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Carl Boyer Criticizes Council

| City Council, News | January 5, 2017

One of the city’s founding fathers has been watching the Santa Clarita City Council’s recent actions (and inactions) and is not pleased with what he’s seeing.

“Good government means you deal with the problems, you represent the people, and where the people need to be led, you lead them,” Carl Boyer said.

Boyer was a member of the first city council and served as mayor twice, in 1991 and 1996. Carl Boyer Drive on the east side of town is named for him.

The main problem he says the council is failing to address is the traffic, which he says is “the only issue that affects everyone every day. I get tired of waiting 117 seconds for the light to change at Wiley Canyon (Road) and Lyons (Avenue).”

Another problem Boyer sees is the terrible condition of the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 between the McBean Parkway and Valencia Boulevard off-ramps. He says the council could (and should) be contacting Caltrans about getting the roads fixed.

“When I was on the council, (City Manager) George Caravalho used to take a trip to San Diego and talk to the Caltrans commissioners, and it’d get fixed,” he said.

In fact, Mayor Cameron Smyth said, the council is in constant contact with Caltrans.

“To assert we are not advocating or interacting regarding our freeways is misplaced,” Smyth said. “It’s not as easy as sending me down to Caltrans and demanding X actions are taken. That’s why we developed regional alliances to fight for more federal and state road dollars. That’s the best way.”

Councilmember Marsha McLean, after praising Boyer for being “a respected member of the community for a very, very long time,” said the city has secured county (Measure M), state and federal funds to address the traffic and freeway issues. Some of these funds, McLean said, will go toward paving Interstate 5 between the Newhall Pass and Castaic.

“Dealing with traffic and freeway issues is very complicated,” she said. “It’s a process that takes far too long sometimes. We go after federal grants all the time, and most of the time, we are successful.”

When it comes to representing the people, Boyer says the methods the council has used in selecting Smyth as the new mayor and in appointing the fifth council member leave much to be desired. First, Boyer favors a direct election of mayor, but absent that, he believes in a strict rotation, meaning a councilmember who serves long enough would be mayor every fifth year.

“We had a very unpopular councilmember and I made damn sure she got her chance to be mayor,” Boyer said of Jill Klajic, who won election in 1990 and was mayor in 1992. “She was, and she lost her next election (in 1994). … These council members have made it political.”

Boyer said not having any community input as in 2006, when a 16-member citizens committee – assembled without council input – debated and ranked the various candidates, is symptomatic of the problem.

“They’re not asking the public for input. They did before,” Boyer said. “They’re just going to read applications and hear a three-minute talk and vote? That’s a pretty bad way to do it. I’m not necessarily in favor of spending $350,000, but an election gives candidates time to spell things out for longer than three minutes.”

Smyth said he thinks the public will be very involved because the entire process will be out in the open during council meetings, and since the matter is on the agenda for the Jan. 17 special meeting, people will be able to comment specifically about any applicant, good or bad, and any aspect of the process.

“The process gives more public input than a citizens committee,” Smyth said. “How is having a group of unelected citizens appoint someone to the city council fair? Ten years ago, the council made its own decision and virtually ignored the citizens committee.”

Boyer said this reminds him of the time the council opted out of the county public library system six years ago. Boyer said he thought it was the right thing to do, but the council didn’t inform the public sufficiently. This resulted in then-Mayor Laurie Ender, who Boyer said was leading this move, taking the fall. She became the only councilmember to be defeated for re-election while holding the ceremonial “mayor” title.

Also on that council: current members Laurene Weste, Bob Kellar and McLean. Kellar declined comment and Weste couldn’t be reached.

Smyth said a direct election of a mayor could happen here one day as it did in Palmdale, Lancaster and Simi Valley. “As the city grows and changes, things are not going to be the same as when we incorporated in 1987,” he said.

These problems, as Boyer sees them, arise because certain council members have spent what he sees as too much time on the council. Weste has been in office since 1998 (five terms), Kellar since 2000 (he was just elected to his fifth term) and McLean since 2002 (four terms).

“I don’t think anyone served more than three terms, except Jo Anne Darcy,” Boyer said, and scvhistory.com backs him up. Darcy served four terms.

Smyth served one full term, was elected to a second term and left midway through to serve in the state Assembly. He was elected a third time in November.

“Everybody has to make their own decision,” Smyth said. “I certainly don’t expect to be spending four or five terms on the council. When I was termed out (in Sacramento), I chose not to run for anything else because I believe in a citizen legislature. … I believe the voters will make their voices heard if they’re not happy with what you do.”

Admittedly, Boyer spoke up to further his own agenda. He favors breaking away from Los Angeles County and, along with the Antelope Valley communities, forming an Antelope County. At the very least, he would like to see the council demand a county office be placed here. The county clerk is 47 miles away in Norwalk, and there are offices in Van Nuys and Lancaster, but not here.

Smyth acknowledged that cityhood was born out of Boyer’s and others’ initial efforts to create a separate county. He pointed out that the last county created in the state was Imperial County, but incorrectly gave the year as in the 1930s; it was 1907. He added that, although he favors smaller, localized government and state Sen. Pete Knight crafted legislation to leave the county, the logistics for creating a new county are great.

“I have the utmost respect for Mr. Boyer and his service to the city, being one of our city fathers,” Smyth said. “I can appreciate his input. … But when the entire county votes on a measure like this, (winning is) very difficult and very expensive.”

Council Appointment Process Questioned

| City Council | December 22, 2016

To paraphrase “Hamlet,” Act I Scene IV: Something is rotten in Santa Clarita.

That is what a small, yet vocal, group of people are saying as they watch the Santa Clarita City Council move through its process to name a mayor and appoint a fifth member.

“I don’t think they care, because so few people pay attention: maybe 20 citizens that don’t sit on the council but regularly go to meetings,” Saugus realtor Steve Petzold said.

It is all a matter of perception vs. reality; and these people’s perception of reality differs greatly from that of the various council members. In fact, none of the three members interviewed (Marsha McLean was out of town, a relative said) believe the concerns have merit.

“It’s valid to those who say it,” Bob Kellar said. “Are they valid to us? No.”

Added Cameron Smyth: “I learned a long time ago that whatever decision you make, there are those that are going to find fault. … You can’t convince people if people believe there is a conspiracy. It’s unfortunate. It’s false.”

What The Signal’s editorial board calls “the six-year-old rift between elected and constituents” begins with the process by which the council selected Smyth as mayor and Laurene Weste as mayor pro tem. Smyth had not sat on the council for 10 years, although he was twice mayor, in 2003 and 2005.

“The mayor position is still ceremonial,” Smyth said.

Typically, the mayor pro tem becomes mayor the next year. Dante Acosta was mayor pro tem, but had to resign after winning election to the Assembly, leaving the council to select both positions. Weste was last mayor in 2014, McLean in 2015 and Kellar this year, so it follows that Weste would be mayor now.

Since that didn’t happen, people such as Alan Ferdman and Joe Messina believe that it was a setup so Weste and McLean would be mayor and mayor pro tem in 2018 – the year they are up for re-election.

“Him becoming mayor, I was caught off-guard,” said Messina, currently the William S. Hart Union School District board president and radio show host. “As I sat there and thought it through, it made sense. (Having the title) always gives you a leg up.”

Weste responded, “Cameron is a native son. Twice he was mayor. His father was mayor. He wanted (it). Marsha had no interest. Bob said he wasn’t doing it. I said the same thing in The Signal. I wouldn’t have been mayor. Nothing complicated here. Cameron fits all the criteria, and I think it’s appropriate.”

And this from Smyth: “You could argue that the incumbency didn’t work for Mr. (TimBen) Boydston, so to say that having the title of mayor or mayor pro tem is going to put somebody over the top, I think that is not valid.”

Boydston, however, did not hold a title when he was defeated in November; because the council had selected Acosta as mayor pro tem over him. Laurie Ender (April 2012) is the one person to be defeated for re-election while holding the title.

So, the rift continues. People such as Petzold and the unnamed members of The Signal’s editorial board object to the councilmembers selecting their own replacement. Petzold has gone so far as to start a Facebook page devoted to the appointment process.

“We’re watching,” he said, adding he was “extremely disappointed” that the council chose to appoint.

There are numerous other examples in which a governing body doesn’t select its own replacement. The Supreme Court doesn’t do it. When a sitting U.S. senator is elected president, as Barack Obama was eight years ago, the Senate didn’t pick Obama’s successor; the governor appointed.

Even the city council didn’t do this 10 years ago when Smyth went to the Assembly. It used a 16-person volunteer citizens committee put together by city staff – not the council itself – to find the right choice. That its top pick, Bob Spierer, wasn’t appointed (Boydston was) tells some people that either the system works or the council learned a lesson and this time wants more control over the situation.

“The council will go through the process to pick the candidate of their choice,” Ferdman said. He added he does not know who that is, but Petzold believes it to be “a member of the protected class,” the implication being a Latino. The city was sued over allegations that the access of minority voters, specifically Hispanic ones, was being limited by Santa Clarita’s at-large elections, thus violating the California Voting Rights Act.

