by Steve Petzold
I went to the City Council meeting on Tuesday evening planning to make a statement regarding the lack of a meaningful response to the voter’s rejection of Measure S on November 4, 2014. Unfortunately for me, a large number of individuals had already signed speaker cards and I would be required to wait until the end of the meeting to make comment.
For those of you unfamiliar with council procedure, let me provide a quick background. Following an invocation and time for awards and recognition, the council allows public comment from a maximum number of ten individuals for up to three minutes. This time is typically reserved for issues from the public that do not relate to items on the published agenda. If the number of public commentators exceeds 10, they must wait until after the council has finished the normal business, and public comment is allowed to commence again. In general, the members of the city council are not allowed to publicly comment on items not on the agenda.
For items on the agenda, speakers are allowed three minutes for comment before consideration of the issue.
In my opinion this system works fairly well, although the public speaker is at a disadvantage, because they do not have the ability to respond to, or rebut statements made during council consideration of the item.
What I learned during the time that I sat through public comment is what I would like to share with you today. There are several issues that we should keep our eyes on over the next few months.
Santa Clarita, as most of us know, has several mobile home communities, concentrated in the Canyon Country area. These mobile homes are usually owned by residents, but sit on spaces that are leased from the landowner. There is a rent control ordinance that covers these parks and the City Council is considering an ordinance that allows for an update on allowable rent increase. The number that I hear is a maximum three percent increase.
A large number of the speakers at the beginning of last night’s meeting are residents of the mobile home parks who object to this increase, because they are on fixed incomes and the increases on their Social Security are less than those on the proposed lease increases.
If I learned one thing during the billboard battle over Measure S, it was to have a degree of empathy for the concerns of others, even if I did not find a great deal of value in the issue itself. I recognized one of the speakers as a dear man who I often see at the Senior Center. He and his “wife” sat through the meeting to hear a response to the plea for rent increase relief. It really touched my heart to see the sincere concern on their faces.
The City plans to make a decision in the late winter or early spring. It certainly appears to me that the City Manager, staff, and Council members are attempting to find a good balance, although I expect that the residents will be unhappy with the result.
The other issue for us to watch is the proposed expansion of the Chiquita Landfill in Val Verde. On this issue, the City has no meaningful control and the decision is in the hands of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Next to the mobile home residents, the next largest number of public comments came from citizens concerned with this issue.
But, Santa Clarita City Council will not make this decision; City staff does evaluate the public documents and makes recommendations and comments for the City Council to review. There are many serious concerns that the public has about this expansion, but powerful interests are in favor of it and there does not seem to be a reasonable alternative plan for future solid waste disposal requirements.
It was rather nice to sit back and see the important issues that affect our city and the Santa Clarita Valley discussed by citizens like you and me.
It is important for our representative democracy and the future of the SCV that citizens utilize the City Council public comment period. My advice is to take advantage of this process … and get your speaker card in early.