A few weeks ago, I published a piece in Fox and Hounds that not only called for the disincorporation of Vernon but outlined a future for that area. The proposal offered a resolution to the uncertainty and fear that both business and labor have regarding life after dissolution of the city. Shortly after the article appeared
here, Assembly Speaker John Perez introduced a companion bill to his AB 46, the disincorporation bill. The new bill, AB 781, would create – guess what! – a Vernon Community Services District, the special district advocated in that article here.

My proposal placed the governance of the CSD in the
hands of a board elected by business owners and workers. As it now stands, the city of Vernon is governed by a self-perpetuating city council elected by 67 voters, nearly all of whom owe their jobs, their cheap rent and their right to live in Vernon to the little clique that has run Vernon for over a century. The people who have the greatest stake in Vernon, the 1800 business owners and the 50,000 workers who commute into town each day, have no voice whatsoever in Vernon’s governance.

In the proposal, the CSD would continue to provide all of
the same services that business now receives from the city. That’s important because one of the main objections to disincorporation is about the loss of city services. Among the complaints are the fears that they will lose their cheap power rates, that the fire department they laud as one that couldn’t be better will be disbanded, and that police protection will deteriorate if the city is dismantled. Under my proposal, all those services would be provided by the CSD. There would be no change.

AB 781 would turn fire and police protection over to the county, but the power supply would remain the same…. for awhile. If the Speaker wants to reduce opposition from the business community, he’ll amend his bill so that these services are left where they are now.

But the biggest fault with AB 781, and the reason that in the end
disincorporation will be defeated if Perez doesn’t change this clause, is that the governing board will not be elected by those with the greatest interest in the area. Instead, Perez would let the county supervisors govern the CSD. That is a fatal flaw in his bill and will lead to its defeat.

Why not let the supervisors govern the CSD? Well, they might do a good job. Then, they probably won’t. It’s the fear of the unknown that frightens both labor and capital. Will the supervisors impose new fees? Will business be faced with taxes that they hadn’t paid before? Will this governing board over which neither workers or owners have any power impose new zoning rules, business regulations, or other “reforms” that the unelected board thinks necessary. The supervisors already have too many responsibilities for their abilities. Why give them the right to govern property worth billions of dollars when they can’t do the job they have now?

Labor, too, worries about a future under the supervisors. They will have no greater voice in the CSD than they have now in the city. They will have gained nothing. But the uncertain future may cause their employers to leave the area, taking their jobs with them. AB 781, in its present form, poses a threat to labor as well as capital.

As the bills stand now, they are linked together. The defeat of one also kills the other. Legislators may want to disincorporate Vernon, but they are not likely to vote for AB 781 in light ofthe fierce opposition to it from the business community.

The Speaker’s aides plead that it may be unconstitutional to allow non-residents to elect a governing board. That’s true in an incorporated city, but Vernon won’t be a city. As a CSD, it can elect its board any way the legislature deems appropriate. And nothing is more appropriate than election by owners and workers.

To confront the owners’ fear that they will be outvoted by their workers or that union bosses would replace the cabal that has rule Vernon for so long, there is an easy solution. Let labor chose two governing board representatives and the owners two more. The four elected board members could then chose a fifth one.

If the Speaker’s real interest is in the welfare of workers and business owners, and in ending the corrupt government that has been Vernon for decades, he will amend AB 781 and give control of the CSD to those who provide the jobs and those who man the industries that provide so much to the economy of Southern California.