Paul De La Cerda, a Saugus Union School District board member, has expressed interest, and a source told the Gazette that De La Cerda has been out seeking endorsements. Petzold opposes appointing De La Cerda, because to do so would leave a vacancy on the school board, leading to another appointment.
A source said that McLean is terrified that another lawsuit could result. Smyth argued that the council should have more say-so.

“I genuinely believe that deferring the decision to a citizens committee would be an abdication of our responsibility as council members,” Smyth said. “Even if the thing to do is have a group of unrelated, unaccountable citizens to make a selection and the council can wipe our hands of it, but I believe to have the greatest amount of accountability is for the council to make the choice, and if the public is unhappy, there is recourse: the ballot box.”

Kellar said he wants to find “the most qualified person, nothing more, nothing less. I don’t care if they’re red, green or yellow.”

The Signal is suggesting that if the council doesn’t go to a citizens committee, everyone who meets the basic criteria of being 18 and living in the city should apply.

Will that happen, thus making it considerably more difficult, but not impossible, to appoint? Stay tuned.

To paraphrase Bette Davis in “All About Eve”: It’s going to be a bumpy ride.

How to Pick a Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem

| City Council | December 2, 2016

After the new Santa Clarita City Council is seated on Dec. 13, one of the tasks at hand will be to designate a new mayor and mayor pro-tem. Who will they be?

Since the two positions are non-elected, any council member – in this case, Bob Kellar, Marsha McLean, Laurene Weste or Cameron Smyth, all of whom have served as mayor in the past – is eligible.

“All are certainly capable come January,” Smyth said. “It’s a unique situation the council hasn’t faced before at any time in its history.”

There are few specific criteria. Smyth said that when he was on the council from 2000-06, the procedure worked this way: The presiding officer (usually the mayor) declares the mayor’s post to be vacant and opens the floor to nominations. Any council member may nominate any other council member, including themselves (council members may accept or decline). Then there might or might not be discussion, and the vote follows. Three votes are required. Once the mayor is designated, the same members follow the same procedure for mayor pro-tem.

Typically, a member who serves as mayor pro-tem becomes the next mayor, but Dante Acosta was elected to the Assembly and must vacate his council seat (the council also must decide in its Dec. 13 meeting how to fill Acosta’s seat).
“We’ll have a discussion and decide. That’s how we’ve done it in the past,” Kellar said. “Anything is on the table.”

Well, almost anything. Council members cannot discuss the matter with various other members or they will be violating the portion of the Ralph M. Brown Act (Government Code 54950) that covers informal and undisclosed meetings held by local elected officials.

Smyth put it this way: “Two council members can have a discussion. Bob, Laurene and Marsha can’t go outside and meet. Bob can’t go to Marsha and then call Laurene. Then it’s considered a serial meeting.”

There also are traditions that might or might not be honored this time around. For example, the current mayor typically isn’t designated in consecutive years. That would leave out Kellar, and he said he isn’t interested in doing it in 2017. Only one time in the city’s history has a designated mayor been asked to continue in the role: In 1999, Jo Anne Darcy was asked to serve in 2000.

Also typically, the various council members rotate the position, with the one who hasn’t been designated in the longest time getting to serve next. That could leave out McLean, who served in 2015 (McLean didn’t return a call for comment). Weste hasn’t been mayor since 2014, but she said she isn’t seeking it. Kellar was mayor in 2013.

Smyth hasn’t been mayor since 2005, but he just got elected, and no newly elected member has ever then been designated mayor. The closest is the nine times an incumbent council member was re-elected and then designated the next year.

“I certainly feel comfortable that I am prepared to serve in either of these positions if nominated,” Smyth said. “I’m just not going to nominate myself.”

Kellar said Smyth could be designated “from a procedural standpoint. Is it likely? Probably not.”

A source told the Gazette that it’s advantageous to be up for re-election while holding the mayor or mayor pro-tem positions. Seven times the sitting mayor won re-election; only once was a sitting mayor defeated: Laurie Ender in 2012. Weste and McLean will be up for re-election the next time, so it might benefit them to have the labels.

Pick Me! Pick Me!

| City Council | December 1, 2016

Should the four Santa Clarita City Council members decide to appoint the fifth member, they will have no shortage of applicants, as at least 10 people have expressed an interest. These include eight of the nine city council candidates who didn’t win, plus some others.

The sheer number of candidates doesn’t surprise Kenneth Dean, who finished fifth, or Matthew Hargett, who finished seventh.

“I figure everybody’d say yes,” Dean said.

“I met half the candidates, and everyone seemed very passionate about the election and wanting the spot,” Hargett said.

And except for Paul Wieczorek, who couldn’t be reached, they were right. Everybody has their own reasons for trying, even those such as Alan Ferdman, who know they have no chance of being selected.

“I don’t want anybody to say I wasn’t truly interested in serving the community,” said Ferdman, who finished fourth. “So, I will do whatever the council asks.”

Ferdman said he thinks TimBen Boydston, who was wildly unpopular with his fellow council members, also has no chance. Boydston said, “I ran for the office. I want the office. I can do the office, and there are many thousands of people in Santa Clarita who think I can (he received 16,398 votes, or 13.47 percent). I wouldn’t know my chances. I’m not a betting man.”

Besides, Boydston said, he prefers a special election to decide the spot (the various council members have balked at the $175,000 price tag). Yet, he plans to apply and do the same thing he did the last time the council needed to appoint someone, in 2006: “I would promise not to run in the next election.”

The only other candidate who didn’t emphatically favor opening the appointment to all was Brett Haddock, who said he favors the council appointing the person who finished third, which was Boydston. His second choice is to hold a special election.

Still, “I’ll play the game, jump through the hoops,” he said, adding he doesn’t think he has much of a chance, because he was seen as allied with Ferdman and Boydston.

David Ruelas finished 10th of 11 with 3.05 percent of the vote. He first considered appointment when he heard fellow candidate Mark White (eighth, 3.12 percent) talk about it. He went to the Nov. 22 council meeting to find out more, only to hear city officials say there’s no reason to talk about it, because the process can’t start until Dec. 13.

“I figure everybody wants to get appointed,” Ruelas said. “It depends on the process. It shouldn’t take long. … I’d like to see them come up with a process, and then I’ll participate.”

Sources say Saugus Union School District board member Paul De La Cerda and attorney Rhonda Baldwin-Kennedy are also interested in being appointed. De La Cerda said he wants to serve the community in any way possible, but won’t declare his interest until the council reveals the appointment process. Baldwin-Kennedy couldn’t be reached.

People who have said they’re not interested include Stacy Fortner, who unsuccessfully ran for a seat on the Castaic Lake Water Agency board; Maria Gutzeit, who is working on forming a new water agency in the area; and chamber of commerce board member Bill Miranda, although he said he’d be interested in assisting with whatever process the council decides.

Sandra Nichols Interested in Council Seat

| City Council | November 24, 2016

A second defeated city council candidate has expressed interest in being considered for Dante Acosta’s soon-to-be-vacated seat.

Sandra Nichols, who finished sixth of 11 in the voting, said the council needs a new set of eyes, one that would be detail-oriented, reasonable and able to keep the council focused when it goes off on tangents.

She joins Mark White (who finished eighth) in wanting to serve.

“I was the only woman, so you could say I got the women’s vote,” she said, “but I beat five men. One (White) was considered a major candidate.”

Nichols said in an email that she was a manager for many years in the home healthcare industry and holds a master’s degree in public administration from California State University, Fullerton, which she said gives her an awareness of what goes on in local government.
Acosta won election to the state Assembly, so the council must determine how to fill the vacancy. None of the four members who will decide – Bob Kellar, Cameron Smyth, Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste – favor a special election, citing the $175,000 cost as too much. This leaves appointing someone to complete Acosta’s term (approximately two years remain), but they have to figure out how to do it and who would be eligible. The process begins at the Dec. 13 council meeting.

Nichols said her primary concern is the council will appoint someone who has a lot of money, “and money talks,” she said. To contrast, she said, she spent $500 and enlisted the help of one family member and four friends, resulting in 4,550 votes, or 4.47 percent.

Alan Ferdman – Candidate Seeks Change

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | October 28, 2016

Alan Ferdman says he’s running for Santa Clarita City Council not to be a naysayer (although he often presents contrarian points during council meetings), but because he wants what’s best for the area he has called home since 1965.

“I want to make Santa Clarita a place my grandchildren, and their children, want to live,” the 73-year-old retired aerospace engineer said. “I want to see things either stay the same or get better. In order to do that, you have to recognize problems exist and fix them. You have to embrace change.”

To Ferdman, there are a great many things right about Santa Clarita. It’s still a friendly community (“I can go anywhere and get smiles,” he said); its graffiti removal program “is awesome”; the thousands of trees planted beautified neighborhoods; placing the utilities along Soledad Canyon Road underground was a smart move; and the aquatic centers and Central Park in Saugus are high quality, though Ferdman said he would like to see more parks.

But the main role Ferdman wants to play on the council, if elected, is watchdog. He wants to keep people honest and held accountable to the city, pointing to Whittaker-Bermite and the embezzlement of more than half a million dollars as examples of what can go wrong.

