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About Alan Ferdman

  • Member Since: February 6, 2018

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Always Advocating Alan – Fires, Power Outages, Risk Management and Your Elected Representatives

| Opinion | November 15, 2019

When you enter the workforce and start your journey building a career, you will probably find out that there is a lot to learn. This often happens despite the fact that you may have gone to school to learn a skill and may think you know what you will be doing. In my case, I spent two years studying basic electronics and vacuum tube theory, only to go out in industry and never see a vacuum tube in any of our products. Technology had passed me by, with solid state electronics now providing the functionality. I even had to learn to reverse my mindset as we discussed discrete circuitry design with hole flow as opposed to electron flow. So started my experience with lifelong learning, which has meant always scrambling to stay abreast of the latest components and technologies.

However, I was fortunate to be in the right place at the right time. I had been working for about five years when general purpose digital computers started making their way into our test equipment products, along with the necessary software. I foresaw endless possibilities and could envision that a whole new world was about to open up. Since I was still the junior engineer in our group, and the electrical engineering types wanted nothing to do with this new soft technology, I was assigned to the activity. Sometimes, you just need to do what comes naturally, and after a few company classes, I realized software development was going to be my thing. Then lightning struck again when I was assigned to a project working with two consultants from Zeta Systems, who shaped my world for years to follow. Software development was a relatively new field, but even in its infancy, they understood and used coding conventions, variable naming standards, embedded documentation and configuration management techniques, most of which are still relevant today. All of this provided the skills for me to advance to lead programmer and finally a department manager.

It would have been nice if all things came as easily, but as I told those working on my projects, if it was easy, everybody would do it. So, I will admit, I had a hard time wrapping my arms around and implementing risk management. It was not until about halfway through my career, after returning to college to further study software engineering techniques and reading a few more books, that the concept became clearer. What I came to understand is that a risk management process is not just buying insurance or implementing fixes for problems after they become apparent. It encompasses the identification of all potential risks, analyzing their severity and likelihood of occurrence and then determining what should be done. Resulting actions could include mitigating (fixing) the risk, buying insurance to prevent loss, watching the issue over a period, accepting the risk, or retiring the risk when concern is no longer apparent. Each risk, including the individual action plan, must be approved by an appropriate risk owner. In this way, the risk owner assumes responsibility for the action plan and will take the issue far more seriously.

Does documenting a risk and risk owner always lead to a happy ending? Absolutely not. Take, for example, the Challenger space shuttle accident. Did the booster engineers know there was a potential safety risk to fly with a low ambient temperature? You bet they did. They were pressured into changing their position by the program manager, who traded off other concerns against a known safety risk. And that brings us to how human nature affects risk taking. We deal with risks every day. You experience the risk of having a tragic car accident every time you drive away from the curb. But, 99.9% of the time, you will arrive at your destination without a scratch, and the concerns over taking the risk diminishes with time. So, the Challenger’s program manager may have thought, “We have flown in low temperatures before. Why would I suspect there will be a problem today?” Of course, we know what happened.

I see similar scenarios with the wildfires our community has recently experienced. Have our governmental agencies developed and analyzed a list of all potential fire-related risks? Is there a mitigation plan established for each potential risk, and has the plan been effectively implemented? I think you know the answer. Wanting to understand how the City of Santa Clarita addresses risk management, I went to their website and became aware that risk management is now the responsibility of the city clerk. City risk management “administers the funding of self-insured portions of the program, manages administration of general liability claims … and provides training to minimize the risk of future losses.” Then I visited the L.A. County Fire Strategic Plan Community Risk Reduction Unit: “Community Risk Reduction is the identification and prioritization of risks, threats and hazards, followed by the implementation and evaluation of strategies to lessen their impact.” Finally, I went to the SCV Water website and searched on risk management. Surprisingly, the result came back without an answer and recommended I try another search.

Our first responders — firefighters and sheriff deputies from all over California and neighboring states — did an outstanding job fighting the latest round of wildfires, protecting our homes and saving lives. Yet, the lack of in-depth risk management planning and information on governmental agencies’ websites was not surprising. When risks lay dormant, with the severity and consequences outside of our daily concern, the subject of risk management is not very glamorous. But, when danger becomes apparent and an agency takes controversial actions like turning off the power (supposedly to keep us safe), our interest becomes keen, and our local politicians awaken to write letters and campaign on fixing the issue, waiting until the public loses interest.

So, I ask you, did turning the power off really keep us safe? Just like the example above, the plan did not always work as intended. There is always a risk when the power is restored, and in one case this past fire season, restoring power blew up a transformer, which in turn started a separate fire. Then there is the question of residents who rely on electricity to meet life-saving medical needs. Even if they have battery backup, there is a limit to how long the equipment will operate on its own. This week, the press reported that State Sen. Wilk called for a special session to investigate the effect power shutdowns have on local residents, Assemblyman Tom Lackey requested that FEMA provide water and generators to rural communities, and Assemblywoman Christy Smith wrote our governor requesting “far-reaching and comprehensive solutions.” Even our Santa Clarita City Council is getting in the act at the Nov. 12 City Council meeting, when they discuss the PUC’s plan to investigate the issue. It seems the glamor has returned to risk management.

This round, however, may hold the public interest a lot longer. Generators are flying off the shelves of local stores, and many residents are actively preparing for another round of arbitrary power blackouts. As the public invests money in keeping themselves safe, the subject of how to fix our power distribution system will be on the their mind for the foreseeable future. Plus, I’m betting it will not be long before we start hearing about injuries occurring when connecting generator power to homes, not to mention the danger of storing large quantities of gasoline.

In the meantime, we should be asking our elected representatives some obvious questions. If property owners are required to clear brush 100 feet from their homes, why doesn’t the city and county provide 100 feet of brush clearance at the boundary of the open space they own? Why are there vacant lots within city and county limits currently covered with dead brush? Why aren’t there fire hydrants installed in all areas where residents have been established? Why aren’t there fire hydrants available at the boundaries of all open space? Why haven’t our utilities been required to update their power distribution systems to account for the high winds we experience each year?

At the time of this writing, I plan to ask all those questions at the Nov. 12 City Council meeting. But most importantly, I want to know why the City of Santa Clarita doesn’t have a robust risk management process in place, with risk lists published for public consumption. By the time you read this, the meeting will already have happened. You can assess the City Council’s answers for yourself by going to their website.

Always Advocating Alan – California is Headed Toward Being the Pyrite State

| Opinion | November 7, 2019

I remember days long ago when I sat watching Western movies, after adjusting the rabbit ears on my 19-inch black-and-white TV. I can’t count the number of times the plot centered around a bad man salting his gold or silver mine in order to sell it to an unsuspecting homesteader or cow puncher. There were also a fair number of stories about a hard-working, but inexperienced Easterner-turned-miner who thought he had struck it rich. Unfortunately, when he took a bag of his newfound wealth to the assayer’s office, the man behind the counter laughed and informed him it was fool’s gold, or pyrite. In those days, movies always ended on a positive note, where the disadvantaged lead character continued to work hard and ended up striking it rich anyway, while getting the last laugh.

It was not many years after those TV-watching days had gone by that I interviewed and secured a job at Litton Guidance and Control in Beverly Hills. It was 1961, and California was still benefiting from the massive industrialization and technology innovations that had been initiated to support winning World War II. The state had the weather and open land to support advances in aviation, electronics and almost anything else. It might seem odd now, but in order to support all the activity, round-topped Quonset huts were put up on what is now prime real estate. For the first six months, I worked at the original company site located at 336 N. Foothill Road. Each day, I would drive past Beverly Hills City Hall to what was an industrial area. I often think about going back and finding out what stands at that location today, but I never seem to do it.

My department was moving to Woodland Hills. The facility was to be located on Burbank Boulevard, between Canoga Avenue and Desoto Avenue. Bordering on Canoga Avenue was a horse ranch, while Pierce College owned the land on Desoto Avenue. On the north side of Burbank Boulevard, where the Warner Center is now, was a corn field. I used to call the west San Fernando Valley the shopping and restaurant capital of the world. With Litton, Rocketdyne, Atomics International, Hughes and other large companies creating a need, small machine shops and supply houses dotted the landscape, along with furniture stores and restaurants. It seemed like anything you needed was available on the way home from work.

California had it all. Unfortunately, we have allowed it to slip away over the years, a small amount at a time. Like death by a thousand small cuts, no single thing can be declared responsible. But as property values, taxes, labor rates and other business expenses slowly increased, companies started moving their operations to other parts of the country. If you drive around the west San Fernando Valley today, you will see that it is a very different place. The old Rocketdyne facilities on Canoga Avenue are shopping centers. The Litton facility on Burbank Boulevard, now owned by Northrop Grumman, is being sold off one piece at a time. Hughes left their facilities in the North Valley, and General Motors left Van Nuys a long time ago. Plus, Lockheed even left Burbank for Georgia and moved the Skunk Works to the Antelope Valley.

Well, times do change, but have our elected officials noticed what has been occurring? Have they tried to reverse the exodus of major industries? Instead, they seem oblivious to all that is currently going on and appear to be making the state’s problems even worse. This past winter, God gave us a break from the drought and blessed our area with a good amount of rain. Water falling on our natural landscape in the winter and the subsequent growth it created must have surprised our elected representatives, because they all sat back, did nothing and waited for the inevitable effect of summer heat — the drying out of all the new vegetation, which then created massive amounts of fuel for the coming fire season.

Then our Sacramento mental midgets passed AB 1054, which created a fund for public utilities to access if they cause more than $1 billion in property damage, and also set up another useless advisory board to make recommendations on wildfire prevention. So far, the only thing this has done for us (or to us) is the shutting off of power by the public electric utilities, supposedly to keep us safe. California leads the nation in wanting to turn off your air conditioning in the summer to help manage the power grid load, forcing the population to live with brownouts and blackouts in times of high demand because the utilities have not upgraded their capacity, and finally turning off the power in fire season. Yeah, I heard — supposedly to keep us safe. Yet from their perspective, the best part is that you get to pay the bill.

If you were in charge of locating a major company to a new area, would you select a location in California, which cannot guarantee power for your operation and has promised that there will be times when power is unavailable? I bet you would be looking at another state. Plus, what about water? It was reported in the California Globe on Nov. 3 that the El Dorado Irrigation District will be unable to pump water to customers when the power is out. Our local SCV Water Agency informed us on Facebook that a number of their generators have had to be relocated. These generators are used to power the pumps that fill our water tanks and have contributed to making water available during the recent power outages. But what if the power outages are more encompassing and sustained for a much longer period? What then?

Even with the drought officially over and ex-Governor Brown now able to shower, California still faces the prospect of legislated water rationing by two bills he signed before leaving office. Since 2000, when the Sacramento Delta pumps were shut down due to the delta smelt, eight water bonds totaling $30 billion have been passed promising more water availability. So where did all that money go? Why hasn’t a solution to the water problem been implemented? We need to bring water down to Central Coast farmers and Sothern California cities rather than dumping it into the ocean, as is the current practice.

The reason California has a power and water problem is simple. Residents have been too complacent. We have accepted the corruption and ineptness of our elected officials. If you think I am referring to a single level of governmental bureaucracy or party affiliation, you are dead wrong. In recent years, California has become known for fires, homelessness, poverty, a return of medieval diseases and rat-infested cities. California will continue to lose its shiny, golden image as long as the individuals representing us are unwilling or unable to fight for what is best for California’s residents and the future health of our state.

Think about it. Only you and I can turn California golden again. We must demand change at the ballot box, in town hall meetings and in governmental public gatherings. No amount of “salting” California’s advertising pamphlets will prevent new businesses and potential new residents from discovering that California has become the Pyrite State.

I hope you will take my words to heart and join me in making California the Golden State once again. I’m confident we can do it. If we just keep pushing diligently in that direction, we will write the end of this movie plot just like they did in those old black-and-white films — by striking it rich and getting the last laugh.

Always Advocating Alan – Fires, Fun and Halloween

| Opinion | October 31, 2019

As I sit here pondering the state of the world, nothing makes me more melancholy than thinking about how events taking place this current season have disappointed our youth. This time last year, we had already been witness to ducks racing down their blue, slippery raceway to determine the yellow bird champion of the year at the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center’s “Dixon Duck Dash.” Just a few days later, it was time for our youngsters’ creativity to be unveiled with the Newhall Community Center’s “Halloween Costume and Pumpkin Decorating Contest,” put on by the Sunrise Rotary, the Salvation Army and the City of Santa Clarita. Each year, I look forward to these two events, as they represent a happy time, with children smiling and enjoying the evening, all while their parents get to beam the kind of pride only a parent can exhibit.

Ok, I admit I get a lot of warm feelings out of these events as well. This was my fifth year chairing the Dixon Duck Dash, and it would have been my second year dressing up in a yellow and orange costume as the event’s MC. Plus, it was to be my fourth year as the chief judge for the Newhall Community Center’s “Costume and Pumpkin Contest,” along with Bruce and Gloria Fortine, Ken and Debbie Chase, and my wife Pam, who all returned as seasoned judges of the event. This year, we also had something planned that had never happened before in the history of Santa Clarita’s children’s Halloween competitions: Mayor Marsha McLean and her husband were going to join the team of judges, and each one of our winners was to be honored with a certificate of recognition by our own California State Assemblywoman Christy Smith.

It took something earth-shattering to derail the plans for such monumental events, and the two recent California brush fires did just that. The first one lit up just before this year’s Dixon Duck Dash. Flames from the Saddleridge fire caused the closure of Interstate 5 and other nearby roadways. Traffic on alternate routes clogged streets, and all the turmoil prevented the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center’s volunteers from trucking the duck raceway up from Pasadena in time for race day. Less than two weeks later, the Tick fire burned close to our township and caused evacuations for some 50,000 Santa Clarita residents, necessitating that the Newhall Community Center be used as a refuge for those who were temporarily displaced. So, while I was gravely disappointed, I am also very proud of how our volunteers, city staff, firefighters, sheriffs and other first responders helped provide for residents unable to return home, and cared for those in need during this latest local emergency.

But like the great Yogi Berra would say, “It ain’t over ‘till it’s over.” And I say, “The good stuff ain’t over yet.” I am writing this column on the Sunday before Halloween, and with everything that has happened to derail our children’s good times this holiday season, Halloween stands ready as an opportunity to make up for it all. I love this holiday. It is a time when neighbors show their friendship and goodwill to fellow neighbors by handing out treats to the neighborhood’s children. Even though our two sons are grown adults with youngsters of their own, and even though they live just far enough away that they most likely will not be trick-or-treating at my house, I will not let our local youngsters down. Currently, it is even more important because times have changed. When I first moved to the Santa Clarita Valley, Halloween represented a night when almost all the homes were lit up. Bands of kids in costumes roamed the streets with their parents, looking for a treat. But then came the candy scares and the nightly news stories, and now parents- rightfully- watch out for their children much more diligently. Unfortunately, today most homes are dark, and only children from our immediate area come forth yelling, “Trick or treat.”

Knowing there is less adult participation makes me even more diligent in putting up lights and decorations, in order to make sure that our home’s welcome message is visible. I smile just thinking about the little ones who timidly approach and then run back to their parents after receiving their treat. It is even great to see the older kids, who nervously laugh as if to say, “Yes, I am getting a little old for this, but Halloween is still fun.” But the thing that makes my heart go pitter-pat the most is when a parent brings their child around and tells me, “I remember coming to your house and getting candy from you when I was a trick-or-treater.”

I realize I am writing this before Halloween, and you will not get to read it until this year’s Halloween is history. I sincerely hope you were in one of those brightly lit-up houses, armed with bags of candy, and ready to make a child happy. But if you were not, please consider what you can do to brighten up your neighborhood’s Halloween next year. It is never too late to start, and if you do, there may come a time when a parent will bring a child to your door and tell you, “I remember coming to your house and getting candy from you when I was a trick-or-treater,” and I’m betting it will make your heart go pitter-pat as well.

Always Advocating Alan – It’s Fire Season and We are Living with Past Decisions and Unintended Consequences

| Opinion | October 24, 2019

From the moment when each of us performed a head-first dive into a life of our own, and then shortly thereafter decided to show our discomfort with our new world by crying when the doctor slapped us on the rear, we have needed to make decisions to support our continued existence. In our early years, it was pretty simple. All we had to do was let out the signal we were hungry or dirty, and miraculously our problem was solved for us. The results and consequences of our actions were therefore always positive, but unfortunately for us all, it would not remain that way for long.

