"I still have no memory of the trip to Costa Rica or anything that happened," Ron Deaton, once the most powerful figure in City Hall, tells Rick Orlov in the Daily News. Deaton suffered a major heart attack in July while on vacation in Central America. He spent nearly two months undergoing treatment there from Dr. Reinaldo Sanchez-Grillo. The Costa Rican cardiologist will have a honored seat at Wednesday's City Council chambers tribute to his patient. Deaton retired in October as general manager of the Department of Water and Power — and as the city's highest-paid official — after never fully recovering from the attack. Deaton began working for the city in 1965, the year Sam Yorty began his second of three terms as mayor. But it was the Tom Bradley years that Deaton looks back on fondly.
It was a time when council members could cross the marble hallway between their chamber and the Mayor's Office and walk in to talk with Bradley without having to maneuver through a phalanx of security and secretaries.
"It isn't practical today, but I wonder if we lose something by not having that communication," Deaton said.
Deaton on Valley secession:
One of the biggest political battles in which Deaton played a central role was the San Fernando Valley secession vote - an issue he now says was probably good for the city and for the Valley, even though it failed.
"These issues had been festering for years, with the Valley and the harbor and other areas not feeling they were getting their fair share," Deaton said. "Looking back, it was probably good it happened when it did because, otherwise, we would still be dealing with it today.
"I really do think secession would have been bad for the Valley, in the end. The city just owned all this property that it would have kept, the cost for services would be so high and the city would have kept the water and power system. We tried to talk about it at the time, but we were accused of just working to fight secession."
What the Valley achieved, however, was much more than it could have won otherwise, he said.
"It brought the Valley together and it made the rest of the city aware of its needs and how services are provided," Deaton said. "The debate alone was the best thing that could have happened. It became about more than the Valley, but about the entire city and what it does.
"As strange as this sounds coming from me, it turned out to be good for the city."