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GREUEL WILL JOIN FORUM ON THE SECESSION ISSUES.

Byline: Wendy Greuel

A year ago today, voters in the city of Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley nearly divorced.

Although secession failed to pass citywide, a majority of Valley voters supported it. The downtown establishment would be loath to disregard this fact or to interpret the defeat of secession at the ballot box as a repudiation of the issues that motivated it.

On the contrary, these issues are real and ongoing. As a Valley council member, I am committed to making sure they are addressed.

For too long we have had a government detached from the everyday concerns of ordinary citizens, particularly those who live and work in the San Fernando Valley. Los Angeles' city government has not served the Valley fairly or effectively.

While we are all grateful for the city's efforts in fighting the recent fires, emergency response times in the Valley are among the slowest in Los Angeles.

There is still a significant disparity between Valley tax dollars paid out and city services received. What's more, while millions of dollars continue to be spent on enhancing the cultural, economic and entertainment opportunities downtown, little if any significant investment has been targeted for the Valley.

The formation of a new city was one possible way to address these problems. But since secession is effectively ``off the table,'' I believe it's important to explore other opportunities for significant reform to improve the relationship of city government with its diverse neighborhoods and to reduce the influence of downtown special interests.

Three years ago, voters approved charter reform, determining that neighborhood councils and local area planning commissions were appropriate first steps toward devolving power away from City Hall.

The jury is still out on these reforms, but it is already clear we must work to ensure we minimize the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment's bureaucracy so neighborhood councils can have a real voice.

If these reforms fail, however, we may also need to reconsider a community borough plan. Whatever the case, we must move power away from City Hall and into the hands of local residents.

But there's more to be done.

Reducing the power of downtown special interests is going to require campaign finance reform and tighter ethics laws - far more than what the City Council has been willing to do in the past.

We must also continue to overhaul the city's business tax system to create a business-friendly environment in the Valley. Bringing new tourism dollars and cultural centers to the Valley means we need to rethink our economic development strategy, which has been primarily focused downtown.

Finally, we must make city government more efficient and streamline the way it does business, protecting valuable taxpayer dollars.

The fact is, no one council member can make these reforms alone. Nothing will be accomplished unless citizens keep city leaders' feet to the fire on issues facing the Valley.

We must recapture the can-do spirit that defined the secession movement and fight to make reform a reality. The citizens of the Valley deserve to have a government that works for them, not for the special interests at City Hall. Although secession did not pass, it certainly raised fundamental questions we must continue to tackle head on.

IF YOU GO

Council member Wendy Greuel, along with the Economic Alliance, the Valley Industry and Commerce Association, Los Angeles Valley College and the United Chambers of Commerce will host a forum, ``Secession a Year Later: A Valley View,'' tonight at 6:30 p.m. in the Marvin Braude Center, first floor meeting room, 6262 Van Nuys Blvd., Van Nuys, CA 91401.

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IF YOU GO (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Editorial
Date:Nov 4, 2003
Words:606
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