About Lee Barnathan

  • Member Since: February 11, 2016


Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book "If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language," a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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Posts / Recent blog posts

Bob Kellar Changes Ballot Designation

| News | January 17, 2020

Councilmember Bob Kellar has changed his ballot designation for the upcoming Sulphur Springs School District bond measure that will appear on the March ballot.

Kellar’s name will be accompanied by the designation, “Santa Clarita Citizen” instead of the original “Santa Clarita City Council,” he said.

This is because the council has rules requiring a councilmember to explicitly state he or she represents only himself or herself and not the council or city.

Kellar previously said he signed as he did thinking it would not be an issue, but Steve Petzold, who wrote the argument opposing the $78 million Measure US, requested the change.

Petzold forwarded an email from City Manager Ken Striplin that indicated the change. Kellar confirmed, saying, “I told you if I was in error, I would correct it. I was in error, so I corrected it.”

Jason ‘Gibb-ing’ back to SCV: Gibbs’ City Council Run

| News | January 16, 2020

Jason Gibbs decided that if he truly wants to serve the people of Santa Clarita, he should get to know them better.

So, he did. He joined the Valley Industry Association (VIA), where he’s currently vice chair of advocacy. He got involved with the William S. Hart Union High School District, joining its WiSH Foundation and its advisory committee. He also serves on the Boys and Girls Club advisory committee, the county’s Safe Clean Water Program Watershed Area Steering Committees and the Measure EE bond oversight committee.

People certainly are noticing all Gibbs, 38, has done. He recently was named a 40 Under Forty honoree by Santa Clarita Magazine and the local chapter of the Junior Chamber International.

What he has learned is this: “There are a lot of incredible people who have dedicated themselves to making Santa Clarita a better place,” he said. “These people are out there every day trying to make the city great.”

Gibbs wants to do that, too, only he wants to do it in the political arena. That’s why he already has submitted paperwork to run for city council.

“Getting to know people is important so they know who (you) are,” he said. “People want people in City Hall they know, so they know they’re being represented by someone who’s been there with them.”

This is Gibbs’ second try. Two years ago, he finished ninth out of 15 candidates with 10,008 votes (5.57 percent). But this time could be different. Councilmember Bob Kellar is retiring, and he and fellow Councilmember Laurene Weste have endorsed Gibbs to take over; last time, voters returned Weste and two other incumbents to their seats.

“Jason is a very, very bright, energetic person, and there is nothing that would make me happier than to see him take over my office,” Kellar said. “He’s a tremendous asset to Santa Clarita.”

Additionally, Gibbs has worked to differentiate himself from other candidates; last time, he ran on a platform of basically continuing what the council had done, which made it hard for him to step out from the incumbents’ shadows.

While he still believes the city has been moving in the right direction, he is pushing harder for his most unique point: adding a city Public Safety Commission.

“I still think (it’s) viable,” he declared.

In Gibbs’ mind, it would be organized similar to the existing planning, arts and parks and recreation commissions. While he hasn’t finalized such details as how many members it would comprise or whether a council member would sit on it, he said he would like to see police, fire and emergency service personnel on it.

Many of his platform points return from two years ago, if slightly modified:

He still wants to pay down the debt incurred from the employee retirement program, CalPERS, but he now calls for a maximum of 10-percent debt. Two years ago, he didn’t specify the debt load.

He still wants to maintain good relationships with the school boards but now says safety on the school grounds is the school boards’ responsibilities. Two years ago, he didn’t assign responsibilities to any group.

He acknowledges the city thinks the Lyons-Dockweiler extension at 13th Street is most viable but now says he wants to see what city engineers come up with because he’s concerned about how much traffic could increase at that intersection. Previously, he went with the city’s opinion unquestioned.

He was confident the roads through Whittaker-Bermite were coming sooner rather than later but now isn’t as sure. “It’s not clean. We don’t have the go-ahead,” he said. But unlike last time, he specified what roads he wants built through there: Via Princessa, Santa Clarita Parkway and Magic Mountain Parkway.

He also wants a large industrial area built that will offer many jobs and keep people from having to commute. “The 5-14 interchange is not getting any better,” he said. “I think there’s a desire to not travel down to the San Fernando Valley.”

Maybe that industrial center ends up in Whittaker-Bermite, or maybe a high-quality development, such as Porta Bella, brings the roads with it. Regardless, Gibbs said, there is a need for housing to be a part of any development plan.

“Santa Clarita has not had a shortage of development the last 20 years,” he said, “housing is needed.”

And Gibbs said housing of all sorts is needed: condos, start-ups, high-end and high-density – any type that would help homeowners not spend 95 percent of their paychecks on housing.

He said that after the 2018 election, he took a vacation and decided to remain involved in the community. Now, he seeks to involve himself his way.

“They respect someone who wants to learn and get involved and give back along the way,” he said.

Christopher Smith Drops Out of Race

| News | January 16, 2020

Cites No Viable Path to Win

Christopher Smith, one of the congressional candidates who lives outside the 25th district, announced he is dropping out, citing no viable path to win.

“I’m proud of what my campaign has accomplished and the attention that I’ve called to important progressive policies,” he said in a statement. “However, it’s time to step down and let the voters of CA25 hear more from the candidates who are most likely to succeed on Super Tuesday.”

Smith did not file paperwork to run in the special election on March 3rd, when the ballot will include two places to vote for a candidate: one to finish former Rep. Katie Hill’s term and one to win the term that would begin next January. He said he didn’t file for both elections to try to limit voter confusion.

He said he would not endorse another candidate but called on the other campaigns to not be so disrespectful.

“I tried to run a respectful campaign from a place of integrity. I regret that this race has become so divisive among the local Democratic Party and progressive groups,” he said. “I call on all campaigns to moderate their tone and to recognize that all candidates are seeking to serve their community and deserve each other’s respect.”

Christy Smith Remains Focused on Assembly

| News | January 9, 2020

Although Christy Smith is running for Congress, she hasn’t forgotten her current job as an Assembly member.

When the legislative session began Monday, Smith was in Sacramento and introduced Assembly Bill 1837, which maximizes daily-attendance school funding during times following certain natural disasters or if the governor has declared an emergency.

The bill is in keeping with the four areas Smith wants to focus attention: education, public safety, economic development and supporting local communities.

In her first year, Smith sent 12 bills to Gov. Gavin Newsom, of which 10 became law. These include securing more than $1.5 million in funding for 38th District projects, including $450,000 for the Santa Clarita senior center to complete its capital campaign, $700,000 for Simi Valley’s free health clinic and $397,000 to modernize College of the Canyons’ Boykin Hall.
She also created the Golden State Scholarshare College Savings Trust, which provides financial aid for post-secondary students. In addition, she wrote legislation that benefits College of the Canyons’ nursing-school faculty, expands dual enrollment for high school kids who might want to take advantage of community college course work, and requires high schools to conspicuously post in bathrooms and locker rooms written policies on sexual harassment and how to report charges, in addition to posting in the already-required main administration building.

She also wrote a new law that allows unclaimed property to be directly returned to the municipalities that might have monies in the state controller’s office.

The two bills Newsom vetoed dealt with establishing a state grant program to help low-income students pay for Advanced Placement tests and extending local control accountability plans to charter schools.

A spokesperson said more bills likely would be introduced before the February 21st deadline.
Smith also has spent time campaigning for Congress as she seeks to replace Katie Hill and/or win her own term. Her Facebook page shows she received an endorsement from Ventura County firefighters.

She did not respond to several invitations to debate from Cenk Uygur. Spokesperson Mackenzie Shutler said Uygur sent an offer December 23rd, 30th, January 3rd and 6th but never heard back. Smith Campaign Manager Brandon Zavala said her non-participation is “100 percent” because she’s in Sacramento.

Still, Uygur and fellow Democrats Anibal Valdez-Ortega, Christopher Smith and Getro Elize were scheduled to meet Thursday at Transplants Brewing Company in Palmdale. Shutler said no Republican candidates were invited.

Uygur, Valdez-Ortega and Christopher Smith in a joint statement accused Christy Smith of intimidating people trying to organize a debate.

“Ultimately, as the handpicked candidate by the Democratic Party in Washington, Christy Smith is doing everything she can to avoid giving the people of CA-25 a chance to hear her debate the issues with other candidates in this race before voting begins on February 3,” the statement said. “Each day she continues to dodge a debate, and even attempts to silence others from debating, is another day she refuses to answer the hard questions about the challenges facing the district, California, and our nation.”

Campaign spokesperson Lexie Kelly said Smith is focused on her Assembly work.

“As the only woman in the race, she will not be directed by a bunch of men from outside the district who are hosting a media stunt,” Kelly said. “She is already doing the job of delivering for the people of CA-25.”

The Dean is Back – Ken Dean’s Eighth Attempt to Win a City Council Seat

| City Council, News | January 9, 2020

To some, perhaps, Ken Dean might seem what the press seems to a professional athlete: a necessary evil that is part of the job you just have to deal with. Eventually they’ll go away, only to resurface again later.

Dean has attempted to win a city council seat seven times without success, although he has come close three times. He’s back for an eighth try, loudly beating the same drum he always beats — bemoaning the traffic and congestion. Now he’s added a new wrinkle with the need for affordable housing.

This time, his chances might just be different. Dean says more people are coming around to his thinking and as proof he points to the last two elections in which he finished fifth both times and received the highest vote totals he ever has.

Additionally, Signal Editor Tim Whyte predicted Dean will win; and with Bob Kellar retiring, one seat is wide open.

It’s not like Dean is unfamiliar to city officials beyond shouting how bad traffic is. He has served on several city committees, including the formation, open space, housing and ridgeline committees. He also opposed the city council’s approval of placing a Mello-Roos tax on the ballot and led the charge to defeat it.

He’s not alone in his belief that traffic is worse. Two Canyon Country residents, Alan Ferdman and Rick Drew, said as much. Ferdman criticized the city for not doing enough, and Drew said it’s going to get even worse once the Vista Canyon, Mint Canyon Plaza and Skyline Ranch projects are completed and opened.

