The Valley will rise again, even if we have to sue: that was the vow of secessionists as the measure to breakup the City of Los Angeles went down in defeat, winning by a narrow margin in the San Fernando Valley but losing in the citywide vote.
With the spotlight on secession for the past few months, it is almost easy to forget that there are major political races involving Jewish candidates in the San Fernando Valley.
The most significant battle is the one being waged in the 27th U.S. House District. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Sherman Oaks) has been virtually invincible up until now in the 24th District. However, the district was redrawn in September, thus making him an unknown quantity to about two-thirds of his constituents and leaving an opening for challenger Robert Levy, an attorney from Woodland Hills.
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?
In the final days before the Nov. 5 election, secession supporters are facing a tough battle. The latest public opinion poll shows Valley voters backing Measure F, which would create a separate city, by a narrow margin.
A Los Angeles Times Poll earlier this month found only 42 percent of likely Valley voters in favor of secession. However, a more recent study by Survey USA for KABC-TV found Valley cityhood supported by 58 percent of likely voters in the Valley and 40 percent citywide.
Why is it that the majority of Jews in Los Angeles and in the San Fernando Valley oppose secession?
The most recent poll that counted Jewish voters, conducted last July by the Los Angeles Times, found that 57 percent of Jewish voters opposed secession and 34 percent said they were for it, with only 9 percent saying they were undecided.
Although the number of Jewish voters was too low to allow for a breakdown of Valley Jews versus city Jews, Susan Pinkus, director of the Times Poll, said that even in the Valley, Jewish voters were strongly against the breakup.
On a drizzly morning, with the city just opening its eyes, Bob Hertzberg is sitting at Solley's Delicatessen in Sherman Oaks. Even before having his coffee, he seems animated, even agitated, by his great new project: how to save Los Angeles.
Jewish voters are strongly against secession, more so than any other religious group, according to the July 2 poll.
Zev Yaroslavsky has served on the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) since its inception in 1998. This experience, plus eight years as a Los Angeles County supervisor representing both sides of the Santa Monica Mountains, and a councilman before that, has made him one of the best-informed authorities on Valley secession. He recently took time to share his insights with The Jewish Journal.
It is tough to estimate current public opinion regarding Valley secession. In the two years since the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) began its investigation into the possibility of secession, the world and the people of Los Angeles have radically changed their priorities. To paraphrase Rick Blaine in "Casablanca," it doesn't take much to see that the problems of two little areas don't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.
Still, in interviews at locations around Los Angeles, when people had opinions about secession, it was primarily favorable.
For the Jewish community, like the rest of Los Angeles, the issue of Valley secession boils down to one key question: Will we be better off after secession than we are now?
Last month, the ground lurched beneath the crowd trying to split the San Fernando Valley from the rest of Los Angeles. The Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) determining whether and how breakup proposals reach the ballot, turned the rallying cry of Valley secessionists on its head. Brushing aside any meaningful definition of "self-determination," LAFCO recommends that a new Valley city initially contract for basic services like police and fire from, well, the existing City of Los Angeles.
The all-volunteer research and discussion group was formed last spring when Roman Catholic Cardinal Roger M. Mahony brought up the idea at a monthly meeting of the Council of Religious Leaders, an independent interfaith group that discusses issues relevant to the city.
As the Jewish community gathers for the Valley Jewish Festival, we must ask ourselves whether there is, in fact, a Los Angeles Jewish community to speak of. If we define community as "a group of people defined by a geographical area," then we can refer to the Jewish community of Los Angeles as such. But if we wish to imply that a community is "a cohesive yet diverse group bound together as one," then I do not believe that Los Angeles fulfills this qualification.
Fangs bared and chests thrust out, the competitors stepped into the ring and proceeded to demolish each other in ways both fair and unfair.