The Whittaker-Bermite decontamination and cleanup of 996 acres has been happening since 2007. Ferdman keeps regular tabs on the cleanup as a member of the Whittaker-Bermite Citizen Advisory Committee and has been told numerous times that the project will be done by such-and-such a date, only to have it pushed back again and again. He also attends multi-jurisdictional meetings that include council members.

Kellar and Dante Acosta, whom he says don’t ask the right questions.

“The effect is, it’s not well managed,” Ferdman said. “We need someone on the council who knows how to manage projects. … If you have a schedule and you manage that schedule, the project might happen. If you don’t have a schedule, and don’t manage it, (the project) will not happen.

“You have to recognize a problem and go fix it.”

Ferdman sees Whittaker-Bermite as a key to, among other things, easing the traffic congestion that has greatly increased in his 51 years here. He says the consequences of the city’s “One Valley, One Vision” plan has led traffic to become this bad, specifically allowing for increased density and reducing expectations that traffic will flow smoothly.

(“One Valley, One Vision” refers to the General Plan approved in 2011 by the city and 2012 by the county that, according to the city, was to create a single vision within the county and city’s jurisdictions for future growth of the Santa Clarita Valley and the preservation of natural resources valley wide.)

“We have a serious road problem here,” Ferdman said. “In order to improve traffic, in order to make our lives better, you can’t be a cheerleader,” which is how he characterizes Kellar (who is one of two incumbents running for re-election and the person Ferdman wants to unseat).

Ferdman also criticizes the city for its business systems that lack integration, which he said helped lay the groundwork for a former employee to embezzle between $531,037 and $533,571, depending on who’s estimating, over three years (David Rubira was arrested and accused of those crimes; he has pleaded not guilty). Ferdman also was critical of the city for only learning about it after an anonymous tip to the sheriff’s department led to an investigation that revealed the thefts.

As a result of the thefts, the city paid for an audit of its internal operations, which showed that the thefts occurred because it was easy to circumvent various practices and controls. The audit also described in detail how easy it was, and it made 17 recommendations for strengthening policies, procedures and internal controls.

“The city needs a set of policies and procedures,” Ferdman said. “Within the city itself, we’re operating like a small town. We need to come into the world of big cities.”

Ferdman said he’s the one to fix this problem because in his time at Litton in the mid-1990s, he was involved in changing all the relevant systems in advance of the year 2000 and the possible Y2K problem.

“I’m knowledgeable in how that works,” he said. “I have the skills necessary to get those jobs done.”

Jim de Bree, a retired CPA living in Valencia, endorsed Ferdman when he wrote in The Signal last week, “Mr. Ferdman’s career background in connection with financial and information systems technology coupled with his commitment to transparency and understanding of local issues make him ideally suited to address problems with the City’s existing accounting infrastructure and to implement policies that are in accordance with the paradigm shift in governance practices.”

Elect TimBen Boydston and Alan Ferdman

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | October 20, 2016

by Steve Petzold

Doug Sutton expressed my sentiment when he endorsed TimBen Boydston and Alan Ferdman for the two Santa Clarita City Council seats last week in his regular feature, Doug’s Rant. Each of these candidates has earned our consideration for a council position.

The legacy council members Weste, McLean, and current mayor, Bob Kellar, have never fully accepted Boydston as an equal on the council. Shortly after his election in April 2012, TimBen nominated his friend and supporter Alan Ferdman to serve on the parks commission. Alan has an outstanding record of community involvement and service, but none of the other council members would second the nomination.

TimBen Boydston picThere was no excuse for TimBen’s fully qualified nominee to be rejected in such a rude and humiliating manner.

In December of 2015, I organized an effort to have TimBen named mayor pro tempore at the annual organizational meeting. Despite having a number of citizens speak in alanferdman-288x389favor of TimBen, the legacy council members, including Bob Kellar, gave the position to neophyte Dante Acosta without explanation or comment.

City founder Carl Boyer, who spoke in favor of TimBen Boydston, followed up several days later with a letter to The Signal titled “Government by Kleptocracy.” Carl recognized the true injustice of the council members who, year after year, passed over TimBen for leadership positions and the most desirable subcommittee assignments.

It is the belief of many informed citizens that former councilmember Cameron Smyth was recruited by Mayor Kellar and other influential individuals to defeat TimBen and block Alan Ferdman. This idea was recently confirmed when a joint mailer by Kellar and Smyth went out to voters in the community.

The time has come to support candidates who will exercise independence from the city staff. Please join me on November 8 by casting your votes for city council in support of TimBen Boydston and Alan Ferdman.

Paul Wieczorek: Why Not Us?

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | October 13, 2016

Paul J. Wieczorek said he ran a Donald Trump campaign before Donald Trump did: as an independent wanting change and saying what he thought, good or bad, but “not the vulgar stuff,” he said.

Here’s an example from the 39-minute interview with the Gazette: “I’d wipe out the entire VA (Veterans Administration) if I was president. (Veterans) could use their military card to go to any hospital, any doctor, and it’s taken care of. They should be the first ones treated.”

However, Wieczorek, who is a member of the American Independent Party and only briefly left it so he could vote for Trump in the June Republican primary, is running for city council, but he still feels like an outsider. “I’m not a politician,” he said, “just a regular guy who works for the post office. I don’t talk like a politician because I’m not.”

He points to a recent Signal-sponsored candidate forum that included only five of the 11 council candidates, whom he calls the Big Five: incumbents Bob Kellar and TimBen Boydston, former Councilmember Cameron Smyth; Alan Ferdman, who like Wieczorek has run before, and Mark White.

“I was very dismayed to put it nicely, that our hometown newspaper The Signal is BIASED,” Wieczorek wrote in a letter to the Gazette. “I am speaking for myself and five other Candidates (Kenneth Dean, David Ruelas, Brett Haddock, Matthew Hargett and Sandra Nichols) to say shame on you to think we are not important enough to debate. Why not have two debates?? Oh yeah the other six are not important enough. I have tried to think why am I not important enough, or qualified. What qualifies us? Having degrees? A degree does not mean you are qualified. Experience? Every Council member had no experience when they first ran. They ran on change, and that’s what the outsiders six bring. I have gotten to know the other five outsiders, and I would vote for any of them over the chosen five.”

“I took it personal because I’m running,” said Wieczorek, who called the snub “a lame excuse.” (Signal editor Jason Schaff previously said that an 11-member debate was not practical.)

Wieczorek, 59, said he’s running for reasons many people run: They love their city and they want it to be better. Wieczorek said he wants the same small-town feel he enjoyed when he moved here some 30 years ago.

Here’s a look:

Zero growth – Like many candidates, Wieczorek is alarmed at how bad traffic has become. It now takes him between 20-30 minutes to reach his Saugus home from his Canyon Country postal route. “They overbuilt the place,” he said about city leaders. “How can you be running on that when you’re part of the overcrowding in the first place?”

He would like more roads to be built to combat the traffic, but he would freeze building any more business structures. Instead, he would like to recruit businesses to come occupy the now-vacant buildings that dot the city.

“Let’s utilize what we’ve got. We’ve built ourselves up enough,” he said.

Fight the drugs – Wieczorek said there’s too much easily obtainable heroin in the city, especially near the intersection of Bouquet Canyon and Seco Canyon roads and along Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. He knows this because he has family members who are fighting addiction. Marijuana and meth are also readily available, he said.

His solution would be to assist the local sheriff’s department in giving the deputies whatever they need. “Maybe they need more patrols. Maybe they need more undercover,” he said. “Maybe we need different laws when they do get (drug offenders). Maybe we’re not holding them long enough.”

Help the homeless, especially the veterans – Wieczorek said he has read about cities that, instead of running homeless people out of town or arresting them, have built shelters with running water to help. He said these places cost less than incarceration or sweeps. Unfortunately, he couldn’t remember any cities that are doing this.

Many veterans are homeless, and Wieczorek doesn’t want anything bad to happen to them. While he’s not a veteran, his father and two brothers served in the navy, army and marines.

Two terms is enough – Wieczorek wants to limit councilmembers to two terms, and one must complete a first term before moving on to a higher elected position.

“I believe they get complacent,” after serving for too long, he said. “It’s like any job. You’re going through the motions. Everybody goes in with great ideas. Each term is four years. After eight years, if you haven’t accomplished what you want, it’s time to get out; and if you have, it’s also time to get out.”

He also objects to current Councilmember Dante Acosta seeking the Assembly seat before serving a completed first term (Acosta has said he looked forward to serving as mayor next year and eyed no other office when he was elected).

“If you finish your term, that shows you care about the city,” Wieczorek said. “When you move up, that shows you care more for yourself.” But he’s OK with someone moving on in the middle of a second or subsequent term.

Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats Host City Council Forum

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | September 16, 2016

The Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats have announced their first Santa Clarita City Council Forum to be held on September 30, 2016 at the Northpark Clubhouse from 5-8:30 p.m. The Northpark Clubhouse is located at 28201 Northpark Drive in Valencia. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.

“It’s a great opportunity for people to know their candidates and who they could be electing,” said Andrew Taban, president of the Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats.
The group’s aim is to draw young locals into the political process, though the forum is open to residents of all ages.
“This will be an important public service and opportunity to get young people involved with city government,” Taban said. “By hosting this forum, we are encouraging youth to come get involved and become informed about local issues and candidates. We hope this is the first of many forums that we will host for city council elections.”

