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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Tied Up in Lancaster

| News | July 19, 2018

Cameron Smyth said he had heard about Lancaster Mayor Rex Parris’ desire to ban neckties on the radio last week, and then saw it online on the Drudge Report, so he didn’t need to see the story in the front page of Monday’s Los Angeles Times.

“If Rex is doing this, maybe we should do Tank-top Tuesday and see how that goes,” the Santa Clarita councilmember said, tongue firmly in cheek. “Maybe Flip-flop Friday. I think that would go over very well.”

Although Smyth wasn’t taking Parris seriously – in fact, none of the four councilmembers reached did – Parris insisted he wasn’t joking when he suggested his city should consider banning employers from requiring their workers to wear neckties. He made the suggestion at last week’s city council meeting, Fox News reported.

Parris pointed to a July 7 article on the Big Think blog that referenced a study that found blood circulation to the brain can be reduced by 7.5 percent, which the study called “statistically significant.” The study appeared in the journal Neuroradiology and involved 30 participants at the University Hospital Schleswig-Holstein in Germany. Half had their blood flow observed while wearing a Windsor-knotted tie tied to the point of slight discomfort; half went tie-free.

“I don’t think that’s a small number,” Parris said of the 7.5 percent. “I’m certainly not going to laugh at it.”

Parris also was aware of a 2007 study that suggested a link between blood flow to the brain and creativity, he said.

Parris said he was unaware if Lancaster has any dress code. Smyth said that back in the late 1990s, Lancaster Mayor Frank Roberts instituted what Smyth called a “desert dress code” of short-sleeve Hawaiian-print or pullover shirts for city employees. Parris said that was done during the summer months only.

According to Human Resources Clerk Diane Long, the Santa Clarita’s dress code ranges from business casual (long pants, collared shirt, turtleneck, loafer/dress shoes for men; dress, skirt, blouse, sweater, turtleneck, loafer/flats/pumps/dress shoes for women) to professional attire for council and commission meetings (suit/sport coat and tie for men; pant or skirt suit for women). T-shirts, various tank tops and spaghetti straps, cargo pants, jeans or denim pants, stretch pants, sneakers, flip-flops, and sandals are among the disallowed items.

Parris said the feedback he has received has been “98-percent positive. The only people opposed to it are men’s clothing stores.”

Santa Clarita councilmembers are in the two percent. Smyth laughed at it and called it “silly, and there’s no need for a government involvement. I work for a large corporation and we have our own dress code policies, and it’s predicated and set by the corporate leaders, not our local government.”

Bill Miranda also laughed before adding, “I hope they enjoy their necktie party, but we have more important things to do.”
Other councilmembers found little to no humor.

“I don’t know that a necktie is a requirement for good work production,” Mayor Laurene Weste said. “Do you wear one? I don’t wear one, either.”

“Are you serious?” Bob Kellar said. “I probably won’t waste my time. He can knock himself out. This is absolutely ridiculous. No further comment need be said.”

Parris said he understood the pushback from Santa Clarita, considering he was one of the lawyers that represented two residents who successfully sued the city over California Voter Rights Act violations in 2014.

“They tend to say demeaning things,” he said. “When it comes to city (councilmembers), some are proactive, and some ride in parades, and I find people that are proactive tend not to ride in parades.”

But he remains undaunted in his desire.

“If it takes the city of Lancaster to lead the charge, I’ll lead it,” he said.

Trautman on Council: ‘I Don’t See Much Courage in Discussions from Any of Them’

| Meet the Candidates | July 19, 2018

Diane Trautman sits outside a Starbucks and carefully considers the question. For the next 58 minutes, she does this, rarely stopping to sip her beverage and regularly looking at her interviewer as she chooses her words.

With 12 years on the City Planning Commission (2002-2010 and 2012-16), including two turns as chair, and previous attempts at running for city council in 2000 and 2008, plus two attempts at being appointed to the council, the 25-year resident and CalArts graduate is a known quantity at City Hall.

And she’s trying again in November, attempting to wrest a seat away from Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean or Bill Miranda.

“I’m known in town. I have name recognition,” she said. “Republicans support me as well as Democrats. I want to listen to people. I don’t want to exclude anyone. … Two incumbents have been on the council for 36 years total. I understand it’s good for people to be on who have an understanding of the history, but when you become narrow in your preparation and thinking, and you become unable to hear voices that don’t agree with yours – their being out of touch is something I’m going to drive home.”

What Trautman, 63, currently sees on the council is an exclusionary quintet. If a person comes before the council and is either critical or offers an opposing viewpoint, “It’s not treated as a matter of disagreement. It’s treated as an insult to the councilmembers,” she explained. “So, there’s not a welcoming of different ideas, and that’s not helpful to anybody. … It seemed to be that everyone has to agree, and that’s a dangerous thing to do, and it leads to groupthink.”

At this point, she was reminded that she hadn’t specified any single member, so was she taking about anyone in particular? She sat back, again considered her words, and continued.

“I don’t see much courage in discussions from any of them,” she began. “Laurene tends to talk to people like children. Marsha takes offense when anybody disagrees. She’s really sensitive. … Marsha doesn’t want to run contrary to anyone. She has been insular in her thinking, and that doesn’t bode well for a city that’s growing. I don’t get a sense of any conviction from Bill Miranda. I don’t see any independent thinking from him.”

Trautman takes pride in her ability to consider all sides and viewpoints. She said that as a commissioner, she read everything, “made copious notes and I asked questions in public so the public would see I was looking at things more deeply. … (The council doesn’t) dig deeper than they have to. They look at it but largely rely on staff.”

And Trautman thinks that’s backwards. The council should set policy and the staff should carry it out, but she doesn’t think the current members have the vision to do that.

“The city council is supposed to create the vision for the city, the policies, the direction, the standards,” she said. “This means you’ve got to interact with those other entities, the county and the school districts. There’s not enough cooperation to solve some of the problems.”

A conservative such as Steve Petzold appreciates the liberal Trautman, saying he would consider voting for her and writing on Facebook, “Diane Trautman is thoughtful and measured with her words. It is safe to say that DT has the respect of current council members based on her years of service on the Planning Commission. … The democratic process benefits from her candidacy.”

A summary of Trautman’s priorities:
–She wants the city to be more aggressive in finding affordable housing, especially if the belief that there will be half a million people living in the valley eventually. Some of those housing options must be near transit centers.

–Public safety is more than just fire and police. People must be educated in safer driving and how to make room for cyclists and pedestrians. Find a way to make more walkable communities by looking at how other cities did it and adjusting to here.

–The city should work within the county’s homeless initiative to improve public safety and public health, especially of it wants Measure H funds.

–She wants to grow the local economy by reviewing city processes that seem to hinder small businesses. Also, maintaining existing buildings can keep rent lower than erecting new buildings.

–She wants to increase transparency in government by streaming all public meetings, not just the council and planning commission’s. She also wants a website redesign, develop better written policies, create a code of ethics, revise the council’s norms and procedures; and welcome community input on the questions of district voting, direct election of mayor and changing to a charter city.

What Went Up Must Come Down

| News | July 19, 2018

For months, whenever Alan Ferdman saw Community Development Director Tom Cole, he would ask about what was being done with the solar panels on the hillside of the Canyon View Estates mobile-home park. The first 11 times or so, Cole didn’t give him an answer he liked.

But last week, Cole told Ferdman something was up, and on Monday, the city finally hit the owners with a notice of violation and ordered the panels to come down.

According to a city press release, “The owners installed multiple solar panels on the hillsides, within and outside of the mobile home park, without obtaining required permits and without complying with conditions of approval associated with the conditional use permit for the park. … While the City supports efforts to move to renewable energy, the City takes seriously its responsibility to enforce conditions of approval designed to protect the quality of life in Santa Clarita, balancing the need for development with the preservation of open space.”

“It pays to be persistent, and it pays to be patient,” Ferdman said. “Just got to keep at it – and have enough people complain.”

Ferdman was by far not the only person to complain about the panels, which were erected in such a non-symmetrical way as to be an eyesore.

Councilmember Cameron Smyth, who was mayor last year when the panels went up, said a dozen people complained to him. City Community Preservation Manager Daniel Rivas said he received multiple complaints from residents inside and outside the complex, including single-family homeowners along Whites Canyon Road.

Clearly, the city had to do something. Just complaining about how the city had no jurisdiction and blaming Sacramento, as many claimed Councilmember Bob Kellar often did, wasn’t going to cut it with the residents.

“There was unanimity amongst the council that something needed to be done,” Smyth said.

But because Canyon View Estates is a classified as a manufactured home-planned unit development, the owners only needed approval from the state’s Department of Housing and Community Development. Managing Director Kerry Seidenglanz, who didn’t return a call for comment, previously acknowledged that he didn’t go through the city because he didn’t have to. He also said he received the necessary state permits after “50 inspections.”

Rivas said it took months of research and communication with the HCD and the county before they found something. Before Santa Clarita incorporated, the county issued conditional-use permits, and the city was required to honor them upon incorporation, Rivas said.

What officials finally found was a requirement that such a county permit required 50 percent of the property to be maintained as “open space.” The panels violate that, so the owners need additional permits from the city.

Rivas said officials reviewed the matter with the city attorney before issuing the violation. Communications Specialist Kevin Strauss said the city sent the owners notices by regular and certified mail last week, and waited for confirmation of receipt before announcing.

“I don’t have the name of who mailed it or who signed for it,” Strauss said.

Kellar applauded the move.

“I’m delighted to see any possible solution to this problem,” he said. “To (muddle) the view with such a mess is unacceptable. … I was delighted to find any possible vehicle.”

Rivas said the owners have until Aug. 11 to meet with city officials and either detail how the panels will go away or seek the additional permits.

As for a possible lawsuit, Rivas said he didn’t know what to expect and can’t speak to that. Kellar said he isn’t going to read into anything.

“The proper thing is to have the panels removed and restore the area to what it was,” he said.

Candidate Attempts to Become the Youngest Elected to City Council

| Meet the Candidates | July 12, 2018

Logan Smith knows his age might be a factor in people not voting for him for city council. But he insists Santa Clarita is getting younger, and the current councilmembers do not typify.

The five current members’ average age is 68.2 years. But take away Cameron Smyth (46) and it’s 73.75 years.

Smith, 25, is vying for one of three seats held by Marsha McLean (she turns 78 in September, Bill Miranda (75) and Laurene Weste (she turns 70 in October).

According to the city’s website, 30 percent of the population is between 30-44. Another 6 percent is between 20-24. Only 9 percent is 65 and older.

“I don’t feel like the average person in Santa Clarita has a voice in that chamber,” Smith said.

He seeks to change that by acknowledging he doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s willing to read and research the issues and hear the residents before casting a vote – things he doesn’t see the current council doing. While he refused to attack any councilmember by name during the 51-minute interview, he points to the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, cannabis sales and the recent homelessness ban as examples.

Regarding Lyons-Dockweiler, numerous Placerita Canyon homeowners came before the council to express opposition to the extension.

The council sat silently – Smith said it was “stony-faced” – and then unanimously voted for it. Smith thinks the councilmembers didn’t read the staff reports closely enough and came into chambers already having made up their minds.

“Fundamentally, we need public servants who serve the public,” Smith said. “That’s not something I’ve seen in that council chamber.”

Some believe Weste stands to gain financially from the extension, which Weste has denied repeatedly.

