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The Price of Safety

| News | October 11, 2018

Al Hunt sells a school security system he believes in. But he’s having a difficult time convincing school districts they need it.

The reason: the cost. The Hunt Communications School Emergency Notification Bridge, powered by XOP Networks, runs about $25,000 per school, including installation. That’s $250,000 to equip all 10 Newhall School District campuses, and $375,000 for the Saugus Union and William S. Hart Union High School districts.

“That’s the biggest thing that’s held it back,” Hunt admitted, “but you can’t give something away for nothing.”

Indeed, the website (emergencynotificationbridge.com) offers details about the system. Hunt highlighted some features: During an actual emergency, such as a school shooting, administrators can use the phone system to call everybody who needs to know what’s happening, from teachers and on-campus security personnel to fire, police and ambulance. Parents can receive phone calls or texts and district officials can alert principals. The system also can be wired to security cameras that police can access.

Hunt estimated that the price per student is only about $30.

Hunt said the system exists at airports such as John Wayne and Lost Hills-Kern County, and the company is bidding for a contract at Los Angeles International.

School districts, however, are another matter. When Hunt approached someone at a school district in Huntington Beach, he said, “If it was up to them, they’d write the check right then and there.” (He also said he would provide a list of districts that use the system but didn’t.)

None of the local districts have the system. In fact, Hunt hasn’t taken any meetings. He said he has no contacts for Castaic and Newhall school districts, didn’t know Sulphur Springs existed and tried numerous times with Saugus but got no reply (Hunt said he’s only been selling this system for about six to eight months).

According to Saugus board member Chris Trunkey, the normal procedure calls for district staff to evaluate any system that gets pitched. Only when the district determines a system is worthwhile does it get sent to the board for approval. Trunkey said he can’t recall the board approving a new security system in the last couple of years, but he knows the board regularly approves contracts that have to be renewed.

Saugus district Director of Safety & Risk Management Keith Karzin didn’t return a phone call.

The procedure is similar in the Hart district. Hunt said he contacted his friend, school board member Joe Messina, about the system.

Messina said the Hart district gets pitched often about many things. He said he told Hunt that if he really believed in the system, he should talk to district staff.

“You go through the proper channels, and I’ll look into it,” Messina said. “Calling a trustee is not a proper channel.”

Hart district spokesman Dave Caldwell said he wasn’t sure if Hunt ever contacted the district, but even if he did, he would have had to go through a bidding process.

Hunt is not dissuaded. In fact, he said, if every parent wrote a check for $30 to the school district, the system would be paid for.

“If you look at it per child, it’s not prohibitive,” he said.

Contamination Cleanup Completion Given ‘The Bird’

| News | October 11, 2018

In November 2016, Hassan Amini, the project coordinator in charge of directing and coordinating the cleanup of the Whittaker-Bermite property, said the soil cleanup and decontamination would be complete by Sept. 28.

That obviously didn’t happen. Blame a bird and federal bureaucracy for the latest delay.
According to Amini and others interviewed for this story, the Whittaker Corporation was in the process of applying to renew a federal permit to clean soil in a dry streambed when a visitor to the site in September spotted two California gnatcatchers within the property, but not in the streambed area.

The gnatcatcher is an endangered species (the Audubon Field Guide blames housing developments for its endangered status), causing a quandary. Agencies need to be informed when an endangered species is present, but the birds were not interfering with the current areas being cleaned.

Acting cautiously, Amini reported the incident to the Army Corps of Engineers, which issues the permit, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, which oversees the endangered species program under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

The two agencies have 135 days to consult and issue an opinion. Amini estimates that means the agencies will inform him by the end of January.

Amini said this bureaucratic delay does not affect current areas being cleaned up, “but we are (almost) done with those,” he said. “If we do not clean additional areas we need to go to, we’ll be sitting on out hands, shutting down until they (ACE and USFWS) go through this. It’s really a disaster to our schedule and this project.”

The 996-acre Whittaker-Bermite site was used by the Department of Defense to manufacture munitions using a chemical called perchlorate that is harmful to humans. In rocketry’s early days, it was common to spread the excess perchlorate on the ground and let it evaporate – except too much of it seeped into the soil and groundwater, thus contaminating it.

The water decontamination is scheduled to start once the soil is cleaned and will last as long as 30 years. The soil cleanup has been going on for nine years, with various agencies often having said the completion is on schedule and then pushing back the completion date. Amini said this week that despite the Sept. 28 target completion date, he was shooting for the end of November. Now, that’s also unlikely.

Rick Drew, head of the Whittaker-Bermite Citizens Advisory Group, said this is just business as usual.

“It goes along with what I’ve been saying: three to five years,” Drew said. “We’re still three to five years (away). I’ve been involved with it 10 years now.”

Amini hopes that the two agencies will realize that this permit is not for developers but for the good of the community and issue the permit quickly.

“If I have the permit in my hand on Nov. 15, I should be done with the project within the January-February time frame,” he said. “I’m optimistic (but) I have no idea. It’s a hope, not a promise.”

SCV Man of the Year Donation

| News | October 4, 2018

Nick Lentini, a past president of the Santa Clarita Valley Rotary Club, was selected as 2018 SCV Man of the Year during ceremonies held in May at the Valencia Hyatt Hotel. Nick will now serve as 2018-19 chair of the Man and Woman of the Year committee with 2018 Woman of the Year honoree Gloria Mercado-Fortine. The annual event, which started in 1964, recognizes outstanding volunteers whose names have been submitted by various charitable and service organizations in the Santa Clarita Valley.

From those ranks, a man and a woman are selected for special recognition. The Man and Woman of the Year committee is comprised of former recipients. They make the selections each year based on the nominees’ years of community service (not work related), “sweat” equity, and the impact of service to both the nominating organization and multiple local organizations.

Included in the honors that the 2018 Man and Woman of the Year received the night of the event were checks, which can be donated to their charitable or service organization of choice. Nick chose to donate his $2000 to the Newhall Rotary Club Foundation and made the check presentation Wednesday, Sept. 26, to current club president Tom Cole who then handed the check to foundation chair Mike Berger.

Rotarians who have received the honors over the years include: Rev. Sam Dixon, Ed Bolden, Jack Boyer, Steve Hall, Dan Hon, John Fuller, Clyde Smyth, Steve Schmidt, Frank Kleeman, Linda Pedersen, Mike Berger, Greg Nutter, Harry Bell, Mary Ann Colf, Steve Sturgeon, William Lively, Sue Endress, and Jim Lentini.

The Newhall Rotary Club Foundation is a not-for-profit, public benefit fund, which was started in 1977 during the presidency of CalArts executive Jack Clark to benefit local charities in the SCV area. Its board includes the current club president, vice president, secretary, and treasurer with six at-large members selected from the club. The group meets at designated times during the year for treasurer’s reports and nominations for that year’s recipients. The foundation corpus includes investments in the S&P 500, bonds, and CDs. Interest earned on the corpus is used for the annual donations to local charities.

From ‘Fighting Fascism’ to Running for School Board

| News | October 4, 2018

In person, he’s “Coach Dave” running for a non-partisan seat on the Saugus Union School District board. Online, however, he’s a liberal-leaning activist fighting what he sees as fascism in this country.

These are the two sides of David Barlavi. He wants to “Make American FUN Again” (his campaign slogan, and he has a website, teamMAFA.com) yet rails at Donald Trump, calling him “a treasonous president” and “Cheeto.” He refers to Republicans as “Repuglicans” and posted a picture of himself flipping off a person dressed like Trump in a striped jailbird costume.

He admits he has no idea how to run a campaign, but has definite ideas about how a school (and a district) should be run.

“Everything in life should be FUN and enjoyable, including politics,” he said on his campaign website. “This is especially true when it comes to the education and well-being of our kids, grandkids, teachers, and school staff & administrators.

But in recent years, we’ve lost the FUN of America.  Fortunately, we can get America’s FUN back with a new attitude toward our neighbors, communities and public service.”

In the course of a 56-minute interview Monday at The Paseo Club, Barlavi focused on his love of children, their importance and his history of coaching them, which helped formulate his platform. He also expressed conviction that his liberalism is the side that’s right and helpful, and the conservatism practiced in Washington today is harmful and on the side that’s wrong.

First, however, came the kids. Barlavi, 49 and an attorney, said he has coached more than 100 youths, including his children and grandchild, over 13 years in basketball, flag football and soccer (he also volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters). Some of that coaching took place at Bridgeport Elementary after a teacher who feared she was ill-equipped to teach football to her fifth graders reached out to him (Barlavi played football at Grant High in the 1980s.).

Running for school board, he said, is just a different way to help children. His platform centers on children being safe from what he calls the three Bs: bullies, bullets and bias.

“Bullying is counterproductive to education and learning,” he said. “We need to make sure kids are having fun.” Also, teachers need to be safe from bullying administrators.

“It’s a fear of open and honest communication that might lead to repercussions,” he said. “Teachers fear being able to express themselves in the classroom. … The board can be a leader in saying open and honest communication will not be punished.”

