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Jason Gibbs Gives It Another Go

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gibbs City Council Campaign Underway

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to Know Chris Werthe

| Meet the Candidates | July 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Laurene Weste on Dockweiler, Decision-Making, Age

| Meet the Candidates | October 25, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yeah! I’m good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I quote Trautman again: If a person comes before the council and is either critical or offers an opposing viewpoint, “It’s not treated as a matter of disagreement. It’s treated as an insult to the councilmembers. So, there’s not a welcoming of different ideas, and that’s not helpful to anybody. … It seemed to be that everyone has to agree, and that’s a dangerous thing to do, and it leads to groupthink.” Do you think her comments have merit? Why or why not?

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

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

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

Council Candidates Continue to Compete

| Meet the Candidates | October 11, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning from the Curve – Miranda Ready for Candidacy

| Meet the Candidates | October 4, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sankalp Varma Drives Council Campaign Forward

| Meet the Candidates | September 27, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sandra Nichols Campaigns as Voice for the Voiceless

| Meet the Candidates | September 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then she started discussing some platform points.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| Meet the Candidates, Opinion | September 13, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sean Weber Weaves Council Campaign

| Meet the Candidates | August 23, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| Meet the Candidates | August 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Request for Weste Interview Goes South

| Meet the Candidates | August 9, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. I quote Diane Trautman again: If a person comes before the council and is either critical or offers an opposing viewpoint, “It’s not treated as a matter of disagreement. It’s treated as an insult to the councilmembers. So, there’s not a welcoming of different ideas, and that’s not helpful to anybody. … It seemed to be that everyone has to agree, and that’s a dangerous thing to do, and it leads to groupthink.” Do you think Diane’s comments have merit? Why or why not?

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

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

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

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

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

Brett Haddock Goes All-In

| Meet the Candidates | August 2, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other platform positions:

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

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

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

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

Don’t Gibb Up on Your Dreams

| Meet the Candidates | July 26, 2018

Jason Gibbs loves Santa Clarita and believes that the city council has moved the city “in a positive direction.” He just wants to build on that.

“The council and the city would benefit from a new perspective,” he said. “Someone who understands and respects the foundation the city was built on, that wants to come in and build on those relationships, that always wants to strive to make this community better and doesn’t approach it simply from ideology.”

Logic might indicate that voters who feel the way he does would simply vote for the incumbents Nov. 6. This is the challenge Gibbs faces as he tries to win a council seat currently held by Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean or Bill Miranda: separating himself from them.
“There really is something to the power of incumbency,” he admitted.

In fact, beating an incumbent is never easy. The Campaign Workshop Blog says challengers succeed only six percent of the time. One has to do a great deal to combat an incumbent’s name recognition, publicity advantages (such as parades, speeches and media) and a distracted electorate that is too busy living life to take the time to really follow what is happening.

Gibbs, 37, said his time on the council “will parallel” what’s been happening already. So, again, why vote for him?

Throughout his 53-minute interview with the Gazette, Gibbs never directly answered the question, but perhaps the councilmember endorsing him, 74-year-old Bob Kellar, did.

Though saying he didn’t want to “spread divisiveness,” Kellar also said, “Are we supposed to stay on the city council until we’re 90 years old?”

Here are some of Gibbs’ platforms:

He wants the Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development Corporation to bring more business here.

Gibbs is in favor of paying down the debt incurred from the employee retirement program, CalPERS.

Gibbs believes in maintaining good relationships with the water agency and school board.

Gibbs says that the Lyons-Dockweiler extension at 13th Street is the most viable (as the city currently does).

He believes the roads over the Whitaker-Bermite property are coming sooner rather than later.

Gibbs approves of the recent action plan the city drew up to tackle homelessness.

In June 2017, Gibbs wrote a Signal editorial about the city council discussion about manufactured home rent adjustment procedures in which he took residents and park representatives to task.

