Assemblyman Tom McClintock (R-Northridge) may not be the only one backing a secession bill in Sacramento this session. State Sen. President Pro Tem Bill Lockyer (D-Hayward), the legislator most blamed (or praised) for the defeat of the secession bill last session, said he will offer his own legislation on the subject.
Lockyer has even scheduled a meeting with key San Fernando Valley backers of legislation that would make it easier for the Valley to secede from the city of Los Angeles by throwing out the City Council's veto power over such attempts.
Why, after a contentious battle over the issue last year with then-Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland, would Lockyer want anything to do with the issue?
After all, he spent last summer irked about Boland's characterization of him as a "tyrant." He was portrayed as an enemy of self-determination for Valley voters, based on his view that the whole city should be asked to vote before Los Angeles could be split up.
In addition to engineering the bill's defeat on the last night of the session in August, Lockyer had the last laugh in November, when Adam Schiff, whom he strongly backed, trounced Boland in the state Senate race.
Lockyer insists his interest is in making good public policy and not mending fences with folks in the Valley in case he goes forward with a bid to become attorney general.
"These are serious issues that need resolution," Lockyer said. "Local leaders don't have much flexibility [because] they are caught up in one or the other camps."
Lockyer said his proposal will follow the outline of the compromise he offered last summer, which was rejected by Boland as a ploy to study the issue to death.
That compromise would call for an end to the tie that binds the Valley to Los Angeles--the City Council's veto power over requests to form a new city.
But, as he did last year, Lockyer says it is only fair to let the entire city vote on any such detachment, not just Valley voters as is called for in the McClintock bill.
The key to his proposal, Lockyer said, is a state-funded study that would answer critical questions about whether the Valley is really underserved, and if so, by how much. The study would include a cost-benefit analysis of the financial impacts of dividing assets and debts should the city be split.
"San Fernando Valley people deserve to have answers to the questions they raise," Lockyer said. "They shouldn't have to commit to detachment before finding out [as the law stands now]."
A blue-ribbon commission would also be created to study the state's outdated laws on forming and dividing cities, rules more applicable to an agrarian society becoming urban than a megalopolis seeking to downsize, many observers say.
A key matter left to resolve, Lockyer said, is whether the bill would apply just to Los Angeles--or statewide.
Despite his planned legislation, the Senate leader said he remains concerned about breaking up a "great city."
"This is one of the great cities on the planet," Lockyer said. "People need to be very careful about a breakup."
McClintock said he more than welcomes Lockyer's interest in alleviating the unfair City Council veto.
"Suffice it to say, I'm elated," McClintock said.
The Price of Success To succeed in politics costs money. Just ask Rep. Brad Sherman, the freshman Democrat from Sherman Oaks.
The former member of the State Board of Equalization dropped more than $500,000 of his own money to win the 24th District House seat held for 20 years by Anthony C. Beilenson.
"The amount of your own money that you spend running for office is the product of two factors: how rich you are and how crazy you are," Sherman said. "It's in that second area that I seem to stand out."
But, Sherman hastened to add: "I am not a wealthy individual."
"I live in a two-bedroom apartment in Sherman Oaks. I'm looking at a two-bedroom apartment in Washington. I guess that means I live in a four-bedroom place total. That's pretty good."
He also drives an 11-year-old car.
Joking aside, Sherman's personal investment in his political campaign signifies a sobering expenditure.
"[The $500,000] represents all the money I made in real estate in the '80s. If you ask why I didn't lend any more to my committee, I didn't have any more," Sherman said. "This was pedal to the metal."
According to a sheaf of Federal Election Commission statistics, Sherman ranks fourth nationally in the debt rung up by candidates for open House seats.
His opponent, Richard Sybert, ranks third with debts of nearly $660,000.
The FEC numbers are accurate as of Nov. 25, 1996.
"I said during the campaign [when both candidates' debts were accumulating] that I'm two-thirds as nuts as the other guy," Sherman said. "I guess now it's closer to four-fifths."
Sherman pointed out that Sybert did not spend as much of his own money in the 1996 campaign, but benefited from the money he spent in the 1994 campaign, when he gave Beilenson a real scare.
First, Sybert "won the '96 [Republican] primary by being the candidate in '94," Sherman said.
Sherman had to spend $250,000 in his primary campaign. "You could say we didn't beat anybody you've heard of, but you hadn't heard of me either. The Board of Equalization aficionados in the district represent a small percentage of the electorate," he noted.
Second, "I started my campaign in the general election with little name recognition and had to make that up. So it's true that Mr. Sybert didn't spend as much of his own money in '96 as I did, but if you look at the benefits of the money he spent in '94, what I did was commensurate and necessary."
Now that his '80s nest egg is largely gone, Sherman is philosophical about the vanished dough.
"If I had lost, I would have had many regrets. It's better to lend $500,000 to your political committee and win than to lend a little less and lose."
That's Entertainment Rep. Elton Gallegly has become an entertainment czar of sorts.
The Simi Valley Republican, who sits on the Judiciary Committee's courts and intellectual property subcommittee, has been asked by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) to focus on issues dealing with the entertainment industry.
"In recent conversations with the speaker and Rep. Henry Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I was asked to take charge on issues of particular importance to California, including those relating to the motion picture and recording industries," Gallegly said. "I am excited and energized at the prospect of being asked to play such a prominent role."
The subcommittee, whose purview encompasses many of the entertainment industry's most sensitive issues, was chaired in the last Congress by former Rep. Carlos Moorhead.
Democrat Howard L. Berman of Panorama City also sits on the panel.
The move by Gingrich represents the second time Gallegly has received a consolation prize--rather than a chairmanship. In the last Congress, he wanted to chair the immigration subcommittee but lost out to Texan Lamar Smith. Instead, Gallegly was named head of the California Task Force on Immigration.
Likewise on the intellectual property subcommittee, Gallegly had his sights on the top spot. But Rep. Howard Coble of North Carolina appears destined to head that panel.
Animal Instincts The Los Angeles City Council chambers have often been compared to a zoo . . . so maybe it's time for a council member with some experience in that area.
Russ Cook, the real estate broker and former Marine who was unceremoniously ousted from the Animal Regulation Commission in August, has declared his candidacy for the seat of retiring Councilman Marvin Braude.
Braude's former chief of staff, Cindy Miscikowski, has filed for the seat as has Georgia Mercer, a former field deputy for Mayor Richard Riordan.
Riordan called for Cook's ouster after the other four animal regulation commissioners complained that Cook was combative with staff members and had violated confidentiality rules.
Cook acknowledged that he had some "rough edges" but said he was always "passionately devoted to the animals."
But Cook is perhaps best remembered as the target of a bottle-throwing attack launched by Commissioner Gini Barrett, the wife of former Assemblyman Richard Katz.
The hostilities were sparked when Barrett presented a report on the goals of the department in July. Cook criticized the plan, complaining that he as well as the public were not asked to contribute suggestions.
Barrett reacted by shouting an obscenity, then launching an empty water bottle at Cook. The bottle, however, missed its mark and hit commission President Steve Afriat.
The next step for Cook and the other candidates is to collect at least 500 signatures on a nominating petition. Barrett and Afriat's names are likely to be absent from that petition.
QUOTABLE: "We think this decision today is a victory for democracy."
--Attorney David Fleming, on the court ruling that places Mayor Riordan's citycharter reform plan on the April ballot