Barlavi said he is concerned with the “epidemic of school shootings,” reminding that a severe one happened at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. “There are steps we can take to make schools safer,” he said, including visitor photo-ID badges, searching bags, a full-time security guard at every school, cameras and motion detectors. He opposes metal detectors, however. As for bias, Barlavi said he’s worried about Muslim, immigrant and non-white children coming under scrutiny. “I want to make sure kids don’t feel uncomfortable at school and teachers feel welcome and comfortable,” he said.

Other platform points include:
•Working to increase state funding by creating ways that teachers, parents, business leaders and other stakeholders can directly pressure state representatives to make school funding a priority.
•Increase sports, music and the arts in the schools. Barlavi wants to hire physical education teachers, partner with the city and private leagues to ensure kids can participate, and ensure anyone who wants to play an instrument or engage in drawing, painting, sculpting or any other art can. He said he knows this costs money, which is why there needs to be an increase in school funding. He credits West Creek Academy for introducing African and Central American music and wants that to spread across all 15 district schools.

•All board members should be fingerprinted.
•Board members should serve no more than three terms (12 years).

Barlavi’s activism goes back to the 1992 beating of Rodney King. He has especially stepped up the rhetoric after Trump won the presidency.

An example comes from a July 22 Facebook posting: “90 percent of registered repuglicans are still trumpanzees, and their support for cheeto did not falter even last week with cheerio’s lips firmly on Putin’s rear end on world television. How will we be able to move on as a country like this? Even when we take our democracy back, these open bigots will still be among us? How will we deal with their undying support for fascism?”

Barlavi has his supporters. Meghan Rafferty posted that she would vote for him.

Scott Ervin, while not coming out and saying he supports Barlavi, played devil’s advocate when he posted, “So why CAN’T he be on the school board? Everyone knows DB is very supportive of ‘the children.’ His personal views, outside of being a (potential) school board member shouldn’t preclude him from serving on the board … right?”

But there are also people such as Wendy Garcia, who posted, “David Barlavi is a scary man. Anyone with children in the Saugus school district, I suggest you get out and vote. Stop thinking it doesn’t affect you, it does!”

And from Betty Arenson: “This type on a school board? NOOOO!”

To which Barlavi responds, “If you don’t feel my outspokenness and my beliefs don’t qualify me for serving, then don’t vote for me.”

It remains to be seen if he can defeat Jesus Henao and Evan Patlian and win the seat Paul De La Cerda chose not seek again.

Traffic Improvements at Sierra Highway and Golden Valley Road

| News | September 27, 2018

The City of Santa Clarita and Caltrans engineers have partnered with Caltrans to provide traffic enhancements. These enhancements will improve evening commute times at the busy intersection of Sierra Highway and Golden Valley Road.

Striping has been revised at the intersection to provide dual left turn lanes for northbound traffic. These improvements will allow twice as many vehicles to make a left turn on each cycle of the traffic signal. The update will also reduce delays and vehicle backup while improving safety at the intersection.

This project is one of many enhancements being completed in this area. In addition to these traffic improvements, Caltrans is working on repaving Sierra Highway between the Interstate 5 – State Route 14 interchange and Friendly Valley Parkway. City staff is also continuing work on the Sierra Highway Pedestrian Bridge and Street Improvements Project. For more information, visit santa-clarita.com/CIP.

For more information on these traffic improvements, contact City Traffic Engineer Gus Pivetti at gpivetti@santa-clarita.com, or at (661) 286-4047.

The Red Elephant in the Room

| News | September 27, 2018

Everywhere they look, red is turning purple, possibly on the way to blue. Unacceptable, they say, and so they fight in the way they know how: by educating, empowering and electing.

This is a strange time to be a Republican in California, and Terri Lovell knows this. Yet she and her fellow Santa Clarita Republican Women Federated (RWF) members don’t give up as they try, in their own way, to stem the tide of any kind of blue (read: Democratic) wave.

“We can see all around us California is being taken over by leftists, for a long time, as more and more people with those kind of leanings move into our district,” Lovell said. “The reason we still have hope is that there are a lot of Republicans in California.”

As an example, she said she attended a conference after the 2016 election and learned that more Californians volunteered, gave more money, worked more phone banks and pounded the pavement more than residents of any other state.

Additionally, more than 4 million Californians voted for Donald Trump; only Florida and Texas cast more votes. Whether that’s a function of California’s population can be debated, but it tells Lovell that the group shouldn’t give up just because the state won’t be giving its 55 electoral votes to a Republican anytime soon.

“I don’t think California is a lost cause,” she said. “California is worth fighting for.”

So, the Santa Clarita RWF sticks to its mission of registering Republicans to vote, educating people about conservative philosophies such as limited government and individual liberty, and electing people who share those philosophies.

The group, which started in 1951, meets the third week each month at The Oaks Club; one month for a Tuesday lunch and the next month for a Saturday breakfast. The meetings usually include updates from representatives of Republican office-holders (locally, that’s Steve Knight, Dante Acosta and Scott Wilk) and a guest speaker. That guest speaker could be someone local (Gazette publisher Doug Sutton spoke last month) or someone seeking a more major office (gubernatorial candidate John Cox came; Lovell said she invited Travis Allen, too, but he was double-booked).

Members often attend county, state and national conferences – Lovell heard her preferred presidential candidate, Ted Cruz, speak at one – where they get updates from elected leaders and attend workshops on such topics as leadership and writing ballot propositions. They also often meet with Knight, Wilk and Acosta in their offices to discuss issues and voice concerns.

During the city council debate about sanctuary cities, members turned out, and they currently are working hard in favor of Proposition 6, which would repeal the gas tax the Legislature passed last year.

Lovell named several members who are involved in specific areas. Linda Paine founded the Election Integrity Project, a non-profit dedicated to ensuring the integrity of voter rolls and stopping voter fraud. Donna Basail is a force within the Yes on 6 movement. Gala Cruz organized a Make America Great Again rally last year.

The group also involves itself with other outside conservative organizations, such as Young America’s Foundation, which commits itself to individual freedom, a strong national defense, free enterprise, and traditional values; and Turning Point USA, which combats what it sees as on-campus discrimination of conservative-leaning speakers.

Members participated in the recall of Josh Newman, a Democrat who represented the 29th state Senate district but was ousted because he voted in favor of the gas tax. Lovell points to that as a victory and an indication that the fight must continue.

“What keeps us going: We may not be able to have a huge impact, but we do get little victories,” Lovell said. “Keep chipping away. That’s the only choice we have. When we get those victories, good. Then maybe we can get another one. I don’t see anyone in my club with slumped shoulders. We have a really positive attitude. You want to fight for your state. As long as I’m here, I’m going to keep fighting for California and maybe one of these days, it’ll turn around.”

RAM PRCA California Circuit Finals Rodeo Returns to The Antelope Valley

| Community, News | September 20, 2018

The RAM PRCA (Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association) California Circuit Finals Rodeo Committee and the Antelope Valley Fairgrounds proudly announces the return of the RAM PRCA California Circuit Finals to the Antelope Valley Fair & Event Center on October 5 -7.

This year’s event will once again host the top twelve California rodeo contestants who will compete in all seven rodeo events, including bareback riding, bull riding, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, team roping, tie-down roping and barrel racing.

“We are thrilled to once again bring California’s best Rodeo professionals and the top animal ‘athletes’ to the Antelope Valley. The California Circuit Final Rodeo is one of the most competitive and exciting spectator sports,” PRCA California Circuit Committee Chairman Johnny Zamrzla said. “All of the rodeo events will surely thrill the most seasoned and new rodeo fans alike. We are fortunate to have tremendous partnership and community support that makes this caliber of event possible and I hope our local residents come out in droves to enjoy this affordable family-friendly event.”

In addition to great rodeo, the annual Craft Fair, featuring hundreds of crafters and shopping, returns to the H.W. Hunter Pavilion. Craft Fair shopping hours are 12 p.m. – 8 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. Entry to the Craft Fair is free on Friday and Saturday. Sunday Craft Fair hours are from 7 a.m. – 4 p.m. Entry to the Craft Fair on Sunday requires either a Rodeo or Lancaster Flea Market admission ticket.

The Van Dam Barn Dances will also return on Friday and Saturday night, immediately following the Rodeo. Dance the night away under the stars at the Corona Cantina, located right outside the grandstands. Live music on Friday night will be provided by Jake Nelson and the Tone Wranglers. On Saturday night, John Spear and The Runaway Train will entertain fans.

New to the event this year, will be the Lancaster Chamber of Commerce Flea Market and Car Show on Sunday, October 7. Paid admission tickets to the Flea Market include free rodeo matinee admission. Flea Market tickets are available for purchase at the box office on Sunday, October 7.

Rodeo festivities kick off on Friday, October 5, with Patriot Day. Active, retired and former military men and women and their dependents receive free admission. Free admission will be available at the box office on Friday evening only. All other fans are encouraged to show their patriotism by wearing red, white and blue. Gates open Friday at 12 p.m. and the Rodeo begins at 7 p.m.

Saturday evening Rodeo will open with a special ride in by Ride for the Pink, an organization dedicated to raising money for Breast Cancer research, awareness and treatment. Rodeo fans can show their support of finding a cure for Breast Cancer by wearing “Pink.” Gates open Saturday at 12 p.m. and the Rodeo begins at 7 p.m.

