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Early arm-twisting as Pérez works to dissolve the city of Vernon

February 22, 2011 |  6:00 pm

The effort to disband the city of Vernon has not yet had its first hearing in Sacramento, but Assembly Speaker John A. Pérez is wasting no time in whipping up support for his legislation.

On Tuesday, Pérez (D-Los Angeles) worked the floor of the state Senate, buttonholing fellow Democrats to endorse his attempt to disincorporate the industrial town that has been marred by scandal. One by one, he approached Democratic senators, placing a sheet of paper and a pen in front of them and beseeching them to sign on as co-authors to his bill.

It is unusual for the Assembly speaker to work so early and so aggressively to garner support for a bill.

Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord) could be heard on the floor suggesting to Pérez, one of the most influential Democrats in Sacramento, that he has underlings for such menial tasks. Several aides did accompany Pérez in the Senate chambers, but the speaker himself was doing the heavy lifting.

It’s not clear how many senators signed on, but Pérez boasted afterward of his effort: "It’s going well."

His bill, AB 46, would dissolve all California cities with a population less than 150.  Vernon is the only such city. The bill is expected to foment one of the bigger legislative fights in Sacramento this year as the industrial city south of downtown Los Angeles, buoyed by a tax base of about 1,800 businesses, has hired a cadre of blue-chip lobbyists to fight for its existence.

Critics have accused the city of being run for the benefit of its officials and their allies. Many residents are city workers and family members of top officials. Three years ago, the former mayor was charged with voter fraud and a city administrator was charged with public corruption. The mayor was convicted and the administrator awaits trial.

Pérez said it's "appalling" that the city is using public funds to pay lobbyists to fight AB 46. He said that he received support to dissolve the city on a recent flight to Sacramento.

"The guy sitting in front of me is a businessman from Vernon. He turns around and says, 'Mr. Speaker, we love you,' " Perez recounted Tuesday. "He likes me getting rid of the corruption."

-- Shane Goldmacher in Sacramento

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