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Dubious--and Glorious--Achievements : From Condemned Pigeons to the Earthquake Kids, the Valley Had Its Share of Lows and Highs in 1994

No matter how you view it, 1994 in the San Fernando Valley and its environs was a roller-coaster ride. Thus, we now dutifully offer a list assessing its high and low points.

The recipient of the year’s biggest political snub, for example, was Rep. Carlos J. Moorhead (R-Glendale). The senior member of the California congressional delegation had savored a choice between the chairmanships of the House Judiciary Committee and the Energy and Commerce Committee. But Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), the next Speaker, had other ideas, and now Moorhead will have to settle for a subcommittee dealing with copyright and trademark issues.

The year’s biggest political boost went to a relative newcomer, Rep. Howard P. (Buck) McKeon (R-Santa Clarita), who was named to the House National Security Committee and to the chairmanship of a subcommittee that deals with post-secondary education training and lifelong learning.

But there was much, much more in 1994.

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Most Anticlimactic Decision by a Local Body: The Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s long-awaited vote on a route for the San Fernando Valley Rail Project. They waited so long that it will take decades to complete the thing, if there is ever enough money to build it.

Most Offensive Decision by a Local Body: The Glendale City Council’s decision (later rescinded) to rid themselves of a pigeon-infestation problem by hooking the birds up to car tailpipes and gassing them.

Biggest Waste of the Taxpayer’s Money, Option 1: The expensive effort to recall former Sen. David A. Roberti (D-Van Nuys) mere months before he was due to leave office because of term limits.

Biggest Waste of the Taxpayer’s Money, Option 2: Deploying 15 Los Angeles Police Department officers and a helicopter to nail the dognapers of Maude, a 7-year-old Boston terrier, after Maude’s owner had tried to bargain the ransom down from $500 to $200.

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Longest Uninterrupted Sequence of Foot-in-Mouth Disease: After a year and a half of racist, sexist and ethnically insulting incidents on campus, Cal State Northridge had to apologize for an art brochure mailed to 40,000 alumni that carried a sketch of Mexican beans sleeping under a sombrero.

Dumbest Stunt of the Year Award: To comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, for bringing attention to the fire prevention season by barbecuing the guest chair on “The Tonight Show.”

Most Richly Deserved Down Time in Which to Consider a Better Way to Spend One’s Recreational Moments: The 40-month prison sentence given to “Fedbuster” Thomas Lee Larsen, who had a habit of sending letters to Fire Department stations threatening arson.

Person Most in Need of a Good Hobby: Reseda resident Robert L. Bell, who in April launched a one-man effort to encourage California to secede from the rest of the nation.

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Best Sports Team: The national championship Little League team from Northridge. If only the Raiders and the Rams could be so good (and the Lakers, and the Clippers, and the Kings, and the Dodgers).

Best Pitch in a Strike Year: To Calabasas restaurant manager Charles Wesley, who nailed a would-be robber from 15 feet away with a bottle of Snapple iced tea.

Worst Disaster Planning: To the Antelope Valley chapter of the American Red Cross, which decided to build its state-of-the-art earthquake headquarters near the San Andreas fault, then ran out of money in 1994.

The Undoubtedly Hardest-Working Folks of the Year: To the repair crews who brought our quake-damaged freeways and interchange bridges back on line months and weeks ahead of schedule.

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Hardest-Working Person in Need of Serious Vacation Time: To the Federal Emergency Management Agency earthquake inspector who disappeared for 10 days in March and was found sleeping in his rental car. “He was down the street the whole time,” said his relieved but angry brother, who had been conducting a door-to-door search for his sibling.

Biggest Non-Earthquake-Related Reason Your Insurance Premiums Are Rising: $400,000 in legal fees (paid by insurance companies) to defend five people in Van Nuys court accused of dognaping another terrier.

Worst Sense of Direction: To runner Michael Alexander, who took a wrong turn in Burbank in August and ended up jogging around the Valley for 13 hours trying to find his way back home.

Understatement of the Year: To the husband of a Palmdale woman, a man suspected of having at least three other wives at the same time. “Obviously, there was a lot of lying going on. I did the best I could, but I still made mistakes,” he said.

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Bring on 1995.


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