“By the end of the discussion, both residents and park representatives appeared dissatisfied and ignored,” he wrote. “While many will hold the City Council and city staff responsible for the discourse, I believe they are working diligently toward a textbook compromise – one in which both sides will end up being equally disappointed.”

His campaign’s sentiment seems to be: If you like the direction the city is heading but think the councilmembers are too old, vote for Gibbs, 37.

One of the few times he publicly disagreed with the council was its limiting marijuana plants to the house and not the attached garage. Gibbs would have liked to include attached garages.

Another was a Signal editorial he wrote in the May 5, 2017 issue. He disputed Miranda’s contention that somebody who sought appointment on the council, as he and Miranda did, needs certain experiences along the way.

“The only requirements I recall were to be at least 18 years old, be a registered voter and reside within the city limits,” he wrote. “A passion to serve, a willingness to have your life scrutinized, and an unwavering commitment to represent our city the best that you can, these are all the qualities you should need. One reason I applied was I felt young families were lacking a strong political voice in town. We have a lot to offer, not the least of which are new viewpoints and ideas that may successfully bypass established norms and breathe new life and vigor into Santa Clarita.”

The one original issue Gibbs discussed is his desire for a new fourth city commission, devoted to public safety. “It’s at the forefront of most people’s minds, after your wallet,” he said.

Although he doesn’t have the entire concept fleshed out, instead opting to let he and his fellow councilmembers work out the details later, Gibbs said he knows he wants his commission to work with the sheriff’s department, the public and nonprofits to tackle problems such as crime, roads/traffic and homelessness.

Gibbs said the commission would work “just the way our council would benefit from myself being on the council: a new perspective, new expertise, a new way of thinking instead of us getting into any kind of tunnel vision. So, if you only had five people who are strictly from the sheriff’s department, if you only had five people from nonprofits, you don’t benefit. We need to get away from vacuums.”

As for Gibbs’ chances of overcoming incumbency, Kellar said he is “a sharp young man. … He’s going to have to prove himself to the voters, and that’s OK. I think the man will be able to hold his own.”

Trautman on Council: ‘I Don’t See Much Courage in Discussions from Any of Them’

| Meet the Candidates | July 19, 2018

Diane Trautman sits outside a Starbucks and carefully considers the question. For the next 58 minutes, she does this, rarely stopping to sip her beverage and regularly looking at her interviewer as she chooses her words.

With 12 years on the City Planning Commission (2002-2010 and 2012-16), including two turns as chair, and previous attempts at running for city council in 2000 and 2008, plus two attempts at being appointed to the council, the 25-year resident and CalArts graduate is a known quantity at City Hall.

And she’s trying again in November, attempting to wrest a seat away from Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean or Bill Miranda.

“I’m known in town. I have name recognition,” she said. “Republicans support me as well as Democrats. I want to listen to people. I don’t want to exclude anyone. … Two incumbents have been on the council for 36 years total. I understand it’s good for people to be on who have an understanding of the history, but when you become narrow in your preparation and thinking, and you become unable to hear voices that don’t agree with yours – their being out of touch is something I’m going to drive home.”

What Trautman, 63, currently sees on the council is an exclusionary quintet. If a person comes before the council and is either critical or offers an opposing viewpoint, “It’s not treated as a matter of disagreement. It’s treated as an insult to the councilmembers,” she explained. “So, there’s not a welcoming of different ideas, and that’s not helpful to anybody. … It seemed to be that everyone has to agree, and that’s a dangerous thing to do, and it leads to groupthink.”

At this point, she was reminded that she hadn’t specified any single member, so was she taking about anyone in particular? She sat back, again considered her words, and continued.

“I don’t see much courage in discussions from any of them,” she began. “Laurene tends to talk to people like children. Marsha takes offense when anybody disagrees. She’s really sensitive. … Marsha doesn’t want to run contrary to anyone. She has been insular in her thinking, and that doesn’t bode well for a city that’s growing. I don’t get a sense of any conviction from Bill Miranda. I don’t see any independent thinking from him.”

