Wilk Announces Bipartisan Measure to Make CA More Military Retirement Friendly

| News | 19 hours ago

Last Tuesday, Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st senate district, announces the introduction of Senate Bill 1071, bipartisan legislation that would exempt military retirement pay from the state income tax. Senators Bob Archuleta (D- Pico Rivera), Chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee and Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) are Joint Authors of the measure.

“The 21st Senate District is blessed to have many veterans. Their skill sets, education and earning potential make them a great asset to not only the 21st Senate District, but to all of California. We want to keep this talent here as well as show our respect for their service to our nation,” said Wilk. “Without some kind of incentive, California’s infamously high taxes and cost of living will continue to push the veteran community right out of state.”

Forty-three states provide partial or full exemptions for military retirees who establish residency in their state. California is one of seven states that fully taxes military retirement pay and the impact of this shows when looking at retirement rates. The nation’s military retirement rate has increased a full 17 percent between the years 2000 and 2016, yet California’s military retirement population has declined by 17 percent during that same period.

According to Wilk, California should be competing to keep this highly skilled work force in state. The vast majority of military retirees are in their mid-forties and assume new careers post retirement in fields such as engineering, computer science, management, health care, communications, and education.

“California’s military veterans deserve better from Sacramento than having their retirement pay that they worked so hard for to be taxed. That is why I am proud to jointly co-author Senator Wilk’s common sense measure to provide tax relief to our veterans. It will help keep more veterans in California by giving them an incentive to pursue a second career here, instead of in other states.” -Senator Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel).

“For a state that boasts about leading the nation, California is decades behind the rest of the country in encouraging our nation’s heroes to remain in California and continue contributing to our economic success,” concluded Wilk. “Making things a bit more retirement friendly is a step in the right direction.”

Is District Voting for City Council Inevitable?

| News | February 20, 2020

Local resident Mark White is convinced more people favor breaking the city council into districts than the current councilmembers want to acknowledge. As it stands, the city has perhaps stubbornly held onto at-large elections when every other local entity has gone to districts. Now that the city again faces a lawsuit, White sounds wistful.

“The city council refused to put (discussing district voting) as an agenda item. It’s unfortunate,” White lamented. “It seems to me there’s exposure and they should have done something to avoid a second threat to a second lawsuit.”

This threat came in the form of a letter from Walnut Creek, California-based attorney Scott Rafferty representing a group called Neighborhood Elections Now that claims at-large elections have hurt Latino voters, which violates the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA). Rafferty knows who exactly is in this group, but he isn’t naming names until an actual suit is filed. The letter only says it comprises “a variety of races and ethnicities.” The letter discusses only district voting. It does not address directly electing a mayor.

Mayor Cameron Smyth and Councilmember Marsha McLean declined comment, although Smyth repeated his commitment to at least discussing it. McLean previously said she was wary about another lawsuit.

“The issue of districts has been brought up before, and I have served in both at-large and district circumstances,” Smyth said, referring to his holding city council and Assembly posts. “Regardless of the system in place, I’m going to serve the people of Santa Clarita to the best of my abilities.”

People who have called for district voting were pleased.

“It’s way past time,” said Diane Trautman, a Saugus resident who ran for council three times, “I’m happy to see this, and I hope the city responds as they should.”

Those opposed expressed their displeasure.

“I’m disappointed and disgusted that this once again is coming to the city of Santa Clarita,” Councilmember Bob Kellar said. “The city has done remarkably well with this existing form of government.”

The city was previously sued in 2013 by Malibu attorney Kevin Shenkman representing local residents Jim Soliz and Rosemarie Sanchez-Fraser. As part of the settlement, council elections were moved to November from April, but at-large voting remained.

Like Shenkman, who sued many districts, Rafferty has done this before. In 2018, he sued the West Contra Costa County Unified School District on behalf of a Latina client, forcing the district to divide into five districts starting with the 2020 election.

Shenkman once told the Gazette the city would be sued again. Rafferty summed up the reasons why he’s threatening: Santa Clarita is a large city, it’s expensive to mount an effective campaign, incumbents have been entrenched for a long time and four of them live close to each other, making it likely 80 percent of the population won’t randomly run into any of them in public.

“It’s not racially representative. It’s not geographically representative, and it makes government more removed from each neighborhood,” Rafferty said. He wrote, “The prospective plaintiffs do not seek a Latino majority district. They seek only an opportunity to influence the outcome of the election that is equal to that enjoyed by voters who are white and not Latino.”

What The Letter Says:
Rafferty sent the city a 13-page letter, a copy of which the Gazette procured via public-records request. In it, he details a system hell-bent on maintaining the status quo at the expense of growing non-white populations.

Rafferty wrote that Latinos make up 35 percent of the population and 21 percent of eligible voters, while Asians make up 11 percent of eligible voters and African Americans five percent. Whites are now the minority among the entire population, but still account for 57 percent of eligible voters. He also said at-large voting has helped Laurene Weste stay on the council since 1998, Kellar since 2000 and McLean since 2002, although Kellar is retiring. Smyth was first elected in 2000 and served until leaving for the Assembly in 2006. He ran again in 2016 and won.

All four are white.

“The illegal at-large system has entrenched incumbents who were elected 20 years ago when Santa Clarita was 80 percent white and only 20 percent Latino,” Rafferty wrote. “Today, four out of five council members (1) are septuagenarians, (2) have served for 20 years, (3) are Republicans in a majority Democratic city, and (4) live within a one-mile radius of each other. This is not the result of a democratic process.”

Rafferty’s next point: No one has ever been elected by a majority.

From 1987 until now, candidates win election with small percentages. In 1987, those elected received between eight percent (Carl Boyer) and 12 percent (Howard “Buck” McKeon). Rarely does anyone receive at least 20 percent of the vote; it’s only happened in six out of 16 elections.

Smyth came closest to a majority with 40 percent in 2004, and he’s the only person to ever receive more than a third of the vote, although Kellar came close with 32 percent in 2004.

Smyth said Monday that the 2004 election was unique in that it had just three candidates (Henry Schultz was the other, and he got 28 percent, which would have been enough in any other election). Contrast that with the last two elections, in which 11 people vied for two spots in 2016 and 15 people ran for three seats in 2018.

One of those three seats went to Bill Miranda, the one nonwhite member and only one of two nonwhites to ever be elected, although he first was appointed. Rafferty argues that Miranda’s presence does not mean Latino votes are being equally valued because, he wrote, “Mr. Miranda is not the Latino candidate of choice,” having received only about four percent of his votes from Latinos.

In fact, until 2014, Michael Cruz was the only Latino candidate who won even five percent of the vote. Miranda won 11 percent in 2018 and Dante Acosta won 12 percent of the total vote in 2014, but Rafferty wrote that Acosta didn’t even carry the Latino vote; Alan Ferdman did (Ferdman, who lost to Acosta by 104 votes, said he didn’t know).

“Member Bill Miranda did not seek the support of the Latino community when the Council appointed him in 2017 and he did not receive it when he ran for election in 2018,” Rafferty wrote. “Tellingly, neither his campaign website nor his Voters’ Edge profile claims a single endorsement from any Latino organization or individual leader other than former Santa Clarita resident Dante Acosta.” Also, when Miranda applied for appointment, none of his three letters of recommendation came from any Latino leaders or organizations.

