Filing Period for 2020 City Council Election Opens Monday, July 13

| City Council | July 2, 2020

The city’s 2020 General Municipal Election, consolidated with the Los Angeles County Statewide General Election, will be held on November 3, 2020. Registered voters in the City of Santa Clarita will have the opportunity to elect two City of Santa Clarita councilmembers of the five-member City Council, for a term of four years each. These seats are presently occupied by incumbents Mayor Cameron Smyth and Councilmember Bob Kellar.

The filing period for residents interested in running in the 2020 Santa Clarita City Council election will open Monday, July 13, 2020, and close Friday, August 7, 2020. In the event that any incumbent councilmember does not file by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 7, the filing period for all non-incumbent candidates will be extended to 5:00 p.m. on Wednesday, August 12. Prospective City Council candidates must secure the signatures of 20 to 40 registered City voters prior to filing nomination paper. Each candidate is also required to file a Statement of Economic Interests, disclosing investments and interests in real property at the time the nomination paper is returned for filing. There is no charge for filing nomination documents.

For a fee, candidates may also prepare a statement to be included in the Official Sample Ballot which is mailed to voters. Statements may include the candidate’s name, age, occupation and a brief description of no more than 200 words stating their education and qualifications. The estimated fees are $3,100 for printing the candidate statement in English only and $6,200 for English and Spanish translation to be printed in the Official Sample Ballot. The fees are due when nomination documents are filed.

New this year and ahead of the nomination period, candidates who have filed the Form 501 Candidate Intention Statement will be invited to a Virtual Candidate Orientation. The Virtual Candidate Orientation replaces the traditional in-person 45-minute appointments held during the nomination period but covers the same materials while allowing for social distancing. Following the candidate orientation, nomination documents will be made available by appointment beginning July 13, 2020, the start of the nomination period, in the City Clerk’s Office, at City Hall, Suite 120, located at 23920 Valencia Boulevard. Election office hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except during holidays. Prospective candidates should call the City Clerk’s Office at (661) 259-CITY to schedule appointments to obtain and to return materials for candidacy.

Anyone wishing to lend their signature to a potential candidate’s nomination paper must be a registered voter residing in the City of Santa Clarita at the time nomination paper is issued. Each eligible voter may nominate up to two prospective candidates.

The top two vote-getters are expected to be sworn into office on December 8, 2020, prior to the regularly-scheduled City Council meeting.

For more information on the 2020 General Municipal Election, including the results of past City Council elections, visit votesantaclarita.com.

District Voting as Soon as November?

| City Council, News | March 5, 2020

The city is in discussions with the attorney who threatened legal action if the city doesn’t move to district voting, officials said.

“The (city) council has instructed the city attorney to engage in discussions with the plaintiffs’ (attorney, Scott Rafferty),” Mayor Cameron Smyth said. He added that the council would meet in closed session before Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Smyth said no plan is in place, but the demand letter Rafferty sent gives the impression that the group Rafferty represents, Neighborhood Elections Now, wants district voting in time for the November general election.

Rafferty confirmed as much and added that districts have to be drawn now and then redrawn in 2022 based on what the census reveals. “That creates the opportunities to get it right for the next time,” he said. “It’s a more participatory process to draw all the districts for 10 years.”

At the same time, Rafferty insisted, “Nobody wants a process that is unfair to incumbents.”

However, since so many incumbents live so close to each other, it is possible that a district would be drawn with more than one current councilmember living in it. One possible scenario could be Smyth running for a seat in a district that also would include the residences of Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda. Those three could continue to serve as at-large members until their terms expire in 2022 and then not be eligible until 2024 if they chose to challenge Smyth.

“Frankly, Rafferty said, “that’s the incumbents’ problems, not the voters’.”

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

| City Council, News | January 9, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Dean marches on undeterred.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason Gibbs Gives It Another Go

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | August 15, 2019

Last year Jason Gibbs ran for City Council, campaigning on a message of “If you like the City’s direction but think it’s time for a new generation, vote for me.”

He finished ninth out of 15 candidates with just 5.57 percent of the vote. He’s back to try again, and while his message is similar, it comes with a warning: If certain priorities are not enacted, Santa Clarita will cease to be the wonderful place Gibbs has long felt it to be.

“We have a great opportunity to be a thriving city long into the future, but we need to start hitting it right now. Hit it from the mindset that Santa Clarita is a great place, and coming from the mindset that I want to be here in 30 years so that I can say I remember when the city was good, and I can still say in 30 years from now that this city is a great place to live and raise a family,” he said.

Like last year, Gibbs, 38, says he loves the city and believes its leaders have steered it in favorable directions. He cited as examples its financial stability and a small-town feel despite its growth.

“You always hear people say, ‘We left the (San Fernando) Valley because we didn’t want to become the Valley.’ Santa Clarita was the place to escape to. You flash forward to 30 years of cityhood. Santa Clarita is still, when you’re out and about, at the fundraisers for the nonprofits, at the local community events, you see a lot of the same faces, so people still say it has the small-town feel of the people who are actively engaged with the community,” he said. “If you look at our books, we’ve had 20 plus years of a balanced budget. We have 20-percent operating reserves (the city doesn’t actually have a reserve fund). We are paying down our pension debt.”

He also likes the City’s homelessness plan and is pleased at the $375,000 in Measure H funds that will go to buying property for housing and funding a homeless coordinator (the recently hired Gabriela Martinez).

Another difference from his last campaign: Gibbs is vying for an open seat. Councilmember Bob Kellar has said he won’t seek a sixth term and has endorsed Gibbs. Kellar’s support last year didn’t help Gibbs unseat Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean or Bill Miranda, but with only one incumbent (Cameron Smyth) running, Gibbs has as much of a chance as anyone.

“It means a lot for someone who has served this city 20 years to look at you and say, ‘It would mean a lot to me if you sat in my place when I’m gone,’” Gibbs said.

But all is not sunshine, rainbows and unicorns with Gibbs. He’s concerned the state’s public employee retirement system, CalPERS, is overstating its solvency, and he fears cities or employees (read: taxpayers) will foot the future bills. And he knows traffic is a major problem, which he blames on not enough roads and too many people.

“People in Santa Clarita overall are extremely happy. They enjoy living here. They enjoy what the city provides. They’ve done that very systematically,” he said. “But we are a city that’s approaching a quarter million people. There’s talk that when we build out in 20, 30 years, there could be 400,000-plus. … You like what the city has done? Well, here are some things I think we need to implement and start processing if we want to continue to be the success we’ve enjoyed so far.”

First, pay down the pension debt. He applauds the City’s desire to reduce its obligations by 90 percent.

“I’d still like to see 95 to 100 percent in ten years because if those rates drop, the effect on us will be minimized,” he said. “We’ll have more money available because we’re not paying into the pension program, so we will be fully funded and have more money and resources available to put into infrastructure in this community.”

As for traffic, Gibbs’ solution is to develop cross valley connectors at Via Princessa, Santa Clarita Parkway, Magic Mountain Parkway and the Lyons Avenue extension to Dockweiler Drive. In fact, he favors extending the road at 13th and 15th streets but acknowledges it’s likely too expensive and not worth the cost.

“We have Newhall Ranch coming in on the west side of town,” he said, “but part of Newhall Ranch being included in One Valley One Vision (the city’s 2011 General Plan) was to have the roads and infrastructure necessary to accommodate the growth that’s going to come.”

Gibbs also would like to see more economic development in the form of more industries coming here. Right now, he said, only biomedical and movies are prevalent. He hopes the new Center at Needham Ranch, a 135-acre industrial center being built near Eternal Valley Memorial Park & Mortuary, will provide opportunities.

But there’s a catch — these things have to be done now. Or else.

“I worry if we don’t start pushing those things a little harder and we don’t start making it a true priority, we can start going backwards,” he said. “It’s going to be too expensive to live, too hard to commute out, the traffic is going to get worse down that (Interstate 5/14 Freeway) interchange if we don’t bring that business here and allow the opportunity for people to make a good living wage, pay for the homes and the quality of life we have here. It’s going to start to go downhill.”

Gibbs City Council Campaign Underway

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | August 1, 2019

On the 4th of July, atop his float with American flags and campaign banners abound, in front of thousands of parade-goers, Jason Gibbs announced his candidacy for Santa Clarita City Council in 2020. By minimizing the cities long-term financial obligations, expanding and developing infrastructure to create economic opportunity and much needed reduction in traffic congestion, and focusing efforts at City Hall to enhance public safety in all aspects of our citizen’s lives, Gibbs will protect the successes of our past while working to ensure opportunity for our future.

“My wife and I have made our home in Santa Clarita since 2012.” Gibbs shared. “As I’ve become more and more involved in our community and spoken with our valley’s residents, I’ve discovered many of the same local concerns are on the top of their minds; keeping their family safe, making sure our schools remain stellar and protected, and that those at City Hall are constantly searching for ways to reduce traffic congestion across our valley in meaningful and long-lasting ways.”

Gibbs graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a Masters’ Degree in Mechanical Engineering. He currently serves as the Deputy Director of West Coast Operations for GP Strategies Corporation. During his fourteen-year career, Gibbs has served as a Principal Engineer and lead Inspector for clients who support space exploration and national defense.

Along with an extensive career supporting the aerospace industry, Gibbs has become a prominent community advocate, including his involvement with numerous business advocacy groups here in the Santa Clarita Valley, such as The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation. Currently, Gibbs serves as an Executive Board member and the Vice Chair of Advocacy for the Valley Industry Association, which has represented business interests in Santa Clarita since its establishment in 1981.

“A vital piece of any community’s success is the strength and dedication of our businesses, both large and small, that make their home here in Santa Clarita,” Jason Gibbs said. “As the vice-chair of advocacy, I proudly support local and state initiatives that benefit the economic engines we need to thrive here at home. Working and engaging with local, state and federal representatives is critical to ensuring Santa Clarita continues to be an inviting place for emerging businesses, as well as being the perfect location to raise a family.”
In addition to his business efforts, Gibbs is deeply involved with local charities and non-profits. Currently, Gibbs is on the Board of Directors for the William S. Hart (WiSH) Education Foundation, whose mission is to financially support the William S. Hart School District by getting more dollars into its classrooms. Gibbs is also an appointed member of the Saugus Union School District Measure EE Citizens Oversight Committee, ensuring optimal use of bond money used to improve SUSD facilitates.

Along with supporting our school districts, Gibbs also serves on the advisory committee for the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club.

Jason and his wife, Chandra, with their two children Aiden (2) and Avery (1), are proud to call Santa Clarita home.

Getting to Know Chris Werthe

| Meet the Candidates | July 25, 2019

Ask Chris Werthe the first thing he would do upon being sworn in as a city councilmember and he thinks for almost a minute before answering, “Talk to the other councilmembers.”

While it might be more common for people to attempt to place on the agenda some issue they promised to deal with upon election, Werthe’s military background does not allow that. He sees that as “a bit arrogant. We’ve got to be realistic.”

It remains to be seen how realistic his chances are to win a seat on the city council next year, but he’s giving it a go, having declared last month.

Two seats will be up in November 2020. Cameron Smyth likely will seek re-election in one. The other is wide open because Bob Kellar is retiring. Previous candidates Ken Dean, Jason Gibbs, Sean Weber and Sandra Nichols have indicated an interest in running again. With so many candidates making it hard to stand out, sources say local political parties are considering rallying behind one candidate despite city council being a non-partisan position. The top vote getters will win the election.

