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.