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.
Weekend, Nov. 9 – 10 — The Final Days
• Checking the Blogs: Steve Smith at Smythe’s World reveals he’s in the group that voted for secession because they “knew it had no chance of passing.” He wrote in his own name for mayor. He goes on to discuss the Valley’s east-west split. Valley Secession Fever wraps up too with an essay that makes the point that “secession’s legacy is important to this city.” At Politics in the Zeros, secession as a topic has already moved off into the archives. And some might remember that the mysterious folks at GoodRiddanceValley.com promised on their homepage that if secession failed, they would immediately call for Los Angeles to secede from the Valley. Secession Watch is still waiting…
• He has no regrets, says Gene LaPietra, the biggest financial backer of both the Valley and Hollywood secession efforts. He says in the L.A. Times that he spent about $2.5 million on both campaigns and his own run for City Council in Hollywood. In that race, he finished second to an activist who spent $4,000.
• “In its drive to become a city, the Valley became one,” contributing editor Joel Kotkin writes in the L.A. Times Sunday Opinion section. That’s because the debate over secession made the Valley think about what the Valley’s future should hold. Unfortunately, he says, “the pro-secession crowd never articulated a compelling vision for their proposed city. For the most part, they simply offered up the lame ideal of a more efficiently run Phoenix.” Kotkin, identified as a break-away supporter in some media late in the campaign, calls on movement leaders such as Jeff Brain and Richard Close to step aside and “let others create a more viable vision. The core secessionist appeal — the Valley of yesteryear — cannot work.”
• Keith Richman, winner of the Valley mayor contest, opines on the meaning of it all in a Sunday Viewpoint piece in the Daily News. “Independence was about the hope for a better future,” says the shadow mayor. Daily News Op-Ed regular Kimit Muston shows that he doesn’t get it about the New Valley, voicing surprise that secession got barely half the vote: “Secession should have carried the Valley by 60 percent or better.” Never was going to happen. In truth, a majority of registered voters just stayed home, as is usual when it comes to city issues.
• The L.A. Times map showing how each precinct in the city voted on secession is now online as a PDF file, meaning you need Adobe Acrobat to view it. The map, discussed here when it was published on Thursday, shows the West Valley voting strongly for secession and the East Valley voting solidly against.
• Secession’s defeat citywide is a fact of life that won’t be changing, but the final numbers are in flux — including the unofficial tally that showed the break-up passing within the Valley. A Daily News story on Saturday said that a count of some provisional ballots has added more votes to the anti-secession ledger. As of the weekend, secession’s victory margin — however symbolic — in the Valley had dropped to 3,547 votes from 3,760. About 150,000 votes from the entire county await counting, the Registrar-Recorder said. It’s unknown how many are from the Valley, but in theory, there could be enough to change the result there. Next official update is Tuesday.
• Various donors who contributed a total of $330,000 to Mayor James Hahn’s anti-secession campaign committee are going with the mayor on a trade trip to Asia next week. The L.A. Times story notes that the delegation also includes some major Valley figures who did not join the mayor’s fight against secession. One of them is Alan Skobin, a Galpin Motors official whose boss, Bert Boeckmann, was an early financial supporter of secession and who gave money and the use of meeting rooms at his auto dealership to the break-up effort. Another is Bruce Ackerman of the Economic Alliance of the San Fernando Valley, which remained neutral.
Friday, Nov. 8 (Election Day + 3)
• The Jewish Journal looks at the Valley secession defeat and quotes, among others, former L.A. councilman Mike Feuer saying that now is the time for Mayor Hahn to prove that the city is better when kept together.
• USC political scientist Sherry Bebitch Jeffe and the former New Times L.A. columnist Jill Stewart analyzed the election results on KCET’s Life and Times program on Wednesday. The audio is on-line.
• Tactical decisions made along the way by the Valley secession campaign doomed the effort, an L.A. Times analysis suggests. In the story, county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky says it was a mistake for the Valley to team up with the highly unpopular Hollywood move. The Valley secessionists had no workable strategy to push the issue citywide, and didn’t attract the money or the mainstream candidates who would have lent credibility as well as firepower. Mel Wilson, who ran for mayor, says the candidates were left on their own. Another candidate, Don Larson, concludes that the crop of office seekers was the weakest point: “Most of us are not qualified. Look, I’m a good guy, but I’m not qualified to run a city.”
• A delegation of secession supporters sat down with four L.A. city council members who represent the Valley to begin crafting the new political era. The most popular idea out of the meeting was to revive the idea of operating the city via boroughs, as suggested earlier by former Speaker Bob Hertzberg of Van Nuys. Some of the council members were cool to the idea, some more receptive. The latter group includes Dennis Zine, a secession opponent who finds himself representing a district that voted 57% for breaking away. Here are the Daily News and Times stories.