Next came a period of experimentation. In some cases, we might have discovered the negative consequences of our actions by ourselves. We touched something hot and it hurt, giving us the first realization of situations where something negative might occur if we did not understand the environment before acting. But there was also the time when we thought our actions were proper and even fun, yet Mom or Dad held a distinctly different view. You may have thought, If someone took all that time to put those pages in a book, why wouldn’t it be OK to rip them all out again? This led to behavior that might also have left us crying, though this time it was Mom or Dad who slapped us on the rear. There went our first experience with unintended consequences.

As we grew older, we learned to make decisions within societal boundaries. Obviously, if we had not, we would have gotten metaphorically slapped again, but not by Mom and Dad. Plus, as we traveled through life, possibly getting married and raising children of our own, probably starting a career that necessitated accounting for the wellbeing of our employees or co-workers, our decisions and their consequences became even more relevant. We also came to understand that sometimes our decisions had negative consequences that could not be avoided. We realized there would be many occasions when we would have to take a risk, hoping that such events would not occur. We had to balance the positive and negative aspects of our action plans to determine if the inherent risk was necessary. Then, every so often, we would get bit by an unintended consequence we had not considered.

So, I ask you to look inward and answer this question- but please, do it quietly by yourself. Did you ever want to do something so desperately that you ignored substantial risks and went ahead with reckless abandon? I know I did, and fortunately for me, the risks never materialized in a way that surprised me. I raced motorcycles for 17 years. Did I know there was a substantial risk of personal injury? Of course I did. Was I ever injured? Oh yeah, I was. Fortunately, it was never permanently debilitating, and it did not endanger anyone else.

This leads me to my assertion: the wider the net of your responsibility is, the more careful you need to be in determining your course of action. As the number of people impacted by a decision increases, so too should the diligence exercised in reviewing the benefits, analyzing all the risks and thinking over how to deal with the consequences. During my career, I needed to consider the potential effects on my family, my 100 employees and the company as a whole. That seems to pale in comparison to the responsibility of an elected official who has our entire city’s population of 220,000 residents to think about. But when things go wrong in Santa Clarita, I hear too often about unintended consequences, when I just cannot believe our leaders were unaware of the issues involved.

With fire season upon us, I think about open space and affordable housing in particular because these two areas have a direct effect on each other. If you were a resident of Santa Clarita in 2007, you may remember the sales pitch for establishing the Open Space Preservation District. Councilmember Laurene Weste championed the initiative for the purpose of forming a green belt around the city, providing a permanent wildlife habitat and slowing down urban sprawl. I thought a reasonably sized green belt was a good idea then, and it still remains a good idea today. If you jump in your car and drive south through the Los Angeles area, you will find yourself traveling from city to city without noticing any visual demarcation between them. It is nothing new. I remember driving in the 1950s from my parents’ house in Studio City to the Toluca Lake Bob’s Drive-In wondering what street defined the border of North Hollywood and Burbank. Having a defined border can help instill pride in our city and also provide other benefits.

However, slowing down or preventing urban sprawl is not something open space will accomplish. In reality, a green belt promotes urban sprawl. “How?” you might ask. First, a green belt of open space around Santa Clarita prevents the city from expanding outward, causing individuals who want to live inside the city to build projects with greater density on the available acreage. Second, as vacant land inside the city becomes a more valuable commodity, it causes prices to rise, making homes less affordable and less available to lower-income residents. Lastly, if an individual cannot afford the price tag on a home inside the city, they simply look on the other side of the green belt, where land and homes are more economically priced. Hence, the open space strategy promotes urban sprawl and makes housing inside the city less affordable. I do not believe any of this was unknown to city leaders. But the unintended consequences do not stop there.

Every year the Santa Clarita Valley suffers fire damage. The unintended consequences of open space and poorly maintained county easements are unfortunate. It is these spaces that provide the fuel for most fires in our area. Since our valley experienced a very wet rainy season this year, the fuel source created by the summer’s hot sun was even more jam-packed and ready to ignite. It doesn’t seem to matter if the brush is ignited by a car’s catalytic converter, a downed power line or a match. When the smoke begins to rise and the flames turn red and yellow, it takes a lot of our firefighters’ efforts to put it out. Then, if the situation gets bad enough and you are asked or told to evacuate, our lack of infrastructure also becomes apparent.

So, after carefully weighing both sides of this issue, I still believe a reasonably sized Green Belt around the city is a good idea, provided the city places a reasonable limit on its depth, incorporates fire brakes where open space backs up to residential properties, and provides adequate fire roads, including water availability. The wider the net of responsibility our council and staff casts, the more careful they need to be when determining a course of action, reviewing the benefits, analyzing the risks and thinking over the consequences. I’m sure our city staff will be up to the task, provided our city council makes this public safety issue a priority.

Always Advocating Alan – Is California Losing Its Golden Image?

| Opinion | October 17, 2019

The end of World War II, a little over 70 years ago, left the United States as a manufacturing giant. We were producing products at an astounding rate, in order to serve what appeared to be an ever-ballooning market. Skilled manufacturing workers were in high demand, and many companies were willing to provide the education and training needed to get the job done. It was a time, when a company’s goal was to produce an ever improving and less costly product, looking to capture a larger part of the available market share. The companies considered themselves successful, if their number of customers increased, in addition to bolstering their gross profit.

Rolling on to the late 1960’s and 70’s, companies philosophy started to shift. Articles and books were being published which changed the outlook of business in America. It was being revealed a company could make far more money by selling a product, than manufacturing it. American business executives became consumed with changing the United States from a “manufacturing based” to a “service based” economy. Many a company’s senior management set goals which provided their technologies to countries which had substantially lower wage rates, in order to reap the profits of selling the final product to our domestic customers. I remember discussing the concept with an older “grey beard” at the time. It seemed like all our consumer electronics where being manufactured in Japan, and with their companies holding a lot of U.S. cash, they were subsequently buying up stateside real estate in record quantities. His take on the matter was, “not to worry,” because they cannot take the properties home, and at some time in the future, they will be forced to sell them back at substantial losses. Well, his predictions were correct. But then, other countries started to undercut Japan’s labor rates while producing quality products also. Along with the shift in production partners, American big business dynamics continued to evolve, as bottom line profit became more important than the product a company would develop or sell.

Sorrowfully, this same dynamic has extended itself to California’s public utilities. So far, our state has continued to prosper doing more with less, but I see the tipping point looming in the future which could change all that. For example, think about our state’s growth compared to future water availability. Realize it or not, we live in a desert. A great amount of the water needed to sustain Southern California, is imported from other areas. If it had not been for the foresight of implementing Mr. Mulholland’s plans for reservoirs and systems to transport water from northern California, our area would be very different than it is today. Then, 20 years ago along came the issue of the “Delta Smelt” being caught in Sacramento Delta water pumps used to propel water down our aqueduct to a thirsty Southern California. Also, it should be understood, between the northern California water supply and Southern California’s large urban cities, is a food producing area unlike anywhere else. I remember, driving up Highway 5 just after Y2K and seeing all those signs reminding the public, “Food Grows, Where Water Flows”. You would think an unnecessary disruption in the food supply would be treated as an emergency. Instead, California politicians, and our courts, have tossed this issue around for the last 20 years, with no solution in sight. First came the idea of building a peripheral canal around the Sacramento Delta, then when the plan stagnated, a new idea was brought forth to create tunnels under the Delta. Now two decades later, nothing has happened. Farmers desperate to stay alive have over pumped their aquifers to a point where the mid coast ground is sinking, and many “produce products” are currently being imported from other countries. The environmental, as well as financial damage, caused by the inaction of our California Legislature is appalling. Hopefully, a solution will be implemented before the damage becomes permanent. Remember all the legislature needs to do, is flip ON the water pump switches and the immediate problem would be eliminated, allowing them time to find and implement a permanent solution.

In the meantime, if you care to check our local future water plan, you will note our local water company does not have sufficient water availability to sustain projected development. Their plan revolves around you conserving and using less. Plus, as our area uses less of their product, they raise the price to make up for the consumption shortfall. So much for the goal of an ever improving and less costly product, to capture a larger part of the available market share. They now consider themselves successful, if their gross profit is stable as the water demand decreases.

If you feel the situation with water is disconcerting, be advised our electric utilities have been stepping in the same business model quagmire, and they went “over the top” this past weekend. Here too, our electricity suppliers have been asking us to lower our use, by turning up our thermostat in the summer, accepting the idea of rolling blackouts, and instead of rewarding consumers for using their product, they developed different rates punishing customers for the quantity of electricity used and the time of day they use it. This weekend Electric Utility Senior Management took another dive into the abyss and displayed how poorly managed their power distribution system has become, when they announced their plans to blackout some areas this weekend, due to a “Red Flag” high wind warning. Of course, they claimed it was being done for public safety, but I believe their plan was orchestrated to mask the fact they had not been properly maintaining power lines across the state. If my Electric Utility Senior Management Team was here in front of me, I would ask; Why haven’t you planned for Santa Ana wind conditions? Don’t we experience them every year? Why haven’t you been upgrading the power grid to account for new development? Why should I have to pay increased rates, when I use more electricity?

This is extremely important, because in an emergency, the lack of electricity can be even more detrimental to your wellbeing than a lack of tap water. At least, most homes have a supply of water sitting in their refrigerator and hot water heater. Plus, if you have an advance warning, you can fill every available container you own, but not so with electricity. When the power goes down, your household appliances go down also. For example, you will lose heat as modern Forced Air Furnaces will not operate without the electric blower running. Should you lose power long enough, the food in your freezer and refrigerator will spoil. If you have an electric stove, you will not be able to cook. Think you might be able to drive to a relative or friends house? Pray you have enough fuel in your vehicle, because gas stations without power will not be able to pump gas? Think you’re safe by owning an all-electric vehicle? Hope you charged it after you drove it last. Want to check the news to see how bad the emergency is? Might be a problem if your Internet Connection, Voice over IP Phone system or Cable Service is down? Providing you have the power to turn on your TV and home network to check if the rest of the stuff is running. But the worst of the worst may occur if you have someone living in your home who needs special medical equipment to survive. Most life-saving medical equipment will have a battery backup, yet how long will it last, and will the power come back on in time?

I know a percentage of our population has prepared for power disruptions by using natural gas-powered generators or a Solar system with battery storage, but most of our residents do not have any electricity back-up systems in place and therefore remain at the mercy of the power grid.

Unfortunately, this past weekend, our area experienced a devastating fire. Electric utilities shutting down areas with perceived potential problems did not prevent recurrence of this issue. As a community, we deserve better than having to put up with shoddy utility services. It is another reason California needs new blood in our legislature, representatives who will provide our friends and neighbors the services we desperately need. Let’s make our voices heard and let’s get some action started in Sacramento. California should be shining again as the Golden State, and not continuing down the path of becoming America’s first 3rd world country.

Always Advocating Alan- Why are California Highways and Byways in Such Bad Shape?

| Opinion | October 10, 2019

Relocating to the Santa Clarita Valley in the mid-60’s was a smart move. I had become involved with Desert Cross Country Motorcycle Racing and it seemed like my wife and I were traveling to the Santa Clarita Valley every weekend, visiting friends and getting prepared for another Sunday race event. I had become a member of the Four Aces MC, an American Motorcycle Association District 37 Racing Club, and several of our members had taken up residence on Dewdrop Street, which at that time was in Saugus. It didn’t take long before Pam and I started house hunting, and within a short time, my young family had taken up residence in what is now Canyon Country.

I must admit, I was a lot younger and more resilient at that time. Sundays’ race normally required the family to pack our necessities Saturday night, leave home about 4am on Sunday morning, and drive 100 miles to the event.

Yet, it was a great time for all who participated. Almost every open area was able to be used, and even though there were about 40 events per year, there was enough open land so that no one considered reusing another club’s racecourse. Revisiting where your club had put on a race the following year, you could see an outline of the course by looking at the new green vegetation cropping up in the tracks of last year’s race. It demonstrated how well the land had rejuvenated itself.

Motorcycle Desert Racing was getting increasingly popular. Each Hare and Hound was a minimum of 80 miles in length and by the time the “View Finders” ran their signature event in 1966, which was televised on Wide World of Sports, it was not unusual to have up to 3000 riders waiting for the race to start. Then, after the day’s race was over and all our club’s riders were accounted for, we packed up, headed home, got a good night’s sleep and it was off to work on Monday morning. Like I said, “I was a lot younger and more resilient at that time.”

Some racing events were even farther away from home, and something became very noticeable. It seemed like the farther away from home we traveled, the worse the roads became. It ended up as a standing joke. I remember numerous conversations about how well-maintained Los Angeles County roads were in comparison to when we crossed the county line, and again when we crossed the California state border.

Unfortunately, that is no longer the case and my assessment of today’s road conditions are very different. As time went by I retired from motorcycle racing, but my love of riding two wheeled motorized vehicles has stayed with me to the present day. Of course, I traded my dirt bike for a street touring model and have traveled around the country. With my wife Pam, in the passenger’s seat, we traveled from Orange County to Washington D.C. with the Vietnam vets, then meandered our way west taking 17 days to get home by clipping the northern top of Texas and then taking a shortcut home through Canada. It has been fun to ride and visit friends in Oregon, motor to Sturgis, do the Yuma Prison Run, ride to Arizona Bike Week, sit in the saddle all the way to the Anacortes Oyster Festival in Washington State and travel to the Little Bighorn National Monument in Montana.

I love motorcycle touring. While traveling and seeing the wonders of our country in a car is far better than watching a travel show on television, riding in the open is just that much better of an experience. You become part of your surroundings, and on many of our trips, rather than race to get where we were going, we staged at National Parks enabling us to ride through in the freshness of the morning air.

Yet, as much as I love motorcycles, I am fully aware two-wheeled suspension is not as good, or forgiving, as a modern automobile, therefore road conditions become even more noticeable. So, when a discussion comes up about what the road conditions will be on a trip, the consensus seems to revolve around how much better roads are when you view California in the rear-view mirror. Not only are the roads better maintained and cleaner, the speed limits are more realistically set, with drivers being far more interested in traveling at the legally set speed. All one needs to do is, set the cruise control, relax and enjoy the trip.

I am not sure how you feel about it, but I am very curious why our neighboring states have roads in so much better shape than ours. Isn’t California supposed to be the Golden State? I keep hearing about how California represents such a large part of the nation’s economy, and if that is true, why don’t we have the best maintained roads in the country? I’ll bet there are a lot of you who will answer the question by saying, “Our roads are in the shape they are in because of the monetary policies our elected leadership in Sacramento have put in place. They spend tax payer dollars on things which do not benefit California’s tax paying residents, they pass laws which make building and maintaining roads more expensive than other states so as to line the pockets of their friends and they place an overwhelming amount of emphasis of enriching themselves by funding bloated pension plans.”

In addition, our Sacramento geniuses keep putting nonsensical ballot measures before the public to mitigate the roadway problem, which duped the public… time and again. Take the 2016 “Measure M” initiative for example. It was supposed to, in part, help fix Interstate 5 congestion by generating $860 million per year. Metro spent a ton of money on public outreach in order to sell this initiative. At a public meeting held in Valencia, I, along with some other folks raised the issue, “The major cause of Interstate 5 traffic congestion is the bottleneck created by the 5/Hwy 14 interchange.” Yet, what they proposed to do, and subsequently did, was add lanes along Interstate 5 between Castaic and Newhall.

Why — so you can get to the bottleneck faster? Plus, those same lanes were committed by the previous passed ballot initiative. Nothing is being done by Measure M to alleviate traffic at the interchange. Then came the special gas tax initiative, to fix our Highways; but all it seems to have done is increase fuel and transportation costs, making the cost per gallon of fuel higher in California than anywhere in the country.

Now, California Governor Gavin Newsom wants to take gas tax money to pay for his housing project. He is looking to use $1.75 billion to entice communities to build more affordable housing at an accelerated pace. This is nothing new; for example, from “2007 to 2010, $1.3 billion in transportation funds was spent not to build or repair state roads but to finance other programs that were apparently more politically rewarding (i.e., generated more votes) than fixing bridges and filling potholes.”