“If anybody is using their public office to enrich themselves, that’s unconscionable, especially to the detriment of people who live here and work here,” Smith said.

Another example Smith points to is cannabis sales. The council earlier this year extended a ban on commercial cannabis businesses, on top of its already existing ban on medical-marijuana dispensaries. The only legal marijuana in the city is a maximum of six plants indoors per residence.

During the March 27 meeting, Smith, who regularly attends council meetings and makes public comments, usually identifying himself as “a candidate for city council,” criticized the council for failing to read various online reports that show links between the availability of medical marijuana and fewer heroin and opioid overdoses. He also took the five members to task for failing to see the potential revenue stream by legalizing and regulating cannabis and not “stick our heads in the sand and allow the black or gray market to continue to thrive.”

McLean needed clarification on the differences between medicinal and recreational marijuana, and stated she favors medical cannabis. Smith scoffed, saying McLean voted for the ban in the first place.

Resident Bart Joseph, who called himself “a four-time cancer survivor,” also spoke about cannabis’ importance to his recovery and how he can’t afford to grow his own in the city. Weste said she was sorry for the hardships Joseph had suffered.

“The council nodded and was concerned – and voted unanimously to extend the moratorium,” Smith said. “I don’t think any of them, except Cameron, did the bare minimum before voting.”

A third place Smith found the council’s research lacking was the recent unanimous passing of an ordinance that sets out to block homelessness on public streets. It bans individuals from sitting or lying down in various public spaces, including streets, sidewalks and landscaped areas.

Smith said he isn’t sure the council adequately read the text because “If you sit on a sidewalk, you can be fined $500. If you sleep in your car in the driveway, you could be ticketed. If you sleep in a tent in the back yard.”

Smith acknowledges that these violations won’t happen, but he thinks laws shouldn’t be written so generally that they could be interpreted in unintended ways.

“Model (United Nations) students at College of the Canyons are held to a higher standard when they write fake laws,” Smith said.

Smith, who works as a field organizer for the California Clean Money Campaign, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization favoring public funding of election campaigns, said he got the idea to run last summer after hearing Bernie Sanders speak in Chicago.

Sanders told the audience that anyone who is thinking of running for office needs two pieces of advice: do it, and don’t hire consultants.

He didn’t, and now he has his sights set on City Hall. He would be the youngest to ever be elected. Smyth, 28 when he was first elected in 2000, is the only person elected in his 20s. The next youngest was Frank Ferry, 32 when elected in 1998.

“The council thinks we’re still a small town. That’s blatantly incorrect,” Smith said. “To stick your head in the sand and act like we’re not the third largest city in Los Angeles County is reckless and irresponsible to the people.”

(Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional series profiling the various local candidates for elected office.)

Staying Afloat with the USS Iowa

| News | July 12, 2018

Jeff Armendariz finds practicing law stressful. That’s why he loves his weekends, when he can leave the pressures of defending people accused of drunken driving or domestic violence and drive the 58 miles south to the Battleship Iowa Museum in San Pedro.

“Not only is it a great escape from being an attorney, it’s a subject I love and get to learn more about,” he said.

Two to three times a month, Armendariz finds himself on the Iowa, where he gets to indulge his passion for military history, which stems from his sixth-grade teacher bringing the Civil War to life. He has collected numerous artifacts, including rifles, pistols, swords, cartridge boxes, carbines and an 1811 printing of George Washington’s Farewell Address.
The USS Iowa has a colorful past that includes carrying President Franklin Roosevelt across the Atlantic to meet with Winston Churchill and Josef Stalin, and bombing the Marshall Islands and Japan during World War II; bombing North Korea during the Korean War, and escorted oil tankers during the Iran-Iraq War. Also, a mysterious explosion inside the second turret killed 47 crewmen in 1989.

Armendariz gets to tell visitors these stories and more, but he especially enjoys what he learns from the guests, some of whom served on the Iowa and worked in the hot and sticky confines of the engine room or kitchen. They tell tales of sleeping under the stars on the deck because it was so hot below deck, and they remember how rough the Pacific Ocean waves could be.

“They can tell you more than what you learn from a book,” Armendariz said.

Yet the most interesting person he ever met since starting as a volunteer tour guide July 7, 2014, was a WWII army paratrooper from the 82nd Airborne who jumped onto the beach at Normandy on June 6, 1944. This veteran also participated in the Battle of the Bulge and the unsuccessful Operation Market Garden.

As he walked around the Iowa – and Armendariz marveled that this 80-something man walked up and down ladders like he was 18 – he walked onto the bridge and remarked, “If I’d known the Navy was this cush, I’d have joined the Navy.”

Armendariz’s law career has been anything by “cush.” After passing the bar in 1994, he worked in the Ventura County district attorney’s office handling assault and battery, driving under the influence, drug possession, weapons charges, petty theft, grand theft and hit-and-run cases.
Starting out on his own in 1998, he went with what he knew and started defending people who he says are “legitimately responsible” for the crime of which they are accused “and must pay a price.”

Much of his job is damage control and managing expectations while showing he cares, he said. For example, a domestic violence case might find him defending someone whose spouse demands “a pound of flesh,” but other times the victimized spouse might not realize that a call to law enforcement brings about an arrest, emotional tolls and the need to report what happened.

He often encounters a wife that tells him, “I don’t want my husband to go to jail even though he hit me. Help me, Jeff.”

Armendariz might be able to have his client plead down to something like disturbing the peace. Some clients appreciate what he does; others wonder if that was the best he could do. Not every client’s sense of what’s fair matches reality, he said.

His other cases – DUI, drugs, hit and run, grand theft, child pornography and sex crimes – often are similarly stressful. He often finds himself with clients who committed the acts they are accused of, and it’s his job to explain why going to trial might not be the best option (a majority of his clients never face trial, he said).

“But if a person didn’t do it, and they’re factually innocent, I’ve got to convince a jury, or prosecutors, so they can see it the same way. That can be stressful,” he said.

Is it any wonder he likes to indulge his passion on weekends?

“It’s a nice place to get away for five hours,” he said of the Iowa.

Court Rules in Favor of Pro-Life Pregnancy Centers

| News | July 5, 2018

No Longer Required to Disclose State-Sponsored Services

As president and CEO of a crisis pregnancy center, Angela Bennett was unhappy that the state required her clinic, the SCV Pregnancy Center, to post information about what was available at state-sponsored clinics.

Specifically, that meant information about abortion, a service Bennett’s center does not offer – although she acknowledges it’s an option many consider, and her center’s website has a page devoted to it (generally, crisis pregnancy centers are nonprofits that counsel women against abortion).

Bennett was quite happy that the Supreme Court last week struck down that California law. The justices decided that in the matter of National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA, of which the SCV Pregnancy Center is a member) v. Becerra, the state violated the free-speech clause of the First Amendment.

“No one should be forced by the government to express a message that violates their convictions, especially on deeply divisive subjects such as abortion,” Bennett said in an email. “The Supreme Court rightfully said that the state of California could not use its power to force pro-life pregnancy centers to provide free advertising for the abortion industry.”

On the other side, a despondent Philip Germain, chair of CA 25 United for Progress, lamented, “It’s pretty sad we have a government that wants to regulate a woman’s body more than banks or firearms.”
The SCV Pregnancy Center is a licensed medical clinic staffed by licensed doctors and nurses, Bennett says, and narrowly focuses on diagnosing pregnancy, then providing alternatives. That includes tests and ultrasound imaging. It also offers other services, such as STD testing and some counseling.

Once pregnancy is confirmed, a woman is educated about her options. Bennett said on “The Real Side with Joe Messina” that the goal is to ensure the woman has the information she needs to confidently decide.

In 2015, while the state considered Assembly Bill 775, the Reproductive FACT (Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care and Transparency) Act, Bennett went to Sacramento to express concern.

“Women are really smart. They know what their legal rights are, and they know what’s available to them. You don’t have to put posters and signs in medical clinics or in doctors’ offices to tell them that they have a legal right to have an abortion or where they can get it,” Bennett said on “The Real Side.” “The major issue was the mandated speech, the violation of our freedom of speech.”

The Supreme Court agreed, Justice Clarence Thomas writing for the 5-4 majority that the law “imposes a government-scripted, speaker-based disclosure requirement that is wholly disconnected from the State’s informational interest.”

On Messina’s radio show, Bennett likened the law to going to a Ford dealership and being told there is a Chevrolet dealer nearby.

“To mandate speech is just as egregious an assault against the freedom of speech as silencing groups of people,” Bennett said. “The government should not mandate speech, and least of all require organizations to speak against their conscience.”

Local reaction went along pro-choice/pro-life lines.

Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) said in a statement, “The First Amendment of our Constitution guarantees us the right to free speech. This also includes protecting citizens, in this case pregnancy centers, from being forced to convey messages they object to or do not believe in.”

His opponent, Katie Hill, had a different view, saying this gives such centers the chance to not provide “fully accurate information to women about their options and programs related to pregnancy and family planning. This decision allows an organization with an agenda to provide incomplete information to women in crisis who are, in many cases, completely unaware of the bias of the supposed health care practitioner.”

Bennett said in an email that she has no plans to take down the abortion page from her center’s website.

“We provide factual information about all of a woman’s options to anyone who walks through our doors,” she said. “There is no reason for us to remove information from our website that tells women that we will provide accurate information in a non-judgmental environment.”

For his part, Messina told the Gazette that the SCV Pregnancy Center offers post-abortion counseling, something Planned Parenthood does not do (in fact, some PP clinics do).

“If you’re looking for abortion, go to an abortion clinic or Planned Parenthood. They offer abortions at a discount,” Messina said. “If you want counseling, go to a crisis pregnancy center.”

Local attorney David Barlavi claimed there is a difference between “religious free speech,” and “medical free speech,” which he says doesn’t exist in the law.

“Doctors can’t tell you (that) you have cancer knowing you don’t have cancer,” Barlavi said.

To which Kevin Theriot, senior counsel of the Christian, conservative Alliance Defending Freedom, which represented NIFLA, said in an email, “The Supreme Court disagrees.”

Some pro-choice advocates see this decision as a step toward overturning Roe v. Wade and a return to, as Barlavi put it, “back-alley abortion.”

Others are less concerned.

“As a world leader, I don’t see us going backwards on women’s rights,” Stacy Fortner, executive board member of the San Fernando Valley chapter of the Democratic Part, said while in Washington D.C. “If it were overturned, there would be an amendment to the Constitution that gives the rights back. I don’t see it as an end. I see it as an attempt.”

Steve Knight on Russian Interference: ‘I Can Connect Too Many Dots’

| Community | June 28, 2018

Steve Knight said he is convinced the Russians meddled in the 2016 election, and expressed support for the Robert Mueller investigation, but stopped short of calling it a witch hunt.

In a wide-ranging, 42-minute phone interview last week, Knight (R-Palmdale) discussed a wide variety of topics, including President Trump, the FBI, immigration, the election and local topics such as CEMEX and chloride.

Knight was careful to separate Russian meddling in the election with suspicions of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russian government, saying he wants to let Mueller do his job and see what comes out.

“We’ve invested a lot of time,” he said. “It won’t come out before the (2018 midterm) election.”

As for Trump’s claims that Mueller is conducting a “witch hunt,” Knight said, “I don’t know.”