• The Daily News analyzes the east-west split in Valley voting on secession, but is limited to looking at the aggregate vote in council districts rather than the precinct level. The L.A. Times map of how each precinct vote ran yesterday. (See next item.)
Thursday, Nov. 7 (Election Day + 2)
• Secession voters gave a wake-up call to Mayor James Hahn and the city council, but the limited geography of secession sentiment comes clear in a precinct by precinct map on page B19 of the L.A. Times’ California section. The breakaway movement, which won 50.77% of the Valley vote, got its majority only in sections west of the San Diego Freeway, in Sunland and in isolated precincts. Break-up lost in Sherman Oaks, home base of secession’s leaders, and in the hillside areas of Studio City and Encino. It lost across the East Valley including in heavily Latino areas, such as Pacoima, where secession leaders had claimed to enjoy hidden support. Over the hill, secession approached 50% only in small pockets of Westchester and San Pedro. While it’s not on the map, the other telling number is the voter turnout in the Valley of 43.5%. While substantially higher than in the rest of Los Angeles, it’s still lower than the state’s overall turnout, which was a historic worst. So the widespread grass-roots uprising that the secession movement promised never woke up. The question that remains is whether the 124,703 Valley voters who did go for secession represent the start of something bigger, or the high point of a fading cause.
National media seem to have dropped the subject, but here’s a roundup of local coverage in Thursday’s papers:
• Break-up leaders pledge to keep going in some form and to exercise the Valley’s new clout. Stories in the Daily News and L.A. Times, with a separate sidebar in the Times on the shadow government symbolized by the Valley council candidates who won their races.
• Mayor Hahn convenes a large crowd of city officials and supporters at Airtel Plaza in Van Nuys, scene of earlier secession events, to reach out to voters who sided with secession. L.A. Times story, Daily News story, Daily Breeze story and Associated Press.
• In editorials: The Daily News says “the death of the Valley secession movement must be the birth of a new era of Valley activism” and calls on the Valley to be “a dominant force in L.A. government.” The Times congratulates secessionists for stirring Hahn to action but slaps them all the same: “Secession is about storming out of the room when things don’t go exactly your way.”
• The Daily News looks at the split among small business people in the Valley.
The Day After, Nov. 6
• Valley secession loses citywide by a margin of 2 to 1. If the Valley alone had counted, the break-up would be happening, but it was close — just 3,760 votes difference out of 245,646 cast. Even so, almost 51% of Valley votes were for leaving Los Angeles, and the repercussions in city politics will begin immediately. Some city council members from over the hill appear at Van Nuys city hall today to voice support for reforms and begin the healing. Outside the Valley, only 19.5% of voters bought into secession. It’ll be another day before any of the papers break down where the votes came from, but based on the pre-election L.A. Times Poll — which called the results more closely than any other poll — it’s a good bet that there was a substantial east-west split within the Valley. In the Valley, Keith Richman ran away with the race for mayor and “San Fernando Valley” overwhelmingly won the name game. Here is the main L.A. Times story and the Daily News main story.
Election Day, Nov. 5
• Under a headline that reads “Valley’s Historic Day,” a Daily News story summarizes the election as the culmination of a decades-long effort of great import. The sentiment is backed up by CSUN professor Tom Hogen-Esch, who says: “It’s hard to overstate how historic a moment this is for the secession movement in Los Angeles.” Reporter Harrison Sheppard goes on to write, “Whatever the result of today’s election, the campaign has made it clear there is significant dissatisfaction with the status quo in Los Angeles.” The editorial page chips in, calling the election too important for voters to stay home.
• Times columnist Patt Morrison laid low during the campaign and even threw some ridicule the Valley’s way, but she comes out firing Tuesday. She cautions Mayor Jim Hahn and the rest of city hall not to get cocky about defeating secession. “This election, winning should scare the politicians more than losing,” Morrison writes. “The war is still going on. You haven’t persuaded people that staying in the embrace of Los Angeles is necessarily good for them — you’ve just frightened them into not bailing out.” Instead of Hahn going to Sacramento to seek a bill that blocks another secession try, she advises: “How about just staying home, and fixing the way Los Angeles works, neighborhood by neighborhood, so that no one ever again wants to leave it? That’s my idea of a legacy.”
