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Eric Early Attempting to Unseat Adam Schiff

| News | October 17, 2019

Saying Rep. Adam Schiff has lied, abused his power and led a witch hunt against the president, Eric Early has announced he’s running for Schiff’s seat.

Early, who often speaks to conservative groups in Santa Clarita, previously ran for state Attorney General and then tried to have the AG removed from the ballot. He was unsuccessful on both, and he recognizes the long odds he has to unseat Schiff (D-Burbank), who has served in Congress since 2001, won his last election with 78 percent of the vote, currently chairs the House Intelligence Committee and is one of the leaders of the impeachment inquiry.

Just don’t call Early’s campaign quixotic.

“That’s your interpretation,” he said. “I’ve talked to a lot of U.S. Senators who have major power. Nobody gave them a chance in hell. We have a president nobody gave a chance in hell. It’s not quixotic. We’re beyond the word quixotic.”

He does have the backing from the county and state Republican parties as well as former county supervisor Mike Antonovich. And since the top two vote getters from the March primary advance to the November general election, Early likes his chances. Beside Schiff, Independent Jennifer Barbosa, Republican Jon Hollis and Democrat Maebe A. Girl are running.

Early continued, “I don’t want a Congressman who has totally politicized his office and the intelligence committee and turned it into an arm of the Democratic Party. I don’t want a Congressman who cares nothing about our district, who has totally turned his office into a machine just to stay in political power and to try and increase his standing among those for whom he’s carrying water. This guy needs to be removed from office, and the way you remove people from office in our society, short of pretext and made-up things that Schiff is all about, is you vote them out of office. I want him out of office. I want him out of government. I think he’s a danger to our country in many respects. I want him out of office.”

Early said Schiff has done nothing to help the district’s constituents. He said homelessness has increased and nothing is being done to address the mental-illness component.

“Mr. Schiff has ignored it completely,” he said.

Early said Schiff has done nothing to help Californians receive benefits under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, even though Schiff voted against the bill.

“Fighting for a district to continue to allow tax increases that affect our constituents is not fighting for the district,” Early said. “I don’t want our constituents to pay more and more taxes. I’ll do everything I can to help lower the tax burden on our constituents.”

Early said there are infrastructure and immigration problems that must be solved, and Schiff is doing nothing to help.

“We have a guy now, Mr. Schiff, who has never done anything on any of those issues for the constituents. You look at his record and it’s appalling. He’s Exhibit A of a professional politician who gets in and his biggest concerns are doing what it takes to stay in power, to stay in political office and to increase his political standing among those in his party,” Early said. “The moderate Democrats and certainly many of the independents, the do-not-state votes, they want to see a Congressperson helping them in their district, and they don’t want to see somebody in Congress who has been doing what Adam Schiff has done for the last three years, which is fabricate stories to get personal attention for himself and try and destroy a duly elected president.”

Steve Knight Life After Politics

| News | October 17, 2019

On one hand, Steve Knight said he misses being in Congress. But there are aspects of the job he definitely doesn’t miss.

“My first year, I got asked what was the toughest part of working in (Washington) D.C. It’s the travel,” Knight said this week in one of his first interviews since Katie Hill unseated him in November. “It really is the toughest part.”

He added that his blood pressure’s down, his back doesn’t hurt and his schedule is his. But his desire to serve might not have been completely extinguished. Although he ruled out running for office in 2020, he said beyond that, “Life is very fluid.”

In the meantime, he has started Knight Consulting, in which he helps companies and organizations navigate the halls of state and local government.

He didn’t specify what companies, organizations or industries except to say he would like to work in aerospace. He did say that his clients are mostly from the contacts he has made over the last 10 years.

“It’s got a lot of plusses,” he said. “I work with people I’ve worked with. I set my own schedule. I don’t travel unless I want to. I go to Sacramento about once a month.”

And yet, Knight said there are times he wishes he had won re-election because he witnessed a major change in government: the rise of social media.

As he sees it, social media has created more divisiveness and has made it harder for the two parties to work together to get anything done. An elected official can look at hundreds or thousands of comments; Knight said Abraham Lincoln had to answer to just his cabinet.

He also thinks the amount President Trump uses social media is the new normal.

“President Obama started it. President Trump took it to the next level,” he said. He believes the next president will have to build on that in his or her own way.

And while Knight did not point to any one reason why Hill defeated him, he alluded to social media as a contributing factor.

“Social media hurt me because I wasn’t good at it,” he said. “Much of my work is person-to-person. I average about 10 emails a week, and those are catch-ups and follow-ups. … I was a cop, and cop work is face to face, and I really like that.”

Even now, his consulting firm is not online.

Meanwhile, Hill ran what she called the “most millennial campaign ever,” and she still tweets most days.

Naturally, Knight’s loss hurt, he said. “I was one of the few who thought I was doing a good job,” he said. The first couple of months saw him shocked, sad and unsure just what to do next.

“Soon after, you figure out this is America. I need to make money,” he said. “Let’s get going.”

It was his wife that suggested consulting as a way to play to his strengths of helping people solve problems. It was something he couldn’t do in government because bureaucracy moves so slowly.

But as a one-man operation working out of his Palmdale home, Knight admits he has as many clients as he can handle. But since he wants more, he knows he has to bring in a partner and then someone to run an office.

He is looking at office space in Lancaster, five miles from his home. It’s a far cry from the 2,668 miles to Washington.

“I don’t sit on an airplane 11 hours a week,” he said.

Vaping Controversy – Smoke Screen?

| News | October 17, 2019

The recent news regarding lung problems and death from vaping has several store owners annoyed because, they claim, one important piece of information either goes unreported or is overlooked.

Most of the lung problems can be traced to marijuana, specifically the psychoactive ingredient THC.

“It’s fear mongering,” said Fred Deen, owner of Smoke Depot & Vapor Lounge in Valencia. “Media’s just making people afraid. Our politicians just want to do something that looks good on TV. They’re just banning everything. Why don’t you just ban vaping THC, man? Why are you jumping on the vaping nicotine that isn’t hurting anyone? Of course it is stupid. Of course we are against it, but what can you do?”

The Los Angeles Times reported last week that much of the lung illnesses linked to vaping products are from THC cartridges purchased illegally. NBC News had a similar report two weeks ago that said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is looking into THC laced with Vitamin E acetate, a solvent used to help cannabis work in vape pens, as a primary cause.

Vaping, two store owners said, is not killing people but is a method to stop smoking.

“It’s made for cigarette smokers that don’t want to smoke anymore and wean themselves off nicotine,” said one owner who refused to be identified for fear of economic and possible physical reprisals. He said his stores carry cartridges of varying amounts of nicotine, the idea being one uses decreasing amounts until they’re weaned entirely.

Many of his estimated 250 clients are on the program using vaping to reduce nicotine, with varying degrees of success. He, for one, was a smoker but has seen his energy levels in the gym increase since switching to vaping; although he also admits he hasn’t seen a doctor.

“Hundreds of them switched, and then they stopped smoking,” he said. “They all want to quit smoking. Some do, some don’t.”

He said education is critical, and he and Deen quoted and referred to several studies and articles that demonstrate how much safer – though not completely safe – vaping is.