However, Knight said he has read the Steele dossier, a private intelligence report of 17 memos written from June-December 2016 by Christopher Steele, a former head of the Russia Desk for British intelligence. This collection of documents contains allegations of misconduct and conspiracy between Trump’s presidential campaign and the Russia during the 2016 election cycle, with campaign members and Russian operatives allegedly colluding to interfere in the election to benefit Trump. It also alleged that Russia sought to damage Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, including sharing negative information about Clinton with the Trump campaign.

“I buy a lot of it,” Knight said. “Too many things, I can put one, two and three together. I can connect too many dots.”

Knight spent much of the interview talking about Trump, who he says he has met only a couple of times and was invited to play golf at one of the President’s resorts. “It’s not something I plan on doing,” he said.

Asked to give Trump a letter grade for his first 516 days in office, Knight declined, saying he would give him “a passing grade. He’s still got some room (where) I can say get better yet.”

He elaborated a bit, saying the economy is good, unemployment is low and the tax plan, though initially unpopular, will benefit more people than not. He especially had kind words to say about Trump’s handling of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

“Nine months ago, if you were to ask me, ‘Do you think we’re going to war?’ I would have said it’s a possibility,” Knight said. “Today, we’re talking about a peace treaty.”

Knight insists he doesn’t trust Kim at all, but he believes that Trump’s tough talking about comparing North Korea’s nuclear capabilities to the U.S.’s made Kim see the need to come to the table. “It’s going to be bad for his country, which I don’t think he cares about, and it’s going to be bad for his family,” Knight said.

However, Knight is not as complimentary toward Trump in the context of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Trump and Putin have met before, and Trump last week said he wants to meet with Putin in July, possibly in Vienna.

To this, Knight is a bit more cautious. He said he’s aware that any previous relationship Trump might have had with Putin doesn’t automatically indicate anything nefarious, since presidents Reagan and Clinton had relationships with other country’s leaders, too. The key, he said, is if the relationship keeps the U.S. out of war. Still, “When President Trump’s name comes up with Vladimir Putin, I do raise my eyebrows,” Knight said.

Knight said he has not read the inspector general’s report on the FBI, which found that former director James Comey had exercised poor judgment when he went public about his circumventing Justice Department leadership and spoke publicly about Hillary Clinton’s emails. It also criticized FBI employees Peter Strzok and Lisa Page for their anti-Trump comments in private messages, but concluded there was no political bias in the way the FBI conducted its business.

Knight called the FBI “a phenomenal law-enforcement agency,” but acknowledged Comey probably overstepped his bounds. Mostly, he just wants to stop hearing about it.

What he knows he’s not going to stop hearing about anytime soon is immigration. He introduced his own bill last week in an attempt to stop families from being separated, if the parents are charged with nothing more than illegally crossing the border. The bill, HR 6173, was referred to the judiciary and homeland security committees. But he also cast votes on two pieces of legislation: HR 4760 and HR 6136. Both dealt with immigration and DACA, but Knight preferred 6136, nicknamed the Compromise Bill, because he thought it did more to help Dreamers. It also allots more money for Trump’s border wall. Last week, he voted no on 4760. On Wednesday, he voted yes on 6136. Both went down to defeat

“We’re in Congress. We’re not looking for a perfect bill. We’re looking for something we can pass,” he said.

Knight responded to a Facebook post that quoted him in the Antelope Valley Press from 2008, “I have no problem telling a family: ‘Your child can stay … but you’re going to have to go,’” and contrasted that with his Facebook comment from June 19: “I absolutely oppose the practice of separating children from their parents at the border.”

Knight said the 2008 comment wasn’t about immigration, but about birth hospitals in which Chinese women were coming into the country, possibly legally, possibly not, to give birth, making their children U.S. citizens. He opposed that then and still does, calling it “selling citizenship.”

As for the election, Knight had nothing to say about Katie Hill, his opponent in the Nov. 6 general election. Nor does he think that just because he received almost 53 percent of the vote he is no longer considered vulnerable. He just wants to make sure he isn’t one of those incumbents who think their seat is safe and then lose.

“We don’t know any different. We run hard,” he said. “We keep our head down. We do our work. We have money and we’ll spend what we need to.”

Knight also took a few minutes to address some local issues. He said he talks to city leaders every seven to 10 days, mostly about CEMEX and traffic. He referenced the $47 million grant he secured to relieve traffic along Interstate 5, and he said he talks weekly to the Department of the Interior, Secretary Ryan Zinke or White House officials about when the department’s Board of Land Appeals will rule about CEMEX’s appeal over the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to cancel two contracts to mine in Santa Clarita. He said he now expects it by next month.

“We’ll reach out to the city about what our strategy is, if a poor decision comes out, or if a good decision comes out,” Knight said.

Knight said he has not approached the Environmental Protection Agency about getting the chloride levels in the Santa Clara River raised from their current 100 mg/l.

Woman Rows to Hawaii, Finds Danger on the High Seas

| Community | June 28, 2018

When she was younger, Pat Hines loved reading adventure books. “Robinson Crusoe” was a favorite. She especially liked how the character survived shipwrecks, enslavement, cannibals and mutineers during his 28 years on a remote desert island near Trinidad.

She’s always challenging herself, having given birth to twins at age 46.

“I’ve never been conventional,” she said.

Two years ago, she performed possibly the most perilous challenge possible: rowing the Pacific Ocean.

Not only did she live to tell, she set Guinness World Records for being the oldest woman to row any ocean (she turned 62 during the trip) and, with her then 59-year-old boat partner, became the oldest pairs to row any ocean.
It took 46 days, 17 hours, 47 minutes for Hines and her partner, Liz Dycus, to finish second, about seven days behind a four-person crew.

“The oceans are the last frontier,” she said. “They really test your mental ability. I’m amazed at what people can take. I wanted to see it for myself. … It literally changed my entire life.”

Hines competed as part of the Great Pacific Race, also known as “the world’s ultimate endurance challenge,” in which pairs, trios and fours row some 2,400 miles from Monterey, Calif., to Honolulu. They don’t row in a little wooden boat with a couple of oars; these boats are made of new-age carbon fiber that Hines said looks like a torpedo cut out in the middle. It cost $75,000. They have solar panels, communications, storage, lifeboat and a sleeping area.

Since finishing the race, Hines, founder of the nonprofit Safe Moves that educates students about traffic safety and proper walking, bicycling and driving habits, has often spoken to school-age children about her experiences. They typically ask two questions: did she see any sharks and did she almost die?

The first question is easy to answer: Yes. There was one a 10-foot shark that swam around the boat for a while one morning about 3, jumped up, hit her thigh and then swam away.

The second question she doesn’t shy away from, but it’s not as easy to answer, so she tells the stories. On the third day, the waves started getting rough. She called her navigator, who was monitoring the race on land, on the satellite phone, and learned that she was about to row into gale-force winds. The National Weather Service defines these winds as 39-54 mph.

For six hours, the pair went inside and waited it out. Water came into the hatch, and the noise was like a freight train. “We were convinced the boat wouldn’t make it,” Hines said.

Two weeks into the race, she noticed the boat listed to one side, a sign it was taking on water. She found a crack in the bow. She had to fix it or the boat would sink.

She almost drowned after her leg got caught in her anchor line.

Another time, it rained, and the drops felt like ball bearings.

Flying fish pelted her. They landed in the boat. They hit her in the face. They went down her shirt.

“It was gross,” she said. “At first, I tried to save them all. But after a while, I just killed them and threw them in (the ocean).”

An oar broke, batteries didn’t work, the seas went crazy. Hines was wet, dirty and smelly. Clean water was at a premium. She cut her hair because she couldn’t stand it. She ate 5,000 calories a day and still rowed into Honolulu 37 pounds lighter.

“Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?” she said.

It wasn’t all bad. She quickly learned that you solve the problems as they happen. Just make sure you stay with the boat and make sure you eat and drink (they had a desalinization device and hundreds of pounds of freeze-dried food).

“You eat and you row, and you eat and you row, and you sleep,” she said. “I miss that solitude.”

And there were times when the water was calm, the air was clean, the sunsets were spectacular.

She encountered a pair of USC rowers who kept calling her grandma. “We beat them by 10 days,” she said.

Her children originally were worried, enough that her son wanted assurance that she was planning on coming home. But after two weeks of talking to them daily, Hines called on the satellite phone and reached her daughter, who said, “Mom, we’re shopping at the mall. Can we call you back?”

Two years later, Hines is excited to do it again, only this time, she’ll attempt to row the Atlantic solo, from Spain to Antigua, following a similar route Columbus took to the New World. She’s been training and fundraising and estimates she needs $250,000 in time for a 2019 attempt. Because of her age, she’s been getting companies that sell products for older females as sponsors.

If she succeeds, she’d be the first American woman to row the Atlantic. After that, she wants to do a one-year trip in which she rows from San Francisco through the Panama Canal, around to Cuba and up to New York City.

“Either you’re a masochist or you enjoy incredible adventures. I’m both,” she said. “You either sound like an egoist or a crazy person. I’m a combination or both.”

Doug’s Rant

| Doug's Rants | June 21, 2018

I Should Get Over It:

I know I should get over it and used to it, but as more and more bull crap is exposed regarding the FBI and Department of Justice’s handling of Hillary’s email debacle, as well as the Trump/Russia investigation, the more CNN and MSNBC make me bat-crap-crazy!

The congressional hearings earlier in the week with the Director of the FBI and the Inspector General were enthralling and incredibly newsworthy. As I do on many occasions, I quickly changed over to those networks to get their takes on the hearings, but lo and behold, there weren’t any. I scanned their websites, too, thinking there would have to be at least a mention of the hearings, but I found ZERO coverage (if I missed something, let me know, and I’ll stand corrected).

Maybe it’s just me, but I’m thinking they didn’t cover the hearings because they were so damning to their liberal friends. I know, I know, the children at the border issue is certainly newsworthy, but for that issue to soak up the whole news cycle while our country’s fabric of justice, fairness and legality was apparently torn up and thrown in our face, it should at least merit a mention, right?

The point of powers that be threatening to interfere with a presidential election (and it wasn’t the Russians) should at least result in some coverage in the interest of decent journalism, but wait, for these two networks, that ship sailed in November of 2016.

I Should Get Over It, Part II:

Speaking of bat-crap-crazy, after hearing that the Inspector General determined there was no evidence that the Clinton email probe was affected by bias, I was just as floored when Comey rattled off the laws Hillary broke, and then said there would be no charges.

Come on, we just aren’t that stupid. After reading and hearing what’s in the new Inspector General’s report, how can a reasonable and intelligent human being not see the bias spewing out like lava out of a volcano?

When the FBI guy (Peter Strzok) in charge of the Hillary investigation is asked by his FBI lover in a text, “Trump’s not ever going to become president, right? Right?!” and he answers with “No. No he’s not. We’ll stop it,” was that just pillow talk?

He also texted, “I am riled up. Trump is a f***ing idiot,” and “God Hillary should win. 100,000,000-0.” Do you see any bias there?

These next texts by Peter Strzok, who oversaw the Hillary probe and then was selected to be on the team investigating Trump, too, puts a ribbon and bow on how biased the dude really was:

“For me, and this case, I personally have a sense of unfinished business. I unleashed it (Clinton investigation). Now I need to fix it and finish it (Trump/Russian investigation).”

“And damn this feels momentous. Because this matters. The other one did, too, but that was to ensure we didn’t F something up. This matters because this MATTERS.”