Werthe, who previously unsuccessfully challenged Bob Jensen for a seat on the William S. Hart Union High School District board, said he hopes to secure the local Democratic Alliance for Action and County Democratic Party endorsements.

Werthe said the endorsement process won’t begin until next year, but it’s realistic to think he’ll get the DAA endorsement since his wife, Constance, is recording secretary.

Realistic might just be an ideal word to describe this 37-year-old veteran who joined the Navy in 2000 and then spent three years in the Army from 2003-06. He left the service and noticed that the health care and educational benefits and opportunities he received in the military didn’t exist in society at large. He thinks they should.

“With education, your tuition was paid for,” Werthe said. “With health care, you didn’t think about it. I had appendicitis; they sent me to the (civilian) hospital (and) they took care of it the same say. Then I saw some bills and they said don’t worry about it.”

He grew up Republican and conservative but also noticed that the Republican Party at the end of George W. Bush’s presidency seemed to not care about society at large. He felt the GOP was saying, “Pull yourself up by your bootstraps.”

“Good luck with that,” Werthe said. “You get out in the real world, it’s different.”

He’s been in the real world for the last 13 years, having been discharged from the Army in 2006 (he drove a gas truck) after serving in the Navy from 2000-03 as a steam plant operator for the nuclear power plant aboard the submarine USS Santa Fe.

In some ways, the military never left him. His wife is also a veteran. His job at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, where he’s chief safety inspector, is a government job. He’s planning to join the Army reserves.

He likes discipline, and he believes the city council needs it.

Discipline “trains you when to lead and when to follow,” he said. “It gives you the benefit of avoiding the silliness that our council runs into, being petty in public; and gives you discipline in the sense of finding out what your constituents want and going after it.”

He said discipline also would allow him to be more patient when community members speak at council meetings. Werthe (pronounced “Worthy”) said he finds the current council “dismissive” of the public, especially those who speak at every meeting. Eye rolls are common, he said.

“I understand there are repeat visitors, but when you take a position like that, you should take everything seriously. You should give us all respect,” Werthe said. “Some have no idea who Alan Ferdman is, (but the council’s reaction) might make them think twice about speaking at the dais.”

Back to what he would do first. After much thought, he settled on moving toward district elections because he fears another lawsuit. The city previously was sued over violating the California Voting Rights Act, resulting in moving the election to November of even-numbered years instead of April.

Local school districts also were sued or threatened with suits; many moved to district voting as a result. City councilmembers, who could place the matter before the voters, have resisted.
“The expenses that would be incurred, I don’t think the city can take a loss like that,” Werthe said. “That’s why I’d rather not settle. I’d rather do it.”

He said he’s aware of the drawbacks: councilmembers fighting over resources for pet projects for their districts at the expense of the whole city. But he believes the plusses – better representation and accessibility to a single councilmember – outweigh the minuses.

The second issue he would tackle is reducing traffic. He backs the idea of building population centers close to transportation hubs, a plan the council seemed to sign off on when it approved the Vista Canyon development in 2011. After three years of legal action, the project broke ground in 2015.

“I applaud Vista Canyon, and I think it should keep moving in that direction,” he said.

Who’s Running for City Council? The 2020 Vision Begins

| City Council | April 11, 2019

Twenty Democrats have announced they will run for president next year. Two people have declared their candidacies against Rep. Katie Hill, with others expected to follow.

And down the ballot, it’s not too early to look at the race for city council.

“Is it really time to actually start talking about 2020?” Jason Gibbs asked.

Well, yes. Even though the election isn’t for another 19 months, minds can change and the filing period doesn’t open until next summer, former candidates have been giving some thought about whether they want to give it another go.


Of the eight people the Gazette reached, only Ken Dean said he was in. Dean, despite not paying for a ballot statement, finished a surprise fifth out of 15 with 14,951 votes (8.33 percent) in 2018.

“A lot of people know me and like what I stand for,” he said, adding the issue that frustrates him the most is traffic and congestion, and it likely will be a campaign theme for him. He said he would like to form two committees if elected: one to examine traffic and one to work on synchronizing the stoplights in the city.

He said the corner of Bouquet Canyon Road and Newhall Ranch Road is particularly bad, as is the intersection of Reuther Avenue and Golden Triangle Road. He said the railroad crossing often leads to delays there, yet he doesn’t experience delays when the train crosses the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Rainbow Glen Drive.

“There’s not an ounce of logic the way they’ve got it set up,” he said.


Councilmember Cameron Smyth said that when he was elected in 2016, he intended to run again in 2020. But that requires him talking to his family and employer to ensure everyone can make the commitment, and since there is no primary election, he has until next summer to formally file paperwork.


Gibbs (ninth place, 10,008 votes, 5.57 percent) and Sandra Nichols (13th place, 5,049 votes, 2.81 percent) are contemplating, they said.

Nichols said she is most likely running, “but in life, there are no guarantees.”

Gibbs said he wants to wait and see if Councilmember Bob Kellar runs again. “If Bob truly decides not to run, there’s a good chance I’ll run,” he said.

Former councilmember TimBen Boydston (seventh place, 12,857 votes, 7.16 percent) said it’s way too soon to speculate, adding he won’t give it serious consideration until at least November.


Kellar previously has said he will not run again. On Monday, he reiterated that.

“Twenty years is enough,” he said. “It’s been an honor and a pleasure, but I am out of here.”

Logan Smith (sixth place, 12,871 votes, 7.17 percent) said he isn’t running because he wants to help others get elected or, in the case of Hill and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, re-elected.

He said he expects the council races to be competitive, considering that 61 percent of votes cast in 2018 went against any of the three incumbents. “There’s clearly a willingness to change,” he said. “The question is will it be someone handpicked by an incumbent or fresh blood?”

Diane Trautman (fourth place, 16,479 votes, 9.18 percent) said she would run only if district voting exists, and she doesn’t think there’s enough time for that to happen.

“Something needs to be done to change the dynamics here so that more members of this community, and more diverse even than myself, can actually stand a chance at getting on the council, and that’s not going to happen without moving to council districts,” she said. “It’s just outrageously expensive and extremely difficult to raise that money in this environment. The people who are happy with the status quo will give to the people they know will maintain it.”

These three join Brett Haddock (eighth place, 11,427 votes, 6.36 percent), who a month ago said on Facebook he wasn’t going to run.

“I look forward to seeing the field of candidates when the filing period closes next year, and will be a vocal supporter of those I believe have the same values, and hold a desire to move the City of Santa Clarita in a forward direction,” Haddock wrote. “I will also advocate for the city to abandon at-large elections and move to districts. Hopefully, though unlikely, avoiding a costly (California Voting Rights Act) lawsuit. We can look to the city of Moorpark to learn how to transition to a system that better represents Santa Clarita, and facilitate the electing of superior candidates.”

Council Decides Rosenberg’s Now Rules

| City Council | January 24, 2019

Nowhere in the city council’s norms and procedures does it show a system of parliamentary procedure to be used. The city got away with that for 31 years before the acrimonious mayoral selection in December.

Now, the city council decided to adopt some rules. But how to select a mayor remains unresolved.

The council decided 3-2 to adopt Rosenberg’s Rules of Order in its entirety when considering any motion that has been seconded, with one exception: that the first seconded motion is decided first before moving on to any subsequent seconded motions. Rosenberg’s Rules allow for the last of a maximum three motions to be voted on first, then moving backward through the motions.

Councilmember Bob Kellar made the motion, seconded by Laurene Weste, and Mayor Pro-Tem Cameron Smyth joined them in approving. But before voting, Bill Miranda attempted to amend Kellar’s motion to remove the exception. When Kellar declined, Miranda made his own motion to adopt Rosenberg’s Rules as is, with Mayor Marsha McLean seconding.

That motion failed. Kellar’s then passed.

In December, McLean nominated herself for mayor after Kellar nominated Smyth. McLean’s nomination was voted on first, and she became mayor after Laurene Weste, who had previously seconded Kellar’s nomination of Smyth, voted for McLean. Smyth was annoyed that Kellar’s motion wasn’t voted on first (among other grievances) and requested discussion.

“I do believe it makes sense for the city to have a parliamentary procedure in place for any debate,” Smyth said Monday.
But the question of mayoral selection was tabled, and it’s not known if what the council adopted will cover future mayoral selections.

“We have not talked about nomination and selection of mayor yet,” City Attorney Joe Montes told the members at the Jan. 8 meeting. “We’re just talking about motions. You don’t have a rule separate for nominations and elections. You didn’t before. You still don’t, and we’re hoping we will get some direction.”

Rosenberg’s Rules of Order was created by Yolo County Superior Court Judge Dave Rosenberg and adopted by the League of California Cities, among others, as a way to simplify the 816-page Robert’s Rules of Order for the 21st century. It’s only seven pages long.

“Virtually no one I know has actually read this book (Robert’s Rules) cover to cover,” Rosenberg wrote in his introduction. “Worse yet, the book was written for another time and another purpose.”

Robert’s Rules was first published in 1876 by Army officer Henry Robert and has been revised several times, most recently in 2011.

“If one is chairing or running a parliament, then Robert’s Rules of Order is a dandy and quite useful handbook for procedure in that complex setting,” Rosenberg wrote. “On the other hand, if one is running a meeting of say, a five-member body with a few members of the public in attendance, a simplified version of the rules of parliamentary procedure is in order.”

Highlights include the following:

• Rosenberg’s Rules says nothing about a consent calendar; every agenda item should be clearly numbered, and the chair is required to follow a 10-step process for each agenda item, which includes discussion, public comments, staff presentations, motions, seconds, votes and announcing the outcomes.

• Rosenberg’s also does not specifically mention how an agenda item is placed, and how many votes it needs to be placed on an agenda. However, if a motion is made to place an item on a future agenda, it requires a majority, or three votes.

• When a motion passes to adjourn, recess, or fix the time to adjourn, that must happen immediately.

• “Calling the question,” is really a motion to limit debate. If someone does that, the chair can ask if there is any more discussion. If not, the vote happens; if so, the chair should stop debate and ask for a motion to limit debate, perhaps to a time limit. It requires a two-thirds vote to pass, which according to Rosenberg’s requires four of five members to approve.

• The council can prevent an agenda item from being heard by passing a motion to object to the consideration of a question. It requires a two-thirds vote.

• Rosenberg’s allows for a “motion to reconsider,” in which only a councilmember who voted in the majority can ask to revisit the item, but only during the same meeting the item was first discussed and passed. Any member can second such a motion, and it requires a majority vote. If it passes, debate and discussion begin anew as if the issue had not been previously discussed.

• There are ways to interrupt the speaker. A member could say, “point of privilege” or “point of order.” The chair then asks the interrupter to “state your point.” Appropriate points of privilege relate to anything that would interfere with the normal comfort of the meeting, such as room temperature. Appropriate points of order relate to anything that would not be considered appropriate meeting conduct, such as voting on a motion without allowing debate.

Marsha McLean – In Her Own Words

| City Council, News | January 3, 2019

Marsha McLean is serving as mayor for the fourth time, having previously served in 2007, 2011 and 2015. Her selection this time was most acrimonious, as Bob Kellar nominated Cameron Smyth before McLean nominated herself and received the necessary three votes, though not before outgoing mayor Laurene Weste seconded Smyth’s nomination, then cast the deciding vote for McLean, much to Smyth’s annoyance.

But that’s past, and McLean has much she wants to do in her year as mayor. She spoke to the Gazette by phone for 33 minutes last week, with her comments edited only for clarity and relevance to the questions asked. (Editorial comments are included in parentheses.)

Do you have any final comments you want to make about the selection process?

