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Supervisors back constitutional amendment that would restrict who can live in Vernon

November 16, 2010 |  2:26 pm

Vernon
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday approved a motion to pursue an amendment to the state constitution that would limit who can live and vote in the city of Vernon.

Vernon business owners and an attorney hired by the city spoke against the motion, which seeks legislation to direct that no more than 10% of city-owned housing can be occupied by city employees or by persons whose relationship to the city could constitute a conflict of interest. The move targets Vernon’s historic control of its voting population.

All of the roughly 90 residents in Vernon live in homes and apartments owned by the city, and city administrators oversee the rental process. At least 12 of the residents are relatives of current or former city leaders.

“We are making every effort to create a democratic Vernon,” said Supervisor Gloria Molina, who introduced the motion last week. The amendment would require the approval of the state Legislature and California voters. Molina said that she had explored “every possibility” to reform Vernon. “The only option is the motion we’ve introduced,” she said. “That is how this type of dramatic change has to happen.”

City Administrator Mark Whitworth sent a letter to Molina on Tuesday opposing the action, which emphasizes Vernon’s regional economic importance, and states that the city generates “over $300 million in tax revenues each year.”

“There is no good policy or legal reason for the County to embark on an unprecedented attempt to interfere with the operations of a local city,” Whitworth wrote. The letter was read at the meeting by George Mihlsten, an attorney from the law firm Latham & Watkins, which Vernon recently hired.  

Several Vernon business owners said they feared that the motion was a first step to a disincorporation or annexation of Vernon.

But Molina, who has represented Vernon’s district since 1991, said that the motion was intended to establish a fair democratic process in Vernon, not to dissolve the city.

“I think these guys have overstepped their bounds and we need to go after it,” Molina said. All four members of the board supported Molina’s motion.

Supervisor Don Knabe was absent.

-- Sam Allen

Photo: A jogger and his dog run along S. Downey Rd. near E. 50th St. past a Vernon park (Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

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