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Kayden Sticks Her Neck Out and Gets Her Head Handed to Her

Times Staff Writers

In politics as in other endeavors, nothing ventured means nothing gained. Just ask Xandra Kayden, the UCLA political scientist who resigned a seat on the city’s appointed charter reform panel to vie for a job as the group’s executive director.

She didn’t get the post. Now she’s on the outside looking in.

Linda Griego, the interim chairwoman of the reform panel that was created in November by the Los Angeles City Council, announced that the job was going to Raphael J. Sonenshein, a Cal State Fullerton political scientist and author.

Kayden was not too surprised about being passed over, although somewhat bitter.

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“It meant a lot to me,” she said.

Kayden admits that she probably hurt her chances of getting the job by arguing about the position with former County Supervisor Ed Edelman, a charter commission member who headed the panel’s selection committee.

While a member of the panel, Kayden urged Edelman to speed up the process of hiring a full-time director. She argued that the panel must take advantage of the head start it has over a competing reform panel that would be created by an April 8 ballot measure championed by Mayor Richard Riordan.

In hopes of quickening the process, Kayden resigned from the panel and threw her hat in the ring. She and Sonenshein were among the four finalists. But in the end, Sonenshein got the job.

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Some City Hall observers note that Kayden would have been a controversial choice because she has harshly criticized Riordan’s reform efforts in newspaper opinion articles.

Sonenshein has also been critical of Riordan’s efforts, but observers say he has been less hostile and more analytical.

“I was a longshot and it was a risk to resign,” said Kayden. “But this is not the end of the world for me or charter reform.”

Balancing Act

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It may not stand out in the history of the republic, but Thursday will always be remembered by Rep. James Rogan, the new GOP congressman from Glendale. In the early afternoon, to a House chamber nearly devoid of members let alone meaningful legislative activity, he made his first speech on the House floor.

There was no grand debate underway. There was little or no thread to any of the day’s remarks, for they were “special order” speeches--the peculiar congressional institution that allows a member to reserve up to an hour of time to talk about whatever is on his or her mind.

Rogan wanted five minutes, and he wanted to talk about balancing the federal budget. He’s for it and would love to see a constitutional amendment force Congress to do just that.

Trouble is, his party’s holy crusade to pass such an amendment seemed to have ended on Wednesday, when freshman Sen. Robert G. Torricelli, a New Jersey Democrat, announced he could not support the idea. For the second time in two years, this mainstay of the GOP agenda will presumably fall one vote short of the 67 it needs to pass the Senate.

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But Rogan’s little speech betrayed no defeat. Talking without a prepared text, he confidently laid out his point of view.

“Are we going to write into the Constitution the obligation of the federal government to do what virtually every state in the country and certainly every family must do?” he asked the nearly empty chamber.

If he had no real audience to address, he could rely on at least two C-SPAN viewers to be keenly interested in his performance.

“As the father of two 4-year-old twins sitting at a television set not too far from this chamber listening to their father’s maiden speech on the floor of this House,” Rogan intoned, “I’m very proud to be a dad and very moved as a policymaker as to what is good for my children and the children of this country.

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“As proud as I am to have my 4-year-olds watch me address this body today, I take no pride in the fact that on the day they were born, they inherited almost $175,000 in debt that they will have to pay in taxes over their lifetime as their portion of the national debt because we have failed to balance the budget.”

The national debt is nearly $5.5 trillion. Like light years, a trillion dollars is a difficult quantity for small-minded checkbook-reconciling humans to get ahold of.

Rogan to the rescue.

“If a person opened a business on the day that Christ was born nearly 2,000 years ago, and if their business skills were so terrible that on that first day they lost $1 million, and if every day thereafter they lost $1 million, [the accumulated losses] would not even hit $1 trillion today!” Rogan explained.

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He was rolling. Expertly making eye contact with the chamber’s empty seats, Rogan noted that merely balancing the budget would do nothing to retire that pesky debt.

“If we balance the budget every year from now until doomsday, we will not pay one cent toward that debt,” Rogan began his windup.

“The gentleman’s time has expired,” the acting speaker said, banging the gavel.

Time flies when you’re having fun.

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Star Power

Amid the scores of trash haulers, lawyers and developers, the most prominent names on the recent quarterly campaign disclosure statements of Los Angeles County Supervisors Mike Antonovich and Zev Yaroslavsky belong to entertainment firms and movie stars.

So who has more star power? Is it mellow Mike or feisty Zev? From October through December 1996 anyway, Zev--who represents the celebrity-rich Westside, San Fernando Valley and Hollywood areas--clearly had the edge.

David Geffen and Jeffrey Katzenberg, two-thirds of the DreamWorks SKG brain trust, anted up $2,500 apiece. Both Paramount Pictures Group and Sony Pictures forked over $2,000, and the Walt Disney Co. gave $2,500.

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Trailing in the studio derby, Howard Welinsky, a vice president at Warner Bros., handed over $1,000 and Marvin Davis, who used to be in the movies as co-owner of 20th Century Fox, gave $1,000.

Showing that he is more sensible than stuffy, Zev also pocketed $1,000 from Playboy Enterprises.

Other Zev fans--according to their money--include famed defense attorney and newly minted TV talk-show host Johnnie Cochran, who chipped in $5,000. Singer Don Henley chimed in with $2,500, actor Ed Begley Jr. gave $500 and Kasey Casem of “American Top 40" fame was recorded as donating $100.

Mike’s A-list, on the other hand, was strictly conservative--and a bit less hip.

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Sure, there’s Henry (The Fonz) Winkler, who along with his wife gave $800. And then there is Carl Karcher (a $175 donation), who as president of the Carl’s Jr. fast-food chain appeared in the company’s ads several years ago but whose visage has been replaced by basketball bad boy Dennis Rodman and rock singer Eddie Money.

There are also the very-old-school talents of Charlton Heston ($100) and Bob and Dolores Hope ($500). The Gene Autry Survivors Trust helped out with $1,300.

Antonovich--whose office walls are lined with pictures of him shaking hands with celebrities--also got Sony and Disney to give $500, and the Walt Disney PAC gave an additional $1,000.

Finally, Kirk Douglas, perhaps searching for his role, hedged his bets and gave each side $2,000.

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Sentimental Journeys

Councilman Marvin Braude may have made a career of being a City Hall curmudgeon, but he’s turning mushy as his 30-plus-year tenure comes to a close.

“I must say I feel very sentimental tonight,” Braude said at a crowded homeowners meeting in Brentwood this week. “You are my people . . . my neighbors . . . my friends.”

Braude reported he’s been overcome with sentiment frequently these days, so much so, “there are almost tears in my eyes.”

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“You and I have done many things together and we’ve accomplished a great deal,” Braude told members of the Brentwood Homeowners Assn. who had gathered for their annual meeting.

Braude insisted he isn’t retiring, just moving on to other pursuits, including teaching at the college level and working with his Foundation for the Future of Los Angeles.

“I feel very deeply about Los Angeles,” Braude said. “There’s no reason we shouldn’t be the great city of the world.”

The longtime Brentwood resident, who’s a common sight in the community as he tools around on his bicycle, said, “I’ll never say goodbye to you. . . . I’ll be around and see you on San Vicente Boulevard and in our community.”

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Guess that means we won’t be seeing him in the Valley half of the district any time soon.


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