• Mayor Jim Hahn spent Monday campaigning in the Valley to keep the city together. He visited residents of the Jewish Home for the Aging in Reseda, went to a labor rally in North Hollywood and adressed a larger labor rally at Valley College. Outside the latter event, about a dozen candidates for Valley city offices demonstrated and tried to attract attention, leading to what the L.A. Times story called a “scuffle.” There was no pro-secession rally in the Valley Monday, only various get out the vote efforts. The Daily News story had an interesting fact about the Jewish home, a traditional stop for Democratic candidates: voter turnout there often approaches 100%. Hahn got a mixed reception.
• The L.A. Times does a feature on the troubles Goleta has faced giving birth to a new city after a year of incorporation. Goleta is north of Santa Barbara.
Monday, Nov. 4
• Missed one from the weekend…Los Angeles-based Andy Bowers filed a report on NPR’s Weekend Edition that says Valley secession looks to be fading but won’t go away as an issue after the election. The report opens with Bing Crosby crooning his 1944 hit “San Fernando Valley” and quotes secession leader Richard Katz (multiple times), political scientist Raphael Sonenshein and break-up opponent Jeff Daar. Hollywood secession leader Gene LaPietra doesn’t pick up any points for sincerity when he insists, “In my heart I know we’ve won.” The audio runs 4:24.
Earlier Bowers reports: June and April
• Chris Jurgenson began videotaping secession events as the producer for a cable TV program paid for by Valley VOTE, then decided to go independent. Now he has about 100 hours of raw footage documenting the break-up campaign and is looking for a sponsor to help him edit it into a film. “This is history happening right now, whichever way it goes,” he says in the Daily News.
• No big rallies were mounted Sunday, and the get-out-the-vote efforts by secessionists even in the Valley were meager, the L.A. Times found in its final day of regular campaign coverage. There was more activity by anti-secession forces walking precincts around the Coliseum and on the city’s East side. If the Times follows its usual practice, there won’t be a separate secession news story in Tuesday’s paper — the editors shy away from reporting last-minute charges and counter-charges on Election Day.
• Sharon Bernstein in the L.A. Times writes that some key secession supporters are looking beyond the election and trying to rebuild their personal bridges to city hall. Mentioned are Laurette Healey of SFV Independence and mayoral candidates Mel Wilson and Keith Richman, although the story doesn’t make clear what any of them are actually doing. Paula Boland, the former state assemblywoman, plans to run for the Los Angeles City Council.
• PokerMag.com covers the secession effort in its national roundup of Tuesday’s elections.
The Final Weekend, Nov. 2 – 3
• Due to the secession campaigns, “the level of civic activity in the San Fernando Valley has never been greater,” CSUN professor Shirley Svorny writes on the Daily News “Viewpoint” page on Sunday. The break-up supporter also says, “It is hard to imagine an area better suited to taking on its own local government.”
• Harold Meyerson, who pushes progressive politics at LA Weekly and The American Prospect, argues in a Sunday Opinion piece in the L.A. Times on California tilting left that secession never had a chance. As Los Angeles, including the Valley, has changed, he contends, “The white-backlash voters who made Sam Yorty mayor in the ’60s and who were the shock troops for Proposition 13 in 1978 don’t live here anymore.”
• For a purely emotional argument on why Los Angeles should remain together, check out Thomas Curwen’s nicely written piece called A Dream on the Brink” in the L.A. Times Opinion section. He visits with the past mayors of Los Angeles, via their portraits on the 26th floor of city hall, and suggests that “While we may not know what they did, we must acknowledge their collective efforts to make this city matter. Ignore that and we bury them, as well as our past.” Curwen is the deputy editor of the Times’ Book Review.
• As the campaign nears the end, the L.A. Times’ Beth Shuster offers an analysis of the effects on Mayor James Hahn and his hold on city hall. Her take is mostly on the plus side: the Hahn administration has been “energized” by the fight. Hahn himself pledges no retaliation against secession supporters, but a source close to the mayor says it doesn’t mean all will be forgotten: “Will Richard Katz get a commission appointment? I don’t think so.”
• The big local get-out-the-vote rally Saturday was by the anti side in San Fernando, with Mayor James Hahn joined by Latino elected officials labor leaders. Hahn then moved over to an Encino Democratic rally where opposing secession was also a main theme. All told, the L.A. Times says, the anti side was able to put 1,000 precinct walkers on the ground in the Valley on Saturday. Valley candidates in favor of break-up had to go into Hollywood to join forces with the secession partisans there. Secessionists also mounted a spirited, horn-honking vintage car parade in Sherman Oaks.
• The Daily News editorial page Sunday takes on the L.A. United televsion ads that label secession too big a gamble. “The odds are you’ve never been exposed to a bigger crock of nonsense in all your life. Yes, secession is a gamble, as is life. We take risks in this world because rewards seldom come without them.” It concludes by repeating its call for voters to support the Valley’s cityhood.
