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The Valley

13th District Candidates Just Want a Little Respect

November 01, 2002|Peter Hong | Times Staff Writer

Some of Los Angeles' most-affluent communities are in the 13th district of the proposed San Fernando Valley city council, an area that includes Sherman Oaks, Encino and Tarzana. Its homeowner groups are among the city's most powerful, and are eagerly courted by politicians.

Yet, according to the seven candidates for the 13th district seat, feelings of neglect by City Hall run high.

The council hopefuls say that the area is over-taxed and under-served by Los Angeles government, and that secession would bring lower taxes and better services. The winner will take office only if the Valley cityhood measure wins Tuesday.

Frank Joseph Cordon, 76, a Tarzana resident who is the retired chief executive officer of Heritage Insurance Group, said he is running because of his "disgust with everything that's transpiring in City Hall," such as the recent Belmont school controversy. Cordon said that, if secession succeeds and if he is elected, he would focus first on "developing a budget we can live with, reducing taxes and establishing town hall meetings to get feedback from the community."

Virginia S. Depew, 82, a real estate broker and former elementary school teacher, said she is a candidate because "downtown has no idea how to run a government efficiently." Depew, of Sherman Oaks, favors lowering real estate and sales taxes.

"With local control and honest, responsive government, the Valley can evolve into a model city with a school system rivaling the best in the country," she said.

J. Richard Leyner, 65, a commercial real estate broker who also lives in Sherman Oaks, wants to create a "business-friendly, neighborhood-responsive government." He would phase out the gross receipts tax on businesses and "empower neighborhood councils with the authority to make decisions."

Marvin D. Rowen, 71, a retired Superior Court judge who now works for a mediation and arbitration firm, lives in Tarzana. Rowen said that a smaller city government would lead to "better police and fire departments, decent mass public transit, libraries, museums and social services."

Rowen said his mediation skills would be valuable in a new government: "I'm a problem-solver, rather than a problem-maker," he said.

Kenneth Scalir, 32, a Sherman Oaks marketing researcher, is emphasizing his liberal beliefs. "I want people to know you can be for a Valley city and still be liberal and progressive," he said. Scalir said he favors "strong rent control and a higher minimum wage."

Scalir also said crime-fighting strategies should include measures such as expanded after-school programs. "I don't want to just throw people in jail," he said.

Lawrence A. Schapiro, 41, is co-president of 9 Yards Entertainment, a television and movie production company. The Encino resident is unique among the district's council candidates in that he is neutral on secession. "I do not campaign on it," he said. "I did not attend the rallies."

Schapiro, who has lived in Encino since elementary school, said his many years living in the district set him apart. "I'm afraid some activists who have lived in the district for 5 or 10 years are interested in the Valley becoming its own city because they see it as an opportunity to get a city council position," Schapiro said.

"If we do become our own city, I want to make sure there is a candidate who loves our district as much as I do."

Candidate Sam Saifi did not return phone calls requesting an interview.

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