How can these people on the investigative teams think we’re so freaking stupid that we can’t see what this was all about? How dumb do they think we are not to realize that Robert Mueller’s investigation into Trump was started with the same type of bias, and after a year of so-called “nothing burgers.” This whole thing is going nowhere.

What really reeks of political foul play is the investigation of Hillary morphed into the Trump/Russian collusion thing, and the same Inspector General is investigating that investigation mess too. Can we expect the same sort of ‘non-bias’ findings in that upcoming report? When and how will this travesty all end?

I Should Get Over It, Part III:

I should get over and be used to whatever Gary Horton writes in The Signal, but sometimes it makes me gnash my teeth. On Wednesday: “Now, we’re surrounded by some of the most disturbing news we’ve ever seen. An anarchist president is tearing apart American fabric and values. We’re being ravaged from the top down and few in his party have the guts to stand up to it. This may be the greatest challenge to America Carrie and I’ve seen in 39 years. More than wars. More than recessions. More than guns.”

I’m sure Horton was referring to the FBI and DOJ crossing the dangerous line of government interference and attempting to manipulate an election, similar to what happens in third world countries, right? Of course he wasn’t. Instead, he fell into the emotional trap of laser-beaming in on a problem that had liberals’ hair on fire. President Trump did fix the problem of family separations at the border, but fixing the problem of corruption in the FBI and the DOJ will be a much harder problem to solve. That’s the “disturbing news” Mr. Horton should really be concerned with.

Quips, Quotes & Headlines:

What a surprise. The President is lying his ass off once again. Those who back this sick immoral criminal are not only aiding and abetting this inhumanity, but are allowing fascism to take root in America. Ripping children away from their parents is fascism pure and simple. (Rob Reiner)

“Why don’t they care about AMERICAN kids separated from their parents for life — killed by illegal aliens? NO compassion for Don Rosenberg, Mary Ann Mendoza.” (Ann Coulter)

“Our politicians step over my dead sons body everyday while scrambling to protect ILLEGAL ALIEN CRIMINALS they want to keep amongst us. Inhumane? You tell me!” (Mary Ann Mendoza, whose son Brandon, a police officer, was killed in a head-on collision by an illegal immigrant drunk driver)

IF they really cared about these children, why aren’t they verbally persecuting the people who have brought these children to our borders without food, water, shelter? No, this is about hatred of America & inciting unrest. What liberals do best. (Mary Ann Mendoza)

“Any investigator or prosecutor who doesn’t have a sense, after nearly a year of investigation, where their case is likely headed, is incompetent.” (James Comey on him exonerating Hillary Clinton before she was interrogated)  

*Is he talking about himself or Robert Mueller? (Me)

Letters to the Ranter:

Hi Doug,
I put my full name as to make it clear who I am and why I am replying to you. Though I appreciate your criticism because criticism helps one to grow, I do agree with Nicole. I have seen your previous rants and I’m a bit bothered about the fact that you had the audacity to call out a teenage student about the very thing you fail to do. As Trump would say: SAD. I have nothing against you, and I appreciate your honesty and believe however I think you need to take a back seat on what you say because you really don’t practice what you preach.

Now, with that said, I’d like to take note of your current rant. You said, and I quote: “Perhaps his haters should take into consideration the reality of what this economy is doing under Trump’s watch, and think about what it could mean for them and their families in years to come, and not resort to such unreasonable hate”. Yeah, let me tell you something. I don’t care about having a few extra dollars in my pocket or getting to take family vacations if it comes at the cost of families. Is it family values that you are promoting? Then stand up to the injustice of our immigrants. If you honestly believe we have human decency towards immigrants, I want you to remember that we keep children in cages. We tear toddlers from their mothers. We rip families apart. And by we, I mean America, I mean the very same America that’s the land of the free. Yeah free, that’s a joke. Because cages aren’t the symbol of freedom.

Where is the tranquility for all? Yeah I stand by what I said in my article. The economy? At what cost Doug? Syrian lives, minorities rights, family values, women’s equalities? All of those have been infringed by the Trump regime. So yes, I hate him. And I will say it with a burning passion.

I’m not blind, but I think if you really value the economy above lives, then you are. Have a nice day. That’s my rant. Ashley Calkins, a young teen done with the BS

Howdy Doug,
Illegal Border crossing is total disrespect to every legal citizen who entered this Country the right way. Parents who endanger their children by “sneaking” them into this Country are irresponsible parents and endangering their children’s welfare. POTUS did not legislate the law nor did he jeopardize these illegal border families. The whole thing is out of proportion thanks to the media and asinine politicians. Republicans and Democrats suck and they all need to go in the swamp. Half of America wants cheap labor. Trump too. That is all it boils down to. I am disgusted, frustrated and embarrassed of the media and politics.  Tim, Castaic

I don’t know who the Dan is that likes giving all the privileges and rights to the illegals, but it is not this Dan. I expect he has a few of the families living with him. That’s nice. A little arithmetic! If 10% of the weapons in circulation right now are controlled by criminals or “wannabe” criminals and we cut the number of weapons in circulation by 50% then I suppose criminals and “wannabe” criminals will have 20% of the weapons in circulation. I haven’t heard of any cowardly attacks on the policeman ball.

Well according to no less an authority than Alexa there are 14 billion 500 million people on earth (at least most of the time). So if on average each person’s body contains 10 gallons of water that is 80 pounds of water. That means that 140,000,000,000 (billion?) gallons of water have been raised to 98.6 from whatever it was before. Sounds like a pretty good radiator to me. Do you think that might have something to do with global warming? That is if there really is any.

It seems to me that when ice freezes it adds air (some class I had years ago). So when a glacier is in the sea and it melts doesn’t the sea level go down?

Most of the glacier is under water. I’d say it is true in my scotch but it might be another outside source. The strength of President Trump is really amazing. Thank GOD for our President. -The other Dan

Steve Knight Introduces a Solution to Family Separation

| News | June 21, 2018

Steve Knight does not make it a habit of injecting himself into a national debate. But the subject of separating children from their parents who illegally crossed the border has caused him to weigh in.

Knight on Thursday introduced House Resolution 6173, which he called End Family Separation at the Border. Unlike other pieces of immigration-related legislation that he cast votes about this week, his bill is short.

In four pages, the Knight bill says alien children are to remain with their parents, even if the parents are detained and if the only charge is illegally crossing the border. Other charges such as terrorism or child abuse would warrant separation, Knight spokesperson Chris Jusuf said.

Additionally, the bill says children who are detained with adults who aren’t their parents or legal guardians must be released only to their parents or legal guardians, and the bill authorizes $50 million to build facilities to house families together.

“I think we can do better,” Knight said. “We can do better with families. Just pass my bill.”

Knight refused to let any other lawmaker add anything to his bill – and some asked – repeating his belief that Congress would get more done if each bill dealt with just one subject.

“If we put DACA up there, let’s have a vote. If we put border security up there, let’s have a vote,” he said. “People might think we’re OK instead of giving us a 13-percent (approval rating).”

Messina: LGBTQ Community ‘Lost Nothing Since I’ve Been on Board’

| News | June 21, 2018

Joe Messina, currently serving and running for re-election on the William S. Hart Union High School District board, sought to respond to opponent Kelly Trunkey’s claim, first reported in the Gazette two weeks ago, that Messina is not a friend of the LGBTQ community.

Messina discounted that as untrue, and referred to a Dec. 11, 2013 meeting in which Andrew Taban, then a Canyon High student, expressed concern that the district wasn’t doing enough to implement the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act. Informally known as the LGBT History Bill, the state law requires textbooks to include various contributions by people with disabilities and LGBTQ people.

“When Andrew Taban came forward and expressed concern we weren’t implementing the FAIR Act, I was president at the time, and I directed staff to make sure we were working within the law, and if not, what do we need to do,” Messina said. “We found out the law hadn’t taken effect yet.”

The law became effective Jan. 1, 2012.

Reached to confirm Messina’s account, Taban instead said the only board member who showed support was Gloria Mercado-Fortine. Then he said, “I am not endorsing Joe Messina. My endorsement is going to Kelly Trunkey.”

Taban’s reasons were similar to Trunkey’s reasons for running: He does not believe Messina’s conservative views as a talk-show host have a place in school matters.

“I think it’s highly unprofessional to have his job,” Taban said. “It is intimidating as a student. How’s this person going to treat me without knowing me?”

Messina said he didn’t care who Taban endorses, and insisted that “the one place I can put my partisan politics aside is on the school board.”

“My politics never come up at the board level, and I never use my politics to bring people in,” he said. “Miss Trunkey was involved with her husband in Democratic politics. What’s the difference?”

Messina also asserted Taban was incorrect in saying Mercado-Fortine was the only supporter.

“I was the first to speak up at the meeting,” he said. Later, he produced a copy of the meeting minutes that clearly state he made the suggestion.

According to the minutes, Taban spoke during the time for public comment and “distributed a one-page information sheet about the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful Education Act law, and he asked how the law is being implemented in the Hart School District. Mr. Messina asked Mrs. Engbrecht (then deputy superintendent Vicki) to contact the student and inform the Board of the contact.”

That’s not what Mercado-Fortine remembers, however. She backed up Taban’s story and said it was she who suggested to Engbrecht that the matter be placed on a future agenda and that Engbrecht should meet with Taban, currently Vice President of Democratic Alliance for Action.

“My comments were, this is something we need to examine,” Mercado-Fortine said. “I supported that and moved it forward. I said something at the meeting: ‘Where are we with this? What are we using?’”

The minutes also say that student board member William Oh of Golden Valley High requested a report on the FAIR Act, and that Engbrecht would follow up with Taban by phone.

Deborah Dunn, Engbrecht’s executive assistant, left a message this week saying the superintendent is on vacation until Monday. An email to Engbrecht generated an automatic response saying she would be out of the office until Monday and has limited access to email.

In a phone call last week, Dunn said meetings aren’t video recorded. Messina said audio recordings are kept for three years.

Messina said he has never talked down to any LGBTQ student, and has met Taban several times for coffee and lunches since Taban graduated high school, something Taban confirms.

“I always encourage every student to work hard, try their best and not let anything get in their way,” Messina said. “All students deserve a safe environment, and all students deserve an equal opportunity to succeed. The LGBTQ community has lost nothing since I’ve been on the board.”

Conservative Group Strives for Voter Education

| News | June 21, 2018

Upset by what he saw as the silencing and misunderstanding of conservative voices, Matthew Funicello decided to do something about it.

“We’re being marginalized greatly. Conservative voices were not being heard,” he said by telephone this week. So, in January 2017, he founded the grassroots California Conservative Action Group “to rally against the lies and mistruths that are being told about us.”

He gave examples: Not all conservatives view immigration the same way, and not all conservatives are racist or anti-gay. In fact, he said, conservatives he knows care about immigration and the rule of law, and he doesn’t think the government should have the right to say who can marry whom.

“Yes, there are racists on the conservative side. I will concede that freely,” he said. “Nazis and the KKK tend to side with conservatives. Why? I don’t know. I’m not one of them. But, it’s the same with the new Black Panthers and the Nation of Islam. They tend to side with Democrats. Why? I don’t know. I’m not one of them.”

Funicello is president of the group, and David Goss is the vice president. They said a current goal is to educate people to think for themselves when reading about a political race or a ballot proposition. In fact, they want to us the hashtag “#doyourownresearch.”

“Know what you’re doing before you start talking,” Goss said. “Do your research.”