Then again, maybe this is just another example of Dean raising his voice and not enough people responding. In the past seven elections, he has received a combined 31,645 votes and never reached 10 percent. Twice, he finished second to last: 10th of 11 in 2006 and 12th of 13 in 1994.

Additionally, Whyte wrote that he was “taking a flier just for fun” in predicting Dean’s victory, and neither Ferdman nor Drew endorsed him.

But Dean marches on undeterred.

“Traffic and congestion is a nightmare and a disgrace,” he declared, “and nobody does a damn thing about it.”

Dean has plenty of examples, but his most common ones are the intersection of Bouquet Canyon and Newhall Ranch roads, which he calls “a disgrace;” the section of McBean Parkway between Magic Mountain Parkway and Creekside Road and the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Ruether Avenue.

He also said what used to take him eight minutes to reach Valencia High via Newhall Ranch Road more recently took 20-25 “because (the city keeps) putting in traffic lights and doesn’t synchronize. The city says it’s synchronized. I say that’s insulting.”

Dean’s solution is to form two committees and task them with specific functions: a roads committee to develop roads through the Whittaker-Bermite area; and a traffic committee to synchronize signal lights and use bus egresses, or turn-ins, so stopped busses don’t block traffic lanes.

Doing nothing, he said, is out of the question because it would violate an early-cityhood objective to avoid turning into the San Fernando Valley. Now, Dean said, he has friends in Sherman Oaks and Studio City who say the traffic is worse in Santa Clarita.

Related to the traffic woes, he said, are the housing woes. If there is no affordable housing, people have to commute to the jobs, whether inside or outside of the city. More commuters mean more traffic. Therefore, affordable housing also is needed, he concluded.

Dean said he is excited for the new Costco to open at the Valencia Town Center. Costco typically hires minimum-wage workers, so he would like to see the city do something to make housing affordable for these and others.

To Dean, affordable housing means two-to-three bedroom units with one or two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining area and family room. They could be as small as 1,200 square feet and cost between $350,000 and $400,000. “They can’t be all houses that sell for $600,000,” he said. “They don’t have to be 2,500 square feet.”

Dean states he knows one-bedroom apartment rents run about $1,800 a month, not including utilities, food, gasoline and entertainment. Renting a room costs about $800 a month. “There’s no affordable housing out here,” he added.

But make no mistake, housing is secondary to traffic and Dean will continue to sound the alarm as long as there is a reason to sound the alarm.

“Everybody I talk to says, ‘You know, you’re right. Traffic and congestion are the number one issue,” he said. “Traffic, traffic, traffic.”

Will the eighth time be enough? The election isn’t until November.

“I’m saying what people want to hear, and I’m consistent,” Dean concluded.

Bob Kellar Signs On; Petzold Complains

| News | January 3, 2020

City Councilmember Bob Kellar might have inadvertently violated the council’s norms and procedures when he signed on in support of a Sulphur Springs School District bond measure that will appear on the March ballot.


Kellar acknowledged he supports Measure US, a $78 million bond for upgrading and replacing the roofs, heating and air conditioning units, repairing and upgrading playground equipment, repaving parking lots, improve landscaping, drainage and irrigation, improve ADA access and upgrade safety and security systems.


Kellar’s signature is on the county’s Declaration of Author(s) of Arguments or Rebuttals, along with the title, “Santa Clarita City Council,” according to Tim Dang, who heads the election planning section.


However, in a letter to the mayor also given to the Gazette, Steve Petzold, who wrote the argument against the bond measure, says Section 2B of the Council Norms and Procedures requires councilmembers to explicitly state that they represent themselves and not the council or city.


“The voters in the Sulphur Springs (district) may be tricked and deceived by the use of the title selected by Robert Kellar into believing that the City, and/or the City Council, support passage of a massive bond measure,” Petzold wrote. “I respectfully request that the City Council and the City issue a letter of clarification to me and local media indicating the fact that neither the city not the city council support passage of Measure US.”


Petzold said that when he saw the signature page, “I noticed he didn’t put Realtor, businessman, senior citizen or resident. I’m suspicious (he does) that intentionally.”


Kellar said he signed as he did thinking it would not be an issue. But he said he would contact the city attorney and if so advised would issue such a statement.

Mayor Cameron Smyth’s 2020 Vision

| News | January 2, 2020

For his fourth go-around as mayor, Cameron Smyth said he has goals both lofty and mundane.

First and foremost, he said, is to continue the healing from the devastating Saugus shooting. Smyth said that is “going to be a big part of my year.”

Three Saugus High students, including the shooter, died and three were injured November 14 when the shooter unloaded a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun in an outside courtyard. The shooting happened at 7:38 a.m. and lasted 16 seconds.
“You can’t say our community hasn’t changed forever…because it has,” said Smyth, who has a son attending Hart.

Smyth was sworn in as mayor following a unanimous appointment at the December 10th city council meeting. He previously served in this ceremonial role in 2003, 2005 and 2017.

Some might wonder what a city government can do in the wake of such a tragedy as a school shooting. Some might think it’s really up to a school district to take care of things. Smyth said that is valid, but the city can partner with the William S. Hart Union High School District, law enforcement and non-profits.

“We will continue to provide the support the community needs,” Smyth said. “You want to take the cues from the students and mental-health professionals.” He added that is why a plan to line Centurion Way to welcome back students was scrapped: Students and mental-health professionals said it was a bad idea.

Smyth said he also can learn how to better respond from other communities that have endured similar violence. In fact, he said, shortly after the shooting, he received messages from officials in Parkland, FL., site of the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, who conveyed support and offered to have conversations.

Smyth also will be mayor when several projects are expected to be completed: the Laemmle Theatres and County Fire Station 104, which was supposed to open in November but now will open in February, according to Tony Bell, spokesman for County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

Another issue Smyth wants to address is homelessness. The nonprofit Bridge to Home already operates a year-round shelter, and Smyth said he wants to “keep that program going” by “connecting people to the services they need, whether that’s treatment, job training, whatever the resource. There’s more to do.”

Enforcement, he said, is not always the answer. “It’s not good for people to be living in the wash,” he said. “People need services.”

The recent Supreme Court refusal to hear a case from Boise, ID, lets stand a lower-court ruling that makes it legal for homeless people to sleep on the street or in public parks if there’s no other shelter available. Smyth said that case, “provides clarity. Now we know the rules we’ll be operating under.”

At the same time, the city has ordinances that prohibit anyone from camping in a park or using a car, trailer, camper, recreation vehicle or mobile home as a dwelling in a park. Nor can anyone store his or her belongings in a park.

The city also prohibits sitting or lying on public sidewalk, street, maintained landscape area, curb, staircase, biking, walking path, or in doorways and building entrances; or on a blanket, sleeping bag, cardboard box, chair, stool, or any other object placed in any of those previously mentioned public areas.

This seems contradictory to the Boise case. Smyth said the philosophy is changing toward more humane actions. A balance is required.

“How do we draft ordinances that are sensitive but provide law enforcement and code enforcement the authority to help these people get the resources they need?” he said.

Then he answered his question: This requires a community-wide response. The city doesn’t have the resources the county has, such as its own Department of Mental Health.

Santa Clarita does have the county run Department of Mental Health locally here at 23501 Cinema Drive. For info call (661) 288-4800.

“We have to rely on local nonprofits and the county to address these issues together,” he said.

Finally, the mayor said he wants to keep the budget balanced but ensure there’s enough money for law enforcement and fire to do their jobs. The Tick Fire, which in late October burned 4,615 acres and forced some 40,000 people to evacuate, demonstrated the importance, he said.

A Look Back at 2019

| Opinion | December 26, 2019

Since 2000, I have felt like we live in some sort of Bizarro World. Too many events have occurred that just seem so surreal, I question if this is really happening.

To wit:

The Supreme Court decided a presidential election in which the winning candidate lost the popular vote
A great terrorist attack took place on American soil
An economic downturn occurred that was so massive, it’s called the “Great Recession”
A black man was elected president
The Red Sox, White Sox and Cubs won World Series titles; the Dodgers haven’t
The Senate refused to conduct a confirmation hearing for a Supreme Court nominee
The media refused to acknowledge until the last possible moment that a man with no government experience had been elected president over a woman with some. And that man lost the popular vote
–That same man was impeached, and half the country let out a collective shrug

This brings me to Katie Hill and the shooting at Saugus High.

Hill’s brief time in the spotlight and the unspeakable tragedy were this year’s Bizarro World moments. Never have I encountered somebody who came on so strong and flamed out so fast. Also, never have I encountered an act of violence so close to home.

Hill was a woman clearly going places. This year, she assumed office, spoke at the women’s march in January, became vice chair of the House Oversight Committee, vocalized her opposition to President Trump, called out her perceived Republican hypocrisy during Michael Cohen’s testimony, did her best for the district as a member of the Armed Services Committee, helped constituents in various ways, commented on the constitutional crisis and impeachment and continued to raise bundles of cash.

But she also had a town hall disrupted by booing, was accused of abusing franking privileges when letters got sent to constituents who say they didn’t communicate with her office and started down a rocky path to divorce.

Then the pictures surfaced. Pictures that demonstrated she was engaged in a three-way relationship with her husband and a campaign staffer. There also was a never-proven allegation she had an affair with a congressional staffer — a violation of House rules. The House Ethics Committee opened an investigation.

Hill blamed her husband for the photo’s release and used the term “revenge porn.” Her supporters took aim at the ulterior motives of the reporter who broke the story for RedState.com and a local Republican who also had the photos. But she also admitted in a letter to constituents to a consensual relationship with “a subordinate (that) is inappropriate, but I still allowed it to happen despite my better judgment.”

Soon after she resigned, less than a year after being elected.

I always felt the stories I wrote in 2018, in a very small way, mind you, helped her get elected. I felt such excitement that the power of the press still existed in an era when the president calls the press “the enemy of the people.”

But I soon discovered Hill had no interest in the local press. She was on to bigger things with bigger ambitions. She no longer had time for the Gazette, Signal or any other in-district media outlet.

I spoke to her several times after she took office, but never after April. That coincided with my challenging her about her accomplishments in her first 100 days. She seemed to take a lot of credit; I questioned how much she really could get done in that time. She especially didn’t seem to appreciate my wondering how much her letter to the Bureau of Land Management led to a CEMEX resolution.

