Wilk Measure Urging Congress to Fix a Retirement Policy Impacting Teachers Passes Both Houses of Legislature

| News | August 15, 2019

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announces that Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJR 3) has cleared both houses of the Legislature. SJR 3 urges the federal government to repeal two federal retirement benefit laws that can reduce Social Security for teachers along with some other groups of public employees and their spouses.

“There’s no other way to say it: this federal policy is completely unfair to its most valuable public servants, especially educators,” said Wilk. “School is starting back up right now, and it’s the perfect time to send Congress the message that teachers and their families should not be treated unjustly. They are entitled to every cent they have paid into social security.”

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), passed in the 1970s with little statistical analysis, were designed to prevent “double-dipping” from social security and other government pensions. The GPO cuts benefits when an individual receives a government pension, and their spouse is eligible for social security from non-government employment. Similarly, the WEP cuts an individual’s benefits when they are eligible for social security and government pensions from separate employers.

Why does this matter? It is unfair.

If you have had a non-public sector career and, for example, in later life become a teacher, the social security benefits you earned from your non-public sector career could be slashed or altogether eliminated. Teachers, as a group, do not receive generous retirement benefits, so a policy that penalizes them from receiving their rightfully earned Social Security from a previous job is really a double whammy and infinitely unfair.
72-percent of teachers are women. The ramifications of this penalty are usually discovered when a spouse passes away and a widow’s household income is dramatically reduced because social security benefits are gutted.
If you work in the private sector, pay social security and are the spouse of a person who is eligible for a pension that does not pay into social security (like a peace officer or teacher) the benefits you rightfully earned may be diminished by up to 50 percent.

Other consequences of these problematic policies are that they disproportionately affect lower-income workers and can discourage qualified individuals from seeking public-sector jobs such as STEM education. Our future depends on students having access to education in science, technology, engineering and math. Experts in these fields (e.g., people that have good careers in aerospace) may not consider second careers in education because of the ramifications to retirement under WEP and GPO.

“The GPO and WEP are unfair to public employees and harmful to the nation’s workforce,” said Wilk. “I hope Congress hears this message and finally takes action to repeal these harmful policies.”

SJR 3 has support from a number of education and law enforcement associations, including the California Teachers Association, the California Retired Teachers Association, the Peace Officers Research Association, and the Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

Senator Wilk represents the 21st Senate District which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor Valleys

A Concerned Citizen, a Fire Captain and Some Dry Brush

| News | August 15, 2019

Judith Gilbert saw the growth and became concerned.

The vegetation on the other side of the wall that divides the Sierra Park mobile home complex and the Tres Robles Homeowners Association condos had turned brown. Gilbert, 80, feared fire.

Calls to the city and County Fire Station 107 went mostly ignored for a month. Finally, a fire captain visited Monday and told her it was not a fire hazard, which didn’t appease her.

“Ten or 11 homes are affected,” she said. “It’s very close to my house.”
Fire is a reality in the area. In just the past four months, there have been at least three small fires in Canyon Country alone: a vehicle fire that spread to brush near the 14 Freeway at Golden Valley Road in April (called the Golden Fire), a vegetation fire that broke out in a residential backyard in May and a July fire that destroyed several RVs.

Gilbert has lived in the complex on Soledad Canyon Road for nine and half years. She recalled a fire behind the complex about six years ago that was caused by a flicked cigarette; her home wasn’t damaged. A year or so after that, someone had cleared the brush but she didn’t know who because she wasn’t sure who owned the land. She said she had spoken to fire department officials and wondered if they had found out and contacted the landowner.

The heavy rains this past winter led to new growth. Now, that growth is dry and has crept up the cinderblock wall at one end and along an iron fence the HOA erected on the other end.

In early July, she said, she contacted Station 107, located just across the street. “I talked to six or seven different captains,” she stated. “They said they’d check into it. I started July 2, and I haven’t heard back.”

A neighbor who contacted the City got a similar lack of response, Gilbert said.

Station 107 Captain Ryan Chapin said he has seen narrow land strips in which weeds grow but are not connected to any brush. A brush area of concern ends up on a declaration list, which leads to an inspection, he said, which makes it easier to find the property owner.

“If it’s an unsightly thing, we’re not in the business of going around and telling people to clean up their yards,” he said. “If it’s a genuine fire hazard, we will start working towards getting that handled.”

He nonetheless promised to drive by and take a look.
Councilmember Bob Kellar, reached while on an Alaskan trip, said he often receives calls about dried brush, such as that which runs close to the Metrolink stations.

“I said, ‘Thank you much.’ I made a call, and within a week, it was all cut back,” Kellar said. “If there is an issue, I reach out to Public Works (Department).”

This only applies to city owned land, Kellar explained. If it’s on private property, “We don’t have a right to take taxpayer’s money and go out there and deal with something unless it poses some kind of a real threat to safety. Then we’ll take another look at it.”

This strip of land is private property owned by the HOA, a tile search revealed. A call to the management company resulted in leaving a message for the HOA board, but no one returned the call.

Captain Chapin went over, spoke to Gilbert, inspected the growth and determined it was “just weeds and nothing that poses a significant fire hazard to either side.”

“We explained to her, and that’s why she feels like she wasn’t getting a response from Fire, because it doesn’t even come near the qualifications of that being a brush situation where we would go to our brush-clearance unit,” Chapin said. “Whoever cleaned it before, that was on their own volition.”

Gilbert said she felt like she and Chapin weren’t speaking the same language.

“The way he said it, he passed it off as nothing,” she said. “He didn’t really convince me.”

Chapin said it would be simple to use a weed trimmer, remove the grass and throw six inches of mulch or bark to prevent further growth. But if a fire arises, the station is right across the street and would respond quickly.

“There’s little to no fire hazard. Could those weeds catch on fire? Any patch of weeds could catch on fire, but it doesn’t pose a life safety risk or a hazard to those structures,” he said. “It’s not connected to brush. There is no brush. It’s just some small little weeds.”

Meanwhile the brush remains, as does Gilbert’s concern.

“Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it,” she said, “but it’s going to get worse.”

*Check back next week as the Gazette tries to help Judith solve her brush problem.

Assemblywoman Smith’s Bill to Expand Homeowner Protections Receives Governor’s Signature

| News | August 9, 2019

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) is pleased to announce her Assembly Bill (AB) 1106, which extends Los Angeles County’s Enhanced Homeowner Notification Program, has received Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature. The bill continues the program’s fraud prevention, information and free counseling services for property owners and tenants. The measure also marks Assemblywoman Smith’s third bill signed into law.

“It’s no secret California is facing a housing crisis, even during this period of economic expansion,” Assemblywoman Smith said. “This bill provides a safety net for homeowners who have worked hard to purchase and maintain their homes. I’m immensely proud to partner with the Los Angeles Department of Consumer Business Affairs (DCBA) to prevent foreclosure and real estate fraud, promote tenant protections and honor the dignity of work.”

The program has equipped homeowners with resources to keep their homes since its inception in 1992. Through the enhanced program, DCBA has been able to prevent home foreclosures, facilitate successful loan modifications and help homeowners navigate predatory real estate practices. The bill allows Los Angeles County to continue these services for another decade by extending the sunset date. AB 1106 also amassed coauthor support from fellow Los Angeles County representatives, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) and Senator Henry Stern (D-Malibu).

“The Department of Consumer and Business Affairs’ Foreclosure Prevention Program has saved over 475 homes from foreclosure, helped homeowners save more than $30 million in successful loan modifications and helped them with fraud avoidance,” said Joseph Nicchita, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. “I thank Assemblywoman Smith for championing this measure with support from Assemblymembers Bloom and Muratsuchi and Senator Stern, ensuring the homeowners of Los Angeles County can continue receiving this important service.”

AB 1106 takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Discrimination Against Natural Hairstyles is Now Unlawful

| News | August 9, 2019

by Natalia Radcliffe

In 2018, a video went viral of a 17-year-old Black male wrestler who had his dreadlocks cut during a wrestling match. He was given an ultimatum: cut the hair or lose the match. The teenager chose to have his dreadlocks cut, and ultimately won the match. However; since then, the video has spurred people to question the situation, wondering if it could have been handled in a different manner.

These and other similar stories were part of the inspiration for Senator Holly J. Mitchell, who represents the 30th senate district, to propose senate bill 188, which has recently been passed into California law as of July 3rd.

