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.
Thursday, Oct. 31
• That L.A. Times piece a few days ago on Valley Girl lingo has provoked a response from Collin Levey, an editor on the Wall Street Journel editorial page. She writes in OpinionJournal: “Omigod! Leave it to California to take what most of America considers a cultural abomination and make it, like, a point of linguistic pride.” She notes that Hollywood has used the Valley Girl sensibility with some success, and that others are rethinking the image: “Advocates of ‘grrl power’ these days are more likely to see the valley girl as pioneering role model than the unfortunately boy-toy stereotype that many feminists at the time held them to be. A Valley Girl Museum can’t be far behind.” Finally, Levey makes the all-important secession connection: “Perhaps the newly admired regional dialect will become the official language of the new city. In any case, it’s pretty bitchen’ that the gum snappers who made the place famous are finally getting a little respect.”
• A columnist for the Daily Bulletin of Ontario doesn’t think much of Los Angeles or of the target=”blank”>Valley secession cause, even though his paper is a sister publication of the Daily News. “Perhaps the most curious election issue is the move by the San Fernando Valley to secede from Los Angeles. I can understand not wanting to be part of L.A. That’s why most of us are here….Maybe our example should inspire Valleyites. If you don’t want to be part of L.A. – MOVE!” (3rd item)
• A correspondent for Newsday, the sister paper on Long Island of the L.A. Times, target=”blank””>visits with the Valley secession issue and leads with the imagery of Mulholland Drive as boundary line. “Mountains ring the Valley, trapping smog, creating a desert micro-climate that easily adds 10 degrees to summer days, and providing a physical metaphor for the wall that has always existed between the Valley and the rest of Los Angeles.”
• Here’s another sign that time is short — the L.A. Times today runs its second Secession Sketchbook feature of the week, clearing the cupboards before Election Day. Campaign feature stories at the Times are typically written ahead of time and published as space permits or as news dictates. They tend to pile up until the last week before an election, when editors (and reporters) realize they have to use it or lose it. Today, writer Jim Ricci visits with Benjamin Lesko, first-time candidate, as he campaigns for an office with little hope of anything coming of it: “Oh, it’s a losing battle, a totally losing battle.” But Lesko has his reasons to keep going.
• A 10-minute on-line “mockumentary” called “The L.A. Civil War” has a little fun with secession. Made by Hank Nelken, it’s viewable on the Web site ifilm.com, which summarizes: “The valley secedes and L.A. declares war. Charlton Heston kicks valley ass when he is made General of the L.A. Army while the valley chooses as their general the only man to ever take on the LAPD and win–O.J. Simpson. From the first casuality of war (Wolfgang Puck) to the final, climactic Battle of Getty (Museum), “The L.A. Civil War” makes fun of everything you love to hate about Los Angeles.”
•The Voice of America News took the path way less traveled for its latest Valley secession story — reporter Keming Kuo interviewed Catherine Mulholland, the Valley historian and grand-daughter of aqueduct builder William Mulholland. And she’s stridently opposed, so much so that she has written letters to the newspapers, to no avail: “The Los Angeles Times has been a little derelict in dealing with this issue. And the Daily News has been [so] biased in favor of secession that, I don’t think they would print a letter that I would write.” Mulholland has authored two major works on the Valley’s history, Calabasas Girlsand The Owensmouth Baby. Her well-received biography of her grandfather, William Mulholland and the Rise of Los Angeles, was published in 2000 by the University of California Press.
• The Daily News recaps the TV, billboard and direct-mail presence for the final days of the campaign. Some of the Valley council candidates have pooled their money for TV spots, but Assemblyman Keith Richman has prudently opted not to pour any cash down that hole. He’s limiting his mayoral campaign push to mailings. The story also reports on the late contributions in the races. Also in the DN, eight officials in the cities of Simi Valley and Santa Clarita endorse cityhood for the Valley and Richman for mayor. The L.A. Times roundup covers some of the same ground and also reports on a call by mayoral candidate Bruce Boyer to have the LAPD crack down on illegal immigrants.
DN follows on Ferraro donation
• The president of the Universal City-North Hollywood Junior Chamber of Commerce target=”blank”>endorses secession and explains why in a Daily News Op-ed piece.
Wednesday, Oct. 30
•The San Francisco Chronicle wraps up the Valley secession campaign by leading with a Pacoima computer trainer who opposes secession, then follows with quotes from more opponents: councilman Jack Weiss, former Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa and Tony Lucente of the Studio City Residents Association. Deep in the story, Richard Close of SFV Independence appears along with candidate Oscar Mendoza. The story is by James Sterngold, newly ensconced as the Chronicle’s man in Los Angeles after leaving the New York Times.
• California Secretary of State Bill Jones predicts in a Sacramento Bee story that higher interest in the Valley secession issue will push voter turnout up next week. He is forecasting 58% turnout statewide, higher in the Valley. Oddly, the San Jose Mercury also quotes Jones saying that a hot local issue like Valley secession will get voters out, but headlines the story as bad news on turnout. Sacramento Bee political columnist Dan Walters, meanwhile, agrees that Valley secession will raise the turnout.
•Trash and whether a separate Valley city would send its refuse into Los Angeles is the lede of the Wednesday campaign roundup in the L.A. Times. In the story, Mayor Jim Hahn announces that he opposes expanding the Bradley landfill in Sun Valley, one of several dumps located in the Valley. Also covered: A complaint by SFV Independence over a $5,000 anti-secession contribution from the late council president John Ferraro; a new more positive TV ad from the anti side; and final-week efforts by the secession side in the Valley and Hollywood. No campaign story in the Daily News, but there is an Op-ed piece calling secession a new start for the Valley by Pepperdine professor of economics Charles D. Van Eaton.
11th district race, with lede at Krispy Kreme
Tuesday, Oct. 29
• The L.A. Times roundup for Tuesday covers a secession debate at USC, Bob Hertzberg’s plans for pushing his boroughs idea after the election, the use of e-mail by the pro secession forces and direct mail by the anti side, and a complaint filed by council candidate Frank Sheftel over the city’s sponsorship of the senior citizen event last weekend in Lake Balboa. The Daily News devotes an entire
story to the Sheftel complaint and to others about city hall’s use of public funds to fight secession.
USC Daily Trojan covers the debate
LAT: 10th district race
• Mayor candidate Mel Wilson proposed a list of new business policies that would include reducing the gross receipts tax by 25%, phasing out noisy aircraft at Van Nuys Airport and streamlining the processes for obtaining various permits. The Daily News has the story.
• The Daily News editorial page makes target=”blank”>recommendations on candidates in each of the council districts.
• The L.A. Times seems to be running a secession feature each day as the election nears, possibly clearing out a backlog of assigned stories. Today’s is a look at the Valley Girl phenomenon of the early 1980s and how it endures in the culture’s image of the Valley. Almost half the story is actually about the use of the word “like” in speech around the country.
• The Washington Post, in likely its final look before Nov. 5, reports that Valley secession appears doomed” (and bumps the story off Page One). The analysis by Rene Sanchez is that the break-up “seemed remarkably close to coming true” some months ago, but that the voters’ minds have been changed by the costly anti-secession campaign. Council president Alex Padilla lends credence to the theory, saying that once voters learned the risks and unknowns they decided firmly against seceding. The photo with the story is of anti-cityhood volunteers.
Monday, Oct. 28
• The San Fernando Valley Business Journal is out and on-line with its final pre-election secession package. The lineup includes stories on how passage might affect business in the Valley, on how business is divided on the merits of secession, on break-up leader Laurette Healey and others pondering how the campaign might have gone differently with more money. Most of the stories require a $3 fee. Registered site visitors, though, can view free a Voter’s Guide and an article by Jacqueline Fox on media coverage that quotes Secession Watch and has an amused observation from Valley business leader Fred Gaines, who was interviewed by European television: “It’s a little bizarre to think that people back in Austria are going to see me on TV with my mouth moving and someone speaking in German over me about Valley secession.” Also free, editor Michael Hart explains why the SFVBJ won’t take sides and offers competing, tongue-in-cheeks lists of the top 10 things that could happen if secession wins or loses. An example if it wins: “Jeff Brain’s birthday becomes an official school holiday.” If it loses: “Brentwood homeowners host ‘welcome home’ party for city tree trimmers.”
• The Angels’ triumph in the World Series is bringing some ancillary fame to the San Fernando Valley. Stories about series star Troy Glaus that cite his Valley ties have been posted on news Web sites in Minnesota, South Carolina, Georgia, Ohio and in the U.K.The Angels’ Garrett Anderson and Brad Fullmer also played their high school ball in the Valley — and the late team owner Gene Autry lived for many decades in Studio City, where he became famous as the singing cowboy in films from Republic Pictures, on the lot where CBS is now. And think of this: if Disneyland had been built in Burbank rather than Anaheim, as Walt Disney originally wanted, the World Series title might be coming home to the Valley today.
