. Valley VOTE has instructed its attorneys to begin working with LAFCO to iron out the details of conducting the study. “We want to know what documents they will want (when the petition is delivered) and the process they will follow.” It has been 90 years since any city has tackled a secession effort this large, and numerous questions exist concerning the way LAFCO’s study would be structured and the guidelines the agency would use to make its conclusions. “There’s still another obstacle and that is the LAFCO process,” said Assemblyman Tom McClintock, R-Granada Hills, who has been an outspoken proponent of Valley cityhood. “I’m still very uncomfortable with that process.” Another question is, who will fund the LAFCO study. In theory, funding would come from the county budget, but Brain said most county supervisors have so far been non-committal about the study. Fleming and Boeckmann do not believe that LAFCO has the resources or capability to perform an adequate study of secession. As a result, they plan to commission their own a study soon to tally the assets and liabilities of the Valley to help determine the feasibility of independence. Perhaps the largest question of all concerns what kind of governing body an independent Valley would have. Those on both sides of the independence issue point out that because an independent Valley would be so large, it would be just as vulnerable to the inefficiencies and lack of responsiveness in government that secessionists now complain about in L.A. “Making the Valley the sixth largest city (in the U.S.) without addressing government won’t make a difference,” said L.A. City Councilman Michael Feuer. The overwhelming support for secession demonstrated by the survey has not changed the positions of city officials who serve Valley areas. For the most part, those who opposed Valley independence said they would continue to oppose it. L.A. City Councilman Richard Alarcon is typical of those who have said they would prefer to address issues like self-determination and a fair distribution of taxes through charter reform rather than an independence movement. “If we cannot create the autonomy and if we find that, from a tax and debt perspective, we have a viable opportunity, I could find my way to support it (cityhood). But I would like to explore charter reform,” Alarcon said. The survey asked respondents who voted “yes” on cityhood, to state the reasons they favored the idea. The reasons most often cited (by 17.1 percent) were self-control, independence and autonomy. Another 13.9 percent said they favored independence because it would keep “Valley dollars” in the Valley; 11.2 percent of respondents said cityhood would be “more efficient;” 10.2 percent said L.A. was “too big” and 8.6 percent said the Valley did not receive its fair share of city services. Of those who were opposed to Valley cityhood, 22.8 percent cited “costs, taxes,” 18.8 percent cited “not enough information,” 10.9 percent said “too difficult/complex,” 9.9 percent said, “no need, why change?” and 5.9 percent cited the effect on the poor. The survey did not ask respondents whether they operated businesses in the Valley.

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