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Senators Study Their Addition to Figure the Odds of L.A. Division

TIMES STAFF WRITERS

Prognosticating about the fate of legislation in Sacramento is often a tricky business but especially so in late June, toward the close of the legislative session. That’s when longshot bills wind up passing faster than you can say abracadabra or bills expected to sail through vanish in a poof of legislative smoke.

Any or all of the above may be in store for the bill from Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills) that would remove a stumbling block to a San Fernando Valley secession movement.

The bill would void the Los Angeles City Council’s veto power over any area’s request to break away and form a new city.

At Boland’s behest, a hearing in the state Senate Local Government Committee was postponed this week after the chairman, Sen. William Craven (R-Oceanside), fell ill. A staff member said Craven is leaning toward supporting the measure.

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Without that vote, one of four she needs to move the bill forward, Boland was uncertain of victory, hence the delay until next Wednesday. As it turns out, if Craven had been well, it looks like Boland would have succeeded.

Opponents of Boland’s bill, led by senators representing non-Valley districts in Los Angeles, are already busily counting votes and preparing for an expected floor fight.

“Every day we count,” said state Sen. Diane Watson (D-Los Angeles). “In terms of the vote, I’m not optimistic.”

The problem, Watson said, is that the Los Angeles delegation is split, with Sens. Herschel Rosenthal (D-Van Nuys) and possibly Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) joining Cathie Wright (R-Simi Valley) in supporting the bill.

“They’re both Valley boys now,” Watson said.

Hayden, a possible mayoral candidate, has not publicly declared himself, but Watson said: “From everything I hear, he’s a lost cause.”

As she counts it, if all 16 Republicans, both independents, plus Rosenthal and Hayden vote for the bill, it would need just one more Democrat to sign on to pass the measure.

Legislators from other parts of the state are so far viewing the Boland bill as a local matter they need not be concerned about, Watson said.

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But Norm Boyer, Los Angeles’ legislative analyst in Sacramento, hopes to change that. He said other large cities in the state are considering opposing the legislation, the theory being that paving the way for a breakup of Los Angeles today might give their residents ideas.

“Obviously, we need to have senators from the Los Angeles area lobby senators from other areas of the state,” Boyer said.

Watson and Sens. Richard Polanco (D-Los Angeles) and Teresa Hughes (D-Inglewood) will all be working on that. As a backup plan, “we’ll try every political maneuver we have,” Watson said.

While it appears that Boland has the votes in committee, Boyer said a lot can happen over the next week. “Leaning toward the bill doesn’t necessarily say where someone will vote if the bill is amended,” he said.

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Boland has said she will not accept amendments to the bill in part to avoid sending it to Polanco’s Elections Committee, where it would surely die.

As far as members of the Local Government Committee are concerned, Sen. Quentin L. Kopp (I-San Francisco) said he would probably back the measure. “I’m inclined toward the bill because I think of it as the right of self-determination,” Kopp said.

The Boland camp is also counting on yes votes from Rosenthal and Sen. Newton Russell (R-Glendale), though Russell has not declared himself publicly.

Sure opponents, both sides agree, are Sens. Charles M. Calderon (D-Whittier) and Patrick Johnston (D-Stockton).

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Sen. Ruben S. Ayala (D-Chino) said he will support the bill if it is amended as suggested by the city of Los Angeles. The city wants everyone in Los Angeles to vote on secession, rather than just Valley voters. Another avenue of appeal is for the measure to apply statewide, instead of only to Los Angeles.

Sign Language

No one ever accused the Los Angeles Police Protective League of being subtle.

The union, which represents rank-and-file cops, has in the past two months purchased billboards to praise City Council members who the union feels have supported police.

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For example, one such billboard in council member Laura Chick’s district has a photo of this year’s 17 Medal of Valor winners and the message: “Council member Laura Chick supports LAPD heroes who risk their lives to make our community safe.”

But the league didn’t buy billboards for every council member.

In the latest league newsletter, the Thin Blue Line, league Treasurer Dennis Zine explained that two of the 15 council members did not get a billboard because they “have demonstrated very little support for you.”

Although Zine said he would not name the pair, the newsletter included a photo of each of the 13 billboards the league has purchased. That made it simple to determine that the two missing council members are Rita Walters and Marvin Braude.

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When asked about the billboards, Braude, who represents parts of the West Valley, said he did not know why he would have been left out. He insists that he has a good relationship with the police union.

But Braude suggested that maybe the union chose not to buy him a billboard in deference to his long-running dislike for outdoor advertising.

“Maybe they are doing me a favor because they know I don’t like billboards,” he said.

Calling 911

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Speaking of Braude and the LAPD, his latest crusade is to revitalize the aging public buildings at the Van Nuys Civic Center, a campaign that led to an interesting exchange of views this week.

During a council committee meeting, Braude argued vehemently to have the Police Department locate a new $15-million emergency communications center at the Van Nuys Civic Center to handle 911 calls.

Instead, police recommended a five-acre site in West Hills, which police say has more space than Van Nuys for parking and future expansion.

Braude argued that the communications center should be centrally located so that it is easily accessible to city leaders during a natural disaster or other emergency.

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But Assistant Police Chief Frank Piersol reminded him that city leaders meet at the emergency command center in the basement of City Hall during a disaster and not at the 911 center.

Braude then suggested that the West Hills site is too far a drive for many 911 operators who would have to work there.

Police officials reminded Braude that many of the 911 operators may actually live in West Hills or surrounding communities and therefore their commute would actually be shortened.

Braude countered that zoning restrictions at the proposed site may delay construction of the project, while the Van Nuys Civic Center already has the proper zoning for the communications center.

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Police officials replied that the project has already been delayed but not by zoning problems. The delay was the result of Braude’s suggestion that police study whether the Van Nuys Civic Center is a viable alternative.

The panel voted 2 to 1 for the West Hills site. The council will make the final decision in a few weeks.

Water Gate

After years of study, the city’s Bureau of Engineering has determined that the current system for calculating sewer fees is unfair and that a more equitable system would lower rates for most San Fernando Valley residents.

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Unfortunately, it’s unlikely that the City Council will adopt the new system because it would mean raising fees just about everywhere else.

That was the conclusion reached after two meetings of the City Council’s Public Works Committee.

The city currently determines the fee by assuming that about 60% of the water entering a home ultimately ends up in the sewers via toilets and sinks. But Valley residents have argued that because of the big lots in their communities, most of the water goes into the landscaping and not the sewers.

Sharon Karagone, a city engineer, said that after five years of study, his department has determined that the most accurate way to calculate the fee is to base it upon the amount of water used during the previous rainy season when homeowners do little outdoor irrigation and most water goes down the sewer.

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A study by the Bureau of Engineering showed that under the so-called winter water rate system, Valley residents would see an average drop of $17 for every two-month bill. However, six council districts outside the Valley would have to pay higher fees.

Although the Public Works Committee endorsed the new system, Councilman Richard Alarcon, chairman of the panel, was skeptical that his colleagues on the other side of the Santa Monica Mountains would support the change.

“I don’t have a lot of faith that the winter water rates will pass based on the reality that six council members will be negatively impacted,” he said.

Hill-Holtzman reported from Sacramento and Martin reported from Los Angeles.

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