Trautman takes pride in her ability to consider all sides and viewpoints. She said that as a commissioner, she read everything, “made copious notes and I asked questions in public so the public would see I was looking at things more deeply. … (The council doesn’t) dig deeper than they have to. They look at it but largely rely on staff.”

And Trautman thinks that’s backwards. The council should set policy and the staff should carry it out, but she doesn’t think the current members have the vision to do that.

“The city council is supposed to create the vision for the city, the policies, the direction, the standards,” she said. “This means you’ve got to interact with those other entities, the county and the school districts. There’s not enough cooperation to solve some of the problems.”

A conservative such as Steve Petzold appreciates the liberal Trautman, saying he would consider voting for her and writing on Facebook, “Diane Trautman is thoughtful and measured with her words. It is safe to say that DT has the respect of current council members based on her years of service on the Planning Commission. … The democratic process benefits from her candidacy.”

A summary of Trautman’s priorities:
–She wants the city to be more aggressive in finding affordable housing, especially if the belief that there will be half a million people living in the valley eventually. Some of those housing options must be near transit centers.

–Public safety is more than just fire and police. People must be educated in safer driving and how to make room for cyclists and pedestrians. Find a way to make more walkable communities by looking at how other cities did it and adjusting to here.

–The city should work within the county’s homeless initiative to improve public safety and public health, especially of it wants Measure H funds.

–She wants to grow the local economy by reviewing city processes that seem to hinder small businesses. Also, maintaining existing buildings can keep rent lower than erecting new buildings.

–She wants to increase transparency in government by streaming all public meetings, not just the council and planning commission’s. She also wants a website redesign, develop better written policies, create a code of ethics, revise the council’s norms and procedures; and welcome community input on the questions of district voting, direct election of mayor and changing to a charter city.

Candidate Attempts to Become the Youngest Elected to City Council

| Meet the Candidates | July 12, 2018

Logan Smith knows his age might be a factor in people not voting for him for city council. But he insists Santa Clarita is getting younger, and the current councilmembers do not typify.

The five current members’ average age is 68.2 years. But take away Cameron Smyth (46) and it’s 73.75 years.

Smith, 25, is vying for one of three seats held by Marsha McLean (she turns 78 in September, Bill Miranda (75) and Laurene Weste (she turns 70 in October).

According to the city’s website, 30 percent of the population is between 30-44. Another 6 percent is between 20-24. Only 9 percent is 65 and older.

“I don’t feel like the average person in Santa Clarita has a voice in that chamber,” Smith said.

He seeks to change that by acknowledging he doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s willing to read and research the issues and hear the residents before casting a vote – things he doesn’t see the current council doing. While he refused to attack any councilmember by name during the 51-minute interview, he points to the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, cannabis sales and the recent homelessness ban as examples.

Regarding Lyons-Dockweiler, numerous Placerita Canyon homeowners came before the council to express opposition to the extension.

The council sat silently – Smith said it was “stony-faced” – and then unanimously voted for it. Smith thinks the councilmembers didn’t read the staff reports closely enough and came into chambers already having made up their minds.

“Fundamentally, we need public servants who serve the public,” Smith said. “That’s not something I’ve seen in that council chamber.”

Some believe Weste stands to gain financially from the extension, which Weste has denied repeatedly.

“If anybody is using their public office to enrich themselves, that’s unconscionable, especially to the detriment of people who live here and work here,” Smith said.

Another example Smith points to is cannabis sales. The council earlier this year extended a ban on commercial cannabis businesses, on top of its already existing ban on medical-marijuana dispensaries. The only legal marijuana in the city is a maximum of six plants indoors per residence.