The incident was unfortunate, but I am the mayor and I intend to move on and represent all of our residents as they deserve to be represented.

What goals do you have for this year?

The most common comments I get when I’m out and people come up to me and they say, “We’re a growing city but we want to let you know that we really appreciate the emphasis on families, that we are a clean, safe city and a wonderful place to live, and we still have that hometown feel.” So, one of my goals is to make sure it stays that way. As a city grows, sometimes our residents can get lost in the shuffle, but I want residents to feel like they’re a part of the process and know where to go to get information that they need, and to make sure that it’s factual information, that it’s correct information. So, I’m going to be meeting with Ken Striplin, the city manager, to see how we can accomplish more public output and more knowledge about how to access the city council.

You mean beyond the time for public comment at city council meetings?

Absolutely. Yes. Everyday, because a lot of people, if they read something on Facebook that may be true or may not be true, and people go, “Oh my gosh.” And then they start being concerned when the actual information on it is quite different than from what they might be thinking it is. So, I want to try to help with that.

The state makes it really difficult for local governments by putting restrictions on how city councilmembers can publish and communicate information to our residents. The state, they can send out newsletters, individual Assemblymen or state Senators or even federal elected officials can send out newsletters. We can’t do that because the state has put restrictions on it. The city’s not allowed to mail anything out with our picture on it or from us. It has to come from the city manager. A lot of times, we’re kind of in the background, and people don’t realize we’re accessible and available to them.

(Reporter’s note: According to the state Fair Political Practices Commission, a councilmember could send an email to any or all constituents who request information, and a city can email a newsletter that includes councilmember photos because emails are not considered “tangible” items and, therefore, are not subject to the state’s mass-mailing prohibitions.)

What specific outreach ideas do you have?

I’m going to brainstorm with Ken and Carrie (city spokesperson Lujan) and see what we can do this time in order to bring people in and just let them get information that they may need to contact city council members, and how to get information. We have a great website but, unfortunately, a lot of people aren’t aware that they can go on that website and pretty much get any type of information they need. So, that’s one thing that needs to be better implemented. I don’t know exactly yet, but it’s going to be something, and it’s going to be hopefully be a fun thing and an informative thing.

How about publishing your phone numbers?

I’ve got a listed phone number. It’s my home office number. It’s on every single piece of literature that I have ever sent out. During my campaign, it’s always accessible.

I’m really always busy anyway. It doesn’t matter if I’m a councilmember, mayor pro-tem or mayor. I’m always busy because I think it’s really important to be involved in local organizations and not just go to events but actually work on the committees and work nonprofit events. I think it’s important to be involved that way. I also think it’s extremely important for our city to be involved in regional organizations. I’m very well known at Southern California Association of Governments. I sit on their policy committee and their regional council. I’m involved with the League of California Cities; and on all of these things that keep happening where our taxes keep getting raised, I am there at the beginning on stakeholder committees trying to help our residents. For instance, on this Measure W thing that just passed, I’m not sure that it was overwhelmingly passed (Reporter’s note: It passed with 69.45 percent of the vote; it needed two-thirds), but I’m not sure that residents and businesses know how much it’s going to cost them come July 1. Our city already pays a stormwater fee, and I’ve been in there from the beginning attempting to have them understand that we need to get a credit for what we already pay. There’s still more work to be done on that. I belong to an elected official stakeholder committee, and I was a charter member of that. I’m still going to be working on that and trying to understand exactly what that’s going to do.

So, you want to continue to work behind the scenes?

Exactly. That’s extremely important. On transportation, I’m a director on the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments. I’m vice chair of the North County Transportation Coalition. I’m also founder of North Los Angeles County Communities Protection Coalition that opposes any high-speed rail route that adversely affects any community, from Burbank to San Fernando, Sunland, Tujunga, Acton, Agua Dulce and such. Personally, I feel the money being spent would be much better served fixing our current infrastructure.

What adverse effects of high-speed rail to you want to avoid?

Fortunately, since they were going to be coming through Santa Clarita, most of it was going to be above ground, and it was going to be going through Sand Canyon and destroying churches and schools and residents. They changed that. They moved it farther east, and they put most of it underground (Reporter’s note: Current plans are for a 4,000-foot tunnel about 400 to 500 feet below the surface along the 14 Freeway from Sand Canyon to the Vulcan mine site close to Lang Station Road). When you do that, there could be vibrations. When they go in and out of the tunnel, there’s all kinds of noise. There’s safety issues, and also they’re planning to split some open space farther north in half that we worked very hard to gain, near the Cemex mine. (Reporter’s note: McLean has expressed concern that the Vista Canyon project could be affected.) There’s just all kinds of things they’re going to be discussing when they come out with their environmental impact report, and you need to get in there early to make sure that they address the issues that are needed to be addressed. I continuously attend all of the meetings and comment, so we’re going to be very involved in that.

What will your role be once the Bureau of Land Management releases its final report on the Cemex mine?

We’re just going to have to see. We’re really hopeful that it’s going to come out and be positive for us, and it will be done. We don’t know. … In my opinion, it’s been going on way too long.

Right now, there’s nothing we can do but wait and hope that the decision comes down that has a positive outcome. There’s lots of things that can be done once the decision comes out if it doesn’t go our way. That’s hypothetical.

In 2008, the city challenged the validity of the mining contracts and ended up paying Cemex $524,476.60 in attorney fees. Would the city consider suing again?

I cannot tell you what the city will or will not do at this point. I will say that it’s going to be a difficult road if they try to get their permits and stuff. Anything that is said right now is hypothetical because we don’t know yet. I can tell you that we’re not going to let it go through easily.

Santa Clarita has new state and federal representation from Democratic women who are from Santa Clarita. How as mayor do you plan on leveraging that?

It’s really important to be able to work on both sides of the aisle, so to speak. I have always come across as, the position of a councilperson is non-partisan, and I have always been able to work on both sides. I have friends on both sides. I respect other people’s opinions and I think it’s important, especially now, to communicate that. I plan to carry that forward as mayor and have a relationship with both Katie Hill and Christy Smith to make sure that we continue to achieve the monies we need and the attention that we need.

Could Santa Clarita benefit because Hill is from the area and Steve Knight was from Palmdale?

Steve Knight may have been from the Antelope Valley. He was always here and always available and always accessible. He worked very hard for Santa Clarita.

Has anyone communicated with Hill that Santa Clarita expects the same treatment?

We have reached out. Actually, the chamber of commerce had a get-together, and Katie Hill and Christy Smith were both there. I was very impressed with both of them and how they plan to make sure that our citizens are represented well. I’m looking forward to working with both of them very closely and making sure that we have great relationships.

What if some person or persons comes forward and sues the city over California Voting Rights Act violations, as was done before?

Let’s just wait and see what happens on that. My only comment would be I don’t understand why anyone – our city forefathers put together our city government, and it has worked for over 30 years. I don’t know why anyone would want to try and put another expense to take something that works and to change it.

Probably because they think it doesn’t work anymore and needs to be changed.

Well, that’s going to be up for debate. I can’t speak to hypotheticals. I just hope that people will think long and hard before they bring that to our city.

In light of the selection process, is it your goal to mend fences or bridge gaps with other councilmembers?

This year, we’re going to be overseeing the opening of the new sheriff’s station, the new senior center, the new Canyon Country Community Center, the new library community and arts center in Saugus, working with Supervisor (Kathryn) Barger for hopefully a new cultural arts center, continue the progress in Old Town Newhall, providing upgrades to infrastructure in older, established communities; the cleanup of Whittaker-Bermite, new roads through there once it’s clean: Magic Mountain Parkway, Santa Clarita Parkway, Via Princessa; traffic improvements; Antelope Valley Metrolink improvements, for instance late-night trains to L.A., the list goes on and on. As mayor, I’m going to be making sure that all of those things happen. I take being mayor extremely and very seriously, and I will be busier this year, but it is an honor and it is also fun. We have a lot of things we need to accomplish.

Do you expect all of those things to be completed and open this year?

It is in our 2020 plan, so some will be open this year, some are in the process of being built, but it still needs to be seen through the process.

You didn’t mention the Laemmle Theatre and permanent homeless shelter. Did you want to include those?

Yes. Those are two things that are extremely important. I serve on the city’s homeless ad hoc committee and will be continuing to have meetings on that. We need to make sure Bridge to Home gets the funding they need from the county. We pay an awful lot of taxes since that sales-tax measure (Measure H) passed, and I’m not real happy with the fact that money that could have come to Bridge To Home went somewhere else because they said they didn’t have enough. We cannot continue to be put on the back burner with that county money that has come in with that Measure H money.

Are you referring to the nearly $1 million in grant funds that Bridge To Home thought it was getting?

I am referring to any grant that Bridge To Home applied for that they had expected to get but did not because the money was spent elsewhere.

Is it a goal to have the homeless shelter built?

It’s been our goal and it continues to be our goal.

Repeating the question: Are you interested in smoothing over the edges with the other councilmembers?

As mayor, I plan to move on and represent all of our residents as they deserve to be represented. I am always willing and able to work cohesively to make sure our residents are well represented.

Regardless of who’s on the council?

Of course. I have always worked within our council to make sure that we are able to come to a consensus. We can’t always come to a consensus, but I can’t imagine anyone on our city council is looking forward to not working together.

Lawsuit Considered Among Tactics to Enact District Voting

| City Council, News | December 13, 2018


Expect some activity regarding city council district voting early next year.

Two former city council candidates, Brett Haddock and Logan Smith, have told the Gazette they are aware of people who are interested in suing the city to force a move to district voting. Haddock added that he is also searching for the right attorney to bring the suit and expects action in late January or early February.

Neither divulged names of the interested parties, although Smith acknowledged he knows “Latino residents” are involved. It’s also not known if Haddock and Smith are talking to the same parties.

A third candidate, Diane Trautman, originally thought she had someone in mind but told the Gazette that she was no longer sure her contact would go anywhere.

“Diane, Logan and I and Mark White and Ken Dean have discussed it at length, but we haven’t talked about it in the last couple of weeks,” Haddock said.

Dean said he is not involved at this point. Trautman said she isn’t in a position to get involved but would welcome the change. White texted that he will continue to advocate for district voting.

Haddock said he has been approached and is determining a plan of attack. The idea, he said, is to avoid a lawsuit to save the city from paying a large settlement to attorneys.

“I’m hoping we can convince the council to do something on its own,” Haddock said. “I’m an eternal optimist, but with their track record, my hope is curtailed somewhat.”

In fact, the city, as part of its 2019 legislative platform, opposes “legislation that seeks to impose district-based voting in municipal elections or otherwise mandates specific actions for municipalities to implement when challenged regarding compliance with the California Voting Rights Act.”

Santa Clarita is one of the largest cities that has not moved to district voting, even though attempts have been made. Most famous was the lawsuit the city settled in 2014 after two Latino plaintiffs claimed they and their fellow Latinos’ votes were diluted under the CVRA. The CVRA, which expands on the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, has been widely used to compel cities, school districts, water boards and the like to move to district voting. But the city didn’t, instead moving the election to November from April and going to cumulative voting, which a judge threw out.

“They’re not interested in taking a new approach,” Trautman said of the current councilmembers.

Among the members, Bill Miranda said a few months ago he would be OK with discussing the matter provided a large enough public sample voices a desire.

“Our citizens need to let their voices be heard,” Miranda said in a text.

Cameron Smyth also said he is willing to discuss it, but “policy by way of legal threat is not a great way to develop public policy.”

