Pets May Have Place Too In a Post-Secession Valley Politics by Jacqueline Fox For years, the mantra of the secession movement has been the services and the people in the Valley who don’t get their fair share of them. Now, one Van Nuys-based business owner and secession supporter has launched a quiet pro-breakup campaign for a few more species of Valley residents: dogs, cats and other unwanted or mistreated animals. Nancy Myers Smith, owner of the California Cat Center Inc., a boarding house for cats, has included on her Web site, Valleypetnews.com, what appears to be the strongest case yet for why a new Valley city stands to provide the best hope for animals who would otherwise end up in the city’s animal shelters and Animal Services Department, which she describes as “a car smashed in a bad accident.” She’s provided a laundry list of suggestions for a new Valley city government that she says would dramatically outdo the animal regulation system currently in place and result in a reduction in the number of animals put to death each day “while the department’s wheels grind into never-never land.” “A new city government would have the ability to eventually create its own animal services department and we would have the opportunity to help cut down the number of cats and dogs and other animals that are unnecessarily euthanized each day,” said Smith. She says roughly 75 percent of the animals that go into city-run shelters never make it out alive. She is calling on all candidates for mayor and city council of a would-be Valley city to read her suggestions for changes and consider them with care, should they be elected and voters approve secession Nov. 5. Among her suggestions for change: – Increase adoptions by taking animals out of “jail-like” shelters and put them in storefronts, malls and other attractive environments to make the adoption process more appealing. – Give pet store owners incentives, such as tax cuts and waivers, to foster shelter animals instead of buying livestock dogs and cats. – Prohibit landlords from barring pets and require tenants to have pet insurance to cover damages to rental properties. – Eliminate the three-dog, three-cat rule and base the number of allowable pets on square footage and owners’ ability to care for the pets. – Decrease overpopulation by rewarding pet owners for spaying or neutering their animals with incentives such as McDonald’s coupons, pet food discounts and Blockbuster gift certificates. Smith said she didn’t expect to get as much attention as she has, particularly from the candidates for a new Valley city. But just days after she posted the pets-for-secession link on her Web site, she got a call from state Assemblyman Keith Richman, who is also a candidate for mayor of the Valley city. She says Richman liked her ideas. Then she asked him what his campaign platform on these issues was. “He said, ‘What do you think it ought to be?”‘ Smith said. She said she didn’t know. So Richman asked her to write down her proposals and zing them over via e-mail, which she has done. She’s since received an e-mail back from Richman who’s promised to take them into consideration as he hits the campaign trail. “I couldn’t believe an elected official actually called me up,” Smith said. “I was shocked.” Smith asserts that better representation for people would lead to better representation for animals. She adds to that the fact that a wide majority of the city’s higher-profile animal rights groups and associations are based in the Valley, including Actors & Others for Animals, Cat Crossing, New Leash on Life and The Brittany Foundation. She says a smaller government would also be a boon to those associations who have to compete for dollars and the ears of city officials every time they need help. “Not only would secession lead to better representation for the people in the Valley, it would lead to better representation for those groups that help animals,” Smith said. “Those people are talented and concerned and they can go to a new city government and be heard and try new ideas. Now, it’s almost impossible to get anywhere.” It’s all about efficiencies of scale, says Smith. “If you have a new city where our motivation is to do a better job, and a ratio of representatives that gives a better chance of being heard, that leads to the conclusion that, at a minimum, we would have hope.” Campaign Camaraderie Marc Strassman wants to be mayor of a new Valley city. But he’s got an unusual approach to his campaign. You won’t hear much from him about potholes, streetlights or business taxes. What he’s pushing for is the creation of a broadband network for e-government, e-commerce, e-education, and for every household in the Valley to have digital and high-speed Internet access. In fact, his entire campaign which has cost him a whopping $12 so far is being run entirely online and includes a weekly Webcast of his recently launched show, “Talk of the Valley.” “Haven’t raised a penny,” said Strassman. Now Strassman is reaching out to fellow candidates in all 14 council districts. He’s offering to videotape candidates either in groups or individually for free and convert the tapes to video for broadcast on his site. “If I were charging, I’d say each of the videos would cost me about $300 or $400,” Strassman said. “But what I’m offering is a way to show the candidates a way of demonstrating that the Internet is a great tool for political demonstration. The centerpiece of my campaign is to provide everyone in the Valley with digital access and emphasize e-commerce, so why not extend that to the candidates because we all want the same thing?” Ultimately, says Strassman, he envisions a new Valley city that would do much to benefit the Latino community. As South American markets begin to establish a wider Internet and broadband infrastructure, they will be looking for ways to use that technology to import and export goods and services to and from the Latino communities overseas and here in the United States. “I see the Valley city as the hub of cyber-trade with Latin America,” said Strassman. “If we have several hundred thousand people in the Valley with ties to Latin America with Internet access, we will have the potential to run the hub for e-trade and real commerce, as well as education.” In addition to his e-platform, Strassman also wants to see the Valley become the center of manufacturers of solar and other alternative energy sources. Jacqueline Fox is politics reporter for the San Fernando Valley Business Journal. She can be reached at email@example.com.