CSUN PROVIDES SECESSION LESSON.
Sometimes arguing, sometimes agreeing, 12 government experts at a CSUN forum Thursday mapped out the landscape of issues surrounding San Fernando Valley secession from Los Angeles.
Would it raise or lower taxes? Encourage or kill business? Would it lead to better government or just leave Los Angeles' racial and ethnic groups more divided than ever?
For many of the questions, the panelists gathered at California State University, Northridge, had no answers. When they did, they often disagreed, as members of the 150-person audience cheered them on.
But that was what organizers of the event wanted. The forum - Secession, What Does It Mean for Us? - was meant to spark public interest on the effects of breaking the Valley away from the rest of Los Angeles.
``The whole purpose of the forum is to bring together people dealing with these issues,'' said William Flores, dean of CSUN's College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. ``It's not to advocate one way or another. It's not a debate.''
At times, it seemed like one. Panelists - including professors, community activists and government officials - clashed over whether the Valley still would have access to water from the Owens Valley after secession. They disagreed over the effects on taxes and the working poor.
They also touched on one of the thorniest issues connected to secession: race. Irene Tovar, executive director of the Latin American Civic Association, questioned whether a break-up would drive a wedge between racial and ethnic groups.
Just before the forum, the school's Center for Southern California Studies, which sponsored the meeting, released a study arguing that racial and ethnic conflicts could fuel secession movements in Los Angeles and elsewhere.
The study, prepared by University of Southern California doctoral candidate Thomas Hogen-Esch, looked at secession movements in the Valley, Boston, New York and Seattle. Esch maintained that support for secession tends to be strong in mostly white, prosperous parts of the South Valley.
In contrast, a recent scientific poll found strong support for secession among all of the Valley's racial and ethnic groups. That support was weakest, the poll found, in the South Valley, although even there, a majority favored secession.
Panelist Richard Close, co-chairman of a group pushing for a public study of secession, rejected the idea that creating an independent city in the Valley amounted to white flight.
The Rev. Zedar E. Broadous, a panelist and president of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said money, not race, was the key issue driving secession. But even though he supported a study of Valley cityhood, he said he thought it could hurt the city's minorities in the long run.
Afterward, members of Close's group - Valley Voters Organized Toward Empowerment - held a brief press conference to protest what they viewed as a lopsided forum stacked with people opposed to secession. They noted that when Close asked the other panelists how many would support a public study of secession, only two others raised their hands.
``I heard a lot of assumptions on the panel,'' said VOTE executive board member Gerald Silver. ``Their minds were made up.''