Senate bill 188, also known as the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) act, attempts to protect individuals whose natural hairstyles are not always conducive to what is thought to be a “professional” hairstyle, which the bill describes as “closely linked to European features and mannerisms.”

Within the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, it is illegal to specifically discriminate in the workplace or with housing, based on characteristics such as race.

The CROWN act further expands upon the concept of “race” to “also include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles,” which “includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.”

“We are not talking about rainbow-colored tresses or pink mohawks,” said Mitchell during a policy hearing in March found in a press release. “We are speaking of groomed hairstyles like my locs, that would, without question, fit an image of professionalism, if bias or negative stereotypes of Black people were not involved.”

According to the bill, the common concept of “professionalism” does not include hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists, as those are not typical European hairstyles, so “those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional.”

It explains that some of the methods of achieving this can incur damage to the person’s hair in an attempt to be seen as more “professional.”

The bill goes on to say that “acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity and opportunity for all, the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all.”

Hence, the CROWN act was created.

The bill’s protection not only includes Black individuals, but other people as well, such as Native Americans or Orthodox Jews, whose natural hair conducive to their race or religion does not represent a European look.

The bill “will ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by specifying in Gov Code 12926 and Ed Code 212.1 that the protected class of race also includes traits historically associated with race identification, such as hair texture and hairstyles,” according to the office of Senator Mitchell.
As of January 1, 2020, all businesses and schools, both existing and new, will be required to comply with the law. All types of schools are included to comply under the law, such as charter schools, all non-religious private schools and all religious private schools, as long as the law does not infringe on the religion’s philosophy.

Santa Clarita’s assembly member, Christy Smith, Democrat, supported the bill. “The CROWN Act is a critical step in eliminating implicit biases, empowering marginalized communities and honoring equity and diversity,” Smith said.

Sources/more information:
•Senate Bill 188: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB188 •ABC news: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeboOIciwwI • https://sd30.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd30.senate.ca.gov/files/sb_188_crown_fact_sheet_2.pdf

Getting to Know Angela Underwood Jacobs

| News | August 8, 2019

If a congressperson is supposed to work for the people they represent, Angela Underwood Jacobs has the requisite experience.

The banker and Lancaster City Councilmember might be best known for leading the charge to draft an ordinance known as “Gabriel’s Law.” It’s named for Gabriel Fernandez, who was tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend in 2013 when he was just eight years old. Social workers with the county Department of Children & Family Services faced criminal charges for mishandling evidence of escalating abuse. The mother pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole; the boyfriend was convicted and sentenced to death.
“When Gabriel Fernandez passed away, it was such a senseless death. As a mom, as a parent, it completely broke my heart. The mayor and I were talking, having a conversation about life, and we started to talk about him. I said, ‘We need to find a way to do more to protect children, their families and DCFS as well,” stated Underwood Jacobs.

The Lancaster City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance in 2017. Now, all county social workers must digitally record visits made to Lancaster homes.

“If nothing else, we are sitting at the table talking about what else we can all do better, and that is what this is about — saving lives and figuring out easier ways to get things done,” she said.

Underwood Jacobs hopes to do the same for the 25th congressional district, so she challenged Rep. Katie Hill for the seat, one of four Republicans to do so.

“What I do really well is establish meaningful, working relationships with people with diverse backgrounds, ages, ethnicity and other socioeconomic factors; and yes, even across party lines,” she said. “Together, we are the solution. Individually, we are special, but together, we are spectacular.”

Underwood Jacobs said she grew up Republican with a conservative value system. These values include being fiscally responsible (she would cut unnecessary spending, opposes higher taxes and favors reducing the national debt), earning an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work and placing a high importance on family and education.

She subscribes to some of today’s Republican Party standards as well; for instance, she favors funding the President’s border wall, opposes Medicare For All and favors a minute of silence in school for prayer.

In addition, she also believes in equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, bemoans the lack of civil communication in society and Washington (“We need to be able to hear one another, and we’re not doing a great job of that”) and defers to the courts on abortion while stressing she never would terminate a pregnancy herself.
“Everyone has to stand before God and be judged. That’s not my job,” she said.
Underwood Jacobs furthermore defers to people she considers experts. For example, the Mueller report proved Russia interfered in the 2016 election. “If they say Russia meddled, I have to believe that,” she said, admitting she has not read the 448-page redacted report. “I have to trust the experts are doing their job.”

And she’s not afraid to stand corrected. She criticized Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) for voting for the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination and segregation based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in a wide variety of areas including public education. Underwood Jacobs said this bill, currently in the Senate, would allow boys and girls to compete on the same teams, although the bill says nothing of the sort.

“That’s what I read,” she said. “I don’t want to misspeak. I’m going to triple check. Your questioning gives me pause. I want to make sure I’m right.”

“I know who I am,” she said. “I’m hoping that I’m doing myself justice. I know my heart is in the right place. I know my mind is in the right place.”

To date, Underwood Jacobs’ campaign claims it has the highest percentage of in-district donations out of all candidates in the race for the 25th District. They have raised 130% more than Hill in itemized donations.

Hill campaign manager Kelsey O’Hara disputed the percentage. Citing Federal Election Commission numbers, O’Hara said Underwood Jacobs had 95 itemized donations, compared to Hill’s 872.

Jason Downs – Showbiz to Santa Clarita

| Entertainment, News | August 8, 2019

Three-year-old Jason Downs took his first dance steps watching his parents bopping around the living room to the 50s Oldies but Goodies. Born in Columbia, Maryland in 1973, the budding actor, singer and dancer grew up in the small community of Ellicott. “I first heard Elvis Presley sing while dancing with my parents, and when I watched him perform on some television reruns I was absolutely transfixed,” explains Jason. “His presence was electric and when I saw the frenzy he created in the audience, I was hooked – I knew I wanted to sing, dance, and act just like Elvis. I watched, I studied, and soon I was doing a flawless impersonation of the King of Rock and Roll.”

Downs with Neil Patrick Harris in Clara’s Heart

At the age of nine, Downs joined Ellicott’s Little Theater on the Corner and landed the role of Conrad Birdie in the youngsters’ production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” The live theater experience sharpened Jason’s love of acting; he was swept away by the dynamic relationship between the audience and the actors on stage.

It wasn’t long before he had added the moves of Chuck Berry and Cab Calloway to his dancing repertoire. Then he saw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video when he was ten, and became a student of his movements. Jason’s impersonations of the singing stars made the young performer a hit at parties as well as on the stage, but he began to feel that something was missing, “Impersonations were a good party trick, but I needed to develop my own unique style. I bought a guitar and began studying and writing music – learning the craft of song writing in my spare time,” he said.

Downs on the set of Hairspray and with Ricki Lake

Jason continued acting and in 1987, at the age of 13, the teen landed a role in filmmaker John Waters’ movie “Hairspray,” starring Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, Ricki Lake, and Divine.

“The movie was patterned after the popular ‘American Bandstand’ television show hosted by Dick Clark,” explains Jason. “It featured the music and dances from the 50s. Waters loved my dancing; he called me ‘the Mashed Potato kid.’ (The Mashed Potato was one of the popular teen dances of the day). I only had one speaking line, but I was a featured part of the ‘council’ (the regulars on the dance floor) and I became a local celebrity.”

Jason got an agent and began doing national commercials and voice-overs. Academics were still an important part of his life, but he was a paid actor through most of his childhood in Maryland and admits that his favorite part of high school was performing in the musical productions.

He earned scholarships to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. To help pay for the prestigious school he got part time jobs, worked as a handyman for Fifth Avenue families, and began concentrating on his singing and songwriting. “After I graduated, I made a country western demo and showed it to a woman who worked for one of these families. She gave it to a cousin who was a hip-hop producer for rappers. He liked the sound, and told me if I could add some rapping, we could shop our ‘Hick Hop’ sound to Jive Records.”

In 2000, Jive produced Jason’s first album with the eye-popping cover title “White Boy with a Feather.” Reaching back to an ancestry that included some Cherokee blood, Jason struck a pose on Wall Street wearing nothing but his boots, guitar and a feather in his hair. The cover and the songs created a sensation – especially in Europe where the album worked its way into the United Kingdom’s Top 20. The successful album sales led to concerts and touring in front of cheering European crowds.

