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Ron Kaye: Respect for the Council of Governments

March 16, 2013|By Ron Kaye

One of my first impressions when I called the San Fernando Valley my home nearly 30 years ago was that this vast middle-class enclave suffered from a bad inferiority complex, like it was populated by a lot of Rodney Dangerfields who just couldn’t get respect.

Respect – or the lack of it – is still pretty much the problem, through the failed secession movement and derailed efforts to make local government more responsive.

The last vestige of a reform to change that is the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments, a little-known and largely ignored three-year-old, quasi-governmental body that brings together the county, the city of Los Angeles and the cities of Glendale, Burbank, San Fernando and Santa Clarita.

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It is little-known and largely ignored for good reason: Unlike the 20-year-old COGs that link up all the other cities in the county to get grants and public investment to improve transportation, air quality, housing and other basics, the Valley COG requires unanimity, rather than a simple majority, to take any action. With seven L.A. Council members and L.A. County Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky — each with veto power — on the board, that makes significant action impossible.

Unlike all the other COGS that get hefty contributions from the member governments that give them annual operating budgets in the $1 million-to-$2 million range, the Valley COG is on a poverty diet with $10,000 a year from each of the member governments — the same $10,000 from the 23,564 people of the city of San Fernando that gets one vote as from the four million people of the city of Los Angeles that get seven votes, reflecting the number of Council districts that fragment the Valley politically.

With that in mind, I headed Thursday to the Van Nuys Civic Center for the Valley COG’s bimonthly meeting with the full intent of writing its obituary, an untimely death that could be laid justly at the feet of the seven L.A. Councilmen and the two county supervisors who feared that somehow the four smaller cities were going to gang up on them and take all their money and power.

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