Taban will moderate the forum and three panelists have been selected to ask questions: the club’s vice president, John Casselberry; SCVYD senator, Jacob Bridges; and former William S. Hart School Board Member and educational policy expert Gloria Mercado-Fortine.

“We’ve worked hard to plan this forum to offer young people a chance to get directly involved in the political process,” Casselberry said. “Young people are often times underrepresented and it’s important to have their voices heard, as well as have their questions answered. I’m happy to serve as one of the panelists and hope to contribute to a very lively and engaging conversation.”

All candidates who have filed have been invited, and the following candidates have responded that they will be in attendance: Bob Kellar, TimBen Boydston, Alan Ferdman, David Ruelas, Sandra Nichols, Kenneth Dean, Mark White and Brett Haddock. Cameron Smyth has declined to attend.

For more information, contact John Casselberry at (805) 432-5916.

The Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats is the first Democratic club in the Santa Clarita Valley exclusively for young voters. The Santa Clarita Valley Young Democrats represent young voters from the greater Santa Clarita Valley, Simi Valley, Porter Ranch, Granada Hills, Agua Dulce, Acton, Palmdale and Lancaster. It is the only Young Democrats chapter exclusively focused on Northern Los Angeles County and Simi Valley in Ventura County.

City Councylmpics

| City Council | September 8, 2016

Martha Michael (L), a woman, moderates across from an all-male panel (“man-el”).

Martha Michael (L), a woman, moderates across from an all-male panel (“man-el”).

The 2016 Olympics have just begun – and I’m not talking about Rio. The Santa Clarita City Council race is in full swing. With nine (mostly) newcomers and two incumbents playing musical council seats, this biennial back-and-forth has political sports fans in a frenzy.

Last Thursday, five candidates stepped up to the plate to dish it all out in one of the first City Council debates, while the others enjoyed a nice view from the bench, otherwise known as the desktop livestream. Here is an overview of the first event in the Council Olympics, just in case you missed it – and if you had anything else better to do that night, or were one of the other runners, you probably did.

The First Event: Synchronized Field the Question

To kick-start the evening, all five candidates were asked to give some of their riveting backstories. And that’s right, you guessed it, most of them included the standard phrase “Santa Clarita businessman,” and how could we forget to mention the classic “my mom drove me here,” from Cameron Smyth. With two real estate agents and not a single woman on the platform, the heat had been turned up all the way to medium-low.

Second Event: The BobSlay

After we had a vague idea of where the candidates stood based on their identical backgrounds, the contestants warmed up for the annual BobSlay event, featuring a series of indirect free-throws at the old order of Kellar and friend(s). The audience cheered as the first runner-up, TimBen, rode in on a wave of grilling indirect blows. Referee Chuck Champion stepped in to allow Kellar to play defense every so often, while Alan Ferdman took heavy swings from behind his notecards. The highlight of the night: hearing Bob Kellar ruggedly inquire, “What are you smoking?”

Third Event: Triathlon

The triathlon was composed of three main events: The homeless debate, Measure S, and the embezzlement scandal that many of us pretended to know about. While all repetitively agreed that homelessness needs to be dealt with, Boydston took it a step further and suggested that the council needed to work together to put it on the agenda for discussion. Thus, the BobSlay overlapped into the next event once again. When the alarm sounded for the tired Measure S topic to be dragged into the court, somewhere in heaven an angel cried.

But as for the embezzlement scandal, Ferdman and Boydston tag-teamed and attempted to propose new ways of preventing another slap to the taxpayer face. Smyth and White agreed. Good ol’ Bobby got revved up again. The cycle continues.

**WARNING: SATIRE. The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Candidate Mark White – Looking to the Future

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | September 8, 2016

Some candidates run for office because they believe the city is at a crossroads and their way is the best way forward. Others run because they feel so good about their community that they want to give back.

Mark White runs for both reasons. He says he truly loves this community, having lived here since he was 3 years old (he’s from Canyon High’s Class of 1979), met his wife here and raises his family here. He might not completely believe in the Valencia “Awesometown” moniker from 2010, but he thinks, “This is one sure nice place to live.”

But as the city has grown and approaches its 30th year of incorporation in 2017, White nonetheless sees the crossroads. Granted, he never used the word “crossroads” in a 40-minute interview, but within his words is the belief that the same people serving for long periods of time (he named Bob Kellar, who he said he knows and likes) leads to complacency, and complacency leads to accepting things as they are instead of what they could be.

“You respect the past, but you have to look to the future,” he said. “Can we be better than we are now?”

To White, a city council needs people with principles, who will do the research (he called it “due diligence”), make the best decision and move on. That also means “new people, new perspectives, new energy.”

But will he have the time to get out his message? White said he believes campaigns begin after Labor Day and run to Election Day, putting him behind many candidates who have been raising funds for some time. This also means the majority of money will come out of his pocket.

A look at his platform:

1. One City, One Valley. White strongly favors a decision by the city to annex the areas in the valley that aren’t within the city limits, such as Stevenson Ranch and Castaic. He isn’t sure residents in areas such as these realize they aren’t in the city limits. He envisions a city that reaches all points of the Santa Clarita Valley up to the mountains that surround it, and he wants those mountains to be mostly free of housing developments.
2. A complete review of policies and regulations. White wants city staff to review all of the policies and regulations, revoking or updating those that need to be. Chief among those are the rules to open a new business in the city. White had heard from too many people that it has become increasingly difficult to do so.

3. Bring big businesses here. Related to No. 2, White would like to see the City of Santa Clarita partner with organizations such as the chamber of commerce to make it easier for large businesses (he gave insurance companies as an example) to relocate here, but certain policies and regulations make that difficult, if not impossible. He said Scorpion Internet Marketing is outside the city limits because there’s no space inside. (City spokesperson Gail Morgan said Scorpion’s current location is inside the city, but the company is relocating to outside the city, but still in the valley.)

“We have the infrastructure, we have the income, we have great schools,” White said. “We need to be attracting high-paying jobs.”

4. He favors district elections. He correctly points out that all current city council members live in either Canyon Country or Newhall. “A city our size, it’s OK to have districts. People are more likely to know you and get better responsiveness,” he said.

5. He’s against council expansion. Look no further than the proliferation of school districts, he said. “We’re not the same city we were 100 years ago” when there was one Sulphur Springs schoolhouse, one Newhall schoolhouse and one Saugus schoolhouse. “Bureaucracy expands by itself,” White said.

6. Santa Clarita Police Department? Though he doesn’t come right out and say he favors it, White isn’t opposed, either. “I’m in favor of taking a hard look at it and see if there is some benefit,” he said. “The sheriffs do a great job. There’s a reason we are so safe a city.” He believes having its own police force might make it easier for the city leaders to annex the outlying areas.

7. No easy traffic solution. Like many other candidates, White thinks there is a traffic issue, “but it’s more than just synchronizing lights,” he said. He would like to challenge the city’s traffic engineers to find solutions so it doesn’t take 20-25 minutes to drive from the Valencia Boulevard exit off Interstate 5 to Plum Canyon Road. The most likely solution would come from developers building new roads for the new houses they’re building.

“This is not a problem that can be solved overnight,” White said.

The Unfamiliar Few

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | September 1, 2016

Some people might wonder why Sandra Nichols, Brett Haddock, David Ruelas and Ken Dean bother to run for city council. They are four people vying, with seven others, including two incumbents, for two seats. Since it is a numbers game, each individual’s chances of winning are slim, and they know it.

The Signal didn’t even invite them to its debate, Editor Jason Schaff explaining an 11-person debate “is not fruitful or useful. We did a 13-person debate two years ago and everyone got only two or three questions. It’s just not practical.”

Yet, here they are, giving it their best shots, and many believe it’s not impossible to unseat either Bob Kellar or TimBen Boydston. Nichols and Haddock say they have “a good chance.” Ruelas puts his at “fair,” and Dean says it’s “possible, but not probable. I have name recognition, I believe.”

They all have their reasons for running, and many share the same concerns over what they see wrong with the city. They have participated in debates, pressed the flesh and sought endorsements. In other words, they’re doing everything a grassroots candidate should do to have a chance. How successful they will be remains to be seen.

Nichols and Haddock believe they can be a voice for the underrepresented – those people they believe are not being served by the current council, especially by Kellar. Ruelas wants to give back, and Dean is trying again.

Here’s a capsulized look:

SANDRA NICHOLS
Nichols thinks city government isn’t transparent enough. As an example, she mentions the Laemmle Theatre complex that will go up in Old Town Newhall.

“Is it beneficial to have a Laemmle Theatres? How much is it going to cost (taxpayers)?” she asked. “We have over 176,000 people living in the Santa Clarita Valley (it’s actually 219,611). If they get just 1,000 (paying customers) a day, is that good enough?

“And it will cost residents for parking. They don’t realize they’re paying for it.”

If elected, Nichols said she wouldn’t just revoke the agreement with Laemmle, but would consider revising it. “I’ve heard people say it’s not a good bang for your buck,” she said.

