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.”