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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.

Mayor Cameron Smyth’s 2020 Vision

| News | January 2, 2020

For his fourth go-around as mayor, Cameron Smyth said he has goals both lofty and mundane.

First and foremost, he said, is to continue the healing from the devastating Saugus shooting. Smyth said that is “going to be a big part of my year.”

Three Saugus High students, including the shooter, died and three were injured November 14 when the shooter unloaded a .45-caliber semiautomatic handgun in an outside courtyard. The shooting happened at 7:38 a.m. and lasted 16 seconds.
“You can’t say our community hasn’t changed forever…because it has,” said Smyth, who has a son attending Hart.

Smyth was sworn in as mayor following a unanimous appointment at the December 10th city council meeting. He previously served in this ceremonial role in 2003, 2005 and 2017.

Some might wonder what a city government can do in the wake of such a tragedy as a school shooting. Some might think it’s really up to a school district to take care of things. Smyth said that is valid, but the city can partner with the William S. Hart Union High School District, law enforcement and non-profits.

“We will continue to provide the support the community needs,” Smyth said. “You want to take the cues from the students and mental-health professionals.” He added that is why a plan to line Centurion Way to welcome back students was scrapped: Students and mental-health professionals said it was a bad idea.

Smyth said he also can learn how to better respond from other communities that have endured similar violence. In fact, he said, shortly after the shooting, he received messages from officials in Parkland, FL., site of the February 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High, who conveyed support and offered to have conversations.

Smyth also will be mayor when several projects are expected to be completed: the Laemmle Theatres and County Fire Station 104, which was supposed to open in November but now will open in February, according to Tony Bell, spokesman for County Supervisor Kathryn Barger.

Another issue Smyth wants to address is homelessness. The nonprofit Bridge to Home already operates a year-round shelter, and Smyth said he wants to “keep that program going” by “connecting people to the services they need, whether that’s treatment, job training, whatever the resource. There’s more to do.”

Enforcement, he said, is not always the answer. “It’s not good for people to be living in the wash,” he said. “People need services.”

The recent Supreme Court refusal to hear a case from Boise, ID, lets stand a lower-court ruling that makes it legal for homeless people to sleep on the street or in public parks if there’s no other shelter available. Smyth said that case, “provides clarity. Now we know the rules we’ll be operating under.”

At the same time, the city has ordinances that prohibit anyone from camping in a park or using a car, trailer, camper, recreation vehicle or mobile home as a dwelling in a park. Nor can anyone store his or her belongings in a park.

The city also prohibits sitting or lying on public sidewalk, street, maintained landscape area, curb, staircase, biking, walking path, or in doorways and building entrances; or on a blanket, sleeping bag, cardboard box, chair, stool, or any other object placed in any of those previously mentioned public areas.

This seems contradictory to the Boise case. Smyth said the philosophy is changing toward more humane actions. A balance is required.

“How do we draft ordinances that are sensitive but provide law enforcement and code enforcement the authority to help these people get the resources they need?” he said.

Then he answered his question: This requires a community-wide response. The city doesn’t have the resources the county has, such as its own Department of Mental Health.

Santa Clarita does have the county run Department of Mental Health locally here at 23501 Cinema Drive. For info call (661) 288-4800.

“We have to rely on local nonprofits and the county to address these issues together,” he said.

Finally, the mayor said he wants to keep the budget balanced but ensure there’s enough money for law enforcement and fire to do their jobs. The Tick Fire, which in late October burned 4,615 acres and forced some 40,000 people to evacuate, demonstrated the importance, he said.

Locals Weigh in on Impeachment

| News | December 19, 2019

By the time you read this, the House might have voted to impeach President Trump for high crimes and misdemeanors – only the third time that has ever happened but the second time in 21 years – setting up a trial in the Senate.

Local reaction pretty much fell along party lines, with Republicans/conservatives calling the entire process a “complete sham” and “mind-boggling.” Democrats/liberals, meanwhile, said it “must be done” and “he’s guilty.”

The Gazette asked 17 people their thoughts on the process, the actual articles the House voted on and what would happen as a result; 14 responded. Of the three that didn’t, two didn’t return calls; and Assemblywoman Christy Smith, who’s running for the vacant House seat, declined comment through a campaign spokesman.

Highlights of what they said follow.
THE PROCESS
Local Republicans/conservatives, like their counterparts in Washington, believe the Democrats are trying to undo the 2016 election by any means necessary. Many also think that Trump has committed no crime, has been denied due process (even though the House impeachment inquiry is more like a grand jury) and is a victim of a poorly run process.

“It’s a sad day when we start impeachment on a president because we don’t like him,” conservative talk-show host Joe Messina said. He also told a conservative/religious television show in November that the Democrats should take the energy and money behind impeachment and use it toward defeating Trump in November.

Local conservative and veteran Bill Reynolds called the process “a complete sham” and found Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff and Judiciary Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler guilty of hypocrisy because they blasted Republicans for impeaching Bill Clinton. Indeed, Pelosi had accused Republicans of impeaching with “vengeance” and being “paralyzed with hatred.” Schiff used impeachment to defeat his opponent, who was one of the House managers charged with prosecuting Clinton’s trial. Nadler said impeachment must be bipartisan or it would have no credibility.

“Clinton was caught lying,” Reynolds said. “What Trump was trying to do, he didn’t want to give money to a corrupt nation.”

Community activist Alan Ferdman said watching the televised hearings was “embarrassing.” “It’s the same thing over and over and over,” he added.

Betty Arenson, a member of two local women’s Republican clubs, found House members’ somber tones so phony, it’s “more fake than the (Steele) dossier. … It’s mind-boggling.”

Eric Early, who’s running against Schiff, took aim at his opponent.

“Adam Schiff and his comrades are being played by the far-left squad members,” Early said. “Schiff has outrageously lowered the bar and set a massively harmful precedent for high crimes and misdemeanors that will lead to a future where no president will ever be immune from impeachment again, no matter how outrageously low the allegations are. Schiff has done outrageous harm to our nation.”

Former congressional candidate Mark Cripe said the Democrats’ credibility is diminished because of the lack of decorum and professionalism that took place during the hearings. “Incompetent is the word,” Cripe said.

Former Rep. Steve Knight said the reason the House Republicans did so much screaming and interrupting was because the Democrats didn’t let them speak. “At some point, you have to do something to let your voice be heard,” Knight said.

Libertarian Matt Denny, a local CPA, said Trump’s style plays a role here. “He’s brusque. He’s used to ordering people around in a gruff and impulsive manner,” Denny said. “He does not say things diplomatically.”