She would like the council to be more forthcoming with how much money it gives various business and restaurant chains, such as Home Depot and Cheesecake Factory.

Nichols also thinks traffic, water and pollution are big problems. She sees many new housing developments going up, but not the infrastructure to deal with the influx. More housing developments lead to more people, which lead to more water use, more traffic and more pollution. She stands for more job creation in the city, or at least more carpools.

She also favors more community policing in the form of at least four substations in the various communities (Newhall, Saugus, Valencia, Canyon Country, etc.).

BRETT HADDOCK
Haddock, 31, first got involved with Von Hougo’s failed U.S. Senate campaign (Hougo finished 15th of 34 in the primary, with 41,832 votes, or 0.8 percent) and currently runs votease.com, a website dedicated to better connecting voters to their representatives, allowing constituents to vote directly on legislation pending before Congress.

“The idea has merit,” he said. “The challenge I’m facing now is while everybody loves the idea, they still want a candidate with the same values. I’m starting to hear about the issues people want (addressed).”

Those include traffic and digital billboards, which Haddock insists is still an issue, despite Measure S failing in 2014. Kellar favored Measure S, and Haddock says if the councilmember is reelected, he will again try to push through a similar piece of legislation, so Haddock wants to prevent that.

Haddock said his father, Michael, has a history of conflict with Kellar that goes back to before incorporation. They disagreed not only on how the city should incorporate, but had their spats going back to the days of the Canyon Country Chamber of Commerce and Frontier Days rodeo. The son, apparently, has taken up the mantel.

Haddock also thinks the east side of town, specifically, east of Whites Canyon Road heading east on Soledad Canyon Road and on Sierra Highway north of Soledad Canyon, is being neglected. He sees dead plants and roads in need of repair.

Finally, he wants better high-speed internet and believes the council needs to better attract big technology companies and bring those jobs here.

DAVID RUELAS
Ruelas, 25, is a product of the rough streets of Newhall nicknamed “Tijuanita” (Little Tijuana). Growing up and walking to Placerita Canyon Middle and Hart High School, he saw police and Drug Enforcement Administration raids, as well as gang members writing graffiti. He said he might have gone to jail if not for the local community center, which he said was his “beacon of hope.” It helped get him out of the barrio, and he went on to College of the Canyons and University of California, Davis and graduated with a political science degree.

His experiences have motivated him to give back in the form of running for council. His main goal, if elected, would be to reduce funding for programs that don’t work. If people will clean up graffiti for free, then there is no reason for the city to spend money on graffiti removal, he said.

Another problem he sees is a lack of police in certain areas. He would like to put more boots on the ground in the form of foot patrols, “so the police can know us and talk to us face to face,” he said.

KENNETH DEAN
Longtime residents might recognize Dean as having run before. He has tried to win a council seat three other times, most recently four years ago.

Dean has long been involved in city affairs, having served on transportation, open space, and hillside and ridgeline committees. He fought Mello-Roos taxes as a member of SMRT (Stop Mello-Roos Taxes) and was among the 75 leaders that guided the community into cityhood.

Traffic is a concern of his, and he would like to see the signal lights be better synced to help distribute traffic better. He says look no further than Newhall Ranch Road to see how bad it’s become.

“You hit a red light, but by the time you get to the next light, it should be green. It’s not,” he said.

Related to traffic is the difficulty of exiting strip malls and getting into the traffic flow. Syncing lights would help solve that problem, he said.

Finally, he would like to see more parks built. They don’t need to be big, he said, even 90 feet by 30 feet is large enough a space for people to congregate.

Another Run for Candidate Kellar

| City Council, Meet the Candidates | August 25, 2016

Bob Kellar does not take his duties and obligations to the city lightly. If an issue comes before the Santa Clarita City Council, Kellar ensures he has done his homework to fully understand what’s at stake before he votes.

“Your job is to make yourself as knowledgeable as you can about a host of issues,” he said. “It’s an ongoing responsibility of reviewing things that come before me.”

Whether it’s Cemex, the chloride issue, the Whittaker-Bermite cleanup, the Laemmle theatre or a pay raise for the council, Kellar says he tries his best to obtain all the information, work with the necessary people and then vote what’s best for the community as a whole.

He’s done this for 16 years, including this year as mayor, and he hopes to win a fifth four-year term come November. He’s one of two incumbents (TimBen Boydston is the other) in a field of 11.

“I’m honored to have been able to serve the community,” he said. “I hope I’ve done a good job. I sincerely try my best to be as good a councilmember and mayor for a city I think it is a remarkable city.”

Kellar has lived here since 1979 (in the same house, he notes) and has served on the now-defunct Canyon Country Chamber of Commerce (he said he was its last president before it merged with the Santa Clarita Chamber to form the SCV Chamber), chaired the Frontier Days rodeo, and joined the local Red Cross and American Cancer Society boards.

“I’ve met so many great people,” he said. “I’m impressed with the people who live out here. … I have met people who are very engaged in the community. I’ve enjoyed my association with them.”

But it was his appointment to the Planning Commission in 1997 that first put Kellar into city government. He ran and won a council seat three years later.

In this term, he has had more successes than failures. He considers the fight with Cemex among his greatest victories, although he is quick to point out that he alone didn’t win; it almost always is a team effort.

“You say, ‘I solved Cemex.’ No you didn’t. No one person solves that,” he said. “It’s everybody doing what they can on an issue.”

Cemex, a Mexico-based multinational building materials company, has long wanted to mine in Soledad Canyon and won two contracts from the Bureau of Land Management in 1990 to mine 56 million tons of sand and gravel. But community leaders have long objected, and the Bureau of Land Management canceled the mining contracts Aug. 28, 2015.

The fight isn’t over. Cemex has appealed to the Dept. of the Interior’s Board of Land Appeals. But Kellar promises to remain vigilant.

Kellar also places the Whittaker-Bermite matter in the win column. Almost 1,000 acres of land was found decades ago to contain pollutants including uranium and a salt called perchlorate, which interferes with the thyroid gland’s ability to uptake iodide salts.

Kellar and others have stayed vigilant to ensure the landowners, most notably Whittaker Corp, which bought the land from the Bermite Powder Co. in 1967, continue to clean up and decontaminate the land.

The mayor also is very pleased about the Hometown Hero Banner program in which active service men and women are honored with banners that hang along various roads. And he voted in favor of bringing a Laemmle Theatres group to Old Town Newhall.

Some people objected to giving the Laemmle family some $3.4 million to build the auditoriums. Kellar understands, but insists the community wanted it, though he added he would have preferred no subsidy.

He also voted against a council pay raise, even though he now said he has done enough work to earn it. “I was fine with whatever happened. I was fine with the money we made, so I voted no,” he said.

A major loss in Kellar’s term was his inability to get the state to raise the maximum amount of chloride in the water that is discharged into the Santa Clara River from 100 milligrams per liter. It will cost millions to build the necessary infrastructure, which gets passed to the consumers.

“It’s going to ultimately cost families a great deal of money,” Kellar said. “It’s a terrible injustice to our citizens.”

Boydston Announces Another Run for Council

| City Council, News | August 11, 2016

He’s been called “arguably, the most controversial member of the council.” He’s been accused of having “gone rogue against his peers.” If there’s a controversial issue that comes before the City Council, he often opposes his fellow members.

TimBen Boydston continues to do things his way, often refusing to play the game in the name of protecting the taxpayers. He hopes he has done that enough to earn another term on the council. He is one of two incumbents (Mayor Bob Kellar is the other) running for re-election; although, as of last week, he had yet to file papers.

He uses the word “independent” to describe himself.

“The fact that when I see something I don’t believe is good for the taxpayers, I’m going to fight very hard to change that,” he said. “I always stand up for what I believe in, right or wrong, no matter what the council thought.”

His past term is littered with moments in which he took the minority viewpoint, irked his fellow members and lost the vote. A prime example is the county’s homeless initiative. Boydston wanted to have the city partner with the county in reducing homelessness. A majority of council members, Kellar, Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean (whom Boydston sometimes calls “the legacy members”), opposed it. Boydston several times tried to place the matter on the council agenda; his fellow members responded by passing a rule that says an agenda item can’t be placed without consent of at least three council members (sometimes called the TimBen Rule).

Another example: the Laemmle theaters in Old Town Newhall. The City granted the Laemmle family $3,420,525 to build the theaters. Boydston said the deal keeps a private entity (Laemmle) in business for at least 15 years, but it will take 100 years for the money to be fully paid back to the taxpayers. His efforts to “make the taxpayers whole” failed.

He intentionally refused to yield the floor to Weste when debating the war memorial in the Veterans Historical Plaza and snapped at the mayor when debating parking at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

Is it any wonder, then, that when it came time to choose a Mayor Pro Tem, he was passed over, thereby also denying him a desired spot on the budget committee? Or when he actively sought a seat on the Sanitation District board (and many community members spoke on his behalf), he was rebuffed?

“How anyone could believe that those same peers would vote in his favor is beyond me,” local veteran Bill Reynolds wrote in The Signal. “I will say, I find Councilman Boydston to be a very friendly, intelligent and thoughtful person; I just think that his tactical abilities are not well played.”