I still wrote about her after that, either through quoting her from interviews with national media or through statements her staff sent me.

Now, she’s gone. People have told me that she hasn’t returned to the area. In her absence is a mad rush to fill her seat, complete with at least three people – including a convicted felon – who live outside the district vying for the seat. Bizarre.

I had felt a connection. Now, that’s missing.

Another thing I felt went missing this year: a community’s collective innocence.

I have long found Santa Clarita a city of contrasts: Small-town flavor amid a major metropolitan area, conservative enclave amid a liberal county, a sports-mad bedroom community that sometimes wants to put its head in the sand and deny real-world problems have crept in.

But never did I suspect that the societal stain that is gun violence in schools would ever rear its ugly head here. November 14 is now this area’s own date that will live in infamy, and it took just 16 seconds.

Three students, including the shooter, died and three others were injured. I didn’t know any of the identified students, but I nonetheless feel profound sadness that this happened; that these lives were cut far too short. We can all ask why. We can also wonder what they could have become, how might they have benefitted their families, communities, societies, states, nations and world if only they had been given a chance.

The whole ordeal is too incomprehensible to put into words. I’m not even sure “bizarre” is the right choice.

There were other moments from 2019 that could qualify as bizarre, weird or strange.

-College of the Canyons appeared on my radar this year. It started with Donna Frayer coming forward in March after seven years to share her story of harassment, intimidation and retribution in calling out the behaviors of Vice President of Business Services Sharlene Coleal and school Chancellor Dianne Van Hook.

That story led to several people coming forward to talk about similar episodes they endured. Some, such as Gary Sornborger, Laura Anderson and Lee Hilliard, sued or filed grievances (Anderson’s is ongoing). Others reached out but ultimately declined out of fear that their spouses would be targeted.

Also, the board of trustees was accused of not completing its self-evaluation several times over the years and of violating the Brown Act by failing to post meeting times and agendas of its finance subcommittee.

The college also might have broken the law when an employee close to Van Hook signed an agreement to lease mall space in support of Measure E. The state’s Education Code prohibits community college districts from using funds, services, supplies or equipment for urging the support or defeat of any ballot measure; and the Government Code prohibits an employee from using public resources for a campaign activity.

On the positive side, the school seems on schedule with making the necessary repairs and upgrades stemming from a lawsuit that alleged it violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

From the feedback I have received, people seem pleased that these issues have been brought to light and hope for change at the top. Next year will indicate if that will happen. Two trustee seats will be up for re-election in November. The side wanting change surely will target Michelle Jenkins, and the side favoring the status quo will try to defeat Edel Alonso.

Other strange but true episodes from the past year:

-Assemblywoman Christy Smith called for an advertising boycott of the Gazette in August after she objected to some of publisher Doug Sutton’s comments in his weekly column. It resulted in some Smith followers pressuring advertisers to drop the Gazette; two did, although one has since returned, Sutton said.

–The William S. Hart Union High School District acknowledged a violation of the Brown Act (and who ever does that!) in February because a bond oversight committee failed to provide a link to a meeting agenda.

Then it received major criticism in September for the way it selected its new superintendent and might have violated the Brown Act in the process. It did not acknowledge a violation this time.

-David and Mel Bright, who own Rio Groceries outside the city limits, ran afoul of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning’s zoning division for selling alcohol without a conditional use permit but couldn’t figure out how to fix the problem.

2020 might be just as bizarre. We will have a special election to fill Hill’s seat at the same time of the March 3rd primary election. People’s names will appear twice on the ballot, to complete Hill’s term and to win a term in their own right. Confusion might reign.

Also, that will be the day we vote at new vote centers instead of the neighborhood precincts we’re so used to. Confusion might reign there, too.

And we’ll have a presidential election and a local election in which somebody new will join the city council to replace the retiring Bob Kellar. I’m sure supporters of whoever loses won’t be pleased.

Stay tuned.

Locals Weigh in on Impeachment

| News | December 19, 2019

By the time you read this, the House might have voted to impeach President Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors – only the third time that has ever happened but the second time in 21 years – setting up a trial in the Senate.

Local reaction pretty much fell along party lines, with Republicans/conservatives calling the entire process a “complete sham” and “mind-boggling.” Democrats/liberals, meanwhile, said it “must be done” and “he’s guilty.”

The Gazette asked 17 people their thoughts on the process, the actual articles the House voted on and what would happen as a result; 14 responded. Of the three that didn’t, two didn’t return calls; and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who’s running for the vacant House seat, declined comment through a campaign spokesman.

Highlights of what they said follow.
Local Republicans/conservatives, like their counterparts in Washington, believe the Democrats are trying to undo the 2016 election by any means necessary. Many also think that Trump has committed no crime, has been denied due process (even though the House impeachment inquiry is more like a grand jury) and is a victim of a poorly run process.

“It’s a sad day when we start impeachment on a president because we don’t like him,” conservative talk-show host Joe Messina said. He also told a conservative/religious television show in November that the Democrats should take the energy and money behind impeachment and use it toward defeating Trump in November.

Local conservative and veteran Bill Reynolds called the process “a complete sham” and found Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler guilty of hypocrisy because they blasted Republicans for impeaching Bill Clinton. Indeed, Pelosi had accused Republicans of impeaching with “vengeance” and being “paralyzed with hatred.” Schiff used impeachment to defeat his opponent, who was one of the House managers charged with prosecuting Clinton’s trial. Nadler said impeachment must be bipartisan or it would have no credibility.

“Clinton was caught lying,” Reynolds said. “What Trump was trying to do, he didn’t want to give money to a corrupt nation.”

Community activist Alan Ferdman said watching the televised hearings was “embarrassing.” “It’s the same thing over and over and over,” he added.

Betty Arenson, a member of two local women’s Republican clubs, found House members’ somber tones so phony, it’s “more fake than the (Steele) dossier. … It’s mind-boggling.”

Eric Early, who’s running against Schiff, took aim at his opponent.

“Adam Schiff and his comrades are being played by the far-left squad members,” Early said. “Schiff has outrageously lowered the bar and set a massively harmful precedent for high crimes and misdemeanors that will lead to a future where no president will ever be immune from impeachment again, no matter how outrageously low the allegations are. Schiff has done outrageous harm to our nation.”

Former congressional candidate Mark Cripe said the Democrats’ credibility is diminished because of the lack of decorum and professionalism that took place during the hearings. “Incompetent is the word,” Cripe said.

Former Rep. Steve Knight said the reason the House Republicans did so much screaming and interrupting was because the Democrats didn’t let them speak. “At some point, you have to do something to let your voice be heard,” Knight said.

Libertarian Matt Denny, a local CPA, said Trump’s style plays a role here. “He’s brusque. He’s used to ordering people around in a gruff and impulsive manner,” Denny said. “He does not say things diplomatically.”

Democrats, however, feel a sense of urgency and duty in impeaching Trump.

“It must be done. This is the most blatant disregard of the Constitution America has ever seen,” said Stacy Fortner, state party executive board member. “(Trump) has completely ignored and tried to end-around the Constitutional obligation of oversight and checks and balances.”

Congressional candidate Cenk Uygur called Trump “a lifelong criminal” and in a statement called impeachment “a great day in America. That means we will have stood up for the rule of law.”

Congressional candidate Christopher Smith was a bit more measured when he said impeachment was “an unfortunate but necessary process we have to go through. The president needs to be held to the highest standard, and he failed to meet that standard.”

One Democrat, podcaster Stephen Daniels, bemoaned the increased partisanship. “It’s sad that people are putting party over Constitution,” he said. “It’s very clear that Trump broke his oath to the Constitution. We’re so divided that nobody’s arguing what happened, they’re arguing procedure.”

The House passed two articles of impeachment. The first alleges that Trump abused power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere with the 2020 election by investigating Joe Biden and Ukraine’s – not Russia’s – involvement in meddling with the 2016 election, and withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until it announced these investigations.

The second alleges Trump obstructed Congress by directing various agencies, offices and persons to defy subpoenas and not testify. The article names nine people, including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Local Republicans and conservatives found the articles too vague. Democrats applauded them, although some felt they didn’t go far enough.

“Abuse of power is not defined in the Constitution,” said Trish Lester, president of Santa Clarita Republican Women Federated. “It’s not a crime.”

Arenson said she thought the abuse of power article stemmed from Trump saying in a July speech, referring to the Constitution, “I have Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” She said she found it unfair to take that one-time quote and make it “a blanket statement.”

Denny said “abuse of power” is so vague, “you can drive a Mack truck through it.” Knight criticized the Democrats for throwing around the word “bribery” and then not including it in the impeachment articles.

Daniels said the second article is incontrovertible and the reason he changed his mind about impeachment. “You can’t say that didn’t happen,” he said. “That’s an impeachable act in and of itself.”

Many Democrats said they wanted to see additional articles against Trump. They suggested using the Mueller Report, in which Mueller found 10 examples of possible obstruction of justice but left it to lawmakers to ultimately decide. It’s a point Cripe, a Republican, said would have been the Democrats’ best chance for a conviction.

In addition to the Mueller Report, Uygur said he would have included articles pertaining to campaign finance violations stemming from Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president and paying hush money to a porn star. Smith and Fortner would have liked to see an article about Trump allegedly violating the Emoluments Clause, which prevents the president from receiving gifts from foreign governments without Congress’ consent. Smith also suggested an article stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct but reconsidered since these happened before Trump became president.

Nobody predicted the Senate would convict Trump. Uygur said the only way it would be possible is if poll numbers indicate to the 23 Senate Republicans up for re-election next year that they need to vote to convict.

Republicans and conservatives expressed confidence the entire ordeal will boomerang against Democrats, leading to Trump’s re-election. Democrats, such as David Barlavi, think impeachment won’t affect Trump’s re-election chances because “everybody knows what kind of person Trump is.” Rather, the Senate could swing one way or another. Barlavi criticized Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) for saying his mind is made up, even though an impeachment trial requires senators to take a new oath promising to be impartial.

