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Garcia Secures Endorsements of All Mayors in the District

| News | April 2, 2020

Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth and Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer Endorse Garcia

Mike Garcia, former Navy fighter pilot and Republican candidate for CA-25, the endorsement of Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth and Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer. These endorsements come on the heels of endorsements from the other three major city mayors in the 25th Congressional District.

“I am excited to endorse Mike Garcia for Congress. As a highly decorated Navy fighter pilot and long-time Santa Clarita resident, I have no doubt Mike is the right person to send to Washington D.C. and fight for our community,” Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth said.

“Palmdale and our surrounding communities are being crushed under the weight of high taxes,” Palmdale Mayor Steve Hofbauer said. “I am endorsing Mike because he is an outsider who doesn’t want California-style polices to destroy America.”

Mayor Smyth and Mayor Hofbauer join Mayor Keith Mashburn of Simi Valley, Mayor R. Rex Parris of Lancaster and Agua Dulce Town Council President Don Henry, meaning Garcia has secured all five major city endorsements in the 25th Congressional District.

“Our campaign continues gaining momentum because people agree that our taxes in California are out of control and we must lower them,” Garcia said. “Christy Smith is a Sacramento career politician who wants to take California’s dysfunctional tax-raising policies to Washington, and we can’t let that happen.”

Mike Garcia Steps up the Attacks

| News | April 2, 2020

Maybe it’s because the May 12 special election draws near, and maybe it’s because going negative is a common move that has paid off in the past, but the Mike Garcia campaign has ratcheted up the attacks on Christy Smith.

In addition to the usual swipes via press release or campaign website, the Garcia people have created a website (scarysmith.com) to attack Smith on her voting record and her priorities.

Garcia campaign spokesman Lance Trover said the point is to highlight the differences between the two candidates.

“Mike Garcia is a former Navy fighter pilot who believes taxes in California are out of control and wants to lower the tax burden on Californians, while career politician Christy Smith stands for higher taxes, jobs killing bills like AB5 and taking the Sacramento dysfunction to Washington D.C.,” Trover wrote in an email.

It’s not that the Smith people haven’t been attacking Garcia, either. On Twitter, they have painted Garcia as a pro-life extremist and a Trump acolyte who doesn’t trust science.

“Mike Garcia’s out-of-touch, partisan attacks in the midst of this crisis demonstrate he’s not a good fit for this district,” Smith Deputy Campaign Manager Kunal Atit wrote in an email. “Christy is currently focused on her work as this community’s public servant, ensuring state response to local constituents and connecting people with essential information, services, and resources. Christy will be just as dedicated to our community once she is elected to Congress, working with members of both parties, putting service first and politics last.”

The Cook Political Report changed its assessment of the race from “Likely Democrat” to “Leans Democrat,” leading the San Francisco Chronicle to conclude that the seat is not guaranteed. It has been 22 years since a Republican picked up a House seat in California, the Chronicle reported.

Steve Knight also endorsed Garcia, saying on Facebook, “I believe Mike will be successful in his run against Christy Smith in May. Mike worked hard in this campaign and will continue to do so until the final votes are cast.”

The Signal, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris, former Governor Pete Wilson and former Congressman Buck McKeon are among the 13 organizations and 45 individuals who also endorsed Garcia.

Smith counts 57 organizations, 23 federal and 46 individuals among her endorsements, including the Los Angeles Times, Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Nursing Program Donates Personal Protection Equipment to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital

| News | April 1, 2020

In light of the global shortage of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for healthcare professionals handling coronavirus cases, the College of the Canyons nursing program has donated this essential equipment to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

“College of the Canyons has had a longstanding relationship with Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital, where so many of our nursing alumni are proud to be currently employed,” said College of the Canyons Chancellor Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook. “During this unprecedented time, we are committed to helping our local medical first responders in any way that we can. We are grateful for and applaud the efforts of all first responders who are on the frontlines of this epidemic.”

The COC nursing program donated the following items:

•240 N95 masks
•250 regular masks
•200 masks with face shields
•30 PPE gowns
•15 goggles
•300 PPE hair covers
•50 disposable stethoscopes
•800 ear thermometer probe covers
•3500 thermometer probe covers
•300 otoscope covers
•15 boxes of 100 non-sterile gloves
•17 boxes of 25-pair sterile gloves

“We are very grateful for the generous donation from the College of the Canyon’s nursing program during this challenging time,” said Jennifer Castaldo, vice president and chief nursing officer at Henry Mayo. “We are fortunate to have adequate PPE supplies, but with such an uncertain future we are gratefully accepting donations to ensure we will be able to continue to care for our patients and protect our caregivers. COC’s generosity is reflective of the generous spirit in the Santa Clarita Valley. We are honored and privileged to serve this community.”

The donation was made possible thanks to the coordinated statewide efforts of the college and John Cordova, health sector navigator and statewide director for the Health Workforce Initiative (HWI), a program of the Workforce and Economic Development division of the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office, hosted at College of the Canyons.

By identifying and highlighting health care workforce needs, HWI helps California community colleges to respond effectively to changing workforce needs. HWI enables communication and collaboration between the health care sector and educational institutions.

“Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital’s clinical experts have been outstanding contributors to the professional clinical education of countless nursing and medical laboratory technician students for over two decades,” said Dr. Kathy Bakhit, Dean of Health Professions and Public Safety at the college. “College of the Canyons’ faculty, students, staff, and administrators, are all truly grateful that the college could support them directly in this way.”

Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital is accepting donations of N95 masks/respirators, surgical masks, non-latex gloves, eye protections or face shields, and hand sanitizers. Monetary donations can also be made through the hospital’s website.

California Is the Most Aggressive State vs Coronavirus – WalletHub Study

| News | March 26, 2020

With states taking actions such as closing non-essential businesses, banning even small gatherings, and ordering people to shelter in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus, WalletHub today released updated rankings on the Most Aggressive States Against the Coronavirus.

To identify which states are taking the largest actions to combat coronavirus, WalletHub compared the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 46 key metrics. The data set ranges from tested cases of COVID-19 per capita to school closures, ICU beds, and shelter-in-place policies. Below, you can see highlights from WalletHub’s report, along with a summary of the largest rank changes from our previous report and a Q&A with WalletHub analysts.

Aggressiveness Against the Coronavirus in California (1=Best, 25=Avg.):
14th – State and Local Public Health Laboratories per Capita
27th – Share of Employment from Small Businesses
1st – Share of Workers with Access to Paid Sick Leave
13th – Public Healthcare Spending per Capita
5th – Epidemiology Workforce per Capita
Note: Rankings reflect data available as of 2 p.m. ET on March 23, 2020.

Q&A with WalletHub

Why is California the most aggressive state against the coronavirus?

“Some of the key reasons why California is the most aggressive state against the coronavirus include the closure of schools, bars and restaurants in the state, as well as the statewide shelter-in-place order currently in effect. California is also one of the states now requiring early prescription refills,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.

Why is Mississippi the least aggressive state against the coronavirus?

“The state-level measures that Mississippi has taken during the coronavirus pandemic have been relatively small. For example, the state has not closed bars or restaurants, while many other states have. Plus, Mississippi lags behind other states in COVID-19 tests administered per capita,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez.

What are some of the most aggressive measures states have taken in response to the pandemic?

“One of the most aggressive actions that states have taken thus far is to institute mandatory stay-home and shelter-in-place orders for all residents, along with nightly curfews,” said WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez. “Another drastic measure has been to ban all public gatherings.”

Is the federal government doing enough for the economy?

“The government is off-base in attempting to address the economic carnage emanating from the coronavirus pandemic with the traditional tools of a recession or even a depression. Instead, the government should do whatever it takes to create a federal payment holiday for April at the least. That means all bills due for both businesses and consumers – whether it’s a mortgage payment, a rent payment, utility payment, or any other kind of bill – should be erased,” said Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of the finance website WalletHub. “If you combine a true payment holiday with direct relief sent to consumers to ensure the affordability of daily necessities, such as food and medicine, the situation becomes more manageable. It would also cost just a fraction as much as trying to fully replace people’s full paychecks. And, most importantly, it would not create an additional barrier to resuming normal economic life, since there would be no major bills waiting for people and businesses on the other side.”

wallethub.com

Santa Clarita’s Charity Auctioneer Mark Drilling

| Community, News | March 26, 2020

If you’ve ever attended a live auction in the Santa Clarita Valley, chances are you know Mark Drilling.

Maybe you don’t know him by name, but you certainly know him by voice.

Let’s have some fun. A two-night stay, airfare for two and dinner for two. Alright, here we go. I’ve got a $500 bid, six now seven. Eight hundred dollar bid, now nine. I’ve got nine hundred, gotta bid one thousand. Eleven, gotta bid twelve. I got 13, gotta bid 14. Sold!

