In late November, Bill Miranda told the Gazette that he had no interest in applying to be appointed to the Santa Clarita City Council. Yet, on Tuesday, there he was in council chambers accepting the offer to serve.
Miranda, consultant, publisher of Our Valley Media, former CEO of the SCV Latino Chamber of Commerce and current SCV Chamber board member, beat out 49 other hopefuls to become the fifth councilmember, joining Mayor Cameron Smyth, Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste (who nominated him), Marsha McLean (who seconded the nomination) and Bob Kellar.
Miranda replaces Dante Acosta, who left midway through his term after winning election to the state Assembly, forcing the council to appoint for the second time. The first time was 10 years ago, when Smyth left to serve in the Assembly and TimBen Boydston was appointed following a process that included a citizens committee nominating a person and the council rejecting it.
This time, the four members decided to appoint a new member themselves. Miranda had been receiving calls urging him to apply. After a conversation with the Gazette in which Miranda made it clear that, in the words of William Tecumseh Sherman, “I will not accept if nominated and will not serve if elected,” Miranda spoke with his wife, Virginia, and began to reconsider.
“After I hung up, my wife and I started talking,” he said. “So many people had called, maybe (I) should (go for it).”
Miranda still hesitated because he had a couple of people in mind he would like to have seen apply, so he decided that if they didn’t, he would.
By the morning of Jan. 6, those people had not applied, so Miranda spent the day getting his papers together. He easily met the two stated criteria: He was a resident and was older than 18, but he still needed his personal statement and three letters of reference.
“It took all day to get my papers together,” he said. His letters of reference included one from state Sen. Scott Wilk, who called Miranda “(a) leader in every sense of the word.”
“I believe Bill’s collaborative nature, business acumen and deep community roots complement the current members of the council and make an already strong team even stronger,” Wilk wrote.
Miranda submitted his papers at 3:16 p.m., the 34th of what became 50 people to do so. Later that day, one of those people he had in mind did apply, but Miranda declined to name that person.
Miranda was one of 10 to be called up a second time (each of the 40 who showed Tuesday night got three minutes to make their pitches). These included two failed council candidates, Boydston and Kenneth Dean (who applied first), retired FBI agent Brent Braun and attorney Ronda Baldwin-Kennedy.
Weste, who said she knew Miranda “peripherally,” said she was particularly impressed with Miranda when he talked about merging the Latino chamber into the SCV Chamber.
“There were three or four that, if we had to go on, I could support,” Weste said. “I started with who I thought would be best.”
McLean agreed. Kellar favored Braun and, in the opinion of candidate Alan Ferdman, was “upset.” Kellar denied that Wednesday, reminding that he told Miranda that he was a “a fine man, but I’m going to vote no.” Miranda said that afterward the two of them spoke and Kellar “was gracious. He and I will work well together.”
Smyth cast the deciding vote, but he took a dramatic pause that reminded some of a reality TV show. Smyth said he was having an internal dialogue: “Should I say something or should I let my vote speak?”
He had spoken up in favor of Ana Dwork, but she was one of several he would have supported. “I certainly felt comfortable supporting Bill, as I did with other candidates. I think the end result was there were several eminently qualified people the council felt comfortable with,” he said.
Had Smyth voted no, the process could have taken much longer, perhaps as long as it took 10 years ago (the council previously had announced that, if needed, the process would extend to next week’s regularly scheduled meeting). Smyth said he wanted to avoid that, but he wasn’t just going to vote yes for somebody just to keep the meeting shorter.
Not everyone welcomed Miranda’s appointment. Ferdman and Boydston repeated their objections to the process, saying there should have been a special election (the council balked at the estimated $354,000 cost).
“It stole the election away from the people,” Ferdman said.
Community activist and Saugus realtor Steve Petzold called Miranda “a safe choice,” but pointed out, “He’s never run for City Council. He’s never run for a school board position.”
“Bill doesn’t bring anything new to the council, other than he’s new,” Petzold later said. “He’s not going to rock the boat.”
Ferdman also had predicted the council would appoint what he called “a cheerleader,” somebody who would say, “how great everything was.” Weste responded, “He didn’t sound like a cheerleader to me. He sounded like a person who has dedicated his life to good works.”
It’s not known if whether Miranda’s appointment would result in another California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) lawsuit. Attorney Kevin Shenkman, who has filed against the city before, wasn’t reached. Weste and Smyth said they weren’t concerned.
“I don’t think it will make a difference,” Smyth said. “If someone wants to file a CVRA lawsuit, they’re going to, regardless of who we appoint.”
As for Miranda, he will be sworn in Tuesday, and then it’s time to get to work.
“Number one, you’ve got to listen and learn,” he said. “I’m not going in thinking I have a mandate. I’m here to listen and learn and get up to speed. Once I get up to speed, then I can work within the council system” toward the issues he’d like to address. These include homelessness, a senior center and a Canyon Country community center.
“We have to do a lot,” he said. “The city is not just Valencia. It’s a lot more.”