Both sides also leveled criticism for impeachment getting in the way of doing the people’s business. The Republicans blamed the Democrats in the House; the Democrats blamed the Republican-controlled Senate for not taking up bills the House passed.
“They made a calculation that if you impeach him, you make the base happy and you get moderates to swing over,” Denny said. “I think it will have the opposite effect. They’re spending all their time dwelling on trivia and not passing laws.”

“While the extreme liberals in Washington hold hostage the Congressional agenda so they can push their socialist policies, America seeks to move forward; forward to a more prosperous economy and safer nation,” congressional candidate Mike Garcia said in a statement. “Winners look toward the next race and not the last. We need to let the voters decide in November 2020.”

Regardless of the outcome, Denny was unconcerned. “We survived eight years of Bush. We survived eight years of Clinton. We survived eight years of Obama. We’ll survive eight years of Trump, if that’s what happens,” he said.

Daniels said he’s grown quite cynical. “I used to be a real idealist and believe in the American system,” he said. “If the Republicans are going to put party over politics, over what’s right, I’ve lost all hope for this system. It doesn’t matter anymore. People no longer want facts. They want the narrative they want to believe, and they accept the narrative they want to believe.”

25th Congressional District – Can a Non-Resident Win Here?

| News | December 12, 2019

Recent history has shown that the 25th congressional district doesn’t take too kindly to people moving into the district to run for office and has never elected one to represent it. From Phil Wyman in 1992 to Tony Strickland in 2014 to Bryan Caforio in 2016 and 2018, the voters seem to reject someone they don’t consider one of them.

But what about candidates who don’t even live in the district?

“I can’t think of anything like this,” College of the Canyons Professor Lena Smyth said, “nothing comes to mind.”

Voters have a decision to make in March because Republican George Papadopoulos and Democrats Cenk Uygur and Christopher Smith are running to finish Katie Hill’s term and to serve their own. The March 5th primary date will have their names in two places on the ballot.

They join several others who live in the district and are doing the same, including Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (no relation) and Republicans Steve Knight, who served two terms, and Mike Garcia. Uygur said he plans to move into the district at the end of the school year.

Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, served 12 days in prison after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI relating to contacts he had with Russian government agents while working for the Trump campaign. He cooperated with the Mueller investigation.

The Turkish-American Uygur created and co-hosts “The Young Turks,” a progressive news and opinion channel on multiple platforms. He previously had shows on MSNBC and Current TV. Local and county Democratic groups have criticized him over past comments about incest, women, Jews, Muslims and LGBTQ people (Uygur was born Muslim but now identifies as agnostic). He has apologized.

Christopher Smith is a documentary filmmaker (“TINY: A Story About Living Small”) who lives on the Glendale-Eagle Rock border but often comes into the area to hike on weekends because it reminds him of his hometown of Boulder, CO. He is unconcerned that his name is so similar to the Assemblywoman’s and he denies he is a Republican plant per the rumor he heard.

Some might wonder how they could possibly qualify to run. It’s because nowhere does federal law mandate members of Congress have to live in the districts they represent. They just have to live in the state. All the Constitution requires is state residency and a minimum age of 25. Papadopoulos is 32, Uygur 49, Smith 38.

In fact, nearly two dozen members in the 435-member House live outside of their congressional districts, according to published reports cited by thoughtco.com.

One of those members is Tom McClintock, a California Republican who currently represents the 4th District. He lives in Elk Grove, a suburb of Sacramento that is a 20 to 30 minute drive from the nearest town inside district lines.

Two others are Los Angeles County Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Grace Napolitano. The Los Angeles Times reported that both used to but no longer do because of redistricting. In Waters’ case, it’s just a three-minute walk across Vermont Avenue to the district line.

Local historian Leon Worden said the 25th tends to vote for a person who best serves the constituents, which is much harder to do if you don’t live there and never have.

Professor Smyth said voters generally tend to favor one of two types of people to represent them: either as a trustee or as a mirror. The trustee, in effect, says, “I understand you and your needs;” the mirror says, “I am more like you.”

She added that former Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, who represented the area for 20 years, is a mirror. So is Knight. Hill was more of a trustee despite being from Saugus.

Based on their websites, Uygur and Smith seem to be running as a trustee. Their platforms are similar. Uygur supports higher wages, Medicare for all, acknowledging climate change, supporting small businesses and cleaning up corruption. Smith also mentions several of these.

Papadopoulos’ website is just one page that offers a chance to donate and/or join by leaving an email address.

“Anecdotally, it’s going to be difficult for them,” Smyth said. “It’s an odd situation. I don’t think they’re going to be successful, but I’ve given up trying to predict.”

Worden put it differently: “It’s insulting to me. It’s a circus.”

The Democrat Outsiders Running for the 25th Congressional District

| News | December 12, 2019

What do you call a person who runs for a House of Representatives seat in a district in which he or she doesn’t live? Non-resident? Outsider? Outside candidate? Carpetbagger?

There doesn’t seem to be a name for this, even though the Constitution doesn’t require someone to live in the district they represent, and “carpetbagger” refers to someone who moves into a district to run.

Ceyk Uygur

Cenk Uygur (his name is pronounced Jenk YOU-gur), one of three 25th District candidates known to live outside the boundary lines, has a name: immigrant.

“I’m an immigrant to this country. I’m an immigrant to California. I’m an immigrant to this district,” Uygur said. “I find it perfectly named.”

Uygur was born in Turkey and has lived in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Baltimore, in addition to the west side of Los Angeles he now calls home. He said he’s in the district represented by Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and does not live in Newport Beach as many, including Smith, commonly think.

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith, who lives in Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s (D-Los Angeles) district but is also running for the 25th District seat, acknowledges he’s an “outsider” and a “non-resident of the district,” but what he finds more important is the similarities between where he lives and the 25th district. After all, he said, many in Santa Clarita commute to L.A., and many in L.A. visit Santa Clarita.

“I live closer to Santa Clarita than Santa Clarita is to Lancaster,” he said. “Where I live and Santa Clarita and the 25th are all part of a larger metropolitan area. We share a lot of resources, problems and values.”

That isn’t to say the matter doesn’t come up. Both candidates realize it’s a factor. Smith said one person peppered him with questions about living outside the 25th at a union town hall Monday in Lancaster.

Uygur said the most important factor is who will represent the voters better, which he thinks is why the Founding Fathers did not include in the Constitution a live-in-the-district requirement to serve in the House.

“In my case, people care a lot more about the issues than the location,” he said, adding he would support a candidate who shares his philosophies and values but who lives farther away than someone who lives next door but disagrees with him.

In his role as host of the multi-platform show “The Young Turks,” Uygur regularly discusses politics and finds the biggest problem today is corporate PACs.

“We have legalized bribery,” he said. “It’s systemic corruption, and it’s absolutely destroying our democracy.”

He said he “waited and waited for somebody to call it like it is” but found no takers, so he decided to do it himself. He found the district to be “a perfect description of America” with its working-class and suburban areas.

He said he is taking no corporate PAC money because to do so would align him with those who gave money. “Most politicians don’t represent the voters,” he said. “They represent the donors.”

Smith, a documentary filmmaker, said he has long been interested in such issues as the Green New Deal, which he calls “a jobs program,” immigration reform and climate change. Katie Hill’s resignation provided him an opportunity to “get out behind the lens and advocate directly on these issues.”

Both favor Medicare for all, although Smith would like to see it more slowly rolled out than Uygur. Both favor immigration reform and protecting Dreamers and DACA. Both favor the Green New Deal, Smith believing it would generate 20 million jobs.

Uygur says on his campaign website that corruption in politics has led to stagnant wages, for which he blames Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for blocking a bill that would raise the minimum wage; lousy health care and runaway climate change, for which he lays some blame on the oil and gas industries. “It’s the corruption, stupid,” he said.

Smith say on his campaign website that he wants to reverse the Trump tax cuts, implement a $15 minimum wage and move toward a universal basic income. He also favors free college tuition, forgiving student loans, requiring high schools students to take a year of civics, protections for LGBTQ and other unprotected communities, and ban using fresh water in fracking, coal production and other polluting industries.

Neither offered a prediction. Both said it’s up to the voters.

COC ADA Compliance Update

| News | December 5, 2019

College of the Canyons has completed 95 percent of the first of three phases of its Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, officials said. The remaining five percent is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Most of the first phase dealt with issues disabled people might encounter daily, said architect Greg Sun, managing partner of Pasadena-based PBWS Architects. These include, doors, grasps, certain bathroom features and furniture.

Sun made his comments at an October 30 update, which was originally scheduled for August but was delayed so all principals could attend. The Gazette viewed a video of the meeting last week.

The repairs were necessary because of a lawsuit the school settled in 2015 that required it to make 1,769 ADA-related changes. The school then took it upon itself to find other examples of non-compliance and found approximately 5,000 more.

All three phases are expected to cost between a combined $10 million and $12 million, college attorney Terry Tao said. College spokesman Eric Harnish said in an email that it would be paid for by Measure M and Measure E bonds.

The amount pleasantly surprised some audience members as well as Tao and Kirstyn Bonneau, a PBWS associate partner and architect, “especially for a campus with such significant ADA challenges,” Bonneau said.

Bonneau said there were 356 times the school had to make doors compliant by doing such things as using the right locks or removing non-compliant knobs. Another 604 issues dealt with adjusting door pressures so they’d be easier to close.

“We literally have four or five pictures of every single door on campus that had deficiencies listed,” Bonneau said, estimating that to be 2,600 photos. “We have to go and we have to find it, we have to look at it, we have to look at the context around it, we have to take photos, we have to measure, we have to make sure we understand how best to correct it.”

According to a PowerPoint presentation by school Contracts, Procurement and Risk Management Services Director April Graham, COC corrected 61 incidences in 12 buildings, plus two outside areas and the coffee kiosk, in which the furniture was not ADA compliant. Thirty-six more fixes in three buildings are expected to be completed by Dec. 31.

“This takes care of furniture issues, period,” Graham said. “We really try to look for cost-effective solutions in this. We weren’t just out to go buy new furniture.”

Bonneau said Phase 1 took 17 months to get state approval, in part because the state Division of the State Architect (DSA), one of the agencies in charge of overseeing ADA compliance, wanted to see the buildings’ original drawings. “We didn’t have all those,” she said. “DSA had them in their archives, but we had to get them.”