Examples they cited include the passing of the Affordable Care Act, Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election and Proposition 47. Funicello referenced Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor Jonathan Gruber’s comments that “lack of transparency” and the “stupidity of the American voter” helped Congress approve what is known as Obamacare. The Hill newspaper called Gruber an architect of the ACA.

As for Russian interference, Funicello acknowledged Russia, the U.S., China, Korea, Israel, England, Germany and Italy have meddled in various countries’ elections because it suited their goals. He also criticized people who took what they saw on Facebook at, well, face value.

“They (Russia) created a whole bunch of Facebook accounts and put in a whole lot of BS, and who passed it around? Everybody,” Funicello said.

“People need to see. Do not listen to hot takes and headlines,” Goss said. “Look into it.”

Proposition 47, which supporters called the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act, received almost 60 percent of the vote in 2014. Funicello thinks too many people looked at the title and thought, “Who doesn’t like safe neighborhoods and schools? I’m voting for it” without realizing that the measure’s main effects were to convert many nonviolent offenses, such as drug and property offenses, from felonies to misdemeanors, leading to some people committing more crimes with few consequences.

“We want to educate the voter and take ignorance out of politics,” Funicello said.

One place they recommend that is in the White House. Yes, Donald Trump is president, and yes, they want him to succeed, just as they want every president to succeed. But they grow tired of people who criticize just because they’re liberal.

Goss said he has a liberal friend from Israel who was thrilled that Trump moved the American embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, but his liberal leanings made it difficult for him to publicly laud Trump for that.

Similarly, Funicello thinks Trump erred in signing the $1.3 trillion spending bill in March, and believes Trump hasn’t done enough to protect gun owners. But, he dislikes that not enough people have joined him in crediting Trump for North Korea’s Kim Jong Un crossing the demilitarized zone, meeting with South Korea’s president and meeting with a sitting American president.

“If nothing else comes to this, he did something no person in a pro-Democracy government has been able to get done since 1953,” Funicello said.

While national politics is fun to talk about, the two want to focus on California issues, so, they’ll be watching the 25th congressional and the 38th Assembly race, but want to extend to other districts as well.

Photo: Matthew Funicello, David Goss

Hill Climbs to General Election

| News | June 14, 2018

Katie Hill vanquished her four Democratic opponents, but had to spend most of her money to do so. Steve Knight, meanwhile, was the sole Republican running, so he has much of his cash stockpiled for the Nov. 6 general election.

With Knight holding about a $1 million advantage, there’s one major thing for Hill to do now.

“We’re going to have to raise $3 million,” she said. “Three times as much in one third of the time. No small task.”

If this candidate wants to unseat the incumbent – one who received more than 50 percent of the primary vote – she can’t just limit herself to small donations from individuals.

Hill knows this, so her plan is “getting ready to run one of the largest congressional campaigns in the country.”

That means accepting money from just about everywhere: individuals who donated to her campaign, individuals who supported Jess Phoenix, Bryan Caforio or Mary Pallant; the Democratic Party (“If they’re going to throw money at me, I’m not going to say no,” she said); corporations, organizations and companies that already endorsed her, and Democrats running for re-election in safe districts who can afford to donate some money her way.

She will attend the 25 United for Progress Unity Barbecue on June 30 at Richard H. Rioux Memorial Park in Stevenson Ranch.

Hill said Knight has accepted money from Republicans running in safe districts, claiming he has about $200,000 from those sources. She also alleged that Vice President Mike Pence and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) have been making pleas for donations on behalf of Knight (the next reporting period ends June 30).

“We have an uphill battle. We’re sitting in a ditch. We’ve got ground to make up. He’s starting with a cash advantage,” Hill said.

Of course, there’s more to a campaign than just money. Money is just a means to the end, and the end means votes. Hill and campaign manager Zack Czajkowski said they must reach out to Phoenix and Caforio supporters, continue to mobilize a vast army of volunteers and take as many one-on-one meetings as possible.

Debates also aren’t out of the question, although none have been set.

“We’ll do what the congressman wants,” Hill said, “but honestly, how many can you have?”

Caforio, who didn’t return calls for comment, put out a statement the day after the primary asking his followers to support Hill, something Czajkowski said he appreciated.

“That was all class on his part,” he said. “Huge respect for the statement he made.”

Czajkowski also said he has heard from some Caforio supporters who are willing to support Hill.

“Some folks said, ‘I supported Bryan, but Katie has a lot to offer, and we can beat Steve Knight, so let’s do it,’” he said.

Xavier Becerra Could be Disqualified

| News | June 14, 2018

State Attorney General Xavier Becerra is ineligible to be elected and hold the office because he fails to meet the minimum requirements set by state law, and his name should not appear on the ballot, a lawsuit filed by AG candidate Eric Early says.

Early, who didn’t advance to the November general election, claims that because Becerra’s status with the state bar was “inactive” from 1991-2007, he is in violation of Government Code Sec. 12503. It says, “No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.”

The suit was filed May 29 in Sacramento, court documents show. Early’s attorney, Steve Cooley, said a hearing is scheduled for July 17. Early seeks to have Becerra ruled ineligible and have Secretary of State Alex Padilla remove Becerra’s name from the ballot.

Becerra’s office did not return a request for comment.

“We think we’ve got a great lawsuit here,” Early said. “There are some serious issues that need to be addressed.”

Actually, Sec. 12503 has been cited before. After Jerry Brown was elected AG in 2006, Contra Costa County Republican Central Committee chairman and state GOP vice-chair candidate Tom Del Beccaro brought the exact same suit. Brown’s status was “inactive” from Jan. 1, 1997, through May 1, 2003, according to bar records.

Brown won and called the suit “a political stunt by a Republican office seeker.”

An editorial in the Los Angeles-based and conservative Metropolitan News-Enterprise took Del Beccaro and others to task for bringing the suit.

The East Bay Times reported that Del Beccaro promised to appeal, but Del Beccaro told the Gazette that the appeal never happened because, “We couldn’t afford to pursue it.” Cooley said that this makes Early’s case a test to see if the courts will uphold the state constitution.
“We believe, as a matter of principle, that constitutional standards should be upheld, and we are testing the courts and we’re testing this principle, and we’re doing this pro bono,” Cooley said Monday while on vacation in Tuscany, Italy. “We all like the lawsuit. We think we’re right. But in a suit like this, with the vagaries of politics, we know it’s a roll of the dice.”

“We” also includes Lancaster attorney Rex Parris, who first got involved after receiving an anonymous correspondence at his firm. Included was the Brown case and Becerra’s inactive status.

“I liked it,” Parris said. “I called my friend Steve Cooley, and I called some Republican friends (and asked) ‘What do you think of this?’ Next thing I know, I’m talking to Eric.”

Del Beccaro said he applauds the second attempt and believes Early will have “a decent chance” if the judge follows what he called the “plain language” of the law.

Cooley, Parris and Early admit they are no fans of Becerra. In a March interview with the Gazette, Early attacked Becerra, a former U.S. representative appointed by Brown to replace Kamala Harris after her Senate election, as “a Nancy Pelosi clone who has been gifted the Attorney General’s office, and he’s been using it for his own personal, political platform.”

But Parris said politics should not be a factor, although he acknowledges that this case might be an example of “a distinction without a difference.”

“Just enforce the law,” he said. “There’s something fundamentally wrong when and if the Attorney General is violating the law to be the Attorney General. He should be meticulous in fulfilling the law. The (Govt. Code) words couldn’t be simpler.”

The Ups and Downs of Election Night

| News | June 7, 2018

They came to a private residence on Quigley Canyon Road to watch returns and celebrate Katie Hill’s advancing to the general election to face Steve Knight in the 25th congressional district.

But since returns came in so slowly, most people had left some six hours before 100 percent of the precincts had at least partially reported. This left people unable to truly exult in what Hill accomplished.

This was not the time to realize how much work still lay ahead. Hill had pretty much depleted her campaign coffers, while Knight still has about $1 million. Nor was much made how Knight was above 50 percent of the vote for the entire night, making it even more difficult for anyone to call him “vulnerable.”

Still, plenty happened.

8:50 p.m. Tuesday: Party host Jeri Boyd picks up people parked down the street at The Master’s University and drives them back to her home in a golf cart. She says she’s had several parties for Hill before and expects more than 100 people tonight.

8:52 p.m.: A reporter from “Vice News Tonight,” the HBO series that aired an episode about Hill last month, parks in Boyd’s driveway, blocking her access. The reporter moves her car, which then blocks a KCBS-TV news van.

8:54 p.m.: Hill is interviewed on KCBS before she enters the party. She’s wearing a white top and cowboy boots, befitting Boyd’s request for a Western theme. She’s asked about the approximately 118,000 people in the county who couldn’t vote because their names were left off the rolls.

“I didn’t know about that,” Hill said. “My staff has been trying to keep me calm.”

9:00 p.m.: Early returns from seven district precincts in Ventura County have Hill and Bryan Caforio deadlocked at 1,719 votes each.

9:03 p.m.: Hill enters the party without fanfare. But amid applause and cheers, somebody shouts, “You survived the fire,” referring to Hill’s Agua Dulce home being about a mile from the Stone fire.

9:09 p.m.: Mike Hill, the candidate’s father, grills hamburgers. He’s proud of her and how she ran a positive campaign. A Republican, he says he has influenced her on the need for fiscal responsibility, and she has changed his views on health care. He also isn’t sure everybody knows her real name is Katherine.

9:13 p.m.: According to the Secretary of State’s website, Caforio leads Hill 5,849-5,199. These numbers will not change for several hours.

9:26 p.m.: Hill’s husband, Kenny Heslep, says that Tuesday is their eighth wedding anniversary. “She’s always been extremely interested in politics,” he says. “She always talked about how she wanted to make a change.” He adds that he couldn’t run for office if he wanted to because, “I’m not a very good speaker and I don’t know policy like Katie does.”

9:35 p.m.: Julie Olsen, Saugus Union School District board member, sits in a wheelchair with both feet bandaged as a result of having broken bones in each foot for stepping off a curb. She says she helped the campaign by making phone calls and raising money. “She has a great knack of bringing together people with different points of view,” Olsen says. “I respect Congressman Knight, but I feel he has failed to represent all constituents.”

Reminded that it is impossible to do that, Olsen responds, “It’s not impossible to try.”

9:48 p.m.: Angela Giacchetti, 30, who lives in Glassell Park, in the 34th district, says she has been volunteering for Hill since January. She had quit her job and was looking for something to do when a contact suggested she check out Hill’s website. Giacchetti found she’s the same age as Hill and appreciated Hill’s candor on issues such as women’s rights and choice. “She reminds me of me,” she says.

10:11 p.m.: Rob Lafferty tends the bar. A guy pulls out some money to pay for his beer, and Lafferty says, “Keep it. Donate it to Katie. She’s going to need it.” Lafferty also calls Hill, “A breath of fresh air, and just what we frickin’ need.”

10:15 p.m.: Returns from the Los Angeles County sections of the district show Caforio leading 4,130-3,480.

10:19 p.m.: Staffer Hannah Nayowith and volunteer Stacy Fortner disagree over Nayowith’s employment status.

In introducing Nayowith, Fortner says, “She worked for Katie in Simi Valley.”

“I work. I’m working,” Nayowith said.

10:32 p.m.: Brett Haddock, city council candidate, sports a Bill Nye the Science Guy bow tie. “Early on, I was very impressed with Katie Hill,” he says. “It wasn’t until February that I decided to fully back her.”