On Sunday, gates open at 7 a.m. Rodeo Matinee begins at 2 p.m. Sunday Rodeo or Flea Market tickets are $6. Sunday tickets include entry to both the Rodeo and Lancaster Flea Market.
According to AV Fair and Event Center CEO, Dan Jacobs, “This is going to be a fantastic fall weekend, a great venue and great events, Rodeo, Crafts Fair and the renowned Lancaster Flea Market and Car Show. An all-American sport, shopping, live music, dancing and more. It’s truly affordable family entertainment all weekend long with Rodeo tickets starting at just $25, and we offer $10 on-line promotional codes for Friday and Saturday Rodeo tickets. Sunday tickets are $6 and include access to the Flea Market, Craft Fair and Rodeo.

Ticket and parking information is available at avfair.com. For Rodeo details go to cafinalsrodeo.com. Visit lancasterchamber.org for Flea Market information.

Pre-Election Events

| News | September 20, 2018

An important part of filling out the November 6 election ballot will be casting votes to fill the three vacant seats on the Santa Clarita City Council. To help the public make an informed decision, two pre-election events are being held. With each of these events, everyone is welcome to attend and admission is free.

It is the intent of the sponsors, College of the Canyons’ Civic Engagement Steering Committee, the Santa Clarita Valley League of Women Voters, and the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, to provide a venue informing the public of the issues, and the candidate positions.

Monday, October 8 is the COC Candidate Forum, hosted by the College of the Canyons’ Civic Engagement Steering Committee, the Santa Clarita Valley League of Women Voters, and the Canyon Country Advisory Committee. The event will be held in the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, located on the College of the Canyons’ Valencia campus. All 15 candidates have been invited to participate. Mingle with the candidates and other attendees from 6:30 to 7 p.m., and then watch the forum from 7 to 9 p.m.

Wednesday, October 17, 7 to 9 p.m. is the second CCAC Meet and Greet to be held in the Mint Canyon Moose Banquet Room, 18000 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country. Attend this event to see and hear City Council Candidates Jason Gibbs, Bill Miranda, Sandra Nichols, Marsha McLean, and Laurene Weste answer questions asked directly by the audience.

Acton-Agua Dulce Bond Measure Questioned

| News | September 20, 2018

The text of the Acton-Agua Dulce Unified School District current bond measure, Measure CK, is misleading and should have been rewritten, opponents claim. The bond proponents, meanwhile, insist the language is legal and meets state-law requirements.

The measure asks the voters to approve $7.5 million in general obligation bonds to renovate or modernize Agua Dulce and Meadowlark Elementary schools, High Desert Middle School and Vazquez High School, plus the charter school that currently sits on the site of Acton School that the district still owns. The list of projects includes upgrading electrical systems, painting, lighting, sewer and septic systems; fix, repair or replace leaky roofs, air conditioning, heating and ventilation; get new security cameras, computers, hardware and software; construct or improve athletic facilities, bring everything up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards; and repair, replace or improve paving, roadways, access ramps and landscaping.

The voters need to pass the measure with a 55-percent majority to enact it.
“If it doesn’t pass, the community is missing out on a huge opportunity,” Superintendent Larry King said.

Despite its enrollment numbers of just 10,016 students as of 2016-17, King says the district is suffering from overcrowding, the result of having to close Agua Dulce due to low enrollment and turning Meadowlark into grades K-4 and High Desert into grades 5-8. The plan was to reopen Acton but the state didn’t allow it, King said.

Steve Petzold, principal officer of The Center for Truth in School Bond Measures, is the bond measure’s primary opponent, having written the argument against the measure and the rebuttal to the argument in favor of it. He raised several concerns over the course of several interviews.

“This (school) board has an obligation to the voters to give them the facts up front so they can make an informed decision,” Petzold said.

First, Petzold claimed, the text of the bond question violates Proposition 39 (2000) because it requires “a specific list of school projects to be funded,” but the current list is vague. King says the district’s San Francisco-based bond counsel, Jones Hall, advised on the wording. “We did not get super specific because we wanted bond flexibility,” King said.

To which Petzold replied, “It’s very honest, but how the hell can you make it general?”

Bill Kadi, a Jones Hall shareholder who said he was one of a team that advised, wrote and reviewed the measure, said he is satisfied it meets all statutory requirements.

Petzold also said the language does not meet the requirements of Section 13119 of the state Elections Code that requires the ballot question to be written, “Shall the measure (stating the nature thereof) be adopted?” The bond question is not written in that format, but Kadi said it’s not applicable because it’s a bond, not a measure.

The law also says the wording applies, “If the proposed ordinance imposes a tax…” Kadi disagreed, saying, “We don’t believe it’s applicable to a school bond.”

Richard Michael, who runs the website Big Bad Bonds and spoke to Petzold about Measure CK, said county clerks violate this law all the time. His website lists 25 of them, including Los Angeles County’s Dean Logan. Petzold sent Logan a letter, a copy of which he provided the Gazette, in which he lists six examples of how the bond measure isn’t written according to state law. One of those is Section 15122 of the Education Code that requires the words “Bonds-Yes” and “Bonds-No” in the ballot question, which are currently absent.

Petzold also forwarded an email from Julane Whalen, constituent services coordinator with the County Registrar-Recorder/Clerk’s office. “The Code does not compel this Office to take any action based on the demands listed in your letter,” she wrote. “At this point, we have reviewed these requests and no further action by this Office will be taken at this time.”

This didn’t surprise Michael. “Nobody is going to unless somebody sues,” he said.

Kadi said the final text would include the required wording, although the version currently available on Michael’s website doesn’t.

A final concern with the wording is that the ballot question says the bonds would be sold “at legal rates” instead of listing the actual interest rate, which Michael said is currently a maximum of 12 percent. He thinks the rate isn’t mentioned because the bond measure is more likely to be rejected if people see the interest rate. His research shows only four of 1,243 bond measures since 2001 stated the interest rate, and all failed.

John Greenlee, managing director at Emeryville-based Caldwell Flores Winters, Inc. who also advised on the bond, said the “legal rate” is currently 12 percent.

This isn’t the first bond measure the district’s voters have had to consider. They previously approved Measure CF in 2008, which allowed for $13 million in bonds that allowed the district to primarily replace portable classrooms with permanent ones.

Petzold said that some of the issues he has with Measure CF affects the district’s credibility regarding Measure CK. For example, Proposition 39 requires a school board to conduct annual, independent financial and performance audits until all bond funds have been spent to ensure that the bond funds have been used only for the projects listed in the measure. On the district website, an audit is combined for the years 2009-15, along with audits for 2016 and 2017.

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Lynn David said these were done before she arrived a year ago and doesn’t know why they were combined. “All audits are clean audits,” meaning all funds have been spent only for the purposes stated in the bond measure.

Petzold also wondered why Measure CF was for $13 million, but latest audit says $15.9 million. Greenlee said that’s because the bonds were capital appreciation bonds in which no interest was initially paid. When the payments come due, accountants list the interest as additional principal, he said.

Petzold also pointed out that Measure CF’s estimated property taxes was $25 per $100,000 of assessed value but in reality became $38 per $100,000 of assessed value. Greenlee said that since bonds are issued over 30 years, the assessed value has to be estimated because it’s impossible to predict what will happen over 30 years. In this case, the demise in the real estate market affected the value of homes, so the dollar amount went up.

Knight Returned Two NRA Checks

| News | September 20, 2018

When Rep. Steve Knight told the “Talk of Santa Clarita” podcast that he had not taken any money from the National Rifle Association, it wasn’t true, according to Federal Election Commission filings.

As reported by the progressive magazine Mother Jones, the Knight campaign accepted $5,000 from the NRA in a 13-month span: $2,500 in July, $1,500 in May and $1,000 in July 2017 (this on top of $3,000 he accepted during the 2016 election cycle). These contributions appear in the NRA’s FEC filings but not Knight’s because political action committees must file monthly; candidates must file quarterly, and the third quarter ends Sept. 30.

Knight (R-Palmdale) campaign consultant Matt Rexroad said the campaign returned the two 2018 checks, although he acknowledged the $2,500 was deposited before being returned.

As for the July 2017 check, Rexroad said, “He made his statement publicly and we’re trying to live up to that standard. July 2017, we’re not dealing with that.”

Knight’s opponent for the 25th congressional district seat, Katie Hill, who has criticized him for taking NRA money, told the Gazette she was surprised when she first heard Knight say on the podcast, “Well, we haven’t taken any funds from the NRA lately.”
“It’s just another indication he will say one thing when it suits him, but if he gets in front of gun lovers, he’ll say he gladly takes from the NRA,” Hill said.

The NRA has endorsed Knight and given him an A rating. The NRA Political Victory Fund gave him the same rating in 2016 for his “proven pro-Second Amendment record and is committed to protecting your gun rights!”

Rexroad said Knight’s record on the Second Amendment “is what is it, and I imagine it will continue.”

