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Secessionist majority thinks 'the Valley' is, like, not L.A.
The Christian Science Monitor | Monday, March 25, 2002 | Daniel B. Wood

Posted on 03/25/2002 1:46:54 PM PST by Dog Gone

VAN NUYS, CALIF., Mar 26, 2002 (The Christian Science Monitor) -- For lifetime San Fernando Valley resident Bob Scott, the issue is a no-brainer - except in name, he doesn't really live in Los Angeles.

"It's not so much about lack of representation and not getting our fair share of city services ... it's about having a sense of place," says the business consultant who grew up in this northernmost edge of Los Angeles sprawl.

In his 50 years here, Mr. Scott has watched ranchland and orchards morph into a polychromatic mosaic of homes, churches, recreational and industrial parks, freeways, and malls. Dubbed "America's suburb," the Valley is the spawning ground of Americana such as "Valley-girl" speak, low-rider roadsters, air-soled sneakers, and wheat-grass juice bars.

It wants to be its own place.

And a secession measure - called city "reorganization" by proponents - is headed for the November ballot.

A Los Angeles Times poll last week suggests the secession movement, a grassroots effort that began quietly six years ago, may have gained the political support it needs to succeed. A majority of Valley residents - 55 percent - believe the region should secede, and nearly half the electorate citywide - 46 percent - agrees. By state law, at least 50 percent of city voters need to approve.

"We've sat out here languishing since 1915 as a place that since the beginning really ought to have been its own city," Scott says, naming the year the region was annexed into L.A., primarily to preserve water rights for top city business owners.

Los Angeles drops to No. 3?

If successful, the breakaway of the 80 Valley communities and their formation into one, yet-to-be-named city would bump Los Angeles back from second largest US city to third, behind New York and Chicago. The new Valley city would be among the largest 10 US cities.

"This has become a very serious matter from something that few thought had a chance of getting off the ground," says Larry Berg, of the Jesse Unruh Institute of Politics. "City officials have been ostrich-like in thinking this would go away. They better figure out why this has gotten so big and deal with it."

National and state observers say the Valley secession move is a localized matter, unique to the specific politics and geography of Los Angeles.

Indeed, Hollywood and the harbor area have also petitioned for secession and may join the Valley on the November ballot too.

"I would call this separation movement, if anything, a countertrend to what is going on nationally," says Doug Peterson, an analyst at the National League of Cities. "Elsewhere, there are more moves afoot for cities and their surrounding suburbs or counties to merge, rather than separate."

But because the area is - like other suburbs adjacent to large cities - caught between the older downtown to the south, and newer suburbs to the north and east, the secession story is a window on the development of another American-community prototype, the "midopolis."

That's an emerging collection of adjacent civic entities that tries to blend urban and suburban infrastructures, encourage both small and large businesses, and attract emerging industries.

"Because of L.A.'s size and tendency to be a leader in other nationwide social trends, the Valley secession story is important to watch for how residents try to deal with their generalized resentment of being underserved," says George Peterson, an analyst at the Urban Institute.

Set between two small mountain ranges, the Valley is divided from the rest of the city, accessible through a handful of canyon roadways and one major freeway artery that snakes in from downtown. Home to top, old-and-new American entertainment companies - Disney, Universal, Warner Brothers, Dreamworks SKG - the area is also a major supplier of aerospace and defense, financial services, health care, and high-tech manufacturing.

"Valley leaders are trying to figure out how to separate out the region's cultural, political, and economic life that have for so long been subordinate to forces outside its borders," says Joel Kotkin, with the Davenport Institute for Public Policy. "For now, their problem is they know what they don't want - indifference and abuse from over the hill - but they haven't yet carved out an identity from what has become a shapeless blob of communities."

With the vote just months away, pro and con forces are coalescing around what both say will be a battle of information and misinformation. Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn is heading a coalition of labor, liberals, and city bureaucrats to challenge how the new city would tax itself, and establish such services as police, fire, sanitation, and water.

The cost of going it alone

The prosecession coalition of home and business owners is trying to illustrate how costly diluted political representation on the 15-member city council is to residents. They say residents pay $125 million more annually in taxes than is spent on the region.

The opposition counters that costs for public services are likely to be much more expensive regionwide, because civic entities won't have as much bargaining power.

"Our research is showing that there is still a tremendous amount of confusion.... We think that when they actually look at the data and consider their quality of life, voters will reject this," says Kam Kuwata consultant to the L.A. United campaign that is fighting the idea.

But residents and activists like Bob Scott remain hopeful. "Our meetings used to typically attract about 20 to 30 people, but all of a sudden [there is] standing room only," says Scott, a member of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley. "We think that if people take a close look at this, they will be able to see through the smoke and mirrors."

