What was your vision for the Alliance? I felt strongly that it should be more than just a partnership of business organizations and businesses. If we didn’t have a healthy education system, there wouldn’t be the talent base for businesses to employ or for entrepreneurs to spring from. Communities needed an educational base where families could raise their children in good schools and pursue higher education in the Valley. And finally, I felt strongly that if we didn’t have government at the table reflective of the entire San Fernando Valley, we were missing an opportunity. My vision was really that business, education and government would come together. How could we develop workforce development programs with our colleges and our businesses to ensure that we were developing talent for the future? How could we develop infrastructure for the Valley, including transportation infrastructure? How we could market the Valley? Valley people fully understood and appreciated the many virtues of living, working and operating a business in the Valley, but most people outside the Valley did not. The Valley had sort of a sleepy suburban image to the rest of Southern California and frankly no brand identity outside of Southern California.
How did you develop the ‘Valley of the Stars’ campaign? Jane Boeckmann, who was the editor of “Visions” and the editor of “Valley Magazine” was asked to co-chair that with me. We said, “If we’re going to develop a brand identity for the Valley, what are we known for?” And clearly it was the entertainment industry with Disney, Warner Brothers, Universal, CBS and Dreamworks all located in the Valley as well as hundreds of other production companies, talent agencies and entertainment law firms and PR firms. We said, “How do we let the world know that this is where the stars come to live, to work, to produce the entertainment that entertains the world?” I was playing with different titles and slogans like, “San Fernando Valley, where the stars come out to shine.” And I kept using the words Valley and star in different iterations in a planning meeting of this marketing committee. When Steve Lew said, “Jacqueline Susann had a famous book called the “Valley of the Dolls,” why don’t we call ourselves the Valley of the Stars?” And I said, “Steve, I love it. It is simple. It gets the message across.”
How was the Alliance involved in the Orange Line? We the Alliance, working with our business partners like VICA, VEDC and the United Chambers; working with our higher education partners, which included all the community colleges, public and private universities; and the Valley’s cities convened a series of public transit workshops that were held in very public consensus-oriented ways. I set one basic rule: People could not come to tell us what they didn’t want because we already had a long list of what they didn’t want. They could only come in the spirit of finding something they would actually want or might be willing to approve. With three such sessions scheduled across a year, and some individual meetings in between, we brought a consensus position to our federal, state and local government officials. We said, “Here’s what the Valley has decided it wants: An express bus system along the old Southern Pacific Railroad. The reason it wants buses rather than rail is because it wants it now. The community doesn’t want to wait 20 or 30 years for a $3 billion rail program, which we were told might be the cost.” We said we’ll take the present value of the Valley’s tax revenue, and we believe we can build an express bus system, which we did. It’s a tremendous example of when you bring business groups and city officials together, and you bring education institutions that all have different ideas, you can actually get a consensus and see public agencies do what I think they’re quite willing to do, which is serve the needs of the public.