During the March 27 meeting, Smith, who regularly attends council meetings and makes public comments, usually identifying himself as “a candidate for city council,” criticized the council for failing to read various online reports that show links between the availability of medical marijuana and fewer heroin and opioid overdoses. He also took the five members to task for failing to see the potential revenue stream by legalizing and regulating cannabis and not “stick our heads in the sand and allow the black or gray market to continue to thrive.”

McLean needed clarification on the differences between medicinal and recreational marijuana, and stated she favors medical cannabis. Smith scoffed, saying McLean voted for the ban in the first place.

Resident Bart Joseph, who called himself “a four-time cancer survivor,” also spoke about cannabis’ importance to his recovery and how he can’t afford to grow his own in the city. Weste said she was sorry for the hardships Joseph had suffered.

“The council nodded and was concerned – and voted unanimously to extend the moratorium,” Smith said. “I don’t think any of them, except Cameron, did the bare minimum before voting.”

A third place Smith found the council’s research lacking was the recent unanimous passing of an ordinance that sets out to block homelessness on public streets. It bans individuals from sitting or lying down in various public spaces, including streets, sidewalks and landscaped areas.

Smith said he isn’t sure the council adequately read the text because “If you sit on a sidewalk, you can be fined $500. If you sleep in your car in the driveway, you could be ticketed. If you sleep in a tent in the back yard.”

Smith acknowledges that these violations won’t happen, but he thinks laws shouldn’t be written so generally that they could be interpreted in unintended ways.

“Model (United Nations) students at College of the Canyons are held to a higher standard when they write fake laws,” Smith said.

Smith, who works as a field organizer for the California Clean Money Campaign, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization favoring public funding of election campaigns, said he got the idea to run last summer after hearing Bernie Sanders speak in Chicago.

Sanders told the audience that anyone who is thinking of running for office needs two pieces of advice: do it, and don’t hire consultants.

He didn’t, and now he has his sights set on City Hall. He would be the youngest to ever be elected. Smyth, 28 when he was first elected in 2000, is the only person elected in his 20s. The next youngest was Frank Ferry, 32 when elected in 1998.

“The council thinks we’re still a small town. That’s blatantly incorrect,” Smith said. “To stick your head in the sand and act like we’re not the third largest city in Los Angeles County is reckless and irresponsible to the people.”

(Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional series profiling the various local candidates for elected office.)

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.

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.”

Meet Berta Gonzalez-Harper

| City Council, Gazette, Meet the Candidates | March 13, 2014

Berta Gonzalez-Harper

Santa Clarita claims to be a “business-friendly” city, yet there are many instances of start-up businesses going through a very difficult process in obtaining necessary permits, often leading to unforeseen expenditures and drawn out delays that make success difficult. What would you do to streamline this procedure and provide assistance to small business start-ups to get them off on the right foot? What would you do to reduce fees or burdens on business and new development?

As a retired small business owner, I would start by disagreeing with your verbiage. Santa Clarita IS a business-friendly city. The City of Santa Clarita does not have a separate City business tax, nor is there a utility user tax either unlike many other cities. Home based businesses are allowed without much hassle as long as certain parking and other common sense requirements are met and it takes one phone call to the City to be given information on how to proceed.

In addition, the City has a one-stop permit office specifically created to address the time and effort necessary to obtain needed permits in order to do business here, and a proactive Film Office to expedite filming permits within the City too.

Nevertheless, to address your claims, the first thing I would do, is perform an in depth assessment of how our permitting process is helping or hurting our business community. If, as you claim, the process needs refinement or change, as a council member I would take on a proactive role to make sure needed changes  happen and would enlist the input of local small and large business owners, and business organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, VIA, and others to help accomplish the goal of making Santa Clarita an even more business-friendly environment. I would have measurable benchmarks to meet, and request the council agendize a comprehensive public report to present to the residents and business owners on proposed changes and progress made.

Do you support a plan to extend Via Princessa through to Golden Valley Road and eventually to Railroad Avenue? If so, how would you expedite this process to help with cross town traffic?