Miranda did not return numerous calls for comment.

Rafferty also wrote, “In a city that has grown to encompass 66 square miles, four council members now live within a one-mile radius.” Smyth, Weste and McLean live in Newhall. Miranda lives in Valencia, close to the Newhall line. Kellar lives in Canyon Country.

“The illegal method of election has protected those choices from the effects of annexation, demographic change and political realignment,” Rafferty wrote. “That is why the incumbents spent $1.2 million of public monies to settle the Soliz litigation on terms that allowed at least two of their members (Weste and McLean) to survive, when district elections would have doomed them.”

What People Are Saying:

Predictably, no one who has stated a view in the past has changed opinions. Many say districts lead to greater number of participants; others say it leads to fiefdoms.

Trautman and Ferdman count themselves in the more-will-get-involved camp. “If people look at the benefits, it will allow more people to participate because they’ll feel there is an opportunity for their voices to be heard,” Trautman said. Ferdman, a Canyon Country resident who ran for council in 2014 and 2016 but didn’t in 2018 because he found it too expensive, thinks district voting will make campaigns more affordable.

Kellar is in the fiefdom camp, pointing to the Los Angeles City Council, which is divided into 12 districts. “Everybody’s fighting for their little piece of the pie,” he said, “and it gets in the way of the responsibility of working together on the myriad of issues a city has to deal with.”

Two city council candidates have come down on opposite sides of the issues. Ken Dean, who has run seven previous times, favors the move and thinks having so many councilmembers living so close to each other isn’t fair to the people.

He also rejects the fiefdom argument. “If that were a big problem, that’d be a problem with the L.A City Council, the Burbank City Council and state government,” he said. “Look at (Sen.) Scott Wilk. He’s concerned about the district, but he’s also concerned about the state of California.”

Jason Gibbs, who ran in 2018, texted his opposition — “District elections end up putting neighborhoods against each other,” Gibbs wrote. “I’m running for council to solve problems for the entire city. While I oppose the lawsuit and the move to districts, I know whether it is in a district election or citywide I look forward to engaging with residents and solving problems for our entire city.”

Construction Begins On SCV Water Treatment Facility

| News | February 13, 2020

SCV Water will kick off construction on its water treatment facility adjacent to the William S. Hart Baseball/Softball league this month. When complete, the $6 million project will restore use of a substantial portion of the ground water that has been impacted due to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. It will treat up to 6,250 gallons of water per minute – or enough on average to serve 5,000 families for a year.

“Our customers come first. This new treatment facility is an investment in our long-term water supply and will provide safe, high-quality water to thousands of Santa Clarita Valley residents for years to come,” said SCV Water’s General Manager Matt Stone.

The project will use synthetic ion-exchange adsorption, a proven PFAS treatment option, and include six vessels as well as pumps, motors and ancillary equipment. Additionally, SCV Water will add a chloramine disinfection facility in an enclosed building within the fenced area. Currently, the wells are treated with chlorine only. Chloramination (chlorine and ammonia) is a more desirable disinfection process used by SCV Water and other water agencies across the nation. The chloramine remains in the distribution system longer, produces less disinfection by-products and has fewer taste and odor concerns than free chlorine.

The project is expected to be complete in summer of 2020. Most construction is anticipated to occur between Monday and Friday during normal business hours. When possible, SCV Water will provide notification should any weekend or night work be required.

The majority of project construction will be contained within the already fenced well property next to the ballfield parking lot. However, visitors to the ballfields may experience times when some parking is impacted due to construction equipment and supply staging. Visitors to the ballfields are encouraged to allow extra time for parking during this time.

Pacific Hydrotech Corporation has been selected to construct this facility, and was expected to begin on February 10.

PFAS substances are a group of manmade chemicals that are prevalent in the environment and were commonly used in industrial and consumer products to repel grease, moisture, oil, water and stains. Water agencies do not put these chemicals into the water, but over time very small amounts enter the water supplies through manufacturing, wastewater discharge and product use. Exposure to these chemicals may cause adverse health effects.

For more information and resources on PFAS, visit yourSCVwater.com/pfas.

How a New Station Chief is Selected

| News | February 13, 2020

Many might think that the sheriff would unilaterally select the deputy in charge of the Santa Clarita Valley station. In fact, the city and county have significant input into who is chosen.

While Sheriff Alex Villanueva has the final say who replaces Robert Lewis, who has since been promoted to commander and placed in charge of the department’s special operations division, the mayor, city manager and representative to the county district supervisor will be part of a panel that will interview all qualified applicants, city and county officials said.

According to Mayor Cameron Smyth, Councilmember Bob Kellar and Michelle Vega, spokesperson for County Supervisor Kathryn Barger, this process has been in place for many years. Smyth said he participated 17 years ago as mayor.

“This process fosters collaboration and open dialogue about the needs of the community, especially as it relates to public safety and building partnerships with stakeholders,” Vega said in an email.
Smyth said the panel would interview the applicants later this month, although he said he is unsure who will comprise the panel but does not believe Barger will participate. He also said he has not seen a list of qualified applicants yet but is expecting to have enough time to prep for interviews.

Kellar said the mayor and another councilmember usually joins the city manager and county representative, and he’s eager to be involved.

According to a February 2019 press conference, Villanueva wanted to change the selection process to decrease cronyism and increase the number of lieutenants to apply. Lieutenant is the first rank below captain.

Smyth said he expects the panel to make its recommendation to Villanueva within 30 days of completing interviews. Whether the panel disagrees or comes to a consensus remains to be seen.

“I’m one for one,” he said, referring to recommending Patti Minutello, who served as captain from 2003-06.

Lane Closures On Valencia Boulevard Near Interstate 5 Until April

| News | February 13, 2020

Median construction on Valencia Boulevard began on February 10 and will require lane closures near Tourney Road and Interstate 5. As part of the new gas station project on Valencia Boulevard near the I-5 off-ramp, street improvements are required to enhance traffic flow and safety.

Until April 10, vehicles traveling through the construction area will experience a lane closure in each direction. Construction will require the closure of one of the left lanes on westbound Valencia Boulevard for traffic heading toward Interstate 5, between Tourney Road and I-5. The inside left-turn pocket on eastbound Valencia Boulevard for vehicles turning onto Tourney Road will also be closed. These lanes will be closed continuously until construction is complete.

One left-turn lane will remain open for those turning from westbound Valencia Boulevard to I-5 North, as well as from eastbound Valencia Boulevard to Tourney Road. Drivers are asked to be aware of the lane closures and to plan their routes accordingly. Electronic message boards will be posted in each direction on Valencia Boulevard to inform motorists of upcoming lane closures. Drivers are reminded to please reduce their speed through the construction zone.

The City of Santa Clarita stated that measures will be taken to complete the project in a safe and timely manner. ­­­While work is scheduled to be completed by April 10, inclement weather may cause construction delays.

For questions or concerns, contact City of Santa Clarita Senior Engineer Amalia Marreh at (661) 255-4363 or by email at amarreh@santa-clarita.com.