He also wanted to remain neutral toward Caforio, “but he kept pushing me and pushing me to be against him. If he loses, he’s not staying (in the district). No way.”

10:44 p.m.: Hill gives a 25-minute speech in which she thanks family, friends, volunteers and staff. She asks the crowd questions, such as who broke bones from volunteering, who had been in car accidents from volunteering, who knocked on at least 1,000 doors, who worked at least 1,000 hours and who donated money. She also claims her campaign had the most individual donors, something Jess Phoenix’s campaign also claimed. “You guys are making this happen,” she said.

10:49 p.m.: During her speech, Hill asks where her campaign manager is, Zack Czajkowski. “He’s writing your acceptance speech!” someone shouts.

10:55 p.m.: Hill briefly stops her thank-yous to let Finance Director Graham Kelly speak. “Trust the process,” Kelly says. “My football coach said, ‘You’re down at the half? Go out and hit ‘em in the mouth in the third quarter.’ When we’re done, I think we’ll all be happy campers.”

10:58 p.m.: Czajkowski addresses the crowd: “Seeing the level of enthusiasm you’ve shown toward Katie is amazing. Let’s win this sh*t.”

11:01 p.m.: Kelly checks returns. Knight has 55 percent, Caforio 20 percent, Hill 18 percent.

11:13 p.m.: People start to leave.

11:18 p.m.: While waiting for more returns, Nathan Bousfield, president of the SCV Young Democrats who endorsed and later censured Caforio, plays the board game Catan with three others. Bousfield says his computer beeps every time the Secretary of State site updates. He checks and finds no new results. “Or maybe it’s a false alarm,” he concludes.

11:30 p.m.: Caforio leads 5,955-5,297. Knight, meanwhile, has 15,445.

11:35 p.m.: Hill says if she loses, “I’ll tell my supporters to vote for Bryan. I won’t be thrilled about it.”

11:49 p.m.: The gap is closing. Caforio leads 7,302-6,969. What’s left of the crowd whoops it up.

12:01 a.m. Wednesday: Hill supporter Ryan Asher, who’s been tracking results by county, announces that with 96 percent of Ventura County precincts in, Hill’s ahead by about 700 votes and trails Caforio by 330 in L.A. County, putting her ahead overall.

12:03 a.m.: Melainey Foerster, who got hit by a car Monday while canvassing, checks her phone and says Philip Germain, chair of 25UP (United for Progress), is saying Caforio will advance to face Knight. People express skepticism.

12:09 a.m.: Bousfield announces Hill is ahead 9,250-9,018.

12:11 a.m.: The Secretary of State website has Caforio ahead 7,668-7,234.

12:14 a.m.: Kelsey O’Hara, the volunteer to whom Hill made sexual comments in the “Vice News Tonight” segment, says the party cost nothing because everything was donated, saving the campaign thousands of dollars.

Regarding the HBO show, in which Hill says O’Hara is “texting all of her ex-hookups,” O’Hara said, “All I saw myself doing was working and hanging out. No one asked me my opinion, and I didn’t feel any of those things people say I felt.”

12:21 a.m.: Hill reads a text on a phone that says the Cook Political Report calls Ventura County for Hill.

12:24 a.m.: Hill leads 10,535-10,022.

12:39 a.m.: Hill on the lack of celebrities at the party: “This is a party for the people. This is my first Coors Light, but it’s on top of a tequila shot. Also, I’m functioning off two hours of sleep.”

12:58 a.m.: Czajkowski refuses to claim victory, citing superstition. Instead he says, “Katie has worked incredibly hard. She had the strongest message, deep, deep ties to the community, and the voters know she will represent this community.”

Czajkowski also says he has not received a concession call from the Caforio campaign. In fact, a concession statement didn’t come from the campaign until 9:57 a.m. Hill later said that Caforio called at 10:30 a.m. and left a message. She called back and didn’t reach him either.

1:05 a.m.: With about 64 percent of the precincts reporting, Hill leads Caforio 11,226-10,498. She also refuses to claim victory.

“We are on a great trajectory,” she says. “We’ve been looking at November from the get-go. People are ready for a change. They’re ready for more than politics as usual. Women are ready to rise up. People are ready to rise up and take on the challenges ahead.

Hill’s mother, Rachel Stevenson, says, “Perfect.”

“Thanks, Mom,” Hill replies.

Kelly Trunkey Challenges Joe Messina

| News | June 7, 2018

CORRECTION: In last week’s article titled, “Kelly Trunkey Challenges Joe Messina,” it was stated that Joe Messina is the current Hart District Governing Board President. Steve Sturgeon is the current board president. It was also stated that this year is the first year of district elections. The first year of district elections was in 2015. The Gazette regrets the errors.

Saying there is no place for a conservative radio-show host on a school board, Kelly Trunkey has announced she is running for the William S. Hart Union High School District board seat currently held by board president Joe Messina.

This is the first time the Hart district elections will be based on district voting. Past elections were at-large voting. Messina was first elected in 2009, when five people vied for three spots. He ran unopposed in 2013.

It is Messina’s role as host of “The Real Side with Joe Messina,” which Trunkey called “behavior I am not comfortable with,” that motivated her to run.

“He’s so involved in partisan politics that it takes away from his duties to our students, to our teachers,” she said. “I believe I do not agree with him being on the board when he has obviously, an agenda.”

Trunkey said Messina has come out against the LGBTQ community. In fact, Messina took some heat in 2014 over some comments he made in person and on his show. Two parents sought to unseat him, but failed. One claimed Messina mocked the process of former NBA player Jason Collins coming out. Messina said he questioned if people care if Collins is gay or if he can play.

Trunkey claims Messina’s views do not fit on a school board.

“We’re here to serve every child,” she said. “I don’t believe a radio show with personal, political views is right for this position,” she said. “If he wants to vocalize his views, we don’t need someone to talk down to the students he’s responsible for.”

Trunkey, married to Saugus board president Chris Trunkey, who’s also seeking re-election, said she wants “an inclusive district,” and for “everybody to have a voice. I want to provide parents with as many educational choices as possible.”

As an example, she cited a district program in which various schools offer specialized courses, mentioning the auto shop at Saugus High. But she says the district doesn’t do a good enough job of letting parents and students know that the students could transfer to said school.

“I didn’t know I could look at these schools and see if there’s something specific my child could go towards,” she said. “The Hart district has so much to offer. We need to ensure parents and children know Hart has so much to offer and where those programs are located.”

Other platforms Trunkey favors:

•She believes the district can do more to protect the safety and security of students, teachers and staff. She said she is concerned that a mentally unstable person could easily bring a weapon onto a campus, so the district needs to do more to find and treat those students before they commit violent acts.

She mentioned an article she saw in Time magazine in which a student at Santa Fe (Texas) High said she was unsurprised that a shooting took place there.

“We need to find a way to stop the bleeding,” she said. “It’s not just high school students who are afraid to go to school.”

•According to U.S. News and World Report Best High School rankings, Hart was the highest-ranked at 171 in the state (982 nationally). Next came West Ranch at 210 (1,154 nationally) followed by Saugus (247/1,339), Golden Valley (338/1,772), Valencia (344/1,793) and Canyon (411/2,125). The district’s average college readiness was rated 37 out of 100.

Trunkey said the district should be doing better.

“I don’t think our students are completely ready for college,” Trunkey said. “If we don’t have preparation, these students lose focus on what they’re going to do, possibly floundering, possibly not going after the education they should be getting.”

Will Youth Vote Impact Primary Election?

| News | May 31, 2018

The numbers don’t lie: Voter turnout for a primary election in a non-presidential year is among the lowest in any election cycle. That holds true for all groups, but it’s especially so for voters ages 18-25.

That might happen again come June 5, or maybe this cycle will be different. Anecdotally, it already is.

From increased voter registration and greater involvement in campaigns to marches and on-campus demonstrations, the youth seem to be more engaged and more ready to go to the polls than in previous cycles.

“We’re seeing incredible energy among young people,” Jess Phoenix said in an email. “They are more aware of current events and both local and national issues than ever before, and they’re spreading the word to their families, friends, and classmates. They’re a force to be reckoned with, and I’m excited to see their leadership evolve and grow.”

Bryan Caforio said he has more volunteers younger than 25 than he had total volunteers when he challenged Steve Knight for the 25th Congressional District seat two years ago. Andrew Taban, who’s a member of four liberal-leaning groups, and 38th Assembly District candidate Christy Smith said they have seen increased voter registration, including between 1,200 and 1,500 at College of the Canyons alone.

They’re getting involved, Taban, Smith, Caforio and fellow 25th Congressional District candidate Katie Hill said, because of issues they view as important – gun violence, immigration, the environment, gender equity and education costs – that incumbents are not addressing or solving.

“This is not an administration that represents their values, so they’re standing up to that,” Taban said.

In some cases, the youth aren’t waiting to become voting-eligible. Phoenix said that her campaign has volunteers as young as 11. Stacy Fortner, Assembly District 38 regional vice chair for the Democratic Party, said that once the Hart High school day ends, her 16-year-old daughter, Melainey Foerster, often canvasses and works phone banks for the Hill and Smith campaigns.

“She goes after school, goes to Katie’s office, picks up (stuff) they want her to get, gets a list and goes out and canvasses,” Fortner said. “That’s what the kids are doing these days. She feels horribly underrepresented in government.”

It’s not just the Democrats that are fired up. Republicans such as Jordan Dixon-Hamilton and Dane Anderson, who talked to the Gazette while manning Congressman Steve Knight’s Santa Clarita campaign office on Soledad Canyon Road, said their expectations of youth involvement have been exceeded.

“I’m surprised at how many young people are working and volunteering their time,” said Anderson, 18.

Dixon-Hamilton, 21, last year interned in Knight’s Washington office, where six of the eight interns were around his age. In the Santa Clarita campaign office, three of the four are similarly aged.

“I see young people, and it’s really encouraging,” he said.

And it’s the youth that typically volunteer for campaigns. Dixon-Hamilton, Anderson and Foerster have the time, excitement and energy to do so, as do countless others throughout the country.

Knight campaign consultant Matt Rexroad said the faces might change, but even in his Sacramento office, there are always six or seven interns around; during election season, there’s more.

“We’re never lacking in applications,” Rexroad said.

But will this involvement translate into votes? According to COC political science professor Lena Smyth, quoting census data, only 16.3 percent of registered 18- to 24-year-olds turned out to vote in the 2014 midterm. Presidential elections always have higher turnouts, Smyth said, and 43.4 percent of registered voters aged 18-29 (the U.S. Census Bureau expanded the voting group) voted in November 2016. But that was still smaller than the turnout for voters ages 30-44 (56.9 percent), 45-59 (66 percent) and 60 and older (71 percent).

“They’re still not carrying candidates over the finish line,” Smyth said. “Call me skeptical. I don’t think so, but I do see excitement among my students at COC. That gives me hope.”

Logan Smith, who two years ago ran Christy Smith’s campaign and now is a Santa Clarita City Council candidate, pointed to the various March for Our Lives held around the country, organized by survivors of the Parkland school shooting.

Also, young voters turned out in droves (34 percent, according to an analysis of exit polling by a group at the Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University) to elect a Democrat governor of Virginia last year.

“If we see something like that in Santa Clarita, we’ll see a large turnout at the polls,” Logan Smith said.

