One can only imagine the reaction of Raleigh and June Waller of West Covina when they received a bill from Oregon officials for nearly $3.5 million--the cost of fighting a fire that began on the Wallers' property in southern Oregon last July.
The blaze was one of many raging in the area at the time and swept across 10,300 acres. Nine homes were destroyed and two men were killed trying to save logging equipment. Under Oregon law, landholders are liable for putting out fires that begin on their property.
The Wallers declined to discuss the matter, referring questions to their Encino attorney, Arthur Greenberg. He would not talk about how the fire started but said, "There were a lot of unique conditions at the time--wind and temperatures."
To get a bill for that amount, he said, "was really a shock." He denied that there was any negligence and said the bill "is not itemized very well."
Greenberg said the Wallers have never lived on the several hundred acres and had not really worked the property. They bought it, he said, to use for a retirement home, "but obviously things have changed."
"I love my husband madly," says Beverly Hills realtor Elaine Young. That will come as no surprise to motorists grinding past her home in the 1900 block of Coldwater Canyon Drive, where a large, floodlighted Valentine's Day display in the front yard proclaims, "Elaine Loves Bill."
Actually, she celebrates almost every special day of the year with a sign painted by artist Marly Northcutt. Young added the personal note to the Cupid-bedecked valentine because her husband, film director William A. Levey, had been in Africa making a movie and "I hadn't seen him for three months."
It all started 15 years ago when she put up a big outdoor get-well card for Jennifer, then 7, her daughter by her first marriage to actor Gig Young. The neighborhood kids loved it so much, Elaine Young said, that it seemed a good idea to salute Christmas, Easter, the 4th of July and Halloween. She doesn't do Thanksgiving because "I haven't figured out what to do for Thanksgiving yet." Besides, each sign stays up for a month, which would mean a conflict with Halloween.
No one complains, she said, including the motorists. Coldwater is bumper to bumper and slow during rush hours, so "there has never been an accident yet."
When a raggedy man on a bicycle left a tool box outside the front entrance of the federal office building in downtown Los Angeles Monday morning, the police bomb squad got a quick call. Witnesses said the man acted nervous and pedaled south on Los Angeles Street, leaving the mystery box behind.
He was wearing a ski mask, leading some to suspect that he was a terrorist who just couldn't afford to dress well.
A one-block section of Los Angeles Street was blocked off and the bomb squad blew open the tool box from a safe distance, using a remote triggering device. About the most dangerous thing inside, said a Criminal Conspiracy Section officer, was a crescent wrench.
Los Angeles city employees are going to get an invitation in their pay envelopes Wednesday.
Just how they will take to it remains to be seen.
They will be asked to spend part of their Feb. 23 lunchtime sweeping up litter in the Civic Center area. This, according to a flier being sent out by the mayor's office and the Department of Public Works, will "show the people of our city that we will do our part to make it a more beautiful place to live and work!"
"It's going to be a lot of fun," says Chris Ung of the mayor's office. "We'll have music and a band." She promises that Mayor Tom Bradley is going to be out there in overalls. Former football player Pat Haden will emcee and there will be such celebrities as former basketball player Mitch Kupchak.
Ung can't say for certain whose idea Operation Clean Sweep was, or what city employees will think about it. "I think some people in our office are very enthusiastic," she says. "We're looking at this as a fun event."