Democrats, however, feel a sense of urgency and duty in impeaching Trump.

“It must be done. This is the most blatant disregard of the Constitution America has ever seen,” said Stacy Fortner, state party executive board member. “(Trump) has completely ignored and tried to end-around the Constitutional obligation of oversight and checks and balances.”

Congressional candidate Cenk Uygur called Trump “a lifelong criminal” and in a statement called impeachment “a great day in America. That means we will have stood up for the rule of law.”

Congressional candidate Christopher Smith was a bit more measured when he said impeachment was “an unfortunate but necessary process we have to go through. The president needs to be held to the highest standard, and he failed to meet that standard.”

One Democrat, podcaster Stephen Daniels, bemoaned the increased partisanship. “It’s sad that people are putting party over Constitution,” he said. “It’s very clear that Trump broke his oath to the Constitution. We’re so divided that nobody’s arguing what happened, they’re arguing procedure.”

THE ARTICLES
The House passed two articles of impeachment. The first alleges that Trump abused power by pressuring Ukraine to interfere with the 2020 election by investigating Joe Biden and Ukraine’s – not Russia’s – involvement in meddling with the 2016 election, and withholding $391 million in military aid to Ukraine until it announced these investigations.

The second alleges Trump obstructed Congress by directing various agencies, offices and persons to defy subpoenas and not testify. The article names nine people, including Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney.

Local Republicans and conservatives found the articles too vague. Democrats applauded them, although some felt they didn’t go far enough.

“Abuse of power is not defined in the Constitution,” said Trish Lester, president of Santa Clarita Republican Women Federated. “It’s not a crime.”

Arenson said she thought the abuse of power article stemmed from Trump saying in a July speech, referring to the Constitution, “I have Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want as president.” She said she found it unfair to take that one-time quote and make it “a blanket statement.”

Denny said “abuse of power” is so vague, “you can drive a Mack truck through it.” Knight criticized the Democrats for throwing around the word “bribery” and then not including it in the impeachment articles.

Daniels said the second article is incontrovertible and the reason he changed his mind about impeachment. “You can’t say that didn’t happen,” he said. “That’s an impeachable act in and of itself.”

Many Democrats said they wanted to see additional articles against Trump. They suggested using the Mueller Report, in which Mueller found 10 examples of possible obstruction of justice but left it to lawmakers to ultimately decide. It’s a point Cripe, a Republican, said would have been the Democrats’ best chance for a conviction.

In addition to the Mueller Report, Uygur said he would have included articles pertaining to campaign finance violations stemming from Trump’s call to the Ukrainian president and paying hush money to a porn star. Smith and Fortner would have liked to see an article about Trump allegedly violating the Emoluments Clause, which prevents the president from receiving gifts from foreign governments without Congress’ consent. Smith also suggested an article stemming from accusations of sexual misconduct but reconsidered since these happened before Trump became president.

PREDICTIONS
Nobody predicted the Senate would convict Trump. Uygur said the only way it would be possible is if poll numbers indicate to the 23 Senate Republicans up for re-election next year that they need to vote to convict.

Republicans and conservatives expressed confidence the entire ordeal will boomerang against Democrats, leading to Trump’s re-election. Democrats, such as David Barlavi, think impeachment won’t affect Trump’s re-election chances because “everybody knows what kind of person Trump is.” Rather, the Senate could swing one way or another. Barlavi criticized Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) for saying his mind is made up, even though an impeachment trial requires senators to take a new oath promising to be impartial.

Both sides also leveled criticism for impeachment getting in the way of doing the people’s business. The Republicans blamed the Democrats in the House; the Democrats blamed the Republican-controlled Senate for not taking up bills the House passed.
“They made a calculation that if you impeach him, you make the base happy and you get moderates to swing over,” Denny said. “I think it will have the opposite effect. They’re spending all their time dwelling on trivia and not passing laws.”

“While the extreme liberals in Washington hold hostage the Congressional agenda so they can push their socialist policies, America seeks to move forward; forward to a more prosperous economy and safer nation,” congressional candidate Mike Garcia said in a statement. “Winners look toward the next race and not the last. We need to let the voters decide in November 2020.”

Regardless of the outcome, Denny was unconcerned. “We survived eight years of Bush. We survived eight years of Clinton. We survived eight years of Obama. We’ll survive eight years of Trump, if that’s what happens,” he said.

Daniels said he’s grown quite cynical. “I used to be a real idealist and believe in the American system,” he said. “If the Republicans are going to put party over politics, over what’s right, I’ve lost all hope for this system. It doesn’t matter anymore. People no longer want facts. They want the narrative they want to believe, and they accept the narrative they want to believe.”

LA County GOP Endorses Suzette Martinez Vallardes for Assembly

| News | December 12, 2019

Suzette Martinez Valladares continues to gain momentum in her run for the 38th Assembly District. Today, the Los Angeles County Republican Party has endorsed her candidacy. This endorsement comes on the heels of endorsements from the Ventura County Republican Party, Senate Republican Leader Shannon Grove, State Senator Scott Wilk, Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron, former LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich, and a host of other elected officials.

“I’m proud to have earned support from the grassroots leaders of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee,” said Suzette. “Now with the overwhelming support of both the LA and Ventura County Republican Central Committees, our campaign for balance in Sacramento has built a strong foundation to make the March top-two and beat the status quo in November.”

Suzette is the former Executive Director of Southern California Autism Speaks and is currently the CEO of Little Steps of Faith, a non-profit preschool committed to providing quality childcare to under deserved families.

Background: An unlikely Republican story, Suzette grew up in the San Fernando Valley, the granddaughter of a farmworker who worked alongside Cesar Chavez in the vineyards near Bakersfield. She was blessed with loving parents who valued education, family and community responsibility. In 2012, Suzette became Executive Director of Southern California Autism Speaks. Her career is based on serving others, with a passion for early childhood education and advocacy.

After her mother’s passing in 2018, Suzette was asked to assume her mother’s role as CEO of Little Steps of Faith, a faith-based non-profit preschool that provides quality childcare to underserved families in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys.

Suzette and her husband Shane were blessed with their first child, daughter Charlotte, in April 2017.

(California’s 38th Assembly District includes the Santa Clarita and Simi Valleys as well as a portion of the San Fernando Valley.)

25th Congressional District – Can a Non-Resident Win Here?

| News | December 12, 2019

Recent history has shown that the 25th congressional district doesn’t take too kindly to people moving into the district to run for office and has never elected one to represent it. From Phil Wyman in 1992 to Tony Strickland in 2014 to Bryan Caforio in 2016 and 2018, the voters seem to reject someone they don’t consider one of them.

