KATZ — Is Katz Setting Out to Become Valley Mayor?


Five years ago, Richard Katz was one of a few dozen Democratic Assembly members working fervently and successfully to block a bill that would have given the San Fernando Valley a vote on whether to secede, and simultaneously strip the city of L.A. of any vote over secession.

Five years later, Katz is now one of the top leaders of the group Valley VOTE (Voters Organized Toward Empowerment), which is leading the charge for a study of Valley secession.

What happened?

According to Katz, who has not taken a position either way on secession, he voted against the bill because it didn’t give the city of L.A. any input into the split the Valley could have broken away by majority vote, with no vote from L.A. residents.

“I was opposed to the version that didn’t require a citywide vote,” Katz said.

In fact, Katz had changed his position by the following year, working to pass similar bipartisan legislation to take away the L.A. City Council’s power to veto a secession movement. That bill passed.

In 1998, Katz moved even closer to the secession movement, joining VOTE’s board after his failed state Senate bid.

“I would not have guessed that he would have gotten so visible or active in secession,” said Sherry Bebitch Jeffe, a political professor at Claremont Graduate School who knows Katz. “He appeared to be an establishment politician. To me, it didn’t really fit his modus operandi. But maybe I misconceived him as part of the political establishment.”

Katz’s move to the VOTE forefront is what some call a brilliant political decision that could allow him to successfully run for mayor if the Valley does secede. Even his allies say they don’t mind his undecided secession views as long as he uses his legislative contacts to move their position forward.

“If he wants to maintain visibility, it’s a fairly smart political strategy,” said Jeffe. “There’s the possibility of a mayor’s position open if there is a Valley city.”

Katz said he was attracted to VOTE because of its perceived support in the Valley.

“I liked the fact that it was a grassroots effort and got that much support,” Katz said. “And I was impressed with the volunteers, that in a time of great cynicism, volunteers were out there collecting signatures for this cause. The cause itself has always made sense.”

Katz said he isn’t positioning himself for a job in the future Valley city, though a run for a future political office isn’t out of the question.

“If I wanted to run for local government, I’d run for (City Councilman Hal) Bernson’s seat,” he said. “I find the idea of creating a new city a better job. It’s pretty exciting.”

In 1993, Katz ran for mayor of Los Angeles but lost badly, which many attribute to the fact that he isn’t well-known outside of the San Fernando Valley. He also lost a bid for the state Senate in 1998 against Democrat Richard Alarcon in a close race. Jeffe says Katz misread his opponent and didn’t fight as hard as he should have.

She describes him as an archetypal modern politician, saying he has moved to the center, learned the process and learned how to use it.

Katz said VOTE has become his political outlet since his forced departure from the Legislature. He joined Valley VOTE’s board in 1998 after several years of offering the group his legislative advice.

Katz said he won’t decide whether or not to support secession until the study on the monetary effects of breakup is completed in the coming years.

No posts to display