Secession Watch archive – September 2002

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. To make the postings more easily searchable, they are also republished verbatim here. Links may be expired.

Monday, Sept. 30

•  The Chicago Tribune’s plunge into the secession coverage pool leads with candidate Keith Richman — “a man campaigning hard to become mayor of a city that doesn’t exist.” The once-over by national correspondent V. Dion Haynes hits the usual bases, concluding that secession will pass in the Valley despite an imploding campaign, and paraphrases Richman acknowledging that the separation message isn’t being embraced over the hill. Katz and Kuwata are quoted, but the last word goes to L.A. Council President Alex Padilla, addressing the aftermath of Nov. 5: “There needs to be a healing process and a neighborhood dialogue.”

•  “It took 27 years for activists in the sprawling San Fernando Valley to mount their version of a civic insurrection,” reports Copley’s David Zahniser in the San Diego Union-Tribune. “But with the vote on Valley secession little more than a month away, an election once described as pivotal to the city’s future is failing to catch the public’s imagination.” In the story, Bobbi Fielder says it was a critical mistake for Valley VOTE to include the council and mayor decisions in the same election as secession. Zahniser is the Los Angeles City Hall bureau chief for Copley News Service.

• The L.A. Times
makes a stab at discerning how the heavily Latino Eastside of Los Angeles feels about Valley secession, but we finish the story no smarter than before. That’s because the story doesn’t plumb the subject very fully. We hear from no community figures and get few thoughtful viewpoints from ordinary residents, and in the end we have no clear sense of how the Eastside feels. Some informed political analysis was called for, since if it’s true as some suggest that Latinos are angry enough about declining city services to lean toward secession, in contrast to their political leaders, the Eastside could be a surprise — and crucial — source of voters for secession. The story sets out to make an intriguing comparison of conditions in the two areas, but the notion collapses in a specious contrast between El Sereno’s most crowded park and one of the Valley’s largest parks. It’s the kind of story that feeds suspicions, strongly held in some quarters, that the Times’ news-side editors and reporters neither like the secession proposals nor take them very seriously despite a team of five staffers assigned.

• Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, USC senior scholar and political analyst (California Journal, Channel 9, L.A. Times Sunday Opinion) offers a thought on why Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli quit as the paid strategists for the pro-secession campaign: “It may well be that they are sensing that this isn’t going to win and they prefer not to have this loss on their resume.”

Earlier: Goddard Claussen resigns, is owed money

•  A Daily News editorial spanks the L.A. city ethics commission for not jumping into the uproar over lavish spending and political contributions by the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. “Filmgate,” the paper says, demands some action by the city’s ethical watchdog, which should look into the real scandal of city government: “the downtown power structure’s widespread use of public funds for its own self-interest.” There are some good hits in this one — and an aside that is amusing given the source. The paper which is almost zealous in its brow-beating on the break-up issue calls Valley secession the “pet obsession” of Mayor Hahn.

• Plans for Centennial, the town proposed to be built on land near Gorman, are examined by the Daily News, which asks: Where will the water come from to serve the residents of 23,000 new homes? The answer is not clear. The project is envisioned on the Tejon Ranch, a giant holding (formerly owned in part by the L.A. Times’ Chandler family) that straddles the mountains between Los Angeles and Kern counties. The ranch’s overseers have decided to get out of the cattle business and into the real estate development game. Says land use consultant Bill Fulton: “Tejon is probably the Irvine of the 21st century.”

• Valley Culture Watch: Don’s Restaurant, a drive-in turned coffee shop at Glenoaks Blvd. and Santa Anita Avenue in Burbank since 1947, closed for good Sunday. The premises will re-open in a few months as a Japanese restaurant. Like Bob’s Big Boy, Don’s was a popular hangout and date-night burger joint for a couple of East Valley generations. The Don’s sign out front will be donated to a museum, the new owner tells the Daily News.

•  More Culture Watch: This could be a headline right out of the San Fernando Valley of the 1950s (and probably was): Big Church to Build on Site of Egg Ranch. Only it’s happening now, at the Trafficanda Egg Ranch in West Hills.

• Mayor candidate Marc Strassman has posted a bunch of new secession-related video to view at his site called the Linux Public Broadcasting Network. Included is a recent interview with John Mack, longtime head of the Los Angeles Urban League.

Weekend, Sept. 28 – 29

• Two secession beat reporters, Harrison Sheppard of the Daily News and Sharon Bernstein of the Times, discussed the busy week of events on Warren Olney’s “Which Way L.A.” on Thursday. Here’s the audio.

•  Valley Culture Watch:The Electric Prunes were a garage rock band at Taft High School in the tradition of Valley garage bands, playing dances and clubs in the 1960s and finally breaking through with a certified hit, “I Had Too Much to Dream (Last Night).” That was 1966. A fascinating story in the L.A. Times Sunday Calendar section by Bob Baker finds the Prunes, now in their 50s, rehearsing at the same Woodland Hills address and heading out on the road again. “When they play, man,” says Steven Van Zandt, the longtime guitarist of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, “I swear to God within 10 minutes you are transported.”

•  A story in the L.A. Times declares the Hollywood secession campaign flashier than the Valley’s, and it certainly seems to offer more street theater and team spirit. Even so, if the polls are correct, Hollywood will be lucky if it gets half the vote percentage that Valley secession will.

•  The Daily News on Sunday kicks off its coverage of the races for city council in a new Valley city. It’ll be a continuing series, district by district, beginning with CD-1. Judging by today’s opener, the stories won’t be deep but every candidate will get their name mentioned, their photo in the paper (if they choose), a few paragraphs about their positions, and a mini-profile with Web site or e-mail address (and hot links on the DN Web site). That’s more attention than the Times gives to candidates in a typical Los Angeles council race.

•  Will there be lasting civic scars from the secession campaign? Perhaps not. Last week, the Times’ Patt Morrison reported that secession cause leader Richard Close was on a European vacation with Ted Stein, a major money man for the anti-secession effort. Now comes the program for the 7th annual Eddy Awards dinner put on by the L.A. Economic Development Corp. Of the five dinner co-chairs, two are leading secession foes, the former mayor Richard Riordan and developer Ed Roski. Another, though, is David Fleming, the Latham & Watkins counsel who has helped finance and guide secession and who gave up a post on the City Ethics Commission to campaign for the Valley’s separation. Fleming is chairman of the Valley Economic Alliance — and he also remains a board member of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce, which abhors secession so intensely that its chief executive is a fixture on the anti side of the podium at forums and panel discussions. Incidentally, two of this year’s Eddy Award honorees are ardent anti-secessionists, Cardinal Roger Mahony and Eli Broad.

•  A retired LAPD officer who lives in Sherman Oaks warns in an L.A. Times Op-ed piece that secession will be no policing panacea. His neighbors south of Ventura Boulevard think there will somehow be more cops in their low-crime area. Says Terry Schauer, the Valley’s limited police resources would go where crime is highest, “which would not be Sherman Oaks, Encino or Studio City.”

•  The San Fernando Valley Federation, a coalition of smaller homeowner associations, announced it has endorsed secession. President Gordon Murley said the group voted back in the summer but withheld making its position public until closer to the election. As the Daily News points out, it’s not clear who the federation’s endorsement actually represents. The federation has 18 member groups, but just 12 regularly participate. All of their representatives went for secession. But in some cases, the homeowner associations those delegates are from have not taken a position. Gerald Silver of the Encino Homeowners, for instance, says his members have not been polled, but he says: “I have a right as a member (of the federation) to vote what I think is in the best interests of our group.”

• Mayoral candidate Mel Wilson got the endorsement of the Southland Regional Assn. of Realtors, no real surprise since he used to head the group and still signs their legislative advocate newsletter. The L.A. Times story says, though, that rival candidate Keith Richman will be the first beneficiary of a fundraiser to be held by big secession backers David Fleming and Bert Boeckmann this Thursday. Also in the news, the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. says it will spend an undisclosed sum of money to push secession. And the new United Valley Candidates group filed papers with the city ethics commission to act as a political campaign committee, with 19 of the prospective office-holders on board. They held off criticizing the main Valley independence effort in their press conference.

Friday, Sept. 27

•  Somewhere between a dozen and 25 Valley office seekers will form a new campaign arm, United Valley Candidates, as fallout continues over the abrupt departure of the hired-gun strategists from the main pro-secession campaign. The new group will officially announce itself today and has scheduled an Oct. 7 event to meet with voters. Armineh S. Chelebian, running for the Valley city council, said, “There is a feeling that if we sit and wait for the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee to do everything for us, it’s not going to happen.” Other candidates said the resignation of Independence campaign strategists Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli was a good thing and that they wouldn’t be missed. Stories are in the Times and Daily News, which also has that the Independence effort has opened new offices in Van Nuys and Westchester.