But what about candidates who don’t even live in the district?

“I can’t think of anything like this,” College of the Canyons Professor Lena Smyth said, “nothing comes to mind.”

Voters have a decision to make in March because Republican George Papadopoulos and Democrats Cenk Uygur and Christopher Smith are running to finish Katie Hill’s term and to serve their own. The March 5th primary date will have their names in two places on the ballot.

They join several others who live in the district and are doing the same, including Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith (no relation) and Republicans Steve Knight, who served two terms, and Mike Garcia. Uygur said he plans to move into the district at the end of the school year.

Papadopoulos, a former Trump campaign adviser, served 12 days in prison after pleading guilty to making false statements to the FBI relating to contacts he had with Russian government agents while working for the Trump campaign. He cooperated with the Mueller investigation.

The Turkish-American Uygur created and co-hosts “The Young Turks,” a progressive news and opinion channel on multiple platforms. He previously had shows on MSNBC and Current TV. Local and county Democratic groups have criticized him over past comments about incest, women, Jews, Muslims and LGBTQ people (Uygur was born Muslim but now identifies as agnostic). He has apologized.

Christopher Smith is a documentary filmmaker (“TINY: A Story About Living Small”) who lives on the Glendale-Eagle Rock border but often comes into the area to hike on weekends because it reminds him of his hometown of Boulder, CO. He is unconcerned that his name is so similar to the Assemblywoman’s and he denies he is a Republican plant per the rumor he heard.

Some might wonder how they could possibly qualify to run. It’s because nowhere does federal law mandate members of Congress have to live in the districts they represent. They just have to live in the state. All the Constitution requires is state residency and a minimum age of 25. Papadopoulos is 32, Uygur 49, Smith 38.

In fact, nearly two dozen members in the 435-member House live outside of their congressional districts, according to published reports cited by thoughtco.com.

One of those members is Tom McClintock, a California Republican who currently represents the 4th District. He lives in Elk Grove, a suburb of Sacramento that is a 20 to 30 minute drive from the nearest town inside district lines.

Two others are Los Angeles County Democratic Reps. Maxine Waters and Grace Napolitano. The Los Angeles Times reported that both used to but no longer do because of redistricting. In Waters’ case, it’s just a three-minute walk across Vermont Avenue to the district line.

Local historian Leon Worden said the 25th tends to vote for a person who best serves the constituents, which is much harder to do if you don’t live there and never have.

Professor Smyth said voters generally tend to favor one of two types of people to represent them: either as a trustee or as a mirror. The trustee, in effect, says, “I understand you and your needs;” the mirror says, “I am more like you.”

She added that former Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, who represented the area for 20 years, is a mirror. So is Knight. Hill was more of a trustee despite being from Saugus.

Based on their websites, Uygur and Smith seem to be running as a trustee. Their platforms are similar. Uygur supports higher wages, Medicare for all, acknowledging climate change, supporting small businesses and cleaning up corruption. Smith also mentions several of these.

Papadopoulos’ website is just one page that offers a chance to donate and/or join by leaving an email address.

“Anecdotally, it’s going to be difficult for them,” Smyth said. “It’s an odd situation. I don’t think they’re going to be successful, but I’ve given up trying to predict.”

Worden put it differently: “It’s insulting to me. It’s a circus.”

The Democrat Outsiders Running for the 25th Congressional District

| News | December 12, 2019

What do you call a person who runs for a House of Representatives seat in a district in which he or she doesn’t live? Non-resident? Outsider? Outside candidate? Carpetbagger?

There doesn’t seem to be a name for this, even though the Constitution doesn’t require someone to live in the district they represent, and “carpetbagger” refers to someone who moves into a district to run.

Ceyk Uygur

Cenk Uygur (his name is pronounced Jenk YOU-gur), one of three 25th District candidates known to live outside the boundary lines, has a name: immigrant.

“I’m an immigrant to this country. I’m an immigrant to California. I’m an immigrant to this district,” Uygur said. “I find it perfectly named.”

Uygur was born in Turkey and has lived in New Jersey, Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Baltimore, in addition to the west side of Los Angeles he now calls home. He said he’s in the district represented by Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) and does not live in Newport Beach as many, including Smith, commonly think.

Christopher Smith

Christopher Smith, who lives in Rep. Jimmy Gomez’s (D-Los Angeles) district but is also running for the 25th District seat, acknowledges he’s an “outsider” and a “non-resident of the district,” but what he finds more important is the similarities between where he lives and the 25th district. After all, he said, many in Santa Clarita commute to L.A., and many in L.A. visit Santa Clarita.

“I live closer to Santa Clarita than Santa Clarita is to Lancaster,” he said. “Where I live and Santa Clarita and the 25th are all part of a larger metropolitan area. We share a lot of resources, problems and values.”

That isn’t to say the matter doesn’t come up. Both candidates realize it’s a factor. Smith said one person peppered him with questions about living outside the 25th at a union town hall Monday in Lancaster.

Uygur said the most important factor is who will represent the voters better, which he thinks is why the Founding Fathers did not include in the Constitution a live-in-the-district requirement to serve in the House.

“In my case, people care a lot more about the issues than the location,” he said, adding he would support a candidate who shares his philosophies and values but who lives farther away than someone who lives next door but disagrees with him.

WHY THEY’RE RUNNING
In his role as host of the multi-platform show “The Young Turks,” Uygur regularly discusses politics and finds the biggest problem today is corporate PACs.

“We have legalized bribery,” he said. “It’s systemic corruption, and it’s absolutely destroying our democracy.”

He said he “waited and waited for somebody to call it like it is” but found no takers, so he decided to do it himself. He found the district to be “a perfect description of America” with its working-class and suburban areas.

He said he is taking no corporate PAC money because to do so would align him with those who gave money. “Most politicians don’t represent the voters,” he said. “They represent the donors.”

Smith, a documentary filmmaker, said he has long been interested in such issues as the Green New Deal, which he calls “a jobs program,” immigration reform and climate change. Katie Hill’s resignation provided him an opportunity to “get out behind the lens and advocate directly on these issues.”

THEIR PLATFORMS
Both favor Medicare for all, although Smith would like to see it more slowly rolled out than Uygur. Both favor immigration reform and protecting Dreamers and DACA. Both favor the Green New Deal, Smith believing it would generate 20 million jobs.