Drilling, as the above paragraph indicates, is an auctioneer. Although based in San Diego, he comes up here several times a year to help entertain and raise funds for such organizations as the Boys & Girls Club, Carousel Ranch, SCV Senior Center and the Michael Hoefflin Foundation for Children’s Cancer.

“I’m fortunate to be part of your events,” Drilling said while driving between his home and John Wayne Airport. “They’re very nice people, very philanthropic, and they’ve become my friends.”

In Santa Clarita, Drilling is known as a fundraising auctioneer, meaning he attends galas and other big fundraisers and attempts to sell not only the items to be auctioned but also the emotional satisfaction of donating to a worthy cause, which he calls “the special appeal.” He said he’s always conscious that giving is optional, so he wants to ensure he knows more than just the auctioned item and its opening bid.

“I go out of my way to understand and learn about the organization I’m serving, and when I sell, I can incorporate what I learned and help people understand,” he said. “I’m selling values. I’m selling something to a volunteer or to a board member, or to a member whose child might have diabetes. I have a fondness for organizations that benefit children, that benefit the environment and that benefit animals.”

But Drilling does other types of auctions, too. As many as six days a week, he travels the country auctioning off automobiles in such places as Denver and Las Vegas, although it remains to be seen how the current coronavirus crisis affects his work. So far, he reports numerous fundraising-auction cancellations but little drop-off with commercial auctions because they’ve gone online. Instead of standing in a big Las Vegas casino ballroom or Denver warehouse in front of hundreds of people, Drilling now stands in an empty room with computers linking the bidders.

“Nevada closed all non-essential business for 30 days. Apparently, the auto auction is an essential business,” he said. “I was in (John Wayne) airport at a bar. I was the only person at the bar. Normally, I can’t get in. I looked at the bartender: ‘How’s it going?’ He said, “You’re my first customer.’ It was 2 p.m. … Empty airports are terrifying.”

Although he has been an auctioneer for about half his life, Drilling, 52, never set out to do it, although he said he was impressed as a youngster watching auctioneers with their unbuttoned shirts, gold chains, greasy skin and cowboy clothing speaking really fast as they auctioned the items. In fact, he attended San Diego State and later graduated Boise State with the intention of becoming a teacher. But he got a job at an auto auction company in Seattle in 1997 whose general manager asked if he would run auctions.

His first job was as ringman, a junior auctioneer who assists by working the floor and helping identify bidders. A boss told him that he had a good personality, so maybe he would like to try fundraising auctions. But if he was truly serious, he should go back to school.

There are auction colleges. Drilling attended the Western College of Auctioneering in Billings, Mont. There, he learned the various types of auctioneering (including land, livestock, art, real estate, government and consignment in addition to commercial and fundraising), laws and licensing, bid calling (“You learn tongue twisters,” he said) and voice care.

The problem with auctioneering is that once someone gets a position, he or she doesn’t leave. “It’s like becoming the fire chief of a small town: There’s one of you. You get the job after someone else dies,” he said.

It took him five years before he really felt like he made it. Among the odd items he’s sold: a piece of live performance art, liposuction, braces for a child’s teeth, dinner with Robin Williams (winning bid: $60,000) and dinner at Disneyland (winning bid: $80,000).

He also met Muhammad Ali but couldn’t think of anything to say except “I love you, Champ.” And at one Humane Society auction, a Great Dane urinated on a Maltese in the front row, causing the owner to scream and Drilling to have to work hard to keep from laughing.

The reason he came to Santa Clarita was the lucky meeting of Myrna Condie and auctioneer Mark Schenfeld at a Utah auction. Condie and her husband, Gary, were well known local philanthropists who each won Santa Clarita Valley Man/Woman of the Year, Gary in 2005 and Myrna in 2012. Condie invited Schenfeld to work the Boys & Girls Club’s annual Festival of Trees event in November 2003. Schenfeld did for a few years, but when his schedule didn’t allow it, Drilling took the gig.

“He’s very clever. He’s quite active and very professional,” Condie said of Drilling, “and he’s very effective. He’ll bring in more money than you could bring in on your own.”

Drilling has been coming here ever since, and one job led to another, first Carousel Ranch and then the Hoefflin Foundation.

“It’s the only job I’ve ever had where I get paid to be me,” he said.

District voting; It’s Complicated

| News | March 26, 2020

Ken Dean has been clamoring for district elections for at least two years. He’s going to get it in November because the city council has been forced to move that way. But will he even have a district to run in?

“I would be concerned,” Dean said. “That would not make me too happy.”

And yet it’s entirely possible because no one knows what the city council districts will look like. It is altogether possible that Mayor Cameron Smyth won’t have a district to run in. Neither might Chris Werthe, Jason Gibbs or anyone else who has declared their candidacies. If they don’t live in one of the two districts up for election in November, they’re out of luck.

It’s also possible that people such as Alan Ferdman, TimBen Boydston and Diane Trautman might join the race if the districts are drawn into where they live. And it’s possible that districts will be drawn with more than one incumbent in it. Nobody knows – yet.

But Scott Rafferty, the Northern California attorney representing a local group called Neighborhood Elections Now that brought the city to this point, said the goal is clear.

“Our objective is to empower neighborhoods and large swaths of city that have never been represented on the council,” he said. “You’re going to have competitive elections, which you’ve never had in Santa Clarita. Who are competitive elections good for? Voters. All voters. Who doesn’t like district elections? Incumbents, special interests and supporters of those incumbents who are afraid they’ll lose.”

Possible districts
It’s not known how the districts will look, but Rafferty is pretty certain Newhall, Valencia, Saugus, and Canyon Country won’t be their own districts. There might be more than five districts – Bill Miranda suggested seven.

One reason is that the population isn’t evenly spread. Another is geography: There’s a lot of open space. A third is the California Voting Rights Act, which requires a protected minority class (in this case: Latino) to have its votes counted evenly against the rest of the population. It doesn’t mean a Latino has to be elected to the council – Miranda’s appointment and subsequent election did not prevent this move to districts from happening.

“They cannot look like a salamander and not look like a national district for Congress people, which is unbelievably disingenuous,” Boydston said.

Rafferty said his unnamed client would be happy with “one good minority district,” and he is pushing for that to be in Canyon Country. He even has basic boundary lines in mind: Sierra Highway and points east down to the Santa Clara River and west to Camp Plenty Road. If that becomes a district, Canyon Country residents Dean and Boydston couldn’t run but Ferdman could, and he said his chances of entering the race would be “a good possibility. I’d have to talk the wife into it.”

But draw the district a little more south and Dean and Boydston could run (Boydston told the Gazette that running was “a definite possibility”). In that case, Ferdman said he would defer to Boydston and not run.

Beside Canyon Country, Latinos are heavily represented in Newhall, but Rafferty said he doesn’t think Newhall is large enough to be its own district.

Then there’s the complication of having four councilmembers living so close to each other. Smyth, Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean live in Newhall, Miranda just over the line in Valencia. Rafferty fully expects at least one district will be drawn with more than one incumbent there.

Here’s where it gets confusing. Assuming Smyth lives in the district once it’s drawn, he could run for election, but so could Weste, McLean or Miranda if they’re also residents of that district – even though none of their terms expire until 2022. If that happens and Smyth wins, he becomes the district councilmember and the loser(s) would serve out their term(s) and leave the council but could run against Smyth in 2024. Weste said she was concerned only with the current public health crisis and abruptly hung up.

McLean also said her focus is on the virus, but then she said, “I believe that when the approximately 225,000 residents find out they will be able to vote for only one of us to represent the entire city, they’re going to be extremely upset.”

If the incumbent beat Smyth, that incumbent would be the district councilmember and serve a four-year term starting in 2020. Smyth would leave the council, creating a vacancy that would have to be filled by special election or appointment to complete the two years of the incumbent’s original term. Rafferty said in that case, it’s very likely he would haul the city into court and allege a CVRA violation. If the council appointed Smyth, he definitely would.

Another possibility: Districts could be drawn now but only two would be contested in November. The others would be vacant until 2022 while Miranda, Weste and McLean finish their at-large terms. But there’s one more complication: the census. Once it’s complete, districts might have to be redrawn depending on what the census reveals. If the districts drawn then don’t include an incumbent, nothing would stop that incumbent from moving into a new district to run, although Weste has previously said this is her last term.

Rafferty presented a nightmare scenario: No district is drawn to include Newhall in 2020. His rationalization for that is there are three Newhall-based councilmembers, making it necessary to have representation elsewhere, such as in Saugus and Canyon Country. If that were to happen, Smyth would leave the council in 2020 but could run in 2022 once a district is drawn where he lives.