•  Assemblyman Keith Richman and a host of other Valley candidates vowed Thursday they would cut the business tax in a new city. However, the difficulty new city officials would have in keeping that promise came up a lot in a secession discussion at Thursday’s Milken Foundation conference on California. Larry Kosmont, whose study saying that L.A. is the moxt expensive California city to do business in is widely cited by secessionists, predicted that a Valley city would face budgetary woes. “Taxes will not be cut. This city is going to need every dollar it can get,” he said. That’s because of the limited means any new city has to raise its revenue under California law, and a new city would face enormous pressure to improve services, Kosmont explained. But to pay for those higher services a city would have to collect the taxes from intensive real estate development: “To change its future, the only way is to urbanize its corridors” such as Ventura Boulevard, Kosmont said.

• A 16-page voter’s guide to secession is available to download (in PDF format) from The Civic Forum. The group plans to distribute 50,000 printed copies before the election. In their words, “We have done the very most that is humanly possible to assure a fair and even-handed product: the document’s content has been reviewed by representatives of the pro- and anti-secession movements, and, since both sides continue to believe it is biased against their own position, we’ve probably achieved our goal!”

Thursday, Sept. 26

•  Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli quit as the chief strategists for the Valley secession campaign, another sign that things may be going seriously awry on the break-up side. Richard Katz, the campaign’s chairman, offered the benign spin that the firm’s work was done, and Goddard Claussen politely refused to explain their departure. But Calabasas campaign consultant Arnold Steinberg, who both the L.A. Times and Daily News report had predicted this turn of events, says it leaves the pro campaign “in the lurch.” The reality appears to be that the independence effort isn’t attracting the cash it needs to be competitive. The Hollywood campaign, which is already on TV with ads due to benefactor Gene LaPietra, had earlier severed its ties with Goddard Claussen.

•  Secession campaign leader Richard Katz called on Mayor James Hahn to debate someone from the break-up side, but again the mayor took the position of thanks, but no thanks. When you lead in the polls, you can do that. He’s been advised to not let the anti-secession campaign be about him. The pro-secession effort and the Daily News (which has the story) have sought to position Hahn as the chief villain in the Valley’s grievances against the city, and to make independence at least partly a referendum on his leadership, even though he’s been in charge not even two years.

•  Mayor candidate Mel Wilson met the press outside a Van Nuys fire station Wednesday and gave his plan for adding paramedics and police officers in a new city. Another mayor candidate, Benny Bernal, called for more and better preschool programs to help reduce crime. Meanwhile, mayor hopeful Bruce Boyer and three council candidates said they would retain the $1,000-a-month salary that new city officials would get, and not seek to increase it.

Wednesday, Sept. 25

•  How hot has it been in the Valley? Hot enough to drive ants up to the third floor apartment of Polizeros.com in search of a drink and a meal.

•  Larry Mantle spoke on yesterday’s Airtalk with CalTech political science professor Michael Alvarez about secession and other Nov. 5 election issues. KPCC-FM (89.3) now posts Airtalk and Talk of the City audio on-line. Valley commentator Joel Kotkin was on today though the subject was housing.

•  Author and critic David L. Ulin, saying his piece against secession in the L.A. Weekly, spins a tale of a future Los Angeles riven by “a convocation of wizards gathered to cast a spell upon the people, telling them L.A.’s problems had become intractable, that the only solution was to secede.” After the Valley and Hollywood follow Carthay Circle, West Adams, Fairfax, Venice, Century City. The former Los Angeles splinters into rival enclaves, not unlike the “burbclaves” of Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash, thousands of armed mini-cities with walls, guard towers, tolls and curfews. Then the people rise up to stop the madness and demand reunification, a movement that prevails in a five-day siege of the Beverly Hills border: “L.A. was again a community – a community with no center, no fixed identity, but a community nonetheless. And when the bulldozers finally started rolling forward, Sullivan looked up at the clear blue, soon-to-be-unpartitioned sky, and knew that there was now a chance that everyone might live happily ever after, after all.”

•  The Valley Industry and Commerce Association gives a big boost to the secession cause by endorsing break-up in a vote of members. The statement by the Valley’s most influential business group is huge, even if the vote itself reflects deep ambivalence. Of 285 ballots sent to member companies, just 174 were returned. Of those, only 86, or 49%, called on VICA to endorse secession, while 71 said either take no position or didn’t state a preference, and 17 members were opposed. So just 30% of VICA’s members sparked what could be the most important decision in the group’s history. VICA has been arguably the Valley’s most effective business lobbyist at City Hall since its 1949 founding, but on Tuesday chairman Fred Gaines declared, “The creation of a new Valley city will be good for business on both sides of the hill.” Whether the endorsement will turn into major money for the pro campaign remains to be seen, but it does mark a clean sweep of leading business groups in the Valley. In the Times story, secession foe Kam Kuwata gloats crudely that the anti campaign made the secessionists sweat to win the VICA endorsement: “Basically, they lost the entire summer working on this.” The LAT also reports that the police union in L.A. has begun to air radio ads opposing the break-up.

•  The poverty rate in the Valley soared to 15.3% in the 1990s, jumping by more than half, but it remains much lower than the 26% rate in the rest of Los Angeles, according to an analysis for the Daily News by CSUN professor Eugene Turner.

•  A Daily News editorial calls the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. nothing but a political slush fund “rife with abuse.”

Tuesday, Sept. 24

•  Secession issues command key spots in the SFV Business Journal dated Sept. 16, on newstands and the Web now. Editor Michael Hart opines that there seem to be two camps in the Valley business community: those who feel the break-up fight is lost, and optimists who feel it could win but are anxiously waiting for the campaign to get serious. He predicts, incidentally, that VICA will endorse secession, and discusses whether the Valley’s “premier business advocacy group” should have jumped in sooner. Separately, reporter Jacqueline Fox revisits the Vyonne Burke-sponsored study on secession’s impact on blacks, and talks to critics who say it was a case of Over The Hill playing the race card. Those two SFVBJ items are free; for $3 each, you can also click on an interview with mayoral candidate Keith Richman and yet another feature story on the woman at Valley Pet News who believes that cityhood would be good for cats and dogs. After she was written up by Secession Watch, she also appeared in the L.A. Times.

•  A brief story on L.A. United returning its $25,000 donation from the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. makes the pages of BackStage.com, by way of the Hollywood Reporter.

• A lot of business owners would love to be free of the Los Angeles’ business receipts tax and other city levies, the Daily News’ Evan Pondel finds. For some it’s the driving motivation for their support of secession, along with the other rules and costs that make L.A. an expensive place to do business. “The business climate in the Valley is a disaster,” says Walt Mosher, chairman of Pacoima-based Precision Dynamics.

•  The Daily News editorial page declares its new love for Ruth Galanter, praising the councilwoman’s recent candid remarks on the poor condition of her inherited Valley district. The editorial reasonably assigns blame to the Valley’s elected politicians, but does seem rather glib in saying their only sin was in turning loyal to the downtown Establishment. This lets Valley civic leaders off the hook for decades of exerting influence over zoning and other far-reaching decisions, excuses lethargic Valley voters who rewarded the pols by sending them back to city hall year after year, and downplays the effect of plain old incompetence.

Fresh off a buzz-generating first story on rats in Beverly Hills, the New York Times’ new man in L.A., Charlie LeDuff, chips in 1200 words on Valley secession. He leads with the nostalgia for the Valley of yore angle, told via Jerry England in Chatsworth (including a photo on horseback). The story doesn’t fess up that England’s a city council candidate though. The piece jumps off from the poll numbers to spend a fair bit of time pondering what follows a secession defeat. There’s talk from both sides of the issue coming back for another try two years hence. This begs for further reporting by someone local. Would the LAFCO process start all over, with new petitions and studies? With no appreciably better chance of secession prevailing, would it be harder a second time to build a motivated team to lead the cause? Could Camelot be left off the ballot next time? (OK, kidding on that one.) The NYT quotes Mayor Hahn, council president Alex Padilla, the ubiquitous quip foursome of Close and Katz, Kuwata and Levine — and yours truly — and revisits the record of intra-mural secessions where one Valley community quits another.

•  Valley candidate David Hernandez gets some coverage in La Opinion as one of three Latino Republicans running in local elections this fall. He’s one of the two-timers: he’s running for a secession seat and also against Howard Berman for Congress.