• A Ventura Star article on Valley secession contains the intriguing suggestion that a separate Valley city would not only be the 6th most populous U.S. municipality, but also would be the second most affluent big city. Only San Francisco has a higher per-capita income, the paper says. The factoid is unsourced and confusing though, because it limits the ranking to cities of one million or more. But San Francisco has nowhere close to a million residents — it’s not even as large as San Jose.
• Keith Richman gets the mayoral endorsement of the Daily News, which says that the physician and moderate Republican assemblyman offers the best hope for a bright future in an independent San Fernando Valley.” The endorsement says Richman’s experience in government makes him preferable to Democrat Mel Wilson, the only two candidates it believes have “the basic qualifications.” Says the paper: “This isn’t a job for neophytes or ideologues.” Also, the paper follows up its Sunday endorsement of Valley secession by urging Valley voters to support the Hollywood break-up.
•Secession Sketchbook returns to the pages of the L.A. Times with a visit to a meeting of the Sun Valley Neighborhood Council. Most of the participants said informally that they back secession.
• The Daily News’ James Nash writes that while most voters have made up their mind about secession, they are mostly at a loss on the candidates running for Valley mayor and council offices. The story follows the 11th district candidates as they make the rounds meeting voters. Only one of the hopefuls has spent even $1,000 to become known to the voters. A point about the story: like many DN articles of the past few days, it repeats the SurveyUSA finding that the Valley is leaning in favor of secession. That’s a bit misleading used on its own, given that the less-controversial L.A. Times Poll found the Valley slightly opposing secession.
Weekend, Oct. 26 – 27
•The Daily News’ top story Sunday switches to the long view – what happens after Nov. 5 in the Valley and in Los Angeles. Although the lede treats the election outcome as up in the air, most of the quotes assume that secession loses. And the news there is that former L.A. mayor hopeful Antonio Villaraigosa says he will back a plan for dividing Los Angeles governance into boroughs. (Though not mentioned, he also is believed to be considering a run for L.A. City Council next year in the district of incumbent Nick Pacheco.) The story doesn’t touch the threat by secession leader Richard Close (reported in the L.A. Business Journal) to sue if the Valley votes for secession and instead focuses on whether Hahn would sue. The best perspective on future relations between Valley and city comes from professor Tom Hogen-Esch of Cal State Northridge: “This tension between the center and the periphery will not go away…It’s a permanent fixture of politics in Los Angeles. The discussion may shift for a while to decentralization, to boroughs and neighborhood councils. But on the issue of secession, I can easily see us having this same conversation in 15 or 20 years.”
• Valley council candidate Tamara Trank has found a way to stand out from the other hopefuls — in an L.A. Times story Sunday, she discusses her position against secession. In a walk through the 1st district with a reporter, Trank’s stance causes some confusion.
• Although Saturday’s Lake Balboa gathering was billed as a city-sponsored event to honor seniors, secession opponent Bobbi Fiedler used her remarks to argue against the break-up. Secessionists were not amused. They showed up to dog Mayor Jim Hahn at every step and there was even a scuffle during his address that led to council candidate Glenn Bailey accusing a Hahn deputy of battery. Daily News and Times reports.
•The Times’ Sunday Opinion section runs a piece from Valley journalist David DeVoss that doesn’t actually state a position for or against secession, but that mouths the break-up party line across the board. The central point is that the Valley’s unhappiness will continue after Nov. 5: “Hahn’s disingenuous anti-secession campaign has laid the foundation for continuing discontent.” DeVoss last surfaced as an early signer of the secession campaign’s “Valley Declaration of Independence.”
• Book News: On Sunday at 4 p.m. — before the 7th game of the World Series — San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb author and Secession Watch editor Kevin Roderick will speak and sign books at CSUN’s Oviatt Library. There’ll be some mention of secession, more on the Valley’s history and image — and everyone will be home in time to see the Angels whup the Giants.
•The Daily News makes it official and endorses Valley secession in Sunday’s editions. It is the first time the paper’s editorial page, despite years of pushing the cause, has actually called for a yes vote on dividing the city. Until now, the paper says Sunday with a straight face, “when we said we were undecided, we meant it.” But, it explains in a lengthy editorial, “every possible vehicle for genuine reform has been exhausted. Every vehicle, that is, except for secession.” It advises that to vote yes, “Valley voters must be prepared to take the largest leap of faith of their political lives: voting for secession and accepting the risks it entails.” The paper also endorses choosing the name “San Fernando Valley” over the other four choices on the Nov. 5 ballot. The endorsements are matched with a Patrick O’Connor cartoon depicting City Hall, the LAPD and other entities as famous movie monsters, while a frightened citizen proclaims, “Secession isn’t so scary once you consider the alternatives!” The editorial is silent on Hollywood secession. Also in Sunday’s paper, a 10-page Voters Guide all on secession with a history and timeline of the break-up movement, capsules on every candidate and a reprint of the “truth boxes” the Daily News has been running the past two weeks.
• In the lead story of Monday’s Los Angeles Business Journal, Howard Fine pores over the various challenges envisioned (free on-line) by secession supporters if the Valley votes for break-up while the city’s voters do not. Secession leader Richard Close all but promises a lawsuit to determine the constitutionality of the state law that let L.A. voters share in the secession decision. Most interviewed don’t give a challenge on those grounds much chance.
• An Associated Press story on the weekend wires has porn stars musing a little about Valley secession and adding to the list of joke names that are out there. “San Pornando Valley” and “Pornopolis” don’t have quite the ring of Jay Leno’s earlier “Pornadelphia.” Says “Dee,” an actor on a Chatsworth porn set: “It has to be Pornoville. That’s what everybody calls it already.”
• The Daily News takes a look at Jerry Perenchio, the reclusive TV mogul of eclectic political tastes who is the biggest contributor of funds to defeat secession. Perenchio and his Univision TV network have donated $519,000 in cash, free ads and services to the anti campaign. He wouldn’t talk about his motives. He is a major contributor to the Republican Party and to Gov. Gray Davis, supported school vouchers and also gave $1.5 million to fight Prop. 227, the anti-bilingual education measure a few years ago.
• Mayoral candidate Mel Wilson introduced several ethnic community leaders who endorsed him for the job, should it exist. The endorsers include the heads of the Valley NAACP branch and the Valley’s Filipino Chamber of Commerce.
Daily News: Schools issue, redux
The final “truth” box: charter vs. general law
• Secession supporters plan to confront Mayor Jim Hahn when he appears Saturday morning at a Lake Balboa event for seniors, they tell the Daily News. They contend the city-sponsored fair is an anti-secession event in disguise.
• Staffers and volunteers at secession headquarters are few in number but resolute in their belief in the cause, the L.A. Times’ Sue Fox found in doing a feature for Saturday’s paper. The grass roots army that break-up proponents predicted would rise up out of the neighborhoods never quite materialized. But there’s enough activity — supportive letters, small checks, new volunteers — that the true believers can feel hope as they soldier on.
7th council district race
Friday, Oct. 25
• The Tidings, the Los Angeles Catholic newspaper, covers the Valley secession debate that was held last week at Mount St. Mary’s College and aired on KPCC-FM. The participants included former L.A. mayor Richard Riordan and Valley VOTE chairman Richard Close.
• Reporter Wendy Madnick of the Jewish Journal weighs in with a report on why many in the Valley business community support secession.
• New fundraising reports (the last before the election) show that the anti-secession side raised more cash in the first three weeks of October than the pro side has collected during its entire campaign. Mayor Jim Hahn’s L.A. United took in $781,000 in the period, pushing its total to about $5.5 million. Other anti-secession committees run by city officials have taken in another $1 million. The SFV Independence Committee, the main pro-secession arm, has managed to collect just $609,364. The L.A. Times story says the break-up campaign owes $100,000 (including $52,000 to Goddard Claussen, the campaign advice firm that quit last month), while the Daily News story categorizes the debt as $24,000 more than the committee has left in cash. The LAT story also reports on a debate Thursday that matched SFV Independence co-chair Richard Katz against an old political nemesis, state Sen. Richard Alarcon.
DN: Property taxes
LAT: 6th CD race
Thursday, Oct. 24
• The LA Weekly, in its election recommendations, dismisses the secession movement as a dangerous “last gasp of the old Valley” and offers a write-in nomination for Measure G, where Valley voters get to choose a name for the new city: White Flight Heights. The rant is near the bottom of a long column of endorsements.