A Saugus district would be good news for Gibbs and Trautman, who live there. “I have dreamed of running for city council,” Trautman said.

Another problem
Then there is the demographer, National Demographics Corporation. The council decided last week to award a $60,000 contract to the firm to draw the maps based on its having drawn maps for three area elementary school districts and the water board.

Rafferty said he is familiar with the Glendale-based firm. But NDC has had maps rejected and questioned. Contra Costa County rejected NDC’s map in 2018, the East Bay Times reported, out of fears wealthier candidates would have more money to spend than working-class candidates. A judge earlier this month signed off on a different map that will be used in 2020, the Richmond Standard reported.

Also, a judge found the Martinez City Council map was gerrymandered: It was drawn in such a way that four incumbents – including two who live on the same street – were in different districts, according to NBC Bay Area. The judge didn’t force the city to redraw it but warned it had better get ready to redraw if attorney Kevin Shenkman – who successfully sued Santa Clarita in 2014 – appeals.

Smyth and Miranda said they were unaware of these incidents but were unconcerned.

“I’m sure every demographer has submitted maps that have been challenged and rejected,” Smyth said. “Not all have a perfect record.”

A call for transparency
The process is long, but the time to do it all is short. Because the council announced its intent to move to district elections for November (by a 4-0 vote; Bob Kellar was absent due to miscommunication, he said), it has until June 17 to complete the process, which includes five public hearings, making mapping tools available to the public in case people want to submit their own maps, posting the proposed maps, selecting the map and adopting an ordinance that makes district elections official with the chosen map.

Complicating matters is the coronavirus and the state’s orders to stay at home. The city has canceled all meetings until April 20 and might extend that to May 5. Rafferty has not wavered in his desire to get this done now and promises to go to court if the process is not completed by June 17. As it stands, if the city completes it, Rafferty would receive $30,000 and no suit would be filed.

Trautman and Boydston called for complete transparency, something Smyth and Miranda also promised and Rafferty said he would monitor. Miranda said he expects NDC to take public input into account when drawing the maps. He also said there would be a website the public can access to see the maps and then give comment.

“There are so many possibilities. That’s why there’s a demographer to weed out the impossibilities,” he said. “We’re going to err on the side of caution and not leave ourselves open to another lawsuit.”

But Trautman expressed concern that the compressed time will make completion more difficult.

“You need to take into account people that are not technically savvy,” she said. “I’m worried. They (city) need to do outreach to communities that don’t participate. They need to listen to the public instead of the handful of people they normally reach out to.”

Regardless of how the process eventually plays out and how the map will eventually look, Dean knows one thing.

“It’s going to be interesting,” he said.

The Cat is Out of the Bag

| News | March 19, 2020

On the Friends of the Castaic Shelter Facebook page are numerous posts announcing the latest dogs and cats that have come into the Los Angeles County Department of Animal Care and Control’s shelter in Castaic. They need homes, and when one is adopted, the site proudly trumpets that, too.

One such cat that came in last year was Dot, and she had a litter of kittens with her. According to several volunteers, the family was separated, which was never supposed to happen, helping to bring about the sad result of the kittens being euthanized. Dot was later adopted.

The head of the shelter said the separation was due to miscommunication, expressed regret over the incident and said steps have been taken to avoid a repeat. Some volunteers complained that the problem lies with the acting kennel sergeant, who they allege is a cat-hating bully who euthanizes them faster than dogs.

Therein lies the philosophical disagreement occurring at the shelter. While nobody claims any laws or rules have been broken, these former volunteers allege the cats are not being given enough time to acclimate and adjust to the shelter.

“I have a problem with the way she euthanizes animals,” former volunteer Sheila Cannon said of Sylvia Rodriguez, the acting kennel sergeant. “There are eight (cages) available. They should be able to be adopted. Why are we putting down cats when there are cages available?”

Rodriguez was not made available to comment, and Karen Stepp, the shelter’s animal control manager, said she could not comment on any personnel matter. But Stepp expressed disappointment in the volunteers’ claims and asserted the staff and volunteers do everything possible to keep animals alive and get them adopted.

“If it’s a philosophical difference, it’s unfortunate,” Stepp said. “I don’t know how to change their feelings. I don’t think they understand. I don’t think they look at the total picture. Sometimes, the parameters don’t fit the ideals.”

Debbie Somers started volunteering at the shelter in March 2018. She said she recalled another volunteer quitting around the same time, upset that the cats were not getting proper medical care and were euthanized. “She didn’t feel it was appropriate,” Somers said.

She soon saw a reason: Rodriguez. The kennel sergeant’s job description requires, among other things, engaging the animals to determine their current conditions (including physical and mental states) and suitability to be fostered and, hopefully, adopted. Stepp said the shelter has a high adoption rate, something Somers agreed with, “especially with dogs.”

Somers said Rodriguez treated cats differently. She would take a pole with a rubber hand on it and poke the cat in the cage. “Any cat with a brain will hiss,” Somers said, and Rodriguez would determine that if it hissed, the cat must be feral. If it hid in the back of the cage, it also must be feral.

Feral cats are considered unadoptable and are placed in a room the public can’t access. The longer they’re in there, the more likely they will be euthanized. Somers questioned if those cats were really feral or just frightened. Sometimes, she said, staff and volunteers would be able to go in and see if they could hold or pet the cats. If so, they were more likely taken out of the room and placed in public areas where the odds of adoption increased. But Somers said Rodriguez was inconsistent in her allowing people into the feral room.

“Cats take longer to adapt to a shelter setting,” Somers said. She added that animals are supposed to have 10 days to adjust, but Rodriguez was deciding in just minutes. “It’s an extreme overreaction, and it results in cats being put down,” she said.

Stepp acknowledged the shelter doesn’t get too many friendly cats, but those that do come in are kept “for a long time.” She also said she never saw Rodriguez use the pole with rubber hand “but I believe volunteers have done that.”

Even if the cat bites, that doesn’t necessarily make it feral, Stepp said.

“You wouldn’t know how many cats that bit me that I adopted out,” Stepp said. “We do everything we can to keep them alive. If they’re feral, that’s the tough spot.”

Somers and Cannon said Rodriguez would pressure volunteers to foster or adopt the cats or they would be euthanized.

“People are afraid to confront her. Volunteers are afraid to confront her,” Somers said. “She is a classic bully, and one way or another, you’re going to pay: The cat gets put down.”

Said Cannon: “This isn’t a secret. This is a problem, and this isn’t a secret who it is.”

One June 4, Cannon and Somers said, with Rodriguez on vacation, volunteers, veterinary staff and Stepp met and decided that if a fostered kitten or cat were to be returned, there would be no euthanizing the animal for at least 72 hours. Additionally, no cat would be euthanized without someone first getting a chance to foster it, and volunteers could now work with feral cats to see if they could be, as Stepp said, “turned around.”

When Rodriguez returned, Cannon said, she announced that she wasn’t at the meeting and, therefore, wasn’t part of the agreement.

“She started cleaning house.” Cannon said.

Cannon acknowledged that, while she didn’t agree with how Rodriguez did her job, she didn’t think Rodriguez broke any rules or laws. She pointed out that the county’s nine-page euthanasia policy, of which the Gazette obtained a copy from Animal Care and Control’s deputy director, is written “in such a way that if favors animal care staff than the animals” and that it appeared contradictory in places.

As examples, Cannon mentioned the last paragraph on the first page lists that symptoms of “irremediable suffering” such as diarrhea, vomiting, some skin conditions, arthritis and wheezing are not, by themselves, not grounds for euthanizing an animal. Yet there is a list on the seventh page of some of these same symptoms as reasons that could be given for euthanizing, although the introductory paragraph clearly states “The following are not necessarily justifications for euthanasia within the statutory holding period.”

Stepp said she didn’t have the guidelines handy and acknowledged it’s always possible policy changes could be contradictory. “We’re hoping they’re not,” she said.

Regardless, it was the incident last July with Dot and her kittens that caused volunteers to speak out, complain and, in Somers’ case, quit in protest.

According to a Facebook post and emails given to the Gazette, Dot was a friendly black-and-white stray cat that had given birth to five kittens in the Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital parking lot. Nurses wanted to know if it was safe to bring the family to the shelter, and on July 12 after hours, the six felines came in.

The intake worker, on just his third day and not knowing how to input new arrivals into the computer system, felt overwhelmed and resentful that he had been left alone to care for the animals. He needed to leave in an hour and had yet to clean the dog cages. He did not enter Dot into the computer, instead making notes on a pad of paper. He left the family in the carrier overnight.

The next day, a Saturday, a similar-looking cat had given birth to four kittens and was in the same cage as Dot’s five kittens, but Dot was not there.

