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Wednesday, Oct 4, 2023


By CHRISTOPHER WOODARD Staff Reporter When the $744 million police and fire facilities bond went down in flames in the recent city election, Mayor Richard Riordan blamed poor voter turnout and anti-tax sentiment. But others point to the defeat of Proposition 1 as proof of a widening rift between the San Fernando Valley and the rest of Los Angeles one that they say won’t be resolved until the issue of secession is settled. The bond measure, which needed approval from two-thirds of voters, collected just 47.5 percent in the four all-Valley council districts, compared with 66.9 percent in the other 11 city districts. The disparity is telling, said Richard Close, president of Valley Voters Organized Toward Empowerment, the group that launched the secession movement. “When you’re in the middle of a potential divorce, you don’t go out and get a big mortgage,” Close said. “This vote should come as a wake-up call to the City Council. I don’t think any bond measure can be passed until the Valley cityhood issue is finally decided.” Carlos Ferreyra, co-chair of the “No Bonds Now” coalition, a group that campaigned against Prop. 1, said that during the campaign, Valley residents repeatedly expressed concern about taxing themselves at a time when a break with Los Angeles is under consideration. “The people I spoke to said they couldn’t support it, and we didn’t have to raise any money,” said Ferreyra, who is also a member of Valley VOTE. “We just hope this sends a wake-up call to the powers that be.” One day after the April 13 election, Valley VOTE filed an application with the Local Agency Formation Commission to take the first formal step in the secession process. The group asked the agency to launch a study that could cost up to $2.6 million to determine if a breakup would economically damage L.A. or the Valley. If the LAFCO board finds that a split would not be harmful, it could put the secession issue to voters, possibly in 2002. But if the failure of Prop. 1 was meant to send a pro-secession message to downtown, officials there weren’t necessarily listening. Riordan said after the vote that secessionist sentiment in the Valley had nothing to do with the rejection of Prop. 1, and he described the coalition as “a group with about five people” who played little role in the demise of the measure. Riordan noted that the Valley Industry and Commerce Association strongly supported Prop. 1, as did several business leaders, including Galpin Ford owner Bert Boeckmann, a Riordan appointee to the city Police Commission, and attorney David Fleming, whom the mayor named to the Fire Commission. “I think, if anything, we made a mistake going to a low-turnout election,” said Riordan, who campaigned vigorously in support of the measure. “(Also) there’s a certain percentage of the public that is just anti-tax.” The mayor said proponents of the bond measure should rethink their strategy and place another measure before voters, possibly in November. Prop. 1 called for $744 million in bonds to be issued to build a new emergency dispatch center, along with 18 fire stations and six police stations. In addition, bond proceeds were to have been used to repair existing police and fire facilities throughout the city. The proposition needed approval by 66.7 percent of voters but could only muster 61 percent. The disconnect between council districts 2, 3, 7 and 12 (all in the Valley) and the 11 other districts in the city was striking. Out of 66,765 voters to cast ballots in the four Valley-only districts, only 31,678 (47.4 percent) voted yes, and 52.5 percent voted no. If those districts had not been included in the final count, Prop. 1 would have passed. Los Angeles Police Chief Bernard Parks conceded that secessionist sentiment likely played a role in the defeat of the measure, which would have given the Valley another police station and a new command bureau. “The Valley is growing in population and it’s imperative that another police station and another bureau be built to better serve the community,” said LAPD Lt. Anthony Alba, the chief’s spokesman. He said Parks hopes to help place a similar measure before voters, possibly in November. Valley Councilwoman Laura Chick said the city needs to do more than just repackage the bond measure and take it back to the ballot. She said last week’s defeat was an indication that voters are fed up with large bond measures, and they want to see government use tax dollars more wisely. To that end, Chick introduced a 10-point plan to the City Council that calls for prioritizing the city’s most critical needs for police and fire facilities and finding other ways to finance the projects. “The public has said, ‘No, not now’ (to the bonds), but the need is saying ‘(Do this) now,’ ” said Chick. “I’m ready to roll my sleeves up and look for new ways of approaching this.” L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said the defeat had more to do with the size of the bond measure than with secession. Also, Los Angeles traditionally has had difficulty getting police bond measures approved, especially after the city and the Los Angeles Unified School district failed to deliver on promises in past bond elections. “People aren’t stupid,” said Yaroslavsky. “When you get into the stratosphere of a half- or three-quarters of a billion dollars, there’s a clear threshold where the public won’t go.” Close disagreed and insisted that secessionist sentiment was key in the election. “If you can’t get a bond measure passed for police and fire, I don’t think you can get (bonds) passed for anything,” he said. Close believes voters concluded it was the wrong time to approve a costly bond measure because it would have made a breakup from Los Angeles all the more complicated. He expects the City Council will soon realize it can’t get bond measures passed without Valley support, and that council members who have fought against secession will now be more inclined to let the Valley go. “What happened (in the election) is going to propel cityhood efforts,” Close said. “It’s going to bring this to a head much quicker and give them (the City Council) a reason to accelerate the process.”

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