Monday, Sept. 23

•  Columnist Dan Walters in the Sacramento Bee mentions Valley secession as an example of the local conflicts and calls for change that he says are making state politicians irrelevant. Instead of looking to elected officials for answers, voters are settling the big questions themselves, Walters argues: “The questions being asked in Los Angeles this year can easily be applied to the state as a whole.”

•  The Philadelphia Inquirer sent a national correspondent out to do a once-over, lightly pegged to mild secession sentiment in Philly’s Northeast enclave and the size comparison to a Valley city. Surprising number of factual errors — six council members not two, American Graffiti was about Modesto not the SFV, it’s Kam Kuwata not Katawa, for example — but it has a decent rendering of the point of view that the core of the Valley’s historic grievance is about respect. He commits a bad, in SW’s view, when he lets Larry Levine give some needed perspective, but qualifies him only as a longtime Valleyite not as a paid anti-secession campaign partisan. (Oscar Mendoza also appears as a civilian, not a candidate). Secession Watch may start to keep track of the imagery the out-of-towners choose to use in their ledes — this one goes the 1776 route.

•  After seeing the Daily News Sunday article on the mayor candidates, blogger Steve Smith concludes “I’m beginning to think my write-in candidacy is doable.” Smith, who lives “south of Valley Vista” in Sherman Oaks, writes at Smythe’s World. Among the planks in his, um, platform, he’d like to see an NFL franchise at a stadium to be built in the Encino hills. Yeah, it’s tongue-in-cheek…

•  Patt Morrison says in her “Inside Politics” column in the L.A. Times that Ted Stein, the city power player (and public enemy #1 in Chatsworth) whose Encino home served as host to a big anti-secession fundraiser recently, is vacationing in Spain with—Richard Close, the head of Valley VOTE. It’s the second time the rivals and their wives have traveled together, she reports. Close jokes that taking Stein out of the country gives his side a chance to catch up. Morrison also has an item that mayor candidate Bruce Boyer planned to disrupt the Stein event, but had the wrong address.

The Hollywood secession question isn’t capturing much of the public’s fascination, the L.A. Times finds during a day of hanging around as both sides try to attract some interest.

•  A Daily News editorial urges voters not to be concerned that the Valley candidates differ on the details — “which can always be worked out later.” It’s the common desire to not be like Los Angeles that matters.

•  Associated Press is working on a series of occasional secession stories out of its Los Angeles bureau. This look at Hollywood secessionsuggests they are starting to move out on the wire.

Sunday, Sept. 22

•  When Mayor James K. Hahn crosses Mulholland Drive these days, he leaves friendly territory behind,” begins a story in the Sunday Washington Post by L.A. bureau chief William Booth. The piece says that Hahn has begun to alienate the Valley voters who elected him, and perhaps more important to his political future, is raising doubts even among his friends that he is up to the job of leading Los Angeles. In the Post’s reckoning, Eli Broad and others stepped in to rescue the L.A. United effort, unimpressed by the mayor’s early strategy against secession. Arnold Steinberg, the GOP political consultant who has extra cred with reporters because he is a Valley conservative who talks critically about secession, says Hahn has lucked out: “He is lucky that secession is such a bumbling effort.” More brutal assessment of Hahn from David Fleming, the secession bankroller and Hahn appointee who gave up his post on the Ethics Commission to campaign for break-up. He calls the mayor “a child of the status quo” and a follower, “not a leader.” (Fleming’s name is misspelled on the Post Web site).

•  In an opinion piece in the Daily News, CSUN professor Shirley Svorny brings some reasoned analysis to the discussion of cities (including L.A.) and their ability to attract and use federal funds. She supports breaking up Los Angeles, but suggests that “concern over federal funds is a poor criterion for judging the merits of secession.” Rather, voters should look at all the benefits of a smaller city, she says.

Ladies and gentlemen, here are your candidates for mayor of the Valley. James Nash in the Daily News gives a few grafs to all 10, from the presumed majors to the local government gadflies and everyone in between. Belief in smaller, more responsive government is the common thread, Nash concludes. Aside from the issues, it would be nice to see some solid reporting on their political track records — what have they stood for before? — and on their motives for running. Richman and Wilson, for instance, seem to have nothing to lose except some money, but what will they gain even if secession goes down to defeat? Higher profiles in local politics is one aspect, and Richman will have his Assembly seat, but maybe there is more to it. Some of the same questions should, and hopefully will be, asked of the council candidates by somebody.

The Contra Costa Times drops in on the Valley and declares it to be “an unlikely place for a rebellion.” Unlikely? While the strength of secession sentiment is still untested, most observers who look at the Valley’s history would say it’s exactly the kind of place that would talk about leaving. In the story, which also looks at the Hollywood breakup campaigns, a professor at Cal State Sacramento says secession would likely spark imitators around the state.

Valley Culture Watch: Oops, White Oleander was left off last week’s list of upcoming films where the story is set at least partly in the ValleyWhite Oleander, from the Jane Fitch novel, stars Michelle Pfeiffer, Renee Zellweger and Robin Wright Penn but the girl at the center of the story, Astrid, is played by Alison Lohman.

Valley Culture Watch II: Nice quote from historian Matt Roth in a Daily News story on Mulholland Drive, which opened in 1924 as a scenic dirt road to nowhere: “It’s the perfect highway for Los Angeles — it cost $1 million, it didn’t go anywhere, but it looked fabulous.”

Valley Culture Watch III: Angelo Buono, one of the infamous Hillside Stranglers who kidnapped women off Valley streets and tortured and killed them in his Glendale garage, died in his prison cell. “Oh, good!” former DA Robert Philibosian exclaimed at hearing the news.

What is the old saying about best-laid plans going awry?… Secession Watch found itself on the road with a defective Internet hookup from Thursday to Sunday. Brief entries for Sept. 19-21 are posted below. Entries for Sunday Sept. 22, will be posted shortly. It’s back to business as usual on Monday. Sorry for any inconvenience.

Saturday, Sept. 21

•  Saturday roundup: The anti-secession L.A. United campaign revealed it had gotten $25,000, not $10,000, from the quasi-public Entertainment Industry Development Corp., and will return the cash. Elected officials also queued up to get off the EIDC gravy train. Times report, Daily News report … Candidates for Valley mayor have differing opinions on whether a new city should move right away to break up the school district. The Daily News and the Times have stories … Good insight into the differences in city infrastructure between the Valley and the Westside in a Daily News story on uprooted city council lame-duck Ruth Galanter: “Frankly, the Westside doesn’t realize how good they’ve got it.” Related story on sewers coming — finally — to a Sun Valley neighborhood.

Friday, Sept. 20

•  Friday roundup: Secession candidates Keith Richman and Mel Wilson ventured deep into the L.A. maw to sell the break-up to what the Daily News calls “the downtown crowd”, but apparently to no avail … Column One in the Times from Long Island, Maine, a small city that the story calls “one of the nation’s few secession successes.” … More criticism in Chatsworth of the city council’s decision to appeal a court ruling that went against developer and anti-secession fundraiser Ted Stein … Daily News editorializes that the emerging scandal over use of funds by the Entertainment Industry Development Council is “Tinseltown’s latest tawdry tale of decadence, corruption and greed” and declares DA Cooley its early hero of this drama. Meanwhile, the EIDC head defends giving money to Pittsburgh for its effort to lure production.

Thursday, Sept. 19

•  Thursday roundup: Keith Richman detailed his plan (Daily News and Times) to break a new Valley city into seven boroughs, something other mayoral candidates generally panned … Beth Barrett in the Daily News breaks the story that the EIDC, which is supposed to encourage film crews to shoot in Los Angeles, spent $10,000 to help the Pittsburgh (!) film office attract business … The L.A. Times follows up on a Secession Watch posting of a few weeks ago with a feature on a newsletter editor who argues, quite seriously, that secession will be good for pets. She heard from several reporters after the SW item appeared … At New Times, The Finger looks at the EIDC another way … An L.A. Times editorial looks ahead to the post-election hangover that probably awaits…The City Council convened last night in Lake View Terrace hoping to defuse secession talk, with barbecue, Girl Scouts and a Holstein cow on the scene … The Field Poll surveyed California voters who can’t vote on secession what they think anyway. Statewide, 43% think secession would be good for the Valley, and 46% say it would be bad for Los Angeles. A third of those polled had no opinion. Report in the San Francisco Chronicle or data junkies can go right to the Field Poll site.