• The computerized SurveyUSA poll for KABC-TV finds Valley secession losing 57%-40% citywide but holding steady within the Valley, the Daily News and Times report. Self-described “likely voters” in the Valley went for secession 58%-39%, about the same as in previous SurveyUSA polls. The stories also report on the controversy that typically surrounds SurveyUSA because of the way it gathers voter opinions. Unlike the L.A. Times Poll and most other major surveys, which are conducted over the phone by live poll-takers who ask a battery of sometimes-detailed questions, the SurveyUSA polls are filled out electronically. People who answer their phones listen to brief recorded questions and punch in their responses. The last L.A. Times Poll found Measure F trailing slightly in the Valley and falling 56%-27% citywide. In less than two weeks we find out which method came closest to the right call this time. Today’s LAT story ledes with the fears among secessionists about retribution from City Hall after the election.
5th district race, as the LAT sees it
Wednesday, Oct. 23
• “Secession 101,” the information series produced by The Civic Forum, will be re-run in its entirety on LA Channel 36 (cable only in L.A. city) beginning next Monday, Oct. 28. From then until Election Day on Nov. 5, the half-hour programs will run in rotation daily from 11:00 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and from 4:00 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Also, a final one-hour wrap-up will air each night at 10 p.m. That final episode includes 30 minutes of discussion between host Ken Bernstein, Richard Katz of SFV Independence and Rusty Hammer of the L.A. Chamber of Commerce, and an evaluation of the campaigns by a panel that includes Secession Watch. That’s 54 hours of secession programming over nine days.
•Culture Watch: Proving how far the Valley has come from the Brady Bunch era, a new NBC comedy series called “The Ortegas” will be set in the San Fernando Valley home of an upper-middle-class Mexican-American family. Comedian Al Madrigal has been selected to play the lead character of Luis. The show is based on a hit British comedy, “The Kumars at No. 42,” about a family of Indian immigrants.
•His rival candidates for Valley mayor are beginning to gang up on probable frontrunner Keith Richman, the L.A. Times reports. It’s a healthy development since it means the race is starting to look like a real political campaign.
Fourth district race
• The one municipal function where a new city could make a rapid and certain impact is in planning and land use, the Daily News says in a long report. The story touches on a host of hot button issues, from the Sunshine Canyon landfill to the proposed flooding of acreage in Sepulveda Basin. It has Bob Scott, the deposed secessionist planning commissioner, pointing a finger at City Hall for various transgressions, but the story offers voters no help in deciding if they are in synch with the break-up movement on key development issues: who among the candidates are for slow growth, who favors denser growth, who is for or against favoring horses over new building in Chatsworth, does anyone have a good alternative plan for Ahmanson Ranch, any thoughts pro or con on Porter Ranch’s march up the slopes of the Santa Susana Mountains, or on making Ventura Boulevard more built up. And so on…
Today’s issue reviews: Rent control and social services
Tuesday, Oct. 22
•If secession leaders seem a little more uptight at Thursday’s luncheon debate at Town Hall Los Angeles, they’re to be excused. The event is in the Valley, at the Sheraton Universal hotel, but the moderator is the strong secession critic Fernando Guerra of Loyola Marymount’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles. Most of the events so far have been moderated by someone less outspoken.
• The L.A. Independent, the free weekly seen mostly in Hollywood and on the West Side, comes out opposed to both secession campaigns. The paper has been covering Hollywood more closely, but includes the Valley movement in its position: “We must reject the simplistic solution.”
• “Life & Times” on KCET Channel 28 will devote a special prime-time broadcast to secession on Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Both the Valley and Hollywood secession measures will be topics on the show, to be hosted by regular hosts Jess Marlow and Val Zavala.
• KPCC-FM (89.3) plans to broadcast one last debate on Valley secession next week. The debate itself will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 29 at 7:30 p.m. in Monarch Hall at Valley College. The public is invited to attend for free and ask questions. It will be broadcast the following morning at 9 a.m. on “Larry Mantle’s Airtalk.” Mantle will moderate the debate between Jeff Brain of Valley VOTE and Bill Powers of the United Chambers of Commerce for the Yes side, and Larry Levine of ONE Los Angeles and former city councilman Mike Feuer for the No side.
• Wired News has posted a story on mayoral candidate Marc Strassman and his campaign based on universal access to high-speed Internet connections and other technology. The story says that Strassman has been preaching his form of e-government for 26 years. The Strassman for Mayor Web site has more.
• L.A. City Councilman Nate Holden will soon be termed out of office in his Mid-city district and looking for a job — which must explain why he showed up at Galpin Ford Monday night to make nice with secession activists. Holden has never been too particular about living in the areas he seeks to represent. The Daily News campaign roundup also covers a bunch of disparate items: Valley Independence kicks off its final grass-roots push, liberal council candidates endorse Mel Wilson for Valley mayor, and the Alliance for a New Los Angeles vows to continue the secession fight after Nov. 5 with key players that include African American activists Zedar Broadous and Robert Farrell, the former L.A. councilman, and activists from the Harbor area and Westchester. The L.A. Times roundup covers much the same ground, but notes that several of the Alliance figures didn’t show at Monday’s event. Also, Mayor Hahn will speak to VICA in December. In a separate story, the Daily News goes back over the police and fire issues, without any apparent news to report.
And: The DN “truth” on business taxes
LAT goes to District 3, in Valley papers only
Zahniser: Alliance prospects dim
• In the Weekly Standard, Fred Barnes asks in a piece headlined “Los Angeles Unbound”whether the secession movement is a fizzle or a slow-burning fuse. You have to be a subscriber to read it on-line. The issue, by the way, features Arnold Schwarzenegger and the cover line “Muscular Republicanism.”
• The Election 2002 package from United Press International includes an e-mail Q-and-A interview between Secession Watch editor Kevin Roderick and UPI national correspondent Steve Sailer, a resident of the Valley.
Monday, Oct. 21
• David Zahniser in the Daily Breeze looks at the financial contributors to the anti-secession campaign who live outside the city of Los Angeles in the South Bay area.
• Even if secession had a chance coming down to the wire, the overly long and daunting ballot measure “sealed its doom,” former break-up advisor Arnold Steinberg tells the L.A. Times. “I would have fought this ballot language, taken it to court, and if I lost there I would have walked away from [the secession effort],” he says. Others agree. One run-on sentence totals 199 words. Side note in the story: writer and policy analyst Joel Kotkin, frequently quoted in stories on secession, says he will vote for dissolving this civic marriage.
Full text of Measure F on Valley secession
LAT does the 2nd District race
•New asphalt, trees, street lights, a crosswalk — the benefits to Pacoima of the City Hall effort to block secession, or the fruits of many years’ labors to turn things around? The Daily News’ Susan Abram explores this question. The DN also revisits the unknowns on water and power rates under cityhood. The story’s lede makes it sound definite that rates in the Valley must be the same as in L.A., but deeper in the story the remaining uncertainties pop up.
DN’s The Truth About Local control and City finances
Weekend, Oct. 19 – 20
• An essay in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Magazine critiques secession and, more tellingly, the Valley from the point of view of a Silver Lake screenwriter who grew up in the hills and spent his adolescence around Studio City. On secession, he says, “we worry about who will pave our streets and who will put out our fires. But our deeper worry is this: Our family is breaking up, and we won’t have a city to call home.” For more on the essay and the link, go to The Valley Observed at AmericasSuburb.com.
• In Sunday’s Daily News, Lisa Mascaro delves into the emotional and political wounds opened up in the course of the Valley secession campaign. David Fleming says that for secessionists it’s been building for decades. “I think this whole thing is pretty much a primal scream by the Valley,” he says. Fellow secessionist Bob Scott uses the words “war” and “evil” to make his point. Hahn, for his part, voices his frustration at the secession side, calling the anti-City Hall rhetoric “an insult to all city employees who work real hard to do a good job with limited resources.” Also in the DN, a short story by Harrison Sheppard points out that there’s no way to know what would happen to taxes in a new Valley city.
• Los Angeles arrived at a city council size of 15 members in 1878 and today each member represents more people — 250,000 — than any city official in the country, the L.A. Times’ Nita Lelyveld reports. Under secession, the districts in the Valley would serve about 90,000 each, and the size of districts would fall proportionately in the New Los Angeles. That always struck Secession Watch as the most unassailable and best completely predictable result of dividing into two cities. But it never was argued in a way that grabbed voters’ political hearts or minds. As the story points out, it’s a tricky calculus, since voters have already turned down increasing the size of the L.A. City Council in order to democratize things a bit more. For every person angry that government seems remote, the story notes, there is another who complains that it is already too big and expensive.
LAT: 1st District is break-up birthplace
• Mayor Hahn appeared at a UCLA conference Saturday to discuss secession, but wouldn’t personally debate anyone from the pro side. He spoke to the group solo, and came in for criticism that he was dodging a confrontation. Here’s the Daily News report and the L.A. Times report.