“I was living the dream,” says Jason, “but the bubble was about to burst. As I was preparing to do a second album, Jive Records was sold and the phenomena of Apple Music and iTunes shook the music industry. I was suddenly on my own with few prospects and realized that my music success had been based on a trendy craze. I was still being an ‘impersonator.’ I hadn’t developed the unique style I wanted and that had sidetracked my acting career. After graduation, I could have been working my way up the acting ladder, doing guest shots in television series like ‘Law and Order’ instead of playing to the fleeting adoration of fickle teenage fans.”

Downs decided to take a time out and escaped to a quiet, introspective life in Woodstock. The hiatus turned his life around. He met his future wife and fellow actor, Sharon. The couple had two children and Jason began to develop an appreciation for life outside the limelight. He didn’t give up acting altogether. In Woodstock, basking in a newfound maturity, he found he could be himself, not just an impressionist, and landed his first staring role in the independent film, “Racing Daylight.”

Another life changing moment occurred when Sharon’s sister, Laurie, introduced him to his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Weston Middleton. The two men quickly bonded over shared show business experiences and the couples became close friends. The friendship led to the collaboration and support of each other’s career goals.

Middleton’s movie industry jobs prompted him to move to California and return to his hometown of Valencia and in 2014, the Downs family decided to join them. By now, Jason had added a new talent to his show business repertoire — writing novels and screenplays.

Once settled in their new hometown, it was a natural next step for the two men to explore a new business idea – an Internet Protocol that uses integrated media to develop screen writing technologies. Both Jason and Weston have been working with the Santa Clarita Business Incubator to make their idea a reality.

Getting acclimated to a new town and working on a new business partnership are just a few of the activities that are keeping Jason busy these days. “I love the Western history in the Santa Clarita Valley,” says Jason, “it prompted me to write the script ‘Time Dancer,” which is about a time traveling cowboy in the 1850s. His ranch is located in Placerita Canyon. The script gives me a meaningful way to contribute to this valley’s history and keep the history of the Western alive. It’s also a way to connect with the community.”

Part of that connection involves the Santa Clarita Rotary Club, an organization he joined earlier this year. He has been lending his talents to the club’s fundraising and service projects. Most recently, Jason served as master of ceremonies for Rotary’s Peoples Choice Car Show, which was held in June to raise funds for three organizations dedicated to helping the homeless: Family Promise, Bridge to Home and The Village Family Services.

“My family and I love this community,” concludes Jason, “and by contributing the skills I have learned over my career in the entertainment industry, I hope to play a new part — a part in Santa Clarita’s dynamic commitment to the quality of life for all its residents.”

Katie Hill’s Primary Opponents Look Back at her First Six Months

| News | August 1, 2019

Earlier this month, Rep. Katie Hill marked six months in office. Meanwhile, her primary opponents expressed ranges of dissatisfaction with her performance.

Hill (D-Agua Dulce) listed nine accomplishments in a press release. They range from the mundane (opening district offices, attending town halls, community forums and community events) to her leadership positions, to the various pieces of legislation she either led or voted on that had passed.

She introduced five bills, one of which passed the House but remains in a Senate committee. That’s House Resolution 1064, which expands whistleblower protections to include talking to a supervisor in the employee’s direct chain of command up to, and including, the head of the employing agency, or to an employee designated to receive such disclosures.

Another bill, HR 1015, calling for a St. Francis Dam memorial to be built, became part of a public lands package that President Trump signed. It’s the only piece of Hill-sponsored legislation to become law.

Hill also wrote four amendments that passed out of committees and one amendment that passed out of the House. That was for HR 3055, which increases federal firefighting funds by $7 million that is paid for by decreasing a different fund by the same amount. The bill has yet to be assigned to a Senate committee.

“The work that we’re able to do on the local level – accomplishing our community priorities and performing constituent services – are my top priorities. Even in a divided government, we can come together and get things done for our district,” Hill said in a statement. “I’m proud to use my positions in leadership to advocate for our community at the highest possible levels and I look forward to many more years of success, together.”

The first accomplishment listed is for 204 constituent cases opened, 72 cases completed (51 successfully) and $336,773.96 in total benefits for constituents.

District Director Angela Giacchetti explained that, while every case is different, all are related to problems with federal agencies. Hill’s constituent problems mostly deal with departments related to veterans’ affairs and immigration, Giacchetti said.

Many constituents sought help securing VA-related survivor or Medicare benefits, or getting visas to travel to a foreign country to attend a family funeral, she said.

“Usually, these cases get to us when something is stuck, and our job is to unstick it,” she said. “Sometimes, all it takes is a letter from our office.”

Predictably, Hill’s Republican opponents are not impressed with her first six months. Three criticized her allegiance to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and most found her too liberal for their tastes.

“Katie Hill’s lack of performance, her self-professed adulation of Nancy Pelosi as her hero, and her focus on following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist agenda more than our district the past six months affirms my decision to run against her,” Mike Garcia said in a statement. “She has proven herself unwilling to do this job and would rather spend her time on cable news shows defending the positions of the extreme wing of her party. We need a representative that is more focused on the needs of our district’s constituents than the shameless desire to be a member of the liberal elite.”

Angela Underwood Jacobs last week described Hill’s first six months as “lackluster.” On Tuesday, she explained.

“She’s gone back on her word. I believe she’s been in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and her agenda,” Underwood Jacobs said. “Originally, she said she would be independent and stand her own ground. I don’t see that, personally. She’s a Socialist Democrat who’s done everything she could to undermine the core principles our country was founded upon.”

Underwood Jacobs criticized Hill for favoring Medicare For All and voting for the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination and segregation based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in a wide variety of areas including public education. Underwood Jacobs said this bill, currently in the Senate, would allow boys and girls to compete on the same teams, although the bill says nothing of the sort.

Underwood Jacobs also said Hill favors letting 16-year-olds vote. In fact, Hill voted for HR 1, which allows 16-year-olds to register to vote.

Hill also voted for a bill that prohibits removal proceedings against certain illegal immigrants and provides them paths toward permanent-resident status. Underwood Jacobs said this allows illegal immigrants to engage in gang activity and let people with multiple convictions to apply for permanent residency. In fact, immigrants with one felony or three misdemeanor convictions (not counting some cannabis and domestic-violence misdemeanors) are ineligible.

“She is out of touch with the people in the 25th congressional district,” Underwood Jacobs concluded.

Mark Cripe took a different tact, first saying, “I will always give people in office the respect they deserve, so you are not going to hear me bag on Katie Hill, plain and simple. I may feel that I would have done things differently; but first of all, she’s a freshman, she’s just figuring her position out, and that can’t be easy to do given all the turmoil going on between everybody.”

But then Cripe expressed dissatisfaction with Hill’s connection to Pelosi.

“Nancy Pelosi has taken Katie Hill under the arm, and Nancy’s pretty much gone in directions that are different than I would go,” Cripe said. “She’s grooming Congresswoman Hill. Where’s that gonna go, and how far left are we gonna go with all that?”

Cripe also said he didn’t like that she voted against a law that provides $4.5 billion for humanitarian assistance and security to respond to migrants attempting to enter the country through Mexico. Trump signed the bill July 1.
“If we’re going to help these people, if we’re going to address significant problems within our own infrastructure so these people do get due process, then we need to get the funds to do so,” he said. “I would have definitely voted for that bill to get those people the help they need.”

Actually, Hill voted for the original bill but voted against the final bill. In a statement, she explained that she found the Senate’s version “a rush job” that didn’t include enough accountability to ensure the funds actually kept the children safe and the border secure.

Finally, Suzette Valladares said, “I would characterize (Hill’s first six months) as lockstep, progressive, liberal, not reflecting the values of the 25th congressional district.”

City Panel Fights Funds for Canyon Country Community Center

| News | August 1, 2019

Th11-Paper money

In a rare rebuke, a City panel last week voted against approving a financial report that included a $2 million transfer from one City fund to another because it believed the City was wrong to allocate the funds this way.

The open space preservation district’s financial accountability and audit panel voted 3-1, with one absence, to reject the report after the City Council approved moving the money from the preservation district’s account to cover a shortfall in the facilities fund.

The shortfall comes from the city using facilities-fund monies to build the Canyon Country Community Center, Councilmember Cameron Smyth said. Smyth said the city finalized the land purchase for the center in 2017.