According to the Expert Review of Respiratory Medicine, vaping is using an electronic cigarette (or e-cigarette) to simulate smoking but without burning tobacco. The tool is a handheld battery-powered vaporizer; hence, the name “vaping.”

The user has an inhaler with a heating element that synthesizes a liquid solution made of several ingredients including nicotine but not tobacco. What is expelled is water vapor, not smoke.

The benefits and risks are uncertain because no long-term studies have been done, but the store owners know this: Smoking anything is harmful, but Public Health England, an agency of the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care, said vaping is 95-percent less harmful than cigarette smoking.

PHE also found that between 65 and 68 percent of smokers who tried quitting via vaping succeeded. The New York Times reported that two UK hospitals have allowed an e-cigarette company to open vape shops on their premises.

The store owners also know minors are drawn to vaping products, especially the flavored ones, and they said they refuse to sell to them. Deen said he knows the industry is willing to have technology implemented that would prevent anyone under age 21 from entering a store.

“I understand it’s bad, whether for kids or adults. They shouldn’t be doing it. I’m 100-percent sure kids should not be using it,” the unnamed store owner said. “I know for sure it’s way better than regular cigarettes.”

Added Deen: “It’s like you found bad lettuce in the sandwich and you’re banning the sandwich. This is like a nightmare.”

Lucie Volotzky Runs for Assembly

| News | October 10, 2019

Saying she doesn’t like what she sees in Sacramento, and needs to be a voice for those not represented, businesswoman and former model Lucie Volotzky announced recently she’s running for Assembly.

Volotzky, 64, is the owner of two Blissful Sleep mattress stores in the San Fernando Valley. She is a Republican originally from Montreal but naturalized in the 1980s. She modeled in Canada and most recently competed in the 2011 Ms. Exoti-Lady pageant representing her native country. She bemoans what she sees as too much partisan division and wants to run what she calls “a different type of campaign.”

“I’m running to bring facts and say ‘enough is enough’ to what the government does to us,” she said in a thick French-Canadian accent. “They pass laws (and) they don’t think what will affect the other side. That’s the problem. They have no balance.”

As Volotzky sees it, California is in a sad state. She sees freedom of speech eroding and too much anger on both sides. “You need three things: head, heart and soul,” she said. “A soul to believe, a heart to give and a head to do the right choice.”

Among her platform points, which she provided, are quoted below:

Less taxes, “enabling families and Millennials to have more time to enjoy what they can spend from wages earned.”
Less regulation, “which strangle small business owners and limit hiring more employees.” This includes decreasing the number of forms needed to start and grow a business.
Safe neighborhoods.
Faith-based or charitable solutions to opiate and opioid addiction.

She said a representative should be the method to improve the quality of life in the district, not protect a political agenda. “I feel I’m more of a messenger to opening doors,” she said.

Volotzky is the second Republican to challenge incumbent Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita), joining Suzette Valladares, who dropped out of the 25th congressional district race to challenge Smith.

Christy Smith Looks Back on Her First Year

| News | October 3, 2019

Local leaders often complain that Sacramento makes it difficult for local governments to get things done. After spending one year in the Assembly, Christy Smith sees their point.

“I think there’s nothing more valuable than service at a local level to understand what that means and how decisions that are made in Sacramento impact communities and city municipal governments to do their job,” she said. “I made a point to consistently remind myself of that.”

Smith (D-Santa Clarita) completed half of her first term last month. She secured more than $1.5 million in funding for 38th District projects, including $450,000 for the senior center to complete its capital campaign, $700,000 for Simi Valley’s free health clinic and $397,000 to modernize College of the Canyons’ Boykin Hall.

She authored 14 bills, 12 of which either became law or are on Gov. Gavin Newsom’s desk awaiting his signature.

“The upper limit of what a member of our house can introduce is 50 bills, which I find too much,” she said, “and so I wanted to focus on quality and impact over quantity, and so I’m happy with this quantity.”

Smith said she maintained her legislative focus “on the issues I campaigned on, which is good governance and government transparency.” Several bills dealt with education.

She created the Golden State Scholarshare College Savings Trust, which provides financial aid for post-secondary students. She wrote legislation that benefits COC nursing-school faculty, expands dual enrollment for high school kids who might want to take advantage of community college course work, helps low-income students pay for Advanced Placement tests, and requires high schools to conspicuously post in bathrooms and locker rooms written policies on sexual harassment and how to report charges, in addition to posting in the already-required main administration building.

She also wrote a new law that allows unclaimed property to be directly returned to the municipalities that might have monies in the state controller’s office. And she honored her late mother by co-authoring a Senate bill that set more ideal nurse-to-patient staffing ratios in hospitals (Smith’s mother was a critical-care nurse and also worked in transitional care, she said).

Along the way, she enjoyed many memorable moments, starting with the swearing-in.

“I kept it together and kept it together, but because this has literally been my life’s goal and my life’s dream, to be in elected office at the legislative level, we got off the floor after swearing in and I was being interviewed on camera and started I started to tear up a little bit,” she said. “The significance of the moment hit me.”

She met with constituents – registered Democrats and Republicans alike, and at least on one occasion wrote legislation because of it. Assembly Bill 1507, which requires a charter school to be located within the jurisdiction or geographic boundaries of the chartering district, is an example, she said.

“That’s one of the unique privileges and responsibilities of serving a district like this is we have this nearly equal balance between conservative perspectives, liberal perspectives, and a large portion that is the most quickly growing segment of our voters is no party preference,” she said. “All three of those groups combined want to see effective government. My ability to connect across whatever the political divide is and really get to the heart of what an individual constituent’s issue is and how the government might be able to serve them better is really what the work is about, regardless of political party.”

Smith said she wants to introduce a similar number of bills in the second half of her term. Included in her package are bills that would set credentials for someone to be called a “special education advocate,” that would help regulate the costs to clear a teaching credential, that would help make the recycling industry attractive to entrepreneurs, and that would help make housing affordable. The Assembly reconvenes in January.

“We’ve got a lot of young professional people,” she said. “We’ve got teachers and firefighters and law enforcement officers, all of whom find themselves priced out of the housing market and these are individuals who should be able to buy an entry-level home, and so we need an all-of-the-above strategy where we’re looking at below-market housing solutions to meet that homelessness crisis but also making sure we’re building enough supply so that hard working people can afford housing, can have that American Dream, can contribute to financial and future security by purchasing a home.”

Wilk’s SCV Water Agency Legislation Signed Into Law

| News | October 3, 2019

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announced Governor Newsom has signed Senate Bill 387 (SB 387) into law. SB 387 was follow-up legislation to SB 634 (Wilk), which created the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency in 2017.

“I am very glad to see this measure become law and have appreciated the strong bipartisan support we received during the legislative process. It cleans up some of the technical issues that came about when our new regional water agency was created in 2017,” said Wilk. “SB 387 ensures SCV Water will continue to operate efficiently and provide excellent service to its ratepayers.”

“We appreciate Senator Wilk’s support through the creation of SCV Water, and now with this clean-up legislation,” said SCV Water’s President, Bill Cooper. “Providing the option to eliminate vacant positions allows us to conduct business in a more cost-effective and efficient manner, which are two of the main goals behind forming a regional water agency.”