DN: Debate in Woodland Hills too
•Whole bunch of secession letters in the L.A. Times Sunday Opinion, and the top one from Sherman Oaks puts a challenge to L.A. City Councilmam Jack Weiss: fix the broken streetlight pole in front of my house (out since July, 2001) by Election Day and I’ll vote against secession; “leave it in disrepair and I’ll support the Valley’s liberation.”
• The Daily News is devoting a prominent spot in the print paper each day to a feature it calls “What’s the Truth?” Each day deals with a disputed issue in the Valley secession campaigns. Saturday’s front-page box on water and power service is typical. At the top is a partisan version of the facts from the Pro side, underneath that a partisan Con view, then the promised Truth. On Saturday’s issue du jour, Truth mentions that the Local Agency Formation Commission “guaranteed” that Valley residents would pay the same rates as Angelenos. Actually, the legality and force of the guarantee are in question, and the box doesn’t clear up who’s correct or help a reader decide. “It is unclear how a court would rule if the city were to seek to overturn the LAFCO plan,” it concludes. A useful service to voters? A way to get pro-secession arguments on the front page for 14 days? We dunno, so decide for yourself: the on-line archives include earlier “truth boxes” on efficiency, city services, police, schools, alimony and taxes. Also: On the DN Web site’s district profiles page, the write-ups on the council races in the 9th and 11th districts appear to be missing.
• The L.A. Times concludes its six-part, secession-linked examination of municipal services on Saturday with a Beth Shuster story on police response time and the troubles with the 911 system. A new 311 number for non-emergency calls is coming. All in all, the series serves at most as a light briefing on the issues that surround city services. It could have been more pointed and deeper, and Secession Watch doesn’t recall the pieces breaking any new ground.
•The San Francisco Examiner’s Los Angeles columnist chips in an “arts and culture” piece on Gene La Pietra, under the headline “The King of Hollywood.” The story focuses on his life and his efforts to create what the writer calls El Nuevo Pueblo La Pietra. The Valley isn’t mentioned, but when all the final bills are paid and checks cashed, he may end up as the most generous financial supporter of Valley secession as well as of the ill-conceived Hollywood breakaway.
• The Daily News begins the weekend with a campaign roundup that touches on appeals to African American voters, a big showdown Saturday at UCLA with Mayor James Hahn and secession advocates, a street fair in Sherman Oaks and precinct walking by Valley city candidates. The Times roundup catches up with the Alliance for a New Los Angeles, the group that has about 18 days to entice secession voters outside the Valley, and new pro-separation ads beginning to air on cable TV in the Valley.
Friday, Oct. 18
• With a nod to the late Chick Hearn, L.A. Business Journal editor Mark Lacter declares the Valley secession campaign has reached “garbage time.” “Let me be among the first to congratulate Mayor James Hahn and his anti-secession campaign for their resounding victory in the Nov. 5 election – as well as offer my condolences to those earnest supporters of the San Fernando Valley breakup proposal,” Lacter begins his weekly column. Strip away all the rhetoric and the voters, he says, were just not in the mood — in a post 9-11 world in which North Korea might now have nukes — to take a chance on something like secession. It’s an era of making do with the devil you know: “The impulse is to lead as risk-averse a life as possible: stay home, eat meatloaf, watch videos, root for the Angels and hope for the best. Creating some new city that’s being peddled with vague promises but mostly unknowns is not exactly a priority – and it’s hardly encouraged by common sense.”
• Richard Close, the chair of Valley VOTE, says he won’t be part of another secession effort if the current break-up measure loses on Nov. 5. He predicts that there will be another try, but says in the L.A. Times, “I really don’t have the fire to start over again.” The story covers a debate held Thursday night in Universal City by the Los Angeles Police Protective League. (Here’s the Daily News report on the debate). Also in the Times is the penultimate entry in the paper’s series on city services and secession, this one about fire protection. Even break-up advocates want to keep the L.A. city fire department, it seems. Tomorrow: police.
• More than 60% of the candidates for office in a new Valley city said they back a campaign-reform notion called “clean money” in which hopefuls receive public funds for their election effort. Most private fundraising is forbidden under the plan, which is not in use in any large city. Council candidate Paula Boland calls it “ludicrous,” and mayor candidate Keith Richman said he doesn’t know enough yet to say if he likes it. Low in the Daily News story is a report from the Sherman Oaks Homeowner Association meeting where the group’s endorsement of secession was questioned.
Thursday, Oct. 17
• A political analysis in the San Jose Mercury focuses on Latino voters as the swing voters of the Valley secession contest. The campaign over break-up has, says writer Laura Kurtzman, “given a platform to a new group of Latino leaders with middle-class concerns — such as the burden of high business taxes — that even secession opponents concede will have to be reckoned with.”
• William Safire, the longtime Republican columnist on the New York Times Op-ed page, doesn’t take sides, but he does opine today that the secession campaign here (and elsewhere) can be a “most useful waker-upper” of apathetic politicians and voters — the “Great Discombobulator” of the status quo. He lapses into Valspeak, portraying Mayor Hahn as thinking “all this griping is grody to the max,” and predicts Hahn will learn a lesson about paying heed to the Valley and conclude that, “like, wow: I hear you.” Among the benefits that should be afforded after the election, Safire impishly suggests, is “smaller and more prescriptive English classes for valley girls.” Note to Bill: it was Bing Crosby who sang most famously about making his home in the Valley, and Roy Rogers, but not Gene Autry.
• The L.A. Times offers up a feature story on the West Valley as a follow-up to yesterday’s Times Poll results. The section west of the San Diego Freeway is where secession sentiment remains the highest, based on the poll. Another follow is a story on how the poll deflates interest in the race for Valley mayor, which had an invisble quality to it for most Valley voters anyway. For the Thursday trifecta, the Times runs another in its series on city services, this one looking at stop signs and tales of trying to deal with the city hall bureaucracy.
LAT Op-ed: Venice is next, and a meditation on break-up…
• A Daily News editorial praises the candidates running for Valley offices and says it is wrong to discount their talents simply because they have not run for elective office before. There’s plenty of leadership portential on the ballot, the paper vows.
• State Sen. Tom McClintock from Ventura County told a press conference he would resist any move by Mayor James Hahn to seek a state law blocking a repeat Valley secession bid. McClintock, a Republican, is running for state controller. Former assemblywoman Paula Boland, who pushed for the law that made it easier for secession to reach the ballot, joined in assailing Hahn’s remarks saying that secession should not be allowed to come up repeatedly if it fails to win.
A Valley secession debate held Wednesday at Mount St. Mary’s campus will be broadcast today on KPCC (89.3), on the “Talk of the City” program at 1 p.m. The participants include former mayor Richard Riordan and Valley VOTE chairman Richard Close.
Wednesday, Oct. 16
• A new L.A. Times Poll finds the Valley secession juggernaut seriously reeling as voters approach Election Day, now less than three weeks off. Citywide, voters judged likely to show up on Nov. 5 reject the break-up by a 2-1 margin, 56% to 27%, with 17% undecided. Counting just the Valley, the margin among likely voters is much closer, but secession still trails 47% to 42%, with 11% yet to decide. Those undecideds, and the margin of error, make the unofficial race for claiming rights to the Valley too close to call, but there’s really no good spin in this poll for secessionistas. Break-up trails on the home turf because the East Valley is now firmly opposed, 54% to 36%. The West Valley remains in favor, but it’s close: 46% to 42%. The message of the poll is substantial erosion of the secession position since the Times Poll in June. That poll surveyed registered voters, not just those determined to vote, and while the divorce was opposed citywide even then, the Valley gave passage a 15% edge. That June poll also was the source of wishful thinking that Latinos were behind secession, but as a lab scientist might say, that result could not be replicated. The new poll finds Latinos oppose Valley secession, as do senior citizens, renters, Democrats, liberals, Republican women and citywide conservatives. Support is strong only among white men and Republican men in the Valley. As for Hollywood secession, it loses big everywhere — end of story. Among the Valley candidates, nobody is popular and they remain unknown to the voters; Keith Richman would lead the pack today with 13%. Meanwhile, Mayor Jim Hahn’s rankings are up, due in part to the popularity of his choice of police chief, William Bratton.
Poll director’s analysis
Poll data in PDF format
• Do the rank-and-file members of the Sherman Oaks Homeowners Association, perhaps the Valley’s most unfluential neighborhood group, support secession? There have always been questions, even though the longtime president, Richard Close, is a leader of Valley VOTE. The Sherman Oaks board voted to back secession, but a caucus of members plans to challenge that decision at a meeting tonight. Also, mayor candidate Bruce Boyer is first to hit the TV cable with campaign ads — but he tells the Daily News he will refuse to disclose his sources of money, in violation of city ethics laws.