One Ballot, Two Elections

| News | February 13, 2020

When Lena Smyth received her primary-election ballot, she took a look at it and immediately felt concern.

“I don’t think it’s going to make perfect sense,” she said.

Smyth, a College of the Canyons political science professor, referred to the 25th congressional district race, in which voters will have to make two choices: who they would like to finish Katie Hill’s term and who they want to be their representative starting in January.

The ballot states which race is which. First comes the regular primary race, listed as “United States Representative, 25th District.” It starts with three names on one page and then continues on the next page with 10 more names. The top two vote getters will advance to the November general election.

That is followed by “United States Representative, 25th District (Unexpired term ending January 3, 2021).” This is the special election to complete Hill’s term, made necessary after she resigned. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, he or she will serve until Jan. 3; if not, the top two vote getters will meet in a May runoff.

Ten people, including current Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), fellow Democrat Cenk Uygur and Republicans Steve Knight and Mike Garcia, are in both races, so their names are listed twice. But the names are in different orders and sometimes on different pages. Plus, one candidate’s name is listed differently: as Getro Franck Elize in the primary and Getro F. Elize in the special election.

Some names, such as George Papadopoulos and F. David Rudnick, are only listed once because they decided to vie for only that race, Papadopoulos for the full term and Rudnick only until January. And although he dropped out, Christopher Smith is still listed on the ballot for the regular primary.

“The candidates have been trying to communicate,” Smyth said, and it’s true that Garcia’s campaign placed an ad in the Gazette urging people to vote twice.

“But when I look at the ballot itself, it is less clear,” Smyth said. “Not all voters will understand. Some will understand.” She added that the more closely a person has followed the races, the more likely he or she would understand.

Because this is what Smyth called “unprecedented, a very unique situation,” it’s not known if the election will go smoothly or will be something similar to Florida in 2000, when voters couldn’t tell if they were voting for Al Gore, George W. Bush or someone else.

Nor is Smyth sure if voters will vote for the same person in both races. “Many of us won’t know what’s going to happen,” she said.

Another wrinkle is that people can start voting at voting centers as early as Feb. 22, though most area centers will open starting Feb. 29.

“You wonder how they’re going to navigate the ballot,” Smyth said.

SCV Elks Roast

| News | February 6, 2020

Join us once again in a very worthwhile event that will benefit the California-Hawaii Elks Major project which assists handicapped children, the SCV Veterans Memorial Committee and the SCV Veterans Collaborative: the 2020 Santa Clarita Valley Elks Lodge #2379 Charity Roast.

The SCV Elks Charity Roast will kick off at 6pm February 22, 2020 at Elks Lodge #2379, 17766 Sierra Highway, Canyon Country.

Tickets are $60 or a table of ten for $600. Call our Lodge office phone number 661-251-1500 for reservations.

Our Master of Ceremonies will be City Councilman Bob Kellar, who managed to somehow convince Cmdr. Rob Lewis of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Dept. to volunteer as our Roastee this year (obviously a weak moment for Cmdr. Lewis)(. Already his roasters are researching the National Enquirer for the Cmdr.’s plethora of dirty laundry, which you will witness at the Roast. Oh, you think you’ve heard fake news before!? Just wait…

We’ll enjoy a delicious dinner catered by NECA Catering, adult beverages galore, and an exciting live auction featuring items such as an exhilarating three hour airplane ride over the Santa Clara River Valley, Gilchrist Farms party package and a professional advertising package from SCVTV. Other items to be announced.

Mike Garcia – Flying High

| News | February 6, 2020

Anne Dunsmore has been a political consultant and fundraiser for 42 years. She has worked thousands of campaign events for candidates aspiring to offices ranging from local posts to the highest one in the land.

She said she has never seen what is happening with Mike Garcia.

“Even I find it unusual,” she said.

Whereas other candidates typically get 25-50 people show to an event, 110 attended Garcia’s fundraiser Friday at Valencia Country Club as he seeks to win the 25th congressional district seat.
Whereas candidates in other races Dunsmore’s handling are struggling to raise money, those 110 people forked over $15,000, she said, with more expected. She said that’s because people committed to the $100 entry fee but then gave more.

Whereas many candidates are worn out and need a push when it’s a month away from the primary, it’s Garcia who’s doing the pushing, Dunsmore said.

Whereas most candidates don’t even do direct-mail requests in a contested primary, Dunsmore said, Garcia has 9,000 contributions.

“He’s real. He’s driven. He’s energetic,” Dunsmore said. “We’re not dragging him around. He’s dragging everyone else around. He’s the fastest study of any candidate I’ve ever worked with.”

Last week, Garcia attended not only the event at Valencia, but also events in Acton and Simi Valley that raised a total of $75,000. Dunsmore said the campaign typically grosses between $5,000 and $25,000 at any one event, although once at former Rep. Elton Gallegly’s house, the donors combined for $85,000, which she considers an anomaly that won’t repeat.

But it doesn’t matter because Dunsmore can spot the excitement.

“I can tell you they’re not typical,” she said of the events. “It’s ridiculous.”

To clarify, this was a campaign event, so it followed a structure. People milled about, sipped alcohol, nibbled on hors d’oeuvres, socialized and checked out the table that had $25 shirts and hats – or bought some. They listened to special guest Howard “Buck” McKeon, who represented the area in Congress for 12 years, and Garcia speak.

McKeon said typical campaign things such as “This is important” and “We need a (congressional) majority.” He also extolled the virtues of the president and requested everyone get out and talk up Garcia.

Garcia stressed the national importance of this race, how this election is “a choice of stupendous magnitude,” credited Donald Trump, explained why he’s running (“so this country doesn’t turn into California,”) and what he stands for (a wall, strong military and strong border patrols, making the Trump tax cuts permanent). He mentioned the “headwinds and undercurrents” he and the Republicans face, and stressed his four C’s (Constitution, capitalism, competition, charity).

People cheered Trump and booed when Garcia name-checked former Rep. Katie Hill and current Democratic candidate Christy Smith. And they gave Garcia a standing ovation when he finished.

“I am the new breed of conservative Republican,” he declared. “This isn’t about Democrat versus Republican. This is about right versus wrong.”

The crowd, mostly older and white but with African Americans, Latinos and Asians also present, were there because they believe in Garcia.

“He’s genuine,” volunteer Rick Barker said. “I’ve had a lot of people come up to me and say, ‘My God, he does not sound like a politician. He actually answered my question.’ ”

Thomas Cadman, a banker who served in the Army, said he remembered the first Garcia event he attended: a pizza party on Lyons Avenue. Between 50 and 60 people attended. “Each time I came to these events, they’re getting bigger,” he said. “A lot of new faces.”

Some attendees took shots at former Rep. Steve Knight, who’s also running. Don Williams said he “hit the pavement for Steve Knight and Dante Acosta” but now finds Knight “wishy-washy” and “not a solid Republican.”

Dave McKean, a Garcia volunteer who coordinates with churches, was a Knight supporter who thought Knight “left his conservative principles and went with the Establishment. My sense is he’s like Hillary (Clinton): He’s entitled.”

Victoria Redgtall, born in Surrey, England, lives in Valencia but is registered to vote in Toluca Lake, acknowledged Knight has more name recognition than Garcia, “but (Knight) lost the district.”