Hill to Caforio: ‘I Cannot Sit By and Allow You to Lie’

| News | May 31, 2018

Bryan Caforio continued his attacks on Katie Hill, this time going after the organization Hill has worked for, and Hill responded by sending him an email asking him to stop – and pleading with her supporters who attack Caforio to do the same.

The latest Caforio mailers say Hill prioritized her “skyrocketing salary” over the needs of the residents served by People Assisting The Homeless, the nonprofit in which Hill served as deputy CEO/executive director.

Hill sent Caforio an email, which she copied to various media outlets, including the Gazette, telling him he “crossed a line” by going after PATH. She also posted the note on Facebook.

“I cannot sit by and allow you to lie about my former organization,” Hill wrote. “In just the last five years, PATH has helped more than 7,500 individuals, veterans and families in 140 cities across California make it off the streets into permanent homes. That work is too important to be dragged into the mud for your political gain.”

Also on Facebook, Hill told her supporters to cease the negative comments and remain true to the goal of running a positive campaign.

“(P)lease finish this campaign as we started it. I know this primary is tough, and I appreciate you all coming to my defense. But let’s please rise above all of this in this final week. Let’s leave Bryan and his supporters alone,” she wrote. “Please – no more name-calling, no more #neverbryan. … At the end of the day we are all on the same team – regardless of which candidate you support on June 5th.”

Caforio has been unrelenting since April, perhaps because Hill has outraised him, and he sees her as a credible threat to his finishing in the top two in the primary and advancing to the Nov. 6 general election.

“Katie is the clear frontrunner,” Hill campaign manager Zack Czajkowski said. “She’s raised the most money, has the strongest ground game, has the best message and has the best endorsements.”

Regardless, his attacks have always been on Hill herself, whether that’s criticism for her refusing to sign the “People’s Pledge,” missing a Spanish-language candidate forum to attend a fundraiser outside the 25th Congressional District, highlighting her sexual comments about a staffer during a “Vice News Tonight” segment, or sending out mailers likening her stances on guns and healthcare to those of Donald Trump and Congressman Steve Knight. The healthcare mailer caused a local Democratic club that endorsed him to censure him.

But this is the first time Caforio has brought in Hill’s work.

“When you bring in an organization that does good work, that needs to be called out,” Hill said. “This is a story of national significance in terms of how low Democrats will go, in terms of attacking a charity, in terms of attacking my salary, from a man that makes three times that.”

PATH’s 2015 Internal Revenue Service Form 990 shows Hill made $154,159 in salary as deputy CEO. Caforio, an attorney, made $517,629 in 2015, according to a House financial disclosure form.

Reached for comment, Caforio referred to campaign manager Nicole DeMont’s email, in which she stood by the articles referred to in the mailings.

The first was an LA Weekly article from April 17, 2014 that detailed residents at a PATH shelter complaining about the quality and quantity of food; how staff threatened to expel residents for failing to be neat, neglected chronic bedbug infestations that sent a resident to the hospital with life-threatening infections, berated homeless clients during mandatory Monday house meetings, conducted invasive locker searches and ignored sexual harassment claims.

Hill isn’t introduced until the 75th paragraph. Soon after, she is quoted, “We can’t afford to do a full breakfast for everybody every day. We’re not a hotel. Our food budget is very small.”

This comes after the article said PATH is contractually obligated to serve three meals a day. The story also says the food budget is $4,077 a year, less than the $6,000 in exterminator costs.

The article also quotes Hill of bedbugs, “People go out and come back and bring them in. It’s a revolving door for bedbugs as much as it is for clients.”

Furthermore, DeMont included a San Diego County grand jury report on PATH’s Connections Housing program that said salaries and fringe benefits accounted for $793,000 of the 2014 fiscal-year budget’s $2.39 million total, or 33 percent.

In response, Hill said the LA Weekly story was debunked and refuted by PATH, although no other journalistic publication wrote about it, and Hill wasn’t able to forward PATH’s official response in time. She also said the Caforio campaign took online photos of bedbugs, rusted bathtubs and moldy bread and inserted them into the mailings. In fact, none of those photos appear in the LA Weekly story.

In Hill’s note to Caforio, she acknowledged that she knew she would be attacked along the way.

“I’m not so naive as to think this would be rainbows and butterflies the whole time,” she wrote. “But what I am surprised by is that you would run such a relentlessly negative campaign after standing on stage right next to me, at least a dozen times, promising that you wouldn’t. I promised the same and I’ve lived up to it, because where I’m from – right here in this community – I was raised to believe that my word is my bond.”

Knight’s Office Window Shot

| News | May 31, 2018

Twice since November, windows in the building on Carl Boyer Drive where Congressman Steve Knight’s Santa Clarita office is located have been shot at – although Knight’s office was hit just once – causing the building’s owner to take to social media and announce that protests will be limited to the public sidewalk.

“The SCV Sheriff’s office has been contacted about illegal trespassers in the Centre Pointe Plaza private parking lot and building. From now on, trespassers will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, regardless of their personal intent or political affiliation,” Kiza Hilton wrote on Monday morning on Facebook. “There will be no exceptions. This post will serve as public notice. Centre Pointe Plaza is a privately-owned building and its tenants’ rights will be protected. Please direct your concerns or comments to the SCV Sheriff’s Station.”

Local resident and Democrative operative, Stacy Fortner, responded to Hilton’s warning on Facebook.

“Hey you! The one who shot out the windows at Steve Knight’s office.You’re an idiot! Now they want ALL trespassers arrested. Nice job, dumbass!” Fortner’s Facebook post said.

According to Knight spokesperson Chris Jusuf, a bb or pellet gun caused a small hole in a window back in April, which followed a November incident in which another window of a different office was hit. Jusuf added that local authorities and Capitol Police were contacted, but it’s not known if a report was filed. Hilton also said she contacted the SCV Sheriff’s Department and asked them to take action, but she did not file a report because she wasn’t a victim.

Reached Monday, Hilton said she was “disappointed, dismayed and disgusted that someone would shoot an office building, especially one that has our elected leader in Congressman Knight. … Many of us do not agree with the positions Congressman Knight has taken, but there are other ways of expressing dissatisfaction.”

Hilton said that her building houses a bank and a medical facility frequented by elderly and disabled persons. These people do not feel safe and deserve to.

“The protests have been harmful to the building’s tenants, disrupted their business and threatened their livelihood,” Hilton said. “The proper place for demonstrations is public property, and that would be the sidewalk in front of the building.”

Many on Facebook posted opinions that the incident never happened because no police report was filed.

“Given that there is no police report and no news report I’m not convinced this happened,” Logan Smith wrote. “This would be a pretty serious thing if it DID happen and it’s absolutely bizarre that no evidence exists to support the claim.”

Hilton said, “I wish it would not have happened.”

Smith, who’s running for Santa Clarita City Council, said he now believes it actually happened and does not support “political violence.”

“If it happened, the individual should face the consequences,” Smith said.

Young Democrats Censure Candidate

| News | May 25, 2018

A local Democratic club has formally censured the congressional candidate it originally endorsed over negative attacks aimed at another candidate. It did not, however, rescind the endorsement.

The Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats took Bryan Caforio for Congress to task in a letter dated Monday for “a blatant and intentional lie” in distributing a mailer claiming Katie Hill supported Trumpcare because she said “it guarantees access.”

Hill’s actual quote, which was printed in the May 11, 2017 Gazette and quoted in the censure letter, says, “The (Affordable Care Act) always needed significant reform, but the (American Health Care Act) is not the answer. The AHCA makes it so that people aged 50-64 could pay up to five times as much for health insurance. It eliminates the cap on how much those with pre-existing conditions can be charged for insurance. Yes, it guarantees access, but it does not guarantee affordability.”

“This is but one of multiple examples in which the Bryan Caforio campaign has misrepresented and distorted Hill’s positions on campaign mailers,” the letter said. “To suggest that ‘Katie Hill promoted Trumpcare’ in the above quotation cannot be construed as anything but a blatant and intentional lie.”

“The point of this is to tell Bryan, and any candidate in the future we might want to endorse, that we want a candidate to run a positive campaign,” SCV Young Democrats President Nathan Bousfield said.

As for the endorsement, Bousfield said the group’s bylaws prevent anything from being done for 14 days after such a vote to rescind an endorsement is taken. No vote took place at Monday’s meeting, which was 15 days before the primary.

“Trying to revoke an endorsement the day before the primary did not seem feasible,” Bousfield said.

But Brett Haddock, a member who attended the meeting and helped craft the letter, seemed to have second thoughts.

“When we’ve got three great Democratic candidates, and the Caforio campaign opts not to stand on its merits, it demonstrates he’s not about representing the 25th district. He’s about winning the congressional seat,” Haddock said. “That’s not what it should be about. I want someone to represent me.”

The letter was sent to the Caforio campaign and posted Tuesday on Facebook. Caforio didn’t return calls for comment. Caforio campaign manager Nicole DeMont emailed a statement saying someone who endorsed Hill’s campaign sent the letter, “so I certainly understand why Ms. Hill’s supporters don’t want voters to know that she has directly said Trumpcare ‘guarantees access.’ It doesn’t.

“Trumpcare would have been an absolute disaster, with 23 million Americans losing lifesaving healthcare. Not only did Katie Hill say Trumpcare ‘guarantees access,’ she has also criticized the Obamacare provision that allows children to stay on their parents’ healthcare plans until they’re 26-years-old (sic) and wants to let insurance companies make even higher profits at our expense. There are enough Republicans in Washington trying to sabotage and take away our healthcare. Our community needs a representative like Bryan Caforio who believes that healthcare is a right, and is absolutely committed to ending medical bankruptcies, lowering prescription drug costs, and passing Medicare for all.”

Hill said she found out about it after her husband texted her a copy.

“I’m glad to see the organization is taking a stand and holding Bryan to his promises, the same one we all promised to do,” Hill said. She and the other Democrats pledged back in January to not speak ill of any other Democrat running.

Hill said Caforio’s actions make it harder for her – though not impossible – to vote for Caforio if he, and not she, advances to the general election, and have her supporters vote for Caforio as well.

Getting Out the Vote

| News | May 24, 2018

Less than two weeks until the primary election. Time to get out the vote.

Candidates and volunteers are knocking on doors, working their phone banks, sending out postcards and trying to reach as many people as possible between now and June 5. Many are focusing on the undecided and absentee voters, trying to convince them to not only submit their ballots, but also submit them with a certain name marked. Or they’re making sure the voters know their polling location and have ways to get there.

It’s getting down to crunch time, so here is a roundup of what the candidates (and their campaigns) are doing.

Caforio, who challenged incumbent Steve Knight in 2016 but now faces a stiff challenge from fellow Democrat Katie Hill, is letting his campaign take care of the phone banks so he can focus on knocking on as many doors as possible to “look them in the eye and explain my plan.”

And he’s crisscrossing the district’s approximately 1,691 square miles. On recent consecutive days, he said, he was in Lancaster, then Canyon Country, then back to Palmdale, often with his wife, Lisa. He’s also been to Simi Valley and Lake Los Angeles.

Many times, he said, he has come to a constituent’s door, only to be told he is the first candidate to appear. He said it happens all over, but when he’s in the Antelope Valley – Knight’s designation is R-Palmdale – it’s telling.

He’s also taking time to talk at the various high schools, targeting the 18-year-olds who can vote for the first time. Mostly, he tells them to get involved, be informed and exercise their right to vote – even if that means voting for someone else.