Wednesday, Sept. 18

• Uh-oh, the pro-secession loyalists are riled now. A Valley Secession Fever screed rants at Secession Watch that the Daily News was right to not mention that its favorite Rose Institute study was paid for by secession leaders. Basically, the blog says 1) Everybody knows David Fleming and the Daily News are for secession, and 2) Readers could look it up on the search function. And just too bad for occasional followers of the issue, which is most people in the Valley, or anyone who (gasp) actually reads the print newspaper and not the Web site. Sorry, you don’t have to be against secession or a tool of the L.A. Times to see that the DN broke a rule. The DN even ran a separate sidebar on who paid for the study — and didn’t let on that the backers are secession leaders. A long history wasn’t required, just a nod. It’s Journalism 101, and every other paper got it right. Incidentally, the Daily News denies that its news coverage is skewed to push secession, but as VSF shows, the true believers assume it is on a mission and like it that way. It’s a fairly unusual profile for a mass-market U.S. newspaper, especially one with a potential reader base so divided. That’s why the DN’s coverage will become a bigger not smaller part of the unfolding story, for Secession Watch and quite likely others. The L.A. Times’ openly-stated editorial page opposition and peculiar story selection is not in the same league, but we’re watching them too. VSF acts as if he just discovered that the editor of this Web site has ties to the Times. Well, he’s known of them a long time. He learned it here, from the many times they have been cited or disclosed. VSF himself has commented on them before, so go figure. Partisans believe strongly; they only want media that makes their side look good, and they hear things selectively. But if there’s a more bi-partisan, complete and independent gathering of news and comment on Valley secession than this one, we’d love to see it. And it’s an all-volunteer effort. Wondering what this is about? Scroll down two items.

• Culture Watch: Another Valley-based movie is about to launch. Fate of the Blade is said to be a cross between Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragonand Clueless, another film in which the Valley played a part. In Fate, an adopted Asian American teen living in the Valley turns out to be the sole surviving descendant of a Samurai clan. Next month, the latest film with a Valley setting by Paul Thomas Anderson hits theater screens. Punch-Drunk Love is a romantic comedy that stars Adam Sandler and Emily Watson and includes two mainstays of the Anderson-Valley oeuvre, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Luis Guzman.

• The Daily News makes the Rose Institute analysis of Los Angeles fiscal performance its top news story AGAIN today — with the lead quote from FOTDN (Friend of the Daily News) David Fleming. He is portrayed as a neutral study co-sponsor, when in truth he is a top bankroller of the secession cause. OK you say, maybe it’s an honest and ethical oversight? Well, also for the second day in a row, the DN feels the need to run a sidebar assuring readers that the Rose study is on the up and up. In doing so, it admits that $65,000 for the study came from a Valley group formed by Fleming and Bert Boeckmann. So far so good. But it describes the men only as “community leaders” — no mention that they are the sugar daddies of the secession effort, and have been since 1998 when it was revealed that their co-partner in secretly financing the movement was….yes, the Daily News. Shame on reporter Beth Barrett and her editors. Fleming, a lawyer at Latham & Watkins, is the heavyweight of the secession camp, and he’s leading the drive to get the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. to endorse break-up. (The DN coyly urged only that the group take some position). Meanwhile, Tuesday brings another DN editorial pegged to the Rose study. This Rose Institute business seems like a weak point for the paper to risk its credibility on, especially with national reporters flooding the Valley this week to write about secession. The Daily News values the study most as a tool to shoot down anti-secession claims that an independent Valley would lose clout — which it does well, or did before the taint of being bought by Fleming and friends. But so what? The anti side is hardly basing its campaign on the clout issue. Even so, the DN has run a dozen items since August 22 — including cartoons — citing Rose or the grants and clout discussion.

•  The Rev. Zedar E. Broadous, whose family name counts for something in the Northeast Valley, became the top African American leader to endorse secession. Broadous is president of the Valley’s NAACP chapter and chair of the Black Chamber of Commerce in the Valley. (Neither group has endorsed secession). Broadous’s father was a key Valley leader during the racial tensions of the 1960s and ’70s and his name is on Hillery Broadous Elementary School. It’s not a surprise since Broadous was on the board of Valley VOTE, but a good pickup anyway. Not a clear beat for the pro side though, since also on Tuesday the state’s oldest black democratic club came out against secession.

Tuesday, Sept. 17

•  Quote Watch: “One can hardly drive into the Valley without becoming aware of streets recently paved or under construction.” A wry comment on the secession-deflecting siege of public works going on now? Nooo. The remark is from a University of Chicago graduate dissertation written in — 1928.

•  L.A. United, the anti-secession effort that Mayor James Hahn spearheads, finally has a campaign Web site (launited.org) up. It’s slick, with a slide show of Los Angeles scenes and the logos of break-up opponents, the case against secession, many links and a calendar of events. Of the 10 “Feature Articles” on the front page, obviously picked to help make the case, seven are from the Times, only one from the Daily News. On the pro-secession side, mayor candidate Keith Richman has his new site up as well. Twenty-eight Valley candidates now have a working Web presence, and all are linked here.

• Secession proponents are questioning the neutrality of The Civic Forum, a group formed to offer self-described objective information on the break-up issue. In particular, the Civic Forum’s 16-page voter guide and weekly television series, Secession 101, have irked some secession leaders. The examples of suspected bias cited in the Times story, however, seem a bit like nit-picking; just a guess, but let’s surmise there have been suspicions among the Valleyistas about the forum’s leanings all along. Its head, Ken Bernstein, used to work for Laura Chick, the city controller opposed to secession. On the other hand, partisans in any fight often see bias where all that exists is insufficient favoritism to their side.

•  The L.A. Times runs an Op-ed piece from Mayor James Hahn on the process of appointing a new police chief. Secession does not come up.

•  If nothing else, the Daily News is predictable. Once again, after a front page news story that suggests the Valley gets screwed, the paper follows up with an editorial that’s angry at the unfairness of it all, blames downtown and urges that secession would set things right. This time, it’s about the Valley getting less than its share of federal dollars. The story ran Sunday, and on Tuesday, under the headline “Stiffed Again,” the DN channels its argument through Rep. Brad Sherman. It’s an old crusading-newspaper trick, coordinating editorials to ensure that a story receives two days of exposure, and gets the proper spin. A lot of papers do it, but the DN is piling it on so heavy it seems a tacit admission that the secession campaign needs help. (Thankfully the DN usually eschews reporters filing self-serving “reaction” stories, a gambit favored for many years at the L.A. Times after the publication of exposes, especially those that didn’t quite have the zing to set the town buzzing for real).
Speaking of piling on: After touting for weeks a study by the Rose Institute — finally released Tuesday — that supports its belief that L.A. is flawed, the DN runs a sidebar touting the institute’s credibility. The sidebar does point out that the study was partly paid for by secessionists. The Times notes it also was overseen by secession leader Bob Scott.

•Interesting story by Dana Bartholomew in the Daily News about a neighborhood dispute over building too much house on one lot — an issue riling up residents in many areas of the city. What makes this one extra compelling is it touches on the future of equestrian zoning, and it is set in the little-known but historic community of Stonehurst, a corner of Sun Valley developed in the 1920s with homes built of river boulders. Stonehurst seems to exist in a time warp, with dirt streets and small rock houses.

•  The Daily News catches up on the TV ads for Hollywood secessionfrom yesterday and adds the news that SFV Independence isn’t ready yet with any commercials. Hahn’s side has ads ready go to, but will be holding them in reserve.

Monday, Sept. 16

•  On this day in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev dropped in on Granada Hills. Crowds lined Balboa Boulevard to see his motorcade, but Khrushchev wasn’t too happy about his sojourn in the Valley. See a special feature at History and Lore on AmericasSuburb.com for more on the visit.

•  Quoting just four hopefuls by name, Harrison Shepard summarizes in the Daily News that “many candidates…have remarkably similar visions” of what a Valley city would be like. You know, less government, longer library hours, faster filling of potholes, etc. It probes not deep at all, and even then there’s a proviso: “They may disagree on details.” Hard to tell what the point was in the DN doing this story, since it won’t even serve to reassure doubters that secession is viable. The paper couldn’t find a single political analyst who talks up secession’s chances, and quotes anti-campaign leader Larry Levine saying, “I anticipate it would be a pretty much directionless city.” One of his arguments is that, even if secession wins, the chances of getting a second voter approval to make the city council full-time (at a full-time salary) are slim to…well, let’s hear it in Levine’s words: “I don’t think there is a snowball’s chance in the Mojave Desert.” (Climate Watch: Snow falls in the Mojave just about every winter, for what it’s worth.)