Even McKeon seemed aware something was different. “I’ve done a lot of events in this room, but I never had a crowd like this,” he told the audience.

As unusual as Dunsmore finds this, she no longer is surprised.

“The response is due to him,” she said. “It’s our job to expand on it.”

Wilk Announces Bills to Help California’s Newspapers and Freelance Journalists

| News | January 30, 2020

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announced today that he is coauthoring two bills to help newspapers and freelance journalists continue to operate in California by exempting them from the state’s new anti-independent contracting law, Assembly Bill 5 (Gonzalez, 2019).

“I am committed to finding a way for Californians to continue working in the way that works for them. Last year the Governor and majority party left many industries and professions scrambling to survive when Assembly Bill 5 was passed and signed into law – including newspapers and freelance journalists,” said Wilk. “Today we are taking a first step in fixing the new law’s many flaws by helping California’s newspapers and journalists continue in their traditional way of doing business.”

Senator Wilk has joined Senator Patricia Bates in authoring Senate Bills 867 and 868 to address separately the concerns of newspapers and freelance journalists. Both bills are currently pending referral to Senate policy committees.
Senate Bill 867

SB 867 would permanently exempt newspaper distributors and carriers from AB 5, while existing law exempts newspaper distributors from Assembly Bill 5’s (AB 5) requirements for only one year.

Newspaper publishers argue that AB 5 would eviscerate the newspaper industry because it relies on the independent contractor model to distribute newspapers. Most who choose to distribute papers on behalf of publishers do not wish to be full-time employees. As independent contractors, carriers can work for multiple newspaper publishers and create flexible work schedules. If left unfixed, AB 5 could eventually lead to the closing of many local papers by saddling them with additional costs they cannot afford.

Senate Bill 868

SB 868 would exempt freelance journalists from AB 5, which has severely affected many of them by limiting freelance journalists to just 35 stories a year if they wish to remain independent contractors. Pay for many freelance writers can be as low as $25 per submission, which means most independent writers would write well over the arbitrary 35 article limit. AB 5’s author admitted that the 35-submission figure was subjective, saying “Writing bills with numbers like that are a little bit arbitrary.”

AB 5 also affects media companies outside California because they do not want to hire California-based freelance journalists who are willing to write fewer than 35 pieces each year.

For example, last month Vox Media, which owns SB Nation, eliminated 200 freelance writers in California thanks to AB 5.

AB 5 (Gonzalez, 2019)

AB 5 codified into law a landmark California Supreme Court decision in Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court of Los Angeles (2018) that set standards to determine whether a worker is an employee or an independent contractor. AB 5 presumes a worker is an employee unless a hiring entity satisfies a three-factor test, and exempts from the test certain occupations. The new ABC test is a one-size-fits-all, far more restrictive and stringent test consisting of just three factors that makes it very difficult, if not impossible, for many companies and workers currently working under an independent contractor model to continue doing so.

Wilk coauthored Senate Bill 238 (Grove, 2019), legislation that would have allowed Californians to remain as independent contractors if they so desired. Unfortunately, the Senate Labor Committee blocked SB 238 on a partisan vote. He voted against AB 5 when it came before him in the Senate.

Wilk and other legislators offered amendments to AB 5 when the bill came before the Senate that would have broadly expanded the occupations being exempted but those amendments failed on party line votes.

The Lowdown on Assembly Bill 5

| News | January 30, 2020

It might be the most controversial state law since Proposition 13 more than 40 years ago.

It is Assembly Bill 5, and just about anyone who works in the so-called gig economy knows about it.

AB 5 became the law on January 1st. It codifies a state Supreme Court case that basically held most independent contractors should be classified as employees and, therefore, are entitled to labor protections such as minimum wages, sick leave, unemployment and workers compensation benefits, none of which independent contractors are entitled to. It also means companies are responsible for providing those benefits and paying the costs associated with those benefits.

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) voted for it; Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) voted against it.

The law provides a three-part test for companies to determine if a person should be classified as an independent contractor: the person is free from control and direction of the company in connection with the work, the person does work that is outside the company’s usual work; and the person is engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed.

Numerous industries and occupations are exempt: licensed insurance agents, certain licensed health care professionals, registered securities broker-dealers or investment advisers, direct-sales salespersons, real estate licensees, commercial fishermen, workers providing licensed barber or cosmetology services.

Two groups that are not covered are rideshare drivers and freelance journalists, although the law allows journalists to make 35 submissions a year; for a weekly paper such as the Gazette, all submissions in any one issue count once toward the 35. Additionally, newspaper distributors are exempt until next January 1st.

Numerous lawsuits have been filed right before the law went into effect. One filed by the California Truckers Association, were successful. A federal judge granted a restraining order December 31st.

The American Society of Journalists and Authors and the National Press Photographers Association also field suit, with the website Law360 reporting that the state urged the suit to be dismissed because the law doesn’t unfairly restrict freelance journalists.

Regardless, Sen. Patricia Bates (R-Laguna Niguel) has introduced two bills to help the newspaper industry, each of which Wilk is one of nine co-authors. SB 868 would exempt freelance journalists, and SB 867 would make the distribution exemption permanent.

Gazette Publisher Doug Sutton said AB 5 affects four journalists who work for his paper, but without the exemption for distributors, it would be too costly to continue producing.

“I am committed to finding a way for Californians to continue working in the way that works for them. Last year the Governor and majority party left many industries and professions scrambling to survive when Assembly Bill 5 was passed and signed into law – including newspapers and freelance journalists,” Wilk said in a statement. “Today, we are taking a first step in fixing the new law’s many flaws by helping California’s newspapers and journalists continue in their traditional way of doing business.”

There may be more bills coming to modify AB 5. Smith said in a statement she is part of a working group to address fixes to the law, and that work is ongoing. She told the Gazette last fall she would be amenable to modifying AB 5.

But at least one industry isn’t waiting to see what the Legislature does, and it’s the industry most targeted by AB 5: ridesharing, primarily represented by Uber, Lyft, Postmates and DoorDash.

These organizations have reacted in many ways. They filed a lawsuit, submitted a ballot proposition, ignored the law and quietly changed the app for California drivers.

Postmates and Uber filed in district court on December 31st, claiming AB 5 is unconstitutional. Unlike the truckers, the rideshare companies have not won. The San Francisco Chronicle reported the judge declined to grant the injunction but didn’t dismiss the suit and will take more time to consider the objections.

Meanwhile, Uber came up with “Project Luigi,” which the Washington Post called a companywide initiative to change the app in this state to help build its court case that its drivers are free and independent. These include removing set prices for trips and replacing them with ranges based on distance and estimated time. Drivers can decline these without penalty.

Uber, Lyft and DoorDash are spending $30 million each to get a ballot proposition on the November ballot that would exempt them from AB 5.

Amid all this, the companies also seem to be ignoring the law. Gary Emerson, who drives for Uber and occasionally takes rides into Santa Clarita, said he has received no communications from Uber about AB 5.

NPR reported that gig companies are simply refusing to reclassify their workers. Instead, Uber, Lyft and other gig companies are negotiating with lawmakers and labor unions to create a new class of worker: a contractor with some added benefits.