It’s clear his fellow council members treat him differently. During meetings, the various members usually call each other by their first names; they usually call him “Mr. Boydston.” (Boydston said that before he was on the council, members would often laugh, sneer and disrespect speakers; he believes he has “helped calm the waters.”

Of course, Boydston has had his share of successes. He made sure an oil pipeline contract included more liability insurance to the City of Santa Clarita. He fought hard to keep the Burbank-to-Palmdale high-speed train out of Santa Clarita. He was involved in the charge against Measure S, so there are no digital billboards.

He has helped seniors by opposing seniors-only mobile home conversions to all-ages parks, and favors a new senior center and community center.

He has helped bring body cameras to sheriff’s deputies sooner rather than later, and has ensured construction on the Golden Valley bridge and Via Princessa has continued.

While he said he thinks he votes with the council 90 percent of the time, it’s the times he doesn’t that has marked his recent council term.

“It’s politics,” Boydston said. “I’m supposed to play politics nice and go along and get along so I can be (re-elected)? No, that’s not what it means. If I want to be one of the good old boys, it’s not difficult. You sell out.

“If that’s the price, the price is too high.”

Filing Period for 2016 City Council Election Opens July 18

| City Council | July 14, 2016

The City’s 2016 General Municipal Election will be consolidated with the Los Angeles County General Election and will be held on November 8, 2016. 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 Bob Kellar and Councilmember TimBen Boydston.

The filing period for local residents interested in running in the 2016 Santa Clarita City Council election will open Monday, July 18, 2016, and continue through Friday, August 12, 2016. The consolidated election will be held on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.

Prospective City Council candidates must secure the signatures of 20-30 registered city voters prior to filing nomination paperwork. If any incumbent councilmember chooses not to file nomination papers by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, August 12, the filing period for non-incumbent candidates will be extended to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 17.

Each candidate is 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 papers.

Nomination papers and candidate handbooks will be available beginning July 18, 2016, in the City Clerk’s Office, at City Hall, Suite 120, located at 23920 Valencia Blvd. Election office hours are from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except during holidays.

Any City of Santa Clarita resident wishing to lend their signature to a potential candidate’s nomination paperwork must be a registered voter 18 years of age or older at the time nomination papers are issued, reside in the city of Santa Clarita, and be a citizen of the United States. Each eligible voter may nominate up to two prospective candidates.

For a fee, candidates may also prepare a statement to be included in the sample ballot materials and mailed to voters. Statements may include the candidate’s name, occupation, and brief description of no more than 200 words stating their education and qualifications. The estimated fees are $1,700 for printing the candidate statement in English only and $3,400 for English and Spanish translations and is payable when nomination papers are filed.

Prospective candidates should call the City Clerk’s Office at (661) 255-4391 to schedule an appointment for the approximate 30-minute process to obtain or to return materials for candidacy.

The two top vote-getters are expected to be sworn into office on December 13, 2016 just prior to the regularly-scheduled City Council meeting.

For more information on the 2016 Santa Clarita City Council Election, including results of past City Council elections, visit votesantaclarita.com.

Community Representation Needed?

| City Council, News | March 31, 2016

It’s an issue that doesn’t go away; it just creeps up from time to time.

At the March 22 Santa Clarita City Council meeting, during the time for public comment, two people stepped to the microphone and asked about changing the city council election to a vote by districts instead of the current system, in which everyone votes for everyone regardless of where everyone lives. It’s called “at-large voting.”

Realtor Steve Petzold would like to see the council consist of an at-large mayor and four council members representing the following districts: Canyon Country, Newhall, Saugus and Valencia (other areas, such as Castaic and Stevenson Ranch, would become part of these four districts). Currently, council members Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean live in Newhall; Mayor Bob Kellar and council members Dante Acosta and TimBen Boydston live in Canyon Country.

“The larger cities in the county of Los Angeles, which includes (the) city of Los Angeles as well as Long Beach, do have districts,” Petzold said at the March 22 meeting. “I do believe it’s a discussion that we should have. … It’s very important that the people here in Santa Clarita understand the advantages and disadvantages of district voting as well as at-large voting.”

Here is some of each, according to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network (aceproject.org):

ADVANTAGES
•Provides voters with strong constituency representation because each voter has a single, easily identifiable, district representative;
•Maximizes accountability because a single representative can be held responsible and can be re-elected or defeated in the next election;
•Ensures geographic representation.

Currently, Boydston favors having the discussion placed on the agenda to bring up at a future council meeting. For that to happen, three council members must request it, and when Boydston brought it up at the council meeting, no one else spoke up. He also has expressed support for the matter to be placed on a ballot; again, no one has supported him.

“We don’t know how the people think about this,” he said. “If you put it on the ballot, the question would be settled.”

DISADVANTAGES

•They must be redrawn on a regular basis to maintain populations of relatively equal size;
•They are usually artificial geographic entities whose boundaries do not delineate clearly identifiable communities, and as a consequence, the entities have no particular relevance to citizens;
•Because of their tendency to over-represent the majority party and under- represent other parties, they cannot produce proportional representation for political parties.

Currently, Kellar opposes districts, saying the city has done “a phenomenal job of looking out and working hard for our citizens. This city has flourished under the system of at-large voting. Why would you want to change something that works?”

McLean is wary because she fears another lawsuit. In 2013, residents Jim Soliz and Rosemarie Sanchez-Fraser sued the city, alleging the elections violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, which makes it easier for minority groups (in this case, Hispanics) to prove that their votes are being diluted. The plaintiffs wanted the city to move to district voting. They similarly sued three school districts: College of the Canyons, Sulphur Springs and Saugus. All three went to district voting.

The attorney representing Soliz and Sanchez-Fraser also represented other plaintiffs suing about a dozen cities and school districts, including the cities of Highland, San Juan Capistrano and Palmdale and two school districts in Lancaster. They won in Palmdale, settled in the school districts and forced Highland and San Juan Capistrano to adopt a “cumulative” voting system, which allows a person to cast multiple votes for one candidate or spread out the votes among several candidates.

Santa Clarita, at a cost of $1.25 million, settled in 2014. Included in the terms were moving the election from April to November and going to cumulative voting. Each voter was to have three votes.

But the California Secretary of State’s office rejected cumulative voting in all the cases because it was unclear if it was legal in the state. So, come this November, voters will go to the polls in another at-large election.

“I don’t want to have someone come in again and cost the city a million dollars,” McLean said. “I’d hate to see us have to go through it again.”

Dante’s Political Inferno Continues

| City Council, News | March 24, 2016

Dante Acosta knows things can happen fast when you run for public office. But he also knows sometimes what happens is downright stupid.

Cases in point: Unnamed people have challenged the title that would appear with Acosta’s name on the June ballot, and another local publication has called for him to resign his city council seat.

“People act like there’s something nefarious going on,” he said, annoyance clearly in his voice. “Just complete absurdity.”

Who are these unnamed people attacking Acosta? No one would come forward and talk on the record, and only one person dared speak on condition of not being identified.

“People I talk to, he seems to be a political opportunist,” the person said. “He isn’t satisfied with just one position.”

The person also said Acosta didn’t do himself any favors once he got elected to the Santa Clarita City Council. “He got into office and his whole demeanor changed,” the person said. “He became arrogant and self-involved. He’s snubbing people along the way.”

Then the person backtracked. “He may not be, but it’s the perception.”

According to Acosta, when he signed the forms at the Registrar-Recorder’s office in Norwalk last week that put him on the ballot, he was asked to put in a title and chose “Mayor Pro Tem, City of Santa Clarita.”

That put him in violation of the state’s Elections Code Section 13107, subdivision (a)(1), which says that the ballot designation “shall be the elective office which the candidate holds at the time of filing the nomination documents.”

Acosta was not elected mayor pro tem; he was elected as a councilmember. This earned him a phone call from Secretary of State Alex Padilla’s office, telling him he’d have to change his designation.

Acosta said he chose “Councilmember, City of Santa Clarita,” and that is what will appear.

That should have been the end of things, but The Signal editorial board has called on him to step down from the council, should he win the June primary. The paper also called him “the poster child for political entitlement.”

“I don’t even know what that means,” Acosta said, his voice rising. “I work nine to five-plus for an elected official (Congressman Steve Knight). I worked for 37 years in the private sector prior to wanting to serve my constituency in the community.”

As an example, Acosta raised the precedent set by other leaders in similar circumstances.

“It’s ‘Let’s attack Dante.’ Why would I resign, and who has? Who has ever resigned after winning the primary?”

Acosta said that what The Signal is asking for has not been done before. He pointed out that Scott Wilk wasn’t asked to resign from the College of the Canyons board of trustees before being elected to the California Assembly, Christy Smith wasn’t asked to resign from the Newhall School Board any of the times she won a Democratic primary, and Cameron Smyth wasn’t called upon to resign from the City Council before being elected to the Assembly.

Not stated by Acosta, but nonetheless true: Los Angeles Councilmember Mitch Englander is running for Mike Antonovich’s seat on the County Board of Supervisors, and Knight (R-Palmdale) ran for Congress while serving in the state Assembly. Neither has or had been called upon to resign.