Uygur says on his campaign website that corruption in politics has led to stagnant wages, for which he blames Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for blocking a bill that would raise the minimum wage; lousy health care and runaway climate change, for which he lays some blame on the oil and gas industries. “It’s the corruption, stupid,” he said.

Smith say on his campaign website that he wants to reverse the Trump tax cuts, implement a $15 minimum wage and move toward a universal basic income. He also favors free college tuition, forgiving student loans, requiring high schools students to take a year of civics, protections for LGBTQ and other unprotected communities, and ban using fresh water in fracking, coal production and other polluting industries.

THEIR CHANCES
Neither offered a prediction. Both said it’s up to the voters.

Santa Clarita Ranked in the Top 5 Percent of Cities in State Auditor’s Fiscal Health Analysis

| News | December 6, 2019

The City of Santa Clarita was ranked in the top 5 percent of fiscally healthy cities according to a recent report from the California State Auditor. The report analyzes the fiscal health of 470 cities based on 10 financial indicators. Santa Clarita received a low-risk designation and received perfect scores in the categories of liquidity, general fund reserves, and in both pension and other post-employment benefits obligations, receiving a total combined score of 92.77.

“Under the leadership and financial stewardship of our City Council, we pride ourselves on fiscal responsibility, and we continue to maintain a healthy and sustainable budget,” said City Manager Ken Striplin. “This report demonstrates that we have been successful. There is no doubt that the City is in good financial standing and we will continue to do all we can to ensure that it stays that way through our conservative budget practices.”

As part of the state’s high-risk local government agency audit program, the state auditor aimed to identify cities that could be facing fiscal challenges by assessing their levels of risks using various financial metrics primarily found in each city’s Comprehensive Annual Financial Report for the fiscal year 2016-17. Some of these metrics included cash position and liquidity, debt burden, financial reserves, revenue trends, pension and other post-employment benefits obligations, among others.

Using information published by each city, the auditor placed high-, moderate- or low-risk designations on each city with regard to fiscal confidence. The analysis concluded with 18 cities receiving high-risk designations, while 236 cities received moderate and 217 cities received low-risk marks.

SCV Water Celebrates 25th Anniversary of its Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant

| News | December 5, 2019

It was 25 years ago this December when the former Castaic Lake Water Agency completed the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant. The plant had an initial capacity to treat 30 million gallons per day. This more than doubled the capacity the agency had at the time — 25 million gallons per day — from the Earl Schmidt Treatment Plant, located near Castaic Lake.

Both plants treat imported water. Providing roughly half of Santa Clarita’s water supply, imported water flows from the Sierra Nevada mountain range through the Delta in Northern California before travelling through the California Aqueduct to reach the Santa Clarita Valley. The Rio Vista facility treats this imported water before it enters the distribution system and is served to customers.

Here are a few interesting facts about the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant:

In 1991, the former Castaic Lake Water Agency held a ground “blasting” ceremony to mark the beginning of construction of the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant.

In 2011, the plant expanded its capacity and doubled the amount of water that could be treated per day from 30 million gallons per day to 66 million gallons per day.

It took 876 days (April 27, 2009 – Sept. 19, 2011) to complete this expansion.

If needed to meet demands, SCV Water has the land and capacity to eventually double the Rio Vista Water Treatment Plant capacity again, to 120 million gallons per day.

The Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency (SCV Water) is responsible for ensuring that Santa Clarita’s drinking water (imported and groundwater) meets all standards set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and California state regulatory agencies. Annually, their water quality staff performs over 20,000 tests and analyzes samples from 64 drinking water sources for more than 285 drinking water contaminants.

Customers can see how well their water performed against the federal and state standards in the annual Consumer Confidence Report, which can be found at https://yourscvwater.com/waterquality/.

COC Refunds Bond Debt

| News | December 5, 2019

College of the Canyons refunded $31 million of outstanding general obligation bond debt. The district’s taxpayers will have cash flow savings of $8.3 million over the next 23 years. This represents an overall savings of 12.96 percent of the bonds that were refunded.

“The Santa Clarita Community College District worked quickly to take advantage of the current low interest rates to refund the bonds and save local property owners money in the process,” said College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook. “Due to the college’s solid credit ratings, our bonds always attract interest from strong and stable investors.”

The Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees, which oversees the college, voted on Wednesday, Nov. 6 to refund these particular general obligation bonds from Measure M. The sale was completed on Thursday, Nov. 14.

This is the third time in six years the college has refunded bonds in an effort to lessen the tax impact on property owners. A 2016 refunding yielded $35 million of savings, which represented more than a 23 percent reduction. That refunding also lowered taxes for area property owners.

The Government Finance Officers Association, a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing guidance to improve government management, advises that agencies should consider refunding bonds if they can save taxpayers at least 3 percent. The college district’s overall savings of 12.96 percent of the bonds that were refunded indicates how advantageous it was to refund now.

“The Measure M and E Citizens Oversight Committee applauds Chancellor Dr. Dianne Van Hook and the college’s staff for their efficient actions to maximize the bond funds to improve the college’s two campuses,” said Nick Lentini, chair of the bond oversight committee. “Their proactive approach in working with professionals in the bond management industry has repeatedly provided savings to Santa Clarita Valley taxpayers.”

Measure C, which local voters passed in 2001, funded a number of significant facilities improvements at College of the Canyons, including the cost of acquiring 70 acres of land on Sierra Highway to build the Canyon Country Campus, and constructing the Hasley Hall classroom and computer facility, the Aliso Hall and Aliso Lab science facilities, and the Pico Canyon Hall performing arts classroom and rehearsal spaces.

The funding provided through Measure M, approved by voters in 2006, helped the college complete a number of facilities projects, including construction of all the initial buildings at the Canyon Country Campus. It also qualified COC to receive state matching funds used in building the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center that now offers more than 40 bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. Other key projects included the Culinary Arts building, the Mentry Hall classroom expansion, The Library and Learning Center expansion, the Applied Technology Education Center at the Canyon Country Campus, and the Canyons Hall student services center.

Together, Measure C and Measure M qualified College of the Canyons to receive $56.2 million in construction funds from the state. Colleges that have local bond funds available are given priority when applying for state funding.

COC ADA Compliance Update

| News | December 5, 2019

College of the Canyons has completed 95 percent of the first of three phases of its Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, officials said. The remaining five percent is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

Most of the first phase dealt with issues disabled people might encounter daily, said architect Greg Sun, managing partner of Pasadena-based PBWS Architects. These include, doors, grasps, certain bathroom features and furniture.

Sun made his comments at an October 30 update, which was originally scheduled for August but was delayed so all principals could attend. The Gazette viewed a video of the meeting last week.