Naturally, Dot’s kittens stopped eating, although some of them weren’t healthy to begin with. Unweaned kittens are supposed to stay with the mother. Some volunteers and Rodriguez succeeded in force-feeding some of the kittens.

Somers said Rodriguez asked her if she had found anyone to foster the kittens. Somers said not yet. She left to visit her sister in the hospital. Upon returning, the on-site veterinarian told her that after she had left, Rodriguez euthanized all of them and tried to blame the volunteers for mistakenly separating them from Dot.

“I held the five kittens. They were in my arms,” she lamented. “It breaks my heart and I couldn’t continue.”

Stepp, due to retire in two weeks after 13 of her 31 years in animal control at Castaic, sent an email apologizing for the mistake and promising changes to prevent any future reoccurrence. An investigation began, but Somers objected to Rodriguez’s involvement.

“You don’t have the executioner investigate the execution,” she said.

The damage had been done. Cannon’s loud complaining, in house, to the press and up the chain of command, led Rodriguez to complain to Stepp that Cannon was creating a hostile work environment. Cannon said she felt retribution by Rodriguez and has decided to take three months off from volunteering.

“I don’t want me being there to be an excuse to not change things,” she said. “I’m not looking for mutiny. I’m looking for a correction of course.”

Candidates on Coronavirus

| News | March 19, 2020

The current coronavirus pandemic has predictably affected the race for Congress, with the candidates stepping off the trail in favor of virtual town halls or performing their day jobs.

Republican Mike Garcia’s campaign put out a press release announcing a series of virtual town halls, first in Simi Valley and then later in Santa Clarita and the Antelope Valley.

“This can’t be about partisan politics,” Garcia said. “It’s about taking care of our people. It’s not Republican versus Democrat.”

Democrat Christy Smith is busy being the 38th Assembly District’s representative. On Monday, she joined her colleagues in voting to release $500 million in emergency funds stemming from Gov. Gavin Newsom’s state of emergency declaration on March 4. Then the Legislature voted to adjourn until at least April 13.

“In the coming weeks, I will work closely with our local partners to make sure these funds are properly targeted and disbursed, in addition to providing whatever service or resource assistance needed from the community,” Smith said in a statement. “I thank the Governor for his concise problem solving and collaboration with the Legislature. These are difficult times, but we will get through this together.”

Smith’s communications director, Danni Wang, said the district offices remain open, and anyone who feels negatively affected by this crisis, whether economically or healthily, is invited to contact the offices.

Wang also two bills Smith previously introduced could help: one that would help bring per-student funding to schools in the event of an epidemic and one that would exempt people from paying sales tax on certain emergency preparation items.

For Garcia, the current crisis hits home because he knows Carl Goldman, the general manager of radio station KHTS, who contracted the virus while on a Princess Cruises ship. Princess is headquartered in Santa Clarita and started a 60-day suspension of operations last week.

“It makes it personal, but it doesn’t change how we attack: Take all necessary steps, washing hands, avoiding contact,” Garcia said. “It’s better to be safe than sorry.”

Garcia said he would like to meet with Princess officials and see how he (or the government) could help. But he acknowledged there would be a negative economic impact, a comment he made last week after the widespread closures of schools and cancellations of large-crowd events but before the extensive closures of businesses and before President Trump acknowledged that it could take until summer for the virus to come under control.

“This virus is not fully characterized. We don’t know if warmer temperatures will kill it,” he said. “We don’t know the transmission percentage, and the mortality rate is higher than other viruses. There are unknowns with this. It’s good to err on the side of safety.”

Garcia said Trump needs to listen to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and medical-health professionals. Smith’s campaign referred to a Harvard Business Review article that suggested the U.S. health care system is inherently incapable of handling this type of health crisis.

“In the midst of this public health care crisis, there are two contrasting visions provided by the candidates in this race,” Deputy Campaign Manager Kunal Atit wrote in an email. “Mike Garcia wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, leaving millions without health care, and cut programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Christy Smith will strengthen the ACA, fight for a public option, and protect Medicare and Medicaid. On May 12th, voters in CA-25 will choose between those two visions.”

Atit also took aim at former Rep. Steve Knight, who after failing to advance to either the special-election runoff or the November general election endorsed Garcia.

“It is not surprising that someone who voted to raise taxes on California families, and leave countless residents of CA-25 without healthcare, would endorse someone who wants to pursue the same destructive agenda,” he wrote.

Former Congressman Steve Knight Endorses Navy Fighter Pilot Mike Garcia – Garcia set to face Christy Smith in May runoff and November General Election

| News | March 13, 2020

After a spirited special election and primary campaign, former Congressman Steve Knight announced his support of former Navy Fighter Pilot and political outsider Mike Garcia in his campaign for California’s 25th Congressional District. Following the results of the two March 3rd elections, Garcia will move on to face Democrat Christy Smith in the May 12th Special Election Runoff and the November General Election.

“I believe Mike will be successful in his run against Christy Smith in May,” said Knight in a Facebook post. “Mike worked hard in this campaign and will continue to do so until the final votes are cast.”

Former Congressman Steve Knight was the most recent Republican to represent the 25th district and joins his predecessors, former Congressmen Elton Gallegly and Buck McKeon, in endorsing Garcia’s bid for Congress. Additionally, former Governor Pete Wilson and over 30 current and local elected officials have all announced their public support for Garcia’s candidacy.

“As a veteran, law enforcement officer, and elected official Steve Knight and his family have served our community well for many years, and I’m honored to have his support,” said Garcia. “With Nancy Pelosi and her liberal special interests already spending nearly $1 million against me in the primary, now more than ever we need to come together to reject the radical policies coming from Washington and Sacramento which career politician Christy Smith represents.”

Mike Garcia believes in a strong national defense and is a pro-business, pro-taxpayer, political outsider with nearly 20 years of service to this country as one of the first Super Hornet strike fighter pilots in the Navy and is a highly decorated US Naval Officer. Garcia is a first-generation American whose father immigrated to the US in 1959 and has lived in the 25th district for nearly all of his life. Garcia lives in Santa Clarita with his wife and two sons. He was named to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program as one of the top GOP candidates in the country.

The 25th district encompasses the cities of Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster and the northern part of the San Fernando Valley. The median income is $76,866 and the ethnic breakdown is 45.8% White, 8% Black, 7.7% Asian and 35.3% Hispanic.

To learn more about Mike and his campaign for Congress, visit https://ElectMikeGarcia.com.

Boston Scientific Takes The Spotlight in New Santa Clarita Business Minute

| News | March 12, 2020

The City of Santa Clarita is fortunate to attract top businesses doing incredible work in industries such as healthcare, entertainment, technology, and more. Over the years, the City has made it a priority to highlight these organizations who have chosen to call Santa Clarita home in a video series titled Santa Clarita Business Minute. This year is no different, with global medical technology company Boston Scientific Corporation taking the spotlight in the latest edition.

Boston Scientific is dedicated to transforming lives through innovative medical solutions that improve the health of patients around the world. Their Santa Clarita global neuromodulation headquarters, located within the state-of-the-art Southern California Innovation Park campus, is providing solutions for chronic pain and neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease. In addition to the business presence and culture they have established in the area, Boston Scientific also aims to give back to the community through their sponsorship and participation in local events like the Santa Clarita Marathon and Health and Fitness Expo.

In the new Santa Clarita Business Minute, viewers can expect to learn more about the medical solutions and advancements that Boston Scientific is creating to transform the lives of individuals everywhere. In the video, Boston Scientific employees will also speak more to their core values as an organization, along with the reasons they continue to choose Santa Clarita for business operations. The Santa Clarita Business Minute video series was created to highlight successful local companies and the programs offered by the City of Santa Clarita’s Economic Development Division.

For more information on the Santa Clarita Business Minute, as well as the various business programs and resources available, visit ThinkSantaClarita.com.

City Of Santa Clarita Announces Justin Diez As New Chief Of Police

| News | March 12, 2020

Captain Justin Diez has been selected as the new Captain for the Santa Clarita Valley station, bringing nearly two decades of law enforcement experience with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department to his new post. Diez spent two years as the second in command at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station as former Captain Robert Lewis’ Operations Lieutenant before being transferred to North Patrol Division.

“Captain Diez is someone who lives in, and has worked in the Santa Clarita Valley,” said city Manager Ken Striplin. “He knows our community, knows our City and knows what it takes to have an impact on crime. We look forward to working together and continuing to drive down crime in Santa Clarita.”

Justin Diez is replacing Sheriff’s Captain Robert Lewis, who was recently promoted to Commander. Lewis served as the Chief of Police for the Santa Clarita Valley Station since 2017.