Mother Jones reported that gun violence prevention groups object to Knight’s co-sponsoring a bill that would force states to recognize out-of-state concealed-carry permits, as well as his votes that would prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs and Social Security Administration from sharing individuals’ mental-health records with the background-check system that is used to determine whether individuals are eligible to purchase weapons.

Furthermore, Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-Ariz.), who founded a gun-control group, has spent $12,000 in digital ads opposing Knight’s re-election, Mother Jones reported.

Tickets on Sale Now for the State of the City Luncheon

| News | September 14, 2018

This year’s State of the City Luncheon will be held on Thursday, October 25, at 11:30 a.m., at the Hyatt Regency Valencia. The theme for this year is Santa Clarita – City of the Arts. Guests will get to explore the artistic renaissance that is growing in our city, thanks to our talented pool of local artists, additional live theatre opportunities, music, public art pieces and so much more.

As always, the State of the City Luncheon will be an opportunity to celebrate accomplishments over the last year and look forward to what the future holds for the City of Santa Clarita. Guests will get to enjoy live performances from local artists, hear updates from the city council, watch video highlights filled with the latest on city projects and much more.

“I look forward to the State of the City every year, but this year is extra special,” said Mayor Laurene Weste. “I am a passionate supporter of arts in our community and look forward to sharing more about future public art pieces, new programs, updates on arts funding and a special commemorative gift that will bring out the artist in you.”

Tickets are $40 per person and $400 per table of 10. Ticket price includes luncheon and a commemorative gift. For more information, call the City of Santa Clarita at (661) 255-4939.

Obama Stumps for Hill

| News | September 14, 2018

Former President Barack Obama came to Orange County last week to stump for several Democratic congressional candidates, including Katie Hill. It was the first time someone so prominent spoke for somebody running for the 25th district seat.

Hill couldn’t be there, having committed to attending the Los Angles County Labor Federation in Acton.

“Making the decision to miss the event with President Obama wasn’t easy – like so many of you, I have a deep respect for President Obama and it is an honor to have his support,” Hill said in a statement. “However, I chose to stay in my district because I made a commitment to our community months ago to be there, and keeping my commitments to the people of the 25th district is the very reason I am running for office.”

Obama spoke Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center in support of Hill and six others. He said of Hill, “Even though Katie Hill can’t be here today – she’s at another event for working men and women in L.A. – but if you’re from her community, you already know Katie: Daughter of a local nurse and a police officer, educated in the public schools, she’s running to take the values of her community to Washington and make real change.”

Since the district was drawn in its current boundaries, no one with such status as Obama ever stumped for a candidate. Buck McKeon didn’t need the help; neither did current two-term incumbent Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), whom Hill seeks to unseat.

“It’s hugely significant,” Hill said of Obama’s stumping. “This shows how important this district is across the country. It’s a must-win district for the Democrats. We know the fate of the Congress depends on who wins the House. This is what we’re seeing. Republicans are doing what they can to keep Steve Knight in. Democrats are doing everything they can to make sure I win.”

Knight campaign consultant Matt Rexroad said Obama coming some 75 miles away from the district to stump changes nothing, and he didn’t read any significance into it.

“We’re just rolling along,” he said. “I think you’re the only one calling us about it.”

Legal Battle Between Council Candidates Continues

| City Council, News | September 13, 2018

Brett Haddock will have his day in court Sept. 27 when his appeal of the restraining order fellow city council candidate Sean Weber secured against him will be heard in the state Court of Appeal.

Haddock said he had hoped that the court would stay the order on First Amendment grounds without a hearing, but the court’s tentative opinion backs Weber.

“We are inclined to find the appellate record inadequate to evaluate his constitutional claims,” the appeal said. “While Haddock may be allowed to publicly criticize Weber online, other evidence in the record showed a course of private harassing conduct directed at Weber and his family that justified the order.”

Weber said in a statement: “There is a group of online bullies (aka internet trolls) who try to shut down anyone who threatens their traditional power base. These groups of trolls (some paid) participate in and run social media forums targeting opponents for the sole purpose of harassing them.”

Haddock said his attorney told him it’s normal for an appeal court to come out with a tentative opinion that upholds the lower court’s ruling. Weber secured a two-year restraining order that expires July 2019, citing his fears that Haddock was going to “kill my family” because online posts from 2015 show Haddock talking about going on a “murderous rampage” and that Weber is Haddock’s “target.” Court documents showed Weber’s attorney also said Haddock posted some of Weber’s easily identifiable information such as address, date of birth and car’s license plate.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Commissioner Laura Hymowitz issued the restraining order despite saying, “Most of what Mr. Haddock is doing just doesn’t quite reach the standard.”

Haddock provided the Gazette with a copy of his appeal and an amicus brief filed by two members of the UCLA School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic. Haddock claims the court erred in issuing a restraining order against him because the actions he took – he has said Weber objects to his calling him out for what Haddock sees as bullying – were protected under the First Amendment.

“Most importantly, he effectively concedes that he sought the Order because he viewed Mr. Haddock’s political speech as illegitimate,” attorney Kenneth White of the Los Angles firm Brown White & Osborn wrote. “He … sneers that Mr. Haddock – a citizen, privileged by the First Amendment to write about what he sees fit – ‘had made something of a second career of “shedding light” on people who displeased him.’ What he does not show is substantial evidence of harassing conduct …”

Haddock also sent the Gazette a screen shot of what he called “a defamatory website” that was up for one day in July. The page calls Haddock “charlatan, bully, fraud, abuser.”

Haddock said his attorney sent a note to Weber’s attorney, and the site went down.

Weber said he didn’t know anything about any website. “My attorney never said anything,” he said.

“He’s being pretty relentless,” Haddock said, “and he’s got his cronies coming after me, which is always fun.” Two people he named were Jeff Martin, who has said Weber inspired him to run for a William S. Hart Union High School District board seat, and Nick Rowin, a friend of Weber’s who owns a plumbing business.

Martin couldn’t recall ever having spoken to Haddock and guessed that his vocal support of Weber has caused Haddock to put him in that group. Rowin said it sounded like Haddock, who Rowin incorrectly called “a sitting council member,” accused him of online bullying, which he denied doing by saying, “absolutely not.”

He did, however, say he spoke to Weber about the case and posted an article on Facebook on Sept. 6 that included the transcript of the hearing.

“The intent Mr. Haddock had is pretty mean,” he said.

Weber provided an online plea from May 4, 2017 asking people to “please stay away from the negative direction some have gone. They want to drown out our voices with intimidation. Don’t be baited into a negative tone. I want their support too. So, please select your words carefully, showing intellect. Minds can be changed. Notice that the only ones that say anything negative about m also state that they don’t know me. Get to know each other. We are the community.”

For now, the restraining order stands, but Haddock said it has not yet affected his council campaign, although he expects Weber to “show up at my events and be as disruptive as possible.”

“People are aware of it,” he said. “The feeling I get is a level of admiration for weathering the storm for standing up to Sean Weber and his cult of personality. My fear is people won’t see it for what it is: calling out Mr. Weber. My hope is that it’s transparent.”

The Bridge to Somewhere, Someday

| News | September 13, 2018

An unforeseen complication with a storm drain has caused a “substantial delay” in construction of the pedestrian bridge near the intersection of Golden Valley Road and Sierra Highway, city officials said.

The city set a target completion date for November, and according to city communications specialist Mayumi Miyasato, that is still the plan. But according to the city’s website, the bridge was supposed to be installed this summer.

“At this moment the crew is working on preparing the foundation for the bridge placement,” Miyasato said in an email. “The steel-truss bridge itself is currently being fabricated out of state and we expect to receive the bridge sometime in October when it will be placed.”

The city council last Sept. 26 awarded $3,477,652 to C.A. Rasmussen, Inc., to build the bridge that will go over Sierra north of Golden Valley. Miyasato said it’s part of a federally funded project that includes a new bus turnout and right-turn lane from southbound Sierra onto Golden Valley, a new sidewalk, bus shelter pad, access ramps and crosswalks, landscaping, street lights, extending the median nose, new pavement and traffic striping, and signal modifications to allow for U-turns.

Additionally, the intersection of Sierra and Rainbow Glen Drive will receive pavement maintenance, traffic striping and signal modifications for U-turns, Miyasato said.

“The City is diligently working to complete the project and will continue to do its part to ensure the impact to our residents is mitigated,” Miyasato said.

Public Invited to Permit Center Open House at City Hall

| News | September 7, 2018

The City of Santa Clarita and Santa Clarita City Council invite the public to attend a Permit Center Open House on Tuesday, September 11, from 4 to 5:30 p.m. at the Permit Center, located at 23920 Valencia Boulevard, Suite 140.

The Santa Clarita City Council will start the event with a welcome highlighting the services offered at the Permit Center. Permit Center staff will showcase the new online Permit Guide software and representatives from the city’s Building and Safety, Engineering and Planning divisions will be present to answer any questions.

The Permit Center at City Hall offers residents, contractors and businesses a one-stop shop for building and safety, engineering and planning needs. Providing applicants with a central place to obtain development permits, the Permit Center attempts to make applying for and obtaining permits simple.