Editorial page really mad at Hahn now
• The merits of being a general law city (as the Valley would be) versus a charter city (as L.A. is) are discussed in a Daily News piece by Harrison Sheppard.
Tuesday, Oct. 15
• Picking up on comments Mayor Jim Hahn made in the L.A. Business Journal, the Daily News leads with Hahn saying he will seek a state law to prevent secession from returning to the ballot any time soon after Nov. 5. “I’m not going to spend my whole term in office fighting every six months secession efforts,” the mayor said (yes, that’s the exact quote). A DN reporter (it’s a double byline with Beth Barrett and Harrison Sheppard) got Hahn on the phone and prodded him to talk, and talk he did. He explained why he is not addressing the VICA conference on Nov. 1, argued the issue of unequal services between richer and poorer areas, and ranted about the Daily News’ role in getting the secession effort off the ground: “Should we do it [have an election] every time someone like the Daily News funds petition drives?” In the story, secession leader Richard Close, an attorney, says there will be a legal challenge if the break-up wins in the Valley but loses citywide.
LAT chases the VICA story too
•The L.A. Times continues its series on city services with a look at how the city’s new area planning board’s are doing. The focal point is a case study of the decision to forbid Chuck E. Cheese from opening in Woodland Hills after neighbors complained. The one question Secession Watch would like to have seen answered, or at least explored, is the effect of special interest lobbying and campaign contributions on these local boards created by city charter reform three years ago; we knew to expect that decisions made by the citywide planning commission and zoning appeals boards could be influenced, but are these neighborhood boards really above politics? OK, a second question: is anybody stating a serious, thought-out vision of how the Valley would be better planned as a separate city? It’s been a half-century of planning decisions, more than anything, that has made the Valley into what it is today, for better and worse.
The Daily News covers the entertainment guilds’ press conference and notes what the AP story (next item) did not — that they issued a report done by the anti-secession county labor federation and paid for by the now-controversial Entertainment Industry Development Corp. The DN story also catches up on the CSUN economists who think secession is not a bad idea, first reported Saturday in the LAT.
DN: Not all enviros oppose secession
SW must agree: We’re all Angels fans now
Monday, Oct. 14
• AP is moving a story that three Hollywood guilds and unions spoke out Monday against secession, arguing that having a trio of cities (L.A., SFV and Hollywood) where now there is one would make it harder to film here. The American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, the International Cinematographers Guild and the costumers union held a small rally in Studio City. The story is available on the Web site of KNBC channel 4, which also lets viewers cast their vote. The results as of 5 p.m. Monday: Valley and Hollywood should secede, 45%; L.A. should remian as is, 36%; Valley should secede, 10%; Hollywood should secede, 5%; I don’t know, 3%. There have been 2704 votes entered.
• And in the magazines…Neither is on-line, but secession stories are out in the current Los Angeles and Valley. As you’d expect, the pieces are quite different. In Los Angeles the secession confrontation is much ado about not much: “The most anemic civil war the world has yet to witness.” As for the cast, the writer says that “both sides are playing with mighty thin material,” but Mayor Jim Hahn gets it the worst: “Leading the charge of a non-existent army over empty battlefields, broom in hand, is that glorified janitor, James Hahn.” Secession or not, the piece condludes that the election clash “can only speed the emergence of a civic leadership more reflective of the city’s new demographic realities.” In Valley, the bi-monthly whose publisher and editor-in-chief is Jane Boeckmann, wife of secession leader Bert Boeckmann, the cause is viewed with more gravity. “This monumental decision,” the writer says, would undo the 1915 coercion of the Valley into the city’s clutches. He calls the Valley not a natural extension of Los Angeles: “Rather, it is an annex, a designation that has remained unchanged since 1915.” (By that odd standard, most of the city is invalid since nearly all of it was annexed). Paula Boland speaks, along with Keith Richman — they are the only candidates mentioned. The visceral message is stated by business leader and secessionist Bob Scott: “The Valley is a colony, very much the way the colonies were back before the Revolutionary War. Why should the Valley remain as an annex to the City of Los Angeles? There is no justification for it.”
• If you live in the Valley, you’ll be lugging in and eventually tossing out a ton of political mail over the next three weeks. The millions of dollars amassed to fight secession are about to be transformed into waves of mailers, brochures and letters urging you to vote no. The pro side and a few of the candidates likely will get some mail out too, and there will be TV and radio spots to be absorbed. While the overall question is all but settled — almost no one seems to think secession will pass — the prize still up for grabs is who will win the Valley. “We’ve got to defeat it in the Valley,” anti-secession leader tells Larry Levine tells the L.A. Times. Turnout will be key: “It’s a question of who gets more demoralized,” Berkeley political scientist Bruce Cain says. Also in the Times: Just about everything that could be said about street paving and pothole-filling in Los Angeles.
LAT letter: Sepulveda Blvd. is the one!
• The Daily News’ Mariel Garza updates the fight between horse owners in Chatsworth and the city council over plans for a parcel of land owned by Ted Stein, an advisor to Mayor Hahn who is also a leading opponent of secession.
•Despite what the invites say, Mayor Jim Hahn won’t be speaking before the pro-secession Valley Industry and Commerce Association at the lobbying group’s annual conference on Nov. 1, four days before the election. It’s the first time in 10 years that the sitting L.A. mayor won’t give a “state of the Valley” address at the VICA gathering, the SFV Business Journal says. The story says that Hahn’s people cancelled after the invitations were printed; however, Hahn’s office tells Secession Watch that VICA never confirmed the mayor’s attendance before going to print. Both sources agree that the mayor offered to speak on an alternate date. In the sister L.A. Business Journal, Hahn looks ahead to the post-election area in a story, and also sits down with the paper’s editors and reporters to discuss the Valley and other city issues. ($3 to read LABJ stories)
Weekend, Oct. 12 – 13
•The L.A. Times editorial page comes out Sunday with its formal endorsement of no votes across the board on secession. The page, of course, has been arguing against secession for many years, so this new piece mostly covers old ground. The editorial acknowledges the merits of some secession arguments, but asks that “Angelenos don’t give up” on Los Angeles. It also addresses the respect question, briefly: “The Valley is the middle-class heart of a city increasingly split between the rich and poor.” A factual catch: Camelot is not the top choice of any secession leaders, at least not that has been reliably reported. It was pushed for the ballot (by secession co-leader Jeff Brain) as kind of a lark. It may have been a dumb idea, but there’s no reason to build it up bigger than it is. Also: Taking a page from the Daily News, the Times on Sunday began a series examining L.A. city services, through the lens of secession and the Valley. The first installment is heavy on rehash of issues raised already by secessionists and the Daily News. It’s not a deeply probing story, but it’s just the first day. Let’s see where it all goes.
• The St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times sent its national correspondent out to look at Valley secession, and in his Sunday story Stephen Buckley poses the question: Is the Valley running from a battered, dysfunctional Los Angeles, or is it running from itself? In the piece, Jerry England unofficially takes the record as the Valley character that visiting journalists most like to introduce in the lede of their stories. Once again, though, Jerry’s place of honor never mentions his candidacy. Terry Stone (“ex-hippie and unrepentant liberal”) and Jose (Roy) Garcia (“famous for his United Nations Soccer League”) do get some ink, and there are quotes from Prof. Hogen-Esch at CSUN and Mr. America’s Suburb. — Wait! It’s not just out-of-towners who like Jerry. He’s also the lede of a Sunday story in the South Bay Daily Breeze by David Zahniser. The report focuses on whether the L.A. City Council and other local bodies lack respect for the people who elect them. England definitely thinks so: “Clearly they view us as insignificant.” He’s not revealed as a candidate in the Breeze either, but really, he is. He’s in the council race in the 3rd district from his beloved Chatsworth.
• In a Sacramento Bee update on the campaigns by Laura Mecoy, mayor candidate Keith Richman explains why it has been so hard for the pro side, including himself, to pry cash away from sympathetic political givers: “People question whether the city is going to come into being at all and whether they should contribute money for an office that may not exist.”
• The Daily News writes an entire story around the assertion by secession advocates that the Valley would be more culturally rich if it left Los Angeles. More context and probing about the actual demand for Valley-centric arts would have helped. There is good big-picture perspective, however, from author and Valley Village resident Joel Kotkin: “Valley secession is part of a process of the Valley coming to a consciousness of itself — culturally and politically.” Also, the DN goes precinct walking with secession foes and finds a range of opinion in the West Valley.