SB 634, which created the regional water agency, requires the board of the new agency to reduce its membership total from 15 to nine. SB 387 addresses technical issues regarding the consolidation of multiple boards of directors when there is a vacancy. The Board will now have the authority to eliminate a vacant position at the Agency, if the seat is already required to be consolidated, rather than holding costly special elections.

The California Society of Municipal Finance Officers (CSMFO) and the Government Finance Officers Association (GFOA) recognized the Santa Clarita Water Agency’s FY 2018/19 Budget for meeting the highest principles of governmental budgeting.

Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron Endorses Suzette Martinez Valladares for Assembly

| News | September 27, 2019

Early childhood education advocate Suzette Martinez Valladares’ bid for the 38th Assembly District continues to gather momentum as it announced today the endorsement from Assembly Republican Leader Marie Waldron.

Assembly Republican Leader Waldron wrote of Valladares, “Suzette is a next-generation California Republican and a shining light of hope for our state’s future. She will offer voters in the Santa Clarita, Simi and San Fernando Valleys a real alternative to the majority party’s failure to improve the quality of life for so many Californians struggling to get by. Suzette’s story, life experience, and work embody the California dream. I know she can help turn our state around and provide a voice to those who feel left behind.”

Since announcing her candidacy, Valladares has earned the endorsements from other notable local leaders including Senator Scott Wilk and former Congressmen Steve Knight and Buck McKeon.

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

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

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

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

COC ADA Meeting Set

| News | September 26, 2019

The College of the Canyons meeting to update its ADA Transition Plan has been scheduled, two board of trustees members said.

Joan MacGregor and Edel Alonso said the meeting would take place Oct. 30 at 4 p.m. in Canyons Hall, room 201. It was originally announced in May that it would be held in August.

This would be the second such update. The first, Feb. 21, 2018, included reports and presentations from college attorneys, consultants, architects and administrators. Spokesman Eric Harnish previously said it would not be part of a regularly scheduled board meeting but that all involved parties were working to find a mutually agreeable time.

The plan, the result of a settlement from a lawsuit a former disabled student filed in 2013, requires the school to fix the more than 6,000 examples of noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Harnish previously emailed to say the school is, at the end of this month, scheduled to finish Phase 1, which focuses on replacing doors, door hardware, including seals, hinges, handles, and frames; and installing automatic openers on doors that could not otherwise be retrofitted.

Planning for Phase 2, which started earlier this year and addresses access and paths of travel, including parking lots and walkways, is nearly complete, Harnish said. The plans will be submitted to the Department of the State Architect before the end of the year, and construction will begin following approval, which Harnish said previously has taken 20 months, meaning construction couldn’t begin until May 2021. The DSA is one of the agencies in charge of overseeing ADA compliance.

Planning for a third phase, which will address bathrooms and disabled seating in public areas, will commence after DSA approves Phase 2, Harnish said.

Hart District Teachers of the Year Honored by Governing Board

| News | September 26, 2019

The 16 William S. Hart Union High School District Teachers of the Year for the 2019/20 school year were recognized by the Governing Board this past Wednesday.

The District Teacher of the Year is Laurel Priesz, an English teacher at Canyon High School. Laurel is now one of 16 teachers being considered for the Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year.

The entire list of Hart School District Teachers of the Year honored Wednesday night were:

Mike Koegle, Biology, Academy of the Canyons
Kelvin Flores, Band/Music, Arroyo Seco Junior High School
Christine Desuse, English/Theater, Bowman High School
Laurel Priesz, English, Canyon High School
Yara Wright, English as a Second Language, Golden Oak Adult School
Shanna Mann, Social Studies, Golden Valley High School
Kathryn Smith, Science, Hart High School
Kamalinphol Punpanichgul, Mathematics, La Mesa Junior High School
Bree Hammer, English, Placerita Junior High School
Aubrie Fairbanks, Special Education, Rancho Pico Junior High School
Stephanie Sosa, English, Rio Norte Junior High School
Wendy Noonan, English, Saugus High School
Brandy Abernathy, Special Education/History, Sequoia School
David Drabinski, History/Electives, Sierra Vista Junior High School
Tamara Desso, Science, Valencia High School
Terri Sage, Health/Yearbook, West Ranch High School

Selection criteria included personal growth, commitment, personal attributes and professional skills.

The California Teacher of the Year program, which began in 1972, has brought recognition to exemplary teachers, paying tribute to their resolute efforts. With the District’s many outstanding teachers, the staff takes pride in identifying and honoring its own heroes of Hart District classrooms.

Hart District Superintendent Selection Controversy

| News | September 26, 2019

Despite concerns from community and media members over how the William S. Hart Union High School District picked its superintendent-elect, the current superintendent said the process was correct, proper and within the law – even though a Brown Act expert says differently.

“I think the board behaved in an appropriate and very wise manner,” Vicki Engbrecht said Tuesday during a 44-minute interview, “and took a lot of time to make the selection of Mr. (Mike) Kuhlman as superintendent-elect. … I take it as a suggestion that the community may have found value in having opportunities for more participation in the selection, but I disagree that the board did anything wrong.”

Terry Francke, chief counsel of the Sacramento-area nonprofit Californians Aware, said it is a violation to discuss policy in closed session, and it appears the district did that when figuring out the criteria for choosing its next superintendent.

According to the July 17 agenda, the board, in closed session, discussed such criteria. Engbrecht said on Tuesday that this included: somebody inside the district with a distinguished district record who is committed to the community.

While other agenda items include notes of what was said in open session, this one does not, although Engbrecht said it wasn’t required. Throughout the process, every item that needed to be reported during open session was, she said.

Francke said, “Policy discussions are strictly for open session” and doing it in closed session violates the Brown Act, which governs meetings conducted by local legislative bodies and presumes public access unless specifically exempted.

Since the Brown Act was passed in 1953, it is incredibly rare to be successfully prosecuted for violating it, but earlier this month, a judge ruled the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors violated the Act by conducting a secret serial meeting in December to narrow a field of 48 applicants to 10 finalists for the vacant Third District seat. Community activist Steve Petzold said he sees similarities to Hart.

Individuals may bring one of three lawsuits to enforce it, one of which is to void a past action. The first step is to send a “cure and correct” letter, which is what Petzold has done. His letter alleges a Brown Act violation because part of an agenda item for the closed-session portion said, “Discussion of criteria to be utilized for selection of superintendent candidates” without anyone reporting in open session what was decided. Although he said he isn’t against Kuhlman becoming superintendent, he wants this appointment vacated and a more visible process implemented with public comment.

Kuhlman, the deputy superintendent, was unanimously approved during the Aug. 21 board meeting. His name was not mentioned on the agenda, which read, “Board to consider appointment of new superintendent, assignment effective upon Mrs. Engbrecht’s retirement (on or before June 30, 2020).” That also was the first public reporting of Engbrecht’s stepping down, although she said she told a group of administrators in May, and the board knew in October.

Francke said not reporting on personnel matters is not a violation. It might be a violation, however, if any action taken in closed session is not reported during open session.

In an email from Debbie Dunn, executive assistant at the Superintendent’s office, from legal counsel, it was stated, “The ‘personnel’ exception was enacted to allow a majority of personnel matters to be discussed freely and candidly in closed session. (Duval v. Board of Trustees (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 902.) This includes discussion of criteria for appointment/employment and the process for conducting the appointment/employment. (Ibid.)”