In addition, the city recently launched a new online Permit Guide software for residential construction projects at santa-clarita.com/PermitCenter. The new website is user-friendly and provides easy, step-by-step guidance through the process of obtaining approvals and permits from the city. The online Permit Guide is currently only available for residential construction projects, but an option for commercial projects is in the works.

For additional information about the Permit Center Open House event, contact City Building Official John Caprarelli at jcaprarelli@santa-clarita.com or at (661) 255-4396.

In the Present – A History of Banned Books, Part 2

| News | September 6, 2018

by Natalia Radcliffe

Even in the modern age, books have been subject to challenges or bans.

One recent example in California is John Green’s “The Fault in Our Stars,” which was banned at Riverside’s Frank Augustus Miller Middle School in 2014. According to Suzanne Hurt, a writer for local Riverside news outlet “The Press-Enterprise,” the book was ultimately removed after a parent “questioned whether the book should be available at the middle school library because the subject matter involves teens dying of cancer who use crude language,” in addition to the book’s discussion of sexual matters.

Green has made it onto the American Library Association’s top ten most challenged books list four times in the past eight years with his book “Looking for Alaska.”

According to the ALA’s website, found under “Top Ten Most Challenged Books Lists,” for 2017, the “ALA Office for Intellectual Freedom tracked 354 challenges to library, school and university materials… Of the 416 books challenged or banned…the Top 10 Most Challenged Books are:

  1. “Thirteen Reasons Why” written by Jay Asher
    Originally published in 2007, this New York Times bestseller has resurfaced as a controversial book after Netflix aired a TV series by the same name. This YA (young adult) novel was challenged and banned in multiple school districts because it depicts suicide.
  2. “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” written by Sherman Alexie
    Consistently challenged since its publication in 2007 for acknowledging issues such as poverty, alcoholism, and sexuality, this National Book Award winner was challenged in school curriculums because of profanity and situations that were deemed sexually explicit.
  3. “Drama” written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
    This Stonewall Honor Award-winning, 2012 graphic novel from an acclaimed cartoonist was challenged and banned in school libraries because it includes LGBT characters and was considered “confusing.”
  4. “The Kite Runner” written by Khaled Hosseini
    This critically acclaimed, multigenerational novel was challenged and banned because it includes sexual violence and was thought to “lead to terrorism” and “promote Islam.”
  5. “George” written by Alex Gino
    Written for elementary-age children, this Lambda Literary Award winner was challenged and banned because it includes a transgender child.
  6. “Sex is a Funny Word” written by Cory Silverberg, illustrated by Fiona Smyth
    This 2015 informational children’s book written by a certified sex educator was challenged because it addresses sex education and is believed to lead children to “want to have sex or ask questions about sex.”
  7. “To Kill a Mockingbird” written by Harper Lee
    This Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, considered an American classic, was challenged and banned because of violence and its use of the N-word.
  8. “The Hate U Give” written by Angie Thomas
    Despite winning multiple awards and being the most searched-for book on Goodreads during its debut year, this YA novel was challenged and banned in school libraries and curriculums because it was considered “pervasively vulgar” and because of drug use, profanity, and offensive language.
  9. “And Tango Makes Three” written by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson, illustrated by Henry Cole
    Returning after a brief hiatus from the Top Ten Most Challenged list, this ALA Notable Children’s Book, published in 2005, was challenged and labeled because it features a same-sex relationship.
  10. “I Am Jazz” written by Jessica Herthel and Jazz Jennings, illustrated by Shelagh McNicholas
    This autobiographical picture book co-written by the 13-year-old protagonist was challenged because it addresses gender identity.”

These banned books make up a wide range of genres, and feature many different kinds of topics. The reasons behind the backlash are vast, however, there are many similarities. Sexual content and LGBTQ+ issues appear to be contributing factors as to why they are banned.

This year, Banned Books Week is September 23-29. For an in-depth look at the history of banned books, visit the American Library Association’s website.

Picture obtained from http://www.ala.org/advocacy/bbooks/NLW-Top10

Cornhole-in-One

| News | September 6, 2018

A stranger approached Ben Budhu and offered his explanation of the game Budhu calls cornhole: It’s an excuse to drink beer, socialize and throw beanbags at a hole.

“You pretty much nailed it,” Budhu said with a laugh before adding, “and you’re not going to get hurt.”

Whether it’s called cornhole, beanbag toss, bag toss, sack toss, bean sack or any other name, if it’s being played in Santa Clarita, chances are Budhu is somehow involved.

Every Monday, he hosts games at The Dudes’ Brewery in Valencia. Twelve times a year, he runs a four-week league out of Wolf Creek Brewery (the current iteration, which has its league finals Friday, has 26 teams). He does corporate and charity events, too.

On Labor Day, he was at The Dudes’ again, only this time running a 100-person tournament, with the winner (he and his partner, as it turned out) earning a free hotel stay and entry into the Wild West Showdown in Las Vegas Nov. 2-4.

Many locals competed, as did teams from the Antelope Valley, Ventura, San Diego and Fresno. Just about each time someone new walked into the brewery, Budhu greeted them warmly with a guttural groan or a “what’s happenin’, buddy?” He then used an app he and a buddy created to sign up people into the tournament.

Cornhole dates to 1883 but gained popularity in Cincinnati and Chicago in the 1970s. The two competing governing bodies, the American Cornhole Association and American Cornhole Organization, are in the Cincinnati area. The ACA runs the American Cornhole League, which sanctions the Las Vegas tournament; and ESPN broadcasts the ACO national championships.

It’s a simple game: Teams of two to four try to toss four one-pound beanbags into a six-inch hole from 27 feet away. The beanbags are six-by-six inches, with one side being slicker so it can slide on the board and the other side stickier so it doesn’t slide.

The hole is in a two-feet-by-four-feet platform called a board that is raised three inches in front and 12 inches at the back. Bags that go into the hole are worth three points; those on the board get one point. The first team to get 21 points wins, but points are only earned after cancellation scoring. This means that if Team A throws four bags into the hole and Team B lands three bags on the board, Team A gets nine points.

Budhu discovered the game four years ago and thought he was really good. Then he found out that he had been playing it wrong, tossing from 20 feet instead of 27. Still, he went online and discovered the ACA and ACO, neither of which had any West Coast presence.
So, he took it upon himself to spread the game. He found SCV Cornhole in 2015 and is now a certified regional director, meaning he can run tournaments.

The Labor Day one featured 30 teams, many with names befitting the sport: CornDawgs, Slide It In, Me So Corny, Can O Corn (Budhu played on SellBud; his wife and sister competed as Booyah Sisters).

Brian Reagan, who competed on Sacks Deep, said he had only been playing four months. He said he saw a Facebook posting from Budhu, came out one Monday, “had a blast and now I’m here all the time.”

He said he loved the competitive spirit and the people, plus the beer.

Chris Haslock competed with his son, Chad, as the Haz Beens. He said the team name arose out of him and his kids playing baseball and softball; now, they play cornhole and are “has beens” with the other sports.

“I would golf with my dad,” Chris said. “Now, it’s me and my kids playing cornhole.”

He said the family likes the game so much that on a recent golf vacation to Palm Springs, they brought along their cornhole bags and boards and played poolside, in their hotel rooms and in a nearby bar.

They played two rounds of golf.

Sitting off to one side was Budhu’s wife, Sheri. Does she consider herself a cornhole widow?

“I call him my corn star,” she said.

District Voting: The People Could Force the Issue

| City Council, News | September 6, 2018

When Mark White ran for city council in 2016, changing to district elections instead of at-large voting was one of his platform points. Although he’s not running this time, he still feels the city would be better served if there were elected representatives from various communities.

“We shouldn’t be a city where one half of one percent gets elected and decides who runs things,” he said. “District elections will make it harder for them to decide.”

Santa Clarita is one of the largest cities that has not moved to district voting, even though attempts have been made. Most famous was the lawsuit the city settled in 2014 after two Latino plaintiffs claimed they and their fellow Latinos’ votes were diluted under the California Voting Rights Act. The CVRA, which expands on the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965, has been widely used to compel cities, school districts, water boards and the like to move to district voting. But the city didn’t, instead moving the election to November from April and going to cumulative voting, which a judge threw out.

White fears another lawsuit – and the settlement that taxpayers would foot – is coming.
“It’s inevitable,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if a lawsuit happened right after the election, even if (current councilmember) Bill Miranda gets elected.”

However, White is not actively looking for a plaintiff to sue, nor is he personally planning to sue, which wouldn’t work because the CVRA is used to prove minority groups have their votes diluted.

A lawsuit isn’t the only way the city would be forced to move to district voting. Two other ways exist: the council places the matter on the ballot or an initiative earns enough signatures to qualify for a vote.

Since three current councilmembers, Bob Kellar, Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste, oppose moving to district voting, the only way the council will put the matter to the people is if candidates who favor it are elected (McLean and Weste are running for re-election in November).

The other two councilmembers, Miranda and Cameron Smyth, are open to discussing it, although Miranda said in a text he wants “input from the public before deciding whether to introduce (the) measure to the council. The input needs to be a large sample.”