Marsha McLean, when first contacted Tuesday, called the notion “ridiculous” and said a lawsuit or threat of one is “just people trying to change something that works.”

On Wednesday, she read the following statement to the Gazette: “Through my involvement with the League of California Cities, I’ve seen it again and again where districts bring more politics to the table and unintended consequences. For instance, any three council members when fighting over which district gets funding for a project, can form a political bloc and the other two districts can be continuously left out. The residents in those districts would have no power or recourse because they can only vote in their own district, which can create a perpetual deficit of projects for them.”

Bob Kellar said he doesn’t want a lawsuit and always tries to ask, “What is the most responsible thing we can do for our citizens? If I saw a circumstance where I thought the city of Santa Clarita was not being properly governed, I would support this.”

And Then There Were Twelve

| City Council | November 8, 2018

After a historic 15 candidates vied for three seats on the city council, early election results indicated Wednesday that all three incumbents will once again serve on the Santa Clarita City Council.

The positions will be occupied by Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean, and Councilman Bill Miranda. The Gazette interviewed four defeated candidates who were willing to share their campaign reflections.

Diane Trautman
Trautman finished fourth in the City Council race. Trautman detailed her thoughts on her campaign via phone interview.

“I always felt that (the race) was going to be fairly close, but having had sufficient experience as 12-year planning commissioner and being involved for many years, I thought that I would get a positive response from the community… I felt that the atmosphere was going to (make it) possible to win the seat this time.”

In order for candidates to get their messages out, forums held by College of the Canyons and other media outlets were facilitated as a way to streamline the process. However, Trautman believes that these formats may have been too structured.

“I think forums have their place, but it might have been helpful to have more debates to talk about some of the statements that were made and challenge them.”

As for raising money and obtaining the resources to run, Trautman felt that incumbents had the upper hand.

“It’s always very difficult raising money when you’re a non-incumbent. Incumbents have advantages through the press, and there is bias,” said Trautman.

“It’s also very difficult because when you are not an incumbent in an area like ours, it’s difficult for people who are not in your party to openly support you for fear of retribution. That’s been true forever. This year more people where willing to step forward and be listed in my contributors.”

Despite these challenges, Trautman expressed her gratitude for her supporters and the energy behind her campaign.

“People were engaged and they wanted to make change. All of the people that I met with wanted to know, “What can I do?” I want to work with them to find a way to plug them in to groups or to make this a better place for everyone.

“I am incredibly grateful for all of the help and support and all of the votes. Win or lose, I’m going to continue to work in this community, and I invite everyone to get in touch with me, because we need to keep the momentum going in this community.”

Ken Dean
Ken Dean finished fifth in the race. He didn’t purchase a ballot statement, and attributes his success to ballot designation and sign psychology.

“There are two factors. One, it’s known that if you’re first on the ballot, you have an advantage by 1.5 percent. Secondly, I am a teacher and an educator, and I have name recognition … Everybody respects a teacher.”

Dean is also an interior designer and claims he had an advantage with how he utilized color.

“You never put green and blue together on a sign. When I teach school, I cover things like the psychological effects of color. Green and blue just does not work, and distorts what you are putting on there. My sign was so simple: white background, blue letters.

Dean says he finished fifth in the last election using the same campaign strategy.

“I did the same thing did last time. I got out there myself and I walked street corners for hours.”

Running for council in the next election isn’t necessarily on his mind at the moment. However, he hasn’t turned down the possibility just yet.

“I’m doing very well. I believe that I’m saying things that the people want to hear. I still firmly believe that we need district voting and term limits. Everybody I’ve talked to said they felt they wanted term limits,” Dean said. “We need to have affordable housing and continue to protect our seniors and our veterans.”

Although Dean ran for council, he claims he wasn’t running “against” the incumbents, but simply does so because it is his right.

“All of the incumbents are friends. When you get people in office, they become stagnant and you need to have new people with new visions. If you don’t have leaders with new visions and new focus, city histories have proven to fall into decline.”

Dean’s final thoughts on the election included strong feelings toward endorsements and ballot statements.

“Endorsements aren’t worth the wet paper they are printed on. And the other thing that is an absolute, complete rip-off is the candidate statements that cost thousands of dollars,” Dean said. “Every one of the candidates below me spent thousands of dollars on these statements, and I beat them all. Everyone I’ve talked to doesn’t read those statements. I’m proof of it.”

Brett Haddock
This was Haddock’s second run for council, and he finished in eighth place.

“I didn’t really set expectations for myself, other than to do better than I did last time,” said Haddock. “I don’t know if I can really dissect it and say I would have done anything differently. I think it’s a very challenging race, and the voters by and large are ready for a change.”

Although the incumbents took the victory, Haddock believes that the results also reveal the public’s desire for new leadership.

“When you have 15 people for three spots, it splits the votes. If you tallied up everyone else’s vote (the incumbents) would have lost by a wide margin.”

For now, Haddock does not have set plans to run in 2020.

“You know, I’m going to take a minute and recoup. It’s exhausting, and I don’t even want to think about it. My plan is to sleep until January,” Haddock said. “I won’t outright rule it out, but I think my efforts right now are better spent making sure our elections are fair.

Part of his plan to make elections fair includes encouraging the city to switch to district voting.

“Regardless of how people may feel about districting, it’s a lawsuit waiting to happen. The three incumbents have been vocal about their opinions, but I don’t want to pay several million dollars to settle a lawsuit for something we know is going to happen. Within the next year we need an actual concrete plan about real districts in the 2020 election.”

Haddock ended the phone interview by imparting optimism.

“Looking at the numbers, we’ve seen a historic turnout for a midterm, and I just want to thank everyone for turning out and voting. This is how democracy works, and this is what democracy looks like. We have some hiccups in our election system, but nothing we can’t overcome, and I’m looking forward to a bright future.”

Jason Gibbs
Gibbs entered his first city council race without expectations, finishing ninth. In a phone interview the morning after the election, he described his campaign experience overall.

“It was fun, it was challenging, and it was emotional.”

When asked if he would have changed anything about his campaign, he had the following to say:

“I don’t think I would have done anything differently. I had a good message and a good platform. Things just fell where they fell,” Gibbs said.

So far, Gibbs has not thought about a future council run. “I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll have for breakfast,” Gibbs said. “I’ll stay involved in the community in some other fashion.”

As for his take on the election results, Gibbs was humble.

“In the end, the community spoke, and if they felt that they did a good job, then they are the people who should be there.”

Laurene Weste on Dockweiler, Decision-Making, Age

| Meet the Candidates | October 25, 2018

While every city council candidate who filed a ballot statement willingly consented to be interviewed, Laurene Weste didn’t. The Gazette emailed her questions back in July, per her request, yet she didn’t respond, and even hung up on a reporter who called seeking responses.

Privately, many believe Weste behaves this way because she doesn’t think the Gazette’s questions are worth her time. When she wants something, the belief goes, she can be as sweet as anyone. But when she has no use for someone, she ignores or acts arrogantly and demeaning. As Diane Trautman said, “Laurene tends to talk to people like children.”

At the recent candidate’s form at College of the Canyons, a reporter asked Weste if she was ready to answer the questions. She smiled and said, “You have no questions.”

But the Gazette had 11 questions, so when Weste appeared at last week’s Canyon Country Advisory Committee City Council Meet & Greet, Gazette editor Sarah Farnell posed three of them to Weste.

You have repeatedly denied you stand to gain nothing from the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, yet the perception persists. What definitive, tangible proof can you offer to put those naysayers to rest?

I think that’s a really good question. I’m glad you asked that. It gets it right off the table. When I got my place, I moved on a ranch and I wanted to be there because I had horses. I still have six … So, next to me is a city-owned road right-of-way, and they’ve had it from the county and it was apparently taken in the 1960s and the city inherited it, and they have it, and they’ll use it when they’re ready to use it. Like a lot of road easements in this valley, sit there for decades. I don’t get anything for it, and why would the city pay me for something they already own?

There is a perception that the councilmembers have their minds made up on an issue before they go into chambers and listen to public comment. We’ve heard this regarding the Laemmle Theater project, the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, the cannabis dispensary ban, the homeless action plan and the sanctuary city question. Is it true? On average, how much time do you spend reading staff reports? Do you do independent interviews and reviews of issues?

Oh my God, that’s a good question. I got a headache right now. I’m reading constantly because we get this much every week (turns to her left and spreads her hands out vertically) and then we get all the things from you. No, the council does not make up their mind ahead of time. There’s a lot of discussion and quite often the council will totally hold something over, or they ask questions. We have a good constituency. They bring things up and we try to work thought it, and if we can’t get you where you want to be where it’s comfortable, we continue until we do.

The council’s average age is 68, but take away Cameron Smyth and it’s 73.75. You will be 70 on Election Day.

Yeah! I’m good.

I quote Bob Kellar: “Are we supposed to stay on the city council until we’re 90 years old?” What do you say to those who believe it’s time for a new generation?

Well, it is time, and we will. Bob’s going off. I’m still roller skating, riding my horses and I water ski, so I’m having a heck of a good time. I think you should go off if you are not well, and I don’t care what that age is. I think you should not be there if you can’t do the workload. I personally think in America, you don’t start judging people by their age, but I’m very proud to be my age, which is 69 (her birthday is Oct. 26). I am thrilled that I can do actually more, probably, than I used to because I’m not sedentary. I’m proud to be the age I am, and I’m proud to work with people that have knowledge and compassion and have learned a lot through having life experiences, and I love working with Cameron, and I am sure we will get some other great young people.

A fourth question was not directly asked, but some of Weste’s opening statement could be interpreted as an answer.

You so often say how great Santa Clarita is. What is the best thing about it? What are the largest things that need addressing/improving/fixing? Why? How do you propose to solve these?

We’re improving traffic and we’re to expanding our road network. That’s critical. It’s important because we all are frustrated with traffic, including my family. We’re going to be building Via Princessa. That is the major connection from Canyon Country all the way across to the I-5, connecting up with Wiley (Canyon Road). We’re working to improve our transportation options. … Just this month, $47 million was approved to enhance and make the I-5 safer and open up that blockade where all that traffic is congested. We’ve got a new truck lane coming that will protect us driving along the 5 from the big rigs, and we’ll also have an HOV lane.

The remaining six questions have not been answered despite subsequent attempts to reach Weste.

What will you do differently than in any of your previous terms?

Brett Haddock is calling for term limits: a maximum of four. What do you say?

I quote Diane Trautman: “Laurene tends to talk to people like children.” What is your response?

I quote Trautman again: 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. 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.” Do you think her comments have merit? Why or why not?

Diane Trautman believes the city council should set policy and the city manager carries out the council’s plan, but here it’s backwards. Is she right? Do you believe the council should take the lead, or should it rely on Ken Striplin to set the agenda?

If elected, this would be your sixth term. You have said this will be your final term. Is there anything that could make you run for a seventh?

As always, the Gazette hopes Weste will reconsider and respond to these questions before Election Day. If she does, they will be printed.

Council Candidates Continue to Compete

| Meet the Candidates | October 11, 2018

The most recent city council candidate forum, which occurred Monday at College of the Canyons and was put on by the COC Civic Engagement Steering Committee, the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, resembled a presidential debate more than previous forums.

The 13 candidates (minus Cherry Ortega and Paul Wieczorek) sat in front of the room alphabetically, microphones spread out. Separating the candidates and the audience of about 50 citizens and press was an island of tables where sat three moderators who had a list of questions they would ask each candidate.