The Board can meet to discuss the criteria/process for appointing/employing a Superintendent-elect. Board need only report actions to appoint or employ a person; not criteria or process.

But these actions, which Engbrecht defended, perhaps contributed to many believing there was some sort of backroom deal in place. A Signal editorial criticized a lack of transparency and a lack of explanation from any district official.

Engbrecht, who has been in the district since 1976 in various teaching and administrative capacities, detailed the process that ended with Kuhlman’s appointment. She initially wanted to step down after serving only two years as superintendent, which would have been in 2016. But her love of the district and community caused her to extend her contract two times.

During the Oct. 24 closed-session meeting, she suggested the board promote Kuhlman from assistant superintendent to deputy superintendent. “By doing it, it makes it apparent he’s in command,” she said Tuesday. The meeting’s minutes indicate Kuhlman’s promotion was announced during open session, including his name.

There also was a closed-session agenda item, “Conference with Labor Negotiator (per Government Code Section 54957.6). Agency Designated Representative: Board President. Unrepresented Employee: Superintendent.” It is believed this is where Engbrecht told the board she would not be continuing after June 30, but there is nothing in the minutes to indicate what was decided.

“But when that was done in closed session, there was no comment made in open session about what happened, and it should have been ‘Vicki extended her contract to 2020, we thank her very much and she advises us that she will not be asking for a renewal this term,’ ” Petzold said. “That would have notified everybody that there was going to be a replacement coming up.”

After telling the administrators in May she “was not going to ask for another extension,” Engbrecht told them that if they wanted to apply for the job, they should send a letter of interest to board President Bob Jensen by June.

She also said she suggested not using an outside search firm.

Engbrecht said she feels bad for Kuhlman, who wasn’t made available, because he’s not getting a chance to enjoy this time.

But she said she’s thrilled to be able to work closely with her successor, that hundreds of people have told her they approve of Kuhlman’s selection, and that everybody behaved with the district’s best interests in mind.

Katie Hill Changes Position on Impeachment

| News | September 26, 2019

After initially resisting calls to open an impeachment inquiry on President Trump, Rep. Katie Hill has reversed course and now favors it, the same day the House announced it had decided to pursue impeachment.

“I was elected to represent people who love our country, and I swore an oath to uphold, protect, and defend the United States Constitution,” Hill (D-Agua Dulce) said in a statement. “That’s why, now, I strongly support the House of Representatives moving forward with impeachment proceedings – it is what the Constitution, my constituents and my conscience demands.”

Hill’s statement does not specifically address why she changed her mind, but her statement says she believes Trump is a threat to the Constitution’s checks and balances.
The House opened an impeachment inquiry Tuesday after Trump acknowledged he held up aid to Ukraine and pressured Ukraine’s president to investigate presidential candidate Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, for corruption. Hunter Biden did business in Ukraine.

An unnamed whistleblower has submitted a report to the director of national intelligence; Congress is demanding to see it. Trump has maintained he has done nothing illegal.

The House is not convening a formal committee as during Watergate; rather, all six committees investigating Trump will coordinate. Even so, a vote to impeach is far off.
Hill said voting for impeachment “will not be a vote I come to lightly. I acknowledge how divisive an issue this has been, and will be, as investigations move forward. But we cannot let partisan politics interfere with the responsibilities assigned to Congress in the Constitution, and I hope my colleagues, regardless of party, will uphold their oath.”

The New York Times reported that 203 House Democrats support the inquiry, 19 don’t and 13 haven’t responded. No Republican is in favor of it, although 86 of the 198 haven’t announced their views. One independent – who was a Republican before leaving the party – also favors the inquiry.

Lee Hilliard vs. COC

| News | September 19, 2019

Lee Hilliard prides himself on doing the unexpected, causing discomfort to those who oppose him.

When College of the Canyons didn’t do what he had hoped, he filed a grievance. Soon after, he got what he wanted: Two classes will be taught in the spring, with the hopes of attracting high school students to grow his program.

“I do things that come out of the blue, and I’m in a place that makes them uncomfortable,” he said. “They worry now about if they do something, what am I going to do? My responses don’t fit the pattern. I know how to play. I don’t like to play, and you’ll be sorry if I do.”

Hilliard is the chair of the Telecommunications and Electronic Systems Technologies (TEST) department, and he has, at least since November 2016, felt the administration has not supported it. He filed a complaint November 21 of that year alleging conditions “have created a working environment that can only be described as intolerable and this warrants filing this formal complaint.”

The conditions included replacing a full-time instructional lab technician with two part-timers, which Hilliard said forced him to resign from several committees to devote time to training them. This was critical, he said, because the college and the William S. Hart Union High School District had won a $5.5 million grant from the California Career Pathways Trust to get Career Technical Education (CTE) programs into the high schools, which serve as job training.

Hilliard saw this as an opportunity to grow his struggling programs in computer networking and electronic systems. Never the less, he was convinced the administration didn’t support him.

“The district is no longer providing the resources necessary for the TEST department to meet the district’s goals of Teaching and Learning and Technological Advancement,” Hilliard wrote. “With the addition of another full-time faculty member and the department working on scheduling classes off campus, Pathways Grant, the need for the qualified full-time instructional lab technician is greater than ever.”

Hilliard attempted to create the curriculum, only to have it rejected. Eventually, the plan called for offering a four-course series with each class acting as a prerequisite for the next one. The classes were designed by Cisco Networking Academy, and Hilliard had to go through a certification process to teach them. His idea was that students would take the introductory courses during high school and then enroll at COC to take other more advanced ones, leading to an increase in enrollment in his department and, by extension, the school. Also, completing the courses would lead to an industry certification and big-money jobs, he said.

The classes were offered at Golden Valley High after school and were open to adults and students from all area high schools. The first one, a fundamentals class covering the theory of computer networking, began in the fall 2017 semester with 10 students.

But Hilliard was worried the first class would be too boring for high school students, and he was right. Only two students signed up for the second class, on routing and switching essentials, so it was canceled.

Hilliard suggested a different class, about computer repair, should be taught first the following fall.

“They would have taken the computer apart. They would have been familiar with it,” he said. “It might have been of a little more interest to them than the class that did not succeed.”

He also wanted to do away with the prerequisite requirement. But the dean, Harriet Happel, told him that, because the grant mandated which classes could be taught, the same one had to be taught again. Happel didn’t return a call for comment; school spokesperson Eric Harnish emailed to say the school doesn’t comment on personnel matters.

“The grant was not written for a specific course sequence,” Hilliard recently said. “It was written for the entire networking program. … She has no expertise in the field.”

So, Hilliard ran the fundamentals class again for the fall 2018 semester at Golden Valley. Eleven students signed up, including five in high school. Come spring 2019, only two signed up for the second class, leading to another cancellation.

But this time, one of those two students, David Theroux, discovered that the cancellation prevented him from completing the pathway. In an email addressed to Happel dated Jan. 28 that Hilliard provided, Theroux inquired about arranging to possibly take the class online. “I have over 20 years of experience and was just hoping to get this class,” he wrote.

