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Assembly speaker, demonstrators face off over Vernon cityhood

As Assembly Speaker John Perez wheeled through Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday morning to promote a bill that would to dissolve the city government of Vernon, critics of the proposal gathered on the lawn outside to voice their opposition to the legislation.

Save Vernon Jobs, a group of Vernon businesses and labor unions, say the measure would put thousands of jobs at risk and argue that the state has no legal authority to disincorporate the city.

Vernon has been fighting to keep its cityhood since Perez in December introduced AB 46, a bill that would dissolve city's government and make it an unincorporated part of Los Angeles County.

Inside City Hall, Perez was joined by supporters, including Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, Sheriff Lee Baca and county Supervisors Gloria Molina and Mark Ridley-Thomas.

Perez accused Vernon officials of playing on people's fears of lost jobs, and wielding an arsenal of high-priced lobbyists and lawyers. But he expressed confidence in support for his bill, adding that 69 members of the Assembly and 23 state senators have signed on as coauthors.

"For years, officials in that city have operated with a shocking lack of transparency and accountability," Perez said. "The city is landlord and employer for virtually the entire electorate, so that they can make decisions that waste taxpayer dollars and put jobs at risk with no regard for the will of the voters. That is unacceptable."

Molina added that "the so-called city of Vernon has been masquerading as a city, when really in fact it's nothing but a company town." And Baca called the industrial town of about 90 residents "a rogue city" that picks and chooses who keeps elected leaders in power.

Outside, about 50 Vernon workers, business leaders and Teamsters rallied near the entrance of City Hall. Many wore hard hats and uniforms. Some held signs that said "Save Vernon Jobs" and "Mr. Speaker, Don't take my job." Another sign said, "Reform Vernon, Don't Erase It."

Jim Smith, a member of Teamsters Local 396, said he feared Perez's bill would cause a loss of jobs.

"We feel that if the city annexes Vernon, Teamsters' employers will have to leave the area," he said. "Obviously there are reasons behind the bill, but we think there are better solutions." The Teamsters want an economic study before any decisions are made, he said.

In a news release, Perez’s office says the bill has wide-ranging support and would "end decades of corruption and abuse that threaten the community's ability to maintain jobs and business." The legislation stems from a series of corruption scandals in the city in recent years, including the indictment of Vernon's former city administrator last year.

Critics have said the community has been controlled for decades by a small cadre of families and their associates. The city is home to about 1,800 businesses that employ about 50,000 workers from around the region.

Perez's bill would effectively eliminate Vernon city government by mandating that any city with fewer than 150 residents disincorporate. Vernon is the only city in California that fits that description.


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Photo: Save Vernon Jobs, a group of Vernon businesses and labor unions, rally against AB 46 outside Los Angeles City Hall on Tuesday. Credit: Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times

Comments () | Archives (27)

IF this means disolving unions and bringing an end to city government corruption, then I'm ALL for this. Unions jobs are the leading cause of California's fiscal situation, and it's time to put an end to this type of known criminal activity!!!

This is hilarious. A city with a population of 90-something people, and a handful show up holding signs? This is a poor excuse for astroturf, but in this economy, I guess a one-hour gig holding signs isn't bad.

Dissolve this city. It's not even a city in the most liberal of interpretations, it is a straight corporation that runs on taxpayer extortion, err, funds.

It's not the unions, you dimwit. If anything the only unions sucking this state dry are the cops and firefighters. Even regular government employees are not the problem, but the executive management types that are in the same greed league as cops and firefighters. Get rid of the cushy deal cops, firefighters and executive management and you will save a ton of money and not impact any public safety, because cops and firefighters do not prevent crime or fires, they just respond to it; DUH!

No, the regular government employee unions are not the problem. The problem is that Vernon is a fake city that is self serving b y taking advantage of the power to tax and spend. The "leaders" of this city are just greedy people, regardless of their political affiliation. This is just a more opaque City of Bell.

