From May 31 through Nov. 10, 2002, Kevin Roderick monitored the media coverage and political machinations of that year’s campaign over secession of the Valley from Los Angeles. He posted his observations as Secession Watch at America’s Suburb.com. Those archives remain online in their original form at this link. To make the postings more easily searchable, they are also republished verbatim here. Links may be expired.
Friday, August 30
KABC 790 Talk Radio is running one of those unscientific web straw polls on secession. The results at 9 p.m. Friday were 64% – 31% for the break-up with 5% having no opinion. It gives no info on how many have voted (though Secession Watch has clicked on “I”m not sure yet” twice in order to see the score.) Results on 97.1 FM’s Conway and Steckler show are still holding at 33% “Makes sense,” 40% “Stupid” and 25% “What is secession?”
• The Jewish Federation of Los Angeles will hold a secession forum on Sept. 12 with Richard Katz of SFV Independence debating Mike Feuer, the former Los Angeles city council member.
• Five of the 15 women running for the Valley city council will appear together in Pacoima on Saturday to highlight the lack of street lights there. They told the Daily News they have formed a group called Valleywomen to jointly push some of their concerns. The candidates are not forming a slate and will continue to campaign separately.
Rebuttal ballot language came out Thursday and both sides show their strategic cards a little more. The pro side warns voters not to be confused and tries to broaden its appeal by adding the signatures of retired State Supreme Court justice Armand Arabian, a Latino Business Association official, a Westchester community leader and Joel Fox, formerly of the Howard Jarvis taxpayer group. The
official argument against secession emphasizes that break-up won’t affect the schools and tries to solidify its Latino and black support, adding the names of L.A. City Council President Alex Padilla and his fellow Pacoiman, pastor Andrae E. Crouch of Christ Memorial Church. Former GOP congress member Bobbi Fielder, a secessionist who finds the current plan lacking, is also there, as well as an official of the American Jewish Committee.
• State Sen. Richard Alarcon committed the worst sin imaginable to Valley secession loyalists when he flirted with joining them as their top VIP, then jumped into bed with the other side. The Daily News editorial page criticizes an Alarcon bill it says would give L.A. city hall more power, then levels the most withering charge in its arsenal. Alarcon, the DN lectures, “might come from the Valley, but his heart has clearly relocated to downtown.”
• Does Cardinal Roger Mahony know about this? Secession never comes up in a long essay in the Tidings on Los Angeles, its origins and its present-day condition by Msgr. Francis Weber, the L.A. archdiocese archivist. The monsignor is an expert on the history of the Valley, his longtime home, and has authored books on the history of Mission San Fernando. Mahony is a forceful critic of the secession moves, and no one can argue he doesn’t know the turf. He grew up in North Hollywood. But the piece plays it straight, even if it takes an upbeat view of the City of Angels.
• Monday’s installment of “Life and Times Tonight” on KCET Channel 28 will examine the recent resumption of street gang shootings in the Valley.
Thursday, August 29
• The Virginia-based Leadership Institute is jumping into the secession fray, scheduling a Sept. 14 training workshop in the Valley for conservative candidates and campaign workers. Its arrival signals an ideological turn in the non-partisan campaigns. The Leadership Institute bills its sessions as a chance to “Join America’s finest conservatives for an intense day of life-changing instruction,” and claims to be “the premier training ground for tomorrow’s conservative leaders.” Strategy and tactics are its strength. In the Valley, 9th district candidate Robert Lamishaw is advertising his connection. Here’s a brief liberal take on the institute from The American Prospect magazine.
• A new pro-secession web site, or at least newly encountered, called Valley Cityhood and You has a nice photo of Stoney Point but no inkling of who is behind the site or its claims. It’s linked from the web site of 8th district council candidate Garrett Biggs, a board member of Valley VOTE.
• “Secession 101,” the public service televison series, this week looks at how a new SFV city might fare if it contracted for essential services. Guests include Julie Butcher of SEIU Local 347, which opposes secession, and Bob Scott of the SFV Independence Committee, who is for of course. They are joined by Sam Olivito, Executive Director of the California Contract Cities Association, and Dennis Washburn, a city councilmember in Calabasas. Secession 101 runs on Channel 36, the L.A. city cable channel, and is produced by the Civic Forum, a neutral clearinghouse of information on secession. Ken Bernstein of the Civic Forum hosts the shows, which air Sundays at 11:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. Past shows are available to download at the Civic Forum site.
Now this is smaller, closer-to-the-people politics. ValleyPetNews.com ran an editorial last month called
Pets Need Secession, giving a litany of suggestions and arguing that “our new Valley city can certainly do better than killing nearly 75% of the pets” turned in at shelters. After the commentary by editor Nancy Smith, assemblyman and mayoral candidate Keith Richman called to chat up the issue. Says the site: “A politician interested in pets and how to service them better has his heart in the right place.”
Add a new West Los Angeles-based blog called The Sabertooth Journal to those commenting on-line in favor of secession. He comes at it from the government waste point of view.
The ten candidates for mayor of the Valley give a sampling of their views on keeping the LAPD and fire department, rent control, business taxes and the salary a mayor should make in an L.A. Times story by Patrick McGreevy. They mostly agree, which won’t make for a stirring campaign. On the salary question, the early big guns Keith Richman and Mel Wilson demur, saying the residents should be surveyed.
In the fanciful works of Long Beach artist Sandow Birk, the post-secession Valley is overrun by the army of San Francisco on its march south to conquer Los Angeles. Says James Ricci in the L.A. Times’ Secession Sketchbook feature, “His ‘In Smog and Thunder: The Great War of the Californias’ has been shown in galleries and museums in San Francisco, West Hollywood, Laguna Beach and Sonoma.” In a 46-minute film made by Birk and friends, the Valley loses in a military fiction because “Its troops were very green. They retreated from the get-go, without more than a few shots fired in self-defense.”
History: Real battles on the Valley floor
• New angles in the street lamp wars, from James Nash in the Daily News. Mayor Jim Hahn wants a study on how to provide lights for all neighborhoods that want them, council president Alex Padilla suggests using Ventura Boulevard’s old lamps to illuminate Pacoima’s dark streets, and the fairness question comes up: if the city stops charging a fee to install and run the lights, what about all the neighborhoods that already pay? The DN page includes links to previous coverage.
• The wrong way to run a bus line: At the conclusion of a meeting where they gave MTA officials an earful, Valley bus riders went outside to find the buses on Van Nuys Boulevard summarily suspended because of filming for a soft-drink commercial. MTA officials hurriedly organized carpools to take the stranded riders to alternate bus stops.
• Valley Culture Watch: A vanished slice of the Valley’s suburban milieu, the
Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlour, may soon return with its signature offerings like The Pig’s Trough and the Hot Fudge Nutty Nutty. A revived Farrell’s has opened in Saugus, and the owners — who also run Northridge Skateland — are eyeing the Valley.
Wednesday, August 28
The Helldorado controversy at Hansen Dam surfaces again in the L.A. Weekly. Writer Hope Urban says filming of the Brazil Western (a new genre?) must wait for the the Bell’s vireo, an endangered bird species, to stop nesting in the dam area. Good detail in the story, if the issues — filming permits vs. neighbors and the environment — move you.
Sacramento Bee columnist Dan Walters gave mayoral hopeful Keith Richman props for trying to work with the Democrats to break the state budget impasse. It’s from last Friday but got missed. And while we’re catching up, here’s a French language take (bad English from Google) on la guerre de sécession from the Liberation.Fr web site back in May. It praises Ventura Boulevard restaurants, mentions porn and quotes state Sen. Tom McClintock. And finally, this commentary from the conservative California Political Review earlier in August.
• Culture Watch: A Washington Post story on a new Museum of Sex opening in New York asks, why not “in the San Fernando Valley, the national capital of the pornography industry?”
• More on the million-plus club in Valley real estate: actor Freddy Prinze recently sold his one-acre Toluca Lake spread with 1933-era home for $3.5 million. Fiancee Sarah Michelle Gellar is trying to sell her Sherman Oaks home for $2 million, Forbes magazine says.
Last weekend: 11 homes go for a million
• We knew that the Valley’s foreign-born population grew again in the 1990s, and now the 2000 census tells us by how much — a whole lot. More than 525,000 foreign-born residents comprise 38.8% of the population, which the Daily News calculates is an increase of almost a third since the last census in 1990. The paper, which worked with CSUN professor of geography Eugene Turner on the numbers, does a good job putting it in the secession context. Beth Barrett quotes respected UC Berkeley analyst Bruce Cain, an expert on political shifts from his days as a reapportionment guru, saying that the immigrant surge in the Valley could prove decisive in the secession election. “There are enormous political consequences” of the Valley’s continuing population shift, he said. The Valley’s percentage of foreign-born residents is now about the same as that of the rest of Los Angeles. The DN editorial page, meanwhile, views the recent Census data on the erosion of middle-class income as more proof that Los Angeles is a failed experiment.
The Daily News op-ed page apparently needed to fill and picked up the weekend’s analysis of the statewide Mexican American Political Association fiasco by Dan Weintraub in the Sacramento Bee.
The fight heated up Tuesday over the 14-mile-long busway that the MTA wants to run along Chandler Boulevard and on into the west Valley. This would be a good issue for cityhood candidates to distinguish themselves on.
Opposition also rose to a higher temperature Tuesday over the
Las Lomas mega-development that a developer would like to build between the two major freeways — Interstate 5 and highway 14 — that fork on the Santa Clarita side of historic Newhall Pass. The developer wants to build 5,000 homes on the hilly terrain along The Old Road, then have the whole thing declared part of the San Fernando Valley and annexed into the city of Los Angeles. The city council in Santa Clarita voted $50,000 to fight the scheme.
Tuesday, August 27
• Secession opponents allied with Mayor James Hahn, including former mayor Richard Riordan, are lobbying the Valley Industry and Commerce Association to remain neutral in the Nov. 5 election, Harrison Sheppard reports in the Daily News. The phone calls and letters trouble secession leaders and VICA vice-chair Bob Scott, who says the “downtown crowd [is] using every trick in the book, dirty and otherwise, to keep people from supporting cityhood.” Other VICA leaders quoted seem unexcited, saying that both sides have asked for the membership list. VICA is polling its members on whether to take a side, and finds itself in a tricky, possibly no-win situation. Some of its leaders are very pro-secession, but more than other Valley business groups, VICA has something to lose by publicly getting involved. The group is a player in city affairs with members who tend to get appointed to boards and commissions. One reason for its clout is that VICA has been seen as less ideologically motivated by Daily News-style Valley chauvinism and more into economic development and political results. Some members must be pondering if joining a secession cause that looks more quixotic — as days fly off the calendar with the break-up question trailing — is worth the price in lost influence. It will be very interesting to see whether VICA chooses to thrown down the gauntlet and go to war with Los Angeles, or opts to keep the peace and move on. The group promises a statement of some kind in September.