For two hours, the moderators asked, and the candidates answered. Those who have read the Gazette’s articles profiling the various candidates probably weren’t surprised at the answers, since the candidates restated what they already said. For example, Bill Miranda stressed that one needs three votes on the council to get anything done, Marsha McLean touted her experience, TimBen Boydston spoke about the lack of water, Brett Haddock talked about how he’s not working to focus exclusively on his campaign, etc.

Yet as the night went on, it became clear that winners and losers emerged. This is not to say that people placed in one or the other group have helped or hurt their chances for election. Nor does not being mentioned mean a candidate has either a great or no chance. It simply means that according to this reporter, on this one night, in this one forum, these won or lost.

1. The format. Alan Ferdman, the Canyon Country Advisory Committee chairman and one of the moderators, said the intention was to avoid asking a series of what he called “Gotcha questions” in favor of letting candidates talk about what they thought were important issues. A narrative each candidate had submitted provided the basis for the questions the panel of three moderators asked. (Only candidates who submitted a narrative were allowed to come, which was why Ortega wasn’t there.)

“I got a lot of positive feedback from a lot of candidates,” Ferdman said.

2. The incumbents. Holding office has inherent advantages. Candidates trying to unseat them often have to go on the attack to cause doubts in voters’ minds. But nobody directly went after Laurene Weste, McLean or Miranda. The closest anybody came were the times people alluded to “the council.” But nobody went after the three by name.

And there were opportunities. When incumbents championed the roads that would be built or touted the homelessness plan, challengers could have pointed out the increasing traffic problems, how needing here votes to place a matter on the agenda isn’t helpful or how the homeless shelter should have been built a long time ago – and then faulted them by name. But nobody did, and time is running out for any challenger to convince an undecided voter he or she is a viable alternative.

3. Logan Smith. The youngest candidate impressed many with his intensity and knowledge of the homeless problem in the city.

“Logan Smith, for his age, he was very knowledgeable and articulate,” Bruce Fortine said of the 25-year-old. “I think he’d make a good councilperson.”

4. TimBen Boydston. The former councilmember has presented himself as an impassioned man, and nothing changed Monday. He railed against the council’s decision to need three votes to place a matter on the agenda (the so-called TimBen Rule) and took the council to task over the water shortage.

“TimBen spoke well about his prior service,” supporter Steve Petzold said, “and his willingness to engage the public and study an issue before making a decision.”

5. Jason Gibbs. He came across as more polished and confident than when the Gazette interviewed him in July, perhaps giving people a reason to vote for somebody younger – even though his the-council-has-done-a-great-job message remained unchanged.

“Jason Gibbs, he’s articulate and knowledgeable,” Fortine said.

1. Diane Trautman. The one candidate who openly attacked the incumbents by name when the Gazette interviewed her in July did nothing of the sort on Monday. She said the next day she wanted to point out errors and inconsistencies with what the incumbents said but didn’t feel the format allowed for it.

One of her supporters, Stephen Winkler, was wearing a Trautman button, but nonetheless said he thought she had “an off night, but that was due to the questions. I know she’s hard-working and dedicated.”

2. Brett Haddock. He didn’t do enough to explain his positions. That was especially true when he was asked to explain his proposal to customize a computer system that will route a van or bus to a destination. Puzzled looks permeated the gallery. Haddock later thought he had spoken too broadly.

“I could see where I could have extrapolated more on policy,” he said. “I was off my game. I had gotten some family news that wasn’t great.”

3. Sankalp Varma. He admitted that he’s new to campaigning, having never run for public office before. His idea for a spiritual center made no sense, and snickers and skepticism met his long-term solution for a monorail.

4. Paul Wieczorek. He didn’t even show up, which surprised Ferdman because, “He contacted me expressing interest. I sent him a reminder on Saturday.” Wieczorek didn’t return a phone call asking why.

5. Elaine Ballace. She’s not a candidate but an actor who showed up hoping to ask the candidates questions. Unfortunately, the format didn’t allow for it, so she said she hopes to make it to the Canyon Country Advisory Committee meeting Oct. 17 at the Mint Canyon Moose Lodge where the incumbents, Varma and Nichols are scheduled to attend.

Learning from the Curve – Miranda Ready for Candidacy

| Meet the Candidates | October 4, 2018

At some point since January 2017, Bill Miranda stopped thinking he was as an appointed city councilmember and considered himself a councilmember.

While it’s undeniable that Miranda was appointed to complete Dante Acosta’s term, he has been on the job for 21 months. The learning curve might have been steep – and he certainly brought his share of baggage with him – but Miranda says he is ready to take his place as an elected councilmember.
“There’s never a point when you feel like you got there because there’s always stuff,” he said Monday at a Newhall coffee shop. “But there’s a point where it became more palatable, where I understood it more. I’m not a politician, and even though I’ve been involved with the activities and all that, I’m no politician. I have no idea what it was going to take.”

What it took was weathering the storms brought by people seeking to delegitimize the appointment process and the person who was appointed. When Acosta left to serve in the Assembly, many people favored an election; the council balked at the cost and preferred appointment. Many thought the person who received the highest number of votes and wasn’t elected – TimBen Boydston – should be elected; the council balked at that, too. And when many people thought that with 50 applicants there should have been forums and information sessions, the council balked at that, too.

Miranda said those were emotional situations, “but had nothing to do with me, frankly.”

After winning appointment – in which he told the story of being the last to apply when city lists show he was 36th – Miranda had to deal with aspects of his past.

Specifically, the Gazette wrote a series of articles questioning where was monies raised in 2014 by the Latino Chamber of Commerce, in which Miranda was CEO. Miranda was never alleged to have embezzled anything; he simply was unable to ever provide proof of where the money went and passed responsibility to the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce because the two entities merged. (He did, however, take responsibility in November 2017 for failing to ensure the Latino chamber filed its tax documents on time.)

During an April 28, 2017 show on KHTS, he pounded his open right hand on some papers and said he had proof. The Gazette offered to meet him anywhere at any time to see it; he never met and instead insisted the paper already had it. (Earlier this year, the Gazette asked Miranda for proof of his military service; he provided it.)

On May 12, again on KHTS, Miranda accused Gazette publisher Doug Sutton of bias in challenging where the money went. During the May 23 council meeting, then-Signal publisher Chuck Champion verbally attacked Miranda for failing to show where the Latino Chamber money was and for accusing Sutton. He also took the other councilmembers to task for not properly vetting Miranda before appointing him.

Miranda said nothing that night and later declined comment. On Monday, he said, “I grew up in the (19)50s and 60s as a Puerto Rican kid in New York City – not just a Puerto Rican kid, a dark-skinned one. I have taken as much abuse in my life as anybody would ever want to take. That’s the bad news. The good news: You get a thick skin.”

Synchrony Bank filed suit July 1, 2017 and later won a default judgment for about $5,000. A settlement court date has been set for next year. Miranda said Monday there is nothing new to report.

The Franchise Tax Board suspended his limited liability company, Our Valley Group, for failing to meet tax requirements. Miranda said an agreement was reached, and a payment plan was put in place.

He used his councilmember title in an Our Valley Magazine ad, which possibly violated a 1974 law that prohibits an elected or appointed official from using the office for personal gain. Miranda admitted that was a mistake.

When he was appointed by a 3-1 vote, Councilmembers Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Cameron Smyth were effusive in their praise. Nine months later, members weren’t commenting.

Yet now, those same councilmembers endorsed him. Smyth said he never regretted voting to appoint Miranda but acknowledged the steep learning curve Miranda had.

“Like anybody who gets elected or appointed the first time, you don’t realize how much work is involved until you are doing the work,” Smyth said. “Bill has done an excellent job of really putting his head down and learning the issues and trying to do what he thinks is best.”

Miranda said the most important lesson he has learned: “It takes three votes to get anything done. Even though it’s obvious, it’s a hard realization.”

To help learn that, he takes to heart what he believes is his primary mission as a councilmember: to listen and talk to everyone. He might live in Valencia, but he knows he represents Canyon Country, Saugus, Newhall, etc.

There are three issues the constituency cares about the most, he said: public safety, traffic and housing. Yet his campaign website only offers the following platforms: economic growth and initiatives for veterans, arts and seniors. There is one mention of public safety within the economic growth page.

Miranda did, however, address the traffic situations during the 54-minute interview. He said the solution is in three parts, the first being the traffic operations center hat already exists on the third floor in City Hall. The second part is the technology upgrades that continue. One such is adding and updating sensors that automatically start a timer when a car trips it. Miranda said it will take time, but one intersection he said has shown improvement is Sierra Highway and Rainbow Glen Drive.

The third part is to increase busses and trains. “We need to put more busses on the street, and they need to be more reliable,” Miranda said, acknowledging that many busses are currently half-filled and will continue to be until they run more efficiently.

“We need to budget more dollars for transportation. That’s a council matter,” he said.

And there needs to be more Metrolink trains because it makes no sense for people to have to cut their evenings short because they don’t want to miss the last train home, he said. While he said he knows the city has nothing to do with Metrolink, it’s up to councilmembers to advocate on the city’s behalf.

Is Miranda done learning on the job yet? He caused some eyes to widen when, during the last council meeting, he abstained during a vote to approve the consent calendar. He said it’s because he forgot to request an item be removed and didn’t want to vote no for everything else.

Until Nov. 6, however, he remains an appointed councilmember, even if “I don’t feel like I’m serving Dante’s term.”

Sankalp Varma Drives Council Campaign Forward

| Meet the Candidates | September 27, 2018

To Sankalp Varma, nothing makes more sense than having an Uber driver serve on the city council.

“It gives me a very real perspective on the community,” he said.

Actually, Varma, 47, is so much more than a driver. His father earned his Ph.D. in chemistry and metallurgy in his native India, and his mother was descended from royalty, he said. Sankalp, which can be translated from Hindi to mean “determination,” moved with his family from India to the Bronx, then Levittown, Penn., El Toro (now Lake Forest), Winston-Salem, N.C., Bonita, Sherman Oaks and Santa Clarita, where he lives with his wife and son.

The birth of his son, Max, four years ago is what put him on the path to Uber. He had already made his money working in production and post-production in the entertainment industry. Then he started DVD manufacturing for Lightning Media. At his peak, he made one million DVDs a month. When the DVD market downturned in 2011 in favor of digital downloads and streaming, Varma started distributing regional Indian films.

Max’s birth made him rethink his priorities. “I’m at a point where I’m lucky enough to spend time with him when I want,” he said.

He said he typically works 5:30 a.m.-noon (although he spoke to the Gazette at 10:15 a.m. Monday), then spends time with wife and son before heading back out at night.

As he gives rides to his various customers, it sometimes resembles HBO’s “Taxicab Confessions.” Riders talk about their problems and Varma listens, sometimes mentioning that he’s running for council.

What he hears has helped form his platform, which he says are full of “forward-thinking ideas with progressive ways to accomplish (them).”

Millennials and empty nesters bemoan a lack of nightlife. Varma can’t count the number of times he’s given rides to partygoers who have to leave the valley to drink, dance, socialize and whatever else they have in mind.

His idea: a rooftop club to take advantage of the wonderful views. It can have the alcohol flowing or it can be dry, depending on the need. He also thinks an entertainment and retail district near Six Flags Magic Mountain, similar to Universal CityWalk, would be a good idea.

Another group he often drives are those who need medical marijuana, convincing him that a dispensary is needed locally.

“If Canada has completely legalized it, and if our state has completely legalized it, there’s no reason people have to leave Santa Clarita to go get medicine,” he said.

The homeless population could be served by opening some sort of spiritual center to help people get sober “and get them work-ready immediately,” he said.

