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Sen. Kevin De Leon Rejects Vernon Shutdown; Offers Aggressive Reforms

Sen. Kevin De Leon came out against dissolving Vernon today, dealing a blow to Speaker John Pérez's months-long battle to stamp out corruption there by wiping the city off the map.

In a seven-page letter, De Leon proposed a series of reforms, including construction of enough new housing to double the city's population -- which currently stands at just 112 residents. But he argued that shutting the city down would be a mistake.

"I am not prepared to jeopardize tens of thousands of good-paying jobs by disincorporating Vernon," he wrote.


De Leon's proposal was heralded by the Vernon Chamber of Commerce, which has been fighting Pérez's plan while at the same time encouraging the city to clean up its act.

"We emphatically agree with Senator De Leon's reform plan and urge the City Council to immediately adopt the aggressive reforms," said Marisa Olguin, president of the Chamber.

Vernon's City Council called a special meeting for Thursday afternoon to discuss De Leon's proposal. Here are the highlights:

-- Add 50 new residential units, doubling the city's population
-- Establish a "Good Neighbor Program," whereby Vernon would pay for recreation facilities and environmental mitigation in surrounding communities
-- Impose salary limits in the city charter
-- Create an independent monitor, who will audit the city's books and report to the Legislature
-- Require competitive bidding for contracts
-- Establish a planning commission that includes representation from environmental justice gruops

There are also some goodies for organized labor, which has led the fight to defeat Pérez's disincorporation measure:

-- Require prevailing union wages on city contracts
-- Make it easier for unrepresented city employees to unionize
-- Impose a "living wage" program for city staff

(It's not entirely clear what this has to do with reforming Vernon. Mostly it looks like a giveaway to unions. But that's Sacramento politics for you.)

A lot of these mend-it-don't-end-it proposals have been in the air for a while. We outlined some of them back in early June. The only one that's been floated before but isn't in De Leon's reform package is the proposal to give businesses the right to vote. Too cumbersome, perhaps? Or did they just not have enough clout?

Pérez's bill passed out of the Assembly with a wide bipartisan majority. But it's still awaiting a vote on the Senate floor. De Leon represents Vernon in the Senate, and several of his colleagues have been looking to him for guidance on the issue.

His proposal, posted in full below, shows that he's wrestled seriously with some of the thornier issues. Now it's up to Vernon to respond.