Economic Alliance of SFV: We pass, thanks
• Both the Daily News and Times report on new studies of census data showing that household income in the Southern California middle class fell during the 1990s. The DN leads its piece with the news that the Valley saw a “sharp decline,” adding that Valley minorities are better off than those elsewhere in Los Angeles. A sidebar looks at a few recent arrivals to the Valley. The Times coverage is geographically broader but one of the communities highlighted is Porter Ranch. The sag in personal income there is blamed on the loss of aerospace jobs and the Van Nuys GM plant in the ’90s and the 1994 earthquake. (Aside: The main energy pulse from the quake zapped directly under Porter Ranch before shoving the Santa Susana Mountains, on which the community sits, upwards about a foot.) For a contrast, the San Jose Mercury details how income soared in the Bay Area in the 1990s.
A unexpected colony of red-legged frogs found near Santa Clarita could affect the debate over Ahmanson Ranch and other developments. The species is considered threatened, but 100 frogs were observed in a single night along a creek in San Francisquito Canyon denuded of brush by a wildfire. The canyon, by the way, is where the deadliest civil disaster in Southern California history occured. The St. Francis Dam, the last stop for Owens Valley water before it cascaded into Sylmar, broke on March 12, 1928, killing more than 400 people downstream along the Santa Clara River. The dam failure ended the career of aqueduct builder William Mulholland. This year’s wildfire also makes exploring the siteeasier.
• The Theodore Payne Foundation, a Sun Valley horticultural institution, is facing a deadline to obtain a variance on the land where its store and offices are located on Tuxford Street. The group’s famed nursery of native plants is unaffected.
• The Keystone Kops must be advising the city of Burbank on airport security, an L.A. Times editorial contends. The city last week shut down work at the airport in a dispute over expansion. This is about fighting terrorism, not about airport expansion, the paper claims.
• With office vacancy rates in the West Valley over 15%, the Warner Center Business Parkhas sold for a somewhat disappointing $55 million, the Times reports.
• Patagonia is talking secession from Argentina, the New York Times reports. The region has about the same population size as the San Fernando Valley.
Monday, August 26
• Marc Strassman, one of the Valley mayoral candidates, has posted the questionnaire(requires Adobe Acrobat) the Daily News sent to the hopefuls. It comes with his answers. Strassman’s campaign site explains his quirky platform, which is largely about universal access to various computer technology. He also has a site that webcast a discussion on secession with realtor candidate Mel Wilson.
• Professor Hogen-Esch of CSUN, fresh from his Daily News appearance Sunday, shows up again as the neutral voice in a front-page piece by political editor Pilar Marrero in La Opinion (with Googled English here) that looks at minority clout in a smaller-sized Los Angeles. The articles says most Latino and African American leaders have concluded that even though their numbers would rise, secession would hurt their communities.
• The city of Calabasas, adjacent to the secession-able swath of the Valley, has a different issue going with street lights. It wants to ensure that the night remains dark.
• The Valley’s city council members claim credit for the deluge of city services — traffic cops, street resurfacing, et al — washing over the Valley this year, but secession advocates know better. “My guess is they’re going to welch on this Nov. 5,” Gerald Silver of Encino told the Daily News. Interesting observation from Ruth Galanter, the Westside council member who was deported to the Valley in reapportionment and finds the conditions there different than in her old haunt. “I’m really appalled by the condition of the streets out there. Some of them have never been paved, some paved 30 years ago.” The DN editorial page hits on the clout argument, using the Rose Institute study from last week. Editor’s note: No Orlov column as of 2 a.m. Going to bed, more later…
• It’s the L.A. Times’ turn to parse out the motivations and preparedness of the novices campaigning for Valley posts. For Jay Rosenzweig, “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run for office without raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s why I’m doing this. This is a race for the underdog.” Secession leaders are giving free advice on how to talk to voters and the media, and urging them to stay positive. But there’s a sobering take on it all from Fernando Guerra of Loyola’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles: “Symbolically, I favor their approach. But in reality, it hasn’t worked in a big American city in 40 years. And there’s no reason to believe that it would work this November.” One failing, he suggests: most are campaigning in the Valley rather than over the hill, where one could argue the votes are more valuable. Unless secession gets enough L.A. votes, edging out the field in one of the Valley council districts won’t mean much.
Valley Secession Fever: What about Mel Wilson?
• Luc Robitaille, a former star of the Los Angeles Kings, came to the Valley Sunday with the Stanley Cup he won this year playing on the Detroit Red Wings. Luc, who used to co-own the Iceoplex rink in North Hills, let his former L.A. fans see and feel the trophy at Universal Studios. It’s one of hockey’s charming traditions that each player on a championship team gets to do whatever he wishes with the Cup for a day. It’s been to Russia and the flood-ravaged Czech Republic already this summer, and Robitaille escorted it Sunday to Hollywood’s Chinese Theatre and to home plate at Dodger Stadium as well as to Universal. One of the grand gestures in Los Angeles sports history, but the politics angle? Um, he plays left wing?
Weekend, August 24-25
• Is someone being a bit hasty? The Sotheby’s info sheet for a three-acre lot on High Knoll Road in Sherman Oaks brags of “dazzling city views.” Um, those would be “Valley views,” at least until Nov. 5. But what views they must be: the parcel is listed at $1.45 million, without even a house on site. If that seems like an un-Valley-like price, it’s time to recalibrate your opinion of the place. In a single week in July, 11 properties in the Valley sold for more than a million smackers. Tops was a Petit Avenue manse in Encino that fetched $1,820,000, according to the weekly chart in the Daily News from First American Real Estate Solutions.
• Valley Culture Watch: The Museum of Neon Art in L.A. ran a sold-out cruise of the Valley’s best neon signage on Saturday night. Folks paid $45 each to ride in a double-decker bus and check out the sights, after a walking tour of the neon at CityWalk. It’s no one-shot deal: Another is set for Sept. 20. Also on Saturday night, the Chatsworth Equine Heritage Cultural Organization held a barn dance out in horse country to raise money to fight developers. Neon and uppity cowboys — the suburbs are a-changing.
• To whoever runs the Daily News website: Ping! Sunday’s Viewpoint section was off-line all day. Here’s the lineup, from the print edition. Top billing goes to Cal State Northridge secession expert Tom Hogen-Esch, who suggests that the break-up fight is giving all of Los Angeles a much-needed civics lesson. Regular columnist Chris Weinkopf dings both sides — though mostly the opposition — for their rhetorical excesses. He includes some reported here, such as when fired planning commissioner Bob Scott likened his ouster to the Tiananmen Square massacre without tanks. Since Weinkopf is described as a DN editorial writer, he probably has his own rhetorical offenses to account for; today, though, the editorial page is restrained. It chastises the San Fernando politicians who voted to oppose secession, and repeats state Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian’s pro-divorce quipfrom earlier in the week. Frequent contributor Kimit Muston weighs in on the streets light issue. Three letters to the editor — which are on-line — revisit street lights, and three others speak up for seceding. Added: And there’s a Patrick O’Connor cartoon lampooning a downtown fat cat bothered by “a bunch of whiners in the Valley.”
• The Recorder legal newspaper scrutinizes the litigation, real and threatened, around the secession issue. There are plenty of lawyers in this hunt.
• More sunlight shined on the MAPA imbroglio from Dan Weintraub, columnist for the Sacramento Bee.
• La Opinion carries a long commentary by David Diaz (rough English here) that argues the Valley secession effort has too many little chiefs and no big chief — and not enough foot soldiers to get the job done. He says the origanization was built to get on the ballot but not to sell the idea to a skeptical public. The paper also has a report on one woman’s inner debate with secession. Here’s the Espanol and the rough English version.
• The Daily News reports Sunday on controversy over a bill by State Sen. Richard Alarcon that would create the grand-sounding Commission on the Effective Governance of the City of Los Angeles to kick in after secession is defeated. It would have 18 members appointed by City Hall, the governor and legislative Democrats. Secessionists like Republican assemblyman Keith Richman are vehemently opposed. The DN also carries more what-if on the clout issue, with a Washington story and a sidebar on how regional federally funded services would continue. The Sunday editorials and opinion articles had not been posted as of 9:45 a.m.
• On the front of the Times’ Sunday Opinion section, writer Susan Anderson argues there is some nuance to the stance of African Americans on secession. She suggests that many black leaders have withheld announcing their position, probably hoping to gain some political leverage, and says that the Rev. Zedar E. Broadous, a Valley VOTE board member, supported a formal break-up study but is on the fence on secession itself. On one point, she says that many blacks believe it was their vote that elected Jim Hahn mayor. But many others feel it was the Valley that made the difference in Hahn defeating Antonio Villaraigosa.
There’s some fallout from the Los Angeles magazine story on Daily News chief Ron Kaye. Los Angeles blogger Ken Layne is upset on behalf of his friend, former DN assistant city editor Amy Langfield, who is quoted in the piece questioning in 1998 the paper’s controversial $60,000 donation toward secession. She makes the point on her web log that the magazine dredged out an old quote from the New York Times and didn’t contact her. The quote is apparently accurate, however, and the magazine’s writer, Charles Rappleye of the L.A. Weekly, clearly says that her comment was made back in 1998. Should he have said it was from the NYT? Maybe, though it’s not a substance-altering omission. Added:Langfield (known as Amy Collins in 1998) e-mails that it’s only the attribution-to-NYT issue she quibbles with: “I think if a reporter is going to lift an entire quote
from another publication, that reporter should make
clear where he got that quote.” Layne’s spin is more extreme: he says journos are “lazy, thieving scum” (not counting himself and his pals, presumably).
• Things are getting tense at Burbank Airport. Burbank city inspectors shut down work on security upgrades at the terminal, even as a Superior Court judge ruled unconstitutional the voter-approved Measure A that seeks to block expansion plans. For the record, it’s the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport, and the city of Burbank — which opposes expansion — doesn’t control what the airport authority does. Neither would a city of the San Fernando Valley, but its elected officials would be under a lot of pressure to reduce noise from the airport.
• Disarray within the Mexican American Political Association has reached the Valley secession campaign, James Nash reports in the Daily News. Already riven with internal strife over its position on the Davis-Simon race for governor, MAPA now looks plain silly. On Friday, a man who said he is a MAPA vice president stood with secession leaders at Ritchie Valens Park in Pacoima and claimed the group’s national board endorses secession. The national president later denied that any position has been taken. Meanwhile, the Valley chapter apparently does oppose secession — but it has been booted from the national organization for not paying dues. The Times story adds that a new pro-secession Valley chapter is forming. The national board meets August 31 to sort all this out, and that should be fun. When the state MAPA convention met last weekend at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, police had to be called. It appears that the convention endorsed Bill Simon for governor…but then state officials of the group say no. La Opinion ran this explainer on the governor’s race snafu Friday but has only a photo in Saturday’s paper on the Pacoima event.