He’d also like to see a hospital or medical center in Canyon Country. As great as he finds Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital (Max was born there four years ago), “every minute counts,” and traffic can make the trip longer.

To combat traffic, he proposes a monorail system and a people mover based out of the dry Santa Clara River that can connect the communities. “I live in traffic every single day,” he said. “I’ve heard we need to create more roads. We need a long-term solution. There’s a 30-year planned community near Magic Mountain (Newhall Ranch). That will bring 50,000 to 100,000 more people.”

Finally, he would like to see the city build an Olympic training center to coincide with the 2028 Los Angeles Games. He envisions an indoor track but also would like to include Castaic Lake in some way.

It took several tries during the 38-minute interview to get Varma to explain how the city council could help in these matters. He said he could provide the leadership to create opportunities, but it would take community members to step forward and put them into action. He said as a councilmember he could help by directing people to various federal grants and incentive programs or by seeking charitable trusts to donate.

The most important thing right now, he said, is to come up with ideas. “That’s what’s really missing,” he said. “It takes a community to get on the same page.”

Legal Battle Between Council Candidates Continues

| City Council, News | September 13, 2018

Brett Haddock will have his day in court Sept. 27 when his appeal of the restraining order fellow city council candidate Sean Weber secured against him will be heard in the state Court of Appeal.

Haddock said he had hoped that the court would stay the order on First Amendment grounds without a hearing, but the court’s tentative opinion backs Weber.

“We are inclined to find the appellate record inadequate to evaluate his constitutional claims,” the appeal said. “While Haddock may be allowed to publicly criticize Weber online, other evidence in the record showed a course of private harassing conduct directed at Weber and his family that justified the order.”

Weber said in a statement: “There is a group of online bullies (aka internet trolls) who try to shut down anyone who threatens their traditional power base. These groups of trolls (some paid) participate in and run social media forums targeting opponents for the sole purpose of harassing them.”

Haddock said his attorney told him it’s normal for an appeal court to come out with a tentative opinion that upholds the lower court’s ruling. Weber secured a two-year restraining order that expires July 2019, citing his fears that Haddock was going to “kill my family” because online posts from 2015 show Haddock talking about going on a “murderous rampage” and that Weber is Haddock’s “target.” Court documents showed Weber’s attorney also said Haddock posted some of Weber’s easily identifiable information such as address, date of birth and car’s license plate.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner Laura Hymowitz issued the restraining order despite saying, “Most of what Mr. Haddock is doing just doesn’t quite reach the standard.”

Haddock provided the Gazette with a copy of his appeal and an amicus brief filed by two members of the UCLA School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic. Haddock claims the court erred in issuing a restraining order against him because the actions he took – he has said Weber objects to his calling him out for what Haddock sees as bullying – were protected under the First Amendment.

“Most importantly, he effectively concedes that he sought the Order because he viewed Mr. Haddock’s political speech as illegitimate,” attorney Kenneth White of the Los Angles firm Brown White & Osborn wrote. “He … sneers that Mr. Haddock – a citizen, privileged by the First Amendment to write about what he sees fit – ‘had made something of a second career of “shedding light” on people who displeased him.’ What he does not show is substantial evidence of harassing conduct …”

Haddock also sent the Gazette a screen shot of what he called “a defamatory website” that was up for one day in July. The page calls Haddock “charlatan, bully, fraud, abuser.”

Haddock said his attorney sent a note to Weber’s attorney, and the site went down.

Weber said he didn’t know anything about any website. “My attorney never said anything,” he said.

“He’s being pretty relentless,” Haddock said, “and he’s got his cronies coming after me, which is always fun.” Two people he named were Jeff Martin, who has said Weber inspired him to run for a William S. Hart Union High School District board seat, and Nick Rowin, a friend of Weber’s who owns a plumbing business.

Martin couldn’t recall ever having spoken to Haddock and guessed that his vocal support of Weber has caused Haddock to put him in that group. Rowin said it sounded like Haddock, who Rowin incorrectly called “a sitting council member,” accused him of online bullying, which he denied doing by saying, “absolutely not.”

He did, however, say he spoke to Weber about the case and posted an article on Facebook on Sept. 6 that included the transcript of the hearing.

“The intent Mr. Haddock had is pretty mean,” he said.

Weber provided an online plea from May 4, 2017 asking people to “please stay away from the negative direction some have gone. They want to drown out our voices with intimidation. Don’t be baited into a negative tone. I want their support too. So, please select your words carefully, showing intellect. Minds can be changed. Notice that the only ones that say anything negative about m also state that they don’t know me. Get to know each other. We are the community.”

For now, the restraining order stands, but Haddock said it has not yet affected his council campaign, although he expects Weber to “show up at my events and be as disruptive as possible.”

“People are aware of it,” he said. “The feeling I get is a level of admiration for weathering the storm for standing up to Sean Weber and his cult of personality. My fear is people won’t see it for what it is: calling out Mr. Weber. My hope is that it’s transparent.”

Sandra Nichols Campaigns as Voice for the Voiceless

| Meet the Candidates | September 13, 2018

Sandra Nichols describes herself thusly: “I’m 69 years old, I don’t work. I live on retirement and Social Security, I rent, I take the bus – I owned a car and gave it to my son last September – I am disabled.”

In other words, she considers herself perfect to run for city council to be “a voice for people who think they have no voice, that have limited financial resources, who have no say in the increase of their property taxes, no say in development.”
She said she feels so strongly about this that she’s using a payment plan to pay for the ballot statement. She further saved money by keeping hers to fewer than 400 words, thus paying $1,100 instead of $2,200.

Throughout the 52-minute phone interview, Nichols outlined various problems she has with the way things are run, opined how she would do things differently, and often struggled to make a point without further explanation.

She began with her experience: a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Indiana and a master’s in public administration from California State University, Fullerton. She was a branch manager in the home healthcare industry for almost 20 years, which gives her an awareness of what goes on in local government. She said one of her tasks was to write grants.

She then attacked three of the five current council members for their pedigrees. Bob Kellar, she said, “has made a lot of money. He has a real estate office on Friendly Valley.” (Its actual street address is on Sierra Highway; Kellar also has offices on Soledad Canyon Road and Avenue of the Oaks.)

About Laurene Weste, one of the incumbents Nichols is trying to unseat, she referred to the Lyons Dockweiler extension when she said, “When they cut through from Lyons (Avenue), she’s going to make a lot of money. She owns that property back there.” (Weste has repeatedly denied she would stand to gain anything but refused the Gazette’s request in July to show definitive proof.)

“Cameron Smyth has a name,” Nichols said, and then referred to Cameron’s late father, Clyde, by saying, “There’s a street named after him, for God’s sake.”

As for the other two other incumbents running Nov. 6, Nichols said she doubts Marsha McLean really is beholden to nobody – like McLean says – because, “You get a little campaign financing, you feel obligated. Those people who give you money expect something from you. I’m not fundraising at all.”

And without specifics, she questioned the methods Bill Miranda, who was appointed over Nichols and 48 others in January 2017, used in running the Latino Chamber of Commerce.

“I read about how he ran the Spanish chamber,” she said. “I didn’t think he had the experience or the knowhow or education to run anything like that. If a person is going to open a place and they don’t know how to do that and that and that … You delegate, so you get people who know that expertise. I was a good delegator.”

She said that if elected, she would do what she understood former councilmember (and current candidate) TimBen Boydston did: thoroughly research an issue before voting on it. She cited Boydston’s commitment to studying the Laemmle Theatres project as an example.

“I would try to read and review and talk to other people before I’d vote on an upcoming project,” she said. “I might be run off, but at least they would have a voice.”

Then she started discussing some platform points.

•She wants to protect low-income residents from an increase in city property taxes, even though the county, not the city, assesses and collects taxes; and she wants to give voice regarding new developments such as the proposed Sand Canyon Resort. The city council in July authorized an environmental impact report for the project, which would turn part of the Sand Canyon Country Club into a hotel resort of 217 rooms and 27 villas.

“I don’t think everyone in Sand Canyon wants that in their area,” she said. “I know people that live in Sand Canyon. They wonder how that development is going to affect traffic.”

•She wants to a 45 mph speed limit on Sierra Highway. She told of watching traffic speed by as she waited at the bus stop at Sierra and Flying Tiger Drive.

“I think of little babies in strollers. They don’t know if you’re down low, how it affects you,” she said. “I use a scooter. I’m down low. I almost got hit on Flying Tiger and Sierra. They go so fast, those big trucks. I don’t mean semis. Those SUVs. They don’t look down. They look up, and they’re whizzing by. Not just me. Pedestrians. There’s a lot of foot traffic on Soledad, Sierra, Via Princessa. I’m sure there are a lot of other parts in the city, but I can’t name them.”

•She wants to tackle and drug and homeless problems by including recovered drug addicts and former homeless people in the solutions because, she reasoned, they might know something about those issues.

“All these agencies will be involved with finding a solution, but not any ex-homeless people,” she said. “If you watch the news in L.A., a lot of things are started by ex-homeless people. They know.”

Finally, Nichols addressed her chances of winning a seat, despite not fundraising beyond calling registered voters from a county list she purchased in 2016 and placing signs that she kept from two years ago.

She will make the rounds, including Wednesday’s candidate forum at The Oaks Club Valencia, the Oct. 8 forum at College of the Canyons and the Oct. 17 Canyon Country Advisory Committee meeting at the Mint Canyon Moose Lodge.

“I think my chances will be good if the affordable-housing and low-income people who don’t feel like they have a voice vote,” she said, “but you never know who’s going to vote.”

Always Advocating Alan – The 2018 Santa Clarita City Council Election: Who Should You Vote For?

| Meet the Candidates, Opinion | September 13, 2018

As the November 6, 2018 City Council Election draws closer, I frequently ask friends if they are intending to vote. What does not surprise me, is the number of those I speak with who don’t even know Santa Clarita has a city council, or cannot name anyone on it. While I can see some advantages to have such a blissful lack of knowledge, I know several council members who wish I shared such bliss. But, the reality is, since the Santa Clarita City Council has a large influence on all our city resident’s daily lives, we need to pay attention to their decisions.

Since the City of Santa Clarita’s formation in 1987, as a California General Law city, our residents have been represented by a five-member City Council. Every two years, we alternately elect two or three city council members. Currently, our city council members are elected “at-large,” meaning every city resident is given the opportunity to vote on every candidate. This year, there will be three seats up for grabs, currently held by Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda. Seats held by Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth will become available in 2020.

Santa Clarita does not elect a mayor or mayor pro-tem; these are positions chosen amongst the city council itself. Their additional responsibilities include conducting city council meetings and leading various ceremonial occasions. Neither of these two positions is granted any authority in excess of the remaining city council members.

Now comes the challenge, because with 15 candidates on the ballot, it is almost overwhelming. Currently on the ballot is TimBen Boydston, Ken Dean, Jason Gibbs, Brett Haddock, Mathew Hargett, Marsha McLean, Bill Miranda, Sandra Nichols, Cherry Ortega, Logan Smith, Diane Trautman, Sankalp Varma, Sean Weber, Laurene Weste, Paul Wieczorek. (Do not consider the order of candidate names as having any significance other than they are in alphabetical order by last name.) You might be thinking, “Who are these people? What have they done? What do they want to do? How will this election affect my daily life? Whom should I vote for?”

