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Flurry of Activity Planned as Century Draws to a Close

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Like the rest of us, California’s elected leaders are puzzling over how to spend the last New Year’s Eve of the 20th century: Be in bed by 10, party till dawn, or maybe hang out at San Quentin State Prison.

Gov. Gray Davis will spend the day in his Los Angeles office. Unless he ends up working late, he will head off to a private party, and end up at Paramount Studios with 575 of Los Angeles’ glitterati at a bash hosted by Mayor Richard Riordan and the Celebrate L.A. 2000 committee.

There, Davis will introduce a video from President Clinton congratulating movie mogul Lew Wasserman, named the city’s man of the century, and lead the countdown of the final seconds of the century.

“If everything goes well, he’ll go home, have a good night’s sleep, and get up and go to the Stanford [vs. Wisconsin Rose Bowl] game,” said Davis’ spokesman, Michael Bustamante.

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Politicians won’t have much official work to do as the century comes to an end. But they will be reachable if things go awry. About 150 emergency workers will be on duty at the state Office of Emergency Services in Sacramento tonight, working in a warehouse where they will monitor reports of any mishaps.

“We have ways of getting ahold of the governor, and he of us,” spokesman Tom Mullins said.

Assembly Speaker Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running for mayor of Los Angeles, and Controller Kathleen Connell, who is considering a run for mayor, also will be at Paramount.

But that’s only part of Villaraigosa’s night. He’s starting at a neighbor’s home near his Mt. Washington house, and will drop by Cathedral High School for an event to raise money for scholarships. After stopping by the Paramount festivities, Villaraigosa will press on to a party thrown by a longtime friend.

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Atty. Gen. Bill Lockyer has a more somber night planned. He will be ringing in the new century at the Bastille by the Bay, San Quentin, home to California’s death row.

That choice surprised some.

“I wouldn’t imagine anyone would want to be at San Quentin unless they work there or would be shot if they left,” said attorney Steve Fama of the legal aid group the Prison Law Office.

But Lockyer has his reasons: “Lots of state employees are required to work on New Year’s Eve. I thought it would be informative for me, as well as a sign of support to people who have dangerous occupations and aren’t with their families.”

San Quentin, like all state prisons, will be in emergency operation mode, said spokesman Lt. Vernel Crittendon. Inmates will get noisy. Some, no doubt, will break out their prison-made booze. And on New Year’s Eve, inmates invariably fashion small explosives out of match heads and toss them down the tiers, Crittendon said.

“We’ll have some inmates rabble-rousing,” Crittendon said. But they’ll all be locked in their cells.”

On the quiet side, state Schools Supt. Delaine Eastin will spend the night at home. Senate President Pro Tem John Burton got away from his home town of San Francisco for a few days and will be in Palm Springs.

Then there’s Secretary of State Bill Jones.

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He will be going to a party in his hometown, Fresno.


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