California voters must fix this problem at the ballot box, by electing representatives who have pledged to support the California taxpayers, by providing road improvements and the services we desperately need. In 2018 California voters missed an opportunity to reduce gas taxes by failing to pass California Proposition 6, and we are now seeing the result at the pump. We must not let that happen again.

Yet, with all that being said, Santa Clarita city residents may not be fully aware of the problem, because while California highways and byways crumble, Robert Newman and his public works team have been doing an admirable job maintaining and top coating our city streets.

Always Advocating Alan – Test Your Luck and Adopt a Duck

| Opinion | October 3, 2019

It is hard to believe a year has passed so quickly. October has arrived and with it comes the start of fall and one of my favorite annual events, The Dixon Duck Dash (formally the Rubber Ducky Regatta).

Now, some of you may just remember the Rubber Ducky Regatta from viewing pictures of all those ducks swimming down a water filled raceway, along with smiling children watching them go by; but there is a lot more to this event and it gets better each year. It is a time for family fun, an opportunity to meet your neighbors, witness some of our valley’s youth perform, learn about local organizations and have a chance to win cash prizes.

For the younger set, or those young at heart, there will be a climbing wall, face painting, a photo booth, a special kiddie duck decoration table and special race; as well as the opportunity to watch the three duck heat races and a final duck race main event. There will also be a band, elected officials in attendance and a funny looking guy in clown shoes as the day’s MC.

General admission is free. Still, you can buy into a targeted raffle, purchase a snack from the food trucks and grab on to some very authentic Dixon Duck Dash related merchandise, which will be offered at cost. The Samuel Dixon Family Health Center (SDFHC) staff wants you to have a great time. You will even have an opportunity to get a picture with Dorothy Dixon Duck, our very yellow, large duck mascot.

This event is Samuel Dixon Family Health Center’s only fundraiser of the year, and in order to win one of the grand prizes of $2000, $1000 or $500 you will need to test your luck and adopt a duck, and then cheer your duck entry on for the win. A duck can be adopted for $5, a Quack Pack (6 ducks) for $25, a Duckie Dozen (12 ducks) for $50 or a Duck Flock (24 ducks) for $100. Ducks can be adopted by visiting any SDFHC location, on the sdfhc.org website or at the event itself.

It was not but a few weeks ago when a family crisis reminded me, again, that nothing is more important than your health and the health of your loved ones. Please think about how your duck adoption contribution will go directly to provide medical services for someone in need. I hope it makes you feel as warm inside as it does for me.

The prospect of directly lending someone a helping hand is what makes the SDFHC and this event so special. Being the Dixon Duck Dash committee chairperson for the past five years and currently the SDHFC Board of Director Treasurer allows me to witness, firsthand, how all of our resources are being used to aid our community members.

This need has been there for a very long time, and it all started with us some 40 years ago when the first Samuel Dixon Family Health Center was established by Reverend Samuel Dixon in Val Verde. Reverend Dixon realized there was a need to provide health care for his flock and surrounding residents, so he took that leap of faith and answered the challenge by acting. Today, SDFHC is a California non-profit corporation, and their vision has expanded to three health care centers — Val Verde, Newhall and Canyon Country. Two outreach locations have also been established, one at College of the Canyons and the other at the California Institute of the Arts. Yet, even though SDFHC is now a corporation, it retains the founding family’s ideals, traditions and values; with Dr. Samuel P. Dixon seeing patients on a regular basis. The forward-looking progress enacted by the SDHFC Board of Directors can be seen by the addition of mental health services and expansion of the Canyon Country Health Center, currently in progress.

SDFHC provides “immunizations and vaccines, physicals, screening and diagnostic tests, well baby care, preventative programs, family planning, women’s health services, prenatal services, treatment of illness and injury and more,” “with all charges based on the individual’s ability to pay.” Many times, the services provided “prevented illness and injury from getting worse, eliminated the need for unnecessary trips to the emergency room and enabled family members to gain employment.”

I hope you will decide to bring your family and participate in the Dixon Duck Dash on Saturday, October 12, in Bridgeport Park, from 11am to 2pm. It will be a time to have a lot of family fun while we help provide health care for those in need, and perhaps you will get to take a prize home as well. Plus, please also make a point and say “hello,” introduce yourself and shake the hand of the MC, because if you have not figured it out, the “funny looking guy in clown shoes” will be ME.

For more information visit www.sdfhc.org

Always Advocating Alan – How Traffic Will Affect Your Life

| Opinion | September 26, 2019

There was a time when increasing traffic was just an annoying part of Santa Clarita life, but as the Valley’s population and housing density has increased, traffic congestion is becoming a health hazard as well as a safety issue. Two weeks ago, I wrote about how an absence of traffic congestion helped save my wife’s life. While no one wants to call 911 or take a red-lights-and-siren e-ticket ambulance ride to the hospital, it is a sad fact, the day of the week and time of the day your emergency takes place, may determine your survivability. Our situation occurred in the late evening, between 10 and 11 o’clock at night. The first responders had a traffic-free ride to our house and the time to get to the hospital was not lengthened by traffic getting in the way. Should the same situation have occurred on a weekday during morning rush hour, the extra time might have created a very different result.

We were reminded how lucky we were again this past Friday. I was driving my wife to her medical appointment at Henry Mayo for an important test. We had left early providing plenty of time to get there. Our vehicle was going west on Soledad and had traveled almost to Cinema Drive, when traffic just stopped. Looking ahead we could see a line of traffic as far as the eye could behold. Not knowing how long the traffic would remain stationary and not wanting to miss our appointment, we turned left on Cinema Drive, then right on Railroad Ave., right on Lyons Ave., and right on Old Orchard, finally entering the Henry Mayo Complex straight ahead. We still have no idea what caused the traffic bottleneck or how long it lasted, but without an alternate route, there is a good chance we would have missed the scheduled test time, and possibly had to schedule another appointment. Now, this was not an emergency and fortunately we knew of an alternate route, but if an ambulance on a Code 3 call would have gotten stuck in this mess, it may not have gone so well for the patient inside.

I remember in 2009 when the City of Santa Clarita decided to restripe Decoro Drive. In doing so, they took away a lane of traffic and made it a bicycle lane. This action was supposedly accomplished in response to a section of the Non-Motorized Master Plan, passed in June of 2008 by a 5-0 city council vote. Because this street is very well used in transporting children to and from school, subsequent council meetings were filled with angry parents, which resulted in the street being returned to its previous configuration in short order. Yet, I also remember some individuals saying this may be the start of “road- or traffic-dieting” in Santa Clarita. Believe it or not, there are some officials who think they can make the public safer by reducing the number of driving lanes on our streets to make room for bicycle lanes. Their plan is to slow traffic by increasing congestion.

In theory, I suppose this is true. But all you need to do is ask the parents of children who reside east of Sand Canyon on Soledad how fast traffic flows during their morning trip to school, and how much earlier they had to leave to account for traffic congestion. While road-dieting slows traffic to a crawl and supposedly reduces accidents, it raises drivers’ heart rates, blood pressure, and puts them in a very nasty mood. Plus, it may create a negative outcome if a first responder or ambulance team needs to get to the scene of a tragedy and transport the sick or injured to a trauma center across town. They must have a clear and open roadway to be effective.

In the real world, I call the city’s Non-Motorized Master Plan an immature, not well-thought-out effort. While bicycling represents a very good recreational activity, it is used by far less than one percent of our residents to take their children to school, shop, or go to, and from, work. Considering Santa Clarita’s master plan (One Valley One Vision) provides for almost doubling the SCV population, at the same time the California State Legislature is enacting new laws requiring an increase in housing density and reduced parking requirements; what is our City Council leadership thinking? The few remaining planned new roads are still waiting for developer funding to be built, and when developers fund new roads they never seem to relieve existing traffic loads, because the roads are built to handle the traffic created by the builder’s new project. So, if city staff does not start taking remedial action to account for all the new traffic to be created by planned new development, Santa Clarita will end up in gridlock.

Yet, this past week, right here in the Gazette, was an article titled “Scheduled Road Improvements to Include Enhanced Striping and added Bicycle Lanes.” The information provided revealed Plum Canyon Road and Smyth Drive will be reconfigured to include a bicycle lane in both directions, where an additional traffic lane could be, or was available. The article also indicates parking on the north side of Smyth Drive will not be impacted, but it fails to inform us about the south side. So, why are they doing it? It’s because “recent traffic studies indicate that the addition of bike lanes on these stretches of road will not impact traffic circulation.” What about the increase in Plum Canyon traffic as the remaining new homes and Skyline Ranch become fully occupied? Is there a trigger level where the traffic lanes will be restored? I’ll bet not. Plus, I was under the impression City Hall had committed not to implement road-dieting, but it seems like we are witnessing the plan quietly change unless, of course, the public rises up and puts a stop to it once again.

In the meantime, Santa Clarita continues to spend money on facilities such as bicycle lanes, which get very limited use and make excuses when automotive traffic congestion becomes a problem. I’d like to see some creative thinking instead. How about implementing a method which provides the best for both uses? We could set up a system where the space is used for recreational bicycle use on the weekend and as a lane to accommodate automotive traffic during the week.

Well, there was no byline on the Gazette article, but it was stated more information could be obtained by contacting Tom Reilly, the “Trails and Bikeways Planning Administrator” at City Hall. I think I’ll give Tom a call also and ask him what the projected bicycle traffic number is on those bicycle lanes. Maybe I can find out who the City of Santa Clarita “Automobile Roadway Planning Administrator” is.

Always Advocating Alan – Never Let History Repeat Itself

| Opinion | September 19, 2019

I grew up in a time when Roy Rodgers, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger were heroes in each weeks’ Saturday morning matinee, on the radio and later on the television screen (in those days, it was a very small screen). It was a time when good always ended up victorious over evil, and all the kids could strap on their cap pistols to play Cowboys and Indians. There was not much talk of political correctness then, but if you read Gene’s Cowboy Code and watched the comradery between The Lone ranger and Tonto, you got the feeling you wanted to be just like them. It wasn’t until later in life that I learned about Roy and Dale’s adopting children of different origins, or why William Boyd was so adamant on never accepting another role after playing Hoppy.

Still, even then, some things confused me. Why did some Indians fight with the Cavalry, why did the Indians always circle their enemy and why did the government guys break treaties? Well, a lot of years later I was riding to Sturgis with a friend when we decided to take a shortcut and visit the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument in Montana.

When we first pulled into the monument area, I was struck by all the gravesites visible from the road. No way could that many soldiers have died with Custer I thought; and I was right. I was made aware the Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument is also a part of the National Military Cemetery System, and if you take a tour of the 5,000 gravesites, you will find tributes to soldiers who died in battle starting with Little Bighorn through Vietnam. Today, the cemetery is at capacity.

When we put our kickstands down, we were fortunate to be in time to take a bus tour of the battlefield. Getting on the bus we were greeted by our tour guide, a young, tall member of the Crow tribe who joked with us about being safe even though the driver was a member of the Sioux. It was all in jest, as they were good friends.

Our first realization we were not taught the whole story in school was when we learned the battlefield was approximately six square miles. Plus, if you think you can visualize the battle from watching western movies with the Cavalry riding in on horseback with bugles blowing and sabers drawn, you are in for a surprise. Our tour guide explained that a lot of what happened was a result of how different the Cavalry and Indians were armed, fought and came to the battle.

First, the Cavalry tended to conscript men of smaller stature and use quarter horses because of all the equipment they needed to carry with them. Unlike in the movies, Cavalry columns were followed by wagons with some farm animals in tow as they needed supplies with them. Not only that, they were dressed in wool uniforms which were probably not very comfortable in the summer heat. They were armed with Springfield single shot rifles, Colt single action revolvers and the officers carried sabers. The Indians, on the other hand, traveled to the fight as a tribe. Being close to home, so to speak, they tended to pick the strongest braves and fastest horses for the fight. Although, according to our Crow tour guide, only about 25% of their braves had rifles, and a much smaller number had repeating rifles; it was their battle tactics which defeated Custer’s troops.

So, what happened? It was around 1874 when the Sioux tribe, who lived to the east of the Crow by treaty, had outhunted their territory and entered into an agreement with Washington. This allowed them to leave their reservation, enter Crow territory to hunt and then return to the Sioux reservation. But, in 1875 Sitting Bull decided to stay put. The Crow, being a much smaller tribe, were fearful of being overrun by the Sioux so they elected to aid the Cavalry because they believed “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” At the very end of 1875 President Grant sent the Sioux an ultimatum ordering them to leave Crow land within six months. In the middle of 1876, an army was sent out to enforce the president’s order, with Custer to lead a scouting party of 600 troops to determine the location of the Sioux tribe.

Custer had a huge ego, and when one of his men reported the location of the Sioux encampment he saw glory in the making. His officers wanted to scout the situation further, but he would not hear of it. Instead he devised a battle plan, dividing his troops up in three parts. The first section would attack the left flank, and he, with the second group, would attack the right flank. The third group, which included the wagons and provisions, would circle around and attack from the rear. As the fist group came into position on the left flank, soldiers counted off in groups of three, with each third soldier being assigned to hold the horses. The remaining soldiers took cover, signaled they were in position and Custer gave the command to attack. The problem was Custer had only seen a small part of the Sioux encampment. He did not realize he was attacking 18,000 Indians. Well, the first group was overwhelmed, driven back and then retreated up a hill where they dug in. The Sioux, now knowing the army was in the area, went out looking and caught Custer’s group out in the open. Custer ordered his troops to ring their position with their horses, shot them and use the bodies for cover. 2,500 Indian warriors rode circles around the Cavalry’s position, making them harder to hit and raising a lot of dust making it harder to see, all while ever tightening the circle so their primitive weaponry would be more effective. It did not take long for the combat to become hand to hand. After a soldier fired six shots from his revolver and one from his rifle there was no time to reload. At which point, Custer’s men were easily overrun and killed.

The third group of soldiers made their way to the battle and realized what was happening. They took cover up the hill with the second group. The majority survived the battle because in order for the Indians to get them they had to ride up the hill, making them easy targets for the soldier’s rifles. In the end, the Sioux rode off having won the last battle they would win in the Indian Wars to come.

While this account varies with others I have read, I tend to accept it as it is corroborated by the words of Captain George K. Sanderson, who established the first Little Bighorn memorial. He reported, “I accordingly built a mound out of cord wood, filled in the center with all the horse bones I could find on the field. In the center of the mound I dug a grave and interred all the human bones that could be found, in all, parts of four or five different bodies. This grave was then built up with wood for four feet above ground. The mound is ten feet square and about eleven feet high; is built on the highest point immediately in rear of where General Custer’s body was found.”

I tell you this story hoping you think about how yesterday’s problems and issues are very much like what we are experiencing today. We need to use what we learned to avoid winning the battle and losing the war, as the Sioux did so many years ago.

Always Advocating Alan

| Opinion | September 12, 2019

I’m betting virtually every person reading my column today has at one time dropped a coin and pulled the handle on a “One Arm Bandit,” placed a bet on the green felt of a gambling table or participated in a game of cards at one of our local casinos. They do this even though each individual knew there was a high probability they would be leaving with less money in their pocket than they had when they walked in the door. So, why do we do it? Because it is human nature to get excited when taking risks, and there is always the possibility we will be lucky today and win. Plus, it is particularly fun when the risks taken have little damaging consequences should the person fail to persevere. Sure, there are those compulsive gamblers who lose everything and destroy their lives, but the vast majority of those inside the casinos know when to stop because losing more than they can afford is no longer fun.

Yet in our real lives, we roll the dice every day. Each night when we lay our head down and go to sleep we fully anticipate we will awaken the next morning having won another day of life. Thankfully, unlike the bet we placed at the casino, we will win this “game of chance” many rolls in a row. But sometimes, an unlikely event occurs which forces us to metaphorically “drop a dime” and place our bet by dialing 911.

For me, this has happened twice, and I feel very lucky to have won the wager, and the game, more than once. The first time was six years ago last September. I was in my home office when my wife, Pam, called out to me for help. Her asthma had worsened during the evening. She was using her nebulizer to give herself a breathing treatment but it was not working. As she was having an increasingly difficult time breathing, she knew something was terribly wrong and told me to call 911. As I sat next to her on our bed, talking to the 911 operator explaining the situation, she informed me help was on the way. Then without warning, Pam collapsed in respiratory arrest and started gasping for air.