Happel responded by saying she would see what she could do. But on Jan. 31, she emailed Theroux, “At this time, we cannot offer you the option of taking (the next class)” and promised to “continue to explore options to help you complete this pathway.”

Reached Monday, Theroux, now 53, said he wanted to obtain his Cisco certification to advance his career. Instead, “I just had to abandon the entire pathway. I got really frustrated. I was really doing well. I got a 4.0 grade point average. There was no reason why they couldn’t find something else for me. They wouldn’t do anything.”

Upset, Hilliard went to Faculty Association President Wendy Brill-Wynkoop, who suggested in an email, “I think it may be time to reopen the complaint process.”

Vice President of Academic Affairs Omar Torres told Hilliard he had to run the same class a third time. If he didn’t, it would be pulled from the schedule. Hilliard chose to pull it.

The grant ended June 30. But that hasn’t stopped Hilliard from attempting to grow his program. “My enrollment is down,” he said.

He tried again, this time suggesting two classes, on the internet of things and the python programming language – which he would have liked to have had taught at the high schools – be taught at COC for the fall 2019 semester. But first he had to come before the curriculum committee.

Whenever a teacher wants a new class added, he or she first must request it be placed on the committee’s agenda and then secure committee approval. The teacher must make two appearances before the committee, first to justify why the class is necessary, beneficial, important, etc.; and the second to have the curriculum approved.

Hilliard said he submitted his request early this spring. But when he asked Articulation Officer and Curriculum Analyst Patrick Backes about getting his classes on the agenda for this year, he said Backes told him, “I thought you meant for next year.”

“I knew he was told to say that,” Hilliard said.

Miffed, he instructed his attorney, Martha Torgow, to file a grievance, dated May 28, a copy of which she sent to the Gazette. Hilliard alleged the school refused to place his classes on the curriculum committee agenda and that the administration is going beyond its role in developing programs and curricula.

He also referenced the multiple class cancellations at Golden Valley, and he sought the following remedies: that his classes to be placed on the next agenda, that they be added for spring 2020, that they have appropriate marketing and advertising, and that he receives “the flexibility to plan the curriculum to adapt to changing industry needs and to schedule courses to meet student needs.”

This second grievance earned him an Aug. 16 meeting with his union representative and Torres. Torres promised the classes would be ready by fall 2020, but he would do everything possible to have them ready by spring 2020.

The next curriculum committee meeting, scheduled for Aug. 22, had his justification listed on the agenda. Hilliard thought following committee meeting, Sept. 5, would simply be a continuation of his justification. He asked Backes if he needed to be there and was told no. But Committee Chair Lisa Hooper said he should attend, so he did and was surprised to see the meeting was to finalize the curriculum. Torres, Backes and Hooper didn’t return calls.

The classes were approved for spring 2020 and will be in the catalog. Hilliard said these would be college classes for now, but he hopes to attract high school students, too. Theroux said IOT and python classes would interest him, but he fears if he starts again, the next class would be canceled, as he experienced the last time.

Hilliard also has another meeting scheduled with Torres and his union rep to discuss how to improve the department. He knows he got his way for now, but what happens going forward is unknown.

“I know I’m a pain in the butt and I do things nobody expects or anticipates, and I come out of the blue,” he said. “I’m curious to see if anything of actual value gets helped or if it just continues to be lip service.”

A College of the Canyons ADA Update

| News | September 12, 2019

Edel Alonso wants answers, and when they’re not forthcoming she feels frustrated.

This has been a norm for Alonso, a College of the Canyons trustee who won election in 2016 running on a platform of greater transparency and accountability.

A recent example is she received a report on campus safety and found it incomplete. Missing, she said, was a definitive decision on whether to arm campus security or hire police officers – a point she and the board have discussed for years without resolution. She also wanted a report on on-campus security cameras, their number, their locations and who’s reviewing the footage; and is the outdoor lighting sufficient to guarantee student safety.

Currently, she is having great difficulty getting any information from the administration on how far along the school is with its ADA Transition Plan.

The plan, the result of a settlement from a lawsuit a former disabled student filed in 2013, requires the school to fix the more than 6,000 examples of noncompliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The current plan, which sits in the library, lists projects that were supposed to be completed by the last day of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, but it’s not updated. Other projects have deadlines as far as December 31, 2030.

Board president Michael Berger and school spokesman Eric Harnish said in May that the board would receive a full update from Vice President of Facilities, Planning, Operations and Construction Jim Schrage in August, but that did not happen.

On Wednesday, Harnish emailed to say the school is, at the end of this month, scheduled to finish Phase 1, which focuses on replacing doors door hardware, including seals, hinges, handles, and frames; and installing automatic openers on doors that could not otherwise be retrofitted.

Planning for Phase 2, which started earlier this year and addresses access and paths of travel, including parking lots and walkways is nearly complete, Harnish said. The plans will be submitted to the Department of the State Architect before the end of the year, and construction will begin following approval, which Harnish said previously has taken 20 months, meaning construction couldn’t begin until May 2021.

Planning for a third phase, which will address bathrooms and disabled seating in public areas, will commence after DSA approves Phase 2, Harnish said.

In July and August, Harnish emailed to say no update meeting was scheduled, but last week he emailed to say that the board, attorneys and administration are working to find a mutually agreeable time for a special meeting. It would not be part of a regularly scheduled board meeting.

For Alonso, it won’t be soon enough.

“That’s been one of my pet peeves,” she said. She personally counted the number of non-compliant examples to be 6,859.

It’s not that she’s completely in the dark. She says that during board meetings, items such as construction change orders come before the board for approval. She is told that these will comply with the ADA suit.

“But I don’t get a full picture,” she said. “I need numbers. What are we completing? I want some way to measure the progress, but I have not received that.”

When she pushes, she is often told progress is being made and she will eventually get the data she seeks. Then when she doesn’t get it, she asks again – and is told the same thing.

“There is a reluctance to have the administration questioned in any way,” she said. “‘The administration has done a good job. We should place our trust with them. By the time they get the information to us, they’ve done all the legwork and we should just agree to it because they’ve always made good decisions’ — I believe that’s the general attitude.”

“I don’t think it’s unreasonable to get more specific data,” she said. “I don’t know why that’s so unreasonable.”

Senator Scott Wilk and Former Congressman Steve Knight Endorse Suzette Valladares for the 38th Assembly District

| News | September 12, 2019

Just days after announcing her bid for California’s 38th Assembly District (Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, and a portion of the San Fernando Valley including Porter Ranch), early childhood education advocate and non-profit executive Suzette Martinez Valladares has secured endorsements from two prominent local Republican leaders: Senator Scott Wilk and former Congressman Steve Knight.

Former Congressman Steve Knight wrote, “Suzette is a rising star and the future of the California Republican Party. She will bring the same heart and passion for advocacy to her work running an early childhood education program, to the job of representing the all the people of the Santa Clarita and Simi Valleys . Having served in our State Legislature I can’t think of anyone better suited to challenge the Sacramento power structure and make life more affordable for our local families.”

Senator Scott Wilk, Vice Chair of the Senate Education Committee, wrote of Suzette, “As a mother, Suzette Valladares knows that an excellent public education is the pathway to success. Suzette supports parents as she knows every child learns differently. She knows the one-size-fits all approach doesn’t serve our kids. Suzette will also stand with me in our effort to reduce your cost of living. That’s why I support Suzette Valladares for State Assembly.

