Lack of Interest Kills Campaign to Repeal Council Redistricting Plan

Times Staff Writer

A petition drive to repeal the Los Angeles City Council redistricting plan, approved last year over strong opposition from northeast San Fernando Valley residents, has come to an inglorious end.

"It appears as though it is dead," Councilman Ernani Bernardi, a sponsor of the initiative campaign, said Monday.

Anne Finn, widow of the late Councilman Howard Finn and another sponsor of the campaign, said she called off the drive a few weeks ago when she realized "it was a lost cause."

Within the 120-day time limit, a professional signature-gathering firm hired by the initiative's sponsors collected only about half the 100,000 signatures required to qualify the measure for the spring ballot.

"This is the first time that we failed to get on the ballot," said Michael Arno, president of American Petition Consultants of Sacramento.

Lack of Interest

Arno blamed the campaign's defeat on a lack of citywide interest in the initiative campaign. So much time had passed since the bruising council redistricting fight took place that "the town basically forgot about it," he said.

"The only people who were really interested in signing were people in the northeast Valley," which was most affected by the redistricting, he said.

Arno said he also had difficulty finding signature gatherers because many were already working on higher-paying statewide initiative campaigns. He said he would refund the money paid him by the initiative's sponsors, but declined to disclose the amount.

Redistricting was bitterly opposed by many northeast Valley residents because it assigned them council representatives they did not elect and who were unfamiliar with their areas.

The initiative would have repealed the districts approved by the council after Finn's death in August, 1986.

1st District Eliminated

That redistricting eliminated the northeast Valley's 1st District, previously represented by Finn, and divided the territory between Bernardi and Councilman Joel Wachs. It created a new 1st District, to which Gloria Molina was elected in the spring, in a predominantly Latino area near downtown Los Angeles.

The shuffling of districts was approved to settle a federal lawsuit seeking increased Latino representation on the council. It also headed off a fight between Councilmen John Ferraro and Mike Woo, who would have been placed in the same district under the plan approved before Finn's death.

A disappointed Anne Finn said she had no regrets.

"It wasn't totally futile," she said, explaining that the campaign helped her and others "get rid of a lot of their frustration" and served to educate the public about the council redistricting.

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