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Bill to disincorporate Vernon passes Assembly committee

April 13, 2011 |  4:40 pm

The state Legislature moved a step closer Wednesday to eliminating the city of Vernon, as an Assembly committee unanimously supported legislation that would disincorporate the city and make it part of Los Angeles County.

The bill's author, Assembly Speaker John Pérez (D-Los Angeles), urged other legislators to support his effort to dissolve Vernon's municipal government, calling it "a city whose corruption is the worst we've seen in the state."

"The responsibility is ours to act now," said Pérez, whose district includes Vernon. "We have the authority and the moral obligation to clean this up."

He was joined by Los Angeles County Sheriff Lee Baca and more than 100 other supporters from surrounding communities such as Maywood, Boyle Heights and Huntington Park.

A coalition of business owners, workers and labor leaders spoke in defense of Vernon, which has 1,800 businesses and 55,000 employees, but fewer than 100 residents. They said Pérez's bill would cause a loss of jobs.

"We need to maintain the stability of our economic environment -- this bill is creating havoc," said Peter Corselli, manager at U.S. Growers Cold Storage in Vernon. "The sooner this bill dies, the better."

Gene Erbin, an attorney representing Vernon, also testified on the city's behalf, saying the bill was unconstitutional.

But the seven legislators on the Local Government Committee sided strongly with Pérez, who reiterated his promise to add provisions to the legislation to protect businesses.

Assemblyman Steven Bradford (D-Gardena) described Vernon as "a long-running joke" in the local government community.

Others commended Pérez for taking on the issue.

"Enough is enough," said Assemblyman Luis Alejo (D-Watsonville). "The day of reckoning for Vernon is today."

The bill now heads to the Assembly floor. It could be voted into law as early as September.

-- Sam Allen in Sacramento