The Via Princessa/Magic Mountain Pkwy extension is a needed East/West road cutting through the Whittaker-Bermite property. As a Canyon Country resident, the completion of this road will shorten my trips to Newhall substantially, particularly during peak traffic hours when Soledad is essentially gridlocked, but first we must complete clean up of the Whittaker-Bermite property. As an original and ongoing  Whittaker-Bermite Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) member, I remain involved to ensure that the California Department of Toxic Substance Control (DTSC) stays on track  to meet the clean up time line of 2016 for this important centrally located property vital to our road extensions.

The Lyons Dockweiler extension is more problematic in my opinion and needs further study to determine whether that road is even feasible and worth the money to build, given all of the challenges.

In your opinion, why has the Whittaker-Bermite clean-up project taken so long to complete? If elected, how would you try to affect its timely completion? What would you support to be developed on the site?

The Whittaker-Bermite clean-up is taking a long time due to several factors including the various substances and levels of contamination on the property,  the millions of dollars it costs to remediate, the different federal, state, county, water, city government, and private agencies involved. Other important factors are the bankruptcy of the property owner, the insurance policies in effect to pay for the clean up, and the evolving technologies available for the most complete clean up possible, given what we know today.

I have publicly stated that once the property is as clean as possible, because there are different levels of contamination within areas – some areas have none, others have little, others more, and a few that will never be available for unrestricted use for, say, single family homes, which is the highest clean up required – I would like to do a feasibility study on whether a “teaching” hospital, not affiliated with the state of California, could be built on this 996-acre site.

The Whittaker-Bermite property has great freeway access, is one of the few remaining large parcels in the center of the city, and a teaching hospital would bring much needed services and good paying jobs right to the center of the City and closer to the east side of our valley.

With Disney expanding their studios in Placerita Canyon, and within close proximity, a second hospital nearby is an added benefit. Disney has a history of cooperating with Providence Saint Joseph Hospital across the street from Disney Burbank Studios and I think Disney would find a quality hospital close by a great community amenity. If a teaching hospital was not feasible, I am open to any other creative ideas that bring needed services and good paying jobs to our community.

What experience or talents can you bring to the City Council that makes you a better choice than other candidates?

I am a fair-minded individual who does not follow the herd. Most of the other candidates have not been as involved as I have been for 21 years, are not as well informed, or have other obligations which make it very difficult to dedicate full time to serve. I am also one of the few candidates who does not have an anti-city bias. I do not always agree with every decision but am fair enough to understand that not every decision is going to go the way I want it to either. Some candidates continuously manipulate issues to unfairly paint the city in the worst possible light without presenting all of the facts fairly so folks can make their decisions with all the pertinent facts at their disposal.

City leaders must make decisions taking into consideration all aspects and potential ramifications and then decide what will provide the greatest benefit to city residents and business owners alike. It is a difficult task to reconcile competing interests at times, and some candidates and others use contentious issues to stir up the folks with half-truths and outright lies in order to bolster their personal agendas.

I have years of business experience, 21 years of local community involvement, the maturity and knowledge to understand complex issues, am the only candidate whose election could potentially defeat the Soliz vs. City of Santa Clarita lawsuit, saving taxpayers millions in legal fees. I am also bilingual, a non-partisan voter, retired living on a fixed income modest budget in a working class neighborhood, and am unfailingly fair in my assessments.

The voters will decide whether a knowledgeable, fair, and long time involved grass roots candidate without further political aspirations, glossy mailers, or special interest backers is who they want to have represent them or not.

If elected to City Council, will you be able to maintain your other local responsibilities?

I retired early and am without other responsibilities, business/professional, family/personal or board/civic, which would preclude dedicating myself full-time to public service. I am ready, willing, and able to serve the residents.

Can you articulate your position on the current litigation of the California Voting Rights Act?