The repairs were necessary because of a lawsuit the school settled in 2015 that required it to make 1,769 ADA-related changes. The school then took it upon itself to find other examples of non-compliance and found approximately 5,000 more.

All three phases are expected to cost between a combined $10 million and $12 million, college attorney Terry Tao said. College spokesman Eric Harnish said in an email that it would be paid for by Measure M and Measure E bonds.

The amount pleasantly surprised some audience members as well as Tao and Kirstyn Bonneau, a PBWS associate partner and architect, “especially for a campus with such significant ADA challenges,” Bonneau said.

Bonneau said there were 356 times the school had to make doors compliant by doing such things as using the right locks or removing non-compliant knobs. Another 604 issues dealt with adjusting door pressures so they’d be easier to close.

“We literally have four or five pictures of every single door on campus that had deficiencies listed,” Bonneau said, estimating that to be 2,600 photos. “We have to go and we have to find it, we have to look at it, we have to look at the context around it, we have to take photos, we have to measure, we have to make sure we understand how best to correct it.”

According to a PowerPoint presentation by school Contracts, Procurement and Risk Management Services Director April Graham, COC corrected 61 incidences in 12 buildings, plus two outside areas and the coffee kiosk, in which the furniture was not ADA compliant. Thirty-six more fixes in three buildings are expected to be completed by Dec. 31.

“This takes care of furniture issues, period,” Graham said. “We really try to look for cost-effective solutions in this. We weren’t just out to go buy new furniture.”

Bonneau said Phase 1 took 17 months to get state approval, in part because the state Division of the State Architect (DSA), one of the agencies in charge of overseeing ADA compliance, wanted to see the buildings’ original drawings. “We didn’t have all those,” she said. “DSA had them in their archives, but we had to get them.”

Furthermore, DSA only allowed six requests at a time, leading to bureaucratic delays, Bonneau said.

Phase 2 will focus on travel paths from parking lots to buildings and from buildings to buildings, crosswalks, loading zones and signage. The process actually began earlier this year with officials walking the campus to look for non-ADA compliance issues. Bonneau said they found 1,475 examples, of which 200 are addressed in other ongoing projects. She said she will submit construction plans to DSA in the first quarter of 2020.

Specific targets in Phase 2 include changing signs, seating in outdoor areas, outdoor handrails and stairs, curbside ramps and ramps to buildings, paving and striping parking lots and early childhood play equipment, Bonneau said.

Phase 3, which covers 3,007 incidents of non-compliance, will address building interiors, including locker rooms, restrooms, handrails, stairways, ramps, signs, drinking fountains, travel paths, work stations, service counters, lecture halls and administrative offices, Bonneau said.

Several issues weren’t addressed:

  • Projected completion dates for the final two phases. The original transition plan book in the campus library listed completion dates as late at 2030. Harnish said that book will not be updated, the school instead opting for public information sessions.
  • The Canyon Country campus. The lawsuit and transition plan refer only to the Valencia campus. Harnish said DSA has noted areas the school needs to address to comply. These include replacing some drinking fountains, converting lights over building doors to have battery backups, and changing ADA parking near Quad 2. “We are in the process of making those changes,” he said.
  • What to do about buildings that would be too difficult to bring into ADA compliance. The Oct. 30 meeting mentioned Bonelli and Boykin halls, which are not part of any of the three phases. The previous information meeting, Feb. 21, 2018, mentioned those two plus Towsley Hall and West PE.

Harnish said West PE is currently undergoing modernization, which updates and upgrades the building. “When the project is complete, it will meet all current ADA requirements,” Harnish said.

Harnish also said that a Towsley retrofit project is planned, and DSA will review the plans before any work is done. If DSA finds ADA-compliance issues, Harnish said, they would be added to the retrofit project.

That leaves Boykin and Bonelli. Harnish said the exterior concrete corridors have slopes from one edge of the walkway to the other edge that are greater than 2 percent, which violates ADA. The buildings will have to be demolished and rebuilt to address that issue, he said.

Tao said he hopes the state will pay for new Boykin and Bonelli halls.

“There’s a lifespan for these buildings, and as part of a lifespan for these buildings, every couple of years, the community college chancellor will come through and say, ‘We’re going to do certain types of buildings.’ One year might be gymnasiums, one year might be science buildings, one year might be administration buildings,” Tao said. “We’re hoping in this cycle those older buildings will end up getting replaced.”

Bonneau added, “If they’re not replaced, we’ll put on our thinking hats and come up with creative solutions.”

Bruce Fortine, a former college board member, said he was unconcerned that there was no plan for the two halls because the state has been holding monies (he estimated $250 million) from past ballot propositions and will eventually release some to rebuild Boykin and Bonelli.

State voters have approved five such bond measures since 1998, most recently Proposition 51 in 2016, which called for, among other provisions, $2 billion for acquiring, constructing, renovating, and equipping community college facilities.

Fortine said he liked what he heard from the presentation.

“The staff is really diligent in what they do, and I have confidence in them,” he said.

Current board member Edel Alonso also was pleased with what she heard, especially about her concerns regarding fixing the bathrooms.

“I’m glad I got any sort of report. I feel like I’d been waiting to get it,” she said. “I wish I’d gotten the answers a year ago, but OK.”

Kathy Hunter Named Assistant Superintendent of the Hart District

| News | November 27, 2019

The William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Governors unanimously voted to appoint Kathy Hunter as assistant superintendent of educational services. Hunter will move into the new position once Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht retires. She will replace Mike Kuhlman, who was named superintendent-elect by the governing board on Aug. 22, 2019.

Now in her twentieth year with the district, Hunter taught students with emotional issues at Valencia High School before becoming a special education program specialist at the district office. She also served as principal at Sequoia School before starting her current position as director of student services nine years ago. She also has worked in the private sector with IBM for seven years and another eight years as an educational specialist in psychiatric hospitals.

“I am honored to have this opportunity to serve the district as the assistant superintendent of educational services,” Hunter said. “My focus, as always, will be on students. Under the direction of the superintendent and the governing board, I hope to continue our efforts to support teachers and staff, increase parent engagement and increase overall physical, emotional and social wellness of each and every student.”

“We are so very pleased to welcome Ms. Kathy Hunter to the position of assistant superintendent once the transition in leadership happens for the Hart District,” said Mike Kuhlman, the current deputy superintendent. “Ms. Hunter has authored many of the signature programs for out district and has built critical relationships with key people and organizations throughout our community. Her leadership has been indispensable recently as we have faced the traumatic events of this past week. I’m thankful and optimistic for our district and our community.”