• Hollywood secession is coming to TV…cable anyway. The campaign for Hollywood independence has bought time on Adelphia Cable for a pair of 30-second spots produced by former local TV and radio newsman Bob Jiminez. (His wife works for the secession campaign). If the commercials manage to win over any voters, that helps the Valley break-up cause.

•  The Daily News’ Jason Kandel stays up on the unfolding street gang violence situation in the Valley. Here’s the stunning statistic: 20,000 members of 80 different gangs in the Valley, according to police. Three people have been killed and seven wounded since Labor Day. Just on Sunday, police reported a drive-by shooting in Pacoima that killed a 23-year-old woman and the Winnetka shooting of a 15-year-old boy.

• The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation sponsors a major conference on secession, boroughs and other Los Angeles reform issues this Thursday and Friday at USC. Most of the heavy secession topics are on the agenda for Friday, Sept. 20.

Weekend, Sept. 14-15

•  An intriguing and potentially potent issue arose in a Sunday Opinion piece in the L.A. Times called “The Next Great Water War.” Water rates in a new Valley city

would have to rise at least 23% due to provisions in the Los Angeles city charter that neither LAFCO nor a majority vote on secession can change, the former general manager of the Department of Water and Power and a former city attorney contend. Outside entities that buy water from the DWP — such as Universal City and the city of West Hollywood — pay the higher rate now. In addition, the writers suggest that future plans for development in the Valley would be constrained by laws that require a secure source of water. Los Angeles has that secure source, its contracting customers may not. A new Valley city would surely protest the higher water rates, but would have to do so without the political heft it enjoys today in Los Angeles city hall. That heft bought the Valley a break from higher rates in 1992. This is one of those rare Opinion pieces that demands a response from the other side and some independent reporting.

• The L.A. City Council voted Friday to appeal a court ruling over land in Chatsworth that went against Ted Stein, a major supporter of Mayor James Hahn and his anti-secession campaign. The council action followed by just days a fund-raiser at Stein’s Encino home that raised more than $500,000 to oppose secession. The city’s blessing of Stein’s desire to develop 6.7 acres on Topanga Canyon Blvd. has irked fans of Chatsworth’s rustic nature and fed secession sentiment there.

• Secession ardor has cooled to almost nothing in the San Pedro area, the Times’ Kristina Sauerwein reports on Sunday. Andrew Mardesich, who led the Harbor area’s unscuccessful break-away bid, and who signed the ballot argument on behalf of Valley secession, says: “I’m not as enthusiastic as before. People here aren’t enthusiastic either. We’re stuck with L.A.” Valley secession boosters reply that they still hope to pick up votes in San Pedro. In the LAT Opinion section, political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe argues that the better-funded, labor-fueled forces opposed to secession will do a better job of getting out the vote on Nov. 5, and thus Gov. Gray Davis and other Democratic candidates will benefit.

•  The Sunday Daily News returns again to the issue of the Valley getting a smaller share of

federal grants than its population might suggest. The story concludes, after looking at Phoenix and San Diego, that an independent Valley would likely take in more in federal aid than it does under Los Angeles. The DN’s lead editorial makes clear who the paper’s editors have cast in the role of villain in the secession drama. They accuse Mayor James Hahn of being dishonest and a liar “who has spread every far-fetched fabrication about secession imaginable.” In opposing secession he also has “shamelessly cast aspersions on good people,” the paper complains. An editorial cartoon equates Hahn with Marie Antoinette, but the guffaws evoked by this historical stretch won’t be the ones cartoonist Patrick O’Connor intended.

•  Several areas of the Valley already have experience with secession — they broke away from unpopular communities to form entirely new places on the map. The latest was Lake Balboa, which left Van Nuys in search of a better reputation. In Sunday’s Daily News, business writer Greg Wilcox looks at the effect on real estate values of these intra-mural secessions.

•  The Daily News’ revamped Web site looked like an improvement with a few bugs last weekend. A week later, it’s still riddled with mistaken links, confused headings and dead ends. Time to get it right. The bigger impact, though, for followers of Secession Watch and other Web sites is that the redesign made the links to older stories invalid. You are taken instead to the DN main page, then you have to use their search function. Another lesson in how not to be user friendly on-line.

•  Stephanie Carter, who led the only serious effort to break away Valley schools from the Los Angeles district, says that cityhood would not lead to schools secession. The state Board of Education, which controls the formation of local districts, has already rejected secession from the giant LAUSD. Carter announced Friday that she opposes cityhood for the Valley, appearing at a Reseda press conference with Proposition F opponent and former school board member Bobbi Fielder.

•  The Daily News carries a Saturday story based on its own calculations that concludes the Valley gets the short end of federal grants and other funds pumped into Los Angeles. There’s a separate story on how difficult it was to obtain the data.

•  The Times runs an op-ed essay by a TV writer-producer who lives happily in the Valley and respectfully thumbs her nose at former neighbors who moved on to the newer, less diverse suburbs that today ring the Valley.

•  The county Democratic Party endorsed just two candidates for offices in a new Valley city, rejecting the 18 others it considered as unqualified. The pair deemed worthy by the party central committee are Scott Svonkin, chief of staff to Assemblyman Paul Koretz of West Hollywood, and attorney Ronald Clary. Svonkin is running for Valley council in the Studio City area, Clary in Canoga Park. What’s interesting here is that the Democratic Party of the Valley announced early it would decline to endorse anyone on the secession ballot, since it opposes the break-up. The county committee also opposes secession, but decided to endorse.

Friday, Sept. 13

•  What went wrong with the once-hailed Entertainment Industry Development Corp. is analyzed in the L.A. Business Journal, which quotes a Rose Institute scholar saying that political contributions by such non-profit, public-private entities “just isn’t done.” The EIDC was formed under the watch of Mayor Richsard Riordan to streamline the granting of film permits. Says Riordan now: “I was very pleased with the agency’s progress – until I started hearing about the political donations about 18 months ago.” The Business Journal also looks ahead to next spring’s Los Angeles city council races.

•  Another big debate over the hill has been scheduled. On Sept. 19, the secession issue goes downtown for a debate sponsored by the Central City Association, the group that represents downtown property owners. Keith Richman, candidate for Valley mayor, will go up against city council members Tom LaBonge and Cindy Miscikowski.

•  A political analysis by the L.A. Times’ city hall reporters makes a link between secession and Mayor James Hahn’s appointments of labor figures to key city commissions. Hahn named Madeline Janis-Aparicio to the CRA board at the urging of labor leader Miguel Contreras, the story says, and is contemplating several other labor-friendly appointments. Many union leaders favored Antonio Villaraigosa in the last mayoral race, but the mayor and labor have bonded to fight against secession.

• Mayor Hahn came out to the Valley Thursday to cast doubts on the pledge of Valley candidates to keep rent controls in a new city, and some of them didn’t appreciate having their honesty challenged. It sounds as if the press conference was mostly interesting for the pro-secession hecklers who turned up to make things noisy. Such low-brow tactics as disrupting press conferences have come from both sides in this campaign, and it doesn’t make either side look very good. In the Daily News story, candidate Keith Richman repeats his call on Hahn to debate him. Uh-uh, Hahn’s spokesman says. Hahn also said Thursday he sees nothing wrong with the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. contributing money from filming fees to political races, including $10,000 to his anti-secession effort.

Thursday, Sept. 12

• Secession 101 now airs daily on Channel 36 on cable TV systems in Los Angeles. Older shows air every day at 2:30 p.m. New programs are seen on Sundays and repeats of that week’s offering run on Wednesday nights at 8 p.m. This week’s show discusses the optimum size for a municipality and includes guests Geoffrey Segal of the Reason Foundation, Joel Fox of the Valley Indepedence Committee, professor Gene Grigsby from UCLA and professor Max Neiman from UC Riverside. It’s produced by the The Civic Forum.

•  A surprising finding out of USC: The Valley has fewer homeowner associations and community organizations than other areas of Los Angeles, rich and poor. The study’s authors suggest that this is because the Valley — despite its reputation for political foment over secession, taxes, dumps et al — actually has a more tranquil history of upset than other sections of the city. It’s the latest installment of the occasional Secession Sketchbook feature in the L.A. Times.

•  The Economic Alliance of SFV volunteered a plan for education reform on Wednesday, and the Daily News used the occasion to ask the top two Valley mayor candidates, Keith Richman and Mel Wilson, their ideas for the schools.