The panel’s action changes nothing, City spokesperson Carrie Lujan wrote in an email. Mayor Marsha McLean said the City Council’s actions were legal and within the parameters of the bylaws set forth when the open space preservation district was created in 2007. “Just because you don’t like something that was done doesn’t mean it was wrong,” she said.

Still, McLean said, City Manager Ken Striplin and City Attorney Joe Montes will schedule a meeting with the panel “and let them know what the rules are and tell them they were done under the parameters of the open space rules put in place.”

According to panel member Sandra Cattell, City officials repeatedly told the panel that it had to approve the action because it was handled correctly, and then if the panel wanted to discuss it, it was free to do so.

“We were given a phrase — funding gap. We asked, ‘Why $2 million?’ ‘It was a funding gap.’ That sends up a big red flag,” Cattell said. “What if the gap would have been $8 million?”

The City correctly told the panel that ten percent of the land bought with open space funds could be used for active parkland. Cattell said she believes the Community Center is a redevelopment and not part of open space. “That in itself is disturbing to me, that they called it open space,” she said.

Cattell also said the transfer, which made up exactly one sentence in the report, “was kind of hidden.”

“Transparency is missing,” she said. “I don’t want to see the money used this way. I understand this is an important activity center in a park-poor section of the city. It’s a vital need. It’s just wrong how they’re funding it.”

McLean said the panel’s rejection is unprecedented. The closest similar incident came in 2015 when it became public knowledge that the City wanted to use open-space funds to purchase land that was too far outside the city (the limit is three miles). According to McLean and Councilmember Bob Kellar, the City corrected the discrepancy and used different funds to buy the land.

As for this action, McLean said the report had to be, and was approved, by an independent auditor before the Council could approve.

“I’m assuming that all of this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead and use the money to build the active park at the Community Center,” McLean stated.

Asked why she didn’t check it herself, she responded, “When we receive information that an action is OK to take, we go by what our staff puts forth, and if there’s something wrong with it, then there’s something wrong with it and we’ll need to look at it. As far as I know, this was all done the way it was supposed to have been done, and until something different comes up, that’s what we go by.”

Smyth said he appreciates the panel’s value, and that city staff is providing the members with any additional information they seek. He said he expects the meeting between Striplin, Montes and the panel to take place some day before the Aug. 27 city council meeting. He said the meeting’s purpose would be to “provide clarity.”

Getting to Know Suzette Valladares

| News | August 1, 2019

Suzette Valladares has heard the comments: “You’re a mother to a young child. Why run for office? Why not stay home?”

“What are we in, 1950?” she asked, “I’m proud to be a mom. I’m proud to be a mom running for Congress.”

She’s also a Republican and a Latina, not a combination many come across but one that fits her perfectly, and she seeks to parlay that uniqueness into unseating Rep. Katie Hill next year and representing the 25th congressional district.

She was the first of what are now four Republican challengers to Hill (D-Agua Dulce), having been joined by Mike Garcia, Angela Underwood Jacobs and Mark Cripe.
She said it’s extremely rewarding “having mothers come up to me to introduce their daughters to me and say, ‘We’re so proud to have a conservative Latina leader in the community running for Congress. Thank you for showing my daughter she can do anything.’”

Valladares’ platform is informed by her family’s background and experiences; for example, her views on immigration. As an American-born child whose relatives came from Mexico and Puerto Rico, she recognizes how important immigrants have been to the building of this country, so she wants to build a path to citizenship.

Yet from a story she heard about from her grandmother, who worked with Cesar Chavez in the grape fields near Bakersfield, Valladares learned a unique twist on illegal immigration. As Chavez worked to unionize, he and his followers also had to deal with undocumented workers in the fields.

“The only way to change those conditions was to unite and to strike,” Valladares said, “and if you had people that were willing to cross that picket line, specifically people that were not documented to work because they were taking money under the table to work anyway, it contradicted what they were trying to do.”

She also wants a secure Mexican border, but not to keep out people truly needing asylum. Instead, she wants to keep out drug and human traffickers. She blames the drug cartels for abusing and exploiting young children by taking advantage of asylum loopholes to smuggle in drugs. “Just because I want a safe, secure, modern border doesn’t mean I’m not pro-immigrant,” she added.

Even the reason she became a Republican comes straight out of a life experience. A counselor knew she was vocal and showed potential for activism, so she suggested Valladares go hear then-Vice President Al Gore speak at Fairfax High in 1999.

Valladares had been raised with the values of hard work, education, religion, family’s paramount importance and giving back to one’s community. According to Los Angeles Times and Time magazine articles, Gore spoke of gun restrictions and banning discrimination against gay students.

“Everything he said contradicted what my family said,” she recalled. “Nothing he said was resonating with me.”

Other platform points:

 She opposes universal health care and “Medicare for All,” but believes health care must be affordable and accessible for all Americans. The key, then, is to keep costs down through a variety of ways. These include being able to buy drugs from other countries, selling policies across state lines and combining government and private investments.

One way she would do that is to create a Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) within the Department of Health and Human Services to research, create and find cures and treatments. It would be modeled after a similar Department of Defense program created during the Eisenhower years that developed military and non-military technologies such as computer networking and the basis for today’s internet.

“If we can bring true cures to things like cancer or even therapies for diseases like dementia that currently have no therapy, no cure, we could more rapidly bring down the costs of health care,” she said.

 She favors President Trump’s belief that for every new regulation, two must be removed. She said that since 1970, 190,000 new regulations have been implemented. According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the regulatory restrictions within the Code of Federal Regulations increased by more than 1 million between 197and 2016.

The Mercatus Center’s report said it is unlikely all these regulations were carefully crafted. Valladares knows this is true. Running her late mother’s non-profit daycare, she finds having a regulation that requires mats on changing tables to be of a certain thickness to be “burdensome.”

“Why are we getting so hyper-focused on the smallest of details instead of making it easier for the industry to safely open up more?” she said.

Not all regulations are bad, she said. Those that benefit public safety, the environment, clean air and clean water must remain.

 She supports block grants for early childhood education and favors local control of public schools.

 People need to hire more veterans, who in turn need to be encouraged to work, her website says. She wants to better address their families’ needs, including physical and mental health care, employment opportunities, job training and retirement benefits.

Presentation of Metro Antelope Valley Line Study Moves Forward Mayor McLean Works with Metro to Bring Additional Regular Service to Santa Clarita

| News | July 26, 2019

Speaking before the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Planning and Programming Committee on July 17, 2019, Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean advocated for the Antelope Valley Line Study to be presented to the full Metro Board. Mayor McLean urged the committee members to recommend the study be presented at the next board meeting on July 25, 2019, for additional consideration and implementation.

“The study identifies strategic improvements that can be constructed and phased in over time to deliver regular and reliable service to the communities, like Santa Clarita, which are served by the Antelope Valley Line,” said Mayor McLean. “I am delighted to see that opportunities exist to provide bi-directional, 30-minute weekday service between Union Station and Santa Clarita in the near future.”

The 76.6 mile-long AV line has the third-highest ridership in Metro’s system with about 7,000 passengers daily utilizing up to 42 trains per day. The terrain and single tracking along the line in some areas, forces trains to travel at a slower speed which results in an estimated travel time of about two hours between Los Angeles Union Station and Lancaster.

“Enhancements to this line will make public transit more accessible and efficient for our residents,” said Mayor McLean. “I urge Metro to prioritize the scenarios within the study that can move forward expeditiously, identify funding to secure these early investments and coordinate with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority Board of Directors to include the study, its findings, and early investment opportunities within the Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion (SCORE) program.”

The Committee approved the study to move forward to the full board. The full Metro Board is slated to receive the presentation on the Antelope Valley Line Study at the July 25, 2019 meeting.

“I encourage members of the public to attend the Metro Board meeting to express their support for added train service to our City and along the entire Antelope Valley Line,” said Mayor McLean.

The Metro Board meeting will take place at 10 a.m. on July 25, 2019, at One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor, Metro Board Room, Los Angeles, CA 90012. To join the Mayor at this meeting, you can conveniently take Metrolink to Union Station and walk a very short distance to the Metro Building.

Heaton and Mueller vs. Wilk (Part 2) Getting to Know Kipp Mueller

| News | July 25, 2019

To successfully unseat state Senator Scott Wilk next year and reclaim the 21st district for the Democrats for the first time since 2012, Warren Heaton and Kipp Mueller have some things to overcome, aside from the usual challenges of beating an incumbent.

