Hd — Staying United On the surface, it’s hard to quibble with recently enacted legislation that no longer gives city councils veto power over secession petitions. Frankly, it’s a long time coming no city council has any business overriding the will of the people on such a fundamental matter. The problem with this particular legislation is its context. Now that Gov. Pete Wilson has signed it into law, the Valley secessionists are preparing their high-stakes battle to break away from the city of Los Angeles. It shapes up to be an expensive and lengthy process that, we hope and believe, ultimately will be voted down. The campaign, however, is certain to divide this already fractured city in deep and profound ways. Win or lose, the secession movement ushers in a troubled political environment one in which policymaking likely will be based not on sound judgment, but on whether you’re for or against secession. It’s not a great way to run a city. The most obvious and troubling subtext behind the Valley secession movement is a kind of acceptance almost a resignation that splitting away from L.A. is the only way to make local government responsive to the people. It’s a little like two people filing for divorce before seeking ways to work out their problems. In the case of Los Angeles, let there be no doubt that many problems exist. City Hall divisiveness was captured recently when council members Michael Feuer and Laura Chick called on City Councilman Mike Hernandez to step down. To us, it seemed like a well-reasoned plea but Hernandez and others on the council quickly denounced the comments as politically motivated, and worse. The name-calling that went on in council chambers was enough for even an anti-secessionist to wonder whether there might be a better way. There is, of course, and it starts with charter reform. The issues being raised by both charter-reform commissions should resonate to the Valley secession proponents, who don’t like the way City Hall does its business and feel they have little say in changing the agendas. As it turns out, they’re not alone. All over Los Angeles, there is a sense of frustration about local services, red tape and high taxes. Most of all, there is frustration over a city government that seems balkanized, impenetrable, and in some cases, just plain incompetent. Secession is not the answer a point that we suspect will become clear in the months to come as the Local Agency Formation Committee, or LAFCO, conducts an exhaustive study to determine, among other things, how public facilities like airports, sewer systems, reservoirs, harbors and parks can be split up. LAFCO can support secession only if it turns out to be fiscally neutral; that is, neither the Valley nor the city of L.A. must wind up getting short-changed as a result of the breakup. That’s a tall order. And don’t forget the effect of a breakup on property and business taxes. Let’s be clear: The system is broken and desperately needs fixing. But for such a large portion of L.A. to break away the Valley environs alone would become the nation’s sixth largest municipality would signal that the city, as a whole, cannot solve its problems. We’re not at that stage yet and let’s hope we never will be.