One of the schools he visited, back in February, was Highland High School in Palmdale, and the students there expressed concern about gun safety, the shooting in Parkland, Fla., having just occurred.

“They were scared to go to class,” Caforio said, “and then that violence came to Highland High School.”

Earlier this month, a 14-year-old was accused of shooting and injuring a 15-year-old former classmate. Caforio returned and talked to still-shaken students and teachers.

“I let them know I’m here, and I realize this isn’t normal and this isn’t acceptable,” he said.

Hill said she doesn’t think the “Vice News Tonight” piece that aired on HBO showing her making sexual comments about a staffer is negatively affecting her campaign. But she continues to have to weather attacks from the Caforio people.

The latest is that Hill failed to file a personal financial disclosure with the House Ethics Committee by May 15. “Katie Hill failed to do so, leaving voters unaware of potential conflicts of interest,” the Caforio campaign statement said. “As stated in the Ethics in Government Act, the penalty for ‘knowingly and willfully’ failing to file a Candidate Financial Disclosure Statement is up to $50,000.”

Hill acknowledged she missed the deadline, but she said there is a 30-day extension allowed and will file by June 14.

“In case anyone noticed, I’m kind of busy,” she said. “I haven’t done my taxes. I got an extension for that, too.”

Deputy Field Director Kassie King posted a get-out-the-vote form on Facebook in which a person can choose how, where and when to volunteer. Hill said that’s part of “the all-out effort with our volunteers.”

Overall, Hill said, the experience continues to be positive.

“The volunteers show up,” she said, “people come to the debates. They say, ‘I want to meet you. I love your authenticity.’ The donations come in.”

As the sole Republican in the race, one might think Knight doesn’t have to do much to secure one of the top two spots in the primary and advance to the Nov. 6 general election.

Campaign consultant Matt Rexroad said, “The likelihood of turning out the Republican vote is 90-plus percent – if nine Republicans were on the ballot, I don’t know.” And it’s also true that as the only Republican, Knight can target all Republicans, whereas Democrats might call somebody and find he or she isn’t voting for their candidate.

But there are still things to do. The focus is on absentee voters and making sure they fill out and send in their ballots. There’s also political data to analyze, and Rexroad said there were 6,827 absentee ballots in the district as of Monday, according to politicaldata.com. Of these, 3,706 were of registered Republicans; 3,121 were of registered Democrats.

Keeping in mind that Knight got almost 20,000 more votes in the district than Donald Trump did, Rexroad said his candidate tends to be popular among Republican and independent voters.

“They like Steve Knight, and they plan to vote for him,” Rexroad said.

Another advantage Knight figures to have: He will have about $1 million available heading into the general election; the Democratic challenger might have 10 percent of that – or less – and will have to start the fundraising over again.

“We will be in seven figures, and they will be in single digits,” Rexroad said.

Phoenix also is getting out and about, attending community events, going to shopping centers and knocking on doors. “It’s about meeting as many people as possible,” she said. “I have done so much outreach.”

Targeting the undecided seems to have been a priority.

“It’s still a pretty fertile ground,” she said. “My campaign manager was at the Saugus Swap Meet starting at 6 a.m. He talked to so many, and only a couple had filled out their ballots.”

For people who don’t know where she stands on an issue, Phoenix or her people will refer articles to them. And if somebody wants to help, there’s an app for that. It’s called Outvote, and it allows users to send text messages to their contacts, urging them to vote for their candidate. There are ready-made scripts that can be used, or one can customize.

As she travels the district, she has come across what is an alarming trend nationally: voter apathy, resulting in low turnout, which happens often in midterm elections.

“It’s really sad how low voter engagement is across the country,” she said, “which is why we need automatic voter registration and ballots sent to your house.”

Oregon already has automatic voter registration, and Phoenix would like to expand that. She also would like to see Election Day be a national holiday so people would have time to vote instead of trying to fit it into their busy schedules.

Assault on Salt Pools

| News | May 24, 2018

Since late 2005, there has been a ban on certain saltwater swim pools throughout the area, but local pool contractors say it’s easy to circumvent the ban.

Because of the requirement that county sanitation districts must ensure that discharged water contains no more than 100 milligrams of chloride per liter (mg/l), no one may install a saltwater pool or convert a freshwater swimming pool into a saltwater one if the water is discharged directly or indirectly into the sewer system. Violators are subject to misdemeanor charges that carry fines of up to $1,000 and/or up to 30 days in jail.

Bill McLaughlin, owner of California Pools in Santa Clarita, says it’s a simple workaround: Build or convert a pool that isn’t connected to the sewer system. He estimates 50 to 60 percent of the pools he’s installed or converted are saltwater.

“We don’t ever connect to the sewer. That’s illegal,” he said.

And Tom Reid of Thomas Pools & Spas in Castaic said he, too, has installed or converted “hundreds or thousands of salt systems,” but estimated 10 since the ban went into effect on Dec. 9, 2005, including one last week.

Additionally, McLaughlin said, the permit process doesn’t require a person to specify what kind of water is being used in the pool, and Reid said he isn’t telling the city what kind of water he’s using, either.

City Building Department official John Caprarelli sent the Gazette a drainage acknowledgment all owners must sign before the city will issue a permit for any pool. It specifically states that wastewater shall not be discharged to a private sewage disposal (septic) system and lists the five legal ways to dispose of wastewater. These include a three-inch P-trap legally installed and permitted by the city’s building and safety division, to a storm drain, provided certain conditions are met, on the property if the property is large enough to ensure runoff doesn’t enter another property, or by tank truck or pumping service. By doing this, he said, all pool permits comply with the city’s ordinance.

“We would not issue a saltwater-pool permit intentionally,” Caprarelli said, but it’s almost impossible for the city to catch someone who states one thing on a permit and does something else.

As for enforcement, Caprarelli says the only way to catch somebody is if a person files a complaint, launching an investigation that uncovers the wrongdoing; or a disaster such as a fire causes the city to come out and discover the violation.

Musella: Chamber on ‘Solid Financial Footing’

| News | May 17, 2018

The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce lost $290,847 in 2016, according to its Internal Revenue Service Form 990, but its interim executive director promised 2017 was better.

Saying “The past is the past” and “I see no value in wallowing in the past,” John Musella declared in an email that the 2017 forms will show that the chamber paid its debts and showed a net profit of approximately $100,000.

“We have demonstrated through actions and results that the Chamber is on solid financial footing with a focus on the future,” Musella wrote.

But to get there, the chamber had to go through some rough times. According to its 2016 filing, it grossed almost $228,000 less than in 2015, while keeping expenses similar. Also, its total liabilities skyrocketed from $175,018 to $413,317 while its assets declined by about $16,000.

Musella told the Gazette last summer that the chamber hadn’t been on solid financial ground for “at least five or six years, if not longer. It could have been close to a decade.”

One reason was a lease to the building on Tournament Road that the chamber could not afford and eventually defaulted on. Court documents showed the building owners sought $700,000 plus attorney’s fees, interest, court costs and any other relief the Superior Court wanted to award.

So, when he took over as chairman, he cut staff (including the CEO) and costs, negotiated a settlement with the building owner, did not take the chamber into bankruptcy when it was an option, found new digs on Westinghouse Place and implemented a financial plan based on paying debt first and then saving money while still giving the membership what it wants – as long as it keeps the chamber on solid financial ground.

“We have a responsibility to our membership to be fiscally prudent and I believe we’ve demonstrated that,” Musella said.

Local Politics Affected by Views on SB 54

| News | May 17, 2018

Lost among the din of either celebration, embarrassment or despair from last week’s City Council’s unanimous decision to file an amicus brief supporting the federal government’s lawsuit against California and the state sanctuary law is this fact: There will be a City Council election in six months. Three sitting members will face the public and attempt to be elected or re-elected, while many more will attempt to unseat them.

Right now, there are three primary challengers – all are Democrats, all support the California Values Act (SB 54), and all opposed the council’s action.

Diane Trautman and Logan Smith are two. They were there, spoke, and saw and heard the vast majority of people crying out for the council to do something, although Trautman disputed Councilmember Bob Kellar’s claim on Fox News that the ratio in council chambers was “nine or 10 to one” against SB 54. The third, Brett Haddock, got sick and didn’t attend.
The question remains: How will the council’s action last week affect the election? Did Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean and Councilmember Bill Miranda – all Republicans – help or hurt their cause? Did Trautman, Smith and Brett Haddock just punch their tickets or now face an impossible hurdle?

Or will it make no difference?

“I personally don’t believe this decision will cause either side to be elected or non-elected,” community activist Alan Ferdman said. “There are an equal number of Democrats and Republicans in the area, and an equal number of independents. The moderates and independents will decide the election.”

Ferdman isn’t alone in his viewpoint. Former councilmember TimBen Boydston thinks anyone that uses a national issue to run for local office is setting up for failure.

“Local politics are local,” Boydston said. “It’s a mistake for people running a campaign based on ‘I’m a fan’ or ‘I’m a detractor of Donald Trump.’ ”

Not everyone agrees with Ferdman and Boydston. In fact, the three challengers expressed differing viewpoints.

Smith said he wasn’t sure of the impact. He said he thinks the council took a national issue and made it local.

“It gives us an issue we can use to turn out voters,” Smith said, “and it can give my opponents an issue to turn out voters.”

Haddock thought the council’s action, which he called “symbolic” because it changed nothing, made his job harder.

“It’s going to be a bit more challenging,” Haddock said. “People are going to ask how I would have voted, and I think there are more important issues to discuss.”

Trautman, said, “It might have made it easier, but I’m not going to rest on my laurels.” She said she wants to run on a platform of extolling the city’s virtues and find ways to work together to make the city even better. This issue, she said, proves the community is divided, which she believes helps her.

“When people are angry, they vote,” she said. “If this motivates people to get out and vote, great.”

But the numbers speak for themselves: Of the 110 people the Gazette counted who voiced an opinion last week, 68 wanted the council to take action against SB 54, 40 supported SB 54, one person declared himself “neutral” and one presented an unknown opinion. Additionally, Councilmember Cameron Smyth said, 442 people sent emails opposing SB 54, compared to 69 who favored it.

Trautman said she knows the council has a history of doing what it wants and ignoring the opposing side – something former Councilmember Carl Boyer told the Gazette was true and something Boydston disagreed with – so many opposing viewpoints went unexpressed.

Trautman also set her sights on Weste, faulting the mayor for what she sees as “a lack of leadership.” Trautman criticized Weste for letting the council meeting get out of control (indeed, the Los Angeles Times called it “political theater” and The Signal took Weste to task over the lack of civility and her inability to control the crowd).

“It was probably the ugliest environment I’ve ever been in,” Trautman said. “People from out of the area got primary seats. They displaced local residents. They were extremely vocal and consistently nasty. … The council did not observe its rules, and that falls to the mayor.”

Weste did not respond to requests for comment; neither did Miranda nor McLean, who with Weste will stand in November. McLean remained silent throughout. Ferdman said he thinks it’s because McLean doesn’t want to alienate anybody. “I don’t think she was concerned (about) anything except getting elected,” he said.

Miranda made his view known at the council meeting, saying he doesn’t buy people threatening to vote him out if he doesn’t vote a certain way.

“Understand one thing, and I think I can speak for Marsha and Laurene, although I don’t have to, it’s not about elections, OK?” Miranda said. “It’s about doing the right thing for the right reasons, and if that means I don’t get elected, so be it.”

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