Muston: Galanter good, Greuel bad
• Sportsmen’s Lodge, the site of many secession events and other political gatherings, will get city cultural-historic landmark status if the Studio City Residents Assn. and the L.A. Conservancy have their way. Good history of the place in a Daily News story by Dana Bartholomew: it opened along Ventura Road in 1914 as a trout pond and fishing lodge, put in restaurant seats in 1945, and became a stars’ hangout. “Sportsmen’s Lodge, in a sense, is one of the quintessential Valley social and cultural landmarks — it almost screams San Fernando Valley,” said Ken Bernstein, director of preservation for the conservancy.
• In the Jewish Journal this week, writer Gene Lichtenstein reports on the USC conference on secession and Jews from a couple of weeks ago, and gives a short scorecard of the Jewish community breakdown on break-up.
•Fifteen CSUN economists released a letter in which they
debunk claims that secession would hurt the economy of Los Angeles or the new cities in the Valley and Hollywood. Rather, they see break-up making the cities run more efficiently and responsively, and thus better able to attract business. The professors did not actually endorse secession, but Prof. Shirley Svorny, who is a secession backer, said the letter was intended to counter claims from the Mayor Hahn side of the debate. Sharon Bernstein of the Times appears to have it alone (based on Web sites), but both the LAT and Daily News covered event in which Assemblywoman Jackie Goldberg and gay activists urged a no vote on secession, saying it threatened to undo years of legislation that protect gay men and lesbians.
14th and last DN district story
Friday, Oct. 11
• The Woodland Hills-Warner Center Neighborhood Council became the first of these local citizen panels to endorse secession, voting 11-5 with one abstention to support breaking up Los Angeles. The council’s chairwoman said she got some pressure calls from city officials urging the group not to take the position. The Daily News story says there is some “irony” in the endorsement since the city-sponsored advisory bodies were created in part to deflate secession’s balloon; the writer apparently doesn’t see any irony in the fact that none of the other 50 local councils in the city, including 14 in the Valley, have voted for secession. Also, the Tarzana Residents Assn. voted to oppose, while the Tarzana chamber of commerce announced that it had chosen back in August to endorse secession. And a group of candidates came out with a plan for how to begin forming the city if the voters decide to create the new burg. The L.A. Times round-up of the day has the neighborhood council vote, the candidates’ plan, and the Sierra Club deciding to oppose secession.
DN’s 13th district story
• The San Fernando Valley History Digital Library at CSUN will use a $137,000 state library grant to expand its on-line archive to include documents on secession, among other topics, the Daily News reports. The digital library already offers a large collection of Valley history photographs and documents that are easily searchable on-line.
Thursday, Oct. 10
• There’s a couple of secession-related stories in the new LA Weekly. The most provocative, by far, has former L.A. Times Valley edition columnist Scott Harris all but apologizing for pieces he wrote in the mid 1990s that belittled secessionists and the Valley. He calls the Times’ news coverage biased against dividing up the city, and reveals some of the behind-the-scenes manuevering that went on at the media megalith on Spring Street. Harris also confesses that he wrote his column about Valley life for six years — until the editors took it away from him — without ever having lived in the Valley. Next in the Weekly is a profile of Gene LaPietra and his quest for secession, which he promotes as the chief financier of the Hollywood breakaway effort and a main supplier of funds to Valley secession as well.
• The Times’ Patrick McGreevy weighs in with a longish recitation of the issues and unkowns still swirling around the question of water and power bills in a new Valley city. The biggest unknown is whether Los Angeles could or would charge Valley customers higher rates like it does other cities that tap the system. Based on this story, the bottom line is — it depends on who you choose to believe.
• A campaign roundup story in the Daily News includes mayor hopeful Keith Richman’s plans for the schools, some other candidates attacking the MTA’s east-west busway proposal, and the official unveiling of the Valley Alliance of Liberals, now up to 17 candidates as members. The Times’ roundup has the liberals, with a bit more context, and Richman too.
DN editorial: Upset about EIDC “study”
Wednesday, Oct. 9
• In the UCLA Daily Bruin, the campus’ student lobbyist urges students to register to vote so they can have an influence on local issues such as secession.
• The opposition campaign began airing TV spots that declare secession “a risk that’s not worth taking” and make a litany of charges that were challenged Tuesday by secession leaders. The spots will be on all major broadcast and some cable channels. Both the L.A. Times and Daily News stories also give second-day details from the pro-secession fundraising reports. David Fleming (at $100,000) is the largest contributor to Valley secession, followed by Hollywood’s Gene LaPietra ($50k), Galpin Ford owner Bert Boeckmann ($40k) and the Valley Realtors group (25K). The Daily News says that SFV Independence has spent all but about $121,000 of what it took in, while the Times says it owes $102,000, including $38,000 to Goddard Claussen, the campaign advice firm that quit a few weeks ago. The DN reports alone that a new citywide pro-campaign (launched by Bob Scott with $10,000 from Sanford Paris) is being called the Alliance for a New L.A.
• The Daily News’ top editorial proclaims Valley secession “the last desperate step” and says that boroughs with real local authority and neighborborhood councils with teeth would have been “better solutions.” Still no actual endorsement one way or another — the editorial merely advises that “voters face a hard choice,” and a second editorial beseeches people to grasp the importance of their vote. The rhetoric of the first editorial labels all anti-cityhood contributors part of a corrupt power structure, and secession supporters as seeking “nothing more than a seat at the table of power for the ordinary people of the city.” The Secession Watch view? If only politics was truly that simple. It’s also a stretch to categorize Fleming, Scott & Boeckmann — well-known figures around city hall — or even LaPietra as powerless outsiders.
• Fifteen city council candidates on the Nov. 5 ballot are unveiling today the “Valley Alliance for Liberals” hoping to counter the more conservative image of the secession campaigns. “Our purpose is to show voters that the secession movement isn’t a right-wing conspiracy,” said Terry Stone, a candidate in the 10th district.
DN’s CD-11 overview
• The embattled Entertainment Industry Development Corp. paid $10,000 to a research arm of the county labor federation to produce a report that concludes secession would be bad for the local entertainment biz, the Daily News reports (citing the Hollywood Reporter). The theory is that having a more fractured local government would deter efforts to fight runaway production. Richard Katz of SFV Independence dismisses the work as “a conclusion in search of a report.” To set the scene a bit: the EIDC gets its money from permits issued to film on location in the county, fees that would otherwise go into the public treasury. The EIDC is run by a board of elected officials, chaired by Mayor Jim Hahn. The EIDC gave $25,000 to L.A. United, Hahn’s anti-secession group. Now we learn that the EIDC hired a group from organized labor, which is admantly opposed to secession, to do its study. The EIDC is under investigation by the district attorney.
Tuesday, Oct. 8
• L.A. United, the anti-secession committee formed by Mayor Hahn, has raised about $4.8 million to fight against the municipal break-up, and has already spent $1 million on TV spots that have not yet run. (Daily News and the Times cover, with more details on who gave what to who, and how much is left, in the LAT). Adding in the sums collected by other campaign committees, the opposition side has taken in more than $5 million. The largest donor to L.A. United, at $300,000, has been Jerry Perenchio, the chief of Univision. Union money has also started to flow in, led by $250,000 from the American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees and $200,000 from the L.A. firefighters union. Valley Independence, the top campaign arm on the pro side, said it has collected $547,000 but details were not yet available. Valley candidates had also taken in at least $439,000 themselves, $127,000 of it by Assemblyman and mayor candidate Keith Richman and $48,000 by rival Mel Wilson. Secession supporters had vowed to amass a couple of million, so it’s a disappointment no matter how much they try to spin it into an virtue.
• The Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. made known what its first demand of a new city government in the Valley would be — a cut of the business receipts tax in half within eighteen months. The group, which lobbies in City Hall, recently endorsed secession in a vote of its members.
Daily News: 10th district race
Monday, Oct. 7
• L.A. city councilman Eric Garcetti says that he’s heard things could get ugly at City Hall for secessionists — retribution-wise — after the Nov. 5 election, but that he and others are arguing for peace in our time. He tells the L.A. Business Journal that “there’s a group of people here in City Hall that wants to squash all these folks should secession go down. Others, myself included, are saying we need to engage these individuals…appoint them to commissions, and make sure they are heard.” ($3 to read on the LABJ Web site)
• A gathering of about 1,000 people Sunday at Temple Judea in Tarzana was the largest anti-secession rally yet, the Daily News reports. It included Mayor James Hahn and several Los Angeles pastors calling for unity. The L.A. Times story focuses more on the rally’s call for passage of Measure K, the school funding item on the Nov. 5 ballot, and health-care funding. The DN says, by the way, that Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky joined the chorus calling for a no vote on break-up. Yaroslavsky had previously said he would not take a stand on secession, and in the Times story is quoted only calling for a vote on Measure B, which would help keep county health clinics open.
