note: The secession issue is heating up - today
the Los Angeles Times published the second of
two vast stories [I,
II FREE ACCESS,
REGISTRATION REQUIRED], highlighting its own
opposition/ignorance and the emergence
of the Valley-based
Los Angles Daily News as secession`s
After WWII, the San
Fernando Valley was the nirvana of the common man, the
Promised Land where the average Joe could afford to buy
his place in the sun. Now The Valley might once again
become a leader. If it manages to secede from Los
Angeles and become an independent city of 1.35 million,
it could confirm a
national trend toward downsizing America`s big
I take Valley
secession personally. I am an old Valley … uh, what`s
the male equivalent of a
Valley Girl? … I am an old Valley Dude. A couple of
years ago I
moved back from Chicago to my hometown of Studio
City, which is in the southeastern Valley, just over the
Hollywood Hills from Beverly Hills.
Growing up, I`d
always thought of "Studio City" as a perfectly normal
name for a hometown. Then I went off to Rice U., where
the Houstonians found me disappointing. They felt that
as a Studio Citizen, I should be calling my agent while
paddling around in one of those inflatable pool chairs.
There was a good
reason for my naiveté. When I left for college in 1976,
Studio City was a transition zone between two radically
different spheres of influence: Hollywood and the
military-industrial complex. Sure, a few screen gods
lorded it above us in the Hills. But the flatlands of
Studio City were middle-middle class. My father, for
example, worked for 41 years for the nearby Lockheed
Aircraft Corporation as a stress engineer. The
prevailing ethos of hard work, sobriety, and moderate
frugality reflected the kind of personality demanded by
the aerospace industry.
Much has changed in
The Valley. The weather has grown even lovelier. The
radically diminished, thanks to the kind of
environmental laws that establishment “conservatives”
constantly disparage, much to
their electoral detriment.
Due in no small
measure to the local aerospace firms, the good guys won
the Cold War. Since 1991, the aerospace firms have
mostly moved to the high desert north of The Valley.
Some of the engineers and skilled machinists who built
SR-71, the fastest jet of all time, out of titanium
have moved to the Pacific Coast north of San Diego.
There, they fashion that tricky metal into
golf clubs, a modern version of beating your swords
metalworkers have gone with them – or decamped for Utah,
Oregon, or other states where millions of immigrants
don`t yet drive wages down and housing costs up. On the
site of the old Lockheed Skunk Works, Disney now makes
To somebody with a
fondness for the middle-class egalitarianism of my
youth, many of the changes are disquieting.
Verbalists like me have filtered into Studio City to
replace the engineers. At the local Kinko`s,
screenwriters photocopy their scripts all night long.
The new generation of school kids can`t tell a
P-38 from an
F-117, but can offer well-informed opinions on
whether Attack of the Clones will open even
bigger than Spider-Man.
The old Valley, with
its abundance of skinflint machinists and engineers, was
one of the do-it-yourself capitols of America. But the
local screenwriters, lawyers, dealmakers, and character
actors who now live along the Hollywood Hills in the
affluent white southern tier of The Valley tend to have
better verbal than visual intelligence. So they rely on
an enormous number of Spanish-speaking immigrants for
anything that would require getting
their hands dirty. Wages for Hispanics are kept low
by the constant pressure of the "reserve army of the
unemployed" arriving daily from south of the border.
A Guatemalan gardener makes about 10% as much per
hour as a white personal trainer.
Beyond the fifth
grade level, the public schools are a mess, due
in part to immigration-driven overcrowding and
language problems. An abundance of private schools with
annual costs in the $12,000 to
$19,200 range have taken up the slack for the
In contrast to the
lush neighborhoods south of the Ventura Freeway, the
northeast and central sections of the Valley look like
Tijuana. People on both sides of the secession fight
cite this constantly. Anti-secessionists in West L.A.
suggest that any place that looks as dreary as The
Valley needs the guidance of the enlightened Westside.
Secessionists argue that the scruffiness is because Los
Angeles has treated The Valley like a redheaded
can only do so much about this problem. Much of The
Valley looks like Tijuana for the simple reason that
many of its inhabitants used to live in Tijuana. That`s
direct responsibility of Washington D.C.
The San Fernando
Valley secession movement has gained momentum this year.
Today, 59% of Valleyites say they`d vote to leave Los
Angeles, even though L.A. is asking for a $61 million
annual alimony payment for ten years, or roughly $1,800
per family of four.
Secession is the
inevitable result of 1] population growth and 2]
developing diversity. As Los Angeles has become more
due to immigration, in recent decades – local
government has gotten bigger and thus less responsive.
There are now a quarter million L.A. residents per city
councilman. Further, the emotional ties binding L.A.
residents have loosened.
Freeway traffic has gotten so bad that residents of
The Valley and The Basin visit each other less and less.
nobody thought Los Angeles would vote to let The Valley
go. But black politicians in South-Central are now
warming to the idea. The Valley is about evenly split
between whites and Hispanics, with few blacks. Thus,
jettisoning The Valley would destroy
what`s left of the Republican Party in L.A. and
postpone the Hispanic takeover of the city`s Democratic
Party. Secession might make basketball legend and inner
Magic Johnson the Mayor of Los Angeles.
"This issue—the right-sizing of local
governance—could well turn this largely middle-class
uprising into a successful revolution."
The problem with
Valley secession, however, is not that The Valley is too
small to survive on its own—it would be the sixth
biggest city in America. Instead, it would still be
too big—and too divided.
The chief advantages
of suburban independence are 1] fostering competition
among municipalities; 2] providing demographic
homogeneity so that government services can more
precisely meet citizens` needs.
I lived for many
years in Chicago, which is surrounded by a multitude of
suburbs that compete fiercely for taxpayers by offering
first-rate schools, playgrounds, municipal golf courses
and the like. For example,
Wilmette is a North Shore suburb whose market niche
is attracting affluent young families with extraordinary
public services. (Even its massive taxes benefit
property values, since they serve to keep out the
riff-raff.) Wilmette`s high school,
New Trier, is one of the most famous in the U.S. It
even has its own FM radio station. Similarly,
Wilmette`s latest fieldhouse looks like a Palm
Springs health spa, with 94,000 sq. feet of recreation
area spread across 75 posh rooms.
In contrast, The
Valley has notoriously bad public schools and other
facilities because it`s part of the vast City of Los
Angeles. Government agencies don`t have many neighboring
cities to keep them alert.
Republicans have been committing political suicide by
backing state-level voucher plans, such as the recent
crashing and burning of Wall Street Journal Edit
Bret Schundler in the New Jersey gubernatorial race.
What GOP ideologues don`t grasp is that affluent
homeowners don`t want slum kids using vouchers to get
into their local schools. The high test scores of their
schools translate directly into property value. People
who live in exclusive suburbs want to keep them that
Perhaps no large
urban area in the United States appears more intended by
nature to be self-governing than the mountain-ringed San
Fernando Valley. Unfortunately, what might once have
been the most homogenous middle class area in America is
no more. The Valley`s increasingly
Latin American level of inequality negates many of
the advantages of breaking free from L.A. Next, the
Valley itself may break up: the affluent South; the
middle class white North West; the Hispanic North East.
You read it here first.
[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and
May 31, 2002