The City of Vernon is a cash cow waiting to be slaughtered for the County and the City of Los Angeles. Although one might not agree with their politics, they pay there own way, unlike the City, County and State, who suck the taxpayers dry.

Has anybody been indicted? Nope. Just a bunch of greedy politicians looking to sink their fangs into Vernon, so they can suck it dry.

Hands off Vernon!!!

I am all for disolving unions and political corruption, even if it means disincorporation of Vernon. But one has to wonder... how is it that a corrupt municipality is able to offer a more attractive business environment than anything in the City of Los Angeles? Vernon may be corrupt, but it seems to run the city more efficiently than any aspect of Los Angeles.

This is an outright power and money grab. The city of Vernon is viewed as a nice plum, as it rakes in quite a bit of income compared to it's expenses. Why? Well, quite simply it has a very, very small population to serve. I believe less than a thousand. But, it does have a population that votes, and calls Vernon their home. Where do they fit in? Mr. Perez along with his cousin Tony Villar (aka Antonio Villaraigosa) see a golden opportunity to pilfer the coffers of the city of Vernon, that is all this boils down to.

"...a group of Vernon businesses and labor unions, say the measure would put thousands of jobs at risk"

Probably only their own jobs as there are not "thousands of jobs" in Vernon.

So the City sent their City workers to demonstrate? I wonder if they were on the clock? Even more reason to dissolve that city, if there weren't enough already!

Notice that all their signs are professionally made. Sure doesn't look like grass-roots to me.

Borchy: I hate to break it to you, but unions, per say, don't spend the money, the people you elected to office do. Do you really think the unions created the state's fiscal emergency? If so, then you need to look at the spending practices of those elected to "look after the best interests of the people!"

lol, watch as most of those businesses leave the Vernon area to other locations that offer deals as great as Vernon does, I'm already hearing that the UPS hub located there is moving to Hawthorne and that the city has a special tax deal set up and ready to go. Add that to companies like Fedex and SpaceX that already have roots there and, well, you get the picture

All L.A. County will get is 5 square miles of new homeless and a new skid row.

Hawthorne 3

LA County 0

Mr. Perez's efforts be more credible if he were to attack all of these "citys" including Industry, Commerce in addition to Vernon. I suspect there are such "cities" in the north too. Force Industry to annex Rowland and Hacienda Heights giving it a real population and tax base. Commerce could be spread around a few surrounding cities.

If Vernon disappears, perhaps the City of Industry should go as well. It is disproportionally run by family members who own a lot of businesses.

What a crock ? It's got nothing to do with a "shocking lack of transparency " Once again and always, it's about MONEY ! Namely the tax dollars from the 1800 businesses in Vernon. Do you really think they care obout the 90 residents ? That's just an excuse. Vernon isn't Bell. There's no one, whether it's a resident or a business complaining.

Before LA city or county starts counting there tax dollars, they better total up the money owed from bond transactions.

Why is it that no one is taking into account the opinions of the people who actually own property in Vernon? Most of the business owners in the city are very satisfied with the situation, because they get cheaper power and lower taxes than if they were part of LA. There is nothing inherently wrong with a city like Vernon; if the city treats the business owners well and the business owners have no problems with the way Vernon is being run, then I don't fully understand why outside politicians feel justified in attempting to forcibly annex the city. The situation in Vernon is nothing like the situation in Bell, where taxpayers were being repeatedly abused and were unhappy with the way the Bell government was run. All you have to do is cross the line from LA to Vernon and the difference is readily apparent; there is no graffiti in Vernon proper because the cops do their jobs, the streets are better paved, etc. For those who actually have ties in Vernon and understand the situation, annexation is a clear step backwards. I understand that the LACC must be salivating at the prospect of absorbing Vernon's tax base, but there is no just reason to do so.