Ms. Hunter has a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Education from West Texas A & M, and a Master of Science degree in Counseling from the University of La Verne. She and her husband, Bobby Zameroski, a teacher at Valencia High School, live in Castaic. They have one child and one grandchild.

The William S. Hart Union High School District consists of 17 schools and serves over 22,000 students in grades 7-12, plus an adult school.

Katie Hill: “…this isn’t just happening to me…”

| News | November 27, 2019

Former Rep. Katie Hill said the ordeal she endured was “one of the darkest things you can experience” and found it completely dehumanizing and an out-of-body experience.

“You really can’t understand until you’re there,” she said Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.” “As a public figure, you’re used to attack, but when it gets to the level of these threats, you’re not seen as a person anymore, and the dehumanization is something people can’t really understand unless you’ve been there. … We have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and recognize that no matter how despicable we think someone is, they’re still a human. You really can’t dehumanize them like this.”

Hill resigned Oct. 27 after allegations surfaced through articles and photos in conservative blog RedState that she had an affair with a congressional staffer and a campaign staffer, causing a Congressional Ethics Committee investigation to be opened. Hill denied the relationship with the congressional staffer, which would be a violation of House rules, but admitted to the affair with the campaign aide, which is not.

Additionally, the British tabloid Daily Mail published nude photos without her consent. She has claimed her estranged husband is behind the photos and has vowed to advocate for victims of revenge porn.

“What we have to think about is this isn’t just happening to me,” Hill said. “This is happening to women and girls across the country. I was asked about this all the time on the campaign trail by really young teenagers and girls who experience cyber-bullying in different capacities and who are saying ‘What are you going to do about this?’ and we don’t have an answer for that, so we need to figure out that fight.”

Hill also took swipes at the right-wing media in general for attacking her in an attempt to silence her and other women. She named two witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, Fiona Hill and Marie Yovanovitch.

Fiona Hill, a former member of the U.S. National Security Council, testified that Ukraine had nothing to do with the meddling in the 2016 election, a conspiracy theory Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has put forth. She also said the ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, was involved “in a domestic political errand” of the president trying to get Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, son of former Vice President and current presidential candidate Joe Biden.

Fiona Hill’s testimony led to Sean Hannity questioning her Ukrainian expertise. And Emerald Robinson, a correspondent for the far-right One America News Network, pointed to Hill’s British accent and questioned if she was a real American. Hill was born in England but became a citizen in 2002 and served under Bush and Barack Obama as an intelligence analyst.

Yovanovitch, President Trump’s former ambassador to Ukraine, testified that she was fired from her post after Giuliani and two associates ran a smear campaign against her.

Trump took to Twitter to attack her. “Everywhere Marie Yovanovitch went turned bad,” he wrote.

Katie Hill said these attacks are the new normal.

“We also need to see it as a tactic that is constantly used by the right,” she said. “I think that’s something that we see on attacks against women, not just high profile women but women across the board. These kinds of attacks are meant to silence you, demean you, and show that you do not have power, so for me it was important to show that that’s not going to work.”

Local Liberals Weigh in on Presidential Candidates

| News | November 27, 2019

Local Democrats weighing in on the Democratic presidential campaign and debates have expressed almost as many opinions as there are candidates.

“We have a good group,” Assembly candidate Brandii Grace said. “The really small differences don’t matter.”

Everyone surveyed had something nice to say about just about every candidate. Most hadn’t made up their minds yet. Those that had decided looked to other candidates
as possible running mates.

To be sure, all are vested in choosing a candidate that will defeat Donald Trump next year. As far as Stephen Daniels, the host of “The Talk of Santa Clarita” podcast, is concerned, anyone is better than Trump.

“I’d vote for my foot over Donald Trump,” he said. “I like my foot. I trust my foot. My foot doesn’t lie.”

But Daniels also wondered what many probably are thinking.

“Should we go with a moderate candidate or a more progressive candidate?” he said. “Who can beat Trump?”

There are plenty of moderates and progressives from which to choose. Two individuals surveyed, Saugus school board member David Barlavi and Grace’s communications director Kyle McCormick, are supporting Bernie Sanders.

“He definitely has the best chance to beat Trump,” Barlavi said. “And the icing on the cake is that he has the best policy platform: Medicare for all – he wrote the damn bill – a $15 minimum wage, free state and community college.”

Barlavi also likes that Sanders opposed wars in Iraq in 1991 and 2002, recognizes that for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, both sides must recognize the human rights of the other people; and he wants to “cut the fat out of the military industrial complex and put that towards education and health care and infrastructure.”

McCormick, who said he supported Sanders in 2016, too, credits the Vermont senator with broadening his base and, following his recent heart attack, loosening up on the campaign trail.

“He seems to have learned lessons from his previous run,” McCormick said. “He’s livelier and more present. He doesn’t revert back to his stump speech. He’s more willing to go into his own narrative, and he tells more jokes.”

So, who would they like to see join Sanders on the ticket?

Barlavi favors Andrew Yang because “he’s a populist like Bernie,” he said. He also would be OK with Elizabeth Warren but feels she would decline because “she’s got too much skin in the game.”

“If your goal is to win the general election, Bernie-Yang has the best chance,” Barlavi said.

McCormick favors Warren joining Sanders because she would balance the ticket stylistically if not ideologically. “Warren is popular with the establishment Democrats and Bernie is not,” he said.

Other local Democrats followed what Stacy Fortner said of the candidates: “They all deserve to be heard.” This could be a problem if what Fortner saw on Facebook comes true: The Democratic National Committee might change the criteria to qualify for the next debate, Dec. 19 in Los Angeles, scrapping the required number of small-donor donations.

“That benefits (Tom) Steyer and (Michael) Bloomberg,” Fortner said. “It doesn’t benefit (Julián) Castro and (Amy) Klobuchar.”

Another problem is in the format. With 10 candidates on the debate stage, it becomes difficult to get words in edgewise, which was probably why candidates did so much interrupting in the early debates.

Grace likened the debates to watching a sporting event and offering armchair analysis. Daniels agreed.

“I find it overall a little stupid that those little sound-bite moments (are) idiotic,” Daniels said. “That’s not what a president does. The idea that, ‘Ooh, he really got her.’ That’s just stupid. Some of the best candidates are not being recognized because the debates are overshadowing how they would be as president.”

A summary of what people said about the candidates, alphabetically:

JOE BIDEN
McCormick worries that the former vice president’s penchant for spoken gaffes affects his credibility and would be an easy target for Trump in a one-on-one debate.