• The website for the Conway and Steckler Show on FM station 97.1 (8-11 p.m., M-F) is asking listeners for their feelings on secession. This is the station that airs Howard Stern, and the pair bill themselves as “the funniest two-man team to ever air in SoCal.” Results so far:
“I think it makes sense” – 33%
“Stupid, L.A. and the Valley are one big city” – 39%
“What is secession?” – 26%
• Weekend reading: Gregory J. Wilcox has a fun feature in the Daily News on Cameron Woods, a model Van Nuys neighborhood used since the 1950s for TV commercials, episodes and films…The liberal American Prospect carries a review of two new books on the politics of the suburbs, one of them co-authored by Peter Dreier of Occidental College, the co-chair of the Los Angeles progressive group PLAN. No mention of the Valley in the review…Joel Kotkin, a rising sage of the Valley, wrote this week on Opinion Journal.com on how the digital age is allowing businesses to “decluster” from away from high-rise centers like Lower Manhattan.
Friday, August 23
• Add Harvey Englander, a veteran campaign strategist who has worked for both Democrat Richard Katz and Republican Keith Richman, to those who think secessionists are blowing their chance. “The secession campaign has lost its focus. The anti-secession side has taken control,” Englander says in the latest L.A. Business Journal. “They need a respected statesman to lead the campaign. Richard Katz is respected – but he’s a politician, not a statesman.” Englander knows the Valley. He ran the first Northeast Valley campaign of the late councilman Howard Finn, led Katz in his tough battle (he lost by seven votes) with State Sen. Richard Alarcon and guided Richman, the Northridge assemblyman, two years ago. He says the secession cause made a strategic mistake not to pursue breaking up the Los Angeles school system first. Englander began his political life as a Bobby Kennedy volunteer, but now works for candidates of both parties. Meanwhile, David Zahniser of Copley News Service reports that pro-secession leaders are already talking rematch in 2004, hoping that the Harbor’s breakaway bid will be on the ballot, while the anti side is targeting defeat even within the Valley on Nov. 5 hoping that will put the issue to death.
• Assemblyman Keith Richman must be in the mayoral race for real — on Thursday he announced that he no longer supports the unpopular Ahmanson Ranch development that he had lobbied for as recently as last fall. After declaring his candidacy for Valley mayor, the Republican said he was reconsidering his position. He tells the Times’ Daryl Kelley that he won’t support Ahmanson unless the traffic impact is lessened. It appears to be a scoop for Kelley. Added: (Yep, Daily News catches up on Saturday.)
Both papers lead their stories on Thursday’s business forum with the only hard news, a study by the Rose Institute of State and Local Government at Claremont McKenna College that compares Los Angeles’ record on revenues and spending with that of other cities. The Times story focuses on the author’s conclusion that L.A. is not business friendly. The Daily News focuses on his evidence that Los Angeles does not compete well for dollars in Washington and Sacramento. “Remarkably ineffective,” is the way author Steven Fratesput it. The Times’ Patrick McGreevy also notes that VICA, one of the forum’s sponsors, will poll its members’ position on secession next week. A formal endorsement either way by VICA, the Valley’s most influential business group, would be noteworthy. The Times also carries the news that a Watts community activist is launching an effort to seek the secession of Watts and South-Central Los Angeles.
The Daily News editorial page gets all outraged about the way L.A. has traditionally financed residential street lights, using the chance to rail again that — you can guess it — secessionists are virtuous and the “downtown power structure” is sanctimonious. An on-line check of the DN archives back to 1985 finds no previous concern for the way street lights are financed, or any concern about Pacoima being short of illumination. Meanwhile, council president Alex Padilla of Pacoima concedes that new ways of financing lightsshould be explored.
DN Thursday: Only L.A. does it this way
Thursday, August 22
• Secession Watch Special: Debate in Sherman Oaks
Ahead of the morning papers, Secession Watch reviews today’s forum, “Secession: The Business Perspective,” held at Sportsmen’s Lodge. Media reports will be posted as they appear tomorrow.
The show stealer was county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who explained his key role in the Local Agency Formation Commission placing break-up on the Nov. 5 ballot. (He is a LAFCO member.) “I have tried to be an honest broker. It was our judgment that the sooner we got it to the voters, the better.”
Unlike many elected Democracts, Yaroslavsky said he won’t take a public position on secession: “It’s not as bad as the opponents claim it is, and it’s not as good as the proponents say it is.” Still, he said, he totally gets the deep hunger for community that makes many in the Valley desire their own city: “It’s a cultural thing. You can’t explain it in an analysis, or in a consultant’s report…it just is.” It’s absurd to question the Valley city’s viability, he said, so the voters’ quandary is to decide yes or no if they would be better off with the Valley separate: “Is it worth all the effort?”
Either way, he said he’ll accept the result: “The voters usually get it right.” He also credits the controversy with triggering a healthy examination of how Los Angeles works or doesn’t work. “If nothing else, it has generated a civic debate the likes of which we haven’t had in a long time,” he concluded.
Writer and policy analyst Joel Kotkin — who favors boroughs over secession — scored high on the Quip Meter, dismissing criticism that the Valley’s secession motivations are racial: “The Valley voted 2 to 1 for Al Gore, so it’s not exactly Mississippi.” Honorable mention goes to Richard Katz, co-chair of SFV Independence, who opened his remarks by announcing “We’re not too stupid to govern ourselves,” and got serious with a vow that “We’re going to change the face of Los Angeles forever.”
Also speaking in favor of secession were Supervisor Mike Antonovich and Joel Simon of the Valley’s United Chambers of Commerce. Appearing against the break-up were City Controller Laura Chick, Rusty Hammer of the Greater Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce and Mitch Menzer, president of the city Planning Commission, for L.A. United. The debate was sponsored by a roster of officially neutral groups:
• The Valley’s Southland Regional Association of Realtors has posted another 700 responses to its secession preference poll we reported on three days ago. Support among real estate brokers and agents (plus any ringers who take the on-line poll) is up to 64.2%. More than 2,000 respondents have been counted. Just over 91% also want the thus-far-neutral organization to take a formal position. Mayoral candidate Mel Wilson is past president of SRAR and writes its Legislative Advocate newsletter.
• The Valley’s most prominent 19th century inhabitant, Andres Pico, lived in grand style at Mission San Fernando Rey and sponsored a bill in the Legislature to secede all of Southern California from the north. It actually passed — but got shot down in Washington over the politics of slavery and the impending Civil War. (Don Andres was a Californio war hero, and a Democratic Party leader who never learned English, as well as a rancher and the brother of California’s last Mexican governor, Pio Pico.) Tonight at 9 o’clock on KCET, California Connected reports on a continuing tradition of secession talk up around Yreka, where some people wish (not too seriously) for creation of a 51st state called Jefferson.
• The Times covers a
new wrinkle in conservation — and resulting furor — in which some residents of the Valley below Mulholland Drive voted to tax themselves $40 a year to buy up and preserve open space in the Santa Monicas.
The city council of San Fernando voted unanimously to oppose secession, while a former justice of the state supreme court, Armand Arabian, announced he is for the breakup. The Daily News says the San Fernando resolution contends the Los Angeles portion of the Valley is out of step with Latino concerns, citing the defeat of mayoral hopeful Antonio Villaraigosa, opposition to bilingual education and support for Proposition 187. Arabian is a longtime Van Nuys lawyer and jurist who got off a decent quip: “The key to this issue is in the spelling. To Valley residents, it’s San Fernando; to the uninformed, it’s San Fernanduh and to the downtown elite, it’s San Fernandough.” The county also said 111 candidateswill be on the Valley ballot.
• One secession advocate is on the list of finalists for the Fernando Award, which the Valley business community will award for the 44th year. The winner is announced at a banquet Nov. 1, just days before the secession movement learns its fate.
The Daily News’ James Nash turns up the fact that Los Angeles is alone among big cities in
charging homeowners directly for street lights. Would the Valley city candidates change that long-standing practice?
Wednesday, August 21
• The Patrick O’Connor cartoon in today’s Daily News depicts a homeless man, lying on a scruffy Ventura Boulevard sidewalk, remarking, “I feel much better now that all the street lamps match.” It might have more zing if Ventura actually had a lot of scruffy street people compared to other parts of the Valley.
• This week’s San Fernando Valley Business Journal has a politics story on political consultant Larry Levine and the One Los Angeles anti-secession campaign, and a report on the Valley’s top 25 bankers. There’s also a list of speakers at tomorrow’s forum on the business impact of secession, to be held at Sportsmen’s Lodge.
Los Angeles officials now plan to move the
Valley police headquarters out of Van Nuys to Woodland Hills and open a new Southwest Valley division, the Daily News says. This upsets community leaders in Van Nuys, which would lose yet another institution to the more affluent West Valley.
“Although they may not acknowledge their common goals, neighborhood council organizers and secessionists are fighting the same fundamental law of political life,” say two academic writers on the Daily News Op-ed page, pushing the neighborhood council concept. “Politics heeds the interests of small, well-organized groups over those of large, diffuse constituencies.” Christopher Weare is a research fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, and Juliet Musso is an associate professor of public policy at USC.
• Demolition work will begin soon at Burbank Airport even though expansion plans remain under a cloud, the Times says. Any talk of expanding Burbank is a heated issue in the rest of the Valley.
Tuesday, August 20
• Onetime break-up advocate Bobbi Fiedler, the former Republican congresswoman from the Valley, signed the official ballot argument against secession. The founder of the 1970s anti-busing group Bustop is joined by Mayor James Hahn, former Mayor Richard Riordan, retired Lakers great Magic Johnson and county Supervisor Gloria Molina. Fiedler is the lone signer from the Valley. She had broken earlier from Valley VOTE over tactics and approach. On the other side, all but one of the signers are in the Valley. The ballot argument for secession is signed by secession leader Richard Katz, candidate Carlos Ferreyra, county Supervisor Mike D. Antonovich, Laurette Healey of the SFV Independence Committee and Andrew Mardesich, president of San Pedro Peninsula Home Owners United. The Times runs a story while the Daily News puts the full text of both arguments on its opinion page and on-line. The DN also publishes three more letters from readers who say they recently converted to the secession cause.
