New details on bid to dissolve Vernon released

Assembly Speaker John Pérez on Friday released new details about his plan to dissolve the city of Vernon, hoping to address criticism from labor and business leaders as his bill goes to the state Senate.

In April the Assembly overwhelmingly approved disbanding Vernon despite the opposition of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce and a group of labor unions that are continuing to fight against the disincorporation bill.

Pérez’s office said Friday that if disincorporation is approved, the 5.2- square-mile city would come under the control of a new Community Services District, whose board would be composed of the five L.A. County supervisors. The district would take over operations of Vernon’s Fire Department and electric utility along with the water, environmental and health services the city offers, his staff said.

Two community-based commissions would be formed, made up of residents, workers and business leaders, to advise the county supervisors on such issues as planning and land use.


The Vernon Police Department would be shut down, with the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department taking over policing for the city.

The blueprint is designed to offer a better sense of what Vernon will look like if the bill, AB 46, is approved, Pérez’s staff said, and ease worries that the legislation would lead to job losses. The changes will be introduced through a separate, companion bill already on the Assembly floor.

Arnie Sowell, one of Pérez’s policy directors, said the speaker wanted to maintain Vernon’s core services while eliminating “the rottenness” in its government.

“Our goal here is to re-create the city of Vernon without having the same cast of characters running it,” he said.

Fred MacFarlane, Vernon’s spokesman, criticized Pérez for the legislative procedure he was using to add the changes.

“This is coming at the eleventh hour, it’s not in writing, there’s no legislative analysis on it,” he said.

Pérez , a Los Angeles Democrat, has been pushing the bill since December, arguing that Vernon is a fiefdom run by a small group of people who are unaccountable to voters. Two former city administrators and the former mayor have been charged with public corruption in recent years.

But Vernon has imposed a series of reforms in recent weeks, including slashing City Council salaries, enacting term limits and creating a new advisory panel to manage city-owned housing. MacFarlane and other Vernon officials say that AB 46 is too drastic and that the city should have the chance to improve internally.

The plan for the Community Services District was crafted to keep as many rank-and-file city employees as possible. Sowell said all non-management workers would be retained under the new district and given Civil Service protections. Department heads would be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. Only council members would immediately lose their jobs.

In addition to the Community Services District, the companion bill will include several specific measures designed to protect businesses, Sowell said, such as clauses that would “grandfather” electricity rates for five years and maintain business licensing, land-use and zoning laws.

Pérez was scheduled to present the plan to labor groups Friday afternoon and Monday. A number of unions have been lobbying to defeat AB 46, including the Teamsters, United Food and Commercial Workers and International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Ed Rendon, a Teamsters public affairs director, said his union was briefed on the plan Friday but still opposed AB 46. “There’s nothing there for us, " he said. “Disincorporation can’t be on the table, period.”

Vernon officials and council members traveled to Sacramento this week to meet with over a dozen state senators, MacFarlane said. The group discussed the package of governmental reforms that were recently approved by the council as well as Vernon’s position that AB 46 is unconstitutional.

“This has never been done before, disincorporating a charter city, and it’s legally shaky at best,” MacFarlane said.

The Senate Government and Finance Committee will consider AB 46 on Wednesday.