I am opposed to the Soliz vs. City of Santa Clarita lawsuit using the poorly written California Voting Rights Act of 2001. This law is so poorly written that unscrupulous lawyers and their “clients” do not have to prove anything, simply find public entities with out the “flavor of the day” represented. Our City and several school districts are currently being sued by this same bunch. Today it is Hispanics; tomorrow it can be Blacks, next time LGBT, and so on. These “plaintiffs” were virtually unknown to me before the lawsuit was filed. Neither had ever run for office nor been involved in this community, yet they claim that Hispanics have been precluded from election to city council by “polarized voting” caused by our at large electoral process. I would have more respect for any of these folks if they had spoken to any of us who are Hispanic and have been involved in our community. In fact, I attended the only locally held informational meeting by the proponents of this lawsuit AFTER it was already filed and the host failed to call on me, despite my having had my hand raised virtually the entire time; so much for wanting more Hispanic (MY)  participation. I guess it only applies if you agree with them.

Hispanics are not represented on the council because credible, viable candidates have not run. I do not believe that race and ethnicity are the defining characteristics for good leaders. There are crooks and jerks, or honest and fair civic-minded individuals in every group, and I believe informed voters understand that.

We Hispanics are spread out throughout Santa Clarita and not relegated to particular “barrios” and we come from all economic levels too. However, I am the only candidate who is Hispanic and lives within one of the neighborhoods called out in the lawsuit. I believe this lawsuit is designed to make the lawyers millions, but also serves to potentially disenfranchise ALL voters within Santa Clarita by forcing the creation of artificially delineated voting districts based upon race and ethnicity and denying all of us the ability to vote for and hold accountable all FIVE council members.

If this lawsuit is successful, our city will be broken up into districts with only your particular district representative accountable to you and the other four, or however many, exclusively looking out for their individual district. Voting districts set up individual fiefdoms with far greater potential for corruption, cronyism, and influence peddling and do not help minorities of any kind receive better or more city services. Canyon Country and Newhall have received the lion’s share of city money over our 26 years of cityhood, precisely because all council members understand that voters in those areas have demanded city investment, and have the power to replace ALL of them with others if they are not responsive to community needs.

If each community is its own voting district, Valencia, Saugus, and Newhall have no incentive to approve their constituents’ money being spent on needed services for Canyon Country. The same issue is foreseeable no matter which individual community name you insert instead of Canyon Country.

I use the example of Pacoima and Sherman Oaks, both areas are districts within the City of Los Angeles. Pacoima forms part of the 7th District and has a Hispanic Representative, Félipe Fuentes, and Sherman Oaks forms part of the 4th District and has Representative Tom LaBonge. No fair-minded person can convince me that each district has equal representation of city services, investment in infrastructure, or benefits to the individual community. These communities  do not have equal city investment, community amenities,  or equal problems, precisely because more affluent areas are not treated the same as are less affluent areas and only their individual representative is accountable to those residents.
If Pacoima residents and all other 7th District voters could vote for all City of Los Angeles District Representatives you would see very different results, because then each and every one of the Los Angeles representatives would be accountable to all City of Los Angeles voters. They could not set up their own little fiefdoms where they have all the power to influence what the ultimate King or Queen, the Mayor of Los Angeles, decides to do in their district.

Our system of at large elections ensures that, as a city, we business owners, residents, and elected officials,  all work together for the benefit of all areas within our city regardless of demographic or economic indicators.

Do you think that a change to district voting from city-wide general voting will help or hurt Hispanic/Latino interests? In fact, can you think of any political interests or aspirations for Santa Clarita Hispanic or Latino voters that can or should be recognized separately from the interests of the average City voter or any other group?

As a first generation bilingual American of Hispanic ancestry, I am opposed to and will work tirelessly to defeat the Soliz vs. City of Santa Clarita lawsuit. If successful, this lawsuit will force changes on how our city functions forever by forcing us to form segregated voting districts based upon race or ethnicity, denying residents the ability to vote for all five council representatives and holding all of them accountable to and working for all Santa Clarita residents.

