The Vernon City Council today endorsed Sen. Kevin De Leon's reform plan, as the city's fight to stay alive enters the decisive final stage.
Earlier this week, De Leon offered an aggressive package of reforms, intended to root out corruption and recalibrate the city's fraught relations with neighboring communities.
By endorsing those measures today, the city has given the strongest indication to date that it is serious about reform. Yet much remains to be done.
"We haven't won the battle," said Erin Lehane, spokeswoman for a business and labor coalition that opposes Speaker John Pérez's measure to shut the city down.
The Vernon City Council chambers are large enough to contain the city's entire population (112) with 38 seats left over. And yet the room was filled to overflowing Thursday afternoon -- mostly with union members, business owners, and city employees who have joined to fight Pérez's legislation.
Sen. De Leon appeared at the meeting, and encouraged the City Council to follow through on his proposals.
"Each individual in this room must advocate for these changes," De Leon said. "This city can become a beacon of good governance."
De Leon's plan includes a "Good Neighbor" fund, whereby Vernon would contribute to recreation facilities in surrounding communities. Officials from neighboring Huntington Park turned out to support the plan.
"It's all for one and one for all," said Huntington Park Mayor Ofelia Hernandez. "We're here to support you and show you we're here to work together."
Vernon's mayor, Hilario "Larry" Gonzales, thanked De Leon for giving the city a chance to "take a giant leap forward."
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"We have made an honest, good faith effort to improve," Gonzales said. "Sen. De Leon has reached the conclusion that Vernon can and will become a model city."
Though the council voted unanimously to support De Leon's package, time will tell whether the city is serious about following through. The most difficult item may be the proposal to double the city's population by constructing 50 new housing units.
Marisa Olguin, president of the Vernon Chamber of Commerce, vowed to remain engaged in the city's governance and to press for implementation.
Pérez has until Sept. 9 to get his bill passed by the state Senate. With Sen. De Leon now opposed to the legislation, its prospects are decidedly uncertain.