Candidates on the record of either favoring district voting or letting the people decide include Logan Smith, Diane Trautman, Brett Haddock (“We desperately need districts,” he said) and TimBen Boydston. Smith even went as far as calling for seven districts and directly electing the mayor, and Boydston said he would ask to place the matter on the council agenda during the very first meeting after he’s sworn in.

Common reasons given for making the move include spending less money to get elected and that the city is too large and too many people don’t feel like they are being heard.

“It’s time for our community to move in that direction,” Trautman said. “I want people to feel they are having a voice in their governance. This is something we (should discuss) to understand what it entails, what it involves, what the repercussions would be.”

Another possibility is the initiative process, which Haddock said he would explore if he were not elected. The state Election Code spells out the process for how a municipal initiative (as opposed to a state ballot proposition) could qualify for a ballot. Basically, proponents must file intent to circulate a petition, the initiative’s text and any other written statement or purpose (500 words maximum) to the city clerk, plus pay a maximum $200 filing fee. The same information also has to be published in a local newspaper.

Then the proponents have 180 days to collect enough signatures (10 percent of the city’s registered voters for a regular election, 15 percent for a special election) to qualify. This is where it gets expensive. Haddock and community activist Alan Ferdman estimated it would cost $100,000 to successfully qualify for a ballot, which was the cost to defeat Measure S. Most of those costs would be from hiring paid signature gatherers and advertising.

“With 30 to 40 people, it could be done,” Ferdman said, “but it would require a large amount of dedicated individuals that would be willing to spend three months or however long.”

Right now, the initiative process seems a real long shot. White said he hadn’t even thought about it, Trautman would be willing to work on it but not take the lead, and Haddock might take the lead but is worried about the cost. Smyth said he wouldn’t sign the petition.

Boydston also questioned whether district voting is as important to others as it is to White and Haddock, who put district voting among his top five priorities.

“I don’t see the issue, like many city-level issues, as being important enough to enough people,” Boydston said. “The population, as a whole, doesn’t have enough time to follow the arguments.”

McLean Touts Vision and Experience

| News | August 30, 2018

If the three most important words in real estate are “location, location, location,” then the three most important words in Marsha McLean’s city council re-election campaign are “experience, experience, experience.”

She laughed at this suggestion, but make no mistake: Over a long career that has included four council terms, McLean has amassed a sizable list of accomplishments, 20 of which were on a sheet of paper she provided.

“I could keep you here another hour,” she said near the end of a 59-minute interview at Cathy’s Deli.

However, if pushed, McLean lists the following: her involvement with Bridge to Home and securing more affordable housing, the new senior center and sheriff’s station; increased train service, including a direct route to Burbank airport, and various capital projects in various stages of development. These include, but aren’t limited to, the Canyon Country Community Center, the parking structure and Laemmle Theatres in Newhall, a new library/community center in Saugus and replacing bridges and infrastructure in Valencia.

McLean also kept returning to all of the various committees, coalitions, organizations, associations, task forces, councils, clubs and boards she has served, led, sat on, worked for and advised. Another handout she provided listed 28 different bullet points, many of which included more than one position or organization.

“There’s something to be said for experience,” she said. “(With) my experience on regional boards and commissions, I have built up relationships that benefit the people of Santa Clarita. That doesn’t happen overnight. We still have many issues ahead of us in which the relationships I have built are relevant.”

One issue she returned to repeatedly regarded roads. She claimed she secured $300 million for roads and road improvements, including a $47 million federal Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant. A press release from Rep. Steve Knight said the $47 million was an Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) grant to the county Metropolitan Transportation Authority that would help ease congestion on Interstate 5; McLean’s name was nowhere to be found.

Many people, most notably TimBen Boydston, have criticized McLean for allowing traffic to escalate to the point of comparing it to the San Fernando Valley. McLean said she’s ready to have roads built through the Whittaker-Bermite property right now, as well as extending Magic Mountain Parkway, Santa Clarita Parkway and Via Princessa. There just needs to be a developer willing to come in and show a plan.

The problem is no developer wants to build only roads. They want to build homes, offices, retail centers – McLean envisions a large conference center – and everything else a developer and city council want with 996 acres to spare. But since no plans have been forthcoming, there are no new roads, and traffic continues to worsen.

“You have to fight for it. You have to work for it, on all levels of government,” McLean said. “We are not finished with our roads.”

While McLean touts accomplishments and optimism, when challenged and criticized she states that certain people “have a propensity to always bring out the negativity, so I don’t believe in negativity. I believe in truth, and if I sound defensive and sensitive, I can’t help how you think it sounds. I’m trying to tell you the way things are, and I would find it very sad if everything positive gets turned into a negative.”

Still, she knows as an incumbent, she wears a target. Various council candidates have objected to various qualities, behaviors and actions McLean (and other councilmembers) have taken.

Mostly, she sticks to a pat answer: “I respect other people’s opinions even when I don’t agree with them.” This was her response when asked to respond to Brett Haddock’s calling for a four-term limit, Logan Smith’s thinking the council has its mind made up before coming into chambers and hearing public comment, and Boydston’s criticism of “One Valley, One Vision.”

City Council Candidate Diane Trautman was once appointed to the city Planning Commission by McLean. When asked to respond to Trautman, who said, “Marsha takes offense when anybody disagrees. She’s really sensitive,” McLean interrupted and said, “I’ve known Diane Trautman years upon years upon years. I won’t comment on what she says, but she knows me better than that.”

Regarding the three-councilmember rule she said, “No comment. We need to – no comment.”

She answered almost every other question. She said she reads each council agenda packet in its entirety, asks the city manager numerous questions (most of which are answered before the council meeting), and reads various other city, county and private-sector reports looking to find ways to benefit the city.

“I am in this job 24-7,” she said. “My day goes beyond an eight-hour day. That’s just the way I wish to do the job.”

She does not think, as Trautman does, she gets critical or insulted if someone comes in and offers an opposing viewpoint. “We are five members that were elected to our positions,” she said before correcting herself because Bill Miranda had been appointed. “I represent the residents of Santa Clarita. My decisions are based on facts and as a resident what I feel is best for the residents of the city.”

That is why she said she voted against marijuana dispensaries in the city. She said a majority of residents have emailed, called and spoken to her voicing their objections. When asked to provide how wide a majority, she refused.

“I talk to families. I talk to parents, and the way they feel is they don’t want their children exposed to this,” she said. “People who need access to medical marijuana should have access to medical marijuana, and they do.”

McLean turned 78 in July. She is running for her fifth term and, unlike Laurene Weste and Bob Kellar, has not ruled out running again in four years.

“I have a vision, and I have the experience necessary to ensure our city continues to grow and enjoy the quality of life our citizens deserve,” she said.

Monitoring Traffic from the Bowels of City Hall

| News | August 30, 2018

Deep within the third floor of City Hall is a window. You could walk past it and never realize it’s there or what’s behind it. The sign on the glass is nondescript, too: “Traffic Operations Center.” Blinds are shut, preventing any peeks inside.

The locked door leads to another door that requires punching in a code to gain access. But once past that door, enter the center and see how the city monitors the flow of traffic.

It’s not a very large room, just 216 square feet, but three large screens on two walls and four smaller screens atop a desk in the center of the room dominate. Opposite the entrance are five large cabinet doors that hide the computers. Next to the door are 11 other computerized boxes called controllers.

This is the room where Cesar Romo spends much of his time, when he’s not out in the field or looking at the same images and intersections on his cell phone that are on the screens.

“I’m very passionate about this,” said Romo, the city’s traffic signal system administrator. “I’m always looking for ways to make traffic better for Santa Clarita.”

Romo took about an hour Tuesday to demonstrate how the multimillion-dollar system works and has been operating since 2006. First, some basics: The city only monitors the 191 signals within the city limits, so if someone calls and reports a malfunction to a light in Stevenson Ranch or Castaic, Romo or a city staffer will call the county or Caltrans to report it.

On one desktop screen is an overhead map of the valley filled with colored dots that denote traffic signals. The colors have meanings: A green dot means the signal is synchronized and operating properly, a blue dot means a signal only changes when a car trips a sensor at the intersection, a purple dot means a train is crossing, and a red dot means the signal is offline but not necessarily malfunctioning, Romo said. In fact, during the demonstration, red dots changed to green or blue.

When Romo clicks on a dot, the intersection pops onto the screen, courtesy of a satellite photo. Green or yellow arrows appear and disappear, indicating the flow of traffic (no arrow means the light is red). There’s also a flashing red light to indicate a pedestrian (shown as an orange light at a corner) pushed the crosswalk button.

On another desktop screen, Romo calls up a camera that’s broadcasting live from the intersection. Now, he can watch traffic move on one screen and see how it matches the arrows on the other screen.

“It’s nice to be able to look at two images and see traffic at the same time,” city Traffic Engineer Gus Pivetti said.

From this remote distance, Romo said, he can modify the timing if needed, whether by emergency, malfunction or enough people call about an intersection and he, after investigating, decides it needs modification.

“It’s a lengthy process,” he said. “You can’t just retime one light. You have to look at the whole artery.”

And if he’s not in the office, he can call up the image on his phone.

