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Anderson's 12-Term Legacy? Millions for Public Works : Politics: The congressman's decision to retire leaves local officials worrying they will lose out on lucrative federal projects.

December 15, 1991|GEORGE HATCH | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Now that U.S. Rep. Glenn M. Anderson has announced that he will not seek reelection next year, ending more than four decades in public office, the question emerges: How will the San Pedro Democrat be remembered?

A major figure in foreign policy?

No way.

A force in national politics?

Sorry.

Anderson, rather, is likely to go down as a master in the art of bringing home the bacon. For years, he has used his seniority and a choice committee assignment to line up lucrative federal support for local projects ranging from port dredging to freeway and Metro Rail construction.

That explains the reaction to his announcement last Sunday that he will not seek a 13th term in Congress. Though the news may have brightened the day of his would-be successors, it has darkened the mood of local officials who have counted on Anderson to deliver the federal goods.

"I hate to see him go," said state Assemblyman Dave Elder (D-San Pedro). "In terms of the infrastructure for our area, we have been dealt a severe blow."

Said Dwayne Lee, development director for the Port of Los Angeles: "We'll still work with Congress, but we'll have to work harder now. . . . It will be a loss to us."

Anderson, who began his political career as mayor of Hawthorne in 1940, says he wants to make way for younger politicians. He points out that he will be nearly 80 when his term expires next December. Early in his career, he says, he felt frustrated by elderly politicians who clung to office.

"I felt, 'Now why don't they retire?' " Anderson said last week. In recent years, he added, "I tried to tell myself I was not as far behind as those people I thought about years ago. But maybe I am."

Anderson has, in fact, shown signs of slipping. Described earlier in his career as accessible and involved in day-to-day matters, he has been criticized in recent years for being inattentive and controlled by his aides.

Last December, fellow Democrats stripped him of the chairmanship of the powerful House Public Works and Transportation Committee, saying his advanced age had left him too reliant on his staff and unable to hold his own in policy discussions.

And this fall, California Democrats proposed to carve up his harbor-based political turf as part of reapportionment, a once-a-decade shifting of legislative boundaries intended to accommodate population shifts.

The change, part of a statewide reapportionment proposal adopted by the Democrat-controlled Legislature but killed by Republican Gov. Pete Wilson, would have made it extremely tough for Anderson to win reelection next year.

"The Democrats served notice that if they were going to sacrifice someone, Anderson was the one who had to go," said LeRoy Hardy, a political science professor at Cal State Long Beach. "The political reality was that the young bucks wanted to retain their power against the old guy."

When he leaves office, Anderson is sure to be remembered for high points--and low points--in the earlier stages of his political career.

As lieutenant governor to Edmund G. (Pat) Brown in 1965, for instance, he was criticized for failing to send in the National Guard in the early stages of the Watts riots while Brown was out of the state.

As a congressman in 1972, he authored the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a federal law that set a permanent moratorium on the killing of certain ocean mammals and on the importing of their products.

But Anderson will probably be best known for garnering federal support for local projects as a member of the highly prized Public Works and Transportation Committee, which he headed from 1988 to 1990. During 1981 to 1988, he chaired its powerful subcommittee on surface transportation, a panel that plays a major role in determining which highway projects qualify for federal funds.

Made possible as a result were the Port of Los Angeles' main shipping channel (called the Glenn M. Anderson ship channel), the Century Freeway (officially called the Glenn M. Anderson Freeway) and Metro Rail (which has erected a plaque in Anderson's honor in its station at 7th and Flower streets.

Officials say Angelenos are still unaware of many Anderson-backed projects, such as the plan to almost double the cargo handling capacity of the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach or the elevated bus and car-pool lane now being installed on the Harbor Freeway.

"They have tunnels being built under their feet, busways and rail lines being built above their heads, and no one is really aware of all the things this guy has done," said Long Beach City Councilman Ray Grabinski, chairman of the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission. "The best tribute you can give a public official is that he did everything for the future."

Still, officials don't relish trying to keep federal money flowing for such work without Anderson's help.

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