Voting districts will irreparably harm all residents, including minority voters, pitting districts against each other for coveted taxpayer dollars and placing less affluent communities at a distinct disadvantage when asking for citywide taxpayer money to fund individual districted community investment.

Moreover, on a personal note, I am very tired of folks who say they have “our” best interests at heart, but never bother to ask our opinion. Please do not “help” me anymore; I am capable of speaking for myself and I have never been held back by any city representatives from running for office or stating my views. I cannot say the same about my supposed “saviors.”

Changing to artificially created gerrymandered districts based upon race or ethnicity does not benefit anyone, least of all Hispanics or other “minorities,” since the representatives of those other districted areas will have no incentive to work to benefit the constituents of someone else’s district. Having districts competing for the same pot of taxpayer money does not create a more unified and better overall city, but in fact leads to more divided and differently treated areas within the city.

Another issue is that we will lose our ability to fight external issues as one UNITED city instead of only an individual district being concerned with an issue and willing to spend money to fight against it. Without the entire city en force fighting these issues and spending citywide tax dollars, Newhall may become the Boyle Heights and Canyon Country may become the Pacoima like areas of this city. We need  all city taxpayers to continue spending and  investing in all areas of our city, as has been the case over the 26 years of our cityhood, with more money spent in the areas with the most pressing needs. All you have to do is look at our neighbors to the south to see what happens within heavily districted and distinctly less desirable City of Los Angeles areas.

I believe the majority of Hispanics want what most others want, good paying local jobs; affordable housing; clean, safe neighborhoods; great schools, parks and libraries, ample shopping and other amenities,  and a responsive government. It does not matter to me what race or ethnic group our leaders belong to as long as they are doing a good job for all of us, and if they are not we have the power to remove all FIVE and replace them.

Regarding the Ventura septic chloride issue, are you behind the proposed R.O. solution and deep well brine disposal? What would you like to tell voters on this subject?

I am an original and continuing opponent of our Sanitation District’s various proposals to require city taxpayers to pay millions of dollars for chloride clean up benefiting Ventura County farmers and other downstream users. This entire issue is a manufactured problem based on old studies done in Riverside County claiming damage to avocado and strawberry crops in that area. There has been no site-specific study done which substantiates that crop damage is occurring downstream of us, or that we are exclusively responsible.

All of the proposals are designed to reach an artificially low 100 mg chloride level in order to force Santa Clarita water ratepayers to pay to clean water we purchase from the state of California. The true reason is so that the over pumped Ventura aquifer and its water wells can be recharged by filling up with our cleaner water. Ventura County has  routinely over pumped their wells by their own irresponsible actions, dropping their water levels to the point that salty sea water has intruded into their water sources, necessitating the need for our water to dilute theirs to useable levels. I would tell our voters that it “isn’t over yet” and we need to fight this unfunded mandate until the bitter end. If we give in, we will be paying millions and over time billions to clean water we did not pollute to give away to folks who have not been good stewards of their own natural resources, and these demands to remove the substance du jour will never end.

How much would you pay from the tax dollars of City residents to stop the CEMEX mine?

There is no simple answer to that question. I would continue to fight this mega mine until there is no other recourse. Not only is the CEMEX mine in play for potentially one hundred years of mining, air pollution, dynamite blasting, ridge removal, increased asthma, valley fever  and other respiratory ailments, horrendous truck traffic, etc., but I am concerned  that another mining concern, Vulcan Industries, is right behind them with another huge mine if this one manages to go forward.

I would not bankrupt our city, but would carefully evaluate and would exhaust all possible remedies available to defeat this mine from going forward and operating right next to our homes and schools. Defeating this mine is critically important to the future of our valley.

To reach Berta Gonzalez-Harper, call 251-0056.

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