Some of these benefits appear in the ballot proposition: minimum compensation levels, insurance to cover on-the-job injuries, automobile accident insurance, healthcare subsidies for qualifying drivers, protection against harassment and discrimination, and mandatory contractual rights and appeal processes.

One thing’s for sure: This law’s final form hasn’t been set.

Voting Centers

| News | January 30, 2020

Many people have spent numerous elections walking to the same place near their homes to vote. That might change come March 3 because they now will be required to vote at one of 25 area vote centers, according to the county registrar-recorder’s website.

The changes come as a result of a bill passed in 2016 that required counties to give voters more choices in how to cast ballots. They still can vote by mail, but if they choose to physically cast a vote, they will have to go to a vote center.

Additionally, some centers will start accepting ballots starting Feb. 22, 11 days before the actual primary; others will begin taking ballots Feb. 29.

Below is a list of centers, grouped by date of first accepting ballots:

Bouquet Canyon Elementary School, multipurpose room, 28110 Wellston Dr., Saugus
College of the Canyons, Seco Hall 101, 26455 Rockwell Canyon Rd., Valencia
Fire Station 126, 26320 Citrus St., Valencia
George Caravalho Santa Clarita Sports Complex, gymnasium, 20870 Centre Pointe Pkwy., Canyon Country
Newhall Community Center, multipurpose room, 22421 Market St., Newhall
Old Town Newhall Library, multipurpose room, 24500 Main St., Newhall
Orchard Arms Senior Apartments, community room, 23410 Wiley Canyon Rd., Newhall
Stevenson Ranch Library, meeting room, 25950 The Old Road, Stevenson Ranch

Al-Umma Center, 18027 Sierra Hwy., Canyon Country
Canyon Country park, West Room, 17615 Soledad Canyon Rd., Canyon Country
Castaic Middle School, multipurpose room, 28900 Hillcrest Pkwy., Castaic
Castaic Sports Complex, Community Room 2, 31320 N. Castaic Rd., Castaic
Cedarcreek Elementary School, Committee Room 7, 27792 Camp Plenty Rd., Canyon Country
Hilton Garden Inn, Pacific Room A&B, 27710 The Old Road, Valencia
La Mesa Junior High School, multipurpose room, 26623 May Way, Canyon Country
Mint Canyon Moose Lodge, meeting hall, 18000 Sierra Hwy., Canyon Country
Mountain View Elementary, multipurpose room, 22201 Cypress Pl., Saugus
Newhall Park, multipurpose room, 24923 Newhall Ave., Newhall
Our Lady Perpetual Help Church, Junipero Serra Conference Room, 23045 Lyons Ave., Newhall
Rio Norte Junior High School, multipurpose room, 28771 Rio Norte Dr., Valencia
Santa Clarita Park, multipurpose room, 27285 Seco Canyon Rd., Santa Clarita
Sierra Vista Junior High School, multipurpose room, 19425 Stillmore St., Canyon Country
Valencia Hills Club, recreation room, 24060 Oak Vale Dr., Valencia
Valencia Library, multipurpose room, 23743 W. Valencia Blvd., Valencia
William S. Hart Union High School District, Annex, 21380 Centre Pointe Pkwy., Canyon Country

Accurate Census Count Vital to Public Education

| News | January 23, 2020

The new year brings with it many new laws and changes, but the William S. Hart Union High School District wants you to know that 2020 also brings the U.S. Census, a vitally important national effort that will determine federal support for public education in the coming decade.

The State of California has created a schools-based outreach tool called “Count Me In” to help students in Kindergarten through the twelfth grade learn about the importance of census participation. Students will be encouraged to share information about participating in the census with their parents or guardians.

Hart District Governing Board Clerk, Dr. Cherise Moore, worked for the Census in 2000 in Arizona and understands how critical it is for everyone to participate in the 2020 Census.  She shared “Santa Clarita, and in particular, the William S. Hart Union High School District has been identified as a hard to count area. For a variety of reasons, we have undercounting across the community. To get the federal support and resources we need, that has to change. I am asking everyone to be counted. It is safe and it matters to our students.”

The census does more than just count people and determine congressional districting. An accurate count assures the state, as well as the Hart School District, will receive fair federal funding that supports general and special education, before and after school activities, and nutrition. Over $675 billion in federal funding to states is on the line. California is anticipated to receive just $7 billion.

“Everyone counts, and that means everyone,” Dr. Moore said. “In the Hart District we serve students from diverse backgrounds. Santa Clarita demographics are changing. Being counted in the Census helps us know more about our community, so we can better serve the needs of our students. We are excited to support the efforts to have a complete count in Santa Clarita.”

The census will begin in March 2020, with the “official” census day April 1. New this year residents will be able to respond online by using a unique number, which you will receive by mail, allowing you to fill out the form online. Questions on the form pertain to your household and include how many people reside in your home, date of birth, race, sex, etc. This includes all children as well. Census workers will also be going door-to-door asking residents the same questions found online. The deadline to complete the census is April 30.

“California is determined to achieve a complete census count, where every Californian is counted,” said Ditas Katague, Director California Complete Count – Census 2020. “We’ve started early and are committing more resources than any other state to a robust outreach and engagement effort to reach all Californians.”

According to Title 13 of the U.S. Code, “The Census Bureau cannot release any identifiable information about individuals, households or businesses, even to law enforcement agencies.” This applies to those who may be in the United States illegally as well. Getting the right household count, regardless of immigration status, is vital for every student’s education.

The Law-Breaking and Rule-Breaking Circus within Measure US

| News | January 23, 2020

Two more allegations of wrongdoing have surfaced regarding the Sulphur Springs Union School District’s bond measure, joining the already proven incident of a city councilmember breaking a rule.

And yet, one of the people making the claims believes the alleged actions will make no difference in whether the voters approve or defeat Measure US on March 3rd.

“It’s a mess,” said Richard Michael, who runs the Big Bad Bonds website.

So far, the following chain of events has occurred:

First, City Councilmember Bob Kellar violated the council’s norms and procedures when he signed on to the measure using his office. He later requested the district change the designation from “Santa Clarita City Council” to “Santa Clarita Citizen.”

So, district Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi sent an email on January 3rd at 8:06 a.m. using her district email address to the county registrar-recorder requesting Kellar’s designation change. This apparently violates the Government and Elections codes forbidding an employee from using public resources urging support or defeat of a measure.

Stephen Petzold, principal officer of the Center for Truth in School Bond Measures and author of the argument on the measure, provided the Gazette with the email. On it, he wrote a note to Assistant District Attorney Alan Yochelson, head of the Public Integrity Division, indicating it’s a supporting document to show the violation. Petzold said he has filed a formal complaint. The Gazette called the division and was referred to the media relation’s department.

In a voicemail statement, Kawaguchi said the district may use resources to prepare bond documents and that it is her responsibility to ensure the documents are prepared correctly. “This was done, and Robert Kellar did request for the documents to be corrected, and that was confirmed and submitted to the registrar’s office for correction,” she said.

By making the change, the county likely violated the state Elections Code because it made the change after the December 13th deadline it set to submit arguments. County spokesman Mike Sanchez didn’t return numerous calls for comment.