Furthermore, DSA only allowed six requests at a time, leading to bureaucratic delays, Bonneau said.

Phase 2 will focus on travel paths from parking lots to buildings and from buildings to buildings, crosswalks, loading zones and signage. The process actually began earlier this year with officials walking the campus to look for non-ADA compliance issues. Bonneau said they found 1,475 examples, of which 200 are addressed in other ongoing projects. She said she will submit construction plans to DSA in the first quarter of 2020.

Specific targets in Phase 2 include changing signs, seating in outdoor areas, outdoor handrails and stairs, curbside ramps and ramps to buildings, paving and striping parking lots and early childhood play equipment, Bonneau said.

Phase 3, which covers 3,007 incidents of non-compliance, will address building interiors, including locker rooms, restrooms, handrails, stairways, ramps, signs, drinking fountains, travel paths, work stations, service counters, lecture halls and administrative offices, Bonneau said.

Several issues weren’t addressed:

  • Projected completion dates for the final two phases. The original transition plan book in the campus library listed completion dates as late at 2030. Harnish said that book will not be updated, the school instead opting for public information sessions.
  • The Canyon Country campus. The lawsuit and transition plan refer only to the Valencia campus. Harnish said DSA has noted areas the school needs to address to comply. These include replacing some drinking fountains, converting lights over building doors to have battery backups, and changing ADA parking near Quad 2. “We are in the process of making those changes,” he said.
  • What to do about buildings that would be too difficult to bring into ADA compliance. The Oct. 30 meeting mentioned Bonelli and Boykin halls, which are not part of any of the three phases. The previous information meeting, Feb. 21, 2018, mentioned those two plus Towsley Hall and West PE.

Harnish said West PE is currently undergoing modernization, which updates and upgrades the building. “When the project is complete, it will meet all current ADA requirements,” Harnish said.

Harnish also said that a Towsley retrofit project is planned, and DSA will review the plans before any work is done. If DSA finds ADA-compliance issues, Harnish said, they would be added to the retrofit project.

That leaves Boykin and Bonelli. Harnish said the exterior concrete corridors have slopes from one edge of the walkway to the other edge that are greater than 2 percent, which violates ADA. The buildings will have to be demolished and rebuilt to address that issue, he said.

Tao said he hopes the state will pay for new Boykin and Bonelli halls.

“There’s a lifespan for these buildings, and as part of a lifespan for these buildings, every couple of years, the community college chancellor will come through and say, ‘We’re going to do certain types of buildings.’ One year might be gymnasiums, one year might be science buildings, one year might be administration buildings,” Tao said. “We’re hoping in this cycle those older buildings will end up getting replaced.”

Bonneau added, “If they’re not replaced, we’ll put on our thinking hats and come up with creative solutions.”

Bruce Fortine, a former college board member, said he was unconcerned that there was no plan for the two halls because the state has been holding monies (he estimated $250 million) from past ballot propositions and will eventually release some to rebuild Boykin and Bonelli.

State voters have approved five such bond measures since 1998, most recently Proposition 51 in 2016, which called for, among other provisions, $2 billion for acquiring, constructing, renovating, and equipping community college facilities.

Fortine said he liked what he heard from the presentation.

“The staff is really diligent in what they do, and I have confidence in them,” he said.

Current board member Edel Alonso also was pleased with what she heard, especially about her concerns regarding fixing the bathrooms.

“I’m glad I got any sort of report. I feel like I’d been waiting to get it,” she said. “I wish I’d gotten the answers a year ago, but OK.”

Katie Hill: “…this isn’t just happening to me…”

| News | November 27, 2019

Former Rep. Katie Hill said the ordeal she endured was “one of the darkest things you can experience” and found it completely dehumanizing and an out-of-body experience.

“You really can’t understand until you’re there,” she said Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “As a public figure, you’re used to attack, but when it gets to the level of these threats, you’re not seen as a person anymore, and the dehumanization is something people can’t really understand unless you’ve been there. … We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and recognize that no matter how despicable we think someone is, they’re still a human. You really can’t dehumanize them like this.”

Hill resigned Oct. 27 after allegations surfaced through articles and photos in conservative blog RedState that she had an affair with a congressional staffer and a campaign staffer, causing a Congressional Ethics Committee investigation to be opened. Hill denied the relationship with the congressional staffer, which would be a violation of House rules, but admitted to the affair with the campaign aide, which is not.

Additionally, the British tabloid Daily Mail published nude photos without her consent. She has claimed her estranged husband is behind the photos and has vowed to advocate for victims of revenge porn.

“What we have to think about is this isn’t just happening to me,” Hill said. “This is happening to women and girls across the country. I was asked about this all the time on the campaign trail by really young teenagers and girls who experience cyber-bullying in different capacities and who are saying ‘What are you going to do about this?’ and we don’t have an answer for that, so we need to figure out that fight.”

Hill also took swipes at the right-wing media in general for attacking her in an attempt to silence her and other women. She named two witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, Fiona Hill and Marie Yovanovitch.

Fiona Hill, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council, testified that Ukraine had nothing to do with the meddling in the 2016 election, a conspiracy theory Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has put forth. She also said the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, was involved “in a domestic political errand” of the president trying to get Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Fiona Hill’s testimony led to Sean Hannity questioning her Ukrainian expertise. And Emerald Robinson, a correspondent for the far-right One America News Network, pointed to Hill’s British accent and questioned if she was a real American. Hill was born in England but became a citizen in 2002 and served under Bush and Barack Obama as an intelligence analyst.

Yovanovitch, President Trump’s former ambassador to Ukraine, testified that she was fired from her post after Giuliani and two associates ran a smear campaign against her.

Trump took to Twitter to attack her. “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” he wrote.

Katie Hill said these attacks are the new normal.

“We also need to see it as a tactic that is constantly used by the right,” she said. “I think that’s something that we see on attacks against women, not just high profile women but women across the board. These kinds of attacks are meant to silence you, demean you, and show that you do not have power, so for me it was important to show that that’s not going to work.”

Local Liberals Weigh in on Presidential Candidates

| News | November 27, 2019

Local Democrats weighing in on the Democratic presidential campaign and debates have expressed almost as many opinions as there are candidates.

“We have a good group,” Assembly candidate Brandii Grace said. “The really small differences don’t matter.”

Everyone surveyed had something nice to say about just about every candidate. Most hadn’t made up their minds yet. Those that had decided looked to other candidates
as possible running mates.

To be sure, all are vested in choosing a candidate that will defeat Donald Trump next year. As far as Stephen Daniels, the host of “The Talk of Santa Clarita” podcast, is concerned, anyone is better than Trump.

“I’d vote for my foot over Donald Trump,” he said. “I like my foot. I trust my foot. My foot doesn’t lie.”

But Daniels also wondered what many probably are thinking.

“Should we go with a moderate candidate or a more progressive candidate?” he said. “Who can beat Trump?”

There are plenty of moderates and progressives from which to choose. Two individuals surveyed, Saugus school board member David Barlavi and Grace’s communications director Kyle McCormick, are supporting Bernie Sanders.

“He definitely has the best chance to beat Trump,” Barlavi said. “And the icing on the cake is that he has the best policy platform: Medicare for all – he wrote the damn bill – a $15 minimum wage, free state and community college.”

Barlavi also likes that Sanders opposed wars in Iraq in 1991 and 2002, recognizes that for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, both sides must recognize the human rights of the other people; and he wants to “cut the fat out of the military industrial complex and put that towards education and health care and infrastructure.”

McCormick, who said he supported Sanders in 2016, too, credits the Vermont senator with broadening his base and, following his recent heart attack, loosening up on the campaign trail.

“He seems to have learned lessons from his previous run,” McCormick said. “He’s livelier and more present. He doesn’t revert back to his stump speech. He’s more willing to go into his own narrative, and he tells more jokes.”

So, who would they like to see join Sanders on the ticket?

Barlavi favors Andrew Yang because “he’s a populist like Bernie,” he said. He also would be OK with Elizabeth Warren but feels she would decline because “she’s got too much skin in the game.”

“If your goal is to win the general election, Bernie-Yang has the best chance,” Barlavi said.

McCormick favors Warren joining Sanders because she would balance the ticket stylistically if not ideologically. “Warren is popular with the establishment Democrats and Bernie is not,” he said.

Other local Democrats followed what Stacy Fortner said of the candidates: “They all deserve to be heard.” This could be a problem if what Fortner saw on Facebook comes true: The Democratic National Committee might change the criteria to qualify for the next debate, Dec. 19 in Los Angeles, scrapping the required number of small-donor donations.

“That benefits (Tom) Steyer and (Michael) Bloomberg,” Fortner said. “It doesn’t benefit (Julián) Castro and (Amy) Klobuchar.”

Another problem is in the format. With 10 candidates on the debate stage, it becomes difficult to get words in edgewise, which was probably why candidates did so much interrupting in the early debates.

Grace likened the debates to watching a sporting event and offering armchair analysis. Daniels agreed.

“I find it overall a little stupid that those little sound-bite moments (are) idiotic,” Daniels said. “That’s not what a president does. The idea that, ‘Ooh, he really got her.’ That’s just stupid. Some of the best candidates are not being recognized because the debates are overshadowing how they would be as president.”

A summary of what people said about the candidates, alphabetically:

McCormick worries that the former vice president’s penchant for spoken gaffes affects his credibility and would be an easy target for Trump in a one-on-one debate.

“(Trump) would waste no time belittling him,” McCormick said. “It concerns me to have a candidate that has a very visible weakness go against a candidate who is utterly shameless, a bully.”

Then again, George W. Bush became president.

McCormick thinks the New Jersey senator comes across in debates as “reasonable” and “impassioned.” Daniels thinks the debate format is not helping Booker, who he finds “pragmatic about his approach to politics and how to get things done.” Daniels also likes Booker’s optimism.

McCormick wouldn’t mind if the South Bend, Ind., mayor was a vice president pick. “He’s comporting himself well, getting his message across well,” McCormick said. He also thought that other candidates should go after Buttigieg more now that he’s leading in at least one poll in Iowa, and that his being gay “will seem like a bigger thing if he starts winning.”

