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:
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.).
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.
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.
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.