Captain Diez has a Bachelor’s in Criminal Justice from Cal State Northridge and a Masters of Criminal Justice from the University of Cincinnati, Ohio. He began his career with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department in 2002 as a Deputy at the North County Correctional Facility. Since then, he has been stationed at Transit Services, the Community Partnership Bureau, Operation Safe Streets Bureau, Lancaster Station, Internal Affairs Bureau and the Malibu/Lost Hills Station before his assignment in Santa Clarita.

“I look forward to returning to the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station and the opportunity to once again protect the community I call home,” said Captain Diez. “I am certain that the knowledge, skills and abilities I have gained throughout my law enforcement career will allow me to continue to drive down crime in our city while ensuring our roads are safe for all who travel on them.”

Captain Diez lives in the Santa Clarita Valley with his wife and children.

What Now Sulphur Springs?

| News | March 12, 2020

Sulphur Springs Union School District has not decided whether it will resubmit its failed bond measure in time for the November general election.

“At this time, the Board (of Trustees) has not made a determination as to if and/or when they may go out for another bond measure,” Superintendent Catherine Kawaguchi wrote in an email. “We greatly appreciate all of the parents, staff members, law enforcement, fire fighters, community members and voters that supported Measure US. We know that we have very old buildings in our district and we need to continue to work to support our facilities program.”

Measure US, which would have allowed the district to sell $78 million in general obligation bonds, failed by 58 percent to 42 percent, but it was far from the only bond measure to fail. According to Richard Michael, who runs the Big Bad Bonds website, only 35 of 120 bond measures (29 percent) put before voters last week passed. Contrast that with 2019 in which between 85 and 90 percent of the bond measures passed.

“People are just disgusted,” a gleeful Michael said. “Not all of them had opposition. Most didn’t have arguments against (included in voter-information pamphlets).”

An example, he said, was in Fullerton. The elementary and high school districts put bond measures before the voters. No one submitted arguments against either measure. The only opposition he knew about was one man putting up a couple of signs.

Both failed, as did all nine bond attempts in Orange County. In Los Angeles County, six of 11 passed with the needed 55 percent of the vote; one that failed received 53 percent.

The Orange County Register suggested that having a state bond measure going down to defeat didn’t help. Michael said he thinks that since the failed attempt to repeal the 12-cent gas tax the Legislature passed in November 2017, people are thinking twice about voting to take on more debt.

“They’re getting pinched and pinched,” he said.

Michael also took a shot at the various consultants who tell school districts that their polling indicates a bond would pass. Sulphur Springs used Sacramento-based Deane & Company for its financial and treasury needs and named its president, Shawnda Deane, as the Yes on US committee’s treasurer, which Michael alleges is illegal.

“The consultants all have egg on their face,” Michael said. “They’re not pretending to follow the law. School districts will be more uncertain about the consultants, which I think are rigged.”

It’s also possible that voters objected to some of the issues that came to light before the election. Specifically, Bob Kellar violated city norms and procedures by signing on as a member of the city council, not a private citizen. Then Kawaguchi might have violated state law by using her district email address to the county registrar-recorder requesting Kellar’s designation change. The county might have violated state law by making the change after the December 13th deadline it set.

Regardless, Steve Petzold, principal officer of the Center for Truth in School Bond Measures and author of the argument against the measure, isn’t done with this matter. He sent three complaints to the Fair Political Practices Commission detailing the alleged wrongdoings. He said he expects nothing to come of it, but it can’t hurt to hold the district accountable for its actions.

Michael applauds Petzold’s move, saying it’s a big mistake to not go after those that break the law, even when the bond measure failed. But he also couldn’t know for sure how much Petzold had to do with Measure US failing. “Anything done had some effort,” he said. “Whether (Petzold) does, you have to interview voters, and nobody does exit polls (for school bond measures).”

Michael also said he expects Sulphur Springs to try again. Under state law, a district may reintroduce a bond measure 90 days after the last election. Contrast that to Idaho, where proponents must wait six months, he said.

Should the district re-file, Michael said, he hopes for a repeat of what happened with Lompoc Unified. Voters rejected a bond in June 2016, then again by a worse margin in November 2016, then again by an even worse margin in June 2018. The district is trying again in November.

“This is so corrupt,” he said. “(Rejecting the bonds is) somewhat refreshing.”

City of Santa Clarita Covererd By Los Angeles County Department of Health, Local Health Emergency Declaration

| News | March 12, 2020

The City of Santa Clarita is working closely with the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health (DPH) to monitor the novel coronavirus. Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) is a viral disease that produces symptoms similar to the flu or pneumonia.
On March 4, Los Angeles County declared a local emergency to ensure that it will have the authority to take measures necessary to protect and preserve public health and safety, including seeking aid from state and federal authorities as necessary. There have been seven positive cases in L.A. County, all linked to travel abroad. There have been no novel coronavirus cases reported in Santa Clarita.

According to L.A. County Public Health, at this time, there is no immediate threat to the general public. Residents, students, workers and visitors are encouraged to engage in their regular activities and practice good public health hygiene, as this is the height of flu season.

“The City of Santa Clarita is working closely with our local partners to ensure preparedness, if and when cases of Coronavirus are reported in our City,” said Mayor Cameron Smyth. “The declarations of emergencies by other cities that have their own health departments are to ensure that they have access to the funds and resources necessary to respond. The City of Santa Clarita is covered, at this time, by the Los Angeles County declaration of emergency.”

As with other respiratory illnesses, there are steps that everyone can take daily to reduce the risk of getting sick or infecting others with circulating viruses.

  • Stay at home when sick.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.
  • If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water if hands are visibly dirty.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Limit close contact, like kissing and sharing cups or utensils, with people who are sick.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. If you do not have a tissue, use your sleeve (not your hands).
  • Facemasks are most effective when used appropriately by health care workers and people who are sick.
  • Get a flu shot to prevent influenza if you have not done so this season.

The city encourages residents to prepare for any emergency by ensuring their families have a disaster kit at home with seven days of household essentials, including food, water, sanitation supplies and basic medications.

If you have further questions, visit santa-clarita.com/coronavirus.

Henry Mayo Employees Fired after HIPAA Violation

| News | March 12, 2020

Several Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital employees were fired after illegally viewing the information of the Saugus High School shooter, an official confirmed.

According to Patrick Moody the hospital’s director of marketing, public relations and community engagement, these employees violated patient privacy laws in viewing information about the shooter.

“It is unfortunate that some employees had curiosity about the event and accessed patient information inappropriately,” Moody wrote in an email. “Henry Mayo does not tolerate any violation of patient privacy laws and appropriate disciplinary action was taken, up to and including termination, against the individuals for which no legitimate business reason was found for their actions.”

Moody did not say how many employees were involved, when they were fired or what information they saw.

Under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), only personnel directly involved with a patient may view information related to that patient. However, some employees (an unnamed source claimed 13 in total) looked at information on Nathaniel Tennosuke Berhow, who died at Henry Mayo after allegedly murdering two classmates and shooting three others on his 16th birthday before taking his own life.

“Henry Mayo takes the privacy of our patients very seriously,” Moody wrote. “All employees receive extensive annual training on state and federal privacy regulations. The training includes detailed descriptions of the potential consequences of violating any of these regulations. All suspected breaches of our HIPAA policies are thoroughly investigated with appropriate consequences, including termination, implemented for confirmed violations upon conclusion of a review.”

Navy Fighter Pilot Mike Garcia Advances to Special Runoff and General Election

| News | March 5, 2020

Race against Christy Smith: Service vs. Socialism

Tuesday evening, surrounded by his family and hundreds of volunteers, Mike Garcia claimed victory as the top GOP candidate and will advance to the Congressional Special Election Runoff in May and the General Election in November.

Garcia, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot who flew 30 combat missions over the skies of Iraq, Tikrit, and Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, has proven to be the strong candidate for California’s 25th Congressional District despite being an outsider and newcomer to politics. A first-generation American whose father legally immigrated from Mexico, Mike Garcia graduated from Saugus High School and went on to the U.S. Naval Academy where he placed in the top 3% of his class. After nearly 20 years in the Navy as a record-setting combat fighter pilot, Garcia returned home with his family where he started a successful business career creating hundreds of jobs.

Mike Garcia surges into the Special Election Runoff with tremendous momentum having raised over $1.4 million from over 10,000 donors, building a grassroots operation of 300 volunteers walking 3,000 homes per week, and securing key endorsements from Governor Pete Wilson, Congressmen Elton Gallegly and Buck McKeon as well as over 30 current and former elected officials.

The Special Election Runoff and General Elections create a clear choice between two candidates and visions for America. Fighter Pilot Mike Garcia is a political outsider who is running to continue his service to the country after nearly two decades risking his life in combat. State Assemblywoman Christy Smith is a career politician who raised taxes, hurt small businesses, and is backed by Nancy Pelosi and her liberal allies who won’t stand up to the radical socialist agenda fervently pushed by those in her own party that will destroy America.
“Our victory tonight is the result of hard work by a lot of people in our community who are tired of radical career politicians ruining our state and causing Washington to be dysfunctional,” said Garcia. “Our fight continues to protect the freedoms I served to defend and to keep radical socialists from taking over Congress and our country.”