And yet, Michael said, “In the whole scheme of things, none of these things are going to affect the outcome of the election.”

The reason, he explained, is twofold. First, people have to know the wrongdoings are happening. “Then, they’d have to care that these people are doing things illegally.”

Petzold and Michael clearly care. Petzold said he agrees that Kawaguchi can prepare the documents, “but the argument in favor of it is not a required element of the document.”

Furthermore, state law allows school board members to write and submit arguments, but a superintendent is not a board member.

Michael said the county is violating equal-protection tenets of the law because it could, and did, make a change after a deadline when an individual would have to get a court order to do the same.

“If one side can get their way, why can’t the other side get their way?” he said. “The law shall be applied to all people of the same class equally. Both proponents and opponents should be limited to the deadline. One side got a special exemption; a private party could not. If Petzold said, ‘I demand you make this change,’ do you think the registrar would?”

“The government does not prosecute its own corruption.”

Real IDs Causing a Real Problem – Is the DMV Changing Political Affiliations?

| News | January 23, 2020

All Pat News wanted was to get a Real ID. Instead, she almost lost her ability to vote for president and Congress in the March 3rd primary election.

She had to go online to get things fixed, but she did and now awaits her ballot. Yet this ordeal made her wonder if there was some sort of conspiracy, not to mention her wondering if this has happened to others, and what if those others can’t get online to make the necessary fixes?

“What if I’m older? What if I’m disabled? What if I wasn’t able to go online?” said News, 65. “There’s no way my dad could correct this. My mom could not correct this. …Why is this happening?”

“This” is a confluence of law, bureaucracy and human error that caused News to go through what she did.

It starts with Title II of the Real ID Act of 2005, which sets requirements for improving security on state licenses. As of October 1st, the Transportation Security Administration will require Real ID-compliant driver’s licenses to fly in the U.S. or enter federal buildings (passports also will continue to be accepted).

News signed up through the Department of Motor Vehicles office in Santa Paula. Later, she received a letter from the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder’s office informing her that she her political-party affiliation changed from Republican to “No Party Preference,” or NPP, meaning she could not vote for president or Congressperson, which she wanted to do.

She talked to friends and patients at her Lyons Avenue health care clinic and found out others have had the same thing happen. Curiously to her, it only happened to registered Republicans; Democrats were unaffected. Knowing the state leans heavily Democratic, News began to suspect something fishy.

“The DMV is doing suspicious activity,” she concluded.

Problems with the DMV registering people to vote are widely known. In October 2018, the Gazette ran a story that mentioned the DMV accidentally registered 1,500 non-citizens; only citizens may vote. The secretary of state canceled those registrations but couldn’t say how many had voted in the primary.

The problems with getting a Real ID also are known. In November, the Department of Homeland Security informed the DMV that it needed applicants to provide two documents proving residency instead of one. The Sacramento Bee reported this affected 3.4 million people who already had received their Real IDs. They had to mail a copy of a second document.

But actually, it’s the Republican Party that requires registration to vote in its primaries. The Secretary of State’s website shows that the Democratic, Libertarian and American Independent parties are allowing NPP voters to vote in their primaries if they ask for the appropriate ballot.

As for why News’ designation changed, County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Public Information officer Mike Sanchez said he has come across this before and has a theory: News ignored a question about stating her political party preference.

“If you don’t indicate, you automatically default to No Party Preference,” he said. “There are efforts to clean this up.”

Sanchez also said he looked at her past registrations and found that in 2006, she changed from Republican to “AG,” which is not a recognized party, so she would default to NPP.

News insists she answered the question and stated her preference: Republican. She also said she has no idea what AG is because she’s always registered Republican.

In the meantime, she will receive her Republican primary ballot, Sanchez confirmed.

News remains unsure of how this happened. She is, however, sure of one thing: “This does not feel good.”

to check your voter status go to: https://voterstatus.sos.ca.gov/. The information above is all you’ll need to enter.

Valencia BMW Presents Checks to SCV Rotary & A Light of Hope

| News | January 23, 2020

Check presentations to SCV Rotary and A Light of Hope were made by Valencia BMW representative Robert Grass at the SCV Rotary Club meeting Wednesday, January 14th. The funds were raised at an end-of-the-year gala hosted by BMW at its Valencia dealership. Pictured with Grass are A Light of Hope chairs Tim Traurig and Brian Martin.

SCV Rotary is a service organization of business men and women which provides humanitarian service to advance goodwill and peace around the world as well as financial support and volunteer projects for local charities. A Light of Hope is an educational and support group for teens and families in recovery from addiction or self-destructive behaviors.

Bob Kellar Changes Ballot Designation

| News | January 17, 2020

Councilmember Bob Kellar has changed his ballot designation for the upcoming Sulphur Springs School District bond measure that will appear on the March ballot.

Kellar’s name will be accompanied by the designation, “Santa Clarita Citizen” instead of the original “Santa Clarita City Council,” he said.

This is because the council has rules requiring a councilmember to explicitly state he or she represents only himself or herself and not the council or city.

Kellar previously said he signed as he did thinking it would not be an issue, but Steve Petzold, who wrote the argument opposing the $78 million Measure US, requested the change.

Petzold forwarded an email from City Manager Ken Striplin that indicated the change. Kellar confirmed, saying, “I told you if I was in error, I would correct it. I was in error, so I corrected it.”

Jason ‘Gibb-ing’ back to SCV: Gibbs’ City Council Run

| News | January 16, 2020

Jason Gibbs decided that if he truly wants to serve the people of Santa Clarita, he should get to know them better.

So, he did. He joined the Valley Industry Association (VIA), where he’s currently vice chair of advocacy. He got involved with the William S. Hart Union High School District, joining its WiSH Foundation and its advisory committee. He also serves on the Boys and Girls Club advisory committee, the county’s Safe Clean Water Program Watershed Area Steering Committees and the Measure EE bond oversight committee.

People certainly are noticing all Gibbs, 38, has done. He recently was named a 40 Under Forty honoree by Santa Clarita Magazine and the local chapter of the Junior Chamber International.

What he has learned is this: “There are a lot of incredible people who have dedicated themselves to making Santa Clarita a better place,” he said. “These people are out there every day trying to make the city great.”

Gibbs wants to do that, too, only he wants to do it in the political arena. That’s why he already has submitted paperwork to run for city council.

“Getting to know people is important so they know who (you) are,” he said. “People want people in City Hall they know, so they know they’re being represented by someone who’s been there with them.”

This is Gibbs’ second try. Two years ago, he finished ninth out of 15 candidates with 10,008 votes (5.57 percent). But this time could be different. Councilmember Bob Kellar is retiring, and he and fellow Councilmember Laurene Weste have endorsed Gibbs to take over; last time, voters returned Weste and two other incumbents to their seats.

“Jason is a very, very bright, energetic person, and there is nothing that would make me happier than to see him take over my office,” Kellar said. “He’s a tremendous asset to Santa Clarita.”

Additionally, Gibbs has worked to differentiate himself from other candidates; last time, he ran on a platform of basically continuing what the council had done, which made it hard for him to step out from the incumbents’ shadows.

