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Secession Foes Woo Hollywood

Opponents of the two Los Angeles secession movements are using the uncertainty of a city divided -- raising the specter of less efficiency in film permitting and increased costs -- to gain the support of the entertainment industry, which has remained largely silent about the potential breakup of Los Angeles.

According to a draft of a report titled "An Economic Analysis of the Impact of Los Angeles Secession on the Entertainment Industry," a copy of which was acquired by The Hollywood Reporter, San Fernando Valley and Hollywood secessions could have short- and long-term effects on the entertainment industry at a time when solidarity is needed to fight runaway production. The report was prepared by the Center for Regional Employment Strategies, the research department of the County Federation of Labor. The Entertainment Industry Development Corp. paid for the report.

"A review of the fiscal reports and interviews with experts on Valley secession bring to light widely shared concerns over future administrative policies and the fiscal viability of the proposed Valley city due to likely revenue shortfall and current economic uncertainty," the report states. "Given this uncertainty and potential for revenue shortfalls, there are a variety of ways in which the entertainment industry could be detrimentally affected by secession."

Negative short-term effects of a new Valley city cited by the report include:

o Less streamlined and efficient film permitting and street closings for filming on location;

o Increased costs of film permits and fees;

o Undefined plans for public safety and fire protection; and

o Uncertainty of the cost and reliability of electrical power.

"Given the current pressures of runaway production, increased outsourcing of production to foreign companies due to new technology and the domestic economic downturn, additional economic challenges brought about by secession could erode the quality and depth of talent, goods and services that define the Los Angeles entertainment industry," the report says. "Specifically, uncertainty in Los Angeles increases the relative attractiveness of working abroad."

On Nov. 5, voters will decide the fate of a ballot measure that would allow the San Fernando Valley and its 1.3 million people and 222 square miles to secede from Los Angeles. In addition, voters also will decide whether Hollywood should split from Los Angeles and go it alone.

"Clearly, the Valley, which is the home to the entertainment industry and many below-the-line workers, is going to be sensitive to cultivating that industry," said Richard Katz, co-chairman of the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee. "To say that the Valley would not be supportive of the entertainment industry is just stupid."

The report claims that Valley secessionists have not clarified how permitting for off-lot shooting would be dealt with by the new Valley city. Katz, however, said that "in terms of permitting, we would be happy to work with a reformed EIDC that was using the dollars to expedite filming, not for political expediency." The EIDC is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation by the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office over campaign contributions to local officials and other marketing expenditures (HR 9/6).

"Clearly, if (the EIDC) goes back to its mission of expediting filming and making it easier to shoot, that is something that we would be very supportive of," Katz said.

To date, IATSE and AFTRA are the only entertainment unions to come out in opposition to secession. The County Federation of Labor has scheduled a news conference for Monday to release the secession report. AFTRA president John Connolly and IATSE's Joe Aredas are expected to be on hand, as are SAG president Melissa Gilbert and recording secretary Elliott Gould. Gilbert and Gould will not, however, be officially representing SAG, which has not taken a stand on secession.

"Any findings associated with the EIDC have to be suspect," said Gene La Pietra, founder and president of the Hollywood VOTE campaign, who noted the increase in runaway production during the past five years. "The industry is the heart and soul of Hollywood, and we shall treat it accordingly. When we are done, Hollywood will be a company town again."

Barbara Dab, a communications director for the labor federation, estimated the cost of the report to be about $10,000. Asked whether the District Attorney's Office investigation of the EIDC taints the report, Dab said: "We have no real concerns about it. The research was done by us, and the findings that they made are credible. Where the money came from was a separate issue. We stand behind our report."

Katz characterized the report as "fear-mongering," saying: "They are in search of facts to justify that conclusion. Isn't it ironic that virtually every major studio is outside the city of Los Angeles? So I am not sure what L.A. does that is so entertaining."

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