For Mueller, it is proving that he can win despite his youth and recent move into the district.

As recently reported, both candidates list health care, housing and homelessness as campaign issues. Both also are OK with the public option for health care, although Heaton said he wants people to be able to keep their policies if they like what their employers offer. Both also favor bringing high-paying green jobs to the district and think rural areas would be the best places to put them.

Nonetheless, Wilk will be a formidable opponent; so here’s a first look at what they’re doing to address concerns.

Kipp Mueller:
The 33-year-old employment attorney moved to Santa Clarita earlier this year, having grown up in Sacramento. Voters in the area don’t take too kindly to people who run so soon after establishing residency (see: Caforio, Bryan).

“The approach I have is the burden of proof is on me,” he said. “I am out here meeting people, giving our message out and seeing if people like it.”

Mueller (pronounced MULL-er) actually has worked in the district, specifically Adelanto, for several years. He feels a kinship with Santa Clarita, especially after people helped him search for his missing dog.

His work also regularly causes him to access the state’s labor code, civil code and code of civil procedure, so he knows his way around state law.

His message differs from Heaton in a couple of ways: He pushes for re-establishing a strong middle class, supports reproductive freedoms and pledges to work on the effects of climate change.

He said he believes that middle class can find jobs in clean technology.

“We have a ton of sun and a ton of wind,” he said. “I think this district, if it has a representative that the clean-tech economy knows is friendly, is an ally and will be working alongside it, we can get thousands of jobs into this district doing clean-tech work and profoundly grow the economy in this district.”

He acknowledges that a woman’s right to abortion will not disappear from California should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, but he says reproductive freedom goes beyond pregnancy. He mentioned three bills he’s watching and would favor.

Senate Bill 464 requires training to reduce racism and bias in maternal mortality cases. SB 24 allows college health clinics to offer abortions. SB 135 expands paid family leave rights.

Wilk voted for SB 464, which currently is in the Assembly. He voted against SB 24, which also is in the Assembly. SB 135 hasn’t yet reached the Senate floor for a vote.

Mueller also wants it known he isn’t aligned with oil companies, which he places much blame for climate change and the inability to switch to alternative, cleaner fuel sources.

College of the Canyons receives Grant for Online Career Education

| News | July 18, 2019

Thanks to a recent grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), College of the Canyons will be able to offer more online education classes and lower the cost of textbooks by expanding the use of online textbooks.

COC was one of 70 community colleges to receive up to $500,000 in grant funding to expand online Career Technical Education (CTE) offerings and provide technical support for Open Educational Resources (OER) and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) grantees.

“The grant will provide resources to increase access, improve quality and eliminate textbook costs to four of our high-quality online pathways,” said Brian Weston, director of distance and accelerated learning at the college and project manager for the CTE/OER grant. “Our online career technical offerings provide a clear path for students to take the next step towards success and pursue a rewarding career.”

From the college’s total award, $400,210 will go toward expanding online CTE offerings and adding OER to CAD for Architecture, Pre-School Teacher, Land Surveying, and Water Systems Technology.

The CCCCO issued grants through the Improving Online CTE Pathways program developed by the California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI).

The award also includes $99,790 to provide technical support statewide for OER and ZTC grantees.

“Our two projects build on the college’s leadership in innovation,” said James Glapa-Grossklag, dean of learning resources and the OEI-CVC grant’s project manager. “We were among the first California community colleges to offer fully online classes in 2005.”

The college has been a longtime leader in advocating for and implementing OER. In spring 2018, 25 percent of all credit sections were offered online. In fact, faculty using OER saved students an estimated $4 million during 2018-19, a 33 percent increase over the prior year.

“This new grant permits us to assist colleges across the state in bringing the benefit of OER to their students, particularly in fields that lead to employment in high-demand fields, thereby supporting economic growth across the state,” Glapa-Grossklag said.

The CVC-OEI’s goal is to increase the number of transfer degrees awarded by the state’s community colleges and to provide access to high-quality online programs and student support services.
New classes are expected to be offered in the fall 2020 semester.

News Briefs and Updates

| News | July 18, 2019

Katie Hill Divorce

Congresswoman Katie Hill’s husband has filed for divorce, court documents show.

First reported by the tabloid news site The Blast, Kenny Heslep is seeking spousal support from Hill (D-Agua Dulce). The two were married in 2010 and have no children.

According to court documents, Heslep provided a six-page narrative to explain the reasons. These include how he and Hill had decided she would be the breadwinner and he, who admits he has few job skills, would stay home and handle the domestic duties, which include caring for the horse and other animals on their 2.5-acre ranch.

The court documents say Hill told Heslep in June she was leaving him and stopped transferring money into their joint account, leaving no money to feed the animals.

A source told the Gazette that Hill was possibly frustrated at Heslep’s lack of work and inability to find work.

A Hill spokeswoman said there would be no statement regarding this matter.

Upcoming Moffat vs. Wilk Hearing Update

The next hearing in Star Moffatt’s quest to disqualify State Senator Scott Wilk will be August 29th, Moffatt and court documents said.

According to Moffatt, this will be a simple status conference. The case recently was reassigned, so Moffat and Wilk’s attorneys are expected to update the new judge on what is happening.

Moffatt filed suit in 2016 seeking to prevent Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) from running for the Senate because he had been a registered federal lobbyist who had not sat out a year before seeking office, per the state’s government code. Wilk was elected to the Senate in 2016 and is more than halfway through his term.

Heaton and Mueller vs. Wilk – Getting Personal with Warren Heaton

| News | July 18, 2019

Part 1 of 2 Series
To successfully unseat state Senator Scott Wilk next year and reclaim the 21st district for the Democrats for the first time since 2012, Warren Heaton and Kipp Mueller have some things to overcome, aside from the usual challenges of beating an incumbent.

For Heaton, it is being a Democrat who can reach both liberal and conservative residents.

As reported last week, both candidates list health care, housing and homelessness as campaign issues. Both also are OK with the public option for health care, although Heaton said he wants people to be able to keep their policies if they like what their employers offer. Both also favor bringing high-paying green jobs to the district and think rural areas would be the best places to put them.

Nonetheless, Wilk will be a formidable opponent; so here’s a first look at what Heaton is doing to address concerns. Check back next week for Mueller’s take.

Warren Heaton:
The College of the Canyons adjunct faculty member and immigration attorney said he likes good policy that benefits the most people, having seen from his time in the insurance and banking fields how good regulations protect consumers and how bad regulations end up costing consumers money. His challenge is to figure out how to enact policies without alienating a large swath of voters, be they Democrat or Republican.

“District 21 is a microcosm of what’s going on in the United States, where you have this urban, educated, professional class who are doing relatively well. They can afford to buy a home. They have health care. Their concerns are related to education, the environment, public transportation,” he said. “Then you have this rural part of the district, and their concerns are jobs, health care, the lack of public transportation; you have addiction issues, and they’re struggling to hang on.”

He said he thinks public transportation is one issue where he can bridge the divide. Urban voters who drive the already clogged freeways welcome a faster, cleaner option; rural voters who can only afford to live in distant places such as Adelanto, Hesperia and Palmdale want to get into town faster.

Another uniting issue: green jobs. If urban voters want more green jobs, as Heaton believes, those jobs can be in rural areas. He suggested the Antelope Valley.

“I’m about smart policies that will benefit the entire community, not just one party over the other. I’m left on some issues and right on the others, but I think that’s exactly where this district is,” he said. “This district isn’t an extreme district where we’re going to decide things based on abortion rights or gun rights.”

From his time as a COC adjunct faculty union representative, Heaton sees a great pay disparity between adjunct and full-time faculty. He applauds the legislature for passing Senate Bill 1379 in 2016, which gives these part-timers collective-bargaining rights.

Wilk voted against the bill while in the Assembly.

“Wilk was part of the problem,” Heaton said. “There’s a difference between good policy and ideology. You can’t just step into government with some ideological stance and think you’re going to be an effective legislator. You have to understand how your ideologies are going to interact with policy and how that’s going to interact with people you represent.”

Wildfire Town Hall

| Community, News | July 18, 2019

Join Senator Scott Wilk, Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Assemblyman Tom Lackey on Monday, July 22, from 6 to 8 pm at a wildfire town hall meeting.