When a signal malfunctions or when the sheriff’s department makes changes because of an accident, Romo and Pivetti are among those in the department that get emails – no matter the time of day or night.

“Whether he’s in the center or not, there’s full-time communication,” Pivetti said.

If the situation warrants alerting the public, when a fire erupts, a water main breaks or an evacuation is needed, city spokesperson Carrie Lujan gets involved by sending the alert through various social media platforms. Then Romo or someone else calls the county, because that’s who’s in charge of signal maintenance.

Another aspect the center has been able to help determine is the need for what Romo and Pivetti call “dynamic lanes,” which are lanes that can be used for various purposes at various times of day.

Romo called up the intersection of Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway. The camera – one of 300 the city uses – showed that eastbound on Soledad Canyon, a sign lights up at certain times to make the right lane, normally a turn lane, a lane to either go straight or turn right.

This system also showed that over time, that intersection needed more left-turn lanes, so the city moved the median over, giving more lanes to the eastbound Soledad Canyon and northbound Sierra Highway sides.

Since the traffic center has been online for several years now, there have been several upgrades and improvements (Romo said he’s currently in Phase 4A
of 7). A current one is called the adaptive traffic system, and its purpose is to measure the best timing plan during peak hours.

Romo is testing the system in Canyon Country on Whites Canyon Road between Stillmore and Steinway streets because there are three schools nearby “and traffic fluctuates a lot,” Romo said. “I want the system to adapt.”

Is it a perfect system? Romo admits it’s not.

“It’s going to have some issues, but what is acceptable?” he said. “Roads are designed to handle a certain number of vehicles. When the number of cars exceeds that, you have congestion.”

But something must be going right. In a back corner are various awards the center has won. These include two Best Use of Technology honors from the American Public Works Association and the 2007 Outstanding Public/Private Sector Civil Engineering Project from the American Society of Civil Engineers.

And yet, when asked if the residents by and large knew this room existed, Romo said, “I’m not sure.”

But he also said, “I think we manage traffic pretty good.”

Demolition of City-Owned Building Underway

| News | August 23, 2018

Demolition work has begun, as the City of Santa Clarita makes way for the new Canyon Country Community Center. Crews are working to take down the building on the recently acquired property, formerly Caruso II, as part of preparation for construction. The project site is on the northeast corner of Soledad Canyon Road and Sierra Highway and is expected to begin construction in the spring of 2019.

The demolition of this building, including the foundations and hardscape areas, will take approximately two to three weeks to complete. Reusable parts from the demolished building will be separated and sent to a recycling center. The Caruso II building was the last privately-owned property to be acquired, and is now being removed in order for the city to move forward with implementing the Community Center Master Plan, adopted by the city council in June of 2016.

The city has planned for this new facility to serve as a landmark welcoming people to Canyon Country. The center will be a community hub offering cultural enrichment in the form of classes, activities, programs and more, for both youth and adults. It will also have an outdoor event space and offer workshops for personal and professional development.

The city continues to work on completing the construction documents for this project and anticipates the project will go out to bid this fall. The Canyon Country Community Center is tentatively scheduled to open towards the end of 2020.

The new center will replace the existing temporary community center located on Flying Tiger Drive, at Sierra Highway.

For more information, visit the Santa Clarita 2020 website at SantaClarita2020.com, or contact Parks Planning Manager Wayne Weber at wweber@santa-clarita.com, or at (661) 255-4961.

Concussion Repercussions

| News, Sports | August 23, 2018

by Natalia Radcliffe

If you have seen the movie Who Framed Roger Rabbit, you might pity the rabbit. His head never gets a break, being subject to constant, comical thumps. For a human, having a glass cookie jar dropped on the skull does not result in laughter, but possibly, a concussion.

And recently, there has been increasing concern over concussions for local athletes. This concern is commonly seen in sports where there is a risk of obtaining head injuries.

A concussion occurs when the head suffers a jarring blow, causing the brain to slide around inside the skull. This can result in damage to the brain cells. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), some observable signs of a concussion are: “not being able to recall events prior to or after a hit or fall, appearing dazed or stunned, forgetting an instruction, being confused about an assignment or position, or unsure of the game, score, or opponent, moving clumsily, answering questions slowly, losing consciousness (even briefly), and showing mood, behavior, or personality changes.”

Locally, schools and organizations within the City of Santa Clarita have taken up the gauntlet to better protect its youth against concussions in regards to “tackle football,” the sport most associated with these kinds of injuries. The Hart School District, private schools, and Pop Warner organizations have been making an effort to prevent the repercussions of concussions.

The Hart School District consists of the public high schools Canyon, Saugus, Hart, Valencia, West Ranch, and Golden Valley. It has a partnership with Henry Mayo Hospital, which hires athletic trainers to be at each of the six schools. It was the first school district to hire such people. The athletic trainers’ main function is to oversee rehabilitation of injuries, making sure the proper protocol is followed so students can safely return to playing the game as soon as possible.

Dave Caldwell, the public relations officer of the Hart District, says the district “is very fortunate to have a full time, certified athletic trainer at each of the six schools. They make sure the athletes are healthy enough to play.”

The Hart District is part of the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) southern section, which oversees athletics in the state of California. Because it is a contact sport, there are rules put in place to prevent injuries, which include limiting the time spent on full contact practices in order to prevent the opportunity for students to suffer concussions. Caldwell also mentions there is an emphasis nationwide on training coaches to teach tackling techniques that do not require players to use their heads. There are even penalties “when players are leading with their heads or hit someone in the head with their heads,” known as targeting.

The local private Christian schools, Santa Clarita Christian (SCCS) and Trinity Classical Academy, are also working toward protecting their students.

All of Santa Clarita Christian’s coaches take a national course with the National Federation of State High School Associations’ (NFHS) in football and concussion safety before coaching students. They are always observing tackling and blocking techniques, and constantly work toward better ways that do not involve the head taking the brunt of the force. According to Mark Bates, the Athletic Director at SCCS, there have been major changes in how the game is played since he played football many years ago, when players would tackle headfirst.
These days, players tackle with the chest and shoulders, with the head being behind the body when the action occurs. The same thing goes with blocking. When Bates played football, players would block by hitting the opponents with their heads. Now, players are taught to use their hands. Helmets are another avenue in which the school is preventing concussions.

According to Bates, a helmet’s “primary use was to prevent lacerations on the head,” not to protect the brain from being jarred. This is not the case anymore, as the school uses newer helmets that better protect the head from hits as well as cuts. Like the Hart District, Santa Clarita Christian hires athletic trainers, but they are only are present at games. Bates says the school is working on getting them for practices as well. Despite these concerns, the school has not noticed a decrease in football registration.

Trinity Classical Academy is also working toward preventing concussions. According to Dr. Matthew J. Dixon, the Director of Athletics and Dean of Spiritual Life, the school has “been (obviously) having all coaches do the required CIF concussion training.” He says the school is “also exploring with better ways to register and account for injuries (including concussions), using tools like Player’s Health,” which, according to playershealth.com/about, is an interactive software that allows coaches to monitor and document injuries that happen while playing football. Coaches are also more aware of the consequences of a concussion injury, and therefore bench students over the slightest suspicion of one. As far as the school’s registration numbers for the football team, they have stayed the same 27 to 30 students, which Dr. Dixon says is normal for a school such as theirs.

The Pop Warner organizations say they are doing their part, as well.

The Saugus Spartans football organization, for example, requires all their coaches to pass an exam with USA Football. This exam includes recognizing concussion symptoms. If a concussion is recognized, the player is taken off the field and will need to be cleared by a doctor before returning to the sport. All of the teams have a medic on site during games, and someone who is medically trained available during practices. The president of the organization, Tony Moore, is in his seventh year at Saugus Spartans. In his time there, he says he has only been aware of two concussions, and both of those injuries were initiated by illegal hits from the opposing team.

Santa Clarita Cowboys is another Pop Warner organization that is striving to keep its kids safe. Like Santa Clarita Christian, all their coaches are trained in heads up tackling, which is tackling without using the head. According to Michael Haiby, the president, the rules have changed since twenty years ago. Players can no longer blindside the opposition, nor tackle with the head. He said that in 1999, coaches used to say to players, “go smack heads,” before going out onto the field. Obviously, this is not the case anymore.

Requirements for certification and inspection of helmets have also become stricter. Haiby says the organization uses the brands Riddell and Schutt for their helmets, and they are no more than four to five years old. The maximum number of years a helmet can be used is ten, but Haiby says a lot can change with helmets in a decade, as they can wear down from seasons of use.

Helmets are required to be conditioned every two years; however, the Santa Clarita Cowboys have their helmets inspected every year after the season is over. This is to keep their helmets looking new and clean, as well as making sure they are in top condition.

When helmets are recalled to be inspected, they are dropped from four or five feet to see if they crack. This is called drop testing. The helmets are also buffed down so the finish can be seen, called inspection reconditioning. In a nutshell, the helmets are literally taken apart and put back together to determine if they meet the requirements. If the helmet is deemed safe and competent, new pads are put in the inside of the helmet and a sticker is placed on the back, labeling it as successfully inspected. It is then shipped back to the organization to be used again.