“(Trump) would waste no time belittling him,” McCormick said. “It concerns me to have a candidate that has a very visible weakness go against a candidate who is utterly shameless, a bully.”

Then again, George W. Bush became president.

CORY BOOKER
McCormick thinks the New Jersey senator comes across in debates as “reasonable” and “impassioned.” Daniels thinks the debate format is not helping Booker, who he finds “pragmatic about his approach to politics and how to get things done.” Daniels also likes Booker’s optimism.

PETE BUTTIGIEG
McCormick wouldn’t mind if the South Bend, Ind., mayor was a vice president pick. “He’s comporting himself well, getting his message across well,” McCormick said. He also thought that other candidates should go after Buttigieg more now that he’s leading in at least one poll in Iowa, and that his being gay “will seem like a bigger thing if he starts winning.”

TULSI GABBARD
Of all the candidates, the Hawaii congresswoman drew the most ire.

“Gabbard needs to go away,” Fortner said. “She’s taking up space. She’s a horrible excuse for a candidate.”

McCormick said he thinks Gabbard’s point that our foreign policy toward regime change needs examination is valid, but he objects to her seemingly cozy relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi is a member of a Hindu nationalist volunteer organization that seeks a Hindu nation in which Muslims and Christians are second-class citizens, according to the online news website The Intercept.

“It concerns me to have close relations to someone so dictatorial,” McCormick said.

KAMALA HARRIS
“On paper, she makes sense, but it doesn’t seem to be working out in practice,” McCormick said. “She’s trying to thread a needle that isn’t there to thread.”

McCormick also sees Harris as waffling on issues, which hurt her early-debate momentum. She co-sponsored Sanders’ Medicare for all bill, then later reversed her position.

AMY KLOBUCHAR
Of all the candidates, the Minnesota senator drew the most opposing viewpoints.

One side, there was Daniels, who finds her very pragmatic. On the other side is McCormick, who objects to her we-can’t-have-nice-things approach.

“I can handle political moderation in some forms, but the specific brand of hectoring, ‘You’re being dumb. You can’t do that’ really grates on me,” he said.

TOM STEYER
“I am not glad he is there,” McCormick said of the billionaire. “I don’t like he is a extremely rich guy paying money into a vanity presidential run. Every time they cut to him (in a debate), I was like, ‘Tom, what are you doing?’ ”

ELIZABETH WARREN
Daniels said he likes the fact that the Massachusetts senator seems to have a plan to tackle all problems. “That, to me, speaks to somebody who should be president.”

And yet McCormick worries that Warren’s political instincts are problematic. She has claimed Native American ancestry, even going so far as using it on a State Bar of Texas form, but in February she apologized for that.

Sulphur Springs School Board Approves Putting Bond Measure on the Ballot

| Community, News | November 21, 2019

Voters in the Sulphur Springs Union School District will have the choice to approve a $78 million bond measure in the March primary election. The school board approved placing the matter on the ballot during its meeting last week.

As written, the measure’s project list includes: upgrade and replace roofs, heating and air conditioning units, repair and upgrade playground equipment, repave parking lots, improve landscaping, drainage and irrigation, improve ADA access and upgrade safety and security systems.

As for the dollar amount, board President Denis DeFigueiredo said, “It’s what we need.” He explained that the district created a facilities master plan five years ago, and these are the current priorities.

Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi said the heating, ventilation and air conditioners are old, and the coolant the AC uses isn’t made anymore. The classrooms need modernizing because “The way our children are being educated, it’s different than 30 years ago.” She mentioned classroom furniture has changed. Gone are the hardwood chairs and desks. Spacing and storage considerations are different now than in the past.

“When are things aging out?” she said. “We have very old buildings. Some buildings are 30, 40 years old, and we need additional support.”

And, DeFigueiredo said, bonds are the only way to fund these projects.

“There are many paths to get monies. We exhausted them,” he said. “We used (2012 Measure CK) bond money. We go out for grants, get matching funds from the state. This is the only way to do it.”

Yet DeFigueiredo also said that the list is general to give the district as much flexibility as possible. “If we get too specific and tie our hands, we have money left over we can’t do anything with,” he said. “We have ideas of what we want to do.”

To pay for the bonds, voters would be assessed a property tax of approximately $22 per 1,000 square feet of assessed value. But that’s an estimate; the measure’s language says “at legal rates,” and no one can predict what the assessed value will be over time. Kawaguchi said the district could have charged the maximum $30 per 1,000 square feet but is trying to keep costs down.

It’s those kinds of cost concerns that have given the district an increased bond rating, Kawaguchi said. According to Moody’s, the district’s rating went to A-1 in June, indicating general financial strength.

Steve Petzold, principal officer of the Center for Truth in School Bond Measures, said he opposes the bond, in part because some of the project list, such as the parking lot repaving, appear to be maintenance, and he doesn’t believe districts should use bond funds for maintenance.

“They’re backfilling their general fund with bond money because they’re deficit spending,” Petzold said. “They’re not properly budgeting for maintenance and repairs.”

DeFigueiredo acknowledged some of the projects might look like maintenance, but he and Kawaguchi insisted they are not. DeFigueiredo said in the case of the parking lots, the root cause was poor engineering years ago, the problems coming from deeper underground.

Petzold also criticized the district for its previous failure to comply with the terms of the Measure CK bond, specifically that it did not have the required citizens’ oversight committee.

“Why can we trust them on compliance for this bond when they can’t maintain the old bond?” he said.

Indeed, the district’s website has no record of any oversight committee meetings between Sept. 6, 2016 and June 17, 2019. DeFigueiredo said the issue was the committee didn’t have a quorum. Once it did, the committee went through every transaction and expenditure if that time and approved everything.

“This is not an easy committee to staff,” DeFigueiredo said. “We need a business person, we need a senior citizen involved with some organization that advocates for senior citizens. We need someone in a taxpayer organization.”
The measure requires at least a 55-percent majority to pass.

School Districts React

| Community, News | November 21, 2019

The shooting last week at Saugus High School did not cause other nearby districts to take stock of their policies and procedures because they were doing it anyway. Meanwhile, mental-health professionals insist mental illness is not the cause of the shooting.

Sixteen-year-old Nathaniel Burhow shot and killed Gracie Anne Muehlberger, 15, and Dominic Blackwell, 14, before shooting himself with the last round in his .45-caliber gun. He also shot and injured three others: Mia Tretta, 15, who came home Monday from Providence Holy Cross Medical Center; Addison Koegle, 14, and an unnamed student.

