For a long time, community activists in the San Fernando Valley have grumbled that they suspect the heart and soul of the state assemblyman from the 43rd Assembly District belongs to the Westside, where most of the big campaign donors live.
On Saturday, leaders of Valley homeowner groups got a chance to tell the three Democratic candidates running for the Assembly seat that they do not want the Valley ignored.
In the living room of the president of the Encino Property Owners Assn., six longtime activists in Valley causes grilled the candidates for two hours on their knowledge of such local problems as congestion on the Ventura Freeway, billboard proliferation, development and Burbank Airport noise.
Westwood to Studio City
The 43rd Assembly District stretches from Westwood and Beverly Hills across the Santa Monica Mountains to Encino, Tarzana, Sherman Oaks and Studio City.
Only one of the contenders in the June 3 primary is a Valley resident--Rosemary Woodlock, an attorney from Woodland Hills. Bruce Margolin, a constitutional attorney, resides in West Hollywood and Terry Friedman, a public interest attorney who has received the endorsements of most Democratic officials in the Valley and Westside, lives in Westwood.
Throughout the session, it appeared that civic leaders were more knowledgeable about Valley problems than candidates, who only rarely disagreed in principle on any of the issues. But afterward, the Valley inquisitors said they thought the Westside candidates were making progress in understanding Valley concerns.
"What surprised me was that the non-Valley people are learning more about the Valley," said Kathy Lewis, president of the Encino group. "The question is, do they know enough to serve the Valley?"
One of the most talked about issues Saturday was the controversial growth in the number of airline flights at Burbank Airport.
Friedman, 36, suggested that he would oppose legislation taking away homeowners' rights to repeatedly sue Burbank Airport for noise pollution. He would make an effort to see that flight patterns are changed to reduce noise in Valley neighborhoods, he said.
Woodlock, 41, spent most of her time answering the question by complaining that local politicians who have endorsed Friedman have not done much to solve the airport problem. She briefly suggested that legislation could be introduced to buy out homeowners residing under flight paths.
Margolin, 44, said it was too "difficult a situation to do much about," but he'd "be out there with the citizens complaining."
The candidates were divided on Friedman's suggestion that a floating state gasoline tax be adopted. The proposal, which would be similar to a plan advocated by U. S. Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson (D-Los Angeles), would tie the gas tax rate to the price of oil. When oil prices are low, as they are now, the gas tax would increase.
The proposal, which Friedman said would be appropriate if Congress does not pass Beilenson's bill, would generate revenue to expand the Ventura Freeway, address other transportation needs and encourage energy conservation.
"I think it makes absolute sense for us to take advantage of the windfall," said Friedman.
Woodlock said she opposes the concept because it would be a regressive tax that would hurt the poor. Margolin seemed to remain uncommitted by saying he did not like more taxes, but he would like the additional revenue.
The homeowners appeared as intent on instructing the candidates as they were in hearing their answers. They emphasized repeatedly that while some of the Valley problems are local in nature, special interest groups, such as the billboard and commercial development industries, often go to Sacramento to get state action to override local laws that grass-roots groups fought hard to pass.
All three candidates promised to establish an office in the Valley if elected. The primary race was triggered when the Democratic incumbent, Gray Davis (D-Los Angeles), decided to run for state controller.
The private meeting Saturday was a prelude to a public debate that homeowner groups are sponsoring Monday for all 43rd Assembly District candidates. The debate is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. at Dixie Canyon Elementary School in Sherman Oaks.