Wednesday, Sept. 11

•  The Los Angeles Magazine profile of Ron Kaye, the Daily News managing editor whose role in the secession movement has come under scrutiny, is finally on-line. The September issue hit the streets more than three weeks ago but the magazine’s web site lagged behind.

Earlier SW coverage and reaction

•  The Valley’s Democratic Party is opening its fall campaign headquarters on Saturday, offering anti-secession yard signs and buttons to the faithful. Saturday is also the day The Leadership Institute from Virginia holds an all-day session in the Valley to train the conservative faithful how to push secession and other causes.

Earlier institute item

•  The L.A. city council and the county Board of Supervisors jumped into the fray over the Entertainment Industry Development Corp., the same day that various public officials claimed not to know they were on the group’s board or had gotten its money. Here’s the first L.A. Times story — which reported the $10,000 donation to the anti-secession campaign — that got this mini-scandal going.

• One of the unknown Valley mayoral candidates, Bruce Boyer, found a way to get noticed Tuesday. He flipped out, it seems in the Daily News story. Applying his own screwy take on the legal system, Boyer declared the secession process invalid and said a new city should violate state law and refuse to pay alimony to Los Angeles.

Tuesday, Sept. 10

•  L.A. County Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke came out against secession, citing the results of a study she commissioned, but this move was never in doubt. Burke represents a middle-of-Los Angeles district and had been fairly hostile to the secession cause at the LAFCO hearings earlier this year. It does mean that the anti-secession side will enjoy pretty much a clean sweep among African American leaders. Of the other county Supes to take a stand, Mike Antonovich is for and Gloria Molina against.

•  Secession advocates staged a media event Monday outside the offices of the Entertainment Industry Development Corporation, protesting its cash donations to the anti-breakup campaigns. Carlos Ferreyra of SFV Independence and others called for the county to take over the quasi-public entity that collects fees from studios and producers in exchange for permits to film on city streets. As the LAT and Daily News reported Saturday, the EIDC has given $10,000 of its income to the anti-secession effort headed by Mayor James Hahn, plus much more to other political candidates. In the DN, District Attorney Steve Cooley said there is reason to believe laws were broken and urged the elected officials who run the EIDC to impose sweeping reforms. A DN editorial demands that the agency be “disbanded immediately.” La Opinion also covers the brewing scandal (in English from Google).

Monday, Sept. 9

•  What happens to gay rights in a new SFV city with more-conservative elected officials than Los Angeles, which has passed several gay-friendly laws? “It scares me to think that one would have to fight those battles all over again,” says Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Association, in a story in Frontiers magazine. The gay and lesbian community paper notes that domestic-partner benefits for city employees and anti-discrimination ordinances could be legally abandoned 120 days after a new city forms. The story suggests that the front-runner status of mayoral hopeful Keith Richman, a Republican state Assemblyman, is reason enough to fear things could change for the worse. (It doesn’t allege that Richman, a social moderate, is unfriendly to gays, only that he has not taken the lead in their behalf). A gay field operative for the secession campaign makes the counter argument, and the story acknowledges there are liberals and out-of-the-closet gays and lesbians, including SFV Independence co-chair Laurette Healey, among secession backers. Meanwhile, Mayor James Hahn is set to ride in the Valley’s gay pride parade on October 13.

•  Culture Watch: A letter to the editor in the L.A. Times reminisces about Von Dutch, the Valley car customizer whose art is on display at the CSUN gallery.

What the heck we’re talking about

•  A long story by Billy Witz in the Daily News asks whether recreation and parks would improve or decline under a new Valley city. No answer to the question is provided, or easily available.

• The L.A. Times’ Daryl Kelley examines more deeply the
Centennial project that would add 23,000 homes to a rural swath along Interstate 5 at the Grapevine, north of the San Fernandso Valley.

• The Times spends the day Sunday with the North Hollywood police division
homicide desk, which finds itself quite busy this year.

Weekend, Sept. 7-8

•  Three Valley candidates are critical of the tactics of the pro-break-up effort in an L.A. Times Sunday analysis that calls the secession campaign “short on cash, endorsements and high-profile candidates.” While optimism abounds in the secession ranks, and loyalists predict a grassroots revolt ala Proposition 13, pollster Paul Goodwin says more soberly that, for most L.A. voters, “There’s no call for revolution.”

•  “With secession in the air, it is especially important that the new chief understand the diversity of the city,” former Secretary of State Warren Christopher says of the next Los Angeles police chief. The Times on Sunday analyzes the issues facing Mayor Jim Hahn as he ponders the open chief’s job.

•  Mary Helen Ponce, a Sunland writer whose wonderful book Hoyt Street let Valley suburbanites see what life was about inside the barrios of Pacoima, pens a letter to the editor in the Daily News Sunday expressing surprise that the council candidates who dub themselves “Valleywomen” have “discovered” Pacoima: “Will wonders never cease?” She urges, however, that the Northeast Valley accept their help.

•  Valley Culture Watch: One in four Glendale residents are of Armenian heritage, the 2000 census found. The city has 51,854 Armenians, up 65% from a decade earlier, and another 38,504 live in the Los Angeles portion of the Valley. In all, the Los Angeles area has the greatest concentration outside Armenia.

•  Dueling, longer-than-usual thoughtful takes on the secession campaign in the blogs, with Politics in the Zeroes making the points against (though he notes he began as a supporter) and Valley Secession Fever dissecting Zeroes’ arguments from the break-up side. VSF also ridicules the Times’ Saturday editorial. At the latter blog, the connection sometimes runs slow, but hang in there, it usually gets there and it can be worth the wait.

•  Redesigned Daily News web site has some minor glitches to work out, but it’s an improvement. The search function has been restored finally — here are the last 100 secession stories and editorials.

•  The quasi-public agency that issues official filming permits in Los Angeles — and collects fees from studios and production companies — donated $10,000 from its coffers to Mayor Hahn’s anti-secession campaign, the L.A. Times reports Saturday. Kam Kuwata, Hahn’s consultant, acknowledged that the mayor solicited the donation from the Entertainment Industry Development Corp. Secession leaders called Friday for an investigation by the City Ethics Commission. The story involves a larger investigation of EIDC practices, since the fees it collects for permits are tantamount to public funds, raising the question: why are they giving any money to political campaigns? At least a dozen elected officials who sit on the EIDC board also received campaign contributions. The EDIC’s mission is to promote filming in this region over Canada or other places — so how does that square with fighting secesion?

• An anti-secession editorial in Saturday’s Times doesn’t actually
argue anything flawed about secession, but it muses about Aristotle and has an interesting list of the U.S. cities that are larger — in area — than Los Angeles. These include Juneau, Anchorage and Jacksonville, Fla. A Daily News editorial urges the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn. to take a position — any position other than neutral — on secession or forfeit its claim to speak on behalf of the Valley. And they complain that Hahn’s backers are putting on the pressure…

• More grousing from within the Valley about the prospects for the pro-secession campaign, in this week’s Los Angeles Business Journal ($3 to read). Martin Cooper, a vice-chair of VICA, says of business leaders, “there’s frustration and disappointment among those who support secession that a more pervasive campaign hasn’t happened yet.” Echoing what Secession Watch suggested yesterday, Cooper goes on: “These businesspeople are growing increasingly concerned that the campaign won’t be successful.” Another Valley figure, Republican political consultant Arnold Steinberg, says the pro-secession campaign has missed so many opportunities to make gains, “It’s now theoretically possible to launch a campaign, but there’s a sense that the greatest window of opportunity has passed.” Valley independence leaders quoted say they are waiting until after Labor Day and Sept. 11 to get started in earnest, but the Hollywood campaign apparently had enough of the delays and hired its own campaign advisers to pursue a different course than the Valley’s firm of Goddard Claussen Porter Novelli.

• This weekend on Secession 101: How a new city would be staffed. Guests of host Ken Bernstein include Laurette Healey and Bob Scott of the San Fernando Valley Independence Committee, Maggie Whelan, general manager of the city of Los Angeles personnel department, and Julie Butcher, general manager of Service Employees International Union Local 347. The show runs Sunday at 11:30 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. and Tuesday at 8:00 p.m. on Channel 36, which is on all cable systems in the city of Los Angeles.