That is precisely why I am writing this “self-help” column. First, I suggest you NOT vote for a candidate because your buddy likes them, their name is familiar, or they are a member of your political party. City councils are intended to be a non-partisan office, and I believe it should stay that way. The best way to make an informed decision on how to cast your ballot is, to listen to the candidates themselves. Determine which of the candidates you perceive will do the best job representing our city, your interests, and our future, and then cast your ballot knowing you are making the best decision possible for your city, yourself and your family.

Since 2006, the Canyon Country Advisory Committee (a division of the Santa Clarita Community Council) has conducted city council election events. For this election cycle, their “meet and greet” format will be used. Each participant will be given the opportunity to introduce themselves, have a 15-minute question and answer session (where audience members come to the microphone and ask the questions they consider most important), and an opportunity to wrap up. With only two CCAC meetings prior to the November election, and a two-hour time limit per meeting, only 10 openings were available. The CCAC Board of Directors made the decision to give priority to the candidates who had chosen to provide a ballot statement. At the Wednesday, September 19 CCAC Meeting, candidates TimBen Boydston, Brett Haddock, Logan Smith, Diane Trautman, and Sankalp Varma will be participating. At the Wednesday, October 17 CCAC Meeting, candidates Jason Gibbs, Bill Miranda, Sandra Nichols, Marsha McLean, and Laurene Weste will be participating.

Both “meet and greet” meetings will be video recorded and uploaded to Youtube. Links to the presentations will be provided on the CCAC Facebook Page, in my subsequent columns in the Gazette, and emailed to CCAC friends and members. But feel free to view the events in person and ask questions you believe are important. CCAC Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Mint Canyon Moose Lodge Banquet Room, 18000 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country. Everyone is welcome, and the event is free.

Another great opportunity to see and hear the city council candidates in person will be occurring on October 8, when the College of the Canyons’ Civic Engagement Steering Committee, the Santa Clarita Valley League of Women Voters, and the Canyon Country Advisory Committee will be jointly hosting a Candidate Forum where all 15 candidates have been invited to participate. For this event, all candidates have been asked to provide information about why they should be elected to serve on the city council and what they believe are the top three issues facing Santa Clarita residents today. This information will be provided both online and in print at the forum.

This new and exciting format will be putting forward unique questions to each candidate, generated by the forum steering committee prior to the event. If you have any burning questions you would like raised, please forward the question and the candidate to be queried to [email protected] and I will be sure to inform the committee of your suggestions. The COC Candidate Forum will be held in the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, located at the College of the Canyons Valencia campus on Monday October 8. The forum itself will take place from 7 to 9 p.m., but if you can be there a little earlier, we would welcome meeting and hearing from you between 6:30 to 7 p.m. This meeting will be live-streamed, as well as video recorded and uploaded to Youtube. Links will be provided on each of the hosts’ Facebook pages. As with the other candidate events described above, everyone is welcome and there is no charge for admission.

Now, I hope you found this information worthwhile, informative, and you have been marking your calendar with these important dates. But in case you forgot, let me help you. Wednesday, September 19 is the First CCAC Meet and Greet, Monday, October 8 is the COC Candidate Forum, Wednesday, October 17 is the second CCAC Meet and Greet, and Tuesday, November 6 is Election Day. On the ballot, you will get to choose candidates for federal, state, and county offices, as well as Santa Clarita City Council choices. Each elected office is important, as decisions made affect our daily lives in some way. Yet, city council members provide representation closest to all of us. Taking a bit of time to find out about our city council candidates and making an informed decision is the hallmark of our great republic. I know I can count on you to make the right decision.

District Voting: The People Could Force the Issue

| City Council, News | September 6, 2018

When Mark White ran for city council in 2016, changing to district elections instead of at-large voting was one of his platform points. Although he’s not running this time, he still feels the city would be better served if there were elected representatives from various communities.

“We shouldn’t be a city where one half of one percent gets elected and decides who runs things,” he said. “District elections will make it harder for them to decide.”

Santa Clarita is one of the largest cities that has not moved to district voting, even though attempts have been made. Most famous was the lawsuit the city settled in 2014 after two Latino plaintiffs claimed they and their fellow Latinos’ votes were diluted under the California Voting Rights Act. The CVRA, which expands on the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, has been widely used to compel cities, school districts, water boards and the like to move to district voting. But the city didn’t, instead moving the election to November from April and going to cumulative voting, which a judge threw out.

White fears another lawsuit – and the settlement that taxpayers would foot – is coming.
“It’s inevitable,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if a lawsuit happened right after the election, even if (current councilmember) Bill Miranda gets elected.”

However, White is not actively looking for a plaintiff to sue, nor is he personally planning to sue, which wouldn’t work because the CVRA is used to prove minority groups have their votes diluted.

A lawsuit isn’t the only way the city would be forced to move to district voting. Two other ways exist: the council places the matter on the ballot or an initiative earns enough signatures to qualify for a vote.

Since three current councilmembers, Bob Kellar, Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste, oppose moving to district voting, the only way the council will put the matter to the people is if candidates who favor it are elected (McLean and Weste are running for re-election in November).

The other two councilmembers, Miranda and Cameron Smyth, are open to discussing it, although Miranda said in a text he wants “input from the public before deciding whether to introduce (the) measure to the council. The input needs to be a large sample.”

Candidates on the record of either favoring district voting or letting the people decide include Logan Smith, Diane Trautman, Brett Haddock (“We desperately need districts,” he said) and TimBen Boydston. Smith even went as far as calling for seven districts and directly electing the mayor, and Boydston said he would ask to place the matter on the council agenda during the very first meeting after he’s sworn in.

Common reasons given for making the move include spending less money to get elected and that the city is too large and too many people don’t feel like they are being heard.

“It’s time for our community to move in that direction,” Trautman said. “I want people to feel they are having a voice in their governance. This is something we (should discuss) to understand what it entails, what it involves, what the repercussions would be.”

Another possibility is the initiative process, which Haddock said he would explore if he were not elected. The state Election Code spells out the process for how a municipal initiative (as opposed to a state ballot proposition) could qualify for a ballot. Basically, proponents must file intent to circulate a petition, the initiative’s text and any other written statement or purpose (500 words maximum) to the city clerk, plus pay a maximum $200 filing fee. The same information also has to be published in a local newspaper.

Then the proponents have 180 days to collect enough signatures (10 percent of the city’s registered voters for a regular election, 15 percent for a special election) to qualify. This is where it gets expensive. Haddock and community activist Alan Ferdman estimated it would cost $100,000 to successfully qualify for a ballot, which was the cost to defeat Measure S. Most of those costs would be from hiring paid signature gatherers and advertising.

“With 30 to 40 people, it could be done,” Ferdman said, “but it would require a large amount of dedicated individuals that would be willing to spend three months or however long.”

Right now, the initiative process seems a real long shot. White said he hadn’t even thought about it, Trautman would be willing to work on it but not take the lead, and Haddock might take the lead but is worried about the cost. Smyth said he wouldn’t sign the petition.

Boydston also questioned whether district voting is as important to others as it is to White and Haddock, who put district voting among his top five priorities.

“I don’t see the issue, like many city-level issues, as being important enough to enough people,” Boydston said. “The population, as a whole, doesn’t have enough time to follow the arguments.”

Sean Weber Weaves Council Campaign

| Meet the Candidates | August 23, 2018

In some ways, what Sean Weber seeks to accomplish by running for city council is a return to true representative democracy, a truly involved electorate and no partisanship.

“That’s no longer happening,” he said Monday while sitting inside a Starbucks. “You have policies that are being dictated from Washington D.C. You have policies that are being dictated from both parties where everybody’s so polarized, they’re all fighting each other and they’re not following what’s really going on … to the point that people are tuning it out. It becomes so difficult that people are disengaging because of the polarization. You can’t have a conversation with someone without it getting into those kinds of things. … It’s reality and if you don’t go along with party politics, you’re ostracized.

“If I want to do something in this world, and I want to say at least I’m putting forth the effort, it may not be me that actually does it. Definitely, hopefully it sparks conversation. If you want to see change in this world, it starts with your home, it starts with your house, it starts with your community, it starts with your town, it starts with your friends. That’s what it’s about.”

And Weber has his friends. At least three expressed support online for him to run, and Jeff Martin said Weber inspired him to get involved, so he’s running for a William S. Hart Union High School District board seat.

“He also inspired a lot of people to pay attention to politics,” Martin said. “He’s definitely had an impact.”

Weber said he thinks there’s a problem when the same incumbents, and what he calls “the rotating circle that goes through all the commissions, all the water boards, all the school boards,” keep serving.

“They’ve done great to get us here, yet I’m not certain that they know what it takes to get us where we need to go,” he said. “We do not want to become the Valley.”

This campaign might prove quixotic, but it’s not stopping Weber. He knows there are many roadblocks standing in his way. He’s 36, and only Cameron Smyth (28) and Frank Ferry (32) were younger when first elected to the council. Also, he didn’t pay to have a ballot statement included (only five of 15 candidates didn’t).

Third, he has a criminal past, having pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of witness dissuasion in 2004. He spent six days in jail awaiting his hearing and later was sentenced to 36 months of probation and 192 hours of community service. His probation ended after 26 months, and his record was expunged. Court documents show Weber requested an early end to probation because “my employer is preparing to send me to law school and I would like to clean my record to begin the application process.”

Weber said Monday he never applied to law school. He also provided the name of the woman who accused him of witness dissuasion, but she did not return a phone call.

Weber said the matter was “a family issue” but said he wouldn’t be who or where he is today without having gone through this when he was 22.

However, he is still going though the matter of a two-year restraining order a court granted him against another city council candidate, Brett Haddock.

According to the court transcripts dated July 11, 2017, Weber sought protection because he feared Haddock was going to “kill my family” because online posts from 2015 show Haddock talking about going on a “murderous rampage” and that Weber is Haddock’s “target.” Weber’s attorney also said Haddock posted some of Weber’s easily identifiable information such as address, date of birth and car’s license plate.

“My parents’ house was singled out, and the car window was smashed,” Weber said Monday. “They took nothing.” Weber also posted a photo online of the smashed window.

The transcripts also reveal that Weber and Haddock don’t know each other personally and only met briefly during the 2017 city council appointment process.

“All these things taken together, it looks like Mr. Haddock has an unhealthy obsession with my client,” attorney Troy Slaten told the court.

Haddock’s attorney, Kenneth White, said the “murderous rampage” comment was Haddock’s problems with an insurance company. “They are trying to betray a two-year-old post as being something else,” White said.

In court documents, Haddock said that during the appointment process, Weber “threatened people with libel, slander, defamation for indirect quotes, but still had the spirit of what he was saying. He has engaged in – it really comes down to bullying. … I believe I have a morale (sic) obligation to stand up for people who abuse their public citizens. … I am not a violent person. I am adamantly a pain in the ass, but I’m just using my First Amendment rights to stand up for people that are being bullied.”

Superior Court Commissioner Laura Hymowitz, saying she finds it unusual for a private citizen to appoint oneself to go after bullies, issued the restraining order despite saying, “Most of what Mr. Haddock is doing just doesn’t quite reach the standard.”

The two cannot be in the same room until after July 2019, meaning that Haddock’s previously stated desire to have all city council candidates share a meal – and he invited all but Weber to do so – can’t happen.

Against the backdrop of all this baggage, Weber presses on. He wants to use his technology background to make Santa Clarita “a smart city” by improving infrastructure to support the various small businesses that he says are so important. Right now, he said, the city is not adequately planning for such basics as faster internet connections. He would like to see the entire city go wireless.

“When you have chains all over the city, and they’re what’s growing and pushing out all the small businesses, then you don’t have money going back into the city, and I care more about small businesses and the people that work out of here that started businesses, want their businesses to grow,” he said. “Those mean more to me than those chains.”