“There’s no political entitlement,” Acosta said. “I have a job every day. I go to that job every day. I do that job every day. And I’m running for political office.”

Acosta: What If He Wins?

| City Council, News | March 18, 2016

Santa Clarita City Councilman Dante Acosta is seeking the 38th District State Assembly seat vacated by Scott Wilk, who is running for state senator in the 21st District, now that Sharon Runner is not seeking reelection.

What happens on the City Council if Dante Acosta wins his bid for the 38th Assembly District seat?

The council will have two choices, according to Councilmember TimBen Boydston. Members can either appoint someone to finish Acosta’s term or hold a special election.

Boydston first served on the council as an appointee to finish the remainder of Cameron Smyth’s term in 2006 after Smyth left the council for the Assembly.

Boydston favors the election. “I would be inclined to have the people decide,” he said. Then, after acknowledging that an appointment would cost much less, he added, “There are costs to democracy.”

Acosta also serves as Mayor Pro Tem, so if he were to leave, the council would choose a new Mayor Pro Tem. That likely won’t happen until after the new council is seated following November’s election. The council also will have to decide on a new mayor. At press time, Dante Acosta did not return our calls for comment.

Smyth Considers Run for Council

| City Council, News | February 25, 2016

Whether they know it or want to admit it, the three declared Santa Clarita City Council candidates – and anyone else who later decides to enter the race – are heading for an election campaign unlike any before.

A great deal can change between now and the July filing date. Others might join Mayor Bob Kellar, Councilmember TimBen Boydston and retired aerospace engineer Alan Ferdman in the race for two council seats. All candidates must figure out if they want to change anything, because the election is in November instead of April.

Although Election Day is 257 days away, four questions already have arisen.

Will Cameron Smyth run?

It seems everyone has heard the rumors that Smyth, a former councilmember and state assemblyman, will run again for a council seat. Smyth admitted that he has been “encouraged by folks across the city,” including Kellar. And Smyth is seriously considering it.

“I’ll make a decision sooner rather than later,” Smyth said. Although he has time to formally enter the race, “I owe it to those encouraging me to run to make a decision well before the filing date.”

If Smyth runs, would name recognition help or hurt?

The name “Smyth” is well known in the valley. Before being elected to the state legislature, Smyth was elected to the council in 2000 and re-elected in 2004. He twice served as mayor, in 2003 and 2005.

He followed in the footsteps of his father, Hamilton “Clyde” Smyth (1931-2012). The elder Smyth served the William S. Hart Union High School District as its superintendent from 1975-92 and later served as city councilmember from 1994-98, which included being mayor in 1997.

Saugus realtor Steve Petzold sees Smyth as a serious threat to his preferred candidates, Boydston and Ferdman.

“People who meet Cameron feel like they know Cameron,” Petzold said. “I think he could (win), I think he could (finish second), which would put him on the council. … Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, people like Cameron.”

But a cautionary local tale is Duane Harte, who ran for council in 2014 on the strength of his name, but lost.

Another factor to consider: Smyth has not been part of the city’s political scene since leaving his post to serve in the California State Assembly in 2006. He left office in 2012 to enter the private sector, where he is now vice president of state affairs for Molina Healthcare.

“He’s been out of Santa Clarita politics for at least 10 years. Most people don’t know him,” Ferdman said. “Am I terrified if Cameron gets in? No. Would it change how we campaign? Maybe.”

Allan Cameron, a longtime resident who has run numerous campaigns for seats on water agencies, city councils, school boards and state offices, remembers Jan Heidt, who served several terms, stepped down and tried to get re-elected some years later. She lost.

“Everybody needs to be respectful of the competition and run a thorough campaign,” Cameron said.

What about candidates running together?

If Smyth enters the race, one could say it would be wise for Boydston and Ferdman to team up and campaign as one slate; the same goes for Smyth and Kellar.

But the odds of it happening are slim. Kellar and Smyth said they’ve never done it before and won’t start now. Cameron says that a successful slate requires the candidates to do “a lot more of what it takes to be a successful candidate,” meaning whatever they have to do to get themselves elected – including, but not limited to, exploiting social media, pavement pounding, phone calling and soliciting money – they have to do also for the other candidate.

“Slates don’t get unilaterally elected,” Cameron said. “People vote a la carte.”

The election will be in November. What effect will this have?

According to Cameron, this will be the first time in 28 years the council will not have its own April election, but instead will be on the ballot with everything else, which this year includes ballot propositions, a county Board of Supervisor, state Senate and Assembly, the U.S. Senate and House elections, and the presidency.

Presidential elections always drive more people to the polls; all candidates must take that into account. “Any candidate running would be insane not to,” Cameron said.

“It changes the way you campaign,” Smyth said. “How do you reach that many more people? How do you get your message out when other candidates are trying to get their messages out?”

Cameron has one answer: Polling.

“If I was Cameron Smyth … I’d get funds together and get an opinion poll so as to not be in the dark,” Cameron said.

This, however, is very expensive. Cameron, who has commissioned polls before, says one poll costs $50,000, and three will set you back $200,000. No one has ever raised that kind of money for a city council seat, he said.

So, that means candidates will have to go back to good, old-fashioned campaigning: participate in candidate forums, meet with as many people as possible, exploit social media, which Cameron calls “the newly emerged King Kong of politics.”

“They’ll be bigger numbers, but the basics are still there,” Kellar said.

Alan Ferdman City Council Run

| City Council | January 28, 2016

Alan Ferdman kicked off his campaign for Santa Clarita City Council on January 21, 2016 at Route 66 Classic Grill in Canyon Country. Ferdman, who ran unsuccessfully in 2012, hopes to take one of the two seats available in the November 8 election. Council members Bob Kellar and TimBen Boydston are up for reelection. ferdman group

Laemmle Theatre Project in Newhall

| City Council, News | December 3, 2015

Green Light if No Parking Structure, Red Light if No Subsidy

On Tuesday evening, an Old Town Newhall Redevelopment Block Reception was held at City Hall. Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theatres, and Jason Tolleson of the Serrano Development Group delivered a presentation of project details. The presentation included renderings of the proposed project in Newhall that includes a Laemmle Theatre, mixed use retail, housing space and a public parking structure.

Green Light
The City of Santa Clarita is considering paying for a parking structure for the theatre and retail outlets at an approximate cost of $9-10 million. When asked if the city-built parking structure was not approved, would the company still proceed with the building of the theatre, Laemmle said it would be. He indicated that not all of their other theatres have ideal parking situations, but customers are resourceful in finding places to park, especially in evening hours and weekends.

“I believe there is a somewhat adequate supply of parking, between the library, the Metrolink station, and surface streets within a half-mile radius of the theatre,” said Laemmle.

Red Light
Included in negotiations between the city and the principals is an approximate $3.5 million subsidy to offset construction costs. When asked in a subsequent email if the project would move forward without those additional funds, Laemmle explained why the issue is a deal breaker. It read:
With regard to the $3.5 million subsidy, we would not be able to move ahead with the project without receipt of funds in that amount, absent some sort of guaranteed proof that construction costs would be substantially lower than currently estimated. And if you’ve even (sic) done construction, you know that costs are rarely lower than estimated.

Ultimately, the $3.5M is needed to bring the net cost down to a figure that is commercially reasonable. Without those funds, we would have difficulty securing bank financing for the project. We would need to find additional equity investors, which would be difficult given the relatively low rate of return coupled with the risk associated with developing a single use facility. The alternative is that we would have to saddle the operating entity with too high of a rent, and we would then likely take a pass on the project for fear that it would be too likely to operate at a loss.

Laemmle believes the economic advantage of moving forward speaks for itself.
“City staff and consultants have carefully looked over the numbers on this project,” said Laemmle’s email. “And I believe that they will ultimately provide the council and the public with the numbers to show that the subsidy for the theatre plus the cost to build and own the parking structure ultimately represent a smart and prudent investment.”

With city funds required to complete the theatre, the proposed project has set off somewhat of a firestorm in the ranks of local pundits. There are arguments on both sides, some saying the city has no business subsidizing for-profit companies, while others claim it would be money well spent, with great benefit to the Santa Clarita community. Stay tuned, as this will undoubtedly bring a swarm of heated opinions, much like the chloride and billboard controversies of the past.

Will Boydston be Santa Clarita’s Next Mayor Pro Tem?

| City Council, News | December 3, 2015

With the Santa Clarita City Council set to choose the city’s next mayor pro tem on Tuesday, some residents have raised the question of whether Councilman TimBen Boydston will be given fair consideration for the position.

The average time it takes for a councilmember to become mayor pro tem after his or her first election is 31 months, but Boydston has served almost twice that and has never been selected.

“In the entire history of Santa Clarita, no elected city council member has been denied the privilege of serving as mayor pro tem during their first term,” resident Steve Petzold said. “Including his interim term, TimBen has served a cumulative 59 months.
This is the time to recognize his extraordinary service and leadership in the community.”

For some, these statistics beg the question: what is stopping the city council from choosing Boydston for the position?