Friday, Sept. 6

• In-fighting over one of the last treasures left in the endorsement goodie bag spilled into the open Thursday, as five past chairmen of the Valley Industry and Commerce Association wrote a letter urging the group’s members to take a pro-secession stand. The Daily News’ James Nash reports exclusively on the letter and lobbying by anti-breakup forces to get VICA to remain neutral, but the story only touches on what’s at stake here. VICA enjoys the most political clout in city hall of any Valley business group because it includes a broad membership base of industry leaders from both sides of the hill, and has not ritually sung the anti-Los Angeles tune in the past. The letter by David Fleming and other past leaders argues that VICA must take a stand for secession to avoid becoming irrelevant. However, with every poll so far showing that secession will likely lose, internal debate is raging over whether it is worth risking VICA’s standing as a player to make what could be a symbolic gesture of Valley solidarity. The members’ ballots are due back Sept. 13, and if no position — for, against or remain neutral — gets a majority, the group will stay out of the race unless two-thirds of the board members agree on a stance. Several story lines already are shaping up for post-Nov. 5, and one is whither VICA as a player. Ever since it formed in 1949 to introduce industrial zoning to the west Valley, its high-level but quiet lobbying has had alot to do with creating the Valley as we know it today. One potential scenario: a negotiated face-saving middle ground that does not shatter VICA’s reputation downtown.

Earlier: VICA in squeeze

•  Daily News roundup story lumps together former LAPD chief Bernard Parks explaining his opposition to secession, a replacement for David Fleming being named to the city ethics panel, and a new anti-secession campaign being formed by L.A. city council member Cindy Miscikowski. On the editorial page, the paper continues its practice of spouting the talking points for the secession campaign a day or two after the news stories.

•  The Column One story in the L.A. Times is a look by Sue Fox at how Van Nuys could return from civic oblivion to be the official heart of a new Valley city, if secession should occur. The story includes a nice history capsule on Van Nuys and sheds some possible light on the secession fervor of former State Supreme Court Justice Armand Arabian.

•  Hollywood’s secession bid isn’t often in the news, but the Times on Friday carries the certified list of council candidates and a feature on some of those candidates out on the campaign trail.

Thursday, Sept. 5

•  E-mail brings word of a provocative new web site, Good Riddance Valley.com, billing itself as “Angelenos in Support of Secession.” The site’s message is partly humorous but mostly a diatribe on the Valley as a smoggy, vapid hellhole from which the rest of L.A. should gladly secede: “Why would anyone live there anyway? Direct access to porn?”It also blasts Valley secessionists as racist and elitist, and pictures Ron Kaye, Daily News managing editor, as one of the leaders the Valley should keep on its side of the hill. At the bottom of each page is an anonymous quote, “The Valley is the root of all evil,” and nowhere on the site is any hint of who is behind the group. The web site’s domain name, however, is registered to Laurence Wilcox of Easterly Terrace in Los Angeles; a return e-mail has been sent off seeking more information. Added: Wilcox e-mails back, “We are a group that believe Valley secession is ultimately rational and would be positive for the southland at large. We sincerely believe every word presented and stand by our claims.”

•  The Daily News banners yesterday’s SRAR endorsement — even though the paper had already reported it the day before. In the story, Larry Levine, campaign consultant for One Los Angeles, responds that the real estate pros are just voting their self-interest. A DN editorial calls a city offer to place some statues at the Van Nuys Flyaway Bus terminal an insult to the Valley. On the Op-ed page, Joel Fox of the SFV Independence committee argues that the threat of higher taxes after secession is the anti campaign’s big lie, and he contends that lower business taxes in a new city would lure corporations to relocate to the Valley.

• The L.A. Times covers former police chief
Bernard Parks, now a city council candidate in Los Angeles, coming out against secession. It’s not much of a news angle but still got picked up by, among others, KPCC 89.3 FM and KABC channel 7. Today’s “Only in L.A.” column by Steve Harvey also carries some quotes about the Valley and secession from AmericasSuburb.com.

Wednesday, Sept. 4

•  The L.A. Weekly devotes this week’s paper to a special report on the Los Angeles Police Department that looks impressive at a casual glance. It focuses on the search for a new chief — an issue that’s bound to come up in the secession campaigns — and offers a lot of historical sweep, including a look back at the aftermath of the Rodney King beating that took place in the northeast Valley. The Weekly says much has changed about the LAPD, with a key piece of evidence being that the left-leaning alternative paper got great cooperation from the department for its stories.

•  Uh-oh, four straight items that mention Keith Richman…but there he was tonight, exchanging verbal jousts at USC with John Mack, president of the Los Angeles Urban League since 1969, touching on the racial suspicions that swirl (mostly unmentioned) around secession. They disagreed, civilly, over Richman’s rhetorical objection to the title of the debate, “Secession: Its Impact on Jews and Other Minorities,” and again when Mack suggested that white flight was part of the motivation for secession. Richman offered that blacks should gain power in a smaller Los Angeles, a point on which Mack said that his “folk” don’t agree. The panel of debaters also included councilman Jack Weiss, who opposes the break-up, and Laurette Healey for “independence,” the term now preferred by the pro side. Former mayor Richard Riordan got the first word, calling for more civic togetherness, then he left the room. A lively discussion that ranged widely over the issues then ensued. Adelphia Cable’s cameras took it all in.

•  SFV Independence hopes that today’s formal endorsement of secession by the Southland Regional Association of Realtors turns into an army of real estate agents telling clients they would save about $1,400 on a typical home sale because a new city won’t have L.A.’s document transfer tax. “This is great for us,” co-chair Laurette Healey tells Secession Watch. She adds that having the backing of a group that represents 7,200 real estate professionals helps diminish the argument that secession could hurt property values. Olga Moretti, president of SRAR, called the group’s endorsement an unusual step, but she added that “secession is too big an issue for us to sit on the sidelines.” Mayoral candidates Mel Wilson and Keith Richman — who also both attended yesterday’s rent-control event put on by SFV Independence — pitched this morning for the group’s endorsement. The issue of backing a specific candidate, however, is still being pondered, Moretti says.

•  Mayoral candidate Mel Wilson alerts Secession Watch that his campaign web site is now on-line: www.melwilsonformayor.com. It includes a bio, his positions and pictures of his family. Assemblyman Keith Richman tells SW that his site is in design and should be posted soon. Victor N. Viereck, a CPA running for council in the 12th district, also got his site going.

•  In his editor’s column in the new issue of the San Fernando Valley Business Journal, editor Michael Hart tweaks mayoral candidate Keith Richman a bit for changing positions on the Ahmanson Ranch development, and says Richman and the other candidates don’t yet look like the right people to articulate a business agenda in secession. “Somebody involved with secession needs to make it clear why dumping L.A. will benefit local companies as much as it will benefit homeowner associations and that proverbial Joe Six-Pack who’s going to get the pothole in front of his house filled,” Hart writes. That one you can read for free. Two other pieces in the issue will cost you $3 each: political campaign experts voicing doubts about how the pro-secession campaign is going, and a story on the female candidates who banded together last week.

•  The Valley’s real estate brokers and agents will indeed endorse secession today, the Daily News and the Times report. Gaining more local control and ending the city’s document transfer tax on property sales were the persuaders, according to officials of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. Kam Kuwata, consultant for the L.A. United campaign, dismisses the move as a favor to mayoral candidate Mel Wilson, an agent who used to head SRAR. Both papers also report that 98 of the 111 candidates still on the ballot for offices in the new city have pledged to retain the Los Angeles rent control ordinance. La Opinion also has the rent control story.

Tuesday, Sept. 3

•  This just in: SRAR will announce its position tomorrow at 10 a.m. at its offices, 7232 Balboa Blvd. in Van Nuys. A clue: mayoral candidates Mel Wilson and Keith Richman and leaders of the SFV Independence Committee are expected to attend.
Original post: Secession wins! That is, it won in the straw poll conducted on-line by the Southland Regional Association of Realtors. The final numbers are 1324 for Valley secession, 733 against and 12 no opinion. The percentages are 64-35 to kiss L.A. goodbye and take the divorce. Fewer than half of those who voted on secession, though, want the Valley-based group to actually take a stand. Only 724 respondents want SRAR to get involved to that degree. No official word yet from SRAR on what — if anything — it plans to do.

• Dean Singleton is not a well-known name in the Valley, but he should be — he owns the Daily News. The New York Times profiles the Denver-based head of MediaNews Group, which owns 46 daily newspapers and 81 non-dailies. The DN and his other Los Angeles-area papers don’t figure in the story, but the piece credits Singleton with evolving from a publisher who cares solely about cutting costs into a newspaperman who invests in quality reporting. He says that, at age 51 with multiple sclerosis, he wants to build a great newspaper in his lifetime. Alas, it will be his hometown Denver Post, not the Daily News. The DN began publishing in 1911 as the Van Nuys News, grew fat as the give-away Valley News and Green Sheet, and remained under local ownership until the 1970s. It was bought first by Chicago’s Tribune Co. — current owners of the L.A. Times — then was sold to Jack Kent Cooke before Singleton snatched up the paper.