As of this writing, all Republican vote totals add to over 54% making this one of the top opportunities for a GOP pick up in the country. This represents the first opportunity in a decade for Republicans to flip a Democrat seat in a special election.

Mike Garcia believes in a strong national defense and is a pro-business, pro-taxpayer, political outsider with nearly 20 years of service to this country as one of the first Super Hornet strike fighter pilots in the Navy and is a highly decorated US Naval Officer. Garcia is a first-generation American whose father immigrated to the US in 1959 and has lived in the 25th district for nearly all of his life. Garcia lives in Santa Clarita with his wife and two sons. He was named to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program as one of the top GOP candidates in the country.

The 25th district encompasses the cities of Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Palmdale, Lancaster and the northern part of the San Fernando Valley. The median income is $76,866 and the ethnic breakdown is 45.8% White, 8% Black, 7.7% Asian and 35.3% Hispanic.

To learn more about Mike and his campaign for Congress, visit https://ElectMikeGarcia.com.

Santa Clarita Transit Launches GO! Santa Clarita Service

| News | March 5, 2020

Beginning Monday, March 2, 2020, residents within the Fair Oaks and Canyon Country areas will have a new transportation service available to them. GO! Santa Clarita is an on-demand transit pilot program offered by Santa Clarita Transit. The grant-funded program will provide curb-to-curb transportation within a designated service area, as well as to key destinations in the City, including the College of the Canyons Canyon Country Campus, Santa Clarita Child & Family Center, Via Princessa Metrolink station, Santa Clarita Sports Complex and Walmart location on Carl Boyer Drive.

GO! Santa Clarita is an app-based public transit service similar to Uber or Lyft and is open to the general public. Users can download the MV Passenger app for iOS or Android devices and, with a few simple clicks, request a ride from GO! Santa Clarita. The initial service area provides access to neighborhoods that have a high demand for transit, as well as areas that are currently not served by traditional fixed-route buses. Residents can use GO! Santa Clarita to connect to local stores and amenities, as well as to other transportation options, such as Santa Clarita Transit buses or Metrolink’s Antelope Valley Line for longer trips.

“We’re extremely excited to offer this new service,” stated Administrative Analyst Alex Porlier. “By leveraging technology, we’re able to put a modern spin on transit in Santa Clarita and make our services even more accessible.”

GO! Santa Clarita will operate for free during the month of March, after which time the regular fare will be $2.00 per trip or $1.00 for reduced-fare patrons. For more information on operating hours and service area, visit GO-SantaClarita.com.

District Voting as Soon as November?

| City Council, News | March 5, 2020

The city is in discussions with the attorney who threatened legal action if the city doesn’t move to district voting, officials said.

“The (city) council has instructed the city attorney to engage in discussions with the plaintiffs’ (attorney, Scott Rafferty),” Mayor Cameron Smyth said. He added that the council would meet in closed session before Tuesday’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Smyth said no plan is in place, but the demand letter Rafferty sent gives the impression that the group Rafferty represents, Neighborhood Elections Now, wants district voting in time for the November general election.

Rafferty confirmed as much and added that districts have to be drawn now and then redrawn in 2022 based on what the census reveals. “That creates the opportunities to get it right for the next time,” he said. “It’s a more participatory process to draw all the districts for 10 years.”

At the same time, Rafferty insisted, “Nobody wants a process that is unfair to incumbents.”

However, since so many incumbents live so close to each other, it is possible that a district would be drawn with more than one current councilmember living in it. One possible scenario could be Smyth running for a seat in a district that also would include the residences of Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda. Those three could continue to serve as at-large members until their terms expire in 2022 and then not be eligible until 2024 if they chose to challenge Smyth.

“Frankly, Rafferty said, “that’s the incumbents’ problems, not the voters’.”

Contrasting Camps on Election Night

| News | March 5, 2020

Two years ago, it was past midnight before anyone was sure of the 25th congressional district primary election results. On Tuesday, Mike Garcia knew 18 minutes after the polls closed.

“It’s going to be a knife fight,” he declared to between 100 and 200 supporters at Route 66 in Canyon Country. “The Democrats are going to come at us. We need to keep the momentum going, and because of you, we will win on May 12.”

May 12 is the date of the runoff election between Garcia and Christy Smith to see who will complete Katie Hill’s term. The two also appear headed to a November showdown to determine who wins a full term that starts in January.

Smith also knew early that this was the likely outcome, although she didn’t address her fellow Democrats until closer to 10 p.m. After her remarks, she told the Gazette that the size of the field made it unlikely anyone would receive the necessary 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

Although the outcome was never in doubt – both candidates said they had polling that indicated they would finish 1-2 and deny Steve Knight, Cenk Uygur, George Papadopoulos and everyone else – the atmosphere at the two locations was very different.

GETTING THEIR KICKS
Route 66 overflowed with Garcia supporters, who monopolized the patio and spilled into the parking lot. Many wore red Garcia shirts and hats (“Republican red,” Garcia called it) and seemed genuinely thrilled that their candidate had gotten this far.

Bill Reynolds, one of Garcia’s most vocal supporters, told the story of how he suffered tightness in his chest, shortness of breath and dizziness on Feb. 22, one month after his mother had died. He told his wife he wanted to go to Kaiser Permanente on Tournament Road, but she called 911. Soon, fire trucks and an ambulance were outside to take Reynolds to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

On the way, Reynolds said he told the paramedics, “Make sure you vote for Mike Garcia.”

The man responded, “You’re campaigning now?”

Reynolds said he told Garcia about it.

“He laughed his ass off,” Reynolds said.

At the other end of the patio, Cole Howard was excited because, as an 18-year-old, he voted for the first time.

“It was not a surreal experience, but I got a sense of pride,” he said. “I’m doing my part.”

Howard attended with his father, Curt, who said his son volunteered for Garcia’s campaign before he did. Cole said he was taken with Garcia’s speaking style, his confidence and “the way he asserted himself. That made me stick to him.”

Four years ago, Cole said he would have voted for Donald Trump. Not so Curt, who said he didn’t vote for Trump but probably would this time. But the two regularly talk politics because Cole is so interested.

“I’m so entertained by them (Democrats) and their, how should I say this? Their lunacy,” Cole said. “The random things they promise.”

Curt said he knows the importance of the 25th district. “What happens with the Democratic Party will affect what happens in the 25th. If the Democrats stay as divided as they are, it will hopefully affect voter turnout. As close as it is, it may come down to a few hundred or a few thousand (votes).”

SMITH’S SESAME STREET 4G
A quieter and more formalized affair occurred at Smith’s campaign headquarters in Stevenson Ranch. The turnout was smaller, closer to 100 than 200 people, and the room was larger, with room for catered Mexican food, tables and chairs, a stage at one end and risers for TV cameras, which numbered six (Garcia had one; one person noted that Telemundo was at Smith’s campaign and not Garcia’s). The faithful wore all colors, not just blue, and spent more time looking at their phones checking results than visiting, socializing and celebrating like they did two years ago when Hill outlasted Bryan Caforio to advance to the general election.

“We’re not worried,” Stacy Fortner said. “We’re not concerned. There’s an air of confidence in the room.”

In a corner sat Bruce Fortine and his wife, Gloria Mercado-Fortine. Registered Republicans, they were there in support of their longtime friend.

“You go for the person,” Bruce Fortine said. “I think Christy and Mike are both good candidates.”

The reason people were there seemingly was to hear Smith speak. But first, they had to listen to remarks from three people, including, state Senate candidate Kipp Mueller, who appeared headed for a showdown with Scott Wilk in November; and Rusty Hicks, chair of the California Democratic Party.

After Smith took the stage to loud applause, she announced her remarks would be “brought to you by the letter G.”

The first G was for her mother, Gail, a nurse who died after not being able to afford insulin to treat her diabetes, putting her daughter on a path to ensure better health care for all. The second G was for gratitude, for the work of staff and volunteers, and for another election and a chance to “find our moments of greatness when it seems darkest.”

The third G was for grace and the need to find human connections face to face instead of online. “Grace is what will conduct us to that better future,” she said. “We need to find grace and ethics and dignity, and restore that to our government.”

The final G was for grit.

“The eyes of the nation will turn to California’s 25th. They will be seeing what we do here as a bellwether for what happens in November: Can we hold the House, can we potentially flip the Senate, can we get ourselves on that path to the better day we have all been feeling the need for since 2016,” she said. “We have to resoundingly, through our grit, through our commitment, demonstrate that that answer is yes, absolutely yes. But we know we’ve got that grit, and we’ve got a story to tell in CA-25. We have done this work. We have built the foundation. We’ve got a solid frame and infrastructure. We built this house. We’re gonna live in it.”