While he still believes the city has been moving in the right direction, he is pushing harder for his most unique point: adding a city Public Safety Commission.

“I still think (it’s) viable,” he declared.

In Gibbs’ mind, it would be organized similar to the existing planning, arts and parks and recreation commissions. While he hasn’t finalized such details as how many members it would comprise or whether a council member would sit on it, he said he would like to see police, fire and emergency service personnel on it.

Many of his platform points return from two years ago, if slightly modified:

He still wants to pay down the debt incurred from the employee retirement program, CalPERS, but he now calls for a maximum of 10-percent debt. Two years ago, he didn’t specify the debt load.

He still wants to maintain good relationships with the school boards but now says safety on the school grounds is the school boards’ responsibilities. Two years ago, he didn’t assign responsibilities to any group.

He acknowledges the city thinks the Lyons-Dockweiler extension at 13th Street is most viable but now says he wants to see what city engineers come up with because he’s concerned about how much traffic could increase at that intersection. Previously, he went with the city’s opinion unquestioned.

He was confident the roads through Whittaker-Bermite were coming sooner rather than later but now isn’t as sure. “It’s not clean. We don’t have the go-ahead,” he said. But unlike last time, he specified what roads he wants built through there: Via Princessa, Santa Clarita Parkway and Magic Mountain Parkway.

He also wants a large industrial area built that will offer many jobs and keep people from having to commute. “The 5-14 interchange is not getting any better,” he said. “I think there’s a desire to not travel down to the San Fernando Valley.”

Maybe that industrial center ends up in Whittaker-Bermite, or maybe a high-quality development, such as Porta Bella, brings the roads with it. Regardless, Gibbs said, there is a need for housing to be a part of any development plan.

“Santa Clarita has not had a shortage of development the last 20 years,” he said, “housing is needed.”

And Gibbs said housing of all sorts is needed: condos, start-ups, high-end and high-density – any type that would help homeowners not spend 95 percent of their paychecks on housing.

He said that after the 2018 election, he took a vacation and decided to remain involved in the community. Now, he seeks to involve himself his way.

“They respect someone who wants to learn and get involved and give back along the way,” he said.

Christopher Smith Drops Out of Race

| News | January 16, 2020

Cites No Viable Path to Win

Christopher Smith, one of the congressional candidates who lives outside the 25th district, announced he is dropping out, citing no viable path to win.

“I’m proud of what my campaign has accomplished and the attention that I’ve called to important progressive policies,” he said in a statement. “However, it’s time to step down and let the voters of CA25 hear more from the candidates who are most likely to succeed on Super Tuesday.”

Smith did not file paperwork to run in the special election on March 3rd, when the ballot will include two places to vote for a candidate: one to finish former Rep. Katie Hill’s term and one to win the term that would begin next January. He said he didn’t file for both elections to try to limit voter confusion.

He said he would not endorse another candidate but called on the other campaigns to not be so disrespectful.

“I tried to run a respectful campaign from a place of integrity. I regret that this race has become so divisive among the local Democratic Party and progressive groups,” he said. “I call on all campaigns to moderate their tone and to recognize that all candidates are seeking to serve their community and deserve each other’s respect.”

L.A. GOP Endorses Navy Fighter Pilot Mike Garcia for Congress

| News | January 16, 2020

Last Saturday the Los Angeles County Republican Party endorsed former Navy Fighter Pilot Mike Garcia for the upcoming 25th Congressional district elections, capturing more than two-thirds of the committee’s vote. In winning the endorsement, Garcia defeated former Republican Congressman and longtime Los Angeles politician Steve Knight.

The support of the Los Angeles County Republican Party adds to the tremendous momentum Mike Garcia is gaining across the district. With the endorsements of over 30 current and former elected officials including Governor Pete Wilson and Congressmen Elton Gallegly and Buck McKeon, as well as over 200 veterans and 200 volunteers, Garcia is well-positioned as the top candidate for the upcoming primary and special election in March. Furthermore, as the top Republican fundraiser in the race Garcia has received contributions from over 7,000 donors and will report raising nearly $900,000 since entering into the Congressional race.

“Today’s endorsement is recognition of the hard work our team has done in building a winning grassroots organization, and I am truly humbled by the LA GOP’s support,” said Garcia. “Now is the time for Republicans to unite behind a fighter and a patriot who can win and will bring a strong, new voice to advocate for our district in Washington.”

The 25th district encompasses the cities of Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster and the northern part of the San Fernando Valley.  The median income is $76,866 and the ethnic breakdown is 45.8% White, 8% Black, 7.7% Asian and 35.3% Hispanic.  The only Democrat, prior to 2018, to carry the district in the last 18 years was Obama, by less than 1%.
To learn more about Mike and his campaign for Congress, visit https://ElectMikeGarcia.com.

Wilk Introduces Measure to Combat Cemex Mega-Mine Project

| News | January 9, 2020

In his first order of business for the 2020 legislative session, Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District has introduced Senate Bill 797 (SB 797), a measure that would give the public the opportunity to weigh in before the Cemex mega mine can proceed.

“I have been committed to stopping this mining project for years and will continue that fight with Senate Bill 797,” stated Wilk. “The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) ruled last year that Cemex owes the government more than $25 million in ‘in lieu of’ production payments because the mega-mine never went into production. While it is another nail in the coffin, we want to use every tool in the shed to ensure this mining proposal is done for good.”

SB 797 will re-open the public protest period on a State Water Resources Control Board application when a decision has not been made within 30 years from the applications original filing date.

“We can’t control what the federal government does, but we can impact how the state looks at these issues. A project of this magnitude should never be allowed to proceed after 30 years without allowing public comment,” said Wilk. “SB 797 will allow community members and locally elected officials the opportunity to make a case to state regulators as to why the Cemex mega mine would be disastrous to the Santa Clarita Valley.”

SB 797 will be referred to the appropriate Senate policy committees for hearings in the coming months.

Christy Smith Remains Focused on Assembly

| News | January 9, 2020

Although Christy Smith is running for Congress, she hasn’t forgotten her current job as an Assembly member.

When the legislative session began Monday, Smith was in Sacramento and introduced Assembly Bill 1837, which maximizes daily-attendance school funding during times following certain natural disasters or if the governor has declared an emergency.

The bill is in keeping with the four areas Smith wants to focus attention: education, public safety, economic development and supporting local communities.

In her first year, Smith sent 12 bills to Gov. Gavin Newsom, of which 10 became law. These include securing more than $1.5 million in funding for 38th District projects, including $450,000 for the Santa Clarita senior center to complete its capital campaign, $700,000 for Simi Valley’s free health clinic and $397,000 to modernize College of the Canyons’ Boykin Hall.
She also created the Golden State Scholarshare College Savings Trust, which provides financial aid for post-secondary students. In addition, she wrote legislation that benefits College of the Canyons’ nursing-school faculty, expands dual enrollment for high school kids who might want to take advantage of community college course work, and requires high schools to conspicuously post in bathrooms and locker rooms written policies on sexual harassment and how to report charges, in addition to posting in the already-required main administration building.

She also wrote a new law that allows unclaimed property to be directly returned to the municipalities that might have monies in the state controller’s office.