TOPICS: Government; News/Current Events; Politics/Elections; US: California
KEYWORDS: losangeles; sanfernandovalley

1 posted on 03/25/2002 1:46:54 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone
The real problem is that the Valley People are fed up paying for the Los Angeles Unified School District and its incredible corruption .... Los Angeles has bad schools that keep getting worse and need metal detectors to keep out weapons. People living in Encino, Agoura, West Lake Village, and Thousand Oaks actually have pretty good schools.
2 posted on 03/25/2002 2:00:02 PM PST by ex-Texan
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To: ex-Texan
I'm thinking that what they really need to do is secede from California. There are three reasons for that:

Davis, Feinstein, and Boxer.

3 posted on 03/25/2002 2:07:33 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone
I wish New York City would secede from the state of New York. It gives New York State a bad name (and bad Senators).
4 posted on 03/25/2002 2:11:54 PM PST by southern rock
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To: Dog Gone
Who's gonna pay for all the ludicrous social programs now?

I really hope the valley is able to secede. The one saving grace in the Bay Area is that there are no uber-cities like Los Angeles to boss the more middle-class and conservative communities around.

5 posted on 03/25/2002 2:13:20 PM PST by GoreIsLove
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To: Dog Gone
As a pro-secession resident of The Valley, I wish we could separate from California as well, but unfortunately they've got us surrounded. What's worse, the Valley has become increasingly liberal over the years and is now almost (but not quite) as loony as LA itself. The real issue is local representation. When the closest elected representative is a city council member with 250,000 people in his district, most of whom don't even live in the same area, this is not a democracy, it's a collection of feudal baronies. That's why it will be so tough to break up, but it's got to be done.
6 posted on 03/25/2002 2:15:00 PM PST by Argus
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To: Argus
15 Councilmen? (sorry Council People). Chicago has 50 aldermen. While mostly crooked, they do respond to neighborhood complaints. Generally, if they are not on the ball, they will get replaced.
7 posted on 03/25/2002 2:48:20 PM PST by glorgau
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To: Dog Gone
accessible through a handful of canyon roadways and one major freeway artery that snakes in from downtown

I've been gone for 6 years now, but having grown up in The Valley I can attest that access to the rest of LA is by way of THREE major Freeways. The one snaking in from downtown is I-5, but they've missed the 170/101 (Hollywood Freeway) and the 405 (San Diego Freeway).

You'd think someone doing an article on a major city might have a glance at a map for about two seconds.

8 posted on 03/25/2002 2:52:45 PM PST by ElkGroveDan
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To: Argus
Would secession save money in taxes? My guess is that it wouldn't, because the newly independent entity would just love to spend some money on local projects.
9 posted on 03/25/2002 2:57:48 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: Dog Gone
Nobody knows in advance what the tax situation would be, but it's hard to believe it would be any worse, and at least our taxes would be spent where we live. The examples of such independent cities as Burbank and Glendale are encouraging - they have clean streets, good police and fire protection and much better schools than the LAUSD. At any rate, I would even be willing to pay more for a voice in my local government. Right now I'm just a helpless serf on the LA downtown plantation.
10 posted on 03/25/2002 3:04:48 PM PST by Argus
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To: Argus
I hear you. When I lived in So Cal, I lived in Glendale for the very reasons you're mentioning.
11 posted on 03/25/2002 3:08:19 PM PST by Dog Gone
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To: ElkGroveDan
There were a couple of other points in the article that tripped me up, too. Like the one about two small mountain ranges. Yeah, I'd call the Hollywood Hills a small mountain range (the trailing end of the Santa Monicas), but the San Gabriels to the north are pretty good sized. The other was the line about newer suburbs to the north and east. What are they talking about? Porter Ranch? That's just a subdivision. Palmdale? Riverside? Not exactly new. I'd say if anything that the newer burbs are to the west (Calabasas, Agoura Hills, etc.) and the south (like far Orange County).
12 posted on 03/25/2002 3:56:33 PM PST by Heyworth
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To: Dog Gone
Hey, maybe the Valley will become a pro CCW municipality.
13 posted on 03/25/2002 9:28:27 PM PST by monkeyshine
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To: Argus
I was born in the city, but grew up in the Valley. I moved back to the city at age 18 and only go into the valley to visit family (or to go through it). But I am pro-secession for the Valley. It is it's own place, and as you said, the political system is not very representative at all. A collection of councilmembers from the other side(s) of the hills will always screw the Valley out of it's fair share either intentionally or by lack of understanding. LA is simply too big a place to manage.
14 posted on 03/25/2002 9:32:26 PM PST by monkeyshine
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To: Heyworth
Valencia and Simi Valley, perhaps? Both are growing by leaps and bounds. Simi Valley is independent, but Valencia (the Santa Clarita Valley) is expanding very rapidly and located just a few miles north of Northridge (up the 5 fwy) -- and a lot closer than Palmdale. LA County, but not LA City.
15 posted on 03/25/2002 9:35:43 PM PST by monkeyshine
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To: Dog Gone
It will probably not save anything, but there would be more money to line the pockets of closer politicians.
16 posted on 03/25/2002 10:25:57 PM PST by altair
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To: Dog Gone
Best of luck to the Valley. They don't belong in LA the city.
17 posted on 03/25/2002 10:28:03 PM PST by altair
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