I remember being in a panic, trying to turn her on her side, listening to the emergency operator’s suggestions, running through the house to unlock and open the front door, then back to her, then the house alarm went off. Fortunately, because Pam told me to call 911 when she first felt a real problem was occurring, it was only about 20 or 30 seconds before the fire station 107 paramedic team came running into my house. The paramedic took one look at Pam and yelled, “Get the Epi kit!”

First it was a shot of epinephrine and then she was immediately loaded up for transport. Going out the front door I saw two Sheriff cars waiting. I jumped in the front seat of the AMR ambulance and we were off for a wild “red lights and siren” ride to Henry Mayo Hospital, with the Sheriffs blocking traffic at major intersections. Upon our arrival at the emergency entrance, a team was outside waiting for us to arrive. They quickly got her inside and within 15 minutes she was sitting up, talking and wanting to go home. Well, as you might imagine, there was no going home at that time. Kaiser first ambulanced her to Panorama City and then Sunset for a battery of tests. In the end, the doctors decided it may have been caused by a reaction to her medication (which they changed), in addition to providing her with an EpiPen kit.

It is hard to explain, but it felt like we just won the lotto. All the stars were in alignment and if one thing was out of place, she may not have pulled through. Think about it. If not for the early 911 call, the immediate availability of the fire department’s 107 paramedic team, AMR’s quick response and transport, the help of the Sheriff to speed up our trip across town and the staff at Henry Mayo taking swift remedial action, the outcome may have been very different. So how could anyone be even luckier? I can tell you — it is when a similar event happens again.

Pam was recently the recipient of a total knee replacement, and a little over a week ago she was about halfway through the six week recovery period. We were coming home in the evening and I was helping her walk from the driveway to the house. About halfway up our front lawn she told me her legs were tired and she might not be able to make it all the way in the house. She was standing there with her walker and seemed stable. So, I got the idea to have her wait while I opened the atrium gate and move a chair to the entrance. I thought if she could make it to the chair, we could wait until she was ready to go the rest of the way. But when I turned back to her I saw her face go blank, she started to stumble backwards, passed out and down she went. Fortunately, even though her back side landed on the walkway, her head landed on the lawn. Getting to her as fast as I could, I found her unconscious and not breathing. I panicked again not being sure what to do, I yelled her name and shook her face, at which point she gasped twice and started breathing normally. But she was not moving, so I grabbed my cell phone and called 911. AMR was the first to arrive, with the fire department team close behind. They found me on my knees next to Pam, with her still motionless on the ground. By the time she was in the ambulance, Pam was sitting up and talking. It was another lights and siren trip to Henry Mayo, where the emergency room team ordered a CAT scan, a chest X-ray and an ultrasound of her knee to verify blood clots were not a problem. This time she did get to go home, but further testing is being performed by order of her regular physician.

So, for the second time all the stars were in alignment. The fact Pam’s head did not hit the pavement, her fall did not impact her knee recovery, the fire department was available, AMR’s quick response and transport and the staff at Henry Mayo taking the necessary remedial action, and performing testing to verify no obvious underlying problem existed, makes me extremely thankful. Six years ago, I wrote a Letter to the Editor at the Signal thanking all who aided Pamela in her time of need, and today Pam and I want to express our gratitude again.

To the fire fighters and paramedics at Fire Station 107, the AMR ambulance staff, our Sheriff deputies and the doctors, nurses, technicians and supporting staff members of Henry Mayo’s emergency room team, please accept our most heartfelt thank you for a job well done — not just for what you did for us, but for the service you provide to our entire community. God bless all of you.

Always Advocating Alan

| Opinion | September 5, 2019

At the last Santa Clarita City Council Meeting, two members of the Open Space District, Financial Accountability and Audit Panel (FAAP), spoke during public participation questioning a $2 million transfer out of the Open Space account.

The action in question, was accomplished at the December 12, 2017 City Council meeting, Agenda Item 15, titled 2017-18 Mid-Year Budget Adjustment. Buried in the staff report for this item was the following information: “The recommended expenditure adjustment in the Open Space Preservation District Fund includes a $2 million funding swap for the Canyon Country Center land acquisition.” “The expenditure reduction of $2,375,263 in Other Revenue funds includes a $2 million funding swap from the Facilities Fund for the Canyon Country Community Center land acquisition, and $17,000 in Public Education and Government Fund for area enclosure and storage of public television equipment.“

Well, if you have read the above paragraph and understood what is going on, you have far greater psychic powers than I possess, so I decided to do some digging. One of the FAAP members who spoke made the comment, Open Space funding is to be used to purchase undeveloped land, and when the City Manager had an opportunity to respond, he issued the same sentiment. As it turns out, the land which will accommodate the soon to be constructed Canyon Country Community Center was not all purchased at one time.

The first section to be obtained was authorized on September 23, 2014, when agenda item 10, looked for approval to purchase approx. 6.5 acres of vacant land, for $4.7 million. Revenue, according to the recommended action, came from the General Fund (Capital Projects Reserve) to expenditure account 19000-5201.004. At least my psychic powers were working this time, as account 5201-004 is defined within this year’s budget, page 294, as “Capital Outlay: Land: Provides for the acquisition of land for city use or for Open Space Preservation.” The Signal reported the deal the next day, in an article penned by Lila Littlejohn. Purchase of the corner property at Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon, along with the restaurant and shops on Sierra Highway came later, and these land purchases were not undeveloped land.

So, what is the problem? When our City Manager responded, he indicated in part; both the City Attorney and the City Manager will be setting up a meeting with the members of the FAAP to explain the City’s position on how they feel the action was legal, appropriate and consistent with the district approved by the voters. But, last time this issue was addressed, Councilmember Smyth indicated the meeting was going to be held by August 26, which is before the Council Members returned from hiatus. Fortunately, as all FAAP members will be in attendance, the meeting must be noticed per the Brown Act, and interested members of the public will be able to attend. Mr. Striplin further indicated the FAAP does not have the authority to dispute the parcels purchased. In some instances, I agree with him. The FAAP cannot challenge the parcels cost, use, or location within the city. But the FAAP can, and should, challenge the acquisition, if the amount of land purchased for active parkland exceeds 10% of the total land purchased, the parcel is outside the three mile district border, or the land is not being purchased for use by the district as open space or active parkland.

Lastly, the FAAP should maintain oversight of Open Space District expenditures, to assure the resources are being spent properly, in support of the district goals and objectives. Such questioning of actions taken, and oversight of funds appropriated is support of the district, are precisely what was intended when the FAAP was formed. As a member of the panel for the first five years of its existence, I was made aware the yearly financial audit, which is funded by the city, only verifies accounting practices. It is not a forensic audit to determine funds are properly spent. Yet even if it had additional scope, passing an audit does not indicate everything is OK. It simply means the auditors did not report any findings.

Also remaining in question is Mr. Striplin’s comment stating, The Canyon Country Community Center is “Active Parkland.” I pondered the validity of his statement, and if true, the Newhall Community Center should be classified as a park also. This time to find out, I went to the City of Santa Clarita’s website for an answer. Under Parks Division, the website indicates, “The City of Santa Clarita offers 34 beautiful and well-maintained parks. Picnic tables, baseball diamonds and basketball courts are just a few of the numerous facilities park patrons can take advantage of.” On the Parks and Facilities Pages, I selected “Parks” and “All Amenities,” which brought up a picture and details on all 34 Parks. Community centers and libraries were not in the listing, because they are identified as “Park and Recreation Facilities,” not “Parks.”

Therefore, I will be waiting to hear the City Manager and City Attorney explain their position, which approves the use of “Open Space District,” (Proposition 218), funds to be used for the purchase of property not designated as Open Space or active parkland by the City. In that same vein, I’m sure they will agree, it would be illegal to transfer revenue from a discretionary fund, (like the Open Space fund) to a non-discretionary fund, (such as the general or facilities fund), unless it was identified as paying back an amount used to benefit the discretionary fund.

Since this action is transferring revenue to the General Fund account for a purchase which was approved by the City Council over three years ago, does it mean staff can use Open Space funding to reimburse the General Fund for any purchase of parkland back through city incorporation in 1997? While it may not be illegal to do so, it certainly displays an abuse of the trust our community had with City Government, when we voted to establish the “Open Space and Parkland Preservation District.” Lastly, I would ask; why in a year where Capital Project funding is projected at $0, does it take $755,556 to administer the fund? (See Open Space Engineer’s Report, page 5). Plus, who specifically is administering the fund?

No matter which way this issue turns out, it has shown the value of having an oversight committee like the FAAP. Our elected officials appear to be asleep at the switch, as our Mayor was quoted in a previous Gazette article as saying; “I’m assuming that all this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead and use the money to build active parks at the Community Center.” She went on to indicate, “When we receive information that an action is OK to take, we go by what our staff puts forth. As far as I know, this was all done the way it was supposed to be done, and until something different comes up, that’s what we go by.” Thankfully we have FAAP members who ask questions, and make the issue known when they feel a problem may exist.

From my perspective, I am still optimistic staff and council will look inward and use this opportunity to implement changes which will end “business as usual” and strengthen the City’s business practices. Plus, they need to embrace the hard-working volunteers, serving on the FAAP, when they raise an issue.

The Canyon Country Community Center is a great project, which will provide our residents with resources we desperately need. Let’s do the right thing and get past this issue. Then, we can all look forward to the project’s bright future, and I can write a very happy story for the grand opening.

Always Advocating Alan – Being Prepared is Not Just for Boy Scouts

| Opinion | August 29, 2019

Here in Santa Clarita, we are experiencing extreme summertime heat which has been turning the massive green growth established by a very wet winter into brown dry, dead wildfire fuel. Couple these fire related risks with the fear of earthquakes, our elected officials, along with various organizations, are again out lecturing the public to proactively prepare for the eventuality such an occurrence take place.

I believe they are correct in being concerned. Having lived here for over half a century, I remember the turmoil created in the late 60s when it rained so hard the wash, now called the river, was filled bank to bank, taking out the bridge at Soledad and Camp Plenty, while the Sierra Highway Bridge sank three feet. Panic set in right away, with residents filling our local Safeway Market and buying shopping carts full of consumables. My neighbor and I were there as well, but all we wanted was a case of beer.

Then came the 1971 Sylmar earthquake. Although the power went out for a period of time, my neighborhood was relatively calm. We opened our RV, made coffee and had a small block party until all was restored to normal.

Yet the mid 70s fire was a lot more frightening. Starting over the hill to the south, it burned to the beach, as well as north through Santa Clarita going almost as far as Rosemond. I was at Willow Springs Raceway preparing for a Motorcycle Grand Prix. No cell phones in those days, so my wife Pam called the Highway Patrol and asked if they could locate me and inform me of what was happening. After getting the news, I immediately headed home. I drove the 14 freeway until being forced off at a roadblock, and then negotiated back roads to the next open onramp in order to continue my journey. When I crossed the junction at Soledad Canyon and Sierra Highway, the fire was still burning on both sides of the road. Pam and my two boys were waiting for me, and with the family all together, we headed back north beyond the reach of the fire.

You would think that would be all there was to tell, except 1994 brought with it an earthquake which affected our area even more intensely. Initially, we were evacuated several blocks due to a natural gas main rupturing and spewing gas into the air. Here again, our RV provided some comforts and we shared what we had. But the real issue became apparent when we were informed of the I5 and Hwy 14 interchange being blocked by the highest uncompleted bridge coming down. Using secondary roads, and the resulting traffic congestion, caused many extra hours getting to work and back. Besides all that, Pam worked in the Kaiser Building on Devonshire and Balboa, where the 3rd floor became the 2nd floor as the building structure collapsed. Fortunately, it was before the workforce arrived and no injuries were sustained.

When we finally did get into the San Fernando Valley, we saw the devastation first-hand. How surreal the CSUN parking structure looked rolled on its side, and how sad to view the many apartment houses, with residential over parking, showing damage due to a collapse of the building on the garage area. Luckily, Pam was reassigned to Kaiser in Woodland Hills, which was right next door to Litton Industries where I worked, so at least our nerves were frazzled together during the months it took to repair the roadways.

So, how should each of us prepare? Well almost every so-called expert, will tell you to have a “Go Bag” ready in order for you to be able to “Bug Out” at a moment’s notice. For example, AARP suggests you maintain supplies for every member of your family to “help keep you safe and comfortable in the coming hours and days. Stopping to hunt for your medications or other important needs can cost you critical seconds in an evacuation.” They recommend including an extra phone charger, a portable battery pack, a long-lasting LED flashlight and small hand-cranked or battery-operated AM/FM radio.

For your personal needs, include travel size versions of your toiletries, a backup pair of glasses, first-aid kit, baby wipes and a multipurpose tool which includes a knife and can opener. Pack clothing for a few days, try to include items you can use for layering, plus rain gear and waterproof boots. Pack at least three days worth of each of your prescribed medications, and if you need larger items, such as an oxygen tank, be sure to have a portable version available. Fill a zip-top waterproof bag with photocopies of your birth certificate, driver’s license, Social Security and Medicare cards. Include, as applicable, your power of attorney, will, marriage, adoption, naturalization certificates, proof of address, insurance, medical and immunization records, as well as credit and ATM card information. Make sure you have some bottled water and granola or energy bars. Lastly, include money for a few days in small bills and change.

But, while all these things are great to have with you, there is an underlying assumption about where you will be going. The list assumes you will be able to reach a safe place, where food and shelter is available, in a relatively short time. Realizing there may be a large percentage of an area’s population fleeing the disaster area, you should consider the possibility roads may be in gridlock, services may be overwhelmed and people may become desperate. Therefore, ask any friend who has had experience camping in a location which had no services available how long you could survive with the above recommended list of items, and what other items you should have with you. For myself and my wife, I also keep a separate bag packed with a small tent, sleeping bags and back packing pads left over from our motorcycle camping days. We maintain a two-week supply of emergency dried food and I would never leave home in an emergency without a means of self-protection.

In a fire situation, survival is more likely to be dependent on you evacuating when told to do so, and I recommend you follow the guidance provided by our first responders, but realize also, you are heading into unknown territory. Being well prepared can make the difference between life and death. At the same time, confronting disaster when you can shelter in place, allows you the availability of greater personal resources, and provides more time for your family to consider the available options.

Still, let us all hope and pray we are never in a situation which requires the use of our emergency bags, but being prepared helps maintain our peace of mind and calm our frazzled nerves.

Always Advocating Alan – The Race for a 2020 City Council Seat is Underway

| Opinion | August 22, 2019

It seems a little early, but along with our national election campaign teams gearing up, so goes the 2020 Santa Clarita City Council election cycle. With Councilmember Kellar indicating he will not seek another term, perspective candidates are starting to emerge, and you should expect to see many more coming out of the woodwork in the future. This appears like a great opportunity for an opinion columnist, who has no intention of adding his name to the candidate list, to share his philosophy, and the demeanor I would like to see displayed by the person who would get my endorsement and vote.

I have been retired for the past 13 years and I still have a hard time believing, “time passes so quickly.” Whenever I have been confronted by a person who is despondent about how much longer they will have before they retire, I tell them the following true story. It is of a memory, clearly and visibly fixed in my mind. As it turns out, I was in my office in Woodland Hills, and on the phone with a peer talking over retirement planning, when I recall vividly saying, “But I have 25 more years to work.” Then, almost like the instant you change television channels, those 25 years plus 13 have become the past.

So today, instead of jumping out of bed to get to work, my mornings are filled with sitting in my front atrium with my wife Pam, enjoying a cup of coffee, smiling about all the natural beauty I am surrounded by, and thinking about how lucky I am to be where I am today. As I ponder the future, it seems even more relevant for an individual, or a governmental agency, to follow the words our City Managers have spoken so often — “Decisions made in good times are more important than the decisions made during bad times.” Did I realize when I purchased and planted a little tree a half century ago, that today it would have grown from being no larger than a broom handle, to have a trunk I cannot reach around, and provide shade for the atrium all day long? No, I did not have that much foresight, but it was a good long-term decision, and in most cases, good long-term decisions are the ones which bear the most fruit. So, I will be looking for a candidate who shows an aptitude at implementing long term goals, as well as putting out short term fires.