Culture Watch: An Op-ed piece in the Daily News pans a plan by CBS to revive “The Beverly Hillbillies,” using real Southerners instead of actors. Seems like a good time to remind people that “Hillbillies,” a popular 1960s sitcom in which an Appalachian family became oil-rich and drove west to a Beverly Hills mansion, was a knockoff off “The Adventures of the Real McCoys.” The McCoys were a rural family that used its found money to drive west to — the San Fernando Valley! Amos McCoy, played by real-life Valley rancher Walter Brennan, settled his clan on a farm in the late 1950s suburbs. Many hijinks ensued. The longtime “Honorary Governor” of the Valley, Edward Everett Horton, even made a guest appearance.

•  The L.A. Times lightly profiles Kam Kuwata, chief strategist for the anti-secession campaign L.A. United. In the story by Sue Fox, a fellow Democratic campaign consultant observes that Kuwata plays his cards very close to the vest. No kidding. The story reveals essentially nothing about the campaign except that Kuwata has begun using a token office in Sherman Oaks, and he wants to win. Compare the softball approach taken with Kuwata (headline: “A Dapper Strategist…”) to this much more pointed LAT profile of anti-secession leader Jeff Brain (“An Unlikely Leader…”). Granted, Brain has more dubious qualities to him, but still, it would be nice to learn a little about how the campaign operates, what the fall strategy will be and how the various anti-secession efforts are being (or not being) coordinated.

• Mayor Hahn stumped for anti-secession votes at the traditional Labor Day rally in L.A. on Monday. There are now just 64 days to the showdown, and things will be getting more serious. Secession Watch will be on hand at many of the major events, beginning with Wednesday night’s forum at USC. Later in the month, expect a high-grade debate at the Milken Institute’s annual State of the State conference on Sept. 26 in Century City. The first full session of the day is titled
“Should the Valley Go?” with speakers David Fleming from the SFV Economic Alliance, Richard Katz from SFV Independence, Rusty Hammer of the Greater L.A. Chamber of Commerce and Fernando Guerra of Loyola’s Center for the Study of Los Angeles. L.A. Times business columnist James Flanigan moderates.

Labor Day Weekend, Aug. 31 – Sept. 2

•  A Sherman Oaks creative services firm that runs the Free the Valley web site — and that sells merchandise bearing the slogan — is offering to help the break-up campaign. There’s no sign its brand of help is what the campaign wants, but it brings some wit to what has been a mostly humorless exercise. The site has its Top 10 reasons the Valley should secede, including (10) Possible NBA expansion team…the Toluca Lakers, (9) Plenty of has-been celebrities to run for mayor, and (2) Because it would be, like, totally bitchin’. The site also offers some in-your-face ideas for billboards to be posted over the hill in L.A.:

     It’s Not You – It’s Us

Don’t Worry – We Can Still Be Friends

If You Love Something – Set It Free

Free Tibet – Free Willy – Free The Valley

•  More bad news for commuters who use I-5 to reach the Valley through the old Newhall Pass. There’s another 23,000 new homesplanned up that way, this time in what would be a new community dubbed Centennial on the top of the Grapevine near Frazier Park. These are in addition to the 21,600 homes planned for Newhall Ranch, the 5,000-plus units the Las Lomas developer wants to build right in the pass, and the continuing growth of the Stevenson Ranch mega-development.

• Valley Culture Watch: On Tuesday, the Valley’s car culture tradition goes legit when the CSUN art gallery opens a show commemorating the pinstripe art of Von Dutch. Dutch was an icon on the Van Nuys Boulevard cruising strip in the 1950s and 1960s along with car customizing pioneers Ed (Big Daddy) Roth and George Barris, and his reputation endures. Vin Diesel wore a Von Dutch shirt in the recent film The Fast and the Furious. The Times’ Patricia Ward Biederman wrote the story.

New Times L.A. on Von Dutch

•  The Daily News runs a brief Labor Day editorial raising an eyebrow at the city’s crackdown last week on a balloon bearing a pro-secession message that flew, briefly, over Hollywood.

•  Secession advocates are gearing up to raise their profile over the hill in coastal L.A. after Labor Day. First up is Wednesday, Sept. 4, at USC when mayoral hopeful Keith Richman will go head to head with L.A. city councilman Jack Weiss and John Mack of the Los Angeles Urban League. The event, to be moderated by USC senior scholar and political analyst Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, is sponsored by the Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life.

• Labor Day history nugget: In 1936, the Valley (population 120,000) went the entire Labor Day weekend without reporting a single crime.

•  Forget Burbank. Perhaps the small adjacent city that the Valley should emulate (if secession occurs) is the exclusive enclave of Hidden Hills, population 1,875. It’s a real incorporated city with a mayor and city council, though its 1.6 square miles are off limits to the public behind gates. A number of celebrities live there, and it always appears near the top of any list of affluent U.S. cities. Forbes magazine reported last year that one of the most expensive homes in the country was on the market there: a 92-acre horse ranch for $50 million. If you’re curious what Hidden Hills looks like, there’s a photo spread of one home and garden in Sunday’s Los Angeles Times Magazine (not on-line). Click these links to see the community in its natural state in the 1950s and a scene that might make you wish you had bought land when it was cheap.

• For the first time in awhile, the L.A. Times writes an editorial reiterating its stance against secession. There are no surprises, but the paper’s editorial board recommends Sunday that boroughs remain under discussion even if secession loses, and acknowledges meekly that “like any big, diverse and powerful city, L.A. could always stand improvement.” It lacks the fire of past editorials, and errs slightly in its history, suggesting that the Valley of 1915 was covered in citrus orchards. There were scattered orange and peach groves, but the predominant look at the time was of fallowed wheat fields and pasture. Citrus acreage grew after 1915 as irrigation water from the Owens Valley aqueduct became available.

•  On the Daily News’ Sunday Op-ed page, a writer uses the occasion of his 20-year reunion from North Hollywood High School to wax on the diversity of his fellow Valleyites of the 1980s. Speaking of diversity, the Times carries a story Sunday on this weekend’s cricket championshipsin Van Nuys. The DN editorial page carries five letters for secession, about its usual Sunday quota. The lead letter, curiously, is signed by a citizen of Canyon Country.

•  The national board of the Mexican American Political Association met — peacefully — on Saturday and decided not to take a position on secession. Local issue, the group said. It did, however, reinstate the Valley chapter, which opposes the break-up. Also in the Times, angst over development plans in the Northeast Valley is explored in a story by Wendy Thermos in the California section.

Explainer: See last weekend’s MAPA reports

• About a dozen candidates affiliated with the new secession group Valleywomen turned out in Pacoima as promised Saturday to talk about street lights. The Daily News reports they drew a contingent of opponents including from the Valley chapter of MAPA. Based on the story, it appears no one on either side was won over. Also in the DN, Rick Orlov offers an analysis of city efforts to decentralize services in advance of the secession vote.

•  A Valley landmark, Dutton’s Books, has been at the same Laurel Canyon Boulevard address since 1961. It’s not in the news, but its sister store (actually, run by the brother of the North Hollywood shop’s proprietor) may be forced to move from its longtime Brentwood location by a planned development and the resulting higher rent. Story is in the L.A. Business Journal (free but registration required.)

•  Candidate Marc Strassman has posted another revealing questionnaire seeking his positions, this one from the Valley Progressive Coalition. It asks about rent control, living wage ordinances, privatization of water and power, and instant runoff voting. He answers them all. It’s interesting to see what questions that groups and the media ask.

What the Daily News asked him

•  Hollywood VOTE unveiled a newly invigorated web site Friday, and it just highlights how static the Valley secession sites have gotten. SFV Independence seems to have stopped updating, and the other side is no better. One Los Angeles is still inviting voters to a rally held last June, and Mayor Hahn’s L.A. United doesn’t appear to be on-line at all.

•  Before the MTA can even cut through the controversy over its proposed east-west busway across the Valley, plans for a north-south route are drawing heat.

• Labor Day politics preview: The SFV Interfaith Council and the Valley Labor Political Education Council get together to talk secession at 7 p.m. Monday at the United Methodist Church in Northridge. Secession foe Julie Butcher, general manager of SEIU Local 347, and Rabbi Alan Henkin of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations will discuss the labor and religious angles.

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