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LEAVING OFFICE RUTH GALANTER OFFERS SOME ADVICE.

Byline: James Nash Staff Writer

After 15 years of representing parts of the Westside and a year representing the east San Fernando Valley on the Los Angeles City Council, Ruth Galanter said Valley communities need to organize and to vote if they want attention and services from City Hall.

Galanter, who will leave office today, said she's sometimes discouraged by a sluggish City Hall bureaucracy and by continuing problems in the East Valley district she has represented for a year. But she said communities that take government into their own hands can accomplish things as small as getting trees trimmed and as large as ensuring a stock of affordable housing.

``Lots of people start off with the presumption that government should do things for us,'' Galanter said in a wide-ranging interview in her offices in Van Nuys and Sun Valley. ``Even if government should do it, sometimes people need to be creative and work with us.''

For example, Galanter said Arleta residents complaining about broken sidewalks were able to get a contractor to fix the sidewalks at a cut rate with city assistance.

Galanter is leaving the City Council after 16 years, the first 15 in a Westside district that included her Venice home. In a redistricting scheme last year, the council uprooted Galanter's 5th District to Arleta, Sun Valley and parts of Van Nuys, North Hollywood, Panorama City and Pacoima.

Galanter complained at first, but then unveiled an ambitious plan to curb flooding in Sun Valley, remove hundreds of pieces of discarded furniture throughout the district, repair streets and energize the political culture of a district known for voter apathy.

Still much to do

Interviews with activists in the 6thDistrict suggest that the work remains unfinished.

``She's done the best she could in a short amount of time,'' said Lee McTaggart, a Sun Valley business owner and past president of the Sun Valley Chamber of Commerce. ``But she couldn't really do much.''

McTaggart said she has noticed some new storm drains in Sun Valley and better-swept streets, but the community remains much as it was a year ago. One of the most-anticipated city projects in the district - converting the Stonehouse Historic Monument on Sunland Boulevard into an art and activity center for children - remains far from finished, McTaggart said.

During a tour of the district that included a stop at the fenced-off Stonehouse, Galanter said the site represented both the hope and frustration of dealing with city government in the area. While the site will someday host children in creating art projects and listening to stories, it remains weed-strewn and boarded-up. Since a ground-breaking ceremony at the building May 15, there are few visible signs of progress on converting the historic building.

``Nothing happens until we start having meetings and someone from my office becomes the de facto project coordinator,'' Galanter said.

After she leaves office, Galanter said, ``Somebody had better keep an eye on these people.''

A lasting legacy

On a more positive note, Galanter said her office worked with the community to get a $50,000 sculpture at Van Nuys Airport - a piece of public art demanded by some people who were outraged over a series of bronze statues that they said were a poor fit for the airport.

Galanter said that project is a perfect example of the community working with government to get what people want.

But Jerry Piro, a Sun Valley activist who has opposed the expansion of the Bradley Landfill and advocated more flood controls in the area, said city government remains distant and unresponsive in the Northeast Valley. And he disputed Galanter's assertion that more civic involvement leads to better services.

``Everything we do is a battle,'' Piro said. ``Sometimes we get help from the City Council, but usually not much.''

Galanter said residents need to look inward: If they voted for the wrong council member, or didn't vote at all, they don't have much of a basis to complain, she said.

``It does matter who's in office,'' she said. ``Most people who run for elective office do so because they want to be an elected official, first and foremost. Some of them really enjoy standing in front of a public crowd and speaking.''

James Nash, (818) 713-3722

james.nash(at)dailynews.com

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Photo:

Departing Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter is vacating her office after 16 years.

Charlotte Schmid-Maybach/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 30, 2003
Words:733
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