Patt Morrison

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Should Part of Van Nuys Defect to Sherman Oaks?

Forget gun rights or abortion -- when you start messing with California real estate, you invite warfare.

That's what happened when we spent a good part of an hour on the effort by an 1,800-home part of Van Nuys that's trying to marry Sherman Oaks and change its name.

The dynamics of neighborhood identity and the subtext of the community profiles are what a lot of callers focused on -- the fact that Van Nuys is 60% Latino and Sherman Oaks is about 74% white; that the median household income in Van Nuys is $41,000, and about $69,000 in Sherman Oaks. As one caller said, in these parts, it's all about ''location, location, location.''

The fact that both Van Nuys' and Sherman Oaks' neighborhood councils are against this means there's more at stake than where to put a ''welcome to'' sign; it's a test of whether the City Council will overrule the neighborhood councils' input and heed a council member's recommendation [in this case the departing Wendy Greuel] and letters and petition signatures. What happens between Van Nuys and Sherman Oaks will set both the tone and the precedent for other such neighborhood ''reinventions'' in the 400-plus-square-mile boundaries of the city of Los Angeles

Laura Chick's job as inspector general is to keep watch over how California spends its $50 billion or so in federal stimulus money. But she said she's ''nervous'' about whether what hasn't been spent is even getting to the right people and projects. In California, she said, it's so far kept teachers working and extended unemployment benefits; it may yet serve to shore up the state's crumbling water-system infrastructure.

Some states are in such a hurry to spend the money -- in some cases using it to patch places in their own bald budgets -- that there's concern in D.C. that the money isn't doing everything the Obama administration hoped it would. We heard from the Government Accountability Office about its loooong report on how the money's being spent and how the vast bulk of it may yet be spent.

Everyone who had to memorize poems in school and who chose Edgar Allan Poe because of the easy thumpety-thump cadences of ''The Bells'' -- it all came back to you, didn't it? The actor and director presenting ''Nevermore ... An Evening with Edgar Allan Poe'' at the Steve Allen Theatre were in studio with a bit of the melancholy poet for his bicentennial. Poe is credited with inventing the detective story, and he ended his days dressed in another man's clothes, dying of -- your choice -- drink, drugs, TB, rabies, no one knows for sure.

Oh, the tintinnabulation of the bells! Reading Poe used to be a guilty pleasure, but now that literary critics have come to regard him more highly, you don't have to slip a Hemingway dust jacket over ''The Murders in the Rue Morgue.'' [The French loved and respected Poe long before the Americans did, which means that in this, at least, we share a regard, if not when it comes to Jerry Lewis movies.]

And in what I hope won't be a regular blog feature ... oops! On yesterday's program, I talked with both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's chief of staff, Susan Kennedy, and state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg. While the governor has said he would favor sussing out fraud by fingerprinting the people who receive state in-home support services [generally the blind, elderly and disabled], Sen. Steinberg would not, although I blogged that he would. What he would be willing to back is a proposal to fingerprint the workers in that program. On Airtalk earlier today, Larry Mantle heard from listeners who admitted getting paid by the program even though they didn't do the work. and from listeners who said they knew folks who had been approved for in-home care who didn't need it.

Tomorrow: Comedy Congress!

-- Patt Morrison

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