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3 IN MAYORAL FIELD TO FIGHT SECESSION.

Byline: Alexa Haussler Staff Writer

Three candidates for mayor of Los Angeles - James Hahn, Antonio Villaraigosa and Xavier Becerra - have agreed to a written demand by the city's largest municipal employee union to publicly fight against San Fernando Valley secession while guaranteeing to protect labor interests, a union official said Monday.

An official of Service Employees International Union, Local 347, said City Attorney Hahn and Rep. Becerra, D-Los Angeles, signed the five-point pledge and that Villaraigosa, the Democratic state assemblyman who recently stepped down as speaker, orally agreed to it at a union meeting Saturday.

Real estate developer Steve Soboroff attended the meeting but refused to sign the pledge, while Councilman Joel Wachs, the fifth announced major candidate for mayor, did not attend and said he would not agree to the demand.

``It's like a blind statement against making Los Angeles a better city, and that's why I wouldn't sign it,'' Soboroff said. ``The efforts to divide the city of Los Angeles have been a healthy exercise.''

Richard Close, chairman of Valley Voters Organized Toward Empowerment, said he was surprised any candidates took a stance against secession before completion of the Local Agency Formation Commission study that is now under way. Valley VOTE spearheaded the study.

``I guess the candidates are going to have to make a choice of whether they support the San Fernando Valley, which represents 51 percent of the voters, or whether they are going to cater to the city unions,'' Close said.

Julie Butcher, general manager for the union, said there was nothing wrong with trying to pin down where the candidates stand on issues of importance to the union.

``I think it would be kind of disingenuous for anybody who would be running for mayor not to be in favor of keeping the city together,'' she said.

SEIU Local 347 asked each candidate to sign the pledge to combat secession efforts and to fight attempts to contract out or privatize any city services.

The union also asked candidates to pledge to ``publicly support and work for increased job security and workplace safety throughout Los Angeles . . . (and) actively encourage all effort to enhance the level, quality and accessibility of services provided to the public by city workers.''

In addition, the union won pledges of support for labor-management teams in city government and for ``the philosophy that city workers know best how to perform their duties effectively and successfully.''

Villaraigosa said he was not asked to sign a written pledge but opposes secession of any portion of Los Angeles to create a new city.

``I oppose secession, and I would be making every effort as the mayor of this city to keep this city together,'' he said.

But he noted that he had helped secure $1.8 million in state funding for the secession study of city services and revenues.

``Once we know where the assets and services are, I want the opportunity to rectify any of the past inequities when I become mayor,'' Villaraigosa said.

Wachs, whose district is in the Valley, said the pledge was unacceptable.

``I refused to do it because I thought that it would be irresponsible to sign that pledge,'' Wachs said. ``I don't think you should, for the moment, tie your hands to anything.''

Soboroff said he opposes secession, but that the pledge goes too far.

``I'd like to the see the city stay as one city - but I'd like to see the city as one city because the people want it to stay one city,'' not as a result of City Hall opposition, he said.

Becerra was not available for comment Monday, an aide said.

Hahn, who was involved in discussions on the Justice Department threat to sue the city for civil rights violations by the Los Angeles Police Department in the Rampart scandal, did not respond to requests for comment.
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:May 9, 2000
Words:641
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