Of all the candidates, the Hawaii congresswoman drew the most ire.

“Gabbard needs to go away,” Fortner said. “She’s taking up space. She’s a horrible excuse for a candidate.”

McCormick said he thinks Gabbard’s point that our foreign policy toward regime change needs examination is valid, but he objects to her seemingly cozy relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is a member of a Hindu nationalist volunteer organization that seeks a Hindu nation in which Muslims and Christians are second-class citizens, according to the online news website The Intercept.

“It concerns me to have close relations to someone so dictatorial,” McCormick said.

“On paper, she makes sense, but it doesn’t seem to be working out in practice,” McCormick said. “She’s trying to thread a needle that isn’t there to thread.”

McCormick also sees Harris as waffling on issues, which hurt her early-debate momentum. She co-sponsored Sanders’ Medicare for all bill, then later reversed her position.

Of all the candidates, the Minnesota senator drew the most opposing viewpoints.

One side, there was Daniels, who finds her very pragmatic. On the other side is McCormick, who objects to her we-can’t-have-nice-things approach.

“I can handle political moderation in some forms, but the specific brand of hectoring, ‘You’re being dumb. You can’t do that’ really grates on me,” he said.

“I am not glad he is there,” McCormick said of the billionaire. “I don’t like he is a extremely rich guy paying money into a vanity presidential run. Every time they cut to him (in a debate), I was like, ‘Tom, what are you doing?’ ”

Daniels said he likes the fact that the Massachusetts senator seems to have a plan to tackle all problems. “That, to me, speaks to somebody who should be president.”

And yet McCormick worries that Warren’s political instincts are problematic. She has claimed Native American ancestry, even going so far as using it on a State Bar of Texas form, but in February she apologized for that.

Sulphur Springs School Board Approves Putting Bond Measure on the Ballot

| Community, News | November 21, 2019

Voters in the Sulphur Springs Union School District will have the choice to approve a $78 million bond measure in the March primary election. The school board approved placing the matter on the ballot during its meeting last week.

As written, the measure’s project list includes: upgrade and replace roofs, heating and air conditioning units, repair and upgrade playground equipment, repave parking lots, improve landscaping, drainage and irrigation, improve ADA access and upgrade safety and security systems.

As for the dollar amount, board President Denis DeFigueiredo said, “It’s what we need.” He explained that the district created a facilities master plan five years ago, and these are the current priorities.

Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi said the heating, ventilation and air conditioners are old, and the coolant the AC uses isn’t made anymore. The classrooms need modernizing because “The way our children are being educated, it’s different than 30 years ago.” She mentioned classroom furniture has changed. Gone are the hardwood chairs and desks. Spacing and storage considerations are different now than in the past.

“When are things aging out?” she said. “We have very old buildings. Some buildings are 30, 40 years old, and we need additional support.”

And, DeFigueiredo said, bonds are the only way to fund these projects.

“There are many paths to get monies. We exhausted them,” he said. “We used (2012 Measure CK) bond money. We go out for grants, get matching funds from the state. This is the only way to do it.”

Yet DeFigueiredo also said that the list is general to give the district as much flexibility as possible. “If we get too specific and tie our hands, we have money left over we can’t do anything with,” he said. “We have ideas of what we want to do.”

To pay for the bonds, voters would be assessed a property tax of approximately $22 per 1,000 square feet of assessed value. But that’s an estimate; the measure’s language says “at legal rates,” and no one can predict what the assessed value will be over time. Kawaguchi said the district could have charged the maximum $30 per 1,000 square feet but is trying to keep costs down.

It’s those kinds of cost concerns that have given the district an increased bond rating, Kawaguchi said. According to Moody’s, the district’s rating went to A-1 in June, indicating general financial strength.

Steve Petzold, principal officer of the Center for Truth in School Bond Measures, said he opposes the bond, in part because some of the project list, such as the parking lot repaving, appear to be maintenance, and he doesn’t believe districts should use bond funds for maintenance.

“They’re backfilling their general fund with bond money because they’re deficit spending,” Petzold said. “They’re not properly budgeting for maintenance and repairs.”

DeFigueiredo acknowledged some of the projects might look like maintenance, but he and Kawaguchi insisted they are not. DeFigueiredo said in the case of the parking lots, the root cause was poor engineering years ago, the problems coming from deeper underground.

Petzold also criticized the district for its previous failure to comply with the terms of the Measure CK bond, specifically that it did not have the required citizens’ oversight committee.

“Why can we trust them on compliance for this bond when they can’t maintain the old bond?” he said.

Indeed, the district’s website has no record of any oversight committee meetings between Sept. 6, 2016 and June 17, 2019. DeFigueiredo said the issue was the committee didn’t have a quorum. Once it did, the committee went through every transaction and expenditure if that time and approved everything.

“This is not an easy committee to staff,” DeFigueiredo said. “We need a business person, we need a senior citizen involved with some organization that advocates for senior citizens. We need someone in a taxpayer organization.”
The measure requires at least a 55-percent majority to pass.

School Districts React

| Community, News | November 21, 2019

The shooting last week at Saugus High School did not cause other nearby districts to take stock of their policies and procedures because they were doing it anyway. Meanwhile, mental-health professionals insist mental illness is not the cause of the shooting.

Sixteen-year-old Nathaniel Burhow shot and killed Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, and Dominic Blackwell, 14, before shooting himself with the last round in his .45-caliber gun. He also shot and injured three others: Mia Tretta, 15, who came home Monday from Providence Holy Cross Medical Center; Addison Koegle, 14, and an unnamed student.

On Tuesday, students were allowed to return to campus to retrieve belongings, one student telling The Signal the experience was “surreal.” The school was scheduled to be open Wednesday and Thursday for voluntary activities, which William S. Hart Union High School District spokesman Dave Caldwell said will including playing games or singing or hanging out with friends.

“For some, they need to be with other people. They need to be with their friends. They need to be at school,” Caldwell said. “For those that don’t want to go back, that’s OK.”

Some who attended these events no doubt wondered if they’d ever feel safe there again. At other local districts, safety remains a top priority.

“Kids are kids, people are people, and we have to provide a safe environment,” Sulphur Springs Union School District Board President Denis DeFigueiredo said, “whether it’s an elementary school student or a high school senior.”

Sulphur Springs Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi said two years ago, she implemented drills and training in case of an active shooter.

“We are taking a proactive stand to make sure our children are safe,” she said.

Over at College of the Canyons, spokesman Eric Harnish emailed to say officials are constantly evaluating emergency prevention, preparedness and response efforts, and adjusting based on training and experience.

“For us, it is a collaborative process, and we seek to engage faculty, staff, and students in our efforts to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in making our campuses as safe as possible,” Harnish wrote. “As law enforcement investigators continue their work, and more information comes to light, we will certainly use any lessons learned to inform the college’s emergency prevention, preparedness and response efforts moving forward.”
Newhall School District Superintendent Jeff Pelzel said the district already has a facilities master plan in place and regularly seeks feedback from the parents, so he knows safety is their priority. The district shares that concern and has a letter on its website saying as much. The letter mentions the recently completed projects of placing fencing entirely around the perimeters of all 10 schools, conducting lockdown drills, keeping the campuses locked during the day and on weekends, and cooperating with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department.

In fact, the district was supposed to meet Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Lewis last week to go over procedures, steps taken and lessons learned from the recent fires, but the Saugus shooting canceled that. Pelzel said the meeting is now scheduled for Dec. 6 and likely will include information from the shooting.

The school districts are not islands unto themselves, either. Pelzel said the district superintendents regularly meet, and he expects the Hart district’s Vicki Engbrecht to share some lessons learned at the next gathering.

However, Pelzel said, fencing is just a first step. The good news is the district is expected to receive $10 million in Measure E funds. The bad news is that’s not nearly enough to pay for cameras at all campuses.

“We will determine what the needs are,” Pelzel said. “Safety is always a top priority. Too many incidents have been occurring.”

Many believe that a shooter has to be suffering from mental illness to carry out such a destructive and violent plan. However, the New York Times reported in 2012 after the Newtown, Conn., shooting that the American Journal of Psychiatry found only 4 percent of violence in this country could be attributed to people with mental illness. In 2004, the Safe Schools Initiative Report found that only 10 percent of attackers who were receiving treatment for their mental illness failed to take their prescribed medication.

The Gazette reached out to five mental-health professionals, of which three responded. None of them had ever met Burhow.

None of them felt mental illness was a factor in the Saugus shooting, although Encino Marriage and Family Therapist Sherry Warschaw said it was possible Burhow had issues with impulsivity, “but that’s not necessarily mental illness. The majority of people who are mentally ill do not commit crimes.”

She did, however, say impulsive behavior could be a component of mental illness. If a person feels so down and sees a future bereft of hope, he or she might make decisions that prove fatal.

“Impulsive people don’t think clearly. They act on feelings,” Warschaw said.

Woodland Hills MFT Judi Lirman said it appeared Burhow was unable to deal with the traumas in his life: the death of his father, who had been involved in spousal abuse and alcohol abuse, as well as the custody battles that took place between his parents when they divorced.

“He seemed to be a good kid who ended up in a situation he couldn’t handle,” Lirman said. “He needed to explode like a volcano. He was exploding his pain at the other five students.”

Lirman and Jaelline Jaffe, a Sherman Oaks-based psychotherapist, said access to guns is more of a factor than the shooter’s mental state. Lirman said a gun allows somebody to kill from a distance, making it easier to depersonalize the situation and convince yourself “”You’re not shooting at a person so much as a target.”

Jaffe said that the Saugus shooting took 16 seconds and “you can’t in 16 seconds kill six people with knives. You can fire off a lot of shots.”

Over at the Hart district, Caldwell said the shooting happened too recently for there to be a serious evaluation of what can be done differently, but those will be part of the next steps.

“We’re focusing on the care and support, and providing the students and staff everything they need,” Caldwell said.

Saugus High was closed Monday and will be closed Friday, Caldwell said. Then the school will take its previously scheduled full-week Thanksgiving break.

When classes resume Dec. 2, Saugus students will have had six fewer days of instruction than at other district schools. State law requires high school students to have 180 days and 64,800 minutes of instruction. Caldwell said he believes the school is on pace to meet the required minutes.