LAT feature: Which boulevard to be Main Street?
• A Daily News editorial claims, in contrast to most other media, that secession is picking up momentum, and it calls on Valley civic leaders who have kept quiet to step forward and declare themselves for cityhood. Many secretly want secession but are intimdiated by Hahn’s tactics, the DN says: “They must be bold. They need to back their convictions with their word, moral support and money.” The paper’s reporters have not written any stories about hidden secession backers who are too scared to speak out publicly.
• Dueling letters to the editor in the Times about last week’s LAT story on the big anti-secession fundraiser at the home of developer Ed Roski. Lobbyist Steve Afriat, who was quoted, contends the story was one-sided, while the leaders of Common Cause say it shined important light on the campaign money game.
Wilson played in NFL (near end of column)
• The Daily News says that secession is the underlying issue in the campaign between Rep. Howard Berman, Democrat of Mission Hills who is seeking reelection, and Republican David Hernandez, who is opposing Berman and running at the same time for mayor of the would-be Valley city.
Weekend, Oct. 5 – 6
Howard Fine, the L.A. Business Journal political writer, forecasts near-record low voter turnout this fall, and says it will be in part because interest in secession is fading. Previous estimates of elevated turnout in the Valley have morphed into a belief that secession “will bump up turnout only slightly in the San Fernando Valley and have a negligible impact elsewhere in the city.” (Second LABJ story moved to top Oct. 7 item, now that SW has had a chance to read the full story).
• Last Monday’s Copley News Service piece in the San Diego Union-Tribune on secession hopes sagging finally made it into the South Bay Daily Breeze on Sunday. The story by David Zahniser was somewhat reworked for the Breeze, which has an appetite for longer L.A. stories, but the headline is still not one the break-up side would want to see: Valley Secession Zeal is Waning.
• The Cleveland Plain-Dealer briefly mentions Valley secession as part of a national overview of movements where citizens take law-making into their own hands.
• In the Daily News’ lead Sunday secession story, break-up leader Bob Scott gives a good summation of how cityhood is tied to the schools issue, no matter how much opponents point out that the Nov. 5 vote would not legally affect the L.A. school system. Proponents say that having a separate city — and the passage of the Measure K school bond on the ballot — would shift momentum toward creating new school districts in the Valley. Complicating the argument, though, is the public opposition to Valley secession by Stephanie Carter, who led the unsuccessful effort to secede from the LAUSD last year. The DN’s Sunday editorial, “Fat Cats United,” hits at the latest round of fund-raising by opponents of secession.
• Jeff Brain of the SFV Independence committee says that pro-secesssion leafletters were kicked out of a gathering of the city’s neighborhood councils, while the anti-secession L.A. United was allowed to stay. If true, that’s pretty stupid on the city’s part. The Daily News has the story with comment from Mayor Hahn’s spokeswoman.
• Leo Braudy, university professor at USC, offers a folksy antidote to secession as a minor aside in a Sunday Opinion piece in the L.A. Times that turns into his personal tour of the city. “Now we’re being told by secession promoters that we should follow the logic of the freeways and carve the body of L.A. up into even more self-involved fragments. Perhaps, instead, each of us could try at least once a week to get out of our narrow day-to-day arteries and explore the messy, unmanageable, wonderful whole. Drive on surface streets and get lost on purpose.”
• Sunday Culture Watch (Local):The legends of Dayton Canyon and the quirky couple it was named for are aired by Cecilia Rasmussen in her Then and Now column in the L.A. Times. The tale has murder, intrigue and missing buried treasure. Many may know Dayton Canyon as the rugged, mysterious oak canyon at the west end of Roscoe Boulevard. Don’t look now, but 150 luxury homes are going up in what is now being called Dayton Canyon Estates — another piece of Valley lore gets buried by the bulldozers.
• Sunday Culture Watch (National): “Paul Thomas Anderson, 32, is the unofficial poet laureate of the San Fernando Valley,” writer Dave Kehr says in a Sunday New York Times article that probes the art and meaning of each of Anderson’s films set in the Valley. Those are Boogie Nights, Magnolia and the new Punch-Drunk Love. The article refers to communities such as Sherman Oaks, Reseda and Encino as “new cities in the American mode, composed of strip malls, franchises of every description and vast middle-class housing developments.” Close readers may notice that the Santa Monica Mountains are misnamed the San Vicentes.
• Harrison Sheppard in the Daily News has more details on the TV ads for secession that should begin to run Monday. They were produced by Garrett Biggs, a political consultant who also is running for a council seat, and will air only on cable — first in the Valley, and perhaps later citywide. The first 30-second spot features a man trying to address a rude and inattentive city council and is titled, “Is Anybody Listening?” Other spots will be made available to other candidates. The story also says that secession leader Bob Scott and business leader Bill Allen are preparing to a citywide campaign push on behalf of secession but would give no details. Also, new campaign fundraising figures are due Monday.
• Anti-poverty advocates came out with a report that asserts secession would hurt the poor. Coverage in the Times and Daily News suggests the main point is that a new city might not continue L.A. ordinances such as rent control, the living wage law and domestic partner benefits. Secession leaders say that another recent report on soaring poverty in the Valley is an indictment of the status quo.
• Valley Culture Watch: About 30 Valley artists will open their studios for public tours this weekend. An LAT story talks about several of them.
• Even the Voice of America is covering secession with its own reporter. Mike O’Sullivan picked up comments from David Fleming, Richard Katz and others at last week’s Milken Institute conference, and also quotes the new LAPD chief-designate on his opposition to secession.
• Another installment of the Associated Press series on secession is on the wires — here it ran in the Ventura County Star — with a report on Valley life and the image of the place. Former Monkee Mickey Dolenz confirms that the song “Pleasant Valley Sunday” was about the Valley, and actor Barry Livingston (“My Three Sons”) also comments. There are several quotes from the author of the The San Fernando Valley: America’s Suburb which everyone at America’s Suburb appreciates. The passage that has Gene Autry crooning about “packin’ his bags” for the Valley in a 1937 film raises eyebrows though. Gordon Jenkins always said he wrote those words, in a hurry, for the theme song for the 1943 Roy Rogers B-picture San Fernando Valley. The song became a hit when Bing Crosby recorded it the following year. Perhaps Jenkins plagiarized, or perhaps AP got it wrong, but before calling it an error America’s Suburb will do some more checking.
Friday, Oct. 4
• The newly designated L.A. police chief, William Bratton, waded into the secession debate in his public introduction at the North Hollywood station. “I can’t even begin to imagine why they would want to secede from LA. Seriously, this is one of the great cities of the world,” Bratton said. He vowed that police forces will be deployed where needed the most, which could disappoint some secessionists who think the lower-crime Valley gets shorted in the allotment of officers.
• Five council hopefuls from different districts announced Thursday that they have crafted a plan to increase police staffing in the Valley city and reduce noise at Van Nuys Airport if secession passes and they are elected. The co-signers are Joyce Pearson, Kim Thompson, Jose Roy Garcia, Richard Leyner and Ron Clary. Several other candidates attended the event where the fivesome detailed their plans and may sign on, the Daily News reports. The Times version also includes a few paragraphs on Keith Richman’s plans to improve traffic.
The campaign to separate the Valley from L.A. is similar in some ways to the Proposition 13 campaign for lower property taxes almost 25 years ago that stealthily turned into a landslide victory, the L.A. Times’ Sharon Bernstein and Nita Lelyveld report. There also are some key differences, such as that voters don’t have the tangible motivation of keeping an extra few thousand in their bank accounts if they vote for secession. But break-up leaders are counting on a last-minute surge of emotional support for secession like the groundswell that pushed Prop. 13 to get (the Times says) 81% of the vote in the Valley. If the Val rises up to go 81% for independence, we’ll all be needing a fresh supply of maps because there will be a new metropolis in the land.
Thursday, Oct. 3
The San Fernando Valley Independence Web site is linking to a new site called CityHallLies.com that offers a partisan view of the truth about cityhood — nothing wrong with that — but the site is totally anonymous. Nowhere does anyone take responsibility or ownership of the claims, though there is a link to an e-mail address. The site’s Internet domain registration is not revealing either. Added: The site’s administrator declined via e-mail to reveal who is behind it. Guess we have to wait for the campaign disclosure reports to learn what they’re hiding.
• Newsday, the Long Island newspaper also owned by Chicago’s Tribune Co., picked up the LAT analysis of Mayor Hahn’s “bolder, politically savvy side” that some see in his appointment of New York’s William J. Bratton as chief of police. The story makes a brief reference to the impact on Valley secession. The San Fernando Valley is all over the global news this morning. In Australia, the Melbourne Herald Sun and the Sydney Morning Heraldcover the purchase of Fashion Square in Sherman Oaks by Westfield, the Aussie firm that is grafting its brand name onto so many L.A. shopping malls. There’s also a review in India of the new film Punch-Drunk Love that mentions its Valley setting.