Next, I will be searching for the candidate who is not overly consumed with telling us how wonderful everything is going, and wanting us to believe that if we just vote them in for another term they will stay the course and nothing will change. We deserve council members who carefully determine which areas truly deserve a positive note, and resist jumping at every perceived opportunity.

For example, last week the Signal contained an article on Thursday August 15, titled “Santa Clarita lauded as hard-working city.” It stated, “Local leaders weren’t too surprised to hear Kempler Industries naming Santa Clarita the 12th-hardest-working city in America.” Holly Schroeder, President and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corporation stated, “I’m not so entirely surprised to see we’re so hard working,” and Councilmember Laurene West went on to comment, “We have a lot of seniors and young kids working hard.” It sounded insightful, so I decided to see what I could learn about Kempler Industries and the criteria they used.

Visiting their website, I discovered Kempler Industries is located in Elk Grove Village Illinois. Within the company’s description it revealed, Kempler Industries “stocks one of the largest inventories of used machinery in the world.” “Family owned and operated since 1962, we have been buying and selling quality used machinery for more than five decades.” Not exactly a nationally acclaimed research firm, staffed with PhDs.

Per the Signal article and Kempler’s website, Santa Clarita’s “rankings were based on the following metrics: average commute time of 34.9 hours, average workweek 38.4 hours, percentage of workforce 16-64 is 63.9%, and percentage of senior workforce aged 65 and up showing 20.2%.” “Washington D.C. tops our (Kempler’s) list at number one with an overall score of 90 points out of 100.” They indicated, “D.C. exceeds the national average commute time, average workweek hours and percent of seniors still in the workforce.”

So, let me get this straight because it sounds as if the longer it takes the average employee to get to work for less than a full time job, and the more seniors in the city which are still working, rather than being able to retire, the higher you score?

Plus, did you catch their data? If Santa Clarita’s work force 16 and up equals 63.9 percent plus 65 and up equals 20.2 percent, that segment totals 84.1% of the workforce. Are they telling us with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, 12.1% of our workforce is 15 years of age and under? Does not sound like something to brag about to me.

In addition, San Francisco was the only California city to make the top 10, coming in 7th hardest working in the country. Are you kidding me? The American city with the 7th largest homeless population, regularly in the news for problems with trash, streets full of used needles and disease scored in the top ten? Even Washington DC, with the 5th largest homeless population in the U.S., topped the Kempler hardest working list at number 1. It appears the Kempler “Hardest Working City” list is based on some very superficial data.

What I am going to be looking for in a candidate for the 2020 Santa Clarita City Council is a person who not only acknowledges and celebrates all the good things we have, but is also ready to embrace and champion solutions to the problems facing our residents every day. It would be an individual looking for a way to shorten commute times by taking decisive action, and fixing our ever-increasing density, traffic, and parking problems. Our city should not be saddled with a council member who accepts the status quo and simply wants our residents to be the solution to increasing traffic by just leaving earlier and spending more time on the road.

My candidate would be a person who realizes and embraces changes in our communities’ wants and needs. Our youth have been waiting for the City to provide a BMX track for over 10 years, and our lack of fairgrounds translates to a loss of many opportunities to Ventura and the Antelope Valley. In relation to emergency health care, we have a shortage of paramedic services, and even though we are in an LA County Fire District, it is an issue which could easily be mitigated if our City Council had a desire to do so. Lastly, our council needs a member who will challenge staff by insisting on having an understanding of everything they present for approval, because such a form of oversight only makes staff better at what they do.

We are a great city, but we are facing growing pains and challenges which must be addressed. So, if you are ready to step into the fray and take on these challenges, I urge you to throw your hat in the ring and be ready to inform all who will listen what you intend to do in making our city even better.

Always Advocating Alan – Solar Panels – Canyon Country’s Monstrosity on the Mountain

| Opinion | August 15, 2019

If you are a resident of Canyon Country, or drive through the area on occasion, I’m sure you have noticed the hillside, north of Soledad Canyon Road, just west of Camp Plenty, covered with solar panels. The panels were installed in a hodgepodge manner, not only creating an eyesore for the Canyon View Estates residents below, but for residents across the valley as well. They can be seen from the backyards of homes in Shangri-La, in North Oaks, as well as from Soledad Canyon Road looking north to the hills.

Installation of these panels started around April 2017, with Kerry Seidenglanz, Managing Partner of Canyon View Estates being quoted in the Signal as saying, “the project is being done with the resident’s best interest in mind.” Well, there are a fair number of Canyon View Estates residents, and a whole bunch of Canyon Country residents who do not agree; in fact, they believe the project is an eyesore and want the panels removed.

After over a year of waiting, the City of Santa Clarita published a news brief on September 12, 2018, indicating the city had “filed a formal complaint with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, regarding solar panels installed at Canyon View Mobile Home Estates.” The complaint asks the court for “preliminary and permanent injunction and declaratory relief to abate a public nuisance,” related to the solar panels. The City alleges the solar panels were installed without proper permits, in violation of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code, and in violation of Canyon View Mobile Home Estates’ conditional use permit, which states that 50% of the park needs to be maintained as open space.” On January 27, 2019 the Signal reported the trial court date to be set at October 21st.

Currently, the two sides are doing their respective due diligence, and according to this past Friday’s Signal, the plaintiffs are requesting the ability to depose City Manager Ken Striplin. This centers around the comment made by our City Manager to the City Council, City staff, and to the defendants in 2017 “regarding the lack of authority by the city to issue solar panel permits.” On October 10, 2017, Striplin told the City Council, “The city of Santa Clarita does not have local control or permitting authority over solar panels in mobile home parks.”

On the City side, their attorneys are taking the position, “the City Manager is an ‘apex-level’ employee and therefore lacks sufficient information to offer specific responsive testimony relative to the burden of producing a City Manager for deposition.” So, what is an apex level employee and how does this justify not deposing our City Manager? According to the American Bar Association, “To avail itself of the apex-deposition doctrine, the party opposing the deposition (the City) generally must show that (1) the witness (our City Manager) lacks unique, first-hand knowledge of the facts at issue and (2) other, less intrusive means of discovery have not been exhausted.”

Unbelievable. Last week, our Mayor was quoted, in reference to explaining expenditure defined in the City’s mid-year budget adjustment saying, “I’m assuming that all this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead and use the money.” She went on to indicate, “When we receive information that an action is OK to take, we go by what our staff puts forth.” Now this week, our city’s “Legal Eagles” are taking the position that our City Manager lacks unique, first-hand knowledge of the facts on the solar panel issue? When I asked who is minding the store, sadly it appears the answer is, “all those lower paid employees residing in City Hall cubicles.”

But looking back on what transpired, there was a time when the City’s position was, “the city of Santa Clarita does not have local control or permitting authority over solar panels in mobile home parks.” Councilmember Kellar sent a letter to State Assembly Member Dante Acosta, dated July 10, 2017, lamenting over, “The current (mobile home park solar permitting) process not providing an opportunity for any local input to allow consideration of unique local circumstances.” He later spoke about the project, during the September 22, 2017 City Council Meeting, when Council Member Kellar reflected on who approved the solar panel project, by saying emphatically, “We did not do it. The City did not know one thing about it.” Yet, by then it was after June 28th, and construction had started.

KHTS published an article, by Perry Smith, alerting the public. The article told of officials at the State Housing and Community Development (HCD) having been contacted and indicated there was no appeal mechanism in their permitting process. Ms. Evan Gerberding, Deputy Director of Communications and Tribal Liaison, was quoted as saying, “HCD officials consider local city and county ordinances that would be applicable. Based on HCD’s consideration of local zoning and laws, the project wouldn’t have been stopped.” She went on to say, “There was no basis for us to say no, or deny that permit. HCD evaluates the safety of the project as well as any regulations the city or county may have in place, before issuing a permit.” Lastly, the article told of, Mr. John Caprarelli, Santa Clarita Building Official, indicating, “A City inspector was on site recently to verify the project did have the necessary permits filed with HCD.” So much for the allegation, the city was unaware of the project until it was built.

I was curious and wanted to read it for myself, so I went to the HCD website to better understand their permitting process. My search led me to HCD’s “Mobile Home and Special Occupancy Plan Review Booklet.” Getting to page two, I found a checklist titled “Documentation Standards for Permits.” Item 1, asked for “approval and signature from the ‘local planning department’ on the Mobile Home and Recreational Vehicle Park Government Agency Approval form or equivalent document.” Wondering which city employee signed off on this permit, I raised the issue at the September 12th City Council Meeting. Mr. Striplin indicated the City did not approve the project. In addition, the City was not aware of the HCD booklet or requirements. Councilmember Marsha Mclean asked staff to look into the matter.

Several months later, Mr. Tom Cole showed me a copy of the HCD Canyon View Estates Permit and the section related to local approval was blank. The next question asked was if the solar panels were installed within the boundaries of the Mobile Home Park entitlement. It took almost a year for Mr. Cole to answer the question, when he revealed locating the Canyon View Estates County Permit, which required 50 percent of the property to remain as “open space,” which today is clearly not the case.

The story of Canyon View Estates and the owner’s solar panels is not even close to resolution, and today we sit waiting on lawyer time, even though every day we get to look at the monstrosity on the mountain. In court, the City has alleged the solar panels were installed without proper permits and is asking for the solar panels to be removed, while the property owners want to leave the panels in place in order to maintain their investment.

Yet the public needs to stay alert and watch carefully to be aware of how this issue plays out. Just as important as removing the panels are to our Canyon Country residents, corrective action to avoid the missteps which have occurred must be put in place by Santa Clarita staff and the City Council. Every agency which had a part in this permitting process failed to carry out their responsibilities in some way. Individuals communicating their agencies positions, attempted to protect themselves and their agency by shooting from the hip, and as the story unfolded, were proven wrong.

I can only hope, all concerned, take this as a learning experience, and fix what is broken.

Always Advocating Alan – Mid-Year Budget Adjustments and Audit Findings

| Opinion | August 8, 2019

How the leadership of an organization, or a governmental entity, manages the results of an issue raised or an audit finding speaks loudly. It is as if their actions provide a window to the organization’s soul, and the way they handle adversity opens a door for all to see.

I learned that lesson early. The majority of my work career occurred within the military aerospace arena, and as a department manager, I logged many hours reading and implementing defense acquisition regulations, federal acquisition regulations, military specifications, contracts and product requirement documents. Believe me, when I advise young engineers entering a similar endeavor,  I tell them to never take those kinds of documents home to read at night, unless they are looking to be put to sleep.

My responsibilities included validating my department’s procedures and work performance, and was being accomplished to the requirements set forth in those documents. In fact, it was our taxpayer dollars paying the bills; and spending those resources properly was, and should always be, mandatory. During that time, it would have been nice if the world trusted I was doing the right thing; but it was never the case. With almost 50 simultaneous contracts regularly in work, it seemed like the world was full of auditors, as my departments were regularly subjected to a barrage of government, customer and company audits.

I had a choice. I could struggle through each audit event by continually defending our methodology, or I could implement documentation techniques which did not put an extra burden on my employees, preserved our company’s intellectual property and was clear enough for outside auditors to understand. Next, we included a periodic set of our department’s own internal audits, and discontinued preparing for outsiders looking in. In that way, we were able to use outside audits to validate the effectiveness of our business practices, and by taking effective corrective action we brought outside audit findings down to an insignificant level.

Now by sharing my perspective on dealing with audits, I trust you will have an understanding as to why I am dismayed at the City of Santa Clarita’s response to the Open Space and Parkland’s Financial Accountability and Audit Panel’s concerns over the $2 million transfer of funds from the Open Space District, to “cover a shortfall in the facilities fund.”  By voting not to approve the report describing the transfer, the panel put in place what amounts to an “audit finding.” City staff could have responded by indicating they would look into the matter and provide an answer by a certain date, but instead they pushed back by trying to bully the panel into approving the report. While Communications Manager Carrie Lujan  indicated “the panel’s action changes nothing,” what it does do, is show the community how the city operates.

In last week’s Gazette article by Lee Barnathan, Councilmembers joined in the conversation.  Councilmember Smyth indicated “the shortfall comes from the city using facilities fund money,” and “the city finalized the land purchase for the center in 2017.”  But, the Signal reported the council purchased the land in 2014 for $4.7 million, and when I checked the facilities fund balance in this year’s budget, the balance is north of $70 million. So where is the shortfall? Was it a shortfall in the amount appropriated for the purchase, and if so, why did the December 12, 2017 mid-year budget adjustment call the action a “funding swap?” Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for staff to put the shortfall in front of the council and request approval of an additional appropriation?

Even more significant is Mayor McLean’s comments as she is quoted saying, “I’m assuming that all this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead and use the money to build the active park at the Community Center.” She went on to indicate, “when we receive information that an action is OK to take, we go by what our staff puts forth. As far as I know, this was all done the way it was supposed to be done, and until something different comes up, that’s what we go by”.

So, let me get a clear understanding of what our Mayor’s position is. The Santa Clarita City Council just goes by what the staff presents, assuming they did the right thing? Then who is watching the store? It is the City Council’s responsibility to keep staff on the straight and narrow, not just assume everything is OK.

There are council meetings where hundreds of pages of information are presented for approval, usually with a good number on the consent calendar, meaning the staff does not even intend to present a report about them, and the council will most likely not even speak to them. One of the best examples is when the staff presents the 250-page yearly budget for approval. They provides an overview, and if you look at the document itself, the majority of the information is presented at such a high level it is impossible to grasp if the budget is balanced or not. One notable exception is the description of the Capital Improvement Program. Each planned project is shown separately with the ability to show five years of financial planning, including any unfunded monetary requirements. But in actual practice, only the amount supposedly expended in previous years and the amount planned for the current year are included. A separate sheet reveals unfunded amounts per project.

For the past several years I have gone before the City Council when the yearly budget is being placed before them for approval and asked for an explanation of how the information included shows actual and accurate capital improvement project planning. As I have not received an explanation, this year out of frustration I went further and challenged the City Council Members to present the capital improvement planning process to the Canyon Country Advisory Committee.  None of them have accepted the invitation. Perhaps, they all use our Mayor’s method of “assuming that all this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead,” and “we go by what our staff puts forth.”

From my perspective, it is sad this issue popped up in connection with the Canyon Country Community Center. Our local residents are very supportive of this project; in fact, even before it is built, removal of a hideous billboard has made a drastic aesthetic improvement of the intersection. Unfortunately, this situation has greater implications than related to just this project’s financial transparency. It shows how our city is managed, how audit findings are handled and most importantly how corrective action is implemented.

Councilmember Smyth indicated Ken Striplin, Santa Clarita’s City Manager, and Joe Montes, City Attorney, will meet with the Financial Accountability and Audit Panel before August 26 to “provide clarity.”

I’m hoping the City takes some positive action to prevent recurrence of this situation and goes further than just moving some financial allocations between funds… but we will just have to wait and see.

Always Advocating Alan – Are Benefit Assessment Districts Really Beneficial?

| Opinion | August 1, 2019

The City of Santa Clarita was formed as a general law city. What this means is the city founders decided not to write a “City Charter,” but instead chose for our municipality to simply follow state law. One constraint placed on general law cities is they cannot impose taxes. Alternately, they establish charges for services provided to residents, and in accordance with Proposition 218, the City can propose benefit assessment districts so as to establish fees to pay for services which provide a “special benefit” to specific properties. The details are described in an engineer’s report.

But, for benefit assessment districts to be established, over 50 percent of the affected property owners must vote in favor of forming the district. Fees are then collected yearly, as a part of your property tax bill.

One of the first benefit assessment districts which really piqued my interest was the “Open Space and Parkland Preservation District,” which came into existence in 2007. While it often appears the idea for a benefit assessment district may come out of the blue, Santa Clarita had been having dialog about an open space district as far back as 2001, as described within the “Staff Presentation of Open Space Plan to Santa Clarita City Council, dated May 18, 2001.” Then in 2005, the public was made aware of a city initiative to establish the district. An engineer’s report for “Open Space and Parkland Preservation District,” prepared by Harris and Associates dated September 8, 2005, contained the details. The first attempt failed, as the proposal did not have a sunset clause and a maximum cost to the property owners was not defined.

Two years later, a new initiative to establish an “Open Space and Parkland Preservation District” was back on the front burner. This time the proposal included a 30-year sunset clause, with the ratepayer cost established at $25 per year, with a $1 per year maximum cost escalator. Council and staff committed to purchase land in order to implement a green belt around the city and included authorizing a maximum of 10% of the purchased land to be available for use as active parkland.