Hear the experts discuss:
Best practices for keeping your home safe in a wildfire
Preventative measures being taken by utility companies
State and county preparedness plans
City response/action plan

It will take place at The Centre (former Activities Center), located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway.

RSVP to: 661-286-1471 or http://tinyurl.com/y58dkq5c

Wilk has Challengers

| News | July 12, 2019

Two attorneys have announced they will challenge Scott Wilk next year for Wilk’s 21st Senate district seat.

Kipp Mueller, who handles discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation cases; and immigration lawyer Warren Heaton, who also teaches at College of the Canyons, have declared their candidacies.

Both list healthcare, housing and homelessness concerns as platform issues on their candidate websites. Both favor the public option for healthcare, and both express alarm at the cost of housing and the rise of homelessness as a result.

Muller also seeks to “re-establish a strong middle class that suits the 21st century” by strengthening unions, enforcing the labor code and balancing the budget. He wants to safeguard reproductive freedoms and women’s rights, and he recognizes the need to do something to combat climate change.

“Now, most families fear the first of the month. We’ve seen decades of stagnant wages while healthcare, housing and other life expenses continue to climb,” Mueller said in a statement. “An economy that used to work for families like mine has now turned into millions of families just struggling to get by.”

Heaton, who declared last week, supports “a dramatic expansion in public transportation” and more infrastructure funding. He also supports more money in K-12 education and investments to lower student-loan debt and increase the number of full-time faculty members.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

| News | July 12, 2019

Chris Ball is experiencing first hand how slowly the wheels of justice turn, and he isn’t happy about it.

Ball, who last year filed a lawsuit alleging his bookkeeper misappropriated, embezzled, converted and/or diverted $1,586,732.06 going back to 2006, wants Neilla Cenci thrown in prison for it. Cenci remains free, and Ball said she declared bankruptcy once she was caught (a call to Cenci went unreturned).

Ball has petitioned the county district attorney’s office to get things moving, and he isn’t happy about the speed. He has taken the tact that the more annoying he can be, the more likely the case will be handled just to make him go away.
“I’m really good at throwing hand grenades. I’m really not good at persuasion,” he said. “When it comes to dealing with institutions, that’s the only way I know how.”

To that end, Ball filed a public records request seeking, among other things, various records and memoranda related to District Attorney Jackie Lacey using the phrase “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied;” and the overtime and disciplinary records of Deputy DA Adewale Oduye, who’s handling Ball’s case.

Ball admitted he’s not the least bit interested in what’s found. He just wants to light a fire under Lacey and her staff.

“If she has gone out, got herself elected by promising swift execution of justice, then I’m here to tell you that that is not happening,” Ball said. “My Public Records Act request is the only mechanism I can think of that will force the top management at the district attorney’s office to pay attention to my case. … I want the district attorney to get pissed off and say, ‘Look, I don’t need this s***. Go ahead and prosecute this case.’ That’s what this is about.”

Cenci was arrested September 6th in connection with pilfering $37,755.48 that an IRS audit of Ball’s construction company revealed. An arrest report from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department showed she was granted $20,000 bail. No charges were filed; instead, Det. Robert Morris of the Sheriff’s fraud and cyber crimes bureau investigated, executed search warrants and found more than 1,000 checks totaling almost $1.5 million deposited mostly into five banks or credit-card companies: Visa, Discover, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America.

Morris submitted his findings to the DA. Public Information Officer Paul Eakins and said the office got the case April 24th.

Ball received an email June 24th from Oduye saying he had been assigned the case.

That didn’t sit well with Ball.

“Detective Morris built your case with bank search warrants and told me in March that he had proof from the thief’s bank records and from my bank records that she had stolen over a million dollars,” Ball wrote in an email to Oduye the same day. “April, May and June have now gone by. That’s 90 days that your office has done NOTHING.  That’s 90 days the embezzling thief can hide the stolen money or plan her escape. That’s 90 days she has enjoyed her freedom.”

Oduye responded with a request to meet. Ball wrote back, “I do not need to meet with you, and I have no questions for you, except one: What will it take to get urgent action from your office?”

Ball explained that his civil matters – suing the banks and merchants that laundered the stolen money and getting Cenci’s bankruptcy overturned – are strengthened if Cenci is arrested again. Also, the theft-insurance company won’t pay out until there is an arrest, he said.

On June 28th, Oduye responded that civil litigation carries no weight and that he must evaluate the case to determine if he could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. He said he would meet with Morris, and Morris confirmed to the Gazette that the two had met.

“Although I cannot make any promises, I do hope to come to a filing decision within the next 6 months,” Oduye wrote.

That didn’t sit well with Ball, either. He responded by attaching the state’s victims’ rights laws that, among other things, call for “expeditious enforcement” and “expeditious disposition” and that a victim is entitled “to a speedy trial.”

“The success of my civil case and the recovery of stolen assets are dependent on your prompt action,” Ball wrote on June 29th.  “My civil case is directly relevant to your statutory duties. Ignore that at your own peril.”

“He’s taking a lazy approach, and I’m not accepting it,” Ball said.

Ball added he doesn’t have time to try and meet with Lacey to put a face to the case. Nor does he care if his actions tip off Cenci.

“The detective is just as frustrated as I am,” Ball said.

Morris said Ball’s actions have “kind of got the ball rolling much better.” But he knows how slow things move.

“That’s just part of the program,” Morris said. “I get frustrated sometimes with how it works because the system is bogged down. The DA has to work at the pace they’re given. They work with the parameters they have. They’re short bodies, they have a heavy caseload, and they have to work by statute. Sometimes, the general public doesn’t understand. They think it needs to go faster, but its part of the process.”

If Ball had his way, the process would resemble what’s seen in Hollywood: full justice in an hour.

Instead, wife Krissy Ball said, “Nothing is happening, and it’s driving us insane.”

FPPC Investigates Westfield

| News | July 3, 2019

The company that owns the Valencia Town Center is being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission over failing to file campaign-disclosure forms related to its leasing space to College of the Canyons during the Measure E campaign in 2016.

According to documents provided by FPPC Commission Assistant Sasha Linker, Delaware-based Westfield LLC is being asked to explain why it didn’t file major donor and expenditure forms when the Committee for College of the Canyons – Yes on Measure E did.

The form in question, Form 461, is required whenever an entity contributes at least $10,000 to a campaign in a calendar year. Westfield donated about 5,244 square feet of space for the Yes on E campaign, according to a letter to the FPPC from Westfield attorney Stacy McKee Knight obtained via public records request and given to the Gazette.

The problem is that the Yes on E Committee filed appropriate documents indicating it estimated the fair-market value of the space to be $25,000, although it was leased for free.

Robert McCarty, who filed the documents for the committee, declined comment. “People at the college are taking care of this issue,” he said.

McKee Knight’s letter, dated April 30 and addressed to Intake Manager Tara Stock, explains that the monetary value didn’t reach $10,000 for the 92 days the Yes on E Committee occupied the space. She estimated that the going rate at the time was $8,600 for 82 days, still short of the required $10,000.

“No current member of the Center’s even leasing staff had any communications with any COC representatives regarding the value of the leased space and was not aware COC filed a form declaring $25,000 as the value,” McKee Knight’s letter said.

The FPPC also is investigating COC for, among other things, possibly using an employee to secure the lease.

John Musella, head of his eponymous public relations firm that counts Westfield as a client, didn’t return a call for comment.

Pork Barrel Spending: Congress’ Piggy Bank

| News | July 3, 2019

It is the bane of many a congressperson and often brought up around an election: pork barrel spending.

It’s the appropriation of government spending on localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district. It typically benefits a few, but the costs get passed to everyone.

Some could argue that the St. Francis Dam Memorial, which Rep. Katie Hill secured as part of a public lands package, is an example of such spending – even though the financial amount is nominal compared to the infamous Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere.”

“I take every opportunity to bring resources back to our district and accomplish our local priorities,” Hill said in a statement. “I was proud to ensure the St. Francis Dam Memorial was signed into law by the President…”

Hill has not been accused of pork spending, nor has the nonprofit Citizens Against Government Waste ever named her its “Porker of the Month,” a dishonor it bestows on an elected official it deems as having “blatant disregard for the interest of taxpayers.”