She said later the staff had permission to sleep in on Wednesday, but after eating a good breakfast, “May 12 is the next hurdle.”

Wilk Introduces the “Better Budgeting for a Better Future Act”

| News | February 27, 2020

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announces the introduction of Senate Constitutional Amendment 9 (SCA 9), the “Better Budgeting for a Better Future Act.” SCA 9 will create a more efficient and effective budget process by instituting a two-year budget cycle. One year of the two-year legislative session would be devoted to the budget process and the second year would be used for assessment, oversight and evaluation of government agencies and spending.

“Annual budgeting is inefficient, eating up more than half of the year and leaving very little time to determine if the programs we have previously funded even work,” said Wilk. “A two year cycle would give everyone time to reassess how our tax dollars are spent before the budget cycle begins again. Departments and agencies would be more accountable because there would be ample time for the Legislature to evaluate the success or failure of a given program.”

Current law requires the state to operate on an annual budget. Annual budgeting is inefficient and speculative without the practicality of a structured review process. It puts undue pressure on budget staff and policy makers, since the closing of the previous year’s budget, administering the new year’s budget and beginning to plan for the following year’s budget occur almost simultaneously.

SCA 9 will transition the state budget process from annual to biennial; giving legislators the time needed to budget for the current and successive year while analyzing the performance of government agencies from the previous two years. Biennial budgeting increases efficiency, encourages long-term planning, and cuts the cost of budget preparation. Program managers would be able to spend less time defending their budgets and more time running their programs.

“Right now too much of the state’s budget runs on autopilot,” said Wilk. “If we are going to meet the future needs of Californians, without bankrupting every citizen to pay for it, something needs to change. I think SCA 9encourage program managers to spend time efficiently running their programs rather than defending their budgets.”

| News | February 27, 2020

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) introduced Assembly Bill 2379 recently, which qualifies disaster preparedness items for tax-free purchase. The bill would exempt the sale, storage, use or consumption of emergency preparedness items from taxes across the state of California.
“It’s devastating to witness one wildfire after another endanger lives, ruin family homes and threaten all we hold dear,” Assemblywoman Smith said. “How we prepare for disasters, which we are unfortunately no stranger to in the 38th Assembly District, is of critical importance. I’m proud this bill not only makes necessary, life-saving items more accessible to the public, but also creates awareness around what items should be included in a disaster go-bag.”
Items incorporated in the list of tax exemptions include:

Portable generators;
Reusable ice products;
Self-powered light sources;
Gasoline containers;
Batteries;
Coolers;
Tarpaulins;
Mobile phone chargers;
Self-powered radios;
First-aid kits;
Fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector, or smoke detector; and
Self-contained first aid kits.

Assemblywoman Smith also noted, “There are also many other factors we must consider in our community resiliency plans — Public Safety Power Shutoffs, earthquakes and other severe weather conditions. As these issues become more prominent, the disaster preparedness items we have at our access are essential.”
If enacted, AB 2379 would take effect January 1, 2021 with the tax-free holiday taking place over a three-day period in the month of June for each year until January 1, 2023.
Assemblywoman Christy Smith represents California’s 38th Assembly District, which includes the communities of Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, Agua Dulce, Castaic, Santa Susana Knolls and North San Fernando Valley.

Comprehensive Candidate Review, Primary is Tuesday, March 3rd

| News | February 27, 2020

Most people have probably made up their minds about who they will vote for come March 3rd. Some also likely already have cast their ballots. But for those still unsure, here is a summary of every candidate for Congress, State Senate and Assembly.

Regarding the 25th congressional district race, unless noted, all candidates are running for the special primary to complete Katie Hill’s term and the regular primary to win their own term.

All names are listed alphabetically.

Although their names remain on the ballot, Christopher Smith (Congress) and Susan Christopher (Assembly) have suspended or ended their campaigns.

CONGRESS:

Otis Lee Cooper: The only candidate not to name a party preference, Cooper is a Native American who works as a legal defense investigator. He believes elected officials have forgotten about “We the People,” so he seeks to solve problems that will benefit the people, not the political party. He is running only for the full term.

He is dedicated to solving working-class issues, but instead of platform points, he lists the issues without addressing them specifically, so what side he’s on is unknown. The issues include veterans, rent control, slumlords, marijuana legalization, gun laws, LGBT laws, immigration laws and wages.

Robert Cooper: The Democrat who has lived in Santa Clarita for 20 years is an associated professor at UCLA and serves as co-faculty Director of the UCLA Principal Leadership Institute. He’s also the founding pastor of Berean Baptist Family Fellowship of Valencia.
His website lists three priorities: people over politics, focus on healing; and leadership not lies. He favors investing in public schools and addressing student-loan debt, expanding access for affordable housing and addressing homelessness, and investing in alternative transportation systems, though he doesn’t give examples.

Getro Elize: The Democrat and Antelope Valley resident is a patient resource worker for the county Department of Health Services. He served in the Army and graduated from Howard University.

He pledged to run a campaign free of corrupt corporations, crooked lobbyists and PACs. He seeks to mobilize a homelessness task force and request emergency funds from county and state officials for emergency shelters and expand rapid re-housing efforts. He wants to build a county hospital in the AV, help rural areas by building more roads and expanding the electrical grid there, eliminate student-loan debt, increase teacher pay and increase long-term-care support and services.

Mike Garcia: The Republican, 43, is a first-generation American who served in the Navy and was the first to declare his candidacy, back in April. He lives in Valencia and graduated from Saugus High. He has a rabid local following; including many who used to support Steve Knight but now believe Garcia better articulates their views. He also received The Signal and Gazette’s endorsements.

He favors term limits of between 10 and 12 years. He’s worried about the national debt and has a three-step process to get it under more manageable control: balance the budget, incentivize departments to save money and consolidate departments as necessary to eliminate levels of bureaucracy. He’s wary of socialism where health care and education are concerned. He wants to reduce taxes and government. And he supports the president.

Kenneth Jenks: The Republican served in the Marines and raised two kids in Santa Clarita. He traces his ancestry back to the Mayflower.

He believes the Democrats’ socialist tendencies are bad for the country, opposes health care to illegal immigrants, favors greater school choice, supports all environmentally friendly energy sources; desires a strong military, border patrol, ICE and cyber security. Regarding immigration, he wants to end illegal immigration and address birthright and chain migration with legislation, although he doesn’t specify what type of legislation he wants.

Steve Knight: The former two-term congressman lost to Hill and was set to work in the private sector when friends (and former Washington colleagues, led by House Minority leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield) called on him to run again after Hill resigned. His entering the race caused two others to drop out.

Knight graduated from Palmdale High and Antelope Valley College before serving in the Army and as a member of the Los Angeles Police Department. City Councilmember’s Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean endorsed him.

Knight’s website doesn’t list campaign points. Instead, it lists what he did while in Congress. Nine of his bills were signed into law; he name-checks Trump for signing six of them but does not name Barack Obama for signing the other three.

Courtney Lackey: The Republican and local resident is only running in the special election to finish Hill’s unexpired term. She says on Facebook she will give full attention to the district when others will be campaigning.

She favors terms limits for House and Senate members, a balanced budget, a health care system run by doctors and patients, an education system run by parents and teachers, a fully funded veterans program and full Social Security protections.

David Lozano: The Republican was a sheriff’s deputy in Watts and a Monterey Park reserve police officer before becoming a bankruptcy attorney and counts former county Supervisor Mike Antonovich as a fraternity brother.

As congressman, he says he will secure funds to strengthen law enforcement’s psychological methods to approach and subdue wrongdoers; provide a home, food, clothing and jobs to those in need, especially those homeless or mentally ill; expand Palmdale’s aerospace industry and ensure full military finding, protect the borders and support legal immigration.

Daniel Mercuri: The Republican from Simi Valley calls himself “rough around the edges …who speaks plainly.” He served in the Navy.

Of all the candidates, his website provides the most platform details. He seeks to limit lobbying power, favors term limits of eight years for House members, wants to simplify a bill’s language and provide proof that the representative – not a lobbying firm – wrote the bill.

He also wants to abolish the IRS and the Sixteenth Amendment, increase education funding but leave it up to the states to decide how – with the provision that teacher salaries must increase. But he also opposes student debt forgiveness. Regarding health care, he favors a government program to compete with private insurance, a prescription drug price cap and holding hospitals accountable for price gouging.