• In the 1940s, actor Edward Everett Horton claimed the honorary title of Governor of the San Fernando Valley for several years. One time, he even campaigned against actress Jane Russell to keep the honorific. The Times’ Sue Fox today looks at the ten remaining hopefuls in the race to be called Mayor of the Valley. They include computer consultant Marc Strassman, local government gadflies Leonard Shapiro and Gregory E. Roberts, and the two men who seem willing to spend the most on their adventures in shadow political campaigning, real estate agent Mel Wilson and state Assemblyman Keith Richman. The Daily News, meanwhile, flogs the street lights issue again, leading with nine Valley City candidates in Pacoima trying to make the lack of lighting there a Valley vs. Over the Hill issue. Xavier Flores, co-chairman of the Latino Coalition for a United L.A., was there to observe that secession advocates don’t have the greatest record looking out for Pacoima’s interests.
Valley Secession Fever blog on the candidates: “This country wouldn’t be a democracy if only its best and brightest ran for office… All of them are crazy of course to gamble on a job that may not be there at all for them, but their devotion is admirable.”
Monday, August 19
• An on-line survey of Valley real estate brokers and agents is finding moderate support — 53% to 46% — for secession. The Southland Regional Association of Realtors, which covers the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, has so far not taken a formal position. But its website asks members to give their opinion, and 1291 respondents had by late Monday. A separate question asking whether the group should announce a position has drawn less response — 531 voters — but 88% want the SRAR to take a side. The group’s website explains: “The outcome will have a profound effect on Valley residents and the Valley real estate industry for decades to come.” The group’s former president, Mel Wilson, is a candidate for Valley City mayor.
Earlier: Katz and Padilla face off at SRAR
• San Francisco Chronicle columnist Rob Morse riffs on secession today, poking fun at Jeff Brain for orchestrating Camelot to be one of the ballot names, and suggesting that as a group the proposed names “sound more like condo subdivisions than what would be California’s second-biggest city.” Morse adds: “If the boundaries can be drawn right, the Giants could be playing the Valley City Dodgers.”
La Opinion has a page one story on the backgrounds of Latino candidates for Valley and Hollywood offices. Several are immigrants, including Salvadorans, Mexicans and an Argentine, while most are Mexican-American. Benito Bernal, a Valley mayoral hopeful, is a union organizer who is the son of Mexican-American farmers and grew up in the projects in Pacoima. He is quoted, along with David Hernandez, who was volunteering in the George W. Bush campaign when he decided to run for Congress against Howard Berman and later for a Valley office, and several others. Very rough English translation by Google.
• A Washington Times once-over gives more or less equal billing to the Valley and Hollywood secession efforts.
• Several big donors to the mayor’s anti-secession campaign acknowledge they are in it for self-interest — to secure future political favors from Hahn, reports Beth Shuster in Monday’s L.A. Times. Ed Roski, the biggest of the givers so far, wants his development projects around town looked upon favorably. Magic Johnson wants more blacks hired at city hall. “Many of them are not doing it because they love Jim Hahn,” says civic bigwig Eli Broad. “They’re doing it because it’s in their self-interest.” Adds Demo political consultant Rick Taylor: “It’s basic politics: You help me and I’ll help you.” It’s an unusually frank look at how politics in the city often really works. Not explored, though, is the rare opportunity that secession presents to cozy up. Unlke most other city campaigns, there are no campaign donation limits. So in a way, this campaign is a surrogate for all the others where limits apply. The DN, meanwhile, rags on Broad for having too much influence over the LAUSD.
• In a rant against Hahn’s firing of pro-divorce commissioner Bob Scott, a Daily News editorial wonders what happens after Nov. 5: “If secession fails…will voters identified as secession supporters be sent packing to Burbank?”
• Rick Orlov’s Monday DN column briefly mentions some of the odder political machinations around secession. Democrats are generally fighting secession, but Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, Sacramento’s #2 Democrat, is backing Gene LaPietra for the Hollywood city council. No word on his position on Valley secession. Meanwhile, Assemblyman Paul Koretz of West Hollywood also backs LaPietra, but opposes Valley secession. Even so, his chief deputy, Scott Svonkin, is running for Valley city council — with Koretz’s backing. Patt Morrison’s column in the Times talks about similar games around the Hollywood candidacy of billboard breast-monger Angelyne.
The Daily News’ Lisa Mascaro predicts a huge community uproar over how to improve the Ventura Freeway. As many as 600 homes, 300 businesses, seven parks and three schools would have to go to widen or double-deck the freeway, she points out. This in some of the wealthiest, most influential sections of the Valley. Would you believe there are more than 100 candidates who want to grapple with problems like this for $12,000 a year?
Weekend, August 17-18
• Sunday’s secession output is uninspired in both the Daily News and the Times. The top Daily News story is a thin look at why city employees fear secession, with Valley independence leaders suggesting the only ones who should fear a break-up are middle and upper managers. The rhetoric of secession all along, however, has demonized city workers as over-paid and over-pensioned, so of course they are suspicious.
Also in the Daily News:
• L.A. workers paid more than in “Valley-size cities.”
• Asian gang crime rising in the Valley.
• Columnist Chris Weinkopf says liberal groups — he calls them “leftist” — betray the public by fighting secession.
• Letters outraged at Ventura Blvd. street lights.
• Three secession related letters.
• The Times runs its own thin story inside California, revisiting the diminished clout issue. A non-issue, says former Asembly Speaker Rob Hertzberg of Van Nuys, who opposes secession on other grounds. Break-up would not harm the influence of L.A. and the Valley in Sacramento, he says: “I just don’t think that argument holds water.” Former assemblyman Richard Katz, the head of SFV Independence, says L.A.’s legislative delegations are “infamous” for not working together anyway. The story attempts a comparison between the $11 billion in swift federal aid sent to Los Angeles after the 1994 Northridge quake and a lesser amount received in San Francisco after the 1989 Loma Prieta quake. A key fact was left out: the Northridge temblor occured directly under Los Angeles, making it the most damaging U.S. disaster ever. Loma Prieta struck more than 50 miles south of San Francisco. Aside from the Marina District (built badly on fill) and the Oakland freeway that fell, the most severe devastation was far away in Santa Cruz and Watsonville.
Also in the Times:
• Letter writer Joyce Emerson of Granada Hills points out that secession advocates fought a Valley Cultural Center and should look in the mirror. Also letters on Valley parks and excessive street repaving.
• Saturday’s L.A. Times and Daily News report on dueling news conferences in Pacoima by Latinos for and against secession. The former was held by Hispanic candidates for offices in the prospective SFV city, the latter led by Los Angeles city council president Alex Padilla and state assemblyman Tony Cardenas, who plans to run (again) for the L.A. city council next spring. The recently formed Latino Coalition for a United Los Angeles participated in the anti-secession event. Not there were northeast Valley political leaders State Sen. Richard Alarcon and Cindy Montanez, the mayor of San Fernando. The pro-secession gathering sought to exploit their absence, but it didn’t take since Alarcon and Montanez are against the breakup despite their differences with Padilla and Cardenas. Once again, the Times Poll results indicating that Valley Latinos support secession are repeated without the caution that, with an error margin of nine points either way, the findings are questionable at best. There’s no question, though, that Latinos are intensely interested. La Opinion’s story was its ninth on secesión already in August. The LAT story also notes that ten more candidates for Valley City offices were disqualified by the county Registrar-Recorder.
Friday, August 16
Daily News managing editor Ron Kaye is proud of inventing the paper’s angry anti-downtown, pro-Valley persona and its championing of secession, he says in Charles Rappleye’s fascinating Los Angeles magazine article. (On newstands but not on-line.) “The blaring headlines, the biting critique, the single-sided analysis, all are extensions of Kaye’s pugnacity,” Rappleye explains. Kaye speaks openly (and raunchily) over martinis and Marlboros for the article, voicing doubts that cityhood would be any great shakes and fretting about the lack of diversity in Valley VOTE. But he cops, unabashed, to his lead role in creating the movement’s media high profile. When a bill to foster secession stalled in Sacramento in 1997, he says, “I make a story of it. I get 50 letters. I make another story of it.” The converted radical and Santa Monican-turned-Van Nuys chauvinist kept juicing the story. The tabloid-style crusade let the Daily News craft a profile far different than that of the downtown-centric L.A. Times. And for Kaye it became personal. “This is about truth, justice and the American way. I have found a way to give expression to my failed idealism…this [the Valley] is the dream of mankind.” Some staffers left in embarassment as Kaye pushed the paper’s Valley-first line, but Rappleye concludes that the strategy gave the DN an identity and new clout. The pay off might prove to be more mixed, however. Circulation is down, and the Times sells more copies in the Valley. The anti-Los Angeles rants target a niche audience — mostly white, older, conservative and anti-urban — that shrinks every year, due to aging and flight west and north to the newer suburbs. As its turf evolves into what author Joel Kotkin calls a Mestizo Valley, and with more resemblance than ever to Los Angeles, the Daily News’ shrillness could turn out to be a bad business play. Many minorities are skeptical the paper, owned by Denver news mogul Dean Singleton, will ever change enough to represent the New Valley, and a quote in the article won’t help their trust. A job applicant recalls Kaye giving her the DN credo: “We’re not interested in the problems of the poor people in the San Fernando Valley, we’re interested in the problems of the middle class.”
• The L.A. Business Journal marvels at the scale of development in Porter Ranch, saying there has been 3 million square feet of new commercial space built in the last five years — half of what’s allowed. It’ll cost you $3 to read the story unless you subscribe. Porter Ranch is like the Valley of the 1950s and ’60s in one way: residents wake to the sounds of saws and hammers, with entire tracts of new suburban homes going up all the time. This means that ridges and arroyos are being bulldozed to create level terraces, and one can almost imagine homes and back yards creeping up to the crest of the Santa Susanas someday. Most recently, the developed zone has reached Browns Canyon on the west.
Downtown News contributor Sam Hall Kaplan predicts that secession will lose even though people he talks to are quite unhappy about city services: “There are just too many risks — financial, political and social — involved in secession.” Kaplan is a weekend reporter for Fox 11 News, a former design critic at the L.A. Times, and the author of L.A. Lost and Found. He’s also the City Observed comentator for KCRW, where the column first appeared.
The L.A. City Council today took action on two issues mentioned here recently. It voted to look further into managing city services by region, and ordered a stretch of Glenoaks Blvd. in Sun Valley closed during street racing hours.
Pro-secession Valley businessman Bob Scott calls his abrupt ouster from the powerful citywide planning commission after 10 years by Mayor Hahn a purge, telling Rick Orlov of the Daily News “It’s just like Tiananmen Square except they’re not bringing in the tanks.” Officially, Scott was simply not reappointed to a new term. Deputy Mayor Matt Middlebrook denies a vendetta against secession advocates, noting that Valley VOTE bankroller Bert Boeckmann remains on the police commission. He also points out that Scott’s support for secession was well known when he was last appointed, and that it’s time for someone else to have a chance to serve. Scott, however, says that all city commissioners are having their arms twisted to encourage them to help in the mayor’s fight against secession. In the Times story, Scott says he was asked a week ago by a Hahn advisor to switch sides. Orlov observes that since the campaign heated up, both the chairman (David Fleming) and vice chair (Scott) of the Valley Economic Alliance have lost their key city posts.