Councilmember Laurene Weste and Parks Director Rick Gould appeared on SCVTV’s Newsmaker of the Week on May 27, 2007 and answered various questions, taken from a transcript of the program. Leon Worden asked, “If you take this money and start buying land, what guarantee is there that some future city council won’t come along and sell it or develop it?” Councilmember Weste answered, “This is being done under Proposition 218 guidelines. For a future city council at any time to do anything to that land, they would have to go back through the same process and go to a vote to the people.” Parks Director Gould answered, “The money that would be accrued from the district would be only used for the purchase of parkland. This measure is focused very much on land acquisition, and primarily on undeveloped land, to keep it from being developed in the future by whoever might own that land. Leon Worden then asked, “So the money that is raised from this, if it passes, can only be spent on raw land? Parks Director Gould answered, “That’s correct.”

I had high expectations. What a great concept; money only being spent on what we voted for, plus Councilmember Ender had put me on the financial accountability and audit panel. Yet my enthusiasm waned shortly after. It turned out the fee of $25 per year with a $1 addition each year thereafter, happened to correspond with the repayment cost of the City borrowing $30 million, but instead only $15 million was borrowed, making me suspect the ratepayer cost had been inflated. Yet, staff was doing an excellent job looking to buy land for open space, while joining with other agencies to share the cost, but no interest was apparent to purchase land for active parkland. Staff had been telling us for years about Santa Clarita’s deficit in parkland acreage, and without active parkland, justification for the District would not have been possible.

Then I started to notice the concept surrounding Proposition 218, giving taxpayers the right to vote on taxes, was not as pure and transparent as advertised. In 2008, the City laid out the plan to dissolve all landscape maintenance districts funding center roadway medians and reforming them, along with adding some new areas, as LMD 2008-1. Those who were already in a district vastly outnumbered the new participants, and were told they were getting a reduction. Not surprisingly, the proposal passed, dragging in other areas, which had voted no.

Shortly after I had left the FAAP, staff looked to purchase land outside the open space three mile district boundary, by claiming even if a tip of the land was within that limit, it was acceptable to do so. But, after the information became public knowledge, staff sort of fixed the problem by reallocating funds so open space money was not used outside the district.

Next came questions about the Shangri-La drainage benefit assessment district which had been operating in the red for several years. Rather than going to the community to solve the problem, staff elected to burden a nearby landscape maintenance district with the cost, while continuing to collect from the Shangri-La district in order to repay what staff had been borrowed from another.

Lastly, was the landscape and lighting district, which sounded very much like the LMD 2008-1 plan. Staff indicated a desire to combine the two lighting districts, promising homeowners in one district a reduction, and looking to redefine financing in the other by substantially increasing their fees. Fortunately, when the truth came out, the Council cancelled the election.

Currently, the city is facing a situation, where the Open Space and Parkland Preservation District Financial Accountability and Audit Panel voted three to one, to not sign off on last year’s open space expenditures. One issue is, “The recommended expenditure adjustment in the Open Space Preservation District Fund includes a $2 million funding swap for the Canyon Country Community Center land acquisition,” outlined in the December 2017 mid-year budget adjustment. In addition, in this year’s engineer’s report, staff has planned to expend $755,000 on administration of the district. An amount I feel is overly excessive.

I realize there will be mashing of teeth, and displeasure at City Hall, for my pointing these issues out. But benefit assessment districts was an area I wholeheartedly supported. I trusted staff and the City Council to keep their word and only spend funds as defined at the time we cast our ballot forming the district. It is unfortunate I must now foretell of never voting for a benefit assessment district again, until management of our districts can be brought back on the straight and narrow.

Perhaps the City of Santa Clarita needs a Financial Accountability and Audit Panel, with their scope expanded to oversee all Santa Clarita’s benefit assessment districts.

Always Advocating Alan – Are You Open Minded, Racist, Or Just Not-Too-Bright?

| Opinion | July 25, 2019

About a year and a half ago, I penned a column for the Gazette titled, “Why You Cannot Have a Rational Discussion with Someone on the Extreme Left or Extreme Right.” At that time my thoughts centered on Facebook. I have always found it productive and enlightening to have dialog with individuals who hold beliefs which are different from my own, as I am of the opinion; “You will never learn much of anything by only talking to people who agree with you.” So, as social media roadblocks continued to be placed in the way of having meaningful dialog online, I was becoming increasingly frustrated.

I am a person who tries to draw heavily on my life experiences to reach a conclusion. One instance I remember vividly, occurred around mid-1970, when my family was camping with friends at Lake Success. It turns out my buddy’s daughter was going to meet us there, and he asked me to watch out for her. Well, that evening I saw her driving by and proceeded to yell out, “Hey June, we are over here.” When she did not seem to respond, I tried to yell louder. Suddenly I realized how foolish I had been acting, and I started laughing at myself, because June is deaf.

On that note, I thought of the number of times I found someone trying to get their point across, by repeating their position, only louder the second time around. When it had no effect, an attack on the messenger followed, with personal insults and name calling in abundance. People who use those methods do not seem to understand that an individual’s perceptions will not change by telling them they are stupid and yelling they are wrong. The best a reasonable person can hope for is to gain the other individual’s trust, while getting a better understanding of the other person’s perspective. Plus, if you lay out your position well, it might start the other person thinking about what you said. In some instances, if you proceed using a respectful dialog, instead of approaching the subject in an abrasive manner, you may find out you are actually in agreement, even though you were unaware of it.

I was hoping the social media situation would get better, but the opposite occurred. The next conversation sinkhole we fell into was, when a person ran out of answers, they would attempt to steer away from the subject, by saying something such as, “I don’t like, or trust, him or her.” After falling for those tactics a couple of times, and realizing nothing of value was being accomplished, I developed a strategy of, refusing to continue dialog on a subject when the other person would not agree to stay on the topic at hand. Sure, it ended quite a few discussions, and even though I had to be satisfied with just walking away, I ended up consuming a lot fewer Rolaids. (Just kidding, but I’m sure you get the idea).

Unfortunately, today we seem to have slid down to the bottom of the conversation mountain. Some individuals have discovered “dog whistles,” even though they cannot hear them, and use the term to find “racist” meanings everywhere. Now, vanilla ice cream is a symbol of white Supremacy, everyone you do not agree with is a Fascist, you will be ostracized if you dare to take exception to the policies being brought forward by an individual who is a member of a minority, and our young adults are traumatized by seeing a painting of George Washington. God help us, if those who see racism at every turn go to the supermarket and find cookies and cream or chocolate chip ice cream. I shudder to think of what will come next. In fact, it has gone so far that I don’t know of any public official who has not been called a racist by someone. Yet, if I thought any of the above nonsense was truly the way the public perceived reality and acted, I would be worried. Instead, I find my interactions with folks in the real world to be pleasant and respectful. It makes me angry the media spreads this negative and divisive view of American culture.

If you were to ask me, do elements of racism still exist in our country? I would respond by saying, unfortunately, I realize it does still exist in some circles. At the same time, during my lifetime, our country has come a long way in embracing diversity. For example, in 1952, when I lived in Florida for a year, I witnessed real overt discrimination and fear of retaliation on the black community.

When I moved to Santa Clarita in 1965, I was greeted by a young man who showed me his KKK membership card, and warned me about the problems I would encounter being Jewish in the Santa Clarita Valley. On the other hand, my wife’s coworker at Kaiser was another nurse named Alice. She and her husband Jess became our good friends, and we were honored when they became our children’s Godparents. It floored me, when after inviting them to our house, they questioned if it was OK for them to be in our neighborhood. Why, because they were black.

Fortunately, today as a country, we continue to improve race relations, one small step at a time. During my career as a Department and Project Manager, my management noticed my department’s diverse workforce.

During the Affirmative Action Years, when asked how I did it, my answer was, I do not try, I hire based solely on an individual’s ability to satisfy the job requirements; diversity just comes naturally. In addition, Santa Clarita has become much more of a melting pot, and I am now a member of an organization which would have excluded me, for religious reasons, 60 years ago. I am encouraged by our communities taking this more enlightened direction and am looking forward to the United States staying on the same righteous path. It would be very upsetting to see the process diverted by those just looking for political gain.

So, how do you spot a racist today? If you hear a person talking about an entire group of people in a disparaging way, the person is a racist. For example, if someone tells you, all Muslims are terrorists, all Jews are only interested in money, or all the problems encountered in the United States are caused by old white guys, the person is most likely a racist. If you question the policies put forth by an elected official, and someone tries to say you cannot because the official is a member of a minority, the person is a racist. In the United States, if you know of a specific policy which you are opposed to, or an inappropriate action taken by an individual, you should be free to express your beliefs, no matter who the person is.

Eliminating racism is everyone’s responsibility, and Morgan Freeman said it best — “How do we stop racism? Stop talking about it. I’m going to stop calling you a white man, and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man”.

If we would all follow Morgan’s suggestion, and simply treat everyone with the same level of respect you want the next person to show you, discrimination would be eliminated. Then at that point, we will be able to sit down, and respectfully talk about the issues, while keeping an open mind, and learning from the experience.

Always Advocating Alan – Traffic, Parking, and a Lack of Future Vision

| Opinion | July 18, 2019

When my wife Pam and I moved to the Santa Clarita Valley over a half century ago, it was a very rural and sparsely populated place. It seemed very comforting because I realized my young family was going to be living just three blocks from a grammar school, and a junior high school was under construction about the same distance away.

There were no houses on the hillsides around us, and we considered it a traffic jam if two cars, traveling in adjacent directions, would arrive simultaneously at an intersection displaying four way stop signs, requiring us to patiently ponder which vehicle would get to enter the intersection first. Yep, those were “the good old days.”

As time passed, some neighbors called it progress, while others had more colorful four-letter words to describe the more and more houses being built, and the resulting traffic clogging our Santa Clarita roadways. While I have never opposed property owners developing what they own, I have also been of the opinion that “our elected officials have the responsibility to provide adequate infrastructure for the developments they approve.” Such assurance is supposed to be provided by the City of Santa Clarita establishing land use standards (the general plan), and the collection of fees and charges necessary to provide city services, one of which is adequate and properly maintained roads (bridge and thoroughfare fees). It is understandable why concern over traffic congestion has been growing for a long time. Quoting the Los Angeles Times in 2016, the “Los Angeles area can claim the worst traffic in America, Again.”

Yet, what makes the traffic situation in the Santa Clarita Valley even worse, is the streets are not laid out in a grid pattern, making it almost impossible to synchronize the traffic lights, the city bus service being established without providing egresses at all bus stops, causing buses to unnecessarily block lanes of traffic, and the failure of state, county and city officials to do much more than study the problem. Plus, if you are a regular resident who takes their children to school in the morning, or travels to work and back during rush hour, you already know where the traffic bottlenecks are. If the elected officials really wanted advice on how and where to fix the problem, all they would need to do is ask “John-Q-Public,” and then act on the feedback they receive.

But the insanity does not stop there.

Recently, the State Legislature passed some bills to help cure California’s “Affordable Housing” shortage. Starting with the passage of California SB 229 and AB 494 in October of 2017, “Accessory Dwelling Units” are now legal for construction in single family or multi-family residential zones, in addition to the existing structures. While the Accessory Dwelling Unit (ADU) may not exceed 1200 square feet, garage conversions of 400-square feet may be used. Parking required shall not exceed one parking space per unit; however the ADU shall be exempt from all parking requirements if the property is located within 0.5-mile walking distance of a public transportation station. Changes, primarily to relax the requirements on constructing an ADU are being adopted at the state level in a fast and furious manner. At the April 9, 2019 city council meeting, agenda Item 3 staff report indicated passage of Assembly Bill 68, would prohibit the City of Santa Clarita from imposing a minimum lot size to be used for ADU construction, and also prohibit requiring new parking spaces after a garage or carport is converted into an ADU.

You may remember not that long ago, when the City of Santa Clarita was determined to eliminate illegal garage conversions and put a stop to homeowners renting out their garages as living space. Well, how things change over time. Now the State of California is making those same garages available for conversion into dwelling units. One Canyon Country neighborhood has been made aware of the first of these conversions in their area. It is being accomplished by a property owner who purchased the existing home for use as a rental and in addition is converting the garage for another rental unit. Should the owner decide to rent rooms, as is legal in the City of Santa Clarita, the likelihood is there will be a need to park five or six cars as a result; and with replacements not being required due to the garage conversion, where will they park? In front of other neighbors’ homes, of course, further congesting the neighborhood. Now start to imagine the increased congestion should other property owners follow suit.

Plus, it still isn’t over. At the July 9, 2019 city council meeting, agenda item 7, the council declared opposition to SB 330 which if passed, would prohibit Santa Clarita “from requiring a minimum parking requirement if a proposed residential development is within one-quarter mile of a rail stop …. and also prohibit the city from requiring a minimum parking requirement greater than 0.5 spaces per unit if the proposed residential development is outside of one-quarter mile of a rail stop.” I can’t imagine what planet our state legislators are from. Here on earth, virtually every multi-family development currently does not have enough parking spaces for their residents. Don’t take my word for it; verify the fact for yourself by driving up Valle Del Oro in Newhall, or Isabella Parkway next to Home Depot after 5 PM, and see if you can spot an empty space. Santa Clarita development codes need to be modified to provide more parking spaces per unit, not less. Sure, our city council members lamented about loss of local control, but are they doing any better?

At the same April 9 meeting, agenda Item 13 proposed creation of a “Jobs Creation Overlay Zone (JCOZ),” which would allow the height of office buildings to be increased to five stories without a conditional use permit and provide the Director of Community Development the authority to reduce parking requirements. They voted 4-1 to approve the staff recommended action, with no discussion about the infrastructure (road improvements) necessary to accommodate the added traffic and parking. Next came agenda item 14, proposing to award the design contract for the Dockweiler Drive extension. I rose to remind them about the plight of residents who live in the condo complex at the top of Dockweiler. If the road is constructed two lanes in each direction, with no stopping posted on each side, where will the current residents park? The answer came back that although the road would be constructed as two lanes in each direction, it will only be striped for one. I find the answer hard to believe, but we will just have to wait and see.

The thing I found most infuriating about the Dockweiler extension and 13th Street crossing improvement project discussion was Councilman Kellar’s lecture about how the current road improvement project is all about public safety. If the Council is suddenly so concerned about traffic impeding public safety, what are they planning to do about all the areas around the city which are almost in gridlock? For example, just try driving across town on Soledad Canyon Road, from Shadow Pines to McBean Parkway and then on to the Henry Mayo Hospital at 7AM when school is in session. Think about what happens to our city streets when there is an accident on the 5 freeway or Hwy 14, and how those instances affect first responders in time of an emergency.

Santa Clarita’s roadways are being clogged by the city and county approving developments without providing infrastructure to support our area’s growth. Necessary parking and road improvements are not being provided; this will force people to get out of their cars and use alternate forms of transportation, or the city is waiting for a developer to pay for it. Both of these inactions just keep making the problem worse. It is time for our state, county, and local elected officials to start realizing they cannot fix the California Affordable Housing crisis on the shoulders of our current residents, and they cannot fix our traffic problems by doubling down on solutions which have failed to even hold the status quo. If the situation continues to worsen, perhaps it is time for the public to realize we just have the wrong people representing us.

While I can remember how it was when my wife Pam and I moved to the Santa Clarita Valley, when it was a very rural and sparsely populated place, I wonder if my grandchildren will still be living here, one half century from now, and will they be relating their memories of how the City of Santa Clarita was, before the traffic and parking problems were solved.

Always Advocating Alan – Parades, Rocking and Rolling and Helping Those in Need

| Opinion | July 12, 2019

Just for the record, this past 4-day weekend has turned out to be a much more vigorous adventure than any other Independence Day holiday I have ever experienced in the past.

Starting off in the darkness of early morning on Thursday the 4th, I was getting ready to load the truck with my part of the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center Parade Float equipment. While checking my list for the umpteenth time, I realized if I left something important home, or miscalculated how the sound system or other electrical equipment was going to work, there would be no way to recover. The float plans were a lot more complex this year, as we had added a pneumatic system to keep our big yellow duck properly inflated, and incorporated the use of a 110 volt inverter to keep the bubbles blowing, along with a whole new set of banners, flags and props. But fortunately, the parade team’s planning paid off. When we arrived at our parade staging location, we had everything needed to decorate our float and all the props were working as designed.

