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Unsolicited Advice on a Complex Region : Focus on San Fernando, Santa Clarita, Antelope valleys

April 25, 1993

It's been said that editorial writers are in the business of offering unsolicited advice, and that no one ever becomes popular at such an enterprise. Well, at the risk of greatly increasing our unpopularity, we direct you to the fact that there are two editorial pages in your Sunday paper today. The first is the one with which you are most familiar, the main "Editorials of The Times," still found in the Opinion section and devoted in part to regional, national and international issues. The second marks the inaugural effort of the Valley edition's very own editorial page, produced in Chatsworth and devoted to matters of particular importance to those who live and work in the San Fernando, Santa Clarita and Antelope valleys. From now on, our Valley editorials will appear here every Sunday, in the local news section. On the opposing page, you will also find the final piece of The Times' expanded focus on matters of significance to the valleys: a once-a-week Commentary page designed to offer a forum for public debate on the important issues that affect all of us.

Simply put, the Valley deserves its own editorial and commentary pages because it has evolved from its most recent status as a bedroom community to a complex and increasingly diverse economic, social and political engine.

The Valley is part of a city and county, but also deserving of special attention. If incorporated, it would be the sixth-largest metropolitan area in the nation. Also, according to the Valley Industry and Commerce Assn., its more than 39,000 businesses employ more workers than 17 states. It now has a higher ratio of business jobs per 1,000 residents than L. A. County as a whole. Its economy, though racked by a continuing recession, has become more varied than most would believe. That's because of a shift toward more of a service-oriented economy that began as early as the middle 1980s and helped reduce the Valley's reliance on defense-related industries. "We're an economy in transition," adds Valley Business magazine publisher Wayne Adelstein. "Much of the growth now is coming from minority businesses and small businesses. That is the future."

Similarly, the San Fernando Valley can no longer be considered the homogenous, all-white, middle-class enclave that published reports, such as those in a prominent national news magazine, erroneously suggest. More than 70% of the Valley's public school enrollment, for example, is composed of minority students, and only 3% arrive here daily by bus from other parts of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The most recent U. S. Census figures also show a rather sharp decline in the number of white residents in the Valley, while the number of Latino and Asian residents have more than doubled since 1980.

Accompanying this new diversity has been an ever widening gap between rich and poor, between the highly educated and those with little schooling, and between those rankled by the amounts they pay in taxes and what they gain for that, and those who are more and more dependent on the dwindling availability of social services.

The number of people on welfare in the Valley, for example, has been increasing at a faster rate than in Los Angeles County as a whole. Income gaps have also grown, leaving the median income of families in Encino and Tarzana, for example, at twice that of families in North Hollywood. The percentage of Valley residents who are college graduates has also increased, just as the number of Valley residents who are high school dropouts has also risen.

All of this has made the Valley an area that is far more complicated and difficult to understand, and an area that is deserving of expanded news coverage. It is ripe with the kinds of issues that deserve editorial scrutiny, public debate and, of course, a little unsolicited advice.

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