Words began to be conserved in greater numbers.

Several of Glendale’s elected leaders laid something akin to an ambush last week for their arch-conservative colleague in Sacramento, Assemblyman Pat Nolan (R-Glendale).

The ambush is the sort of thing that Sacramento has produced a lot of lately, raising politics above the daily tedium, but it is new to Glendale, whose leaders usually try to govern by smoothing out, rather than airing out, their differences.

Nolan landed in the line of fire more through the distraction of events than any differences in philosophy with the people back home.

As Republican leader in the Assembly, Nolan had been leading a statewide campaign for dollars and candidates to break the power of Democratic Speaker Willie Brown of San Francisco.


He was also drawing the attention of the FBI, whose undercover agents were passing out money that they hoped would gain favor for phony corporations seeking preferential legislation. As part of the investigation, which is still going on, Nolan’s office was searched and his staff interviewed.

He was reelected in November, but he was then forced out of his leadership position. That left him more time to renew ties.

The first step was Friday’s meeting in Glendale City Hall, a forum in which he submitted to questions from the local elected officials. All four Republicans on the City Council were there. The only Democrat, who was vacationing in Portugal, had a legitimate excuse.

After a Nolan made a few opening remarks, Councilman Jerold Milner set up the ambush. He asked what the state was doing about drunk driving. Nolan had voted in favor of a bill--promoted by the alcohol industry--that overturned Glendale’s attempt to prohibit the sale of alcohol from gas stations. The council was miffed about it.

“We haven’t really put a dent in the problem of deaths related to drunk driving,” Nolan conceded, after discoursing a moment on his own past bills on drunk driving.

Ginger Bremberg, a short, feisty, gray-haired woman, lunged.

“Do you think part of that is because the Legislature passed a bill that forces cities to allow the sale of alcohol at gasoline stations?” the councilwoman asked brusquely.

Nolan sidestepped, explaining that the legislation allowed the city other means to regulate alcohol at gas stations.

“I understand that,” Bremberg said. “We had everything under control already.”

“Well, I’m not sure that you did,” Nolan said, counter-jabbing.

He pointed out that the city’s law wouldn’t have stopped anyone at the wheel of a car from stopping at a gas station, telling the attendant to fill it up and taking off “with a cool six-pack” on the seat.

Milner then jumped in, suggesting that it was more a matter of principle than aggregate sales of alcohol.

“The concern we have is the concern of local control,” Milner said in a voice so soft that it was barely audible. “Who the hell says a legislator from Sacramento knows how better to handle the problems. . . ?”

His voice trailed off. It is a common practice of Glendale’s leaders to merely speak the first few words of a sentence and then, when it seems that everyone has the drift of the idea, let it drop. It’s as if they feel a need to conserve on words.

Nolan, who usually speaks in complete sentences, took offense at being characterized as anti-home rule.

The real need, he said, is nurturing home rule “within the context of protecting the fundamental values of the American system . . . communism, whether imposed nationally or by City Council, would be just as wrong.”

On the next topic--the Southland’s need for water--all agreed that the stinginess and shortsightedness of Northern California is a shame.

Soon, however, Councilman Larry Zarian got back to home rule, asking Nolan why the Legislature has tied the city’s hands in the fight on gang violence and drugs.

“They say you can only do a certain thing,” Zarian said. “You can’t go into somebody’s house if you know they are dealing dope unless you have a warrant. Those are the kinds of things that take home rule.”

Nolan completely avoided what could only be construed as a request for repeal of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Instead, he used the idea to slide into one of his favorite themes, the obstructionism of the liberals in Sacramento.

“Anything that increases penalties on things is fought tooth and nail,” he said. He even named a couple of names, including Assemblyman Burt Margolin, the Democrat from nearby Los Feliz. Everyone recoiled in unison.

Time was running short at this point, and words began to be conserved in greater numbers as the group covered transportation, toxics, trash and the quality of life.

Mayor Carl Raggio thought that Caltrans has become reactionary: “They’re taking care of the problems of 1980 right now.”

Everyone thought it was a scandal that Los Angeles had collected money to rebuild its sewers and then spent it on something else.

“They gave away our entitlement,” Bremberg wailed.

“That’s a scandal that is so frustrating,” Nolan said.

“Yes, it is,” Bremberg echoed.

The ambush was over, its decision unclear. And the ranks were closed.