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

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

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

CFO Ralph Peschek Demands Hart District Transparency

| News | September 12, 2019

As a chief financial officer, Ralph Peschek is by definition a steward of funds, expenditures, assets and liabilities. But he also considers himself committed to transparency.

For two years now, Peschek, the William S. Hart Union High School District CFO, has attempted to make the district’s finances more clear, visible and accountable to those few who voice skepticism.

“Part of my vision has been, how do we assure the community has access to information, and how do we make this information useful for everyone,” he said.

This becomes what is important when Steve Petzold is concerned.

Petzold, well known as a community member who demands officials account for the monies to which they are responsible – down to the penny, if possible – often cries foul where school bond measures are concerned.

His latest focus is on Hart’s reporting of Measures SA and V. Measure V, passed in 2001, allowed for $158 million in general obligation bonds to build Golden Valley and West Ranch high schools, Rio Norte and Rancho Pico junior high schools and modernize some existing campuses (these funds have been completely spent). Measure SA, passed in 2008, was a $300 million bond measure to help build Castaic High, auditoriums at Saugus and Canyon highs and other projects at existing schools.

State law requires these bonds be subject to annual financial and performance audits by an independent firm. According to Michael Turnipseed, head of the California League of Bond Oversight Committees and a former member of a bond oversight committee in Bakersfield, a financial audit deals with numbers, while performance audits deal with processes.

“Is the money where it’s supposed to be?” Turnipseed said of the financial audit. “A performance audit is not numbers-driven. Did you follow the process? Did you follow what the bond was going to be? Did you follow the district policies? You’re auditing the work product.”

The location of the audits is where the latest disagreement between Petzold, principal officer of The Center for Truth in School Bond Measures, and the district lies.

In past years, the bond measures’ performance audits have been separate, but the financial audits have been combined into the state-required district financial audit.

“They are supposed to have an annual district audit, and they’re supposed to have a separate bond audit,” Petzold said.

Several district officials, including Peschek, two board members and one bond oversight committee member, maintain that the bond’s financial-audit information is included and the district is compliant with state law. Petzold said he found it, but the Gazette found no specific mention of “Measure SA” in the financial audit (Peschek said it’s called “Fund 21”).

All Measure SA audits are available on the district website (Peschek said the Measure V audits are available at the district office by request). The Hart performance audit is four pages long. Contrast that with the 80-page Bakersfield district performance audit for 2010. Bakersfield’s 2010 financial audit is four pages long, but it’s backed by 34 pages of supplemental material that include every single time the school board did anything related to the bond and the dollar amount.

“This is a bible of everything they did,” Turnipseed said. “I looked at Hart’s and wasn’t overly impressed.”

Does the district need separate financial and performance audits? The problem is the law is vaguely written. Also, said Richard Michael of the website Big Bad Bonds, the law doesn’t specify any penalties, “just the public penalty of ‘Can you trust us? Can we be trusted?’

“Almost all government rules are without penalties,” Michael said. “You have to go to court, and in the end, if you win, the taxpayer pays. It’s a victory.”
And a victory is not always guaranteed, Turnipseed said.

“It all depends on what judges say,” he said. “Some people actually submitted the financial audit, put a new sheet on it and called it a performance audit, and it’s exactly the same, and the people challenged that, and the judge said it’s good enough.”

So, Peschek has called on the district board to increase its clarity in reporting how the funds have been used, and it has responded. He said he plans to have separate financial and performance audits, and he hired the same firm that Bakersfield used.

“When you look at the format (the firm) provides us, that’s a little more detailed,” Peschek said. “That’s what I envision. We have opportunities.”

Petzold remains skeptical, but Hart board member Joe Messina welcomes Peschek’s moves.

“We all support him and are looking for better transparency and better communication when it comes to the district finances,” Messina texted to say, “and we’re happy that his fresh set of eyes help us look at things differently, and because of that, we will have more and better transparency and communication.”

Letter from Katie Hill Angers Bill Reynolds

| News | September 12, 2019

Like many constituents, Bill Reynolds receives correspondence from his congressional representative on issues that matter to him. It didn’t surprise him to receive a note from Rep. Katie Hill.

The first sentence, however, did: “Thank you for contacting my office regarding our border security.” Reynolds admits border security is a concern of his, but he adamantly insists he has never contacted Hill’s office.

“It’ll be a cold day in hell if I ever contact her office,” he declared. “Why the hell is she sending me mail? She knows I would never, ever, vote for her, and I’d never, ever, say anything positive about her.”

Reynolds said some of his friends, who also did not vote for Hill (D-Agua Dulce), received similar letters. One person, Jim Farley, wondered if Hill was abusing franking privileges.

“While responses to citizen’s inquiries are allowed, this is clearly a ‘response’ to inquiries that never happened,” Farley said in a text. “It is pretty clear it is just an attempt to appear to be tough on border security. She should not be using taxpayer money to do this.”

According to a 2015 article in Congressional Research Service, franking privileges, which allows members of Congress to send mail without postage, may only be used for matters of public concern or public service. They may not be used to solicit votes or contributions, to send mail regarding political campaigns or political parties or to mail autobiographical or holiday greeting materials.

Hill’s note, likely a form letter, gives her opinion on border security: She is willing to fully fund it as a means to keep out drug trafficking and criminals, and that she has voted to increase funding to the Department of Homeland Security, for physical barriers “where they make sense,” for border agents and to fairly process cases of women and children fleeing violence.

District Director Angela Giacchetti said all correspondence emanates from the Washington office, so she couldn’t speak to how Reynolds received a letter, although it could have been a result of miscommunication (a call to Hill spokesperson Kassie King went unanswered). She did say that, like every legislator, Hill has databases of constituents that can be used for outreach, and when someone asks for Hill’s opinion on an issue, a letter is sent.

Giacchetti also said she knows Reynolds and recognizes he’s a community leader, especially where veterans are concerned, so she would like to communicate with him.

“It is important to engage with folks, even if they disagree with us,” she said. “They might be able to further our service, especially, in his instance, for people who have served this country.”

Reynolds is not swayed.

“She’s trying to put lipstick on a pig,” he said of Hill. “They way she wrote that letter, it’s all (nonsense). … She’s a fraud, and this is more proof.”

Suzette Valladares Runs into Problems After Switching Races

| News | September 6, 2019

Now that Suzette Valladares has officially left the congressional race to challenge Christy Smith in the 38th Assembly district, she has issues to address; such as owing tens of thousands of dollars and not currently living in the district.

According to two sources with knowledge of the campaign, but not authorized to speak, Valladares hasn’t paid staff, many of whom have quit because they were under the impression she was going to bring them to the Assembly race and then didn’t. Now, they are contemplating suing. One source said she owes at least $90,000, including about $25,000 to one vendor.

Another vendor briefly put on her website, “Suzette Valladares doesn’t pay her bills. She owes our small business $17,129.80. Don’t vote for her.” That post, which appeared on Rob Pyers’ Twitter feed on August 29th with the words, “…providing a fresh reminder not to stiff the vendors with the keys to your online accounts,” has since been taken down.

As of Wednesday, Valladares’ website currently was a single screen that said, “We’ll be back soon!”