Mike Garcia: In it “Until We Win or Lose”

| News | November 21, 2019

While Steve Knight’s entrance into the 25th congressional race has caused two Republican candidates to drop out, Mike Garcia insists he is in it “until we win or lose.”

Garcia said former candidates Mark Cripe and Angela Underwood Jacobs, who cited Knight as the reason they quit, left because they weren’t raising enough money (Cripe made that point in his withdrawal announcement).

“Since Katie Hill resigned, we’ve seen a spike in fundraising and support, and (with Knight’s entrance) it’s similar,” Garcia said. “The visceral reaction to Steve Knight getting in the race is very negative.”

Garcia said none of the people who endorsed him before Knight got in have switched allegiances. That includes people who backed Knight in his previous three congressional campaigns, against Republican Tony Strickland and Democrats Bryan Caforio and Hill.

He also said his campaign recently conducted a poll of sample district voters of all parties that showed he would defeat Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith but would lose to Knight based on Knight’s name recognition. But the poll showed a little bit of messaging could put Garcia ahead of Knight.

Garcia said he has not been pressured by Knight or any person or organization to step aside. In fact, he said, Knight told him he was entering before he announced. He also knows the National Republican Congressional Committee is closely watching this race.

The district’s voters will be asked to elect a representative to finish Hill’s term as well as vote for a 2020 candidate in the regularly scheduled primary on March 3.

The top two vote getters will face off in a runoff election May 12. In the event a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote on March 3, then, he or she will serve out Hill’s term.

“Having Steve out of the race would make it a lot easier to win and skip the runoff,” Garcia said.

In the regular primary, the top two vote getters will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

Hart Budget Issues

| News | November 15, 2019

At first glance, the numbers appear alarming: The William S. Hart Union High School District budget shows a spending deficit of more than $15 million for this year.

But before anyone fears that there won’t be enough money, look closer. The district has a large reserve that it’s using to offset the deficit. Granted, the fund is dropping from $39 million down to $24 million, so everything isn’t rosy, and it takes tremendous effort to figure out how to make the dollars work best. But the district remains financially solvent.

For now.

“The challenges are more common,” Hart school board member Joe Messina said.

He explained: Districts cannot raise taxes. Eighty-seven percent of the budget goes to salaries and benefits. The state is still among the lowest in per-student funding. The district provides mental-health services for students without reimbursement.

“They are making it harder,” Messina said referring to Sacramento.

It doesn’t help that the state’s spending per student ranks 41st nationally, according to the California Budget and Policy Center and the National Education Association.

It also doesn’t help that the federal government funds special education, but not at a rate that fully covers what the district spends on in-class aides, transportation, legal fees, and speech pathologists and occupational therapists, Hart District Teachers Association President John Minkus said.

The state also requires districts to increase its contributions into the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) without any reimbursement, district spokesman Dave Caldwell said.

Nor does it help that the state requires districts to file budgets in odd ways. The process includes a first interim budget, a second interim budget and something called “unaudited actuals,” which is akin to the real money a school district has.

When Messina first joined the board a decade ago, the spending deficit was $8 million. He said the board spent three months tackling the budget line by line, trying to cut here or increase there.

“You can’t run a business this way,” Messina said, “but the state asks us to run a school district this way.”

Unlike in other school districts, the teachers’ union is an equal partner. In fact, Minkus said, the union has made suggestions to fix the deficit. These include taking unpaid furlough days, accepting no raises last year and increasing class sizes by one student, to 37, which Minkus estimates would save the district $2.4 million.

“If there is a problem, we’ve sat down with the district and gone through ways we can save money,” he said.

Another possible solution is a ballot proposition that would alter Proposition 13 to tax businesses that make more than $3 million. Minkus estimated that would put $12 billion into the state’s coffers, of which 40 percent would go toward K-14 education. A similar initiative already has qualified for the November 2020 ballot.

The only bone of contention comes from the district’s five-year projections. Currently, the district believes that in 2023-24, the savings will be gone and the district will be almost $13 million in the red. Minkus is skeptical.

“We don’t believe a five-year analysis is viable or feasible or close to accurate,” he said. “It’s too far in the future and there’s too many unknowns.”

Caldwell acknowledged the future projections, based on data collected and provided by Riverside-based Davis Demographics, are impossible to predict. “No one has a crystal ball,” he said.

But the point, Caldwell said, is that “continuing the way we’re continuing will cause problems.”

Minkus agrees. “If we continue to deficit spend, it’s a logical conclusion that we’ll go into a budget deficit,” he said.

New Dem Enters Assembly Race

| News | November 14, 2019

A Democratic tech startup founder, actress and video game designer/developer has announced she is running for Assembly. A Saugus school district board member might soon join her.

Brandii Grace, 39, announced Nov. 5 on Facebook that she is running for the seat currently held by Christy Smith, who is running for Congress and has not resigned her seat. She wrote that she filed papers the day before. She joins Republicans Suzette Valladares and Lucie Volotzky in the race.

“This is me trying to step up and continue what Christy Smith is doing,” Grace said, alluding to her own behind-the-scenes political experience as a delegate in the state and local Democratic parties as well as her standing on the Porter Ranch Neighborhood Council and her time working with the AFL-CIO to pass stronger federal-worker protections. She said she wants to emphasize education as Smith has, particularly for special-needs students.

Grace has no campaign website yet. She told the Gazette her priorities include improving air quality, ending medical price gouging, affordable housing and permanently shutting down the site of the 2015 Aliso Canyon gas leak. The leak, from an underground storage facility owned by the Southern California Gas Company, sent millions of tons of methane and ethane into the atmosphere.

On her LinkedIn page, Grace lists herself as: co-creator and co-founder of “Neil DeGrasse Tyson Presents: Space Odyssey,” a game designed for players to explore science and technology in the universe; a board chair of the Los Angeles chapter of the International Game Developers Association; and a consultant for Engaging Designs. She said she no longer is part of the “Space Odyssey” project.

She also has an Internet Movie Database page that lists her as an actress in two films, including the 2009 Robin Williams-starring “World’s Greatest Dad,” as well as two credits for being on video game crews. And she teaches at the New York Film Academy in Burbank.

Saugus board member David Barlavi called Grace “terrific,” “fantastic” and “a very strong Democrat, a little bit left of Katie Hill and Christy Smith.”

Barlavi also is considering a run, saying on Facebook on Nov. 4 that he’s “still only 97% sure” he’s going to run. On Sunday, he reiterated that percentage hadn’t changed and that he would make a final decision by the end of the month.

“It’s not an easy decision,” he said. “I’ve got to see who else jumps in and evaluate them. I don’t want to step on the feet of someone that’s better than me. I like to win but I don’t like competing against our own.”

That didn’t stop Barlavi from posting on Grace’s Facebook page, “How do you expect to overcome Coach Dave’s incredible handsomeness?”

Grace, who said she recognized Barlavi’s humor, responded with a wink emoji and this comment: “By being super well informed with great policy ideas and empowering an amazing community of people!”

Barlavi then posted a picture of Homer Simpson saying, “D’oh!”

The Plight of the Brights

| News | November 7, 2019

Like the main characters in Franz Kafka’s “The Trial” or Joseph Heller’s “Catch-22,” David and Mel Bright find themselves in a confusing, absurd situation where answers are not forthcoming.

The Brights own Rio Groceries on Soledad Canyon Road, between Agua Dulce and Acton. They have run afoul of the Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning’s zoning division. Specifically, the county has them in violation for selling alcohol without a conditional use permit (CUP). The Brights maintain the county delayed the need for it and then failed to explain what has to be done to secure it.

“I don’t get it,” said David, 63. “I just don’t get it.”
Late Wednesday, County Supervisor Kathryn Barger’s office reached out and explained: The Brights need only complete and submit the application they never finished and pay $1,100 and attend a hearing in which the department would decide to grant the CUP or not.

“All the county needs to see is some sign that he is showing progress toward compliance,” said Edel Vizcarra, Barger’s deputy in charge of planning and public works.

Back in 2010, the Brights applied to renew their permit. They submitted their application and $10,000 as instructed. But they were told to wait because Santa Clarita was finalizing its new General Plan, commonly known as “One Valley, One Vision,” a joint effort between the county and the city of Santa Clarita that would create a single plan within the county and city’s jurisdictions for growth and preservation of natural resources. That included various areas being zoned certain ways. The plan was adopted in 2011.

According to Bright, the county “graciously” re-zoned the store into its own commercial zone (it originally was a resort-recreation zone because it served the various nearby campsites going back to 1965) in return for waiting for “One Valley, One Vision” to be completed.

The Brights waited for the county to contact them, which took three years. Once they were contacted, they were told that their permit had expired and they were operating without one. “Well, you guys told me to wait,” Bright said he told them. “It’s nothing but a bureaucratic paper mess.”

Bright said the county’s zoning officer told him to resubmit a floor plan to indicate the amount of commercial space in which alcohol would be sold. He said the total was less than 900 square feet.

Some time later, a second zoning officer came to the store, verified the floor space and told the Brights they had to attend a hearing, fill out a land-use application and pay $500. Bright asked what the land-use application was and was told, “It’s not my department.”

He also told the officer he couldn’t attend any hearing because he had undergone eye surgery. He said the zoning officer “got pissed off” and started an investigation into the store’s lack of CUP, which had expired in 2011.

“She threatened to take my alcohol license away,” Bright said. The license to sell alcohol, granted by the state Department of Alcohol Beverage Control, had not been cited in the entire 19 years the Brights have been licensed to sell alcohol, he added. However, Vizcarra said, the county also must sign off on a business in its jurisdiction selling alcohol.

Then the Brights got a notice of violation, from Regional Planner Thomas Dearborn, warning them that continuing to sell alcohol without the proper CUP could lead to jail time, and that they owed a non-compliance fee of $798 and $2,793 for “collection of further administrative and collection fees.”

The Brights have not paid those fees. They were told if they did not comply with the zoning ordinance by Oct. 20, they would face more fines. They did nothing, and the county has not come after them.

But their frustration levels have grown.