• The county Democratic Party will interview Democrats running for offices in the new Valley city and in Hollywood, and may endorse candidates in a break from the stance taken by Valley Demo clubs. Both the Valley clubs and the county party organization oppose secession. But Jeff Daar, head of the Democratic Party of the SFV, had gone further and warned potential candidates there would be no party support for them at all. About 20 Democratic candidates for offices in the Valley and Hollywood protested Daar’s threat on Thursday. The Times and Daily News have somewhat different takes and details. In the DN, the Valley Democrats group denies it ever threatened to bar party support; in the LAT, a spokeswoman defends the ban on help for breakway Democrats. The DN also points out that the protesters went to the wrong address for their media event, thinking they were at the county Democratic headquarters.
• In and around Pacoima, there are still unpaved city streets with no sidewalks, and many, many neighborhoods that are dark at night with no streetlights. On Thursday, activists blasted the city’s plan to replace 1,000 working street lights on Ventura and asked, quite sensibly, What about us? City officials say that Pacoima lacks lights mainly because residents there don’t agree to the $53 annual voluntary tax assessment that typically pays for new lights, and they say that Ventura Blvd. is an unrelated upkeep of existing service. The Daily News, however, says in an editorial that it’s all part of an anti-secession game being played by the mayor’s office.
• The L.A. firefighters union explains its anti-secession position on the Times’ op-ed page.
Thursday, August 15
• Page One of tomorrow’s Washington Post carries a Valley secession story by Rene Sanchez that hits all the main bases without adding anything new for those already keeping up on the issue. Jeff Brain of Valley VOTE and council president Alex Padilla provide the dueling quotes, along with some Valley residents. The best insight from the uninvolved view comes from urban affairs writer William Fulton, who has written extensively on Los Angeles: “The valley secessionists are on a jihad to create a new city. But I think most people in the valley just want better services, and they don’t really care how they get them — from a really big city, or just a big city.” It’s the Post’s first front page treatment of secession this year. Alas, the headline deck, at least on the Web, is inexcusable: San Fernando [sic] Set for Ballot Showdown…
• A search for the term “secede” on the site of the Archdiocese newspaper The Tidings returns dozens of stories on….”suicide.” Reflecting Cardinal Mahony’s opinion, perhaps? The Cardinal’s call on religious leaders to take a stand, by the way, is scrutinized by the Rev. Karen Speicher, a grad student in public policy at Pepperdine as well as a United Methodist pastor. (She also lauds the secession pages in the book, The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb.)
• Channel 28’s Rocketdyne cleanup story moves to Friday’s Life and Times Tonightprogram, airing at 7 p.m. and midnight.
• Secession itself might be a bad thing, writes The New Republic’s Michelle Cottle, but the threat of break-up is making Los Angeles a better place. In a lengthy piece that opens at the Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City, she credits the secession cause as the only effective force for real reform in the city — “one of the best things to happen to L.A. in decades.” If the high-powered opposition to secession quashes not just the ballot question but the whole idea of reform, she says, Los Angeles will be the loser: “Not even the staunchest secession opponent disputes that Los Angeles has serious problems.” She quotes Fred Siegel, an urban expert who teaches history at New York’s Cooper Union: ” ‘The Valley’s resentments of downtown are not crackpot.’ The city is uniquely troubled ‘both because of its sheer size and because it is so badly run.’ “
• Secession opponent Tom LaBonge, whose city council seat includes a sliver of the Valley, gets a small L.A. Times profile. He’s a true student of Los Angeles, and a native as well, and says that if secession happens, “the sun would rise and all the other things would happen. But it would personally hurt me.”
LAExaminer.com comments: Love Tom or loathe him
• Secession Watch has little patience for the anti-secession objection that the Valley, even with 1.35 million inhabitants and a 200-year history, doesn’t measure up as city material. That’s crazy. On the size and magnitude scale, at least, it outscores all but one of the 88 cities in L.A. County, the exception of course being Los Angeles. Another sign of its maturity is that, in Northridge, two rival sets of involved residents sought to launch the official neighborhood council. A Harvard graduate student dissects the efforts and critiques the neighborhood council concept in a paper presented last month.
• City Council President Alex Padilla of Pacoima kept his post even after pulling out the stops trying to elect his ally, Assemblyman Tony Cardenas, in a bitter and divisive race for the 2nd district council seat. A majority of Padilla’s colleagues and some of his former allies in northeast Valley Latino circles had gone against Padilla and backed the eventual winner, Wendy Greuel. Now the council president, who has been making amends with the majority, has appointed former District Attorney Gil Garcetti to the city Ethics Commission. Gil’s son Eric is one of the council members who embraced Greuel.
• The Local Agency Formation Commission took its final official action on the question of Valley cityhood, approving language for the Nov. 5 ballot. The state board came in for criticism during the years that it pondered the Valley’s request for an election, mostly for the past activism in the Valley of executive director Larry Calemine. Less was said about deputy Sandor Winger, also active in Valley political circles. It may turn out that the most influential person at LAFCO, however, has been Zev Yaroslavsky, the elected county Supervisor. Wearing his LAFCO hat, he asked pointed questions of Los Angeles representatives along the way — while fellow supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke aimed her barbs at the Valley folks — and Yaroslavsky is both blamed and credited by some with giving secession a crucial nudge onto the ballot.
Secession activist Gerald Silver and others see City Hall arrogance toward the Valley in a plan to replace a motley assortment of street lamps along 17 miles of Ventura Boulevard with
new lighting on 40-foot-high poles. That’s more than 1,000 new light standards. Not everyone along Ventura is unhappy with the idea.
• Police services in a new Valley city would have to get better because they couldn’t get any worse than what the LAPD provides, the Daily News editorial page declares. This might come as a shock to many Valley residents who feel that, other than the DWP, the LAPD is the best thing about being connected with Los Angeles and who want to keep the department even if secession occurs.
Wednesday, August 14
• Memo to candidates: you want voters, here are two ideas. Work the long lines at In-N-Out Burger stands across the Valley. The best newspaper story about Los Angeles today is a New York Times look at the local chain’s cult of burger worshippers. In a sidebar, the NYT also samples L.A.’s burgerless burgers (free registration required at NYT). Or try Zuma Beach, sometimes called “Encino-by-the-Sea.” It’s been a Valley-flavored stretch of sand forever, reachable through picturesque Malibu Canyon in lieu of the painfully slow 405 Freeway. This afternoon, enough Vals to elect a council member cooled off at Zuma and looked on as a dolphin pod and sea lions frolicked in the surf between lifeguard towers 6 and 7.
• Boroughs are the subject of a “she said-he said” bout pitting Jill Stewart vs. council president Alex Padilla’s spokesman on the New Times letters page.
• Major studios and Hollywood guilds — and nearly the entire Los Angeles entertainment industry — are sitting out the secession debate, the Hollywood Reporter says today. Only IATSE, the AFL-CIO affiliated guild for technicans and several crafts that opposes secession, has a formal position. Other major players are laying low, apparently hoping to avoid any divisiveness until Nov. 5 then go on with life as usual. Both the Valley and Hollywood secession areas have important entertainment institutions within their borders. Neither campaign, however, was able to attract influential show business figures for their early support. Now that both efforts are considered long shots, there’s little impetus to get involved.
Variety June 12: Hahn pitches unity to unions
Channel 28’s “Life & Times” has a report by Gay Yee on the Valley’s major environmental cleanup — the
Rocketdyne-Atomics International site in the hills above Chatsworth — on tap for the Thursday show. The Santa Susana Field Laboratory opened in the late 1940s, first as a remote spot where scientists tried to “reverse-engineer” the Nazi V-2 rocket, and it became a busy test site during the Cold War space race. Lots of bad stuff was left behind. The property includes the headwaters, such as they are, of the Los Angeles River.
• The September issue of Los Angeles Magazine will report on the L.A. Daily News and its chosen role as the unofficial megaphone for Valley secession. Managing editor Ron Kaye is the focus of the piece, due out this week. It was freelanced by Charles Rappleye of the L.A. Weekly.
• Even with the Valley a hot topic in the media, some people just never know what to make of the place. The latest example: the Not for Tourists Guide to Los Angeles, which proudly offers shopping and living tips on 52 “neighborhoods.” Unlike some L.A. guides, NFT ventures into the Valley, but not very far. The advice stops abruptly at Reseda Blvd. on the west and Roscoe Blvd. on the north, leaving an explained void on the guide’s map. Maybe the New York-based editors heeded the quip from an old L.A. Times “Laugh Lines” column — “Roscoe: the very name conjures up images of having driven too far north” — or maybe they are just clueless.
• A Daily News editorial advises the secessionists to get cracking and make their best pitch to Angelenos on the far side of the hill. The paper urges using the smaller-is-better-card to help sell the idea to skeptical non-Valleyites. But the DN acknowledges that the effort is in a deep hole, with only 5% of L.A. voters in the recent KABC poll still undecided how they will vote — and a sizable majority already planning to vote down the Valley’s bid for separation.
• Joel Fox, the former president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Assn., signed on with the secession side Tuesday. He’s a link to the 1970s when the Valley first rose up politically, to push Proposition 13 to victory and to defeat school busing for desegregation. Meanwhile, 25 Asian American groups including the Valley Korean American Assn. stood with Jim Hahn to announce a new opposition group, Asians for United Los Angeles.
Tuesday, August 13
• Audio has been posted from The California Report’s dispatch on Friday about the SFV mayor’s race. It’s audio of LAT staff writer Patrick McGreevey and aired locally on KPCC 89.3 FM.
• At Hansen Dam there’s upset about the noise and disruption from filming of “Charlie’s Angels 2” and plans for the shooting of “Helldorado.” In the latter action film, a western town will be blown up and possibly terrorized by stampeding cattle. The secession angle? A policy on permits for filming would be an issue facing the new city. On one side, fees can be a lucrative revenue source for a city, and fear of runaway production is almost palpable among show business people at Starbucks tables all over the Valley. But sometimes, ordinary residents get pretty tired of the film crews’ intrusions. So it’s another issue Valley candidates should state their positions on.
• In a “Voices of the Valley” piece on the L.A. Times front page, Nita Lelyveld lets longtime denizens explain why they love living in the Valley and resent being looked down upon by the city dwellers over the hill. Many of these Valleyites are not actvists but are inclined to vote for secession, even if they don’t feel cityhood offers all the answers. “It’s not going to be Camelot,” says Steve Bidermann. “It’s not going to be nirvana. But I really do think it’s going to be a much nicer place to live.” On the Times’ secession team, Lelyveld seems to be the designated writer of long talkers about the Valley sensibility, and she does a good job with it.
