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San Fernando
Tuesday, Oct 3, 2023


hertzberg/43inches/1stjc/mark2nd By DANIEL TAUB Staff Reporter Once upon a time, freshman lawmakers had to wait their turn to get prestigious committee chairmanships and to play significant roles in legislation. But term limits has changed all that, says Assemblyman Robert M. Hertzberg, D-Van Nuys, who was elected last year to the seat formerly held by Democrat Barbara Friedman. Although still a novice, Hertzberg is chairing the Public Safety Committee (which handles law-and-order legislation) and is co-author of a high-profile bill with Assemblyman Tom McClintock, R-Granada Hills, to eliminate the power of the Los Angeles City Council to quash San Fernando Valley secession. As of late last month, the bill had passed the Assembly, but was facing a tough battle in the Senate. Hertzberg recently spoke with San Fernando Valley Business Journal editors and reporters about his first several months in office: Question: Do people really want secession, or is it simply more that they want a right to vote on it? Answer: My sense of it is that there’s not a huge groundswell for secession. I think it’s a respect issue. “We want the right. Don’t tell us we shouldn’t have the right. Don’t tell us that you’re going to control our destiny.” It’s almost visceral in that sense, you know, kind of the Valley “us vs. them.” That’s the underlying sentiment in terms of eliminating the City Council’s veto power. I’m not a secessionist. My view of it, personally, is this: One, I don’t have the data to make a determination. But two, if you’re really going to secede, break it up into a ton of little cities like San Fernando. Break it up into smaller communities. The people of Granada Hills vs. Pacoima have very different interests. So if you’re going to break it up, break it up smaller. Those kind of local needs can be addressed in charter reform. I’m certainly going to work toward that. Q: In the few months since you’ve begun, any general observations about the job, about life in Sacramento? A: No. 1 is that it’s absolutely unbelievable. It is extraordinary, the whole devolution of power from the federal government, and the passing of power to the state. We’re seeing it with welfare reform, and we’re going to see it with a number of other levels over the next number of years. At the same time, because of Proposition 13 and all of its prodigy, we’re seeing this tremendous reliance on the state and it affects everything. My own sense of the larger picture is that we’re going to devolve to an even less centralized state government and stronger regional governments. I think you’re seeing a struggle now, and I think in the next 10 years you’re going to see a significant change in the role of counties. We have 58 counties in California that were largely instruments of history, that were artificial boundaries created for judicial and law enforcement reasons. I ultimately think it’s going to devolve to the old days of the city-states, where you have economic synergies in regions. Q: Willie Brown was a big promoter of regional government, but a lot of people questioned his motives. A: I questioned his motives too, but I think he’s right, if he was sincere. I clearly think that that’s where we’re looking to. I’m on the International Trade Committee, and in international trade, we’re really talking about this regional concept … in transportation plans, in terms of promoting overseas and the like. Q: But at the same time, you have people pushing for more local government, such as in the San Fernando Valley. A: I think you’re going to see this synergy that exists where you have this regionalism in larger sense of government, and much smaller units of government whether it’s going to be through boroughs or neighborhood councils or smaller units of cities or whatever. So that at the local level, people are going to feel much more comfortable. And then there will be larger regions that will have shared interests that is going to be based somewhat by geography, but more on economic concerns. Q: You’ve talked about eliminating layers of government. But if you have boroughs or town councils, and then you have regional government on top of that, that’s two new layers of governments. Is that what people want? A: No, absolutely not. But it’s the transition, it’s what you’ve got to do. It’s part of the process. It’s what happens in revolution. If you look throughout history, anytime you have major change, you always have these kind of overlapping factors that occur. Then I think you’ll see a changing role. There clearly is a movement in this direction, in the local elected officials, the county officials, the city council a lot of county supervisors are seeing this. It kind of emanates from the difficulty of the roles that counties play, and the fact that we’re trying to supplement them, and the fact that they can’t really perform their services very well. Q: They’re kind of the odd man out, aren’t they? Are we going to see the end of county government? A: I think the role of county government is going to substantially change. And I think the fact that we have a lot of county officials in Sacramento is going to help that. I’m seeing evidence of it. I’m telling you this is down the line. Q: What has been the impact of term limits in Sacramento? A: In the old days, a lot of what happened in Sacramento came from the relationships (among lawmakers). Term limits created a sea change, and the new people don’t have those historical relationships. They don’t have those prejudices and those biases. And so the consequence of this, and a number of factors, creates tremendous fluidity. And it’s really broken the back, I think, at least in the short run of a lot of the interest groups. The lobbyists who were there, who knew everybody, who were tough and had reputations, and threw around a lot of money, are scrambling just like the brand new person, because everybody’s new to everybody. So it’s really leveled the playing field in many respects, I think. Q: You say the power of special interests has diminished. Opponents of term limits always claimed that term limits would increase the power of special interests, because lawmakers would have less institutional knowledge and would rely more on lobbyists for their expertise. Has that come to pass, or was that a red herring? A: It hasn’t happened because there’s not opportunities for lobbyists to sit there and (talk to) legislators. My interface with lobbyists is very limited very limited. I don’t have time. I’m rushing from meeting to meeting, I’m preparing, I’m working with the staff. And I know a lot of my friends are in the same boat. Q: What are you hearing from businesses in the Valley? A: You’re hearing regulation issues. What you hear is this: If they have specific interest in a specific regulatory agency, you’ll hear complaints about that agency that deal with their business. But you hear kind of the larger sense of less government regulation, less tax type stuff. Even from the Democrats, you’re hearing get-government-off our-back and make-it-simpler-and-more-customer-friendly kind of stuff. Q: How much is business driving the agenda of the Legislature? A: I think they’re extremely effective. I think that there’s a more moderate mood in the air, generally. I think that the political winds have shifted a bit. I think they’re very effective in terms of their presentations. And I think that you have a situation where with the closeness of the respective caucus numbers, there’s a new mentality around. Because of that, you’re finding a lot more moderate people taking positions that are more consistent with business. Business is looking for the more moderate Democrats to build coalitions with. I don’t know how effective they are in lobbying, but I think they are effective in results. Q: Tell us about your schedule, your lifestyle and how it’s changed since you’ve been in Sacramento. A: I’ve never said the Pledge of Allegiance so much in my life. (laughs) I go up Monday morning on the seven o’clock flight, I’m there all day on Monday, I work until one o’clock or two o’clock on Monday night. I only know the road from the Capitol to my apartment in the little government car that they give you. I fall asleep. I get up early in the morning on Tuesday, I come back, we have committees all day, sometimes until three or four in the morning. I come down on Tuesday night, go home so I can spend time with my family and be here usually I don’t go to functions. I get up at five o’clock in the morning on Wednesday, get back on the airplane, go up on the seven o’clock flight. I’m there Wednesday, I stay overnight Wednesday night, and come back on the 12 o’clock or the two o’clock flight or whatever. And I’ve never worked less than to midnight any night since I’ve been there when I’m up there. I leave on Thursday, get to my (district) office at three, sometimes four or five, in the afternoon, and have meetings with staff on Thursday, go out to functions on Thursday night. Friday, all day long it’s activities. Friday, it’s family night. Saturday’s family day, Saturday night is my wife night, then Sunday is back on the trail.

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