• An Op-ed in the L.A. Times by Joel Fox, an advisor to the pro-secession campaign, is notable not only because it is a rare LAT commentary that supports break-up, though it is that. Fox advances the restrained, logical argument that for all the strident rhetoric, the secession question is really a simple unemotional one: should government be reorganized? It’s not the end of the world, nor would it invent Camelot. He writes: “The unglamorous truth is that the breakup of Los Angeles is neither a rebellious secession nor a revolution dethroning a king.” Well said.
• A cross-section of L.A. Latino elected leaders who are potential rivals — from City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo to county Supervisor Gloria Molina to State Sen. Richard Alarcon — restated their opposition to secession in a Mission Hills media event. About 100 pro-secession hecklers also showed up, the L.A. Times reports. The Daily News observes that the opposition includes every elected Latino in the L.A. portion of the Valley. Elsewhere, the L.A. Headquarters Assn., which represents businesses based in L.A., came out against the break-up. Another KABC-TV poll by Survey USA showed the secession arguments gaining somewhat. It found 57%-38% for secession among likely Valley voters, about the same as last time, but there was a six-vote shift citywide toward the break-up proposal, which the poll found would now lose 53%-43%. The automated polling method that Survey USA uses is apparently more questionable than others, but the Daily News gave the survey good playand the pro-side was heartened by the apparent rise in strength. Interesting note, the DN says the survey found the Latino backing for secession among likely voters holding up, as previous surveys have suggested.
La Opinion calls lineup the most Latino solidarity since Prop. 187 but runs it inside
Wednesday, Oct. 2
• Michael Hart, the editor of the SFV Business Journal who correctly predicted the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. would endorse secession, lines up in this week’s issue with the Secession Watch analysis that the force of VICA’s statement is muted, since just 30% of members voted for break-up. His column is on the SFVBJ Web site, but three othersecession-related stories in the issue will cost you. They are writer Jackie Fox’s take on the lobbying of VICA by Mayor James Hahn, a story on the pro-secession side making light of the departure of campaign strategist Goddard Claussen, and a look at how cityhood did not solve all the problems of Santa Clarita. There’s also a defense of the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. by a member of VICA.
• Mayor Jim Hahn will come to the Valley tomorrow morning to introduce his selection as new chief of the LAPD, William J. Bratton. The event will be held at the North Hollywood police division rather than at City Hall or Parker Center. Now I wonder why that is?
• The number of alternative newspaper voices in Los Angeles just thinned considerably. New Times L.A. will shut down under a agreement between its corporate owner and the corporate owners of the LA Weekly, which will continue. On the secession issue, New Times published political columnist Jill Stewart’s favorable-to-secession, pro-Valley and anti-Hahn views. The Weekly has been staunchly against secession as part of its championing of the L.A. labor movement and various progressive causes. The Weekly seems generally bemused about most things Valley — although it did run Barry Lopez’s stunning remembrance of his West Valley childhood earlier this year. Added: By late Wednesday, the New Times Web site was bouncing browsers to the LA Weekly site. No word on the fate of the New Times on-line archives.
Riordan in DN: New weekly a few months away
• Some secession advocates are bothered that Richard Katz, the co-chair and leading spokesman for the SFV Independence committee, has been spending most of the campaign week in Sacramento for his day job as a member of the state Water Resources Control Board and energy adviser to Gov. Gray Davis. Katz says he can keep up with the Valley by phone and computer, and he appears regularly at debates and in the press, but an unidentified candidate says in the L.A. Times story, “It hurts when he is out of town that we don’t have the central guidance. He is the only one who can stand up to the mayor articulately.” The Katz issue is noteworthy since observers continue to note that the pro campaign seems to be poorly run, and last week the campaign’s hired strategists walked away. Also, an LAT report from Westchester, where upset about LAX might translate into votes for Valley secession.
• The Daily News weighs in on the Ed Roski fundraiser (see top Oct. 1 item, next) and adds an in-your-face quote from Steve Afriat, the City Hall lobbyist who is directing the new anti-secession effort free of charge: “The reason why we’re involved in this issue is we would rather deal with a calm, well-structured, competent city of Los Angeles government than a fly-by-night, kooky San Fernando Valley government.” Afriat, like many of the lobbyists at the Toluca Lake fundraiser, has business pending before the city more or less all the time.
Tuesday, Oct. 1
• Jeff Rabin of the L.A. Times didn’t drop it when he couldn’t get an invite to Monday’s $500-a-person anti-secession fundraiser at the Toluca Lake home of developer Ed Roski. He went ahead and reported out a solid story on the various conflicts of interest inherent in a new anti-secession campaign entity, the Public Safety Coalition, that was the night’s beneficiary. The new group is headed by three sitting city council members and the LAPD officers’ union. Many of those on the Monday event’s host committee, from Roski to billboard lobbyist Ken Spiker Jr. to Valley jack-of-all-lobby-trades Steve Afriat, have business pending before the city council and various city commissions, Rabin shows. It’s further evidence that, quite aside from the merits of fighting against the break-up of L.A., the anti-secession campaign has morphed into a frenzy of political feeding, free of the usual contribution limits. If you wish to curry favor for a hotel development or some other project, the law won’t let you give much to the key councilmember’s reelection coffers – but there’s no restriction on what you and your hired guns can give to the councilmember’s anti-secession committee. SW suspects that Rabin looks forward to poring over all the post-election disclosure reports to tote up who got money from whom and to reconcile how all the pocketfuls of cash — which don’t actually appear to be needed to defeat secession — end up being used.
• The editorial page of the Daily News, setting a tone for the final push toward Nov. 5, calls the secession campaign a battle for the future of Los Angeles between David and Goliath, between “a noble effort” and a “fear-mongering political machine.” While continuing to heap scorn on Jim Hahn, the DN also seems to rue that the pro-secession side has delivered less than hoped. It calls the Valley Independence Committee “the 90-pound weakling of the secession debate” and praises the caucus of candidates who decided last week to go their own way. “For secession to succeed, the battle will have to be fought at the grass-roots level…The challenge for all L.A. voters heading into Nov. 5 will be to look beyond the distortions of the anti-secession campaign and the structural weaknesses of the independence movement.”
• Secession Watch was hopeful that the Daily News’ 3rd council district round-up would solve the mystery: Where is Paula Boland and why is the only candidate with an elective track record laying so low? Alas, it doesn’t. Meanwhile, 8th district hopeful Garrett Biggs has filmed TV spots and plans to air them on cable starting next week.
• In the October issue of California Journal, the Sacramento monthly on state politics: Former L.A. Times columnist Scott Harris initially derided talk of splitting off the vast San Fernando Valley from Los Angeles. Now he’s ready to eat crow if Valleyistas prevail in November. (Story not on-line). Harris had been the columnist for the Valley Edition in the mid-1990s when the Times put out a full news section and Valley-centric front page every day from a busy newsroom in Chatsworth, complete with senior editors who enjoyed great autonomy from the paper’s hierarchy downtown. Today, a skeleton staff and no top editors sit in Chatsworth, and far fewer stories from the Valley get published — the result of cost saving and a conclusion that the Daily News, which also reduced its news coverage, posed less of a competitive threat. The shift in ideology by new chief editor John Carroll to produce essentially one L.A. Times for all readers was also a journalism decision, but it had contradictory effects: it cut sharply into the volume of local news and focus that Valley readers get, and it raised the Valley’s profile elsewhere in Los Angeles. That’s because now, whatever Valley news the Times does run appears in all papers; most of it used to run only in the Valley, including editorials and a weekly commentary page. That’s one reason, Secession Watch believes, that the potency of the secession movement took so many by surprise in Los Angeles. Meanwhile, Valleyistas — a term first used by Harris — still grumble about losing their own news section in the Times.
• Secession Sketchbook, the occasional LAT feature by James Ricci, visits with a Sherman Oaks coffee roaster who is kind of the Anti-Valleyista. He lives in the Valley, but he drives downtown to work out at the L.A. Athletic Club, has season tickets to the L.A. Chamber Orchestra, and volunteers in a mid-Wilshire soup kitchen. “I don’t even know how to get to Chatsworth,” he admits. Uh, care to guess how he feels about secession?
• The Daily News proclaims the playoff-bound Anaheim Angels the Valley’s team, based on the local roots of five players. No mention of Gene Autry, the longtime Angels owner who lived in the Valley until his death. OK, here’s what SW believes — the Valley produced hall of famer Don Drysdale, and Studio City was the home of the superlative Sandy Koufax in his playing days. The Valley will always be Dodgers country.