“All they have to do is approve it (original application) and we’re done,” Bright said. “I don’t know why they keep dragging this out.” Bright suspects the county wants him to start over, but he already paid $10,000.

“Nothing’s changed,” he said. “Why do you keep trying to start over from scratch? You have my money. Why don’t you sign me off? What’s the land-use stuff? Why are you trying to sneak it in?”

Tony Bell, Barger’s spokesman, told the Gazette the goal is to get the Brights into compliance. He also was interested in what happened to the $10,000 the Brights paid the county in 2010. “We still have the record for that,” Mel Bright, said, and Bell said late Wednesday that he found the payment.

For now, the situation remains unresolved, but Vizcarra has spelled out a roadmap. The $1,100 is for the county sending out notice of a hearing to nearby businesses, he said, and to hold the actual hearing.

“It’s just frustrating, the business with L.A. County,” Mel Bright said. “We’re already tired. We’ve had the store for 19 years. Never had a problem, never had a violation. Nothing.”

An Update on the Laemmle Theatre

| News | November 7, 2019

The seven-screen Laemmle Theatre is set to open sometime in the first quarter of 2020, only about three months later than the city originally planned, officials said.

According to Economic Development Manager Jason Crawford, construction continues at the corner of Railroad and Lyons avenues in Old Town Newhall. Concrete for the floors has been poured in the last couple of weeks, Crawford said, and the sides of the building are expected to be in place by the end of the month.

The project continues despite the news from three months ago that the entire Laemmle chain might be up for sale. “There has been no confirmation or denial in our conversations with the Laemmle people,” Crawford said. “It’s full speed ahead.”

Mayor Marsha McLean said she spoke to City Manager Ken Striplin, who told her Laemmle is in “ongoing negotiations” with “an upscale theater chain.” Laemmle can’t sell the property without the city’s consent, McLean added.

On February 9, 2016, the city council approved $3,420,525 in financial assistance to help Laemmle bring a multi-screen theater to the area. Laemmle owner Greg Laemmle told the Gazette back then that the project would not move forward without it.

Many people praised the project, saying they looked forward to the high-quality art-house films Laemmle is known to screen, and it would increase the likelihood they would spend time dining in and visiting a revitalized Old Town Newhall.

But not everybody was on board. Then-councilmember TimBen Boydston thought the money could be better used elsewhere, and Josh Heath wrote in the Gazette, “How will a local Laemmle Theater end up differently than the many art-house cinemas across the country currently struggling to keep up attendance?”

One example came from Claremont, home to the Claremont 5 Laemmle, located near the Claremont Colleges. A recent article in the school paper, The Student Life, quoted Eddie Gonzalez, a 2004 graduate: “But between 2007 and now, streaming has obviously become a thing. It’s devices over cinema. Kids just don’t go.”

A big bone of contention was the millions the city gave Laemmle. But Crawford pointed out that Laemmle doesn’t pocket all that money. The city paid for the land, valued at $440,525, and $400,000 in development fees. It also reimbursed Laemmle $600,000 in site-preparation costs.

However, $1,980,000 will go directly into Laemmle’s coffers once the theater opens, but with that comes an operating covenant that guarantees that Laemmle will operate there for 15 years. Six screens are required to be opened for the first six years. In year seven, the chain could reduce to four screens and convert the rest to retail or office space.

Laemmle would have to repay the city a portion of that money for each year it doesn’t operate under the covenant’s terms. Closing in the first year would get the city back almost all of the $1.98 million; it becomes less with each passing year.

“It will continue to be an art-house theater,” McLean said. “We are looking forward to having an art-house theater. That’s what Laemmle promised, and that’s what we’re going to get.”

Katie Hill’s Open Seat Up for Grabs

| News | October 31, 2019

Just because Steve Knight might enter the race for Congress in the wake of Katie Hill’s resignation doesn’t guarantee he will win, or even automatically advance out of the primary. So says a group of local residents, mostly veterans, who insist they will continue to support Mike Garcia.

“I’ve communicated with Steve Knight on Facebook. Love you, guy, but this is unacceptable,” Bill Reynolds, a local Vietnam veteran, said. “All of my veteran pals are going to stick with Mike.”

Even Knight, who appeared on Monday ready to jump in, took a step back.

“We’re looking at the whole thing,” Knight said on KHTS. “We want to take back the seat. If that means me jumping into the race, then that’s what we’ll do, and if not, that’s OK.”

The news that Hill will resign her seat has created a ripple effect that Trish Lester, president of Santa Clarita Republican Women Federated, called “some musical chairs going on.”

Not only has Knight considered a run, Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), who told the Gazette last month she considered running for Congress but decided she could get more done in Sacramento than Washington, announced she is also running for Hill’s seat, pleasing some Hill supporters.

Stacy Fortner, a Democratic activist, said on Facebook she’s doing “the Christy dance” with the hash tag “if you know, you know.” And podcaster Stephen Daniels said he doesn’t know a Democrat who knows policy better than Smith.

For their parts, Garcia and Angela Underwood-Jacobs said they would not leave the race even if Knight enters it. Both said they would challenge for the seat in the special election that is required to fill the seat for the rest of Hill’s term, as well as the regular primary in March (a third candidate, Mark Cripe, didn’t return numerous phone calls).

A Smith campaign spokesman also said she would run in both and maintain her Assembly seat “until she is elected to Congress.”

Then late Tuesday, former Trump aide George Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in jail and served 12 for his role in the Russia probe, filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission.

A source said Secretary of State Alex Padilla, who was considering a run, is staying out.

According to the Constitution, House seats can only be filled by election. Once Hill leaves office – and as of press time, this date has not been announced – state law says Gov. Gavin Newsom has 14 days to call for a special election to take place on a Tuesday between 126 and 140 days after he calls for it. If Hill leaves Friday, as many believe she will, the earliest date would be March 10. The regular primary remains scheduled for March 3.

Smith’s exiting the Assembly race has left Republican challengers Suzette Valladares feeling eager and Lucie Volotzky feeling giddy.

Valladares said in a statement that she’s willing to debate the issues with anyone. “While I was looking forward to the debate of ideas against Christy Smith, I’m ready to stand up for the people of this district and challenge anyone that the Sacramento political class recruits to fill her seat,” she said.

Volotzky called Smith’s departure “a big plus.” She added, “People will pay more attention to the newcomers and what we stand for.”

Garcia, is also a newcomer, this being his first race. And he’s not going away. “I’ve been in this race since the beginning regardless of who else is running and will continue to do so,” Garcia said in a statement he texted to the Gazette. “Steve Knight served our country honorably, and he has previously earned my vote. He’s a good man, but we need a fresh voice to shake up Washington.”

Many Republicans contacted by the Gazette, some of whom live outside the area but within the 25th district, expressed similar themes: They admire and respect Knight but believe it is Garcia’s time. Many pointed to Knight’s showing in the last election, in which Hill defeated him by nine points.

“Of course, Steve Knight should not get in the race,”

Palmdale resident and veteran John Smith said. “Steve Knight doesn’t have the fire. If Katie Hill can beat him, anyone can.”

Former Congressman and Simi Valley Mayor Elton Gallegly, who once represented the area before redistricting, thinks everyone should “execute their constitutional rights and vote.” But as for him, “I worked hard for Steve Knight and got him elected. I’m supporting Mike Garcia.”

Saugus Realtor Steve Petzold said he’s looking for a candidate in the mold of Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Tulare) who would support the president, and believes that is Garcia. “Steve Knight was more reluctant to support Trump doing the Russia investigation,” Petzold said. “Papadopoulos is more of a carpetbagger.”

Lester expressed concern that too many Republican candidates could fracture the community as she saw happen when Knight ran against Tony Strickland in 2014. “To have two, three, four strong candidates, I don’t think it does anybody any favors,” Lester said. “It’s going to get uglier, and it makes me sad.”

Alan Ferdman, head of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, summed it up this way: “Both parties are going to do the same thing: Select the person they consider the most electable and pressure everyone else not to run.”

Local Woman Joins Newsom Recall Movement

| News | October 31, 2019

In the spring, Teresa Guzman, 51, became so fed up with Governor Gavin Newsom that her blood pressure started to rise. Her husband suggested she do something about it, so she typed “Gavin Newsom recall” into her internet browser.

Now, the Stevenson Ranch resident is fully committed to removing Newsom from office, much like Gray Davis was recalled in 2003.

“My phone hasn’t stopped ringing,” she said. “My mailbox is packed. My email, too. My text messages.”

Guzman has joined the recall movement started by author and former U.S. Senate candidate Erin Cruz, who unsuccessfully challenged Dianne Feinstein in 2018. A second recall movement, headed by La Jolla physician James Veltmeyer, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2016 and 2018, also has been approved for circulation.

For either effort to trigger a recall election, supporters have 160 days from the date the secretary of state approves circulating the petition to collect 1,495,709 signatures, or 12 percent of the total votes cast in the last gubernatorial election. Cruz’s movement has until February 13th; Veltmeyer’s has until March 5. Guzman pointed out online signatures are not accepted.


Guzman said she wants Newsom out now because she opposes the governor’s redirecting monies collected from the gas tax into rail projects. The Sacramento Bee reported earlier this month that Newsom signed an executive order in September ordering Caltrans to hold $61.3 million in reserve to “reduce congestion through innovative strategies designed to encourage people to shift from cars to other modes of transportation.”

Guzman said her job keeps her on the road a great deal of time, and she can’t always tell if she’s in the proper lane because so many places need paving and marking. She named Interstate 5 southbound approaching the 14 Freeway as an example she encounters daily. Meanwhile, she said, the roads in Topanga Canyon, near Mulholland Drive, have been entirely repaved and it’s “absolutely gorgeous.”

Another issue Guzman has with Newsom is his commitment to California being a sanctuary state. At his inaugural in January, Newsom promised “sanctuary to all who seek it.” The American-born, Republican-registered Guzman, the youngest of nine children who married a Mexican-born native with dual citizenship, doesn’t think people in this country illegally should receive the same treatment as American citizens.

“His inclusive ideology, that bothers me,” she said. “We’re supposed to be open for Americans, not illegal aliens. I haven’t heard him say one thing that benefits the American people. The Democratic Party has blurred the vision of what we started this country about.”

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