The City at Stake
Secession, Reform, and the Battle for Los Angeles
Raphael J. Sonenshein
With a new afterword by the author
The City at Stake tells the dramatic story of how the nation's second-largest city completed a major reform of its government in the face of a deeply threatening movement for secession by the San Fernando Valley. How did Los Angeles, a diverse city with an image of unstructured politics and fragmented government, find a way to unify itself around a controversial set of reforms?
Los Angeles government nearly collapsed in political bickering over charter reform, which generated the remarkable phenomenon of two competing charter reform commissions. Out of this nearly impossible tangle, reformers managed to knit a new city charter that greatly expanded institutions for citizen participation and addressed long-standing weaknesses in the role of the mayor. The new charter, pursued by a Republican mayor, won its greatest support from liberal whites who had long favored reform measures.
Written by an urban scholar who played a key role in the charter reform process, the book offers both a theoretical perspective on the process of institutional reform in an age of diversity, and a firsthand, inside-the-box look at how major reform works.
The new afterword by the author analyzes the 2005 election of Los Angeles's first modern Latino mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, a milestone in the development of urban reform coalitions in an age of immigration and ethnic diversity.
Raphael J. Sonenshein is Professor of Political Science at California State University, Fullerton, and the author of Politics in Black and White: Race and Power in Los Angeles (Princeton). Between 1997 and 1999, he served as Executive Director of the City of Los Angeles Charter Reform Commission.