• Politicos came to Van Nuys Monday for lunch with the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. but the S-word — secession — was off the agenda, writes Massie Ritsch in the Times. Too bad, because VICA is the one bellwether group in the Valley that could give secession a boost of credibility and momentum, or pop the bubble by opposing it. For now, the influential association is undecided pending a vote of the clearly divided membership in September.
Polling done for KABC Channel 7 found that secession has majority support in the Valley but is losing ground elsewhere in the city, and the measure would lose 56%-40% if the election were today. In the Valley, 57% of likely voters said they would cast their ballot to break away from Los Angeles, with 40% against and only 3% undecided. Outside the Valley, the edge is 69-26 against, so even assuming a healthy Valley turnout the break-up goes down. The numbers are similar to what the same pollster found in May for the Valley, but in the rest of the city the trend is bad for secession. As we’ve been saying here, the poll’s editor tells the Daily News, “They (the numbers) say the whole fight is outside the Valley.” There’s the usual “we’ll be OK” spin by Richard Katz of SFV Independence, and the usual doomsday spin by Kam Kuwata of the mayor’s L.A. United campaign. The Latino canard comes up again — they score highest of any bloc on the pro side in the Valley — but the margin of error is probably too high to be reliable. Still, Hispanic voters will clearly be influential, and a half-dozen Latino candidates for SFV City offices got together Monday to talk up what cityhood would do for community clout.
• Neal Peirce of the Washington Post Writers Group likes the Hertzberg boroughs plan and tends to align with the Kevin Starr “great world city” way of thinking. “Will L.A. listen to vision, think federation? Or will it focus on the fears and resentments behind secession? On the answer, one suspects, rides its future.”
Monday, August 12
• The Sacramento Bee takes a light look at Richard Katz, the chairman of the San Fernando Valley Independence campaign who is the oddity in the secession ranks. In a movement thick with Republicans and political novices, he’s a former member of the state Assembly’s Democratic leadership, a troubleshooter for Gov. Gray Davis on the power crisis, and a Davis appointee to the state Water Resources Control Board. He served 16 years in the Assembly before being termed out in 1996, and made serious runs for mayor of Los Angeles and the state Senate. So what’s he doing here? He’s not running for anything, and the longtime resident of Sylmar says he’s just out to help the legions who feel Los Angeles doesn’t work well any more. He vows to sign up 3,000 volunteers for the cityhood campaign with hopes they will excite the disaffected masses. If that potential force truly is amassing, though, it has yet to show it embraces secession. Meanwhile, Katz is apparently not afraid of losing Democratic friends over his secession role — an intriguing topic that wasn’t broached by the Bee.
• Stepping back for a sober analysis of the Valley secession campaign, David Zahniser of Copley News Service says breakup advocates are on the defensive and striving to get back on track. Three months ago, it was Los Angeles officials reeling from a series of missteps and setbacks in the LAFCO process. Now, it’s the breakup side trying to rationalize being cash-poor and explain away a secret meeting with Hahn to discuss compromise that, Zahniser suggests, undermined “six years of hard work by Valley activists.” The story’s narrative line is that the Valley quest is similar to a failed effort by some Carson residents to pull out of the Los Angeles Unified School District. Massive spending by teachers unions and others squashed that effort. Its parent leader, Carolyn Harris, warns secessionists to be realistic about their passions: “I didn’t lose my hair, I didn’t lose my soul and I didn’t hock my house. That’s the advice I’d give the Valley.”
• One thing’s for sure, with all the money being tossed around, and no limits, everybody will be tired of seeing anti-secession TV ads before Nov. 5 gets here. Mayor Hahn will raiseanother bunch of cash for his TV campaign at a $2,500-per-person event on Sept. 9 at the Encino home of developer Ted Stein, Rick Orlov reports. The Police Protective League now plans to buy it’s own air time. Orlov is also the first to print that some of the 121 candidates running for offices are no doubt hoping to get their names known well enough to have a shot at the Los Angeles city council next year.
• In the Times, Secession Sketchbook revisits the day in 1998 when signature gatherers on behalf of a secession study were forcibly removed from the air show at Van Nuys Airport. The event — writer James Ricci calls it the secession movement’s symbolic Boston Massacre — lit a fire under the activists who are needed to stoke a fledgling cause like secession, and brought the movement publicity it needed. Fallout from the ill-advised ejection includes $45,000 paid by the city to Valley VOTE to settle a federal lawsuit. Ricci takes a drive with one of the ejectees, Myra Ferrante, to tell the story.
• The Daily News editorial page tweaks Mayor Jim Hahn (again) for raising almost $2 million to fight secession and for the complaints filed by breakup advocates alleging that Hahn improperly uses city offices and e-mail for the campaign. In a piece titled “Subsidizing Hahn,” the paper calls the activity “unethical and probably illegal” but doesn’t advance the issue.
Sunday, August 11
Some things never change in the Valley. Early Saturday morning, more than 60 drag racers and cruisers were arrested and 98 onlookers cited in a crackdown on street racing along Glenoaks Boulevard in Sun Valley. This stuff has been going on somewhere in the Valley since at least the 1940s, with Glenoaks the locale of choice for some years now. What will the candidates say about the evil — or the local tradition, take your choice — of street racing? This may fuel the debate: last week, a Palmdale teenager got probation and community service for vehicular manslaughter in a drag racing death.
Greuel: Make watching them race a crime
• Attendance estimates for the Rally in the Valley range from about 200 in the L.A. Times and on Fox News to 400 in the Daily News to 700 in La Opinion. While Fox devoted most of its coverage to Angelyne, the put-on candidate in the pink Corvette in Hollywood, the three papers gave the most attention to Mel Wilson, the Democrat who jumped late into the race for Valley mayor. Wilson is a past president of the United Chambers of Commerce, the biggest business group to endorse secession, as well as a leader of the real estate community — and an African American who grew up in Pacoima. He served on the city fire commission with secession backer David Fleming while Richard Riordan was mayor and also sat on the MTA board. Wilson said if elected he would seek to cut business taxes, keep the LAPD as the new city’s police force and give real power to neighborhood councils. The Times also noted the first recent appearance at a secession event of L.A. city police commissioner Bert Boeckmann, whose Galpin Ford dealership has served as unofficial headquarters for the cityhood forces. Boeckmann, who had given generously to Valley VOTE, says he’ll help several candidates, but has yet to state unequivocally that he favors secession.
Polizeros: Angelyne provides “badly-needed absurdity”
• “In a smaller city, if you are not happy during the evening or weekend, you can look up the mayor in the phone book and call at home,” writes Carl Boyer, who helped lead the cityhood effort in Santa Clarita and served two terms as mayor. The career history teacher at San Fernando High contributes a piece to the Daily News op-ed page on how smoothly that city incorporation went. Boyer is writing a book on Santa Clarita’s cityhood and plans to include a chapter on Valley secession. His article runs alongside others by state assemblywoman Fran Pavley, who was in on the early cityhood of Agoura Hills, and a Reseda ex-patriate living in Westlake Village, all extolling the virtues of small cities. The Daily News does a news story (quoting Boyer) to go with the opinion pieces.
Saturday, August 10
• Jack Weiss, a ten-month vet of the L.A. city council whose Westside district spills into the Valley, predicts a humbling crash of the secession juggernaut in an interview with the L.A. Business Journal (fee on-line). The former assistant U.S. attorney, who clerked for U.S. District Judge Lourdes G. Baird and calls Bill Bradley his most admired person, also has disdain for the boroughs idea: “This is not an East Coast town. It has a different sensibility.” On break-up:
“Secession reminds me of the classic story arc of a Hollywood flop. The treatment sounds pretty interesting. After all, smaller government is intuitively more appealing. Then when you see the script, you start to have some doubts about the issue. By the time opening day rolls around in November, nobody’s going to see this picture…Support for secession in the Valley is a mile wide and an inch deep.”
Although their boroughs suggestion was spiked by a city council increasingly confident that secession will fail, L.A. council members Wendy Greuel and Janice Hahn, joined by Tom La Bonge, are pushing some changes to decentralize local government. Howard Fine says in the L.A. Business Journal (fee) they are floating an idea to manage city services in seven regional sub-areas within the city and add a half-dozen new council committees to deal with local issues.
• In the Daily News, Harrison Sheppard gives a longish state of the campaign account and notes that the pro side “could use the boost” from a big turnout at today’s rally. Campaign leader Richard Katz insists the effort has a plan and is on schedule, and will raise at least $5 million, but there are rumblings from pro-secession friends in other parts of the city. Andrew Mardesich, who led the Harbor secession effort, asks: “Is there an organized effort outside of their area to support their leaving? I haven’t seen that organization yet.”
• The race for Valley mayor begins as a contest between assemblyman Keith Richman and longtime activist Mel Wilson, a former president of the SFV Board of Realtors and appointee to city commissions during the Riordan administration, the L.A. Times story says. Wilson says he may spend as much as $500,000 to run. Overall, eight of the Valley candidates are board members of Valley VOTE, the group which put the secession drive on the ballot. CSUN professor Thomas Hogen-Esch, who has studied secession, says the lack of experienced, big-name candidates has to be a disappointment, though the spin from the secession camp is that it’s a fine turn of events. The Daily News has the full list in the paper but only the story is on-line.
• SFV Independence holds what it calls the campaign kickoff this morning at 10 a.m. at the Airtel Plaza at Van Nuys Airport. They’re hoping to attract lots of families and candidates to make a big show, but the weather report says it’ll be mondo HOT in the Valley. Meanwhile, judicious editing has pared down the group’s online list of “Declaration of Independence” signers but new pranks include Mr. Whiskers and James Hahn.
Friday, August 9
We stand chastened: most SFV City candidates stepped forward on the last day. The county website lists 121, including some new declarers, who returned papers to run by the 5 p.m. deadline. Three council races on the Nov. 5 ballot ended up with 11 or more hopefuls, and no race has fewer than four. In the contest for mayor, Keith Richman is joined by 11 other men — in fact, men outnumber women about 5-1 on the list. The mayoral candidates represent ten separate Valley communities, but no one has anything close to the head start that Richman, an incumbent Republican assemblyman, enjoys. Next to watch for: since only Richman and former assemblywoman Paula Boland are known to many Valley voters, will candidates form slates to pool resources? Will an unofficial SFV Independence slate form, to carry the message of the secession mainstream? Not on the final list is Horace Heidt, who apparently dropped out.
• Watch for a story on secession in the August 19 issue of The New Republic, by senior editor Michelle Cottle. It’s not on the street or on-line yet, but the cover headline is Can L.A. Survive Secession? and the contents page summary reads: Down in the Valley: This fall Los Angelenos will vote on letting the San Fernando Valley secede. If secession wins at the polls, it could cripple L.A. But if it loses badly, it could remove the pressure for L.A. to reform — which would be almost as bad. It’s the liberal journal’s first visit with the cityhood issue — when the article is posted, there will be a link here.