If you were a spectator on the parade route, and were able to see and hear us come by, I hope you noticed how we showed our support for the United Sates Constitution’s 1st Amendment granting freedom of the press, and the 100th anniversary of Santa Clarita’s Signal Newspaper, when we announced the inauguration of the “Dixon Daily News.” In addition, to be in fashion for the occasion, the Dixon Float Decoration Team had our lovely mascot, “Dorothy Dixon Duck,” wearing a custom-made designer shower cap, while taking a bubble bath and reading the latest copy of our paper. But, to be sure those watching did not miss the significance, or importance, of the Dixon Daily News, our CEO Philip Solomon headed up a crew of four bicycle riding newspaper delivery boys and girls, handing out copies which included “Duck Adoption Papers” announcing the “Dixon Duck Dash” to be held on October 12th at Bridgeport Park. Not only will this event be a free fun day for the entire family, if you adopt a duck, or ducks, you could be one of the Dixon Duck Dash’s grand prize recipients and win some big bucks (dollars that is).

Even with all we had to do, we did not forget my seven pound, white, long haired, floppy eared, tail wagging, family member named Baby, who turned 98 in dog years on the 4th. This year, she rode in the center of the float, amazed as always, about all the people gathered to celebrate with her. Yet, what I found most intriguing was our own Mayor, Marsha McLean. As it turned out, the Mayor occupied the parade spot right behind our Samuel Dixon Family Health Center float. What made our Mayor stand out above the other elected officials, was while most of them remained in a safe zone of riding in an automobile, Mayor Marsha showed her daredevil spirit by climbing on the back of a shiny Harley-Davidson trike, to travel the parade route. It was breathtaking to watch as the rider, and our Mayor, paused to do some doughnuts in an intersection. Way to go, Mayor Marsha!

Our float had a great time, but their activities represented just the first half of the day. After taking down the parade float decorations, returning the truck to the rental yard and taking everything back to where it would be stored for next year, there was the question of what to do next. In the morning, American Legion riders were passing out flyers for lunch and afternoon activities at their Newhall Legion Post. Independence Day celebrations were also scheduled at Mint Canyon Moose, the Santa Clarita Elks, and I’ll bet there was a large gathering at the local VFW. It makes me proud to live in this very patriotic city named Santa Clarita.

This year, lunch time brought more than just food on my plate when I was asked if I had felt the earthquake. Since I was riding on a parade float, the earthquake being centered in Ridgecrest and we were buffered by being on the other side of the San Andreas fault, I did not even know the quake had taken place. Finding out later that Ridgecrest was “rocking and rolling” to a 7.1 shaker, my heart went out to all the local residents. I remember the 6.5 1971 Sylmar quake causing my wife and I to shovel a trash barrel full of broken glass out of our kitchen, and the 6.7 1994 Northridge shaker rupturing a natural gas main line two blocks down from my house. When we finally were able to travel to work, we saw first-hand all the apartment buildings on Lassen which collapsed on to their lower level parking areas, plus my wife’s place of employment on Devonshire Boulevard where the 3rd floor became the 2nd floor. Those level 6.5 and 6.7 quakes were bad enough, but a 7.1 had to be a lot worse. Plus, now all the locals must live with the aftershocks, find the resources to repair the damage and calm their nerves. I realize we have been lucky to not have experienced a local major earthquake for over 20 years. Let’s keep our fingers crossed that our luck holds out.

All that was happening, and the holiday was not half over. Last week I wrote about a tragic event which took place on Friday, June 21, 2019. The Jarheads MC, a group of active duty or honorably discharged Marines, FMF Corpsman, and family members, in New Hampshire, were on their way to a charity fund raiser at a local American Legion Post, when a pickup truck towing a car trailer, swerved onto the wrong side of the road directly into the group of motorcycle riders. Seven members of the group were killed and several more were severely injured. It is still very troubling for me to think about men and women who had volunteered to put their life on the line to defend our country, ending up in heaven as a result of a senseless violent incident, right here at home. It makes me even more incensed finding out the perpetrator, “should have had his commercial driver’s license suspended, but Massachusetts did not properly log an impaired driving incident in Connecticut from the previous month”. In addition, “Massachusetts officials announced that Registry of Motor Vehicle workers stopped processing out-of-state violations beginning in March 2018, and 53 bins of unopened mail with thousands of notices were discovered at a records room at the Quincy office of the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV). The Bay State’s RMV has issued more than 1,100 suspensions to 876 drivers as it works through a backlog of out-of-state driver’s license violations that sat unchecked for more than a year.” Now, I’m sure the elected officials, in those states, will hold press conferences to cry out how unacceptable the situation was. But from my standpoint, this type of dereliction of duty is becoming all too common. We need to start putting public servants in office whose first priority is protecting the public, instead of those who seem to spend their time verifying their retirement account is fully funded.

When Joe Lozano and I found out that memorial rides and fundraisers were being set up across the country on July 6th to help the victims and families of the New Hampshire tragedy, we decided Santa Clarita should take action as well. With only 10 days lead time, we knew we needed to try something new. So, we opted for a memorial ride, with no ride fee charged, no standard donations collected or prizes awarded. This event would be held solely to raise awareness and would only accept voluntary contributions. I made up a flyer, Joe made some phone calls, and the “Sic Psycles” Road Captain joined in by putting a 100-mile route together. The ride would take the group from the Santa Clarita Elks Parking Lot to the Rock Inn, from there to El Pescador in Filmore and finally to the Sagebrush Cantina in Calabasas. It was a gamble, and with so little time to advertise, we had no idea how many individuals would participate, but when we called the restaurants and explained what we were doing, all three welcomed the group. So, on Saturday July 6, at 10:30am, motorcycle riders and their passengers left the Elks parking lot for what was a great ride with a great purpose.

I would like to especially thank several of our friends, who were already scheduled to be out of town on that day, and contributed before the ride, while others gave from their heart the day of the event. Even on such short notice, we are sending over $600 to help the families and victims. God bless all of you who took part in this event. Yet, if you missed the ride, remember it is not too late to help those in need, and if you choose to do so, please give me a call at 661-713-9344, or contact “Jarheads MC” directly at JarheadsMCDonations@gmail.com. Any amount you choose to donate will help.

Always Advocating Alan – Celebrating the Fourth of July and Baby’s Birthday While Helping Those in Need

| Opinion | July 3, 2019

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays. As a youngster growing up in Brooklyn, it was a time when I was ready to view the holiday parade coming down Ocean Parkway. When the last float passed by, I would go up to the solarium on the roof of our apartment building to witness a giant firework display over the ocean. Then after moving to the west coast, growing up and having children of my own, the Fourth of July became a ritual of boating trips to the Colorado River, water skiing, barbeques, and a fun-filled holiday weekend.

But through it all, while our family had a great time, something seemed to be missing. So, thinking about the meaning of Independence Day, I started taking the Fourth of July Holiday a bit more seriously by attending (and more often participating) in Santa Clarita’s Independence Day Parade in Newhall.

Looking back in time, I believe my vision on how to celebrate Independence Day matured in 2006. I had just retired and decided to fulfill a lifelong dream and ride to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. on Memorial Day with the Vietnam Veterans, my wife and our two riding buddies. Motoring through the heartland of America and seeing the patriotism displayed by residents all across our great country made me stop and think about how I had been celebrating some of the most important days of the year.

Independence Day should not be just about barbeques, boating and parties; it should also be a time to reflect on the vision set forth by our Founding Fathers. We need to remember how fortunate we are to be Americans, and plan what we will need to do to assure our children will have the same freedom and benefits we enjoy, so they can pass them on to their children as well.

We must always remember how the lives of American citizens have been continually improved because of the words written in the United States Declaration of Independence, which states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” We should also acknowledge how the citizenry of those times put themselves in harm’s way to establish a country with a vision like no other on the planet, and how each generation thereafter has joined in, when needed, to preserve our republic.

Today, I hear some people talk about when and where the United States has been involved in activities they do not believe is just or right. To them I say that our country is a work in progress, and while it is still not perfect, over my lifetime I have witnessed reduced discrimination of all forms, technology improving our daily lives in many different ways, and the implementation of instantaneous worldwide open communications.

Information is now disseminated in a manner where it has become very difficult to hide wrongdoing from the world’s population. I am optimistic we can continue down the right path if we remain able to speak our minds, hold our elected officials accountable for their actions, and continually look for ways for the country to improve. George Washington summed it up over 200 years ago by saying, “Your love of liberty, your respect for the laws, your habits of industry, and your practice of the moral and religious obligations, are the strongest claims to national and individual happiness.” It is therefore most important to emulate our Founding Fathers and never give up our quest for freedom.

Now, I am not suggesting we get so serious that we cast aside any fun and good times that come with a celebration. This year on July 4, I will again be riding on the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center float, where our own “Dorothy Dixon Duck” will be “splishing and splashing in her bath” while reading a newspaper to commemorate the 1st Amendment, which provides our country with freedom of the press.

In addition, a little humor does not hurt either. So, I will not forget to bring my 7-pound, white, long haired, floppy eared, tail wagging family member named Baby, to the parade. Born on Independence Day in 2005, she will turn 98, (in dog years), and I will again enable her to view all those out to celebrate her birthday.

But this year, there is also a very serious situation in the news. On Friday, June 21, Jarheads MC, a group of active duty or honorably discharged Marines, FMF Corpsman and family members in New Hampshire were on their way to a charity fundraiser at a local American Legion Post, when a pickup truck towing a car trailer swerved onto the wrong side of the road directly into the group of motorcycle riders. Seven members of the group were killed and several more were severely injured.

It is very troubling for me to realize that men and women who volunteered to put their life on the line to defend our country would end up in heaven as a result of a senseless violent incident, right here at home. Gone from this life are Michael Ferazzi (Contoocook), Albert Mazza (Lee), Daniel Pereira (Riverside, RI), Jo-Ann and Edward Corr (Lakeville, MA), Desma Oakes (Concord), and Aaron Perry (Farmington). How sad that such a tragedy occurred.

As I am sure you might imagine, the families of those killed and injured need help. Jarheads MC set up a Go Fund Me page and there are several fundraisers being set up across the country. I am proud to reveal how Santa Clarita will be participating in helping those in need.

On Saturday July 6, A Memorial Ride will take place starting at the Santa Clarita Elks Lodge Parking lot, 17766 Sierra Highway, in Canyon Country. A meet-up will start a 9 a.m., riders and drivers Meeting at 10 a.m., with kickstands up and e-brakes off at 10:30 a.m. There will be no “Ride Fee” charged, standard donation collected, or prizes awarded. This event is being held solely to raise awareness and accept voluntary contributions to be sent directly to the victims and their families. Plus, you do not need to ride a motorcycle to join in, and you can choose how far to ride, or drive, with the group.

I hope to see you at the Fourth of July Parade in Newhall and the Memorial Ride on July 6. Join me in celebrating Independence Day by saluting the flag, right here in the land of the free and home of the brave.

Always Advocating Alan – Homelessness, Addiction and the Future

| Opinion | June 27, 2019

Last week, I wrote about my good fortune of being invited by the Sheriff’s Foundation to tour the SCV Sheriff’s station. For me, a highlight of the evening was receiving a presentation by the J-Team, a group of officers primarily fighting juvenile drug addiction. These officers showed their deep concern for all the addicted individuals who they were trying to help get sober by sharing commentaries about their efforts. While I commend the deputies involved in this endeavor for their ability to continue the battle they face in addressing this seemingly insurmountable problem, I was extremely saddened to hear that major drug addiction problems were now being felt at the grammar school level. I shook my head, thinking, here we are, 33 years after Congress passed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act, establishing mandatory prison sentences for some drug offenses, and I realized even though we are long into the “War On Drugs,” the problem just continues to worsen.

I’m sure you have heard the time weary quote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” but it seems to be a very insightful statement. Unfortunately, our elected officials appear to only have one answer for every problem. If they decide there is something that they do not want the public to do, they pass a new law saying don’t do it, or there will be a punishment applied. Then, when the old law doesn’t seem to be accomplishing what they intended, they pass another law making the punishment more severe, and as the elected officials brag about what they have done, the problem just lingers on.

But with drugs, it was not always seen as the problem it is today. There was a period in the 1800s when bottles of Laudanum (an opium derivative), was available for anyone to purchase at the General Store. You might remember watching “The Shootist” starring John Wayne. In this story, the hero was dying of cancer, and when his doctor prescribed Laudanum, he asked: “How will I know when to take it and how much to take?” I chuckled when his doctor told him innocently, “You’ll know!” At that point in history, marketing drugs to the public was everywhere, and during the 1890s even the Sears Catalog offered a syringe and a measured amount of Cocaine for $1.50. But, then again, there was a dark side. If you watched the movie “Tombstone,” you probably remember Wyatt Earp’s first wife using Laudanum to combat her migraine headaches, and her subsequently dying of an overdose.

What changed around the start of the 20th century was the public’s concern about a large segment of the population becoming addicted and thereby losing their ability to be productive members of society. So, the lawmakers of the time took up the gauntlet using the only tools at their disposal, and started creating laws prohibiting drug sales and recreational use. But here is the big rub. Laws are only effective when the general public accepts them, and the best example of a law being resisted by the public was the 18th amendment to our constitution, a nationwide ban on the production, importation, transportation, sale, and consumption of alcoholic beverages, known at the time as “Prohibition.”

Brought to you on the silver screen have been many western movies, which all seemed to include saloon-inspired alcoholism, violence, and corruption. Even my favorite old TV western, “Gunsmoke,” seemed to center on the “Long Branch Saloon” with Doc, Festus, Matt and Kitty regularly meeting for a drink. So, to combat the perceived problem, the Anti-Saloon League, social progressives, and the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union created a massive campaign to end the evils of alcohol” culminating in 1920 with the passage of the 18th U.S. Constitutional Amendment, thereby outlawing the production and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the United States.

From one perspective the “Prohibition” law was fairly successful. Alcohol consumption during Prohibition was estimated to have been reduced by 50 percent, but the unintended consequences proved the cure to be worse than the cold. Making something illegal which the general population did not want to give up created a large black market for alcoholic beverages, a boom to the moonshine market, with some making their own bathtub mixtures, while other products were being smuggled into the country. It was a time which saw the rise of the mafia, speakeasies (illegal bars) and crime rising to a level never before witnessed. Because of all the negative aspects, as a social experiment, Prohibition lost supporters every year. Finally, the country had had enough, and in 1933 the 21st U.S. Constitutional Amendment was passed repealing the 18th and Prohibition was no more.

Today, in some ways, I see a parallel related to illegal drug use and the Prohibition era. The sale and use of illegal drugs have put large amounts of money in the Mexican Drug Cartel’s pockets and has created a network of drug smuggling and sales crisscrossing our entire country. Drug dealers are looking to make customers out of our children, and young adults by giving away free samples, along with Hollywood glamorizing the effects of recreational drug use. There seems to be so much money involved, no amount of new laws prohibiting the manufacture and sale of illegal drugs alone will stem the tide. Plus, it is not just about our youth. Personally, I watched my children’s godparents lose it all. They had a beautiful house in the San Fernando Valley. He owned a trucking company and she was a nurse at Kaiser. After discovering cocaine, they used every penny they could lay their hands on to buy drugs, and ended up living on the street, until the Lord took them home. It was sad to watch, and no matter what my wife and I tried to help them get clean, their addiction won out. Recently I read an article describing the homeless population as exhibiting an 80 percent addiction rate, and even if that number is overblown, it appears the number of addicted homeless individuals is huge. We need to stop pretending the major homeless problem can be fixed by just creating affordable housing, because addicts will spend all they have on drugs, and are not the least bit concerned when there is nothing left to pay rent.

Now, I am not advocating we simply decriminalize recreational drug use, but I am saying we need to implement a solution which takes the drug traffickers profits away, and thereby eliminates the practice of targeting children as new drug customers. In addition, prescription drugs (opioids) need to be used and provided more sparingly. The alternative is to continue what we are doing by passing more laws prohibiting illegal drug manufacturing, transportation, sales and use, spend more money to fund law enforcement, and fill up our jails. All while the problem continues to get worse.