In its latest newsletter, CAGW indicated its following four pieces of legislation:

–House Joint Resolution 22, a Constitutional balanced-budget Amendment. It allows for one exception: Congress must authorize excess spending by a three-fifths roll call vote of each chamber.

–HR 1957, Taxpayer First Act. This passed the House on a voice vote. It improves safeguards for taxpayers when dealing with the IRS, upgrades management and customer service at the tax agency, and creates a pathway for modernizing the administration of tax laws.

–HR 109, the Green New Deal, a proposed stimulus package that aims to address climate change and economic inequality. Although it failed to advance in either the House or Senate, 29 Californian Democrats signed on, but Hill didn’t.

–HR 1384, Medicare for All. Hill signed on as a co-sponsor.

In a statement, Hill said, “When I sign onto a bill, the only thing I take into account is our community and country, and the way it will affect or benefit our safety, security, and prosperity long-term.”

Hill did not answer whether she was part of the HR 1957 voice vote or give her view on HJR 22.

Hill also responded to a separate question about last week’s Democratic debates.

Almost as soon as Kamala Harris declared her presidential aspirations in January, Hill endorsed her, telling MSNBC that Harris “has been an exceptional leader in the state of California, and I think she is exactly the kind of candidate we need to show the right kind of vision we should have for this country.”

Then came the presidential debates last week, and from many indications, Harris merged as one of the winners.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll found 29 percent of respondents rated Harris “excellent,” more than any other candidate. The Los Angeles Times declared Harris probably won the state’s primary with her performance. And USA Today noted an uptick in interest in Iowa, home of the first primary next year, the Iowa Caucases.

Hill indicated she couldn’t be more pleased.

“Kamala Harris showed the American people what I’ve known since I met her: She has the values, strength and vision this country needs in this moment,” Hill said in a statement. “Senator Harris was steady, laid out her plan and brought her personal experience to the conversation, all which I thought made her performance incredibly successful.”

Harris succeeded by calling out frontrunner Joe Biden for his almost nostalgic comments of getting along with segregationist Senators and for opposing federally mandated busing to integrate schools.

Hill also said she thought other candidates impressed, too, listing Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“I look forward to this conversation continuing into 2020,” Hill said.

Money Money Money

Hill’s campaign announced that she raised more than $720,000 in the recently completed quarter and more than $1.365 million this year. A statement from the Hill campaign said fewer than 10 Democrats nationally raised as much in the second quarter.

News Briefs and updates

| News | June 28, 2019

College Investigated

The law might have broken when an employee at College of the Canyons possibly signed a lease to use space in Valencia Town Center in support of Measure E, and it’s being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

According to an email from Commission Assistant Sasha Linker, the FPPC is investigating “laundered campaign contributions” and “contributions by intermediary or agent.”

Linker’s email also provided documentation, including the same documents the Gazette previously was given: an event agreement between the school and Westfield, which owns the Valencia Town Center, to lease space in the mall between March 25-June 25, 2016 as a Yes-on-E campaign headquarters; and a document listing the college’s Rockwell Canyon Road address and contact as Claudia Dunn, then the special assistant to Chancellor Dianne Van Hook. The phone number was redacted; the original document lists a college number.

Linker’s email said the FPPC also is looking into the claim that “COC acted as an intermediary by allowing the (Yes on E) Committee to conduct campaign activity from the location (suite 2312) in the Valencia Town Center Mall.”

Richard Michael, who runs the website Big Bad Bonds, previously said the school’s actions violated the state Education Code. On Monday, he called the FPPC letter “kind of a form letter, but it indicates it’s going to the next stage. … The fact they’re looking at it is significant.”

Linker’s documentation also included the letter sent to Van Hook. It repeats the allegations being investigated and adds, “At this time, we have not made any determination about the allegation(s) made in the complaint.”

Linker’s documents say that by July 3, the FPPC will decide whether to investigate, refer to another government agency or take no action.

College spokesperson Eric Harnish said in an email the school has not received a copy of the complaint. “When we do, we will work with the commission to ensure the issue is properly resolved,” he said.

Board member Joan MacGregor said she was aware the FPPC was investigating. “I hope everyone kept proper records. I hope everything was done correctly,” she said.

Former City Council Candidates Settle in Court

In the final disposition of the case of one city council candidate’s civil harassment restraining order against another candidate, Sean Weber was awarded $22,000 in costs and attorney fees, court documents show.

Weber originally filed for a restraining order for himself, his mother, father-in-law and brother May 9, 2017, against Brett Haddock, court documents show. Weber claimed he feared for his and his family’s safety.

Haddock, who like Weber unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2016, was ordered to pay $1,500 per month starting June 1. Weber and attorney Troy Slaten said that as of last week, they had not been paid.

Haddock had appealed to the state Court of Appeal, citing the First Amendment and receiving support in an amicus brief from the UCLA School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic.

But the court ruled 3-0 that Haddock also engaged in private harassment, which isn’t covered under the First Amendment.

“I felt like the red herring was the (First Amendment). It had nothing to do with it, the restraining order,” Weber said last week. “It was his other conduct that I went to court over. It’s his private conduct by contacting of my friends and family and all that kind of stuff.”

The case was returned to the trial court, which awarded most of the $29,000 Slaten said he sought.

Haddock declined comment except to say, “Sean Weber is a psychopath and I want him to leave me alone. It’s ironic that I can’t get a restraining order on him.”

Wilk’s Doggie Donor Bill clears first Assembly Committee

| News | June 27, 2019

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announced recently that Senate Bill 202 (SB 202), his “Doggie Donor Bill,” has passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee. SB 202 allows for an improved, more humane method of collecting blood donations from animals.

“Pets across California run the risk of no available blood when they are in crisis. Our shortage of animal blood has resulted in many people losing a pet simply because blood was not available when the animal was in need,” said Senator Wilk. “This is something that can be remedied and should be. My bill will go a long way toward relieving the shortage, while at the same time providing for a much more humane way to collect blood from animals.”

Veterinarians rely on products provided by animal blood banks to perform transfusions and other life-saving operations in their practices; however, California’s restrictive regulatory framework has limited available options in the state resulting in only two commercially licensed blood banks leaving California pet owners and veterinarians with a limited supply of blood. In addition, animals in these ‘closed-colony’ facilities are caged for years at a time in these facilities to draw blood.

The solution provided in SB 202 is simple: expand the pool of available animal blood donations by allowing for volunteer donations from pets – not unlike how people give blood. This practice, referred to as “community blood banking,” is allowed in every state but California. SB 202 would require community blood banks to be commercially licensed and meet health and safety standards set by the state.

“Animals should be able to go home after they donate blood, just like people do,” said Wilk. “Allowing for this compassionate method of collecting blood is the right thing to do for all our furry friends. I’m thankful to my colleagues for their support, and I look forward to continuing this work going forward.”

SB 202 is sponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation and has support from a number of veterinary medicine and animal advocacy groups, including the California Veterinary Medical Association, California Veterinary Medical Board, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. SB 202 will now be heard in the Assembly Committee on Agriculture.

Senator Wilk represents the 21st Senate District which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor Valleys.

City Creates New Illegal Firework Reporting System

| News | June 27, 2019

The City of Santa Clarita is now offering residents a new way to report firework use in the City. Through a new “Illegal Fireworks” category in the City’s Resident Service Center RSC), community members can pinpoint and submit exact locations where fireworks are being set off, and include incident-specific details. The Resident Service Center is accessible on the city’s website and through the Santa Clarita Mobile App.

As the Fourth of July approaches, residents can begin submitting locations that have been problem areas for illegal fireworks in past years. This information will be automatically transmitted to the Sheriff’s Department so they can enter it into their database and know where they should focus their patrols. This information gathered will be used to “predictively” map out problem areas of concern for law enforcement efforts. Reporting illegal fireworks through RSC will not result in an immediate response from the Sheriff’s Department.

“Fireworks can be hazardous to people and pets, and create unnecessary danger in our already fire-prone environment,” said Captain Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “This new feature will assist our crime prevention team and patrol deputies to plan out proactive enforcement and patrols in the days leading up to, and after the Fourth of July and other times of increased fireworks usage in the community.”

When residents search for the “Illegal Fireworks” category in the Resident Service Center online or through the mobile app, they can access the correct form by using search terms “fireworks” or “illegal fireworks.”

