November 1, 2001
Separate Cities Pay Off
The politicians need to recog-nize the potential bene-fits to the residents of Los Angeles they represent.
If the people of the San Fernando Valley want to vote to become their own independent city and it is not going to take any money away from the rest of the city, then why should any among us feel we have the right to deny them that right?
State law gives every California community this right, provided it is revenue neutral, meaning, in the case of the Valley, that it will not take any money from the rest of Los Angeles. The Valley city will be required to pay $60 million a year to the city of Los Angeles as a form of alimony so that Los Angeles will not lose money for its programs or to service the poor. The Valley is willing to make this payment so that they can control their own destiny, solve their traffic problems, have their own city council, create better community plans and make better decisions about providing public services.
The truth is, if the Valley becomes a city, a new smaller Los Angeles will reap the same benefits that Valley residents are seeking, more accountable, responsive manageable and efficient local government.
For example, the City of Los Angeles spends $153 million a year to provide services to the Harbor communities and its 150,000 residents. If the Harbor become its own city, they can provide the services needed, including more police for only $98 million. A savings of $55 million a year.
The proposed City of Hollywood, with 250,000 residents, can provide their public services for only $107 million. With an annual revenue of $145 million they will have an annual budget surplus of about $37 million as a smaller city. With that surplus they can put more police on their streets, improve their parks, solve traffic or reduce taxes.
The city says it spends a billion a year in services to the Valley. We believe that as our own city we can reduce that cost by $50 to $100 million.
The politicians need to recognize the potential benefits to the residents of Los Angeles they represent. Residents of Los Angeles should consider the potential benefits and savings they might receive as residents of a new smaller city of Los Angeles and start to ask questions.
The report put out by the L.A. County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) is a draft document. There are areas of their report that need to be refined. They are currently holding public hearings around the city. In January they will issue a revised report based on public input to correct the report's shortcomings. Then they will hold even more public hearings.
The politicians say there is too much uncertainty. That is simply not true. In response to their concerns LAFCO has provided a great deal of certainty.
All the laws, services and employees will continue on day one after the vote. The new Valley city will pay Los Angeles for services, while over a three-year period, the new city will work with the old city to slowly take over their own services in a planned and logistical manner. All existing city employees will keep their jobs, pensions and benefits. Any changes that would be made to laws or services after the vote would be up to the respective city councils of the cities and subject to public scrutiny and hearings.
There is nothing magical about the city of Los Angeles' boundaries. Most of those opposed to a smaller Los Angeles and a new Valley City don't even know the exact boundaries of the city. There are 88 independent cities in the County of Los Angeles, the city of Los Angeles is just one of them. For years we have been asked to give a new mayor, council member or city program, such as advisory neighborhood councils, a chance, but still L.A. neighborhoods decline. People are capable of making their own decisions and solving problems whether the politicians want to acknowledge it or not.
Reorganization of Los Angeles into two smaller cities, a new smaller city of Los Angeles and a new Valley city, may not be good for the politicians and their careers, but all the evidence indicates it could be a good for the residents of Los Angeles and the Valley.
Jeff Brain is the president of Valley VOTE (Voters Organized Toward Empowerment).