Valladares did not return numerous calls for comment. Her current campaign consultant, Tim Rosales, referred questions to the Federal Election Commission website, which lists all the monies a candidate takes in and spends. The current FEC file on Valladares shows she took in $20,195.08 and spent $10,991.33, meaning she has $9,203.75 to carry over to her Assembly race. The next report is due September 30th.

Of the listed disbursements, none are to any campaign staff, unlike Rep. Katie Hill’s FEC page, which lists $6,500 in payments to staffers on the first page alone.

One source said that by moving the monies over, it will become more challenging for people to recover any monies they believe they have coming to them because they have to go after Valladares’ congressional campaign funds, not her Assembly funds. They might try and sue to prevent the funds from being transferred, but even if they are successful, there isn’t enough to go after.

Joe Messina, the communications director for the local Republican Party, didn’t sound concerned about the monies Valladares owes.

“Every candidate gets into debt. Every one of them overextends at different points in time during their candidacies,” Messina said. “It all eventually gets paid, so it’s not that alarming. If it was $117,000, yes, it’d be alarming.”

Another issue is Valladares’ address. She has told several media outlets, including the Gazette, that she lives in Acton, but sources say her real address is on Hillside Drive in Palmdale, which is in the 36th district, currently held by Republican Tom Lackey.

However, her residency doesn’t automatically disqualify Valladares. In 2000, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a state cannot add residency requirements beyond what’s in the U.S. Constitution, and a candidate need only live in the area by Election Day. The California primary is March 3rd.

Although that ruling referred to federal races, the Los Angeles Times reported that California’s law actually requires congressional candidates to live in the district where they are running, but that rule is not enforced.

One source said the reasons Valladares switched races included that she trailed in fundraising and that Smith had no Republican opposition once Dante Acosta, whom she defeated and was expected to run again, moved to Texas.

Of the other candidates for Congress, only Mark Cripe had a comment.

“I like Suzette. I completely understand that decision,” Cripe said. “We need good people in the state Assembly. I’m going to miss her in this race. She brought some energy to this race. I would endorse her in a second.”

There might be other candidates that emerges, and this weekend’s state party convention in Indian Wells is the place for that to happen. But for now, Messina said, “It’s great that we have a candidate that’s willing to put her hat in the ring.”

Court Hears from Community on Air Quality, Odor, Greenhouse Gas and Environmental Justice Issues at Chiquita Canyon Landfill

| News | September 5, 2019

Just over two years ago, the Supervisors approved the massive expansion of Chiquita Canyon Landfill, allowing it to double in size and take in up to 60 million tons of trash over the next 30 years. They approved this expansion in spite of promising the community of Val Verde 20 years earlier that would be closed if they just dropped their lawsuit. Now two years later the California Superior Court finally held oral arguments on the plaintiffs (SCOPE, Val Verde Civic Association and Citizens for Chiquita Canyon Landfill Compliance) core issues instrumental to the health of the Val Verde community and the entire Santa Clarita Valley.

Many community members attended the hearing. Honorable Judge Mitchell L. Beckloff listened carefully to the issues from all sides, then continued the oral arguments to Friday Sept.13th at 1:30, saying he had additional questions.

If you would like to carpool down to observe this hearing, please contact exec@scope.org.

The County has not followed many of the conditions of approval that were imposed supposedly to protect this rural community from the bad air and health issues with which it has been plagued for decades. Monitoring for carcinogenic air pollutants will occur only three times a month instead of the required continuous monitoring. With recent news about 2014 violations and the potentially hazardous Woolsey fire waste being accepted at Chiquita, this is not acceptable.

You can help by writing the Board of supervisors at executiveoffice@bos.lacounty.gov and asking that the Supervisors require continuous monitoring for VOCs at Chiquita Landfill in Val Verde.

New Passport Acceptance Facility Opens in Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library

| News | September 5, 2019

The Santa Clarita Public Library is pleased to announce the opening of its third Passport Acceptance Facility at the Canyon Country Jo Anne Darcy Library, located at 18601 Soledad Canyon Road. The first available appointments started on Wednesday, September 4.

With the opening of the third Passport Acceptance Facility, community members can now visit any of the three Santa Clarita Public Library branches, located in Valencia, Old Town Newhall and Canyon Country, to receive convenient passport services.

Passport services are offered by appointment only. To make an appointment, library customers can visit the Passport Services website at SantaClaritaLibrary.com/passport-services.The website also features information, including what to bring to your appointment, hours of operation and services the facility offers, which include:

First-time passports
Passport renewals for passports issued before the applicant was 16 years of age
Renewals for expired passports issued more than 15 years ago
Replacements for lost, stolen or damaged passports
Passport photos

The Santa Clarita Public Library is proud to provide convenient passport services to the Santa Clarita community and encourages residents to visit the newest facility. For more information about the Santa Clarita Public Library, please visit SantaClaritaLibrary.com.

Mike Garcia Has Served His Country, Now He Wants to Serve His District

| News | September 5, 2019

Mike Garcia has answered the call to serve his country. Now, he’s hearing the call again.

Garcia attended the Naval Academy out of Saugus High School before becoming a fighter pilot who saw action in the Iraq War, flying 30 missions above Baghdad, Fallujah and Tikrit, according to his campaign website.

Now, unhappy with the result of the 2018 election that sent Katie Hill to Congress, Garcia, 43 has decided he wants to serve again, as the 25th district representative.

“Why not me? I do believe I’m qualified. I do believe I can do the job and represent the district well. I have the background to do so. I’ve got the track record of proven performance,” Garcia said, referring to not only his military record but his near decade working for The Raytheon Company, a defense contractor. “I wouldn’t have been able to look at my sons and I also wouldn’t have been able to look at myself in the mirror and go, ‘OK, you could have done this.’”
“I do believe our nation is at an inflection point right now. Nothing is guaranteed moving forward. We are in a relative peaceful era right now and an era of prosperity right now. The decisions over the next two to six years will either improve that or prevent that from continuing. That really is the reason I’m doing it.”

In short, Garcia doesn’t believe Hill (D-Agua Dulce) represents the district, that she’s too busy currying favor with House leadership to pay attention to her constituents’ needs. Plus, she’s raising a lot of cash, including $256,592 from political action committees, according to Open Secrets.

“It’s important for the constituents to look at where the money is coming from. It’s important for constituents to understand the magnitude and the investment that these people from outside the district are putting into her (Hill),” Garcia said, “and I do think that really matters, how you’re funded and how you’re propped up by large money is a problem for a lot of folks, but definitely a problem for our current congresswoman.”

Garcia believes as California goes, so goes the country. “The irony is that California, as much debt as we are in and the tax issues we’ve had and the homelessness and everything else, the reason we are still viable and the reason California is doing OK is because the economy at the national level is doing so well,” he said. “We’re really only one bad move away at the national level from having real challenges in California.”

Garcia also believes the process to fix things would take between two and eight years, and he doesn’t have time for that, so he’s getting involved.

“I don’t want my sons to grow up in a nation – it’s bad enough they’re growing up in a state where they’re going to have a hard time finding housing they can afford, they’re going to be taxed to death,” he said, “but to have that be compounded at the national level potentially and see that our economy goes down the tubes and our unemployment rate skyrockets is a real concern. That is the impetus to put that service hat back on.”