• One of the issues SFV City candidates should be forced to take a position on is the cleanup of nuclear debris at the Rocketdyne Santa Susana Field Lab above Chatsworth. Rocket tests from the 1950s through the 1970s used to thrill — and annoy — Valley residents, many of whom didn’t know there were also nuclear reactor experiments going on up there. As the Daily News and Times both note, the Bush Administration wants a lesser cleanup, some residents and Sen. Barbara Boxer want a more costly effort.
Mayor Jim Hahn plans to propose a city budget for the next fiscal year that does not prepare for the possibility of secession, and Richard Katz of SFV Independence has some words for the mayor.
• The Valley candidate ranks figure to thin dramatically later today when nominating petitions are due in Norwalk, at the county Registrar-Recorder’s office. Only about a third of those who originally showed intent by taking out papers had filed by last night. Valley Democrats were warned Thursday by Jeff Daar of One Los Angeles that if they run, there will be no campaign help from Demo clubs in the Valley. Meanwhile, Richard Close is OK with the LAFCO summary that will be mailed to voters; L.A. city hall is still pondering.
• The same week that he makes his conversion to anti-secession official, West Valley councilman Dennis Zine takes a roasting on the Daily News editorial page. Zine is grilled — “L.A.’s oldest Boy Scout” — for opposing the Ahmanson ranch development while favoring the big expansion of the former Topanga Plaza shopping mall (the West’s largest indoor mall when it opened in 1964). A double standard and really about the city of L.A. wishing to pocket more sales taxes, the DN sniffs.
Thursday, August 8
On its website, the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley has posted a For the Record message clarifying it has
no position on secession, noting that board members are “passionately involved” on both sides. The group represents 135 leading businesses across five of the Valley’s six cities. In contrast to some secessionist rhetoric, the website refers to an “ever-improving sense of community, quality of life and prosperity” in the Valley. The Alliance will host a forum to talk over the business perspective on secession on August 22.
• Secession talk in another region — northern Santa Barbara County — is the subject of Life & Times Tonight, channel 28 in Los Angeles at 7 p.m. and again at midnight. There, it’s the ranchers of the north county versus the big bad city folk of Santa Barbara proper.
• Washington Post media writer Howard Kurtz revisited some secession columns by L.A. Times “Points West” writer Steve Lopez, in a broader piece back on August 5. Kurtz gave Lopez points for creativity on two pieces: one where he asked Valley porn workers (kinda cliche, but still kinda fun) their views on secession, and the June 5 column where he embraced the “good riddance” position and urged L.A. to happily take the divorce. Lopez got off with no mention of his lazy May 22 column when he drove out to a single Peet’s, talked to three people, then pronounced the breakup doomed. That column did, however, contain the sharpest Jeff Brain zinger on record: …if this guy’s name is Brain, somewhere in the world is a guy named Dolt who’s a genius. For a relative newbie in town, Lopez seems to exhibit an odd level of anger toward the whole secession idea, or maybe that’s just the schtick. He favors strong opinions and a bit of old-school crusading, and while he’s no Peter King or Robert Jones yet in his grasp of the fabric of L.A. life, he’s admired nationally and in the LAT newsroom. He does have vocal detractors too, like Marc Haefeleat the L.A. Weekly and the editors and some readers of LAExaminer.com.
• A pastor with the Valley Interfaith Council spoke up against secession at a form sponsored by the Valley chapter of NOW, but we already knew that the organized clergy is officially opposed. NOW says it will take a position soon.
Wednesday, August 7
L.A.’s new Neighborhood Councils could turn into hotbeds of secession sentiment once the volunteers find out how city hall really works, Jill Stewart offers in her weekly New Times column: Hahn is lucky that only about half of the councils will be operating when the Valley cityhood vote is taken. Stewart covered the first Congress of Neighborhoods last weekend, where Hahn tried to make nice but got a mixed reception. Stewart also praises the Daily News’ July 28 examination of donors to Hahn’s unity campaign. The head of the city’s new neighborhoods department, by the way, is Greg Nelson, longtime chief of staff for the retired Valley councilman Joel Wachs. Added: In tomorrow’s L.A. Weekly, Marc Haefele vacations in Paris and of course is smitten. He employs its charms to muse on the Congress of Neighborhoods, boost boroughs and skewer, in order, Valley VOTE and Burbank. This skewer has a dulled point, especially compared to other L.A. Weekly secession critiques. For a more amusing read, try Lili Barsha’s verse on life “Just Over the Hill”(bottom of the column).
• Hidden Valley angles can be found everywhere. In his fine LAT op-ed piece today urging that the ball field be restored at the Manzanar relocation camp, author and playwright Steve Kluger could have mentioned that among the baseball teams that played there were the San Fernando Aces. They were formed of some of the 3,000 Valley residents of Japanese descent — most of them U.S. citizens — who were relocated in 1942 and interned until the end of World War II. At the time, many Valley farms and flower nurseries were operated by Japanese American families.
• The anti-Hahn editorial du jour in the Daily News bashes the $3 million that city hall pledged for neighborhood councils. Not enough, the paper says. Meanwhile, on the LAT op-ed page, ever-present good government guru Erwin Chemerinsky, a USC law professor, writes that the antidote to secession is to expand the L.A. City Council. If each council member represents fewer people, he argues, city hall would be more responsive — exactlythe argument friends of secession have been making. They have the right idea, just the wrong ultimate solution, he contends. As if adding highly paid council members won’t be unpopular enough in taxpayer land, he also calls for rethinking Proposition 13.
• Los Angeles city controller Laura Chick will come out against secession today, the Daily News’ Harrison Sheppard reports. Chick used to represent the West Valley on the city council, and now lives in Silver Lake.
• A famous name in Valley lore has joined the race for SFV city council: Horace Heidt.Junior, that is. Horace Heidt the senior was a major Big Bands star known locally for the quirky Horace Heidt Magnolia Estate apartments he built in Sherman Oaks. The ten acres have waterfalls, an aviary and a golf course — and the complex is built on the site of Laurel and Hardy’s Fun Factory, where the comedy duo tried out new material. Heidt Jr., an entertainer himself who used to be music director for the Los Angeles Raiders, signed up to run in the 14th district. Heidt escapes the notice of the Daily News, which does report that the prospects will rally in Van Nuys on Saturday, and which on the editorial page praises the hopefuls for their “courage” and urges more to sign up. With three days left, only 31 candidates for all SFV offices have returned papers.
• Secession is a factor in the deliberations over hiring a new LAPD chief, the New York Times’ Michael Janofsky reports. Mayor Jim Hahn will choose from among three candidates put forth by the police commission, and the NYT suggests that the wish to avoid fueling secession fervor will be on the mayor’s mind. The new top cop then would have to be all right with the Valley and acceptable to black voters who still like the ousted Bernard Parks. Notes councilman Jack Weiss, it would also be nice if the prospective chief is sensitive to “the difference between Pacoima and Palms.”
• The website of the L.A. County Young Democrats voices displeasure with the anti-secession L.A. United effort, saying it must ramp up on two parallel tracks. One, a negative campaign “that the mayor needs to be far away from,” and a more warm and fuzzy Los Angeles-is-World-Class campaign with Hahn as point man. “The secession battle is the City leadership’s to lose,” the site concludes. Just above the item is a fascinating recap of the politics behind the juggling of Board of Education seats in reapportionment that led to the Valley’s representatives to LAUSD being shifted — or in the case of Julie Korenstein, shafted.
Tuesday, August 6
• The Los Angeles Police Protective League held an anti-secession rally tonight on the athletic field of the LAPD academy next to Dodger Stadium. The LAPD officers’ union, like other city employee unions, is actively fighting municipal divorce.
• The San Fernando Valley Business Journal weighs in with a story on the business community wanting to know whether SFV City candidates would keep or shed L.A.’s “living wage” ordinance, and a column by Jacqueline Fox chastizing L.A. city council president Alex Padilla for spreading “confusing misinformation” about secession. The SFVBJ makes you buy the paper or pay $3 each to read the items online.
• Suburbs in the news: the Weekly Standard dubs the fast-growing outer ‘burbs Sprinkler Cities. The Valley may not be a true suburb any more, but it feeds plenty of ex-patriates to these “Sprinkler Cities” and endures their commuters. Also, the L.A. Times reports on a new study from the Public Policy Institute of California finding that the state is growing more diverse but with a rising number of small cities and suburbs becoming more segregated — meaning dense pockets of Hispanic residents. The story doesn’t mention the Valley but could have. In mega-diverse Los Angeles, the high school with the most languages spoken by students is Granada Hills High (28 native tongues in 1998). Of the top 20 L.A. schools for language diversity, most are in the Valley. At the same time, the Valley schools with the least variety were in — guess where? — Pacoima and San Fernando, traditional minority areas. There, the language list tends to be far shorter: English and Spanish.
Jim Hahn is trying hard to repair his relations with blacks upset over the firing of police chief Bernard Parks, the L.A. Business Journal’s Howard Fine reports. Some black community leaders had implied they might urge a vote for secession in reaction to Parks’ dismissal. Now Hahn has revived talks for a light-rail line or busway along Crenshaw Boulevard. “Damage control,” says author and political commentator Earl Ofari Hutchinson.
• Jeff Brain is out as campaign head and Gerry Gunster of the political public affairs firm of Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli will run the SFV Independence campaign, in hopes of stoking the secession embers. GCPN is known for mounting successful campaigns for business groups and the insurance industry and for creating the “Harry and Louise” TV ads that helped doom President Clinton’s health care program in 1994. Brain, subject of an unflattering LAT story July 22, tells the Times he supports the move and will stay on as president of Valley VOTE. But it was time to call in the pros, admits Valley VOTE board member Richard Leyner (also a council candidate). Indeed, says Republican political analyst Arnold Steinberg in Calabasas: “This is an effort which never consolidated its own base in the San Fernando Valley.” (Deep in LAT story on complaint against Hahn).
• Don Seastrom of Reseda gives voice to the visceral tug away from L.A. felt by many Valley inhabitants, in a Daily News op-ed piece. He likens it to his own divorce: “We both were going in different directions and realized that we needed to move on.”
Another attempt to take Valley culture upscale bit the dust — at least temporarily — when the El Portal Theatre closed its doors and cancelled the current season. The El Portal’s stages were supposed to be the anchor of an urban hip transformation in the so-called NoHo Arts District, a creation of the city’s Community Redevelopment Agency. Maybe it’s not that easy. Anyone remember the Valley Music Theater?
