GOP’s Gain May Be Valley’s Loss : As Republicans prepare to take control of the state Assembly, the region’s clout is almost certain to diminish with the change of key leadership positions.

<i> Marc Litchman is a political consultant and a former chief of staff to Assemblyman Richard Katz (D-Sylmar) and Rep. Howard L. Berman (D-Panorama City)</i>

Getting secondary attention amid all the hoopla of the GOP’s taking control of Congress for the first time in decades is the fact that the Republicans also have taken control of the state Assembly for the first time since the mid-1960s.

After the smoke cleared last week from a pivotal race that hinged on a $125,000 last-minute contribution to the Republican Party from tobacco and food giant Phillip Morris Cos., the GOP emerged with a 41-to-39 advantage in the lower house of the Legislature. Barring the unexpected, Democratic Speaker Willie Brown is out, and Republican Jim Brulte, a 38-year-old Republican from Rancho Cucamonga, is in.

As in Washington, GOP control of the Assembly will create some immediate losses in the San Fernando Valley and some long-term concerns. The prospects for the Valley’s clout being sustained by the Republicans are dim.


The Valley’s biggest loss is the almost certain ejection of Richard Katz (D-Sylmar), soon to become a member of the minority party, from the chairmanship of the powerful Transportation Committee. Katz is a close friend and ally of Brown’s and a trusted member of his inner circle. It doesn’t take a brain surgeon to see that the loss of this chairmanship and the downgrading of the Valley’s biggest booster in the Capitol is substantial.

Katz led the decade-long effort to build Mission College in his district and has used his leadership position to rebuild Cal State Northridge after the earthquake. He has kept up the heat on state and local transportation agencies to make sure the Valley gets the rail, freeway and other important transportation improvements it deserves. Any Republican replacement will be ill-positioned to hold Gov. Pete Wilson’s bungling Transportation Department’s feet to the fire on important issues.

Of the Valley Republicans, Paula Boland of Granada Hills has been there long enough to get a big committee, and the rumor is that she will get Public Safety--long criticized as being the liberal graveyard of anti-crime legislation. Because of the great concern about crime, this committee should get a lot of action and a lot of ink. Hey, maybe Bill Hoge can finally get a hearing on his “three strikes and you’re dead” bill to impose capital punishment for a third violent felony.


There is, however, great local optimism that Boland, with her majority status, can move the bill through the Legislature on the breakup of the Los Angeles Unified School District. This chance would greatly increase if Democratic Valley Sen. David Roberti, a district-busting backer, had not lost his seat to term limits. Democratic Sen. Herschel Rosenthal, now representing the East Valley, might put this popular bill on Wilson’s desk if he chooses to team up with Boland. But--and it’s a big but--the Democrats, led by old-school liberal Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), still barely control the state Senate, where the California Teachers Assn. and the United Teachers-Los Angeles, opponents of the breakup, have commanding influence.

Beyond the school district, Boland, in her new position in the majority, will face the same problem as many Republicans, who have spent their careers splendidly aloof from having to back up their words with action. Will she abandon her anti-government rhetoric long enough to fight for the services we in the Valley need--and deserve? Or will she give in to reactionary elements of her party and leave the Valley an organ donor for other parts of the state with more pragmatic, able representation?

Will she even choose to tackle problems in the east San Fernando Valley, far from her homogenized cul-de-sac’s constituents, or will she leave the neediest in our community standing alone on a street corner with a tin cup?


Valley politics and public policy have always been governed by the creed “The Valley must get its fair share.” And in November, Valley voters rewarded their state legislators for putting Valley interests first by putting them out of office.

Whether or not our streets are safe, our schools produce and our neighborhoods are decent places to raise our families is now in the hands of Republican majorities in Sacramento and Washington. It will be up to them to put a new word in their vocabulary-- deliver.