• The New York Times runs a “Los Angeles Journal” on the horse keeping areas of the Valley, focusing on Shadow Hills and the fears of equestrians that development may force them out. Secession doesn’t come up explicitly, but the East Valley issue is not much different than the controversies in Chatsworth that have come up during the break-up campaigns. Since August, the story says, there have been at least four horse-auto collisions in the area. Three animals have had to be destroyed as a result.
• The weekly L.A. Jewish Journal has a large cover package on Valley secession. The anchor piece by staff writer Wendy Madnick sums up the race and looks more closely at the Jewish candidates and other figures involved in the debate. There are competing opinion articles by mayoral candidate (and assemblyman) Keith Richman and L.A. city councilman Jack Weiss, who have debated previously. Also, Jewish Journal regular Joel Kotkin says the rabbis who oppose secession are out of touch with their flocks, while Rabbi Steven R. Jacobs writes that secession would hurt the poor. Finally, Journal editor Rob Eshman explores why it is that many of the leading advocates of secession are Jewish, but that most Jewish voters oppose the break-up. Part of the explanation, he says, is this: “They want to feel like they are a part of a larger, cohesive community. In times like these, there seems to be great comfort in the idea of togetherness – a sense of strength in numbers.”
• A long story in Saturday’s Globe and Mail of Toronto headlined “Too Big to Last?” portrays the Valley secession movement as the first major reversal of the trend of cities growing ever larger and merging with suburbs. This “amalgamation” has happened recently in the Toronto region. Writer Jane Alexander reports on the ground from Van Nuys and the Northeast Valley and quotes pro-secession author Joel Kotkin calling Los Angeles “dysfunctional” and anti-cityhood councilman Alex Padilla saying “the secessionists don’t have a long-term plan.” Appended to the end of the story is a litany of quotes about the Valley taken from The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb and AmericasSuburb.com.
• The Voice of America speaks on secession for the second time this week, this time looking at Malibu’s experiences with cityhood after 10 years for lessons the Valley might learn.
• The Associated Press wrap-up of the campaigns calls both the Valley secession and Hollywood efforts “long shots” to win, and surveys some of the candidates and L.A. officials about what happens next. You can read it in Whittier or in The Guardian of London, or on a dozen other Web sites.
• For the main news of the day from Friday, the L.A. Times gathers it into a roundup while the Daily News runs it in separate stories. The news includes L.A. City Councilman Nate Holden endorsing secession, a new SurveyUSA poll showing cityhood has slipped but is still ahead in the Valley itself, the business effects of secession being debated at the VICA conference in Woodland Hills, and a letter from City Atty. Rocky Delgadillo remindingcity departments to respect the First Amendment rights of secessionists. The Times also has alone that major studios have begun to throw money into the anti-secession campaign, among them arms of Universal, Disney, Paramount and Sony.
LAT’s 14th district story
• Tom Hoffarth, a Daily News sports columnist, raises a new angle to the secession discussion: a Valley city would be the largest in the U.S. without a pro sports team. And that station is not likely to change, he says. One reason is stated by David Carter, a Redondo Beach sports marketing consultant: “Not to demean the Valley, but there are business developments in certain locations that are better. The Valley will stay largely indistinguishable. By and large, there’s nothing less sexy than being in the Valley than anywhere else in L.A.”
• The top local story in the Daily News is a newsfeature on the future of horse-keeping property in the Valley areas of Chatsworth, Shadow Hills, Lake View Terrace and La Tuna Canyon. No mention of secession, which only reminds us that after all these months of campaigning, it’s still not clear where the secession leaders or the candidates stand on issues like growth and development.
Friday, Nov. 1
• The Daily News today carries a lengthy look at the Neighborhood Council experiment, a story on what Mayor James Hahn is doing today instead of speaking to the Valley Industry and Commerce Association meeting, and a story on the ACLU siding with secessionist complaints about not being allowed to hand out flyers at a city meeting at the L.A. convention center.
• Secession has some support in the Valley’s large pornography industry, but neither side has chosen to go after the dollars or potential votes the producers and workers represent, the L.A. Times reports. The story mentions that an industry rep will address today’s Valley Industry and Commerce Association conference.
• The L.A. Times campaign roundup covers the plans for weekend get-out-the-vote pushes by both sides of the Valley secession and Hollywood breakaway efforts and discusses the turnout question. Mayor Jim Hahn will be in the Valley today and again on Saturday.
• The Times runs another in its series of “The Case for Unity” anti-secession editorials, this one urging L.A. voters not to cast a protest vote for the break-up on the assumption it will lose. It also argues that city governance reforms are well underway and should be allowed to play out.