On Tuesday, students were allowed to return to campus to retrieve belongings, one student telling The Signal the experience was “surreal.” The school was scheduled to be open Wednesday and Thursday for voluntary activities, which William S. Hart Union High School District spokesman Dave Caldwell said will including playing games or singing or hanging out with friends.

“For some, they need to be with other people. They need to be with their friends. They need to be at school,” Caldwell said. “For those that don’t want to go back, that’s OK.”

Some who attended these events no doubt wondered if they’d ever feel safe there again. At other local districts, safety remains a top priority.

“Kids are kids, people are people, and we have to provide a safe environment,” Sulphur Springs Union School District Board President Denis DeFigueiredo said, “whether it’s an elementary school student or a high school senior.”

Sulphur Springs Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi said two years ago, she implemented drills and training in case of an active shooter.

“We are taking a proactive stand to make sure our children are safe,” she said.

Over at College of the Canyons, spokesman Eric Harnish emailed to say officials are constantly evaluating emergency prevention, preparedness and response efforts, and adjusting based on training and experience.

“For us, it is a collaborative process, and we seek to engage faculty, staff, and students in our efforts to ensure that everyone has an opportunity to participate in making our campuses as safe as possible,” Harnish wrote. “As law enforcement investigators continue their work, and more information comes to light, we will certainly use any lessons learned to inform the college’s emergency prevention, preparedness and response efforts moving forward.”
Newhall School District Superintendent Jeff Pelzel said the district already has a facilities master plan in place and regularly seeks feedback from the parents, so he knows safety is their priority. The district shares that concern and has a letter on its website saying as much. The letter mentions the recently completed projects of placing fencing entirely around the perimeters of all 10 schools, conducting lockdown drills, keeping the campuses locked during the day and on weekends, and cooperating with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department.

In fact, the district was supposed to meet Sheriff’s Capt. Robert Lewis last week to go over procedures, steps taken and lessons learned from the recent fires, but the Saugus shooting canceled that. Pelzel said the meeting is now scheduled for Dec. 6 and likely will include information from the shooting.

The school districts are not islands unto themselves, either. Pelzel said the district superintendents regularly meet, and he expects the Hart district’s Vicki Engbrecht to share some lessons learned at the next gathering.

However, Pelzel said, fencing is just a first step. The good news is the district is expected to receive $10 million in Measure E funds. The bad news is that’s not nearly enough to pay for cameras at all campuses.

“We will determine what the needs are,” Pelzel said. “Safety is always a top priority. Too many incidents have been occurring.”

Many believe that a shooter has to be suffering from mental illness to carry out such a destructive and violent plan. However, the New York Times reported in 2012 after the Newtown, Conn., shooting that the American Journal of Psychiatry found only 4 percent of violence in this country could be attributed to people with mental illness. In 2004, the Safe Schools Initiative Report found that only 10 percent of attackers who were receiving treatment for their mental illness failed to take their prescribed medication.

The Gazette reached out to five mental-health professionals, of which three responded. None of them had ever met Burhow.

None of them felt mental illness was a factor in the Saugus shooting, although Encino Marriage and Family Therapist Sherry Warschaw said it was possible Burhow had issues with impulsivity, “but that’s not necessarily mental illness. The majority of people who are mentally ill do not commit crimes.”

She did, however, say impulsive behavior could be a component of mental illness. If a person feels so down and sees a future bereft of hope, he or she might make decisions that prove fatal.

“Impulsive people don’t think clearly. They act on feelings,” Warschaw said.

Woodland Hills MFT Judi Lirman said it appeared Burhow was unable to deal with the traumas in his life: the death of his father, who had been involved in spousal abuse and alcohol abuse, as well as the custody battles that took place between his parents when they divorced.

“He seemed to be a good kid who ended up in a situation he couldn’t handle,” Lirman said. “He needed to explode like a volcano. He was exploding his pain at the other five students.”

Lirman and Jaelline Jaffe, a Sherman Oaks-based psychotherapist, said access to guns is more of a factor than the shooter’s mental state. Lirman said a gun allows somebody to kill from a distance, making it easier to depersonalize the situation and convince yourself “”You’re not shooting at a person so much as a target.”

Jaffe said that the Saugus shooting took 16 seconds and “you can’t in 16 seconds kill six people with knives. You can fire off a lot of shots.”

Over at the Hart district, Caldwell said the shooting happened too recently for there to be a serious evaluation of what can be done differently, but those will be part of the next steps.

“We’re focusing on the care and support, and providing the students and staff everything they need,” Caldwell said.

Saugus High was closed Monday and will be closed Friday, Caldwell said. Then the school will take its previously scheduled full-week Thanksgiving break.

When classes resume Dec. 2, Saugus students will have had six fewer days of instruction than at other district schools. State law requires high school students to have 180 days and 64,800 minutes of instruction. Caldwell said he believes the school is on pace to meet the required minutes.

Mike Garcia: In it “Until We Win or Lose”

| News | November 21, 2019

While Steve Knight’s entrance into the 25th congressional race has caused two Republican candidates to drop out, Mike Garcia insists he is in it “until we win or lose.”

Garcia said former candidates Mark Cripe and Angela Underwood Jacobs, who cited Knight as the reason they quit, left because they weren’t raising enough money (Cripe made that point in his withdrawal announcement).

“Since Katie Hill resigned, we’ve seen a spike in fundraising and support, and (with Knight’s entrance) it’s similar,” Garcia said. “The visceral reaction to Steve Knight getting in the race is very negative.”

Garcia said none of the people who endorsed him before Knight got in have switched allegiances. That includes people who backed Knight in his previous three congressional campaigns, against Republican Tony Strickland and Democrats Bryan Caforio and Hill.

He also said his campaign recently conducted a poll of sample district voters of all parties that showed he would defeat Democratic Assemblywoman Christy Smith but would lose to Knight based on Knight’s name recognition. But the poll showed a little bit of messaging could put Garcia ahead of Knight.

Garcia said he has not been pressured by Knight or any person or organization to step aside. In fact, he said, Knight told him he was entering before he announced. He also knows the National Republican Congressional Committee is closely watching this race.

The district’s voters will be asked to elect a representative to finish Hill’s term as well as vote for a 2020 candidate in the regularly scheduled primary on March 3.

The top two vote getters will face off in a runoff election May 12. In the event a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote on March 3, then, he or she will serve out Hill’s term.

“Having Steve out of the race would make it a lot easier to win and skip the runoff,” Garcia said.

In the regular primary, the top two vote getters will advance to the Nov. 4 general election.

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