So, what does Garcia stand for, other than getting rid of Hill?

• He stands for experience. After leaving the Navy, he studied national security and military doctrine at Georgetown. Then at Raytheon, he enjoyed a high-level security clearance spending 90 percent of his time in business development: bidding on new contracts, winning some, and working with the defense department to find solutions to problems.

“I’m not going to spend six years learning the systems and programs,” he said. “I have firsthand experience on the front lines and the technical background.”

• He favors term limits, between 10 and 12 years. After that, he believes, incumbents get too entrenched and forget to whom they are beholden: the constituents, not the money.

• He’s worried about the national debt, currently at more than $22 trillion, and has a three-step process to get it under more manageable control.

First, balance the budget. Increasing taxes is not the answer, he said. Instead, recalibrate the balance between taxes and spending.

Second, incentivize departments to save money, which he says is “a lost art at the national level.” He knows that if a federal department comes in under budget, Congress will allot less money next time. Instead, he wants to give credit for saving money, and use that money to pay down the debt.

Third, consolidate departments as necessary to eliminate levels of bureaucracy. Garcia believes the Food and Drug Administration can be folded into the Department of Agriculture, for example.

• He’s wary of socialism because one gets what one pays for. If the government wants to take over health care or education, he said, whatever it does will be mass-produced and of lower quality.

“We see that in countries where they have socialized medicine that becomes either exorbitantly expensive and the economy fails because of it, or the health care is below standard and society suffers a result of that,” he said.

Garcia hopes other people will answer the call to serve in their own way. It could be as simple as registering to vote or volunteering for a candidate. It could mean staying informed about the issues and the candidates. As Thomas Jefferson wrote, “an informed society can be trusted with their government.” As Ronald Reagan said, “If we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, as Jefferson cautioned, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.”

Assembly Fiscal Committee Gives Green Light to Wilk Legislation

| News | September 5, 2019

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announces the following Wilk bills were approved by the Assembly Appropriations Committee:

Senate Bill 153 (SB 153). SB 153 ensures California is well positioned to begin the cultivation of industrial hemp, an agricultural product used in 25,000 different products. The bill would revise California’s provisions regulating the cultivation and testing of industrial hemp to conform to the requirements for a state plan under the federal farm bill.

Senate Bill 202 (SB 202). SB 202 provides more flexibility to the rules on animal blood donation, allowing for more loving and humane treatment of animal blood donors by expanding legal donation from the current two companies to include community based donation opportunities.

The legislative session ends on September 13. SB 153 and SB 202 will be heard on the Assembly floor prior to the end of session.

Senator Scott Wilk to Present Workshops at College of the Canyons

| News | August 29, 2019

State Sen. Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) will present two College of the Canyons Foundation Chancellor’s Circle workshops on Friday, September 20th that will focus on how businesses leaders can influence and affect change with policymakers and local legislators.

“Success in a legislative or regulatory environment involves knowing what to do and who to talk to,” said Wilk, a former member of the Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees. “These workshops will help business owners understand how the process really works, what techniques can help them move the ball forward, and how best to communicate in this environment. They will walk away with first-hand knowledge of how best to navigate the system and ensure their voices are heard.”

The business community is invited to attend either workshop: 7:30 to 10 a.m. or 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. The workshops include a Q&A session with Wilk.

Breakfast will be served at 7:30 a.m. and lunch at 11:30 a.m. for the morning and afternoon workshops, respectively. Both workshops will be held in Canyons Hall Room 201, located at the college’s Valencia campus located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road.

“Senator Wilk has been a longtime supporter and believer in College of the Canyons,” said Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook. “His in-depth knowledge and experience as a legislator in Sacramento is invaluable to those interested in business advocacy.”

Tickets for the “How Business Leaders Can Advocate Change” workshops are complimentary for Chancellor’s Circle members and $20 for non-members. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP by Friday, Sept. 13.

“We are thrilled to offer local business leaders the opportunity to hear from and interact with Senator Scott Wilk,” said Jill Mellady, chair of the foundation’s Chancellor’s Circle Committee. “The senator is one of the most thoughtful and important lawmakers in the state of California. If you are a business owner who wants to know more about the business climate in our state, and what you can do to influence public policy, you won’t want to miss this workshop.”

For additional information or to RSVP, please contact the COC Foundation at (661) 362-3434 or email cocfoundation@canyons.edu.

Valladares to Switch Races?

| News | August 29, 2019

Suzette Valladares, a Republican candidate for congress, might soon drop out of the race and run for Assembly instead.

According to Valladares’ consultant Jimmy Keady, she is “aggressively being courted by the county and the (local) Republican Party. That’s the only comment I can give.”

Joe Messina, media contact for the Republican Party of the 38th Assembly District, declined comment.

Valladares, an Acton resident and CEO of the Little Steps of Faith preschool in Sylmar, is one of four Republicans vying to unseat first-term Democratic Rep. Katie Hill for the 25th congressional district seat.

If she switches races, she would go against another first-term Democrat, Christy Smith. Smith defeated another first-termer, former Santa Clarita city Councilmember Dante Acosta, and many believed Acosta was planning another run until he got a job in Texas and moved away.

Mike Kuhlman Named Superintendent-Elect of Hart School District

| News | August 29, 2019

The William S. Hart Union High School District Board of Governors unanimously voted to appoint Mike Kuhlman the superintendent-elect of the District.

Mr. Kuhlman will move into the new position once current Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht retires. Her contract expires June 30, 2020.

Entering his twenty-fourth year in public school education, Mr. Kuhlman has been with the Hart School District for 22 years. He began as a history teacher at Saugus High School in 1997 before becoming an assistant principal at Canyon in 2001. After a brief stint as the interim principal opening Rancho Pico Junior High School, Mr. Kuhlman became the principal of Placerita Junior High in 2006. Six years later he transitioned to principal of Canyon High School before moving to the district office in 2014 as assistant superintendent of Educational Services. In 2018 he was elevated to Deputy Superintendent.

“The future of the Hart District is one that presents both challenges and opportunities and I am optimistic and hopeful about what we are going to be able to do together,” Mr Kuhlman said. “Because of the wonderful people that we have, from students to the teachers to the administrators to my colleagues to the Board, all give me hope for a positive future in the Hart District.”

The Governing Board pointed to the success the District has had in recent years as the reason why they wanted to “elevate from within.” The district is one of only 18 districts in the state of California to be named an “Exemplary District,” and has placed all six of its comprehensive high schools (Canyon, Golden Valley, Hart, Saugus, Valencia and West Ranch) in the top 10 percent of high schools in the nation, according to U.S. News & World Report.

“The Hart District Governing Board is extremely pleased that Mike Kuhlman will now be serving as the District’s Superintendent-Elect,” said Governing Board President Bob Jensen. “Mr. Kuhlman is very passionate about providing the utmost in opportunities for all students. The commitment and dedication he has for public education will be of great value to the district’s stakeholders and the entire community of Santa Clarita.”

Mr. Kuhlman graduated magna cum laude from UCLA in 1994, earned his teaching credential from UC Irvine in 1995, and his Master’s degree and administrative credential from the University of La Verne in 2001. He and his wife Cindi and their sons live in Santa Clarita.

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

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