West Valley city councilman Dennis Zine began his political career as a secession proponent and recently weighed a run for mayor of the Valley, the Daily News reports. But now he’s come out against, with a message that must be chilling to the separatists. “I don’t see secession gaining momentum,” Zine said. “I see it imploding on itself.”
• Politics in the Zeros, the eclectic anti-breakup blog, discusses the bloc most crucial to secession’s hopes — voters outside the Valley — and says they’ve been given no reason to support the split. Good point. Secession leaders have always known that to make a serious run at winning independence — in contrast to just gaining some political concessions — they must sell the idea to a sizable chunk of non-Valley L.A. voters. Those voters have almost as much at stake as Valleyites. Earlier, the dream was to combine secession drives in Hollywood, the Harbor and the Valley into a bloc of votes, appeal to anti-city hall sentiment in Westchester and the West Side, entice some African Americans by arguing their influence would gain in a trimmed-down Los Angeles — then hope for a low citywide turnout. Now, with the Harbor drive terminated and Hollywood’s tanking, it’s not clear there is a viable strategy for winning in November. Will the upcoming campaign be merely symbolic?
Secession advocates filed a complaint with the L.A. city ethics commission charging mayor Jim Hahn with improperly using his city office, website and staff to fight the breakup. The United Chambers of Commerce of the San Fernando Valley and the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee also sent their complaint to the state Fair Political Practices Commission. Meanwhile, Hahn unveiled a package of business tax reforms that the chairman of the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. called “an important first step.”
Monday, August 5
• On this day in 1769, Spanish explorers under Gaspar de Portola “discovered” a valley covered in wild mustard and oats, with a gentle river and gentler native settlements. They named it El Valle de Santa Catalina de Bononia de los Encinos. Not until 1797 was it called El Valle de San Fernando. The rest is history.
• An LAT editorial complains that city hall has been doing a lot to reform itself, including more meetings with neighborhood councils and planning to take city council sessions out to the districts. But the “negative” secession leaders have rejected the moves. Not one of the stronger LAT arguments. On the opposite page, former West Side congressman Mel Levinetries to make the case that L.A. (and the Valley) will lose the clout that comes with being a monolith in Washington if they divide. This may be true — unless the two cities decide to work together — but it’s doubtful it will be a decisive a factor for many voters.
• Keith Richman has become the “marquee player” for secession, the Times says in a mini-profile of the leading candidate for Valley mayor. He’s hedging his bets, running simultaneously for reelection to the Assembly, and it’s win-win for him no matter what, says Republican campaign guru Allen Hoffenblum, who knows the Valley turf (in 1978 he masterminded a GOP grab of the always-Demo 39th assembly district seat). Richman is a pro-choice, fiscal conservative, party-switcher Republican who grew up in the Valley (Birmingham High). He’s a physician and the son of a physician. He had endorsed the Ahmanson Ranch mega-development, a community hot button, but now says he’s rethinking his position. Added: In Patt Morrison’s LAT column, Richman accidentally sends a fundraiser come-on to Alex Padilla (third item). And the hidden clout of the Valley is revealed (fourth item): A bevy of elected officials including Yaroslavsky, Delgadillo and the very-against-secession Cindy Miscikowski strode the runway at a fashion show put on by the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Assn., possibly the most influential homeowner group in the Valley. SOHA has been run for many years by secession organizer Richard Close.
• Rick Orlov’s Monday politics column in the Daily News rags on all the joke names being added to the secessionists’ online “Declaration of Independence.” He mistakenly credits the Arletan blog for exposing the fakes first — it was here actually.
Arletan aka Valley Secession Fever disagrees and takes a few shots
Sunday, August 4
Traffic from future home building out beyond the Valley — in the Valley’s own suburbs in Santa Clarita and Ventura County, and closer on the Ahmanson Ranch — will sock the freeways, the Daily News reports in its top Sunday story. It’s a topic that SFV city candidates should be talking about, since the Valley itself is divided on growth issues. Would a SFV city council be pro-Ahmanson Ranch, like the Woodland Hills chamber of commerce, or anti like the city of Calabasas? In favor of intensive economic development to bring jobs, or slow growth to save the hills and oaks and views? For carpool lanes, double-deck freeways and busways through residential areas? The package is thin on the secession angle, which is fine. But the DN looks just sloppy with a lede saying the new cars will add to “freeway gridlock” and a graphic describing the 101 and 5 freeways as already “gridlocked.” They’re not — not even close. Yes, traffic is bad. It will likely get much worse — slower speeds, more hours of tie-up, more delays. Even then, only on the very worst days will it even approach the rare condition of gridlock. (See Aug. 3 item below for more on DN gridlock abuse.)
• Jim Hahn spent Saturday in the Valley preaching the Keep Los Angeles Together gospel, with mixed results. He pledged more city hall backing for the new L.A. neighborhood councils at the first Congress of the Neighborhoods, but both the Daily News and Times found civic-minded attendees who intend to vote for secession anyway. At Hansen Dam, Hahn met a more friendly audience in an anti-secession rally of L.A. firefighters. Quip of the day goes to Richard Katz, the secession leader, who says it’s no surprise the city employees are “singing from the mayor’s hymn book” since he signs their checks. The DN’s editorial page, meanwhile, urges Hahn to stop fighting secession and use his time to combat gang murders. And op-ed regular Kimit Muston uses his weekly plea for Valley supremacy to defend the “nobodies” behind secession against the “somebodies” with family ties in city hall.
• Ninety hopefuls have taken out papers to run for Valley mayor and city council with five days left. The Daily News looks at some of them and reports that secession leaders are somewhat disappointed in the number of candidates and their general lack of experience. Ninety, though, is a lot better than the meager 10 who have signed up in Hollywood. The DN also profiles the biggest beneficiary yet from decades of talk about secession. After the last breakup boomlet in the late 1970s, Hal Bernson was elected to the L.A. city council. He’s been there ever since, pushing a pro-development agenda that has transformed the once-wild hills around Porter Ranch and Browns Canyon and encouraged reopening of the Sunshine Canyon landfill.
Saturday, August 3
About 300 people, some in tuxes, attended the $100-a-pop San Fernando Valley Independence Ball on Friday night, the Times says. Entertainment included a mariachi band and a color guard dressed in Revolutionary War garb. It’s doubtful Ernani Bernardi was there: deep on the LAT’s letters page, his chiding runs again.
• Mayoral candidate Keith Richman comes out firing again, this time standing in front of the DWP headquarters downtown to attack the money flowing into the anti-breakup campaign committee formed by Jim Hahn. Secession leaders seem to have adopted a strategy of making their campaign for cityhood about Hahn, in this case the donations to his campaign from firms that do business with Los Angeles city hall. Richman takes some license, though, by accusing Hahn of shaking down contributors, without offering any evidence that givers felt shook down. This has the ironic effect of giving big contributors a forum to say they donate freely because they think secession is a bad deal. The Times and Daily News have stories, plus they pick up on reactions to the Grigsby report on blacks and secession. It now looks like Yvonne Brathwaite Burke plans to hold the final report until September, closer to the election, then milk it for full effect on the secession debate among African American voters. Burke hasn’t officially opposed the breakup yet, but signaled her anti feelings at the LAFCO hearings.
• Editorial writers should argue their case with passion and strength, but without slipping into hyperbole. The Daily News tarnishes its case for traffic relief by overstating that parts of the Ventura Freeway are “hopelessly gridlocked most of the day.” Plain old ordinary congestion from too many cars is not the same as gridlock. Hopeless? The Ventura is overbooked, and will only get worse, but it moves. If extreme language is used cheaply, what do we use to make the point when things turn extreme?
Friday, August 2
• Not much secession coverage today. UCLA’s Eugene Grigsby releases a study concluding that secession would not add to black political clout in the Valley or in L.A. The study was commissioned by anti-secession county supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke. The Jewish Journal examines the backgrounds of some candidates for Valley offices.
Thursday, August 1
• Here’s a way that the big Valley is not like tiny Burbank: There have been 68 murders in the Los Angeles portion of the Valley so far this year, 59% of them gang related. The Daily News, which has the story, has done a good job tracking the breakdown of truces that had, until recently, given a few years of relative peace between the Valley’s gangs. Today’s story cites a weekend softball game between the rival Langdon and Blythe gangs as a sign of progress. An injunction against the two gangs contacting each other had to be waived for the day. Added: The Valley gang wars are the topic of this evening’s “Life & Times Tonight”on KCET Channel 28.
• Another sign that strong passions are at play on secession: the pro-breakup Valley Secession Fever blog dissects a “Secession Sketchbook” comparing street conditions in Burbank and North Hollywood. The blog concludes the story displays L.A. Times bias. The LAT story touches on an interesting side effect of the secession debate: Burbank’s hot new image. The city named for a dentist (turned ranch owner and subdivider) — derided in the 1950s as corrupt to the max, and skewered later on TV by Johnny Carson — is often proffered by secession forces and their friends as an exemplar of how well a smaller city can be run. Even Mayor David Laurell acknowledges there’s some hyperbole involved: “This is not Shangri-La. This is Burbank.”
• The largest disclosed contributor to the Valley secession campaign so far is Gene LaPietra, the nightclub owner who heads the Hollywood secession move. He gave $50,000. That could make it hard for the Valley folks to disassociate from LaPietra’s faltering effort, if they are so inclined. Not reported in Wednesday’s filing — which shows a total of $75,000 in contributions — was any donations on behalf of secession before June 18 or since June 30. The Daily News says, however, that lawyer David Fleming and Galpin Ford owner Bert Boeckmann each have given between $100,000 and $200,000 over the years. The story is a bit different in the Times, where the campaign says that $275,000 has come in since June 30, that almost as much has been pledged, and that Fleming intends to either bring in or donate $200,000 himself. On Wednesday, Fleming provided the spin on the poor showing, saying the coming fight will be between “the big checks and the little people,” a reference to the major L.A. donors tossing their open wallets on the defeat-secession pile. (Hahn’s forces have collected $1.9 million). It’s a time-honored tradition of lagging campaigns to demonize the other side’s big givers and to vow to prevail without cash, riding the passion and sweat equity of gallant volunteers to victory. Sometimes it’s even true. You can bet, though, that secession leaders would prefer to see more bucks from leading Valley business figures. They’ll try to get the checks rolling in at a black-tie-optional fundraising ball on Friday at the Warner Center Hilton.
• Quite a range of pro and con letters to the editor in the Daily News this morning. The grabber is the one signed by Ernani Bernardi, who represented Van Nuys and environs on the L.A. city council for a few decades. He’s as old-line Val as they come, against secession, and offended by the pro campaign’s tacky “Declaration of Independence:” Our freedom from taxation without representation was one of the liberties fought for in the American Revolutionary War. And the San Fernando Valley, since it first became part of the city of Los Angeles, has been represented fully in accordance with the laws of the land… There is no comparison. Period.