Anyone who has attended a city council meeting recently may have noticed Boydston’s outspoken nature and determination to make his opinions known – which often differ from that of his fellow council members – but whether this is related to his being repeatedly “passed over” for the position of mayor pro tem remains unknown.

When asked if he believes that Boydston would serve the City of Santa Clarita well if selected as the next mayor pro tem, current Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar responded, “It doesn’t take rocket science to know that there are concerns,” but didn’t elaborate.

“If the other council members are not in support of electing him mayor pro tem, why won’t they come out and state their reasons why?” asked Doug Sutton, publisher of the Santa Clarita Gazette. “It seems they’re afraid to create more conflict, when they should be willing to come forward with their concerns for the benefit of the community.”

Mayor Marsha McLean and Council Members Dante Acosta and Laurene Weste did not return requests for comment as of press time Wednesday.

Kellar said he couldn’t speak for the other members of the council, but offered some insight into how he will approach the upcoming vote next week.

“I try to make all my decisions, I try to predicate them on the best information (available), whether it’s having to do with who’s going to be mayor or whether or not we’re going to support a project,” Kellar said. “I try my best to do what I think the right thing is for our community.”

Boydston himself said he doesn’t know why he has been repeatedly passed over in the rotation for the position, or if he will be seriously considered in next week’s decision.

“I know that in the past, Councilman Acosta has indicated to me on a personal level that he would be in favor of me serving as the mayor,” Boydston said. “I don’t know if he still feels that way or not. As to the other three council people, I have no idea.”

According to Boydston, the fact that city council members are elected by the residents of Santa Clarita means that each and every council person deserves a fair chance at entering the rotation to become mayor pro tem, which traditionally leads to their appointment as mayor.

“Traditionally what’s happened is it rotates between all of the people,” Boydston said. “But actually who goes next, there’s no rules written down, and it’s not part of our policies and procedures. I believe it should be, because the voters decided that I should be on the council, and I have a lot of supporters who are asking the question as well: ‘Why aren’t you being considered for one of those positions?’”

Alan Ferdman, chair of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, said that the notion of elected city council members choosing among themselves for the positions of mayor and mayor pro tem should work well, “so long as the council members do not deliberately derail the process.”

“Over the past several years, we have been witness to the majority of our council members voting themselves superior compensation over new council members,” Ferdman explained. “Over the past decade, we have witnessed our council members voting to place a member in the role of mayor when that individual is up for reelection.”

Ferdman concluded that actions like these “do not reflect the will of the electorate and are not in the best interest of the city of Santa Clarita.”

However, Boydston noted that McLean has been passed over in the rotation before, and Kellar pointed out that he himself has been passed over as well — which could indicate that the situation may not be specific to Boydston.

“It has happened certainly on more than one occasion over the years,” Kellar said.

Regardless of whether the decision to pass over Boydston in the past has been deliberate or unintentional, his supporters are calling on the current city council to give him fair consideration before voting next week.

“TimBen Boydston should be treated fairly and given a place in the mayoral rotation process,” Ferdman said. “As an individual, elected to the office of city councilmember, he must be treated as an equal. That is what the city of Santa Clarita’s system of government relies on to work effectively.”

No More Cameras at Stoplights in the City

| City Council, News | March 26, 2015

by Steve Petzold

The various opinions by drivers about “smiling for the camera” have long been debated, but now a final decision has been made. At Tuesday night’s meeting, Santa Clarita City Council members ended the Red Light Camera Photo Enforcement Program in the City. The final vote was 3-2, with council members Kellar, Acosta and Boydston voting to end the contract, while Weste and McLean voted to renew.
During the past year, City of Santa Clarita Traffic Engineer Andrew Yi has consulted with a private contractor, Kimley-Horn, while testing the effect of longer yellow light times on the number of tickets issued. Reportedly, the effect was rather dramatic.
Historically, the yellow light times for left hand turn lanes were set at 3.5 seconds, a half second longer than that recommended by the State of California. By increasing the allotted time to 4.5 seconds, the number of tickets issued dropped below the number necessary to keep the program financially viable. It was estimated that the City would lose $250,000-$500,000 per year by extending the time to that recommended by Kimley-Horn. Redflex , the contractor that operated the program for the city, was paid $4,000 per month for each of the seven cameras currently in operation.
Some opposing opinions by council members were expressed prior to calling the vote.
A few council members expressed opposing opinions before taking the vote.
Councilman Kellar reflected upon his 25 years as a member of the L.A. Police Department and the impersonal nature of a ticket issued through the red light camera program. He talked about the days when he would make a stop for an infraction and have the ability to issue a warning. Bob Kellar also indicated that the fine of $490 was excessive for the violation. Officials reported that the City of Santa Clarita only received $150 of the $490 ticket, with the balance going to the L.A. County and the State of California.
Council member Boydston seemed to believe that the program was largely premised upon revenue generation rather than public safety. With the prospect of the program becoming a drain on the City and of questionable benefit, Boydston’s vote to end the program was never really in doubt.
Council member Acosta’s position seemed to turn on the fact that he felt the program was unconstitutional, although he did not elaborate on the point. Councilman Acosta voted to terminate the contract.
Council member Weste made a strong plea to keep the program. Weste said that she felt the program enhanced motorist safety and she could not put a value on the life that might be saved by extending the program. She was clearly willing to renew the contract, even with the prospect of financial loss to the City.
Mayor Marsha McLean talked about her experience living in the vicinity of a red light camera intersection. Marsha talked about the years before the camera and hearing the sound of heavy braking, the impact, and the sirens of emergency vehicles. Marsha voted to retain the program after making clear that she thought driver behavior would change for the worse after camera removal.

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Jay Beeber (left) and James Farley are satisfied with removal of red light cameras. photo courtesy Steve Petzold

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Jay Beeber (left) and James Farley are satisfied with removal of red light cameras. photo courtesy Steve Petzold

Jay Beeber of Safer Streets L.A. has been a longtime advocate for properly engineering intersections and brought unique technical expertise to the program evaluation. James Farley, a resident of Valencia, kept a focus on the program for over a year and worked hard to make sure that the program review was conducted properly.

City Council Unanimous on Mobile Home Park Changes

| City Council | March 12, 2015

by Perry Smith
City officials unanimously approved changes to a mobile home park ordinance Tuesday night. The members passed the ordinance on a first hearing with a few revisions, said officials.

“There are basically three changes,” said Erin Lay, housing program administrator for Santa Clarita. “One was to reduce the standard increase minimum from 3 percent to 2.6 percent. (If approved it would) also decrease the maximum standard rent increase from 6 percent to 5 percent.”

Sand Canyon mobile home park resident Ray Henry said the city is changing the ordinance “so the park owners would be more profitable, and to diminish the power that park residents have to appeal any rent increases.”

The City is looking to reduce appeals, which are costly for city staff and park owners, Henry said, by making additional hoops for residents to jump through in order to file their appeals. The appeals generally result in a significant decrease to the amount of rent requested by park owners, according to City officials.
There are two types of rent increases for mobile home park residents and the park owners: standard and nonstandard increases. Standard increases are not subject to appeals.

“We do know that, historically, nonstandard increases are significantly more expensive to park owners,” Lay said. “They are almost always appealed.”

All appeals regarding nonstandard rent increases are subject to review by the manufactured home park rental adjustment panel. The panel is made up of two elected mobile home park residents, two elected mobile home park owners, and a fifth member chosen by the four.

The third change calls for City staff to develop the form for an appeal process to be approved by the manufactured home park rental adjustment panel. This is one of the biggest issues Henry has with the ordinance.

While city officials worked to tout the advantages of both sides, mobile home park residents — many of whom are on fixed incomes — registered their disapproval to changes at the last meeting, when the council adjusted the ordinance in response to residents’ concerns.

“If it’s not broken, then there’s no need to try and fix it,” said Henry, a mobile home park advocate who has spoken at at least a dozen City Council meetings on issues for residents like himself. He said the issues have been ongoing since 2006 for park residents.

He felt the changes made it harder for residents to appeal the nonstandard rent increases, adding forms that amounted to additional hoops for residents to jump through, while making it easier for the park owners to raise rates.

The city’s ordinance is limiting the grounds of appeal for which a rent hike can be challenged, he said, noting that the City’s law calls for a form to be created with specific grounds on the form by which park residents can appeal rent increases; however, residents are not being informed of the grounds they’re going to be limited to ahead of time. Those decisions are expected to be made by the rent adjustment panel.

The ordinance’s goal is to “tighten up” the language, Lay said, “so it was clear on what was allowable and what wasn’t.”

But Henry is also unhappy park owners are able to claim two years’ worth of improvements in the notices they send out justifying standard rent increases, when the prior ordinance allowed 12 months, and now park owners will be able to raise rents, regardless of whether residents are notified ahead of time, he said.

The previous ordinance caused confusion and required Santa Clarita City staff to spend hundreds of hours addressing public records request acts and issues over jurisdictions and appeals, officials countered.

The last four appeals over nonstandard rent increases cost the city about $164,000, Lay said.

Ultimately, the updates are “protecting the owners and residents of manufactured homes from unreasonable rent adjustments,” Lay said, “while at the same time recognizing the need of park owners to receive a fair return on their investment.”
article courtesy www.hometownstation.com

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