The question has been posed to me frequently over the past several months: Is Valley secession "good for the Jews?"
Truthfully, it's a difficult question to answer. Other current matters are easier to address. Is President Bush good for the Jews? Prime Minister Ariel Sharon certainly thinks so. Are the Dodgers good for the Jews? Shawn Green's 42 home runs certainly say so.
But secession? Does it really matter for the Jews of Los Angeles whether they live in one city of 3.35 million people or two cities of 2 million and 1.35 million each?
Really, secession isn't good for anyone. Moreover, because the promotion of division and the identification (rather than the repair) of fissures within our society is inconsistent with my understanding of the bulk of modern Jewish political practice in Los Angeles, my strong suspicion is that secession runs counter to mainstream Jewish political values.
It may be a fact that no community in Los Angeles would find itself more divided and have its political influence more diluted by secession than the Jewish community would. The Jewish community now has a more extensive presence than ever both south and north of Mulholland Drive.
Because the Jewish community is strongly represented in some Westside and Valley neighborhoods, splitting the city could divide and diminish the political heft of the Jewish community -- heft that came not by accident but as the result of decades of efforts by my predecessors.
Although I understand the frustrations that are at the root of the secession debate, breaking up the City of Los Angeles is not the answer. I believe that Jewish and non-Jewish communities alike are stronger together. United, we can focus our efforts to strengthen our communities, address common problems and make Los Angeles a better place to live for everyone.
Representing people in both the Valley and Westside (and, for that matter, Hollywood, too, to give all breakup proposals equal time) gives me a unique perspective on the issue. My district spans the hillsides, including Valley Village, Sherman Oaks and Encino in the Valley, and the Fairfax-Beverly-Melrose district, Cheviot Hills, Beverlywood, Westwood, Carthay Circle, Century City and Palms on the Westside.
With very few exceptions, I know that the concerns of families on either side of the hill are the same. All want safe neighborhoods, good schools, clean water and air and less traffic. These are the concerns that my constituents share with me, and as a member of the City Council, I work every day to address them.
My Jewish constituents, in particular, have far more in common than not regardless of where they live. Recognizing that Holy Days can change priorities for city services, I have directed city departments to increase police patrols, relax parking or adjust crosswalks to ensure that congregations can safely assemble. These provisions are equally important on Pico and Chandler boulevards, and by representing both neighborhoods, I ensure that they are delivered.
On a larger scale, Jewish values, such as equality, fairness, family and community, would not be well-served in a divided city, particularly because the laws that protect them would expire after a transition period in the new Valley city.
From the beginning, the Jewish community has been stronger united than we are apart. Granted, there are differences among us and tensions that we will resolve in time. As a whole, our strength is in our union and building on the success we have had in Los Angeles.
With strong and growing temples to nurture spirituality, successful schools to teach young children and university students, powerful institutions to advocate for change and elected leaders who understand and share Jewish values, the Jewish community has done well in Los Angeles.
As a community, we have developed outstanding leaders to represent our interests. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, former Supervisor Ed Edelman and many current and former members of Congress, including Howard Berman, Henry Waxman, Jane Harman, Brad Sherman, Mel Levine and Tony Beilenson (and numerous other officeholders as well) built their careers by improving life in the Jewish and non-Jewish communities they represented. They have proven their dedication to serving the people of Los Angeles and their willingness to collaborate to solve problems.
It is unacceptable for a segment of the city to feel unfairly treated or ignored by their government. Some Valley residents' frustration with city government has fueled the campaign for secession, and these problems and concerns must be addressed.
Still, the vast array of our shared interests and values must be prioritized to forge a long-term solution to conflicts. Rather than let the fewer issues that separate us justify breaking apart the city, we should unite as a community, with the genuine engagement of city government committed to addressing the underlying issues that fueled the secession debate.
From my experience in City Hall and working side by side with members of all communities, I know that we have a better chance for improvements for our families and communities if we work together rather than break apart.