The City on Council Elections

| City Council | August 16, 2018

by Carrie Lujan

In Alan Ferdman’s article, he is referring only to Elections Code (EC) citations; however, California Code of Regulations Title 2, Division 7, Chapter 7 section 20712(d) allows the use of titles like “Mayor” and “Mayor Pro Tem” as legislative leadership positions.

For the designation of an appointed councilmember, the author cites, EC 13107(a)(4), that allows the use of “Appointed,” plus the title of the appointed office. The City Clerk’s interpretation is that the councilmember may use that title, but has the option to use other designations as allowed by law.

The term “ballot statement” is incorrect – the author seems to be referring to the candidate statement that is printed in the Official Sample Ballot.

The author also states that a candidate was appointed to the Planning Commission by a Councilmember. This is incorrect – a Councilmember nominates a Commissioner, but a majority council vote is needed for appointment.

TimBen There, Done That – Boydston is Back and Boisterous as Ever

| Meet the Candidates | August 16, 2018

He’s back, and he’s angry – at the lack of roads in the city, at the hypocrisy over water, at political cowardice and with two long-serving incumbents.

TimBen Boydston is running for city council again, two years after being defeated in his bid for re-election. Last time, he ran as an independent, one who looks out for the people and isn’t afraid to be controversial.

None of that came across during the hour-long interview Tuesday. What came across was his annoyance at Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean.
He blamed them for supporting the One Valley, One Vision plan that he said has led to an increase of traffic so great that it’s starting to resemble the San Fernando Valley.

“I fought against the One Valley, One Vision plan very hard. One reason was the traffic,” he said, his vice rising for not the last time. “They voted to allow your traffic to get worse. They voted for it. You have to read the details to see that. I do not want to spend the next few years watching this place become the San Fernando Valley.”

As far as Boydston is concerned, Weste and McLean represent traffic continuing to get worse and worse. His voice rose again as he said, “If you’re sitting at a traffic light, it’s the third, fourth or fifth cycle, and you still haven’t gone through, you can thank Mayor Weste and Councilwoman McLean.”

Boydston said when he was on the council, he asked for a traffic study that looked at peak traffic instead of average traffic, which he said the city currently uses.

“Nobody cares what traffic looks like at 2 in the morning,” he said.

The obvious solution is to build more roads, he said, and he reminded that he helped ensure construction on the Golden Valley Bridge and Via Princessa. He now wants the street to reach Wiley Canyon Road, which he says is already planned – except the council lacks “the political will to complete it.”

He knows that the Whittaker-Bermite property is a factor, but he insists roads can now be built through parts of Whittaker-Bermite “if they had the political will. They will not even address the issue because they’re not serious about building roads.”

Boydston said he’d be willing to bring up the matter as a bond issue, asking if the people would be willing to fund construction to expand Wiley Canyon, Magic Mountain Parkway and Santa Clarita Parkway that would run straight through Whittaker-Bermite.

“If the roads are not built, we will continue to have gridlock,” Boydston said.

Boydston also takes Weste and McLean to task for what he sees as hypocrisy. “In the worst drought in a hundred years, Mayor Weste and Councilmember McLean voted for new city landscaping and to water it,” he said. “Instead of setting an example, they’re telling other people to do what they can to save as much water as possible, yet they voted to put in landscaping (in the medians) and use water to water it.”

At this point, Boydston segued into what he sees as the incumbents’ political cowardice.

He was shocked that McLean, who received widespread praise for fighting to keep Elsmere Canyon from becoming a landfill just outside town in 1996, wouldn’t join Boydston and fight to keep Chiquita Canyon – also outside of town – from expanding.

And he railed against the council for passing a rule – sometimes called the “TimBen Rule” – that requires three councilmembers’ consent to place an issue on the agenda. This came about because Boydston wanted to have the city partner with the county in reducing homelessness. Instead, he said, Weste and McLean (and Bob Kellar) passed a new council rule. The council refused to even take a seat at the county’s table, and by the time Cameron Smyth finally woke up the other members and they started tackling the homeless question, Boydston said, it was two years too late to see any real county money.

“I believe being a leader on the city council, you are supposed to take a stand on an issue that affects your city,” Boydston said. Needing three people to create an agenda item “is like a Third World democracy. … In a true democracy, anyone can put something on an agenda. It’s ludicrous, but it’s the council’s cowardice.”

Boydston also touted some accomplishments, including making sure an oil pipeline contract included more liability insurance to the city, fighting to keep the Burbank-to-Palmdale high-speed train out of Santa Clarita (he said Weste voted for it and McLean favored it before changing her mind) and fighting to defeat Measure S so there would be no digital billboards in open spaces.

He also helped seniors by opposing seniors-only mobile-home conversions to all-ages parks, favored a new senior center and community center – both of which are being built – helped get rid of red-light cameras and helped bring body cameras to sheriff’s deputies.

Yet he is far from satisfied with the way the city is run and feels he can do more to help the people.

“Santa Clarita is a good place to live, and it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse,” he said. “If you ask people who’ve lived here a long time if they think Santa Clarita is a better place to live now than 10 years ago, I think most would say no.”

Request for Weste Interview Goes South

| Meet the Candidates | August 9, 2018

Laurene Weste’s re-election campaign for what would be an unprecedented sixth term on the city council seems to be starting just fine. Although as of Tuesday, she had not yet turned in her paperwork to the city clerk, she still had a few days, and she raised about $24,000, more than any other candidate.

Weste was set to be the fifth candidate for city council (and first incumbent) the Gazette interviewed and wrote about for its occasional “Meet the Candidates” series. She did something different, however, requesting questions be emailed to her instead of sitting down for an interview, as Diane Trautman, Jason Gibbs and Brett Haddock did; or consenting to talk via telephone, as Logan Smith did.

The Gazette complied and emailed her the following questions on July 31, prefacing that “these aren’t softball questions.”

1. Why have you decided to do this by email instead of meeting and/or talking?

2. What will you do differently than in any of your previous terms?

3. You so often say how great Santa Clarita is. What is the best thing about it? What are the largest things that need addressing/improving/fixing? Why? How do you propose to solve these?

4. You have repeatedly denied you stand to gain anything from the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, yet the perception persists. What definitive, tangible proof can you offer to put those naysayers to rest?

5. There is a perception that the councilmembers have their minds made up on an issue before they go into chambers and listen to public comment. I have heard this regarding the Laemmle Theater project, the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, the cannabis dispensary ban, the homeless action plan and the sanctuary city question. Logan Smith made this point when I interviewed him. Is it true? On average, how much time do you spend reading staff reports? Do you do independent interviews and reviews of issues?

6. Brett Haddock is calling for term limits: a maximum of four. What do you say?

7. I quote Diane Trautman: “Laurene tends to talk to people like children.” What is your response?

8. I quote Diane Trautman again: 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. 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.” Do you think Diane’s comments have merit? Why or why not?

9. Diane Trautman believes the city council should set policy and the city manager should carry out the council’s plans, but here, it’s backwards. Is she right? Do you believe the council should take the lead, or should it rely on Ken Striplin to set the agenda?

10. The council’s average age is 68, but take away Cameron Smyth and it’s 73.75. You will be 70 on Election Day. I quote Bob Kellar: “Are we supposed to stay on the city council until we’re 90 years old?” What do you say to those who believe it’s time for a new generation?

11. If elected, this would be your sixth term. You have said this will be your final term. Is there anything that could make you run for a seventh?

In its original email, the Gazette hoped to receive a response by Friday. When none came, a reporter called Weste, who responded that she was on the other line talking to a sick relative, that she hadn’t yet had time to respond but would, abruptly said, “God bless” and hung up.

The Gazette continues to hope Weste will respond and will print her answers if she does.

Brett Haddock Goes All-In

| Meet the Candidates | August 2, 2018

Brett Haddock knows he’s associated with the bow tie. He wears them frequently and even uses it as part of his campaign logo. Although he’s just 33, he recognizes the references to former Sen. Paul Simon (D-Ill.) and conservative commentator Tucker Carlson before he stopped wearing them.

“I was inspired by Bill Nye,” he said. “When I ran (for city council) in 2016, I wanted a way to set me apart from other candidates and show that I’m kind of unconventional, and what better way to illustrate the point than the bow tie?”
On this hot afternoon, however, Haddock eschews the bow tie for a simple gray t-shirt as he sips lemonade in a Newhall coffee shop. But he’s still a candidate for city council, having done it in 2016 “to get (his) feet wet,” and then seeking the appointment that went to Bill Miranda.

Now, Haddock hopes to take a seat currently held by Miranda, Laurene Weste or Marsha McLean.

“I didn’t think I had a chance in hell before,” he said, and the Gazette seemed to agree, grouping Haddock with three other long-shot candidates in a Sept. 1, 2016 story headlined, “The Unfamiliar Few.”

“This time, I think I have a good chance,” Haddock said. “I feel confident about it. I’ve got a message that speaks to the majority of people. I’m a working-class guy (who) understands the needs of the middle class and the changes we need to make to sustain the future.”

In fact, he feels so confident that he quit his job as a software engineer at eBay to devote full time to his campaign.

“I’m willing to gamble until November,” he said. “It’s going to be a tight Christmas.”

In Haddock’s mind, the “needs of the middle class” means having the jobs here in the area so people don’t have to commute, and having afterschool extracurricular and vocational training for kids. While Haddock said he knows the council can’t directly make these things happen, it can take the lead and find the means, such as working with College of the Canyons and school districts.

And “the changes to sustain the future” refer to the need to recognize changing demographics in the city – younger people moving in and wanting to start families – and make housing more available. Haddock suggests more high-density housing close to mass-transit hubs.

“We need to build neighborhoods like Old Town Newhall,” he said.

Another need: reduce traffic by overhauling the city’s mass-transit system and incentivize carpools, although he didn’t specify how. Haddock said there’s a multimillion-dollar traffic center on the third floor at City Hall.

“A handful of major intersections are tied into it, where if it was staffed, it could be dynamically changed to ease some congestion,” Haddock said. “Right now, there (are) 3 separate schedules for the timer. That’s great, but when we have an accident at Valencia (Boulevard) and Bouquet (Canyon Road) that stops up traffic, we need to be able to dynamically change those lights to ease congestion without having a deputy out at the intersection to reroute traffic.

“Or those times we had an emergency in Canyon Country or Saugus and we got to get across town but we have the sheriff’s deputies blocking traffic. If we had an actual member of staff watching the intersection and make all the lights green, they could actually get across town.”

Haddock said that center is unstaffed, and he would like to see a two-person staff. “Then we have to spend a little money and upgrade the intersections in town to tie into the system so they can all be dynamically rerouted.”

Other platform positions:

He believes councilmembers should serve a maximum of four terms (16 years).

He believes in running a positive campaign, which he articulated in an open letter in The Signal in June: After the filing period closes Aug. 10, all candidates should meet for dinner (everybody pays their way) without media or staff. “We sit together and have a civil discussion; not about our candidacy or campaign, but about who we are,” he wrote. “Sharing our stories and our love for the City of Santa Clarita. My one request is that we take a candidates-only photo; just something to show that we were all able to get together and have a peaceful meal.”

Haddock declined to name who has responded. “A couple of people said they will do their best to make it,” he said.

The Gazette reported in 2016 that Haddock believed digital billboards were an issue. Now, Haddock said he stands by that acknowledges there are more important issues, such as the opioid and housing crises and seniors struggling to make ends meet, to deal with first.

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