Charges of insensitivity and arrogance by Los Angeles City Council members toward residents of the northeast San Fernando Valley were leveled Saturday by proponents of an initiative aimed at abolishing existing council district boundaries and returning the 1st District to the Valley.
By approving the redistricting in September without considering the wishes of northeast Valley residents, "the council brought shame to this city," said Anne Finn, widow of Howard Finn, who represented the former 1st District.
Finn, along with Councilman Ernani Bernardi and other community leaders, led a town-hall meeting at Lake View Terrace Recreation Center to kick off the initiative drive and to discuss methods for gathering the 69,516 signatures needed to qualify the measure for the June, 1988, ballot.
The initiative seeks to repeal the redistricting, which divided Finn's territory between Bernardi and Councilman Joel Wachs.
During the controversy that ended with the plan's approval, northeast Valley residents who wanted to maintain their district "suddenly found we had no voice, and the City Council had no ears," Finn said. "If we permit them to be that arrogant and indifferent to us, it will set a terrible precedent."
Many Valley residents contended that the redistricting assigned them council members for whom they did not vote and who were not familiar with their community.
Bernardi, who voted against the redistricting and is heading the initiative drive, echoed Finn's sentiment. "Whether you're willing to let politicians spit in your eye--that's what it comes to," he said.
Bernardi and Finn were cheered by a predominantly elderly and female audience of about 60 people. The crowd was urged to take petitions to shopping centers and neighborhoods and get as many registered voters as they could to sign them. Most of those who attended took petitions with them.
The redistricting, approved after Finn's death in August, settled a federal lawsuit seeking increased Latino representation on the council. The new 1st District, in a mostly Latino area near downtown Los Angeles, is represented by Councilwoman Gloria Molina.
The effort to qualify the measure is considered by most observers to be an uphill battle. The group has the support of some Valley activists, but no other elected officials.
The only other politician to attend Saturday's meeting was businessman Jerry Hays, who is running for Wachs' seat on the council.
But Bernardi said he is optimistic: "I keep hearing that the odds are that the petition drive will fail but I think there's a group of people who just wish it to fail."