All the coaches at Santa Clarita Cowboys are also required to take the CDC’s concussion class. When a concussion is spotted, they fill out paperwork detailing the specifics and send the player with the paperwork to a medically trained professional who treats the injury. The player then must be cleared by a medical professional before getting back into the sport. Haiby says, “We are more aware of concussions these days, and we are watching what we are doing.”

Helmets and Other Concussion Risks

Not only are schools and organizations working on preventing concussions, so are helmet companies. Both Riddell and VICIS are working towards preventing concussions. According to Riddell’s website, they came out with the “Insite Impact Response System,” which is technology that can “monitor and record significant head impacts sustained during a football game or practice” in 2013. This technology is located inside the helmet, and is commonly used with high schools.

VICIS is also a major player in concussion prevention technology. Their newest helmet is the ZERO1. According to their website, “it is Virginia Tech’s top-rated 5-star helmet.” Virginia Tech is a public, land-grant university research center. The technology in the ZERO1 helmet can be used with high schools as well as college and the NFL.

It is worth noting, however, that football is not the only sport where players can risk obtaining concussions.

According to a study by the American Journal of Sports, girl’s soccer also has a high tendency for concussions. This makes sense, as players are not required to wear helmets, but are susceptible to being hit in the head by a soccer ball. During the game, there are times where the ball is kicked into the net or passed to other people that can result in players being accidentally hit in the head. Since the players do not have any protection for their heads, they are more likely to suffer from a concussion.

Flag football also has a tendency to produce concussion injuries, because players are not required to wear helmets. According to Michael Haiby, the president of Santa Clarita Cowboys, most of the concussion injuries come from catching passes when the players dive for the ball and fall on the ground.

As The Pages Turn

| News | August 16, 2018

After the city decided to take control of its three libraries and give a private company the boot, City Manager Ken Striplin wrote an article in The Magazine of Santa Clarita assuring people that this move will benefit everyone.

“Transitioning to an in-house service will help the City better deliver on the library mission,” Striplin wrote.

Months later, people on Facebook beg to differ. One string started last week had 160 comments, mostly from people complaining about employees not knowing what they’re doing, a lack of books and having to go to county libraries in Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and Acton; staff cuts, program cuts, cleanliness and computer glitches.

“Libraries are, believe it or not, huge with my generation,” city council candidate Logan Smith wrote. “I’m really frustrated with how this whole thing has been handled.”

Jodi Bachman Osburn wrote, “Since the city has completely taken over it seems as if no actual librarians and the depth of materials is awful, even e books the amount available is horrendous. Shame on our Santa Clarita city council.”

For his part, Striplin did not respond to the Gazette. The Gazette sent city spokeswoman Carrie Lujan 11 questions for Striplin, to which Lujan responded.

“Every day we get feedback from our residents about City services, and we make adjustments to address their concerns and improve services,” Lujan wrote. “This is why nearly 90 (percent) of residents are satisfied with City service per our public opinion poll conducted by Godbe Associates. We always invite feedback, questions and concerns through our Resident Service Center (RSC) at santa-clarita.com/RSC.”

Lujan said that in feedback in July revealed that 90 percent of respondents said the staff effectively addressed the issue, 89 percent said the staff timely responded to them, and 93 percent found staff courteous.

Still, Lujan included in the Facebook string a message from city librarian Shannon Vonnegut, who apologized.

“I want to assure you that providing the best library service possible is our first priority,” Vonnegut said, offering her email address and phone number. “I also wanted to share options for getting books that are not currently on the shelves at any of our three branches. We do offer interlibrary loan borrowing and our staff is always willing to help request a loan for our patrons.”

It was Barbara Hills Kehoe who began the string Aug. 7, complaining about staff failing to verify books had been returned, emailing a scanned document and providing incorrect information on how to print from the computers.

“I have spoken to at least 10 new employees … and I am appalled at their ignorance on how to do things,” Kehoe wrote. “I know they arent (sic) all librarians, but heck, know your basic stuff.”

Lujan did not think the staff was learning too slowly.

When the city left the county library system in 2010, the New York Times reported, it paid Rockville, Md.-based Library Systems & Services (LSSI) $4 million to run the Newhall, Canyon Country and Valencia branches. That included hiring staff and buying books. LSSI held the contract for seven years before the city took over. The Signal reported the move would save the city $400,000 the first fiscal year.

Cecill Cornell Holguin wrote that she encountered some issues getting books from other libraries when LSSI was in charge. “I knew that when the city decided to run everything ‘in house’ it would be even worse,” she wrote. “With only 3 libraries in town how are they supposed to have a big enough catalog for requests?”

Lujan said 94 percent of items checked out came from “our local collection. Of that 6 (percent), many were titles we had in our collection, which were currently checked out by another patron. We believe we can meet the needs of our library patrons through better collection development. We invest $850,000 a year in our collection by adding new items.”

Kathy Bullock bemoaned the difficulty her book club is having securing the necessary 10 copies.

“I never had to go to county for book club books before. Or for most books for that matter,” Bullock wrote. “I don’t know how the person in charge got the city to believe we don’t need to borrow from other libraries.”

Lujan said the city can handle book clubs and referred to the Book Club in a Bag program in which the Valencia branch provides 10-12 copies of pre-selected titles (the library website lists 22) along with conversation starters.

Many people also complained that many experienced (read: high-paying) staff were let go and replaced by younger people.

Evelyne Vandersande wrote, “They want to save money and they will. They are closing one hour earlier and are using young employees, minimum wages and part time so no benefits. Those employees do not know what they are doing? Of course not! No experience at all.”

Actually, Lujan said, the Valencia branch hours shifted an hour earlier, from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. to 9 a.m.-8 p.m., on Mondays through Thursdays to give families with younger children more time to access the library before lunch or naptime. She added that all library employees are paid more than minimum wage and that the pay and benefits are better now than in the previous contract.

Kim Durand Nunez wrote about a time she asked a Valencia branch employee a question. “The girl rolled her eyes at me and gave me a hard time while checking out. Won’t go back unless absolutely necessary,” she wrote.

Many posters made it clear that they are now going to the county libraries in Stevenson Ranch, Castaic and Acton, although Dana Eklund, who wrote she worked at the Sylmar branch of the Los Angeles Public Library, said she sees many “come over the hill to get access to the vast collection of 72 branches plus the LA Central Library. It takes about a week to transfer items across the city to Sylmar Library, sometimes less. Granada Hills branch is also close.”

Not every post on the string was negative. Pat Czyzyk said she would rather deal with someone who is still learning but is pleasant than have to deal with someone who has experience but is unpleasant.

Darren Hernandez, who didn’t identify himself as a city employee but Lujan said was deputy city manager and director of neighborhood services, defended those hired.

“The implication is that unqualified people were hired. That’s untrue and unkind to those who were selected,” he wrote. “You aren’t being mean to me, you’re being mean to them.”

Eric Early Strikes Out Again

| News | August 16, 2018

Denied.

That one word, issued Friday by the Supreme Court of California, put to rest attorney Eric Early’s attempt to have Attorney General Xavier Becerra removed from the November ballot because his state bar status was “inactive.”

“No comment, just one word: denied,” Early said. “Sweet, huh?”

Last week, the Supreme Court requested immediate briefing, and Early asked the Court to rule whether an attorney who maintains “inactive” status with the bar can serve as AG under Government Code Sec. 12503, which states, “No person shall be eligible to the office of Attorney General unless he shall have been admitted to practice before the Supreme Court of the state for a period of at least five years immediately preceding his election or appointment to such office.”

Early, who ran unsuccessfully for AG in the June primary, has long maintained the answer is no. Becerra changed his status to “active” Jan. 1, 2017, court documents say, and Early contends in those same documents that Becerra would be active for one year, 10 months and five days on Nov. 6.

In their reply, Becerra’s attorneys insist Becerra is eligible to continue serving as AG.

“Becerra meets that eligibility requirement many times over. The Court admitted him to practice 33 years ago, on June 14, 1985, and his admission has never been revoked or suspended,” Stephen Kaufman, Gary Winuk and Jay-Allen Eisen wrote in court documents Early provided to the Gazette. “Apparently unwilling to accept the democratic process, Early and his campaign committee ask this Court to take the extraordinary step of overturning the primary election.”

Early, vowed to continue fighting, but he won’t meet his goal of having the matter heard before the Aug. 13 deadline for the secretary of state submitting names and statements to the printer.

“That ship has sailed,” he said.

Early’s next move is to re-file with the state Court of Appeal and let the matter be heard on a non-emergency basis. He previously filed an emergency writ with the court.

“Someone’s got to interpret this statute, because it’s not been interpreted by the courts,” Early said. “It’s got to be ruled upon by a court.”

This is the second time Sec. 12503 has been cited in a failed attempt to invalidate an AG. After Jerry Brown was elected AG in 2006, Contra Costa County Republican Central Committee chairman and state GOP vice-chair candidate Tom Del Beccaro unsuccessfully brought the exact same suit. Brown’s status was “inactive” from Jan. 1, 1997, through May 1, 2003, according to bar records.

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