Where does the state get off trying to do something like AB46 ? They don't have the authority. This is something covered by LAFCo. But hey, no problem, the state needs a another law suit.

Gimme a break there is no graffiti because there are NO RESIDENTS, you can have zero cops there and there will still be no graffiti because it is no ones "Territory" because no one lives there!

There's nothing wrong with a City bringing in lots of revenue, it's how you spend it. Community dollars should go back to the community....oh wait, they have no community! so where is going? into Eric Fresh's and his cronies pockets! woo hoo!

UPS??? why in the heck would you want UPS in your city, so their big rig trucks can ruin a town's roads, jam up the local freeway on/off ramps, pay ZERO sales tax? Use your head....if it was a normal City it would be glad to get that large piece of land for a park, community center, or retail and residential establishments...oh but wait!, they have no community to serve! so who needs a costco or supermarkets or parks or community centers

vernon needs to go.....period

It figures the unions would be the stool pigeons that Vernon city officials put out on the firing line to protest something that should have been done long ago. I agree with Borchy, it's a win-win if Vernon is disincorporated AND the unions are dissolved.

Did Malkenhorst show up in his limousine?

Thank you Astonished and Clavote, it is no-minds like Borchy and Common-Sence that really don't know the truth behind what is really going on. These people are like cattle, they must be lead by a talking head in order to have a opinion because they are constitutionally capable of making a decision on their own.

Teamster Jim Smith, while admitting that there are reasons behind the move to disincorporate Vernon, says "There are better solutions." Yes, Jim and fellow union members, there is ONE better solution.

There is no question that Vernon as a city is a stain on democratic government. Union members are only defending it because they, like the business owners in Vernon, fear the uncertainty - or worse - that will follow disincorporation. Looming large is the specter of annexation and the negative effect that would have on business and jobs. Thank goodness Bell can't annex Vernon, but annexation by any other city would be almost as bad. So what is the alternative?

Dismantle Vernon and create the Vernon Industrial Special District, with the voters being the 50,000 workers and the 1800 business owners. Give the district all the power of a city government, which some special districts already have. Turn the profitable power plant over to the district. Finally, parcel out some of the tax revenue now going to line the pockets of Vernon officials and consultants, giving that money on a pro rata basis to the cities where the borkers live.

Will Speaker Perez see the light and add this to his bill? Or will the legislature thumb its nose at the rights and wishes of those who work and run businesses in Vernon?

Please, someone, pass this on to the IBEW, IAM, Teamsters and allt he other unions in Vernon.

I look forward to your responses.

From an Oct 2009 LA times article on the City Of Industry
A firm partly owned by the mayor has an exclusive, multimillion-dollar franchise to pick up trash from the warehouses, manufacturing plants and other commercial enterprises.
Almost 1/3 of the town's registered voters appear to be related to the mayor or residing in homes owned by a family land investment partnership,
Many estimates put the city's population at about 800,
Sept 2009, the county registrar listed 91 potential voters in Industry.
Mr Perez, here's another city ripe for
Gee, I think Vernon has more voters than Industry

I don't get it. Why do we need AB 46 ? Isn't there already an organization that handles something like
dis-incorporation ? Isn't is LAFCo ?
Oh I see, LAFCo does it by asking the voters if they want to dis-incorporate. Gee, that wouldn't work as why would they ever want to be part of the City of LA or unincorporated LA county.

@Da Maverick: your "handful" assumption is completely false. I was at City Hall this morning, and there were hundreds of people protesting on the steps.

And as far ad dissolving the city... the original version of AB 46 would have been a disaster for more than just the few citizens that currently live in Vernon. The protesters had good cause to be there.

This is the dumbest legislative idea EVER.

The City of Vernon can avoid this, if the above article is correct, by simply building one apartment building AND MOVING IN AN EXTRA 100 RESIDENTS. Then they would have 190 residents, large enough to beat the law.

This is a loophole big enough to drive a truck through. Perez didn't think about this?

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