We should seriously consider Don Wilson’s words: “As a people, we are not very good students of history; we keep repeating the same mistakes at dreadful costs.”

As a country, we must change the way we approach the drug problem, or if we continue down the same tired old road, it will end up as Robert Fuller said: “I have seen the future and it doesn’t work.”

Santa Clarita’s Sheriff Team, Our Community’s Six-Pointed Shining Star

| Opinion | June 20, 2019

The past week has been family fun time here at Ferdman Clan Headquarters. Saturday brought out a proud set of parents and grandparents to watch our eldest grandson Cole play in Hart’s Bronco Allstar Game. What a great way for him to end the regular season, being chosen as the starting pitcher, getting on base both times at bat to help put runs on the scoreboard, and assisting his team in the field for the win. Then it was on to the People’s Choice Rotary Car Show, and as a member of the Santa Clarita Sunrise Rotary Club, I got to hand out ballots to help decide the leaders in each category. I met a very nice Harley-riding highway patrolman, and smiled when a young little girl sitting on her father’s shoulders politely asked if she could keep the pencil I provided her to fill out the ballot. My heart melted, and I’m sure I would have given her the whole box of pencils if she would have asked for them. Finally, on Father’s Day Sunday morning, Pam and I went out for breakfast at the Elks, where we conversed with friends and spent the morning with Joe and Elizabeth.

With all the goings-on, I also felt extremely fortunate to have been invited to the Sheriff’s Foundation yearly get together. Plus, the event was held right at the Sheriff Station, allowing us to get a firsthand look into the station’s day-to-day operations.

Did you know there is a Memorial Garden honoring their fallen heroes right outside the station? It is located just beyond where the service vehicles are parked. From the street, all you can see is a wall, but on the other side, it tells a very different story. Within the garden was where we started the evening, with a buffet dinner provided by Salt Creek. It made it even better to know Mayor McLean was also present, and as luck would have it, we were seated at the same table. Then, with a full tummy, we were divided into groups of 10 to tour the station, where we would get to view and hear about six areas of operations.

For my group, our first trek was up to the roof for a look at the sheriff’s helicopter. Being a Sheriff’s Pilot did not sound like an easy job. With two 3-hour shifts per day in the air going after the bad guys, and if necessary, attempting to draw fire away from the good guys on the ground in a bird with no belly armor, it did not sound like a job for the faint of heart. Think about it.

Then it was back to the ground floor and out to the parking area for a view of the department’s lethal and non-lethal weapons. It was very meaningful to learn about the deputies’ concern for only using lethal force as a last resort, and the policies and procedures in place to protect the lives of perpetrators who intended to do them harm. I’m not sure I would be so concerned with the safety of an individual running at me with a knife in hand, but the deputies spoke of using bean bag shotgun rounds, as well as other non-lethal weaponry, and they planned to continue their use until such time as their own safety was placed in jeopardy. We were allowed to handle the un-loaded hardware and one of our groups got to fire a training round from the latest non-lethal weapon. Never let it be said we couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn, because our marksman missed the target, but hit the building, and it wasn’t even painted red.

Next it was a short walk to the SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) vehicle. It pretty much looked like the SWAT vehicles you see in the movies; heavily armored, with a rear area set up with two benches for transporting the team. But the real story should be about the men and women who ride the SWAT vehicle into harms way. The deputy described, and showed us, some of the tools they use, including several different types of body armor. I was surprised to learn that some of an individuals’ body armor is purchased by the deputies themselves. I’m wondering if this situation could be corrected.

Alongside the SWAT vehicle was the command post. As you might imagine, it is a large bus-like RV, with a pop-out in the conference area. As we entered, we could hear the police radios in operation. Looking around, I noticed radio communications, internet and TV access had been provided, along with a large screen in the conference area. Managing and coordinating between all the different agencies during an emergency must be a difficult task. Having the command center available to bring the law enforcement management team closer to the action has got to help make the management process more effective.

Enough outdoor activities, so it was back into the heart of the station to hear from the “J-Team.” There were two deputies present to explain the workings of the team, along with a display of drug paraphernalia. With the J-Team heavily involved in the world of juvenile drug addiction, their heartfelt desire to get the kids off drugs rather than just throwing them in jail is extremely significant. They spoke about interacting with some of the offenders multiple times. It appears to take a great deal of time and effort before many kids are willing to try rehab to get clean, and sadly, many of them who don’t simply overdose and leave this world. It made me think about how frustrating it must be for the deputies to deal with the situation every day, and how they deserve a lot of credit for continuing to stay on a path of doing all they can to help our troubled youth.

Now I was anxious to see the K-9 team (those who know me know I love dogs). But as luck would have it, a big drug bust was now in progress, and they were called into action. A Sheriff’s Explorer had been our guide throughout our visit and the K-9 team being out of the facility gave us a chance to talk with him about what it was like to be a Sheriff’s Explorer in the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station.

This brings me to my personal observations. I spent most of my career as a project and department manager. As such, when given a tour of a facility, I tend to also look at the peripheral activities going on around me, and I was pleased with what I witnessed. I know we are getting a new, bigger and more modern sheriff’s station, but I am happy to report that even though the existing station may be crowded, it appeared well maintained, clean and free of clutter. All the deputies I saw interacted in a professional and polite manner, even when dealing with some unwilling visitors in chrome bracelets, their professional demeanor did not change.

An organization’s performance is driven by the leadership, and while Captain Lewis is consistently telling us, “it is the deputies who do the daily work who deserve our admiration,” he is the one who sets the station’s overall tone. Santa Clarita is fortunate to have Captain Lewis, and his entire sheriff’s station staff. They symbolize a professional law enforcement team, doing all they can to keep our community safe.

They are Santa Clarita’s six-pointed shining star.

Always Advocating Alan – How District Elections Would Help Keep You Safer

| Opinion | June 13, 2019

Like most of you, I read the paper every day, check the web for the latest news, and wonder why some of the things our community regularly talks about rarely seem to create any concrete results. This week was no exception. Reading Lee Barnathan’s Gazette article titled “Why no Canyon Country hospital?” provides a great example.

As a community, Canyon Country seems to regularly ask, why do certain things happen in some quadrants of the city and not others? Is (Canyon Country, Saugus, Valencia or Newhall) getting its fair share of city services? Come to think of it, wasn’t that the same thing we were saying about L.A. County some 30 years ago? Proponents of cityhood kept telling us, “We need to have more localized control.” Didn’t that message resonate with our community, culminating with the formation of the City of Santa Clarita? Why wouldn’t more local control be just as important today?

According to SCVHistory.com, “On Nov. 3, 1987… Measure U asked whether the area should become a city. An overwhelming majority said yes … Measure V asked whether city council members should serve at large or by district … A somewhat smaller majority said at-large (11,166 votes to 7,905).” Fast forward to the November 2016 city council election, and with over 58,000 voters casting a ballot to fill the council seats, perhaps Santa Clarita has grown large enough to revisit how our city council should be elected. The last time the question of “at large vs. elections by district” was addressed, it ended in a 2014 court decision which didn’t seem to satisfy anyone.

As it happened, the City of Santa Clarita became the defendant in a lawsuit that claimed the city’s at-large election process created a situation in violation of the “California Voter Rights Act,” where a protected minority class was unable to be represented by a candidate of their choice. In addition, the city was not the only governmental agency facing the same issue. Local school boards were named in similar lawsuits and chose to settle by agreeing to implement district voting at their next elections. Opponents of establishing district-based elections spoke about the racial overtone of having a protected minority class getting a larger voice in the election process, as well as their main concern, which was that electing council members by district would put them at odds, each trying to get the most resources applied within their district. In the end, the City of Santa Clarita and the plaintiff’s attorney settled, “The attorney’s fees for the plaintiffs will be paid by Santa Clarita, which is expected to range between $400-600,000,” according to The Signal on March 12, 2014. With that, the city council election would move to coincide with the November even-year election cycle. In my opinion, the city wasted an opportunity and just lost money. Plus, our communities were pushed further from having the ability to elect a candidate of their choice.

If you think about it, don’t you want someone dedicated to providing essential services for your neighborhood? Rob Skinner tells us, “Cities don’t build hospitals, companies do … Hospitals are private businesses … It comes down to money, just like everything else” (Gazette, June 7). Interesting, yet I suppose Mr. Skinner has never heard of a “Municipal Hospital,” which the dictionary defines as “a government hospital administered by city officials.” Not that I’m suggesting the City of Santa Clarita become a medical provider, but I will attest that city government has a major role in determining where businesses, including hospitals, will locate. Through the application of zoning requirements and development agreements, the city can make it easier (or more burdensome) for any business to locate within their jurisdiction. In November 2008, the City of Santa Clarita approved a resolution authorizing the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital Development Agreement. While the agreement would benefit city residents by the addition of three medical office buildings and a new hospital tower, it also changed land zoning and parking requirements. One question raised at that time was, will the city provide the same zoning and requirements relief if a health care provider would come forth to build a second hospital on the east side of town? But no answer came forth from the dais. In this case, the city council decided on a strategy which could determine a serious outcome for you or your family sometime in the future.

In last week’s Gazette, Councilmember Kellar spoke about a friend with a broken rib, and how the ride to Henry Mayo “was the most excruciating trip.” But I vividly recall an evening in 2013 with my wife Pam, unconscious due to a respiratory arrest, taking an ambulance trip to Henry Mayo with lights and sirens blaring, Sheriff cars breaking traffic, and arriving with emergency staff waiting at the door for our arrival. Fortunately, God, the fire department paramedics, AMR ambulance attendants, sheriffs, and the Henry Mayo ER team were on our side that day, and it all turned out for the best. I cringe to think of what would have happened if the 107 Paramedic team was off on another call, or a direct route to Henry Mayo was not available due to some unforeseen natural or man-made event.

From my perspective, public safety is the most important responsibility of city government. Politics aside, the Santa Clarita Valley needs another Trauma Center on the east side of the valley. Think about the ‘94 earthquake, which isolated the Santa Clarita Valley from L.A. Should a similar situation occur again, and our single Trauma Center be damaged to the point of taking it offline, you will be on your own.

There are too few fire department paramedic teams in the SCV, and the teams are required to cover too large of an area. For example, the Fire Station 107 Paramedic Team, located on Soledad Canyon Road just east of Sierra Highway, are responsible for handling calls up the 14, as well as in Canyon Country. Should they be out on a call and unavailable, your emergency will be answered by a team from across town, increasing the response time. The issue of having additional paramedic services has been brought up several times, and the answer keeps coming back; firefighters who are also paramedic-certified, cannot perform activities as a paramedic when on the clock as a firefighter, per union rules and the lack of the appropriate drug kit. I have discussed the policy with firefighters personally, and have never found one who would not be willing to help an individual in need.

Above all else, for the well-being of our communities, I support the concept of district elections. It would bring our city council members closer to whom they represent and give them additional incentive to fight for what their constituents need. When it comes to life and death decisions, it better not be “all about money,” because it is not “just like everything else.” Life is something so precious, money alone cannot buy it. District elections would make it more likely for the residents of an area to elect a candidate of their choice and get rid of one who is not fighting for what their neighborhood needs. Could it be that the latter is what some elected officials are afraid of?

Always Advocating Alan – Carl Boyer: One of Santa Clarita’s Finest

| Opinion | June 6, 2019

Sadly, this week I start my column with a message about the passing of Carl Boyer, one of Santa Clarita’s first council members and mayors.

Carl leaves this life after playing a major role in founding the City of Santa Clarita, while also accomplishing a lifetime of helping children in need. To think, we almost missed out on knowing him. In his own words, from the forward in his book, he made us aware, “Had I not been fearful of losing a few hundred dollars that my wife Chris and I invested in buying our first home, I might never have become involved in community affairs and politics.” Fortunately for all our residents, the concern over losing a small amount of money brought out a man who would leave an indelible impression on how our city would be run.

He inherited a problem-solving mindset from this father, who was an electrical engineer, which not only caused him to analyze everything going on around him, but to document his thoughts as well. When it came to his book, simply titled “Santa Clarita,” the pages became his pallet to display his colorful views, and after publication, he distributed copies to concerned residents. Carl was not one to live in the past. He was always willing to have a conversation, sharing his opinion on what needed to be done today.

Carl Boyer was a gentleman in every sense of the word. He was a caring man of action who was a pleasure to be around, and I will miss his charm, foresight and wit every day.

Ever Read the Paper and Wonder, ‘How Did That Happen’?

This week, the City of Santa Clarita, in partnership with a local non-profit, Santa Clarita Archery, celebrated the opening of Santa Clarita’s first archery range. Reported in The Signal’s Sunday edition was a statement by Kieran Wong, chair of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission: “Ronnie and I spoke less than a year ago and we now have a fully operating archery range.” Ron Silos shared this thought by saying, “My vision is hosting the Olympic events in 2028. That’s my hope and dream … To say that Santa Clarita hosted an Olympic event would be a really wonderful impact.” Mayor McLean went on to announce that there will be “an officially sanctioned Olympic Day celebration right here (at the range),” and the public is invited to join.

The opening of an archery range in Santa Clarita represents a great addition to our city’s amenities, as it gives members of our community another recreational opportunity. Yet, I ponder, how did the archery range go from concept to reality in less than one year, in contrast to another group who has been championing and waiting for a Bicycle Motocross Track (BMX track) for over 10 years? It certainly has not been for a lack of land or funding from the Open Space and Parkland Preservation District or the Facilities fund. The BMX community has brought requests before the city council on numerous occasions. Leading the charge, Christian Gadbois has been a passionate advocate for building a BMX track here in Santa Clarita.

BMX competition is also an Olympic sport, and currently, Christian’s daughter Maya “was selected for TEAM USA to represent the U.S. (and Santa Clarita) at the BMX World Championships to be held in Heusden-Zolder, Belgium this July.” His Facebook page indicates, “like the U.S. Olympic Team, all funding for the athletes is based on private funding. Because of that, we are looking for corporate sponsorship for her trip.” Individual private donations are also greatly appreciated.

If there is a sudden interest in bringing world-class Olympic events to Santa Clarita, wouldn’t a world- class BMX track provide another genuine opportunity? So, what put the archery range on such a fast track, while the BMX facility sat in the shadows all this time? I heard a rumor that funding to create a BMX complex is being included in this year’s city budget. But budgeting the money and building the facility are two very different things. The community needs to stay on top of this issue. A paramount concern must be providing our youth with additional sports and skill-based activities in order to broaden their life lessons and raise their heads up from their cell-phone screens.

Relative to the discussion of the new archery range, Sunday’s Signal also indicated “The 1-acre (archery) range is tucked alongside the northernmost canyon in Haskell Canyon Open Space, just north of Copper Hill Drive and Haskell Canyon Road.” The article included a picture of Mayor McLean reviewing her marksmanship, after letting loose with her first three arrows. Marsha looks to be an archery “force to be reckoned with” as she recorded all three on target, with one arrow “in the center” yellow zone. I’ll have to remember to ask our mayor if her accuracy was due to good coaching, or pure natural skill. Good job, Marsha!

But looking at the picture, I started to think about range safety. For starters, what happens if an archer misses the target? What keeps the arrow in check? What keeps spectators out of harm’s way? Therefore, I took The Signal’s advice and brought up SCVarchery.com for more information. The action led me to the SCVArchery Facebook page, as seen in the picture below. As you can see, the Archery range appears to be a temporary activity, set up in the middle of an open field with no provision to contain arrows missing the target, or any barrier to prevent spectators from wandering into the line of fire. I just shook my head in disbelief. Knowing how risk-averse the City of Santa Clarita has been, it is hard to believe they approved the layout. Range safety must be the number one concern, no matter if this facility is a pistol, rifle, or archery range. Having a competent staff running the activity is only a part of maintaining a safe and fun atmosphere. The infrastructure needs to be there as well, and in this case, it appears to be severely lacking.

It seems I may have answered my own question. Is it possible that the reason the archery range went from concept to reality in less than one year is because the city allowed the range to be put in place without requiring any city financial investment? But since this activity sits on city-owned property, the city still bears the responsibility for public safety and will suffer the liability should something go wrong. While I’m still convinced that having an archery range in the City of Santa Clarita is of value to our community, I have my fingers crossed. City staff need to consult with experts in range safety and implement the necessary safeguards before one unfortunate accident puts an end to this great idea.

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