Valleytalk/woodard/dt1st/mark2nd Getting the Story Straight Rick Caruso, developer of the Commons at Calabasas, incurred the wrath of Los Angeles City Councilman Hal Bernson recently when he failed to show up at a City Council meeting to discuss the Chatsworth Reservoir. Caruso, president of the Department of Water and Power Commission, was supposed to present a long-overdue report on possible alternative uses for the dry, DWP-owned reservoir, but said he was too ill to attend. Or was he? Bernson, an environmental advocate, had been waiting for a showdown with Caruso since last year when the developer suggested that the reservoir a home to bobcats and other critters be developed, possibly with offices or an athletic field. When Caruso didn’t show for the Jan. 20 meeting (the third time the issue was postponed), Bernson accused him of stonewalling. Council President John Ferraro came to the developer’s defense, saying he heard Caruso was quite ill. But somehow the message didn’t get through to Caruso’s staff. When a newspaper reporter called to check on the DWP commissioner’s declining health, a secretary reportedly said Caruso wasn’t sick at all, and that he would be in and out all day. Caruso did not respond to the Business Journal’s invitation to clear up the mystery. When asked a day after the meeting if Caruso was sick or not, his secretary said simply, “He’s not available.” Good Neighbors Supporting their neighborhood businesses is job one for chambers of commerce. But sometimes, hard as they try, they’ve got to cross to the other side of the street. Just ask the Encino Chamber of Commerce, where the monthly networking breakfast is due to be held in Tarzana. That’s because, with the exception of the Encino Glen Restaurant, the eateries in town don’t have facilities large enough to hold the average turnout for a chamber breakfast, which can attract 80 to 90 people. The chamber used to hold meetings at Acapulco, which had a room large enough to accommodate the group, but that restaurant has since closed its Encino outlet, said David Lynn, chief executive of the chamber. Now, the chamber alternates between the Encino Glen Restaurant and the Braemar Country Club in Tarzana. The country club is only about a half-mile away from the Encino-Tarzana border, and happily, it too is a member of the Encino chamber. Still, said Lynn, “it does lead to a funny result, doesn’t it?” It’s Us Against ‘Them’ After a random sampling of petitions found that Valley VOTE was short of the 131,000 signatures it needed to launch a study of secession, the group fired off a press release suggesting a conspiracy was at work. By its own calculations, the group estimated it had 154,000 valid signatures, more than enough to launch the study, and VOTE leaders questioned the motives of county election officials in not signing off on the petitions. “Valley VOTE hopes this is not the work of opponents trying to throw unnecessary obstacles in the way of the Valley ,” the group wrote in its Jan. 7 release. County Registrar-Recorder Conny McCormack took offense at the suggestion that her office is in cahoots with VOTE’s “opponents.” “I can’t even begin to believe they believe that,” she said. “Clearly my office has no stake in this. We’re just a petition verification service.” Initially, VOTE leaders indicated they would ask the Local Agency Formation Commission to ignore the sampling and approve the petitions, but the group later backed down when McCormack produced evidence showing that the formula, which was developed by the Secretary of State’s office, is considered accurate and widely accepted by election officials. VOTE’s estimate of valid signatures was too high because the group failed to take into account an estimated 25,877 duplicate signatures, said McCormick. Case closed. Speaking of Secession From the start of Valley VOTE’s petition drive, members have maintained that they don’t necessarily support secession, they only want the Local Agency Formation Commission to conduct a study to see if it’s financially feasible. Buy Larry Calemine, LAFCO’s executive director, says the group can’t have its cake and eat it too. In order for LAFCO to launch the secession study, VOTE must file an application with LAFCO asking that the Valley be detached from L.A. and incorporated into a new city. “So when Valley VOTE says all they want is a study, and they’re not in favor of secession, that flies in the face of the procedure,” said Calemine. Richard Close, VOTE’s chairman, said the group hasn’t wavered from its position. VOTE’s board will wait for the study to decide whether secession is good or bad. Asked if that means the group would pull its application if the board determines secession is bad for the Valley, Close said no. More likely, individual members might decide to leave Valley VOTE.