To access the Resident Service Center, visit santa-clarita.com or download the Santa Clarita Mobile App.

The Elephants in the Room

| News | June 27, 2019

When a political party loses seats it has long held, its leaders tend to come together, lick wounds, figure out what went wrong and try to fix it.

It’s also a time people get vocal, maybe snipe at each other and maybe air grievances in public.

It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. It’s still happening with the Republican Party of the 38th Assembly District.

The locals suffered some big losses during the last cycle. Katie Hill and Christy Smith became the first Democrats to win the congressional and Assembly seats. And although school board seats are non-partisan, Democrats David Barlavi and Laura Arrowsmith won in the Saugus district.

It was not a total loss. Many Republicans won or held onto non-partisan seats, including in the city council, William S. Hart, College of the Canyons, Newhall and Sulphur Springs school boards. But the Barlavi and Arrowsmith seats particularly stung, local party chairman Mark Hershey said, because “They’re the biggest, most visible ones.”

It became too much for some younger Republicans, who started shouting that there was a need to reach younger voters, to raise more money, to recruit new talent to run for offices. And it rubbed some of the old guard the wrong way, resulting in disagreements and the censure and removal of one of the Central Committee members.

Allegations flew, many unsubstantiated. But one thing was clear: Local Republicans had lost their way a bit and would need to refocus to win back seats in 2020.

“My expectation is that they’re going to do their jobs,” said Mike Garcia, a 25th congressional district candidate. “I have been leaning on them. I’ve been somewhat patient with them realizing that they are still reeling from the last election. They’re still trying to figure out who they are, and I know they’re working through some of the personnel issues. … It’s still early, but this is something that’s got to start right now, so I’m hopeful they’ll get it together shortly.”

The truth is, there’s only so much a local political party can do. The county, state and national parties handle much. In fact, party communications chair Joe Messina said, the local party, known as the 38th AD, is chiefly responsible for getting Republicans elected to local races such as city council, school boards and water boards.

But losses up the ballot hurt, too, and might affect local results, so the party leaders have discussed what went wrong in 2018. In the Saugus races, Messina said, Barlavi benefitted from two Republicans running. The 38th AD endorsed Jesus Henao, but Evan Patlian also ran, and he split the vote. Barlavi beat Patlian by 5 percentage points and Henao by 11.

Arrowsmith unseated Judy Umeck, Messina believes, because she was a young, energetic teacher who also benefitted from the voter turnout that sent Hill and Smith to victories.

So, what went wrong? Local Republican leaders focused on several things: The Democrats had higher voter registration, raised more money and had more community involvement. Messina said plans are being drawn up to combat the other party’s gains, although he declined specifics.

But some, such as Cardon Ellis, 36, also felt there was a greater need to reach younger voters through social media. He suggested increasing the online presence on Facebook and adding a simple “Donate” button on the main website (scvgop.net).

“He came in with grandiose ideas,” Messina said, adding he isn’t sure social media wins races but recognizes it brings awareness.

Ellis was liked enough to be appointed to the 38th AD Central Committee. But he also rubbed some people the wrong way. Messina would only say, “He was doing things that were putting the committee in danger.”

Regardless, Ellis was censured and removed from the Central Committee by a 5-2 vote. He provided a list of reasons, all of which he denied. These include incurring expenses without permission, telling a reporter he was not impressed with the Republican candidate, creating his own team to respond to media stories and then not disbanding it, and berating older members.

Ellis particularly objected to the following: “The member has in essence created his own ‘ghost committee’ and doing what he wants the way he wants. This makes for the committee wasting way to much time in cleanup mode. He has created what may be too many liabilities for the committee.”

Ellis blames Messina, but his removal didn’t please everybody. Ellis showed texts of support from Councilmembers Cameron Smyth and Bill Miranda, Smyth saying he told Messina he didn’t approve and Miranda expressing condolences and regrets that the committee removed “the young high energy guy who has ideas and can move us forward.”

“You’re going to have disagreements. It’s the nature of the game,” Smyth told the Gazette. “That being said, I’ve never seen a Central Committee member removed like Cardon.” Since the seven Central Committee members are elected to four-year terms, Smyth thought it could have been handled at the ballot box.

Miranda said he thought Ellis brought his demise onto himself because he didn’t take the time to listen and learn. But he also said he would like to see Ellis back on the Central Committee.

“I think the Central Committee’s got to look in the mirror and say, ‘What are we going to do to modernize ourselves? What are we going to do to fight elections in the new battlefields, the social-media battlefields, the internet battlefields?’ The days of phone calling, door knocking and print advertising, although those are still important, they don’t win elections by themselves anymore,” Miranda said. “You’ve got to be on social media. Like Cardon said, put a donor button on the website. How hard is that? We didn’t have a donor button on the website. The Democrats are raising money like crazy, they’re getting voter registration like crazy, and most of that is through social media.”

How successful the party is will be seen a year and a half from now. Miranda would like to see a consistent message that resonates with Republicans old and young. Smyth said he’s confident the Republicans will coalesce around the eventual nominees. Messina said the party is working to increase youth involvement, raise more than the $60,000 it raised in 2016 and recruit new candidates.

Garcia is one of those new candidates.

“I’m being patient, but I’m being very clear there’s an expectation that all levels of government and all levels of these Republican groups are expected to get the vote out and get the support out for the candidate,” he said.

Wilk’s Attorneys Respond to Claims

| News | June 21, 2019

Star Moffatt’s claim that Scott Wilk should be disqualified from further serving in the state Senate because of his lobbying past is untimely, improper and uncertain, Wilk’s attorneys claim in court documents.

In filing a notice of demurrer, Wilk attorney Scott Hildreth of the Sacramento firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk said Moffatt’s case fails to “state facts constituting a cause of action” against Wilk and it should be completely dismissed.

A demurrer generally assumes the truth of a case’s facts but argues they’re legally insufficient.

“Demurrers are meant to be opportunities for early resolutions of cases that are procedurally or legally improper,” Hildreth said. “We believe Ms. Moffatt’s case is both procedurally improper and legally improper.”

Moffatt filed suit in 2016 seeking to prevent Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) from running for the Senate because he had been a registered federal lobbyist who had not sat out a year before seeking office, per the state’s Government Code.

Wilk had worked for Alexandria, Va.-based Anchor Consulting from 2007-11 doing public affairs work for then-Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon. He won election to the Assembly in 2012 and then won his Senate seat in 2016. He said three years ago that he received his last payment from Anchor in 2012, and an Anchor employee previously told the Gazette the company’s records showed Wilk stopped actively lobbying in 2011 before he ran for the Assembly.

Moffatt has countered that because Wilk had never unregistered, he is ineligible to serve and must be removed from office retroactively. Wilk is more than halfway through his term.

The demurrer documents make the following assertions:

–The case is moot because Wilk has already been elected, that the statute of limitations expired because the election happened, and state law holds that courts don’t have jurisdiction to either remove a legislator from office or hear such cases.

–Moffatt waited three years to serve Wilk, even though Wilk is easy to locate, making the delay in bringing an action unreasonable and prejudicial.

–Since the election happened, the only way to get post-election relief is to have another election. Moffatt should be barred from preventing Wilk from seeking any future election. “Here, the Court cannot know (and should not speculate about) Senator Wilk’s potential future candidacies and how the facts and law cited by Plaintiff would apply to said potential candidacies,” Hildreth wrote in the demurrer.

It’s not known when this demurrer would be heard because the original case, Moffatt v. Wilk, must be reassigned because of the court’s limited jurisdiction. The documents show Hildreth had sought a July 3 hearing date, but the minutes from the May 31 hearing show Wilk or his attorneys must contact the clerk of the new court to reschedule.

“Wilk and counsel members may want to withdraw their demurrer to avoid sanctions for filing their demurrer motion with the wrong court,” Moffatt said in a text.

Regardless, Moffatt said she plans to file an opposition and motion to strike the demurrer in its entirety. She didn’t divulge her entire strategy but said she would make two points: Wilk’s attorneys failed to meet and confer with her before filing the demurrer, per the state Code of Civil Procedure, and they failed to file appropriate supporting declarations.

“They jumped the gun. They were trying to do that stall tactic,” Moffatt said. “I think they put the cart before the horse.”

Hildreth cited the same law as Moffatt in asserting an insufficient meet-and-confer process isn’t grounds to overrule or sustain a demurrer.

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