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Around the Foothills

'The revenues that come from what you consider bad change provide good services.'

February 11, 1988|DOUG SMITH

The average age of a member of the Glendale Republican Women's Study Club is less--perhaps by a whole generation--than that of 99-year-old Lola Elkins, who shows up every weekday morning in the office of Assemblyman Pat Nolan to volunteer her time.

But the group's collective energy in confronting issues is no less remarkable than hers.

The women meet once a month in the Glendale YWCA on East Lexington Avenue for political briefings, legislative "action alerts" on bills in Sacramento and the study of global issues, along with brunch.

The topics at this week's meeting, which ranged from political changes in Sacramento to demographic changes in Glendale, obviously challenged some of the traditional values the women hold dear. But they didn't flinch.

The event began with a study group of about 50 women who heard a review by Nolan aide Bob Haueter of the infighting in Sacramento between Assembly Speaker Willie Brown and the "gang of five" dissident Democrats.

About 90 women--including Lola Elkins--and three or four men guests assembled for the brunch in the bright, pyramidal-ceilinged dining hall, which was decorated with paintings of flowers, seascapes and mountain scenes by a local art club.

The centerpiece of each table was a small stand containing 5-foot-high American flags. The women, who all seemed to be white and middle-class, projected a neat, gray-haired and no-nonsense attitude of order and attention to duty over style. They sang "God Bless America" together.

As if it needed to be said, President Amber Resh, in her introduction, gave a pretty good definition of what they had in common.

"What is it that makes an organization not only survive, but grow and flourish through three wars, nine presidents and 50 of the most tumultuous years this great nation has experienced?" she asked.

Her answer was: "A common-sense government, devotion to purpose and, most importantly, the tireless efforts of thousands of outstanding Republican women."

Meanwhile, a woman in the audience, indulging in what little side chatter there was, offered a slightly more jaded view of politics.

"Politics is dirty," said Elizabeth Museus, who wore a navy blue dress and white jacket. "All of us lovely ladies--I don't know why we get into it." Her opinion was based, she said, on news that Haueter had brought from Sacramento. It seemed that Brown, the liberal Democratic leader, was not really the archenemy they might have thought. Haueter said that Nolan actually had a good working relationship with Brown and that a replacement could turn out a lot worse.

"If we can hang on to Willie, we can escape Hayden," she said, referring to more radical Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica).

The main speaker, Glendale Mayor Ginger Bremberg, herself a Republican and a dues-paying member of the club, proposed a view of America that she suggested might make some of her audience uncomfortable.

"You all know that Glendale is changing," she said. "And some of you feel that's not good."

Bremberg's message was both moral and practical.

On the moral plane, she lectured almost like a grade-school teacher:

"The biases that we carry are unreasonable," she said. "They are without a great deal of foundation, but we all cherish them. We nurture them.

"Somehow, somewhere, sometime, this community has got to recognize that every nationality and every ethnic group and every religious organization has contributed something to make this country great."

For practical reasons, she suggested, change has benefited Glendale.

The city's growth brought revenue that paid for services that kept it from slipping down the path toward porno shops, adult bookstores and related sleaze, she said.

"The revenues that come from what you consider bad change provide good services," she said.

The women clapped when Bremberg cited, as one of those services, the purchase of hundreds of acres in the Verdugo Mountains that would be protected from development forever for everyone.

"Who is everyone in the city?" she asked. "Everyone in the city is not the same everyone you knew 20 years ago, nor even 10 years ago."

Then, neatly, she tied her themes of growth, change, development and ethnic diversity together, all under the heading of good Republican values.

"I don't have to remind you that the party we represent has long stood for private property rights," she said. "I don't remember anyone in the party saying, 'Take away property rights.'

"The new people coming in--some of them are coming from an entirely different form of government. They don't learn as quickly as we might like them to. . . .

"It's our responsibility as regulars, if you will, to say to the irregulars, if you will: 'This is the way it is done. Won't you please listen and learn, and we'll help you.' "

The women applauded, resolved, it appeared, to shoulder their responsibility.

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