By Harrison Sheppard Staff Writer
SHERMAN OAKS - Mayor James Hahn and a renters' coalition said Thursday they don't trust San Fernando Valley candidates to carry out their pledge to keep rent control in an independent Valley city.
Hahn and Larry Gross of the Coalition for Economic Survival cited the legislative record of one candidate who signed the rent-control pledge and the records of other secession supporters who either didn't sign the pledge or aren't running for office.
"They may tell you they support tenants' rights, but the record shows differently,' Hahn said. "Don't be fooled. It's a gamble - secession is a gamble in so many ways. There's so much uncertainty. We know what we have now. We don't know what we'll have next.'
Hahn and Gross spoke at a news conference in Sherman Oaks after 101 of the 111 candidates for mayor or council in the proposed city signed a pledge to keep Los Angeles' rent control ordinance after being elected.
The news conference at times turned raucous, as Valley independence supporters and candidates also showed up, heckling the mayor and other speakers from across the street with shouts of "Not true!' and "Free the Valley!'
Some Valley candidates who signed the pledge said they felt insulted that the mayor and Gross said their pledges were not to be trusted.
"I really resent the mayor's questioning my veracity, when I have sworn - written, signed, dated on a piece of paper - that I will never touch rent control,' said Terry Stone, a council candidate. "It is against my values as a human being (to break the pledge) and it is against the ethics of all the candidates I have talked to. I have seen nobody come out and say: Let's get rid of rent control.'
Gross singled out two prominent candidates - Assemblyman Keith Richman, a mayoral candidate, and former Assemblywoman Paula Boland, who is running for council - as having voted against bills that were in tenants' interest.
Richman said he also resented the allegations.
"I've been very clear that I support rent control and continuing the rent stabilizing ordinance in the new San Fernando Valley city,' Richman said. "I signed the pledge. To say that I would not live up to that is just wrong. I absolutely resent that.'
Richman said he opposed the bills that Gross cited because of other provisions in them. Boland, who did not sign the rent control pledge, could not be reached for comment Thursday.
In another development Thursday, Richman issued a letter to Hahn challenging him to a debate, and offering to allow the mayor to pick the time and location.
Hahn has repeatedly refused to debate secessionists directly, saying in July that he sees no need to, in part because he believes secessionists have taken to making the campaign more about him than about the issue itself. Kam Kuwata, the chief consultant to the mayor's anti-secession campaign, said Thursday the mayor's earlier statement still stands.