The two bills Newsom vetoed dealt with establishing a state grant program to help low-income students pay for Advanced Placement tests and extending local control accountability plans to charter schools.

A spokesperson said more bills likely would be introduced before the February 21st deadline.
Smith also has spent time campaigning for Congress as she seeks to replace Katie Hill and/or win her own term. Her Facebook page shows she received an endorsement from Ventura County firefighters.

She did not respond to several invitations to debate from Cenk Uygur. Spokesperson Mackenzie Shutler said Uygur sent an offer December 23rd, 30th, January 3rd and 6th but never heard back. Smith Campaign Manager Brandon Zavala said her non-participation is “100 percent” because she’s in Sacramento.

Still, Uygur and fellow Democrats Anibal Valdez-Ortega, Christopher Smith and Getro Elize were scheduled to meet Thursday at Transplants Brewing Company in Palmdale. Shutler said no Republican candidates were invited.

Uygur, Valdez-Ortega and Christopher Smith in a joint statement accused Christy Smith of intimidating people trying to organize a debate.

“Ultimately, as the handpicked candidate by the Democratic Party in Washington, Christy Smith is doing everything she can to avoid giving the people of CA-25 a chance to hear her debate the issues with other candidates in this race before voting begins on February 3,” the statement said. “Each day she continues to dodge a debate, and even attempts to silence others from debating, is another day she refuses to answer the hard questions about the challenges facing the district, California, and our nation.”

Campaign spokesperson Lexie Kelly said Smith is focused on her Assembly work.

“As the only woman in the race, she will not be directed by a bunch of men from outside the district who are hosting a media stunt,” Kelly said. “She is already doing the job of delivering for the people of CA-25.”

The Dean is Back – Ken Dean’s Eighth Attempt to Win a City Council Seat

| City Council, News | January 9, 2020

To some, perhaps, Ken Dean might seem what the press seems to a professional athlete: a necessary evil that is part of the job you just have to deal with. Eventually they’ll go away, only to resurface again later.

Dean has attempted to win a city council seat seven times without success, although he has come close three times. He’s back for an eighth try, loudly beating the same drum he always beats — bemoaning the traffic and congestion. Now he’s added a new wrinkle with the need for affordable housing.

This time, his chances might just be different. Dean says more people are coming around to his thinking and as proof he points to the last two elections in which he finished fifth both times and received the highest vote totals he ever has.

Additionally, Signal Editor Tim Whyte predicted Dean will win; and with Bob Kellar retiring, one seat is wide open.

It’s not like Dean is unfamiliar to city officials beyond shouting how bad traffic is. He has served on several city committees, including the formation, open space, housing and ridgeline committees. He also opposed the city council’s approval of placing a Mello-Roos tax on the ballot and led the charge to defeat it.

He’s not alone in his belief that traffic is worse. Two Canyon Country residents, Alan Ferdman and Rick Drew, said as much. Ferdman criticized the city for not doing enough, and Drew said it’s going to get even worse once the Vista Canyon, Mint Canyon Plaza and Skyline Ranch projects are completed and opened.

Then again, maybe this is just another example of Dean raising his voice and not enough people responding. In the past seven elections, he has received a combined 31,645 votes and never reached 10 percent. Twice, he finished second to last: 10th of 11 in 2006 and 12th of 13 in 1994.

Additionally, Whyte wrote that he was “taking a flier just for fun” in predicting Dean’s victory, and neither Ferdman nor Drew endorsed him.

But Dean marches on undeterred.

“Traffic and congestion is a nightmare and a disgrace,” he declared, “and nobody does a damn thing about it.”

Dean has plenty of examples, but his most common ones are the intersection of Bouquet Canyon and Newhall Ranch roads, which he calls “a disgrace;” the section of McBean Parkway between Magic Mountain Parkway and Creekside Road and the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Ruether Avenue.

He also said what used to take him eight minutes to reach Valencia High via Newhall Ranch Road more recently took 20-25 “because (the city keeps) putting in traffic lights and doesn’t synchronize. The city says it’s synchronized. I say that’s insulting.”

Dean’s solution is to form two committees and task them with specific functions: a roads committee to develop roads through the Whittaker-Bermite area; and a traffic committee to synchronize signal lights and use bus egresses, or turn-ins, so stopped busses don’t block traffic lanes.

Doing nothing, he said, is out of the question because it would violate an early-cityhood objective to avoid turning into the San Fernando Valley. Now, Dean said, he has friends in Sherman Oaks and Studio City who say the traffic is worse in Santa Clarita.

Related to the traffic woes, he said, are the housing woes. If there is no affordable housing, people have to commute to the jobs, whether inside or outside of the city. More commuters mean more traffic. Therefore, affordable housing also is needed, he concluded.

Dean said he is excited for the new Costco to open at the Valencia Town Center. Costco typically hires minimum-wage workers, so he would like to see the city do something to make housing affordable for these and others.

To Dean, affordable housing means two-to-three bedroom units with one or two bathrooms, a kitchen, dining area and family room. They could be as small as 1,200 square feet and cost between $350,000 and $400,000. “They can’t be all houses that sell for $600,000,” he said. “They don’t have to be 2,500 square feet.”

Dean states he knows one-bedroom apartment rents run about $1,800 a month, not including utilities, food, gasoline and entertainment. Renting a room costs about $800 a month. “There’s no affordable housing out here,” he added.

But make no mistake, housing is secondary to traffic and Dean will continue to sound the alarm as long as there is a reason to sound the alarm.

“Everybody I talk to says, ‘You know, you’re right. Traffic and congestion are the number one issue,” he said. “Traffic, traffic, traffic.”

Will the eighth time be enough? The election isn’t until November.

“I’m saying what people want to hear, and I’m consistent,” Dean concluded.

Bob Kellar Signs On; Petzold Complains

| News | January 3, 2020

City Councilmember Bob Kellar might have inadvertently violated the council’s norms and procedures when he signed on in support of a Sulphur Springs School District bond measure that will appear on the March ballot.


Kellar acknowledged he supports Measure US, a $78 million bond for upgrading and replacing the roofs, heating and air conditioning units, repairing and upgrading playground equipment, repaving parking lots, improve landscaping, drainage and irrigation, improve ADA access and upgrade safety and security systems.


Kellar’s signature is on the county’s Declaration of Author(s) of Arguments or Rebuttals, along with the title, “Santa Clarita City Council,” according to Tim Dang, who heads the election planning section.


However, in a letter to the mayor also given to the Gazette, Steve Petzold, who wrote the argument against the bond measure, says Section 2B of the Council Norms and Procedures requires councilmembers to explicitly state that they represent themselves and not the council or city.


“The voters in the Sulphur Springs (district) may be tricked and deceived by the use of the title selected by Robert Kellar into believing that the City, and/or the City Council, support passage of a massive bond measure,” Petzold wrote. “I respectfully request that the City Council and the City issue a letter of clarification to me and local media indicating the fact that neither the city not the city council support passage of Measure US.”


Petzold said that when he saw the signature page, “I noticed he didn’t put Realtor, businessman, senior citizen or resident. I’m suspicious (he does) that intentionally.”


Kellar said he signed as he did thinking it would not be an issue. But he said he would contact the city attorney and if so advised would issue such a statement.

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