He wants to help veterans, close the borders to all regardless of nation of origin except for those who provide economic growth, deport criminals to their own country’s prisons, increase punishments for gun crimes, replace Social Security with a National Retirement Security Program and introduce a national voter ID program. He opposes the Green New Deal but favors independent scientific research, seeks to defund Planned Parenthood and ban abortions except for rape or threat to mother’s life.

George Papadopoulos: The Republican and former member of Trump’s 2016 campaign’s foreign policy advisory panel is only running for the full term. He pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI and served 12 days in federal prison. He does not live in the district.
His website is only a page to invite people to join and donate, although there is a mention of ending “Democrat corruption.” His Facebook page offers comments on a few foreign policy happenings but not platform points.

David Rudnick: The Lancaster resident and former Republican volunteered for John McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign and served as a page for South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Gov. Mark Sanford. He switched parties over the GOP’s stances on LGBTQ rights and same-gender marriage. He also served in the Army and Marines and was reprimanded for vocally opposing the Bush Administration’s discharging all LGBTQ service members as well as racism, hazing and the Iraq War strategy. He left the military on a misconduct discharge and then, after feeling disillusioned with Obama, supported Sen. Rand Paul in 2012.

Now running as a Democrat – and only in the special election – Rudnick supports strengthening Social Security and Medicare, protecting the environment, ending homelessness, paying down the national debt (though he doesn’t say how); preventing a nuclear Iran, and keeping the Chinese out of Hong Kong and strengthening Israel against Arab threats. He wants to help veterans by capping interest rates at 9 percent, waiving taxes on a veteran’s home for two generations and waiving credit ratings for veterans. He opposes abortion, euthanasia and mandatory vaccinations.

Christy Smith: The current Assemblywoman, 39, stepped into the race almost as soon as Hill resigned. She previously said she considered a congressional run in 2018 but decided she could get more done in Sacramento. One year in, she’s attempting to switch. She secured The Signal’s endorsement, a rarity for a Democrat.

As a former Newhall school district board member, education has been a priority, and she seeks to invest in local classrooms to reduce class sizes, increase teacher pay and, while she doesn’t call for ending student debt, wants to ensure they don’t have a lifetime of it.

She also wants to get dark money out of politics and supports ending the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision. She supports investing in public safety so response times decrease and neighborhood security improves. She believes health care is a right and that Congress needs to control the costs of care and medicine. She favors a woman’s right to choose and will vote to fund Planned Parenthood.

She favors gun safety, believes climate change exists and the need for more solar and wind technology, immigration reform, equal rights for all and affordable housing.

Cenk Uygur: A Democrat, he doesn’t live in the district but says he doesn’t need to see the corruption that plagues Washington. He’s running to get rid of corporate PACs. As host of the multi-platform show “The Young Turks,” Uygur regularly discusses politics.

He wants higher wages and blames Mitch McConnell for blocking a bill that would increase the federal minimum wage. He believes the AV needs a four-year college and a VA hospital. He favors Medicare for all and seeks to build more homes for the homeless. He wants to protect DACA and the Dreamers, supports the Green New Deal, federal background checks for gun buyers and marijuana’s legalization; wants to end cash bail and the death penalty, thinks federal prosecutors should investigate police shootings, and backs a woman’s right to choose.

Anibal Valdez-Ortega: A first-generation American, AV resident and UCLA graduate, he’s a Los Angeles attorney representing lower-income groups in a variety of areas, including immigration, real estate, personal injury, bankruptcy and family law.

He believes medical care is a right, education is essential, climate change is real and the country must sign back onto the Paris Agreement. Locally, he’ll fight for funding to widen the 14 Freeway, tax corporations at a minimum of 10 percent, and extend DACA and a pathway to citizenship.

STATE SENATE:

Warren Heaton: The Democrat and College of the Canyons adjunct history professor is an immigration attorney whose practice focuses on refugee and asylum cases. He served in the Army as an interrogator and Russian translator.

His website lists three platform points. Healthcare is a right, so he favors a public health insurance program to guarantee access for all. The housing shortage is a crisis, so he favors building more middle-class housing and investing in clean energy, public transportation and infrastructure repair; and increased K-12 education funding, decreased student debt and increased full-time faculty.

Steve Hill: The Democrat and Palmdale resident served in the Marines for five years, followed by a decade in aerospace and another decade serving with the Department of Corrections. He also is a stand-up comedian, using that avenue to point out Wall Street corruption and working-class struggles.

This is Hill’s second attempt at this seat. Four years ago, the Gazette ran a story highlighting his atheism and ties to Satanism, although he prefers the term “humanism.” He got only 12 percent of the primary vote and did not advance to the general election.

His platform calls for the states to take over from the Department of Education, end jailing people with mental health issues, drug addictions and social ills; and protect small businesses and startups.

Dana LaMon: The Democrat and Lancaster resident has been blind since age 4 (he’s 67 now), but that didn’t stop him from graduating from Yale with a math degree and from USC law school. He also won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.

On his website are his six E’s: education, environment, economy, equality, efficiency in government and excellence in society. He calls for affordable education for all, higher pay for teachers, protecting natural resources, higher-paying jobs, equal rights for all and an individual responsibility to be better and work to do better.

Kipp Mueller: The Democrat and Adelanto resident is an attorney who handles discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation cases. He graduated from Cal in 2008 and Columbia Law in 2014.

Mueller wants to strengthen the middle class by balancing state budgets, strengthening unions, enforcing the labor code, building green infrastructure and repairing old infrastructure. He favors universal health care and more transparency in medical billing. He’s committed to reproductive justice and women’s rights that include the right to choose. He believes everyone should have a home but doesn’t offer ways to combat homelessness. Finally, he favors clean energy over Big Oil.

Scott Wilk: The Republican incumbent has served one term. He has three platform points, which he calls “pillars:” a transparent and accountable government, economic growth and social equity. His campaign website lists achievements in each area, although many of these apply to his time in the Assembly and not his current term.

Of those that do apply to his Senate term, they include: Senate Bill 53, which expands open meetings to include various advisory groups. It unanimously passed the Senate and is in an Assembly committee. SB 1409 and 153 allowed AV-area farmers to grow industrial hemp. Gov. Jerry Brown signed these two bills into law in 2018. Wilk also authored legislation that Brown signed that calls for released or paroled sex offenders to be returned to either their last known city of legal residence or last city where family lives.

Although he didn’t write the bill, Wilk supported legislation to establish a pilot program for accrediting teachers at the community college level; and he ensured the AV got its share of homelessness funding.

ASSEMBLY:

Dina Cervantes: She’s a Democrat and small-business owner in the education sector with years of experience as a student activist and teacher. She counts leading the fight to freeze student-fee increases within the California State University system as a top accomplishment (she graduated from Cal State Northridge). She also worked for the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies.

While her website offers no concrete or specific details, she is committed to improving healthcare access, defending women’s reproductive rights and justice, expanding preschool, ensuring college is affordable, preparing students for 21st century jobs and creating high-paying jobs in emerging sectors, combating climate change, protecting natural resources, and addressing homelessness by building affordable housing.

Annie Cho: Born in Korea, Cho emigrated with her family in 1971 when she was in the fifth grade. She graduated from Cal State Los Angeles at age 20 with a political science degree. After college, she worked for Democratic Sen. Alan Cranston in Washington, Speaker Pro Tempore Mike Roos in Sacramento, the Los Angeles Olympic Organizing Committee in 1982-84 and the International Olympic Committee in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1984-88.

Neither her website nor her Facebook page offers any platform positions. Instead, her website mentions she has been involved in several Democratic caucuses, served as a Los Angeles Department of Water and Power commissioner, owned a public relations firm and now works as a realtor, and received an Emmy nomination for a weekly Koran-language half-hour public affairs show. Her Facebook page trumpets how much money she’s raised and her endorsements, of which The Signal is one.

Kelvin Driscoll: The Santa Clarita resident and Democrat said he’s running because he wants his young daughter to grow up in a world in which she can feel safe. He graduated from USC and has been an adjunct lecturer in both the USC School of Social Work and the Human Services Division of Long Beach City College.

His website is sparse on details, but his candidate statement says he wants more affordable child care and early-learning opportunities, less student debt, neighborhoods that don’t fear gun violence, more affordable housing, health care based on need and not employment status, and to combat climate change to decrease the severity of wildfires and mudslides.

Brandii Grace: When the Gazette spoke to Grace in November, she didn’t yet have a campaign website. She does now, and her story starts with her growing up in extreme poverty and homelessness but working hard to lift herself and her veteran grandmother out of poverty. She graduated from Western Washington University and created a video game designed for players to explore science and technology in the universe. She also has two acting credits on her Internet Movie Database page and two credits for being on video game crews.

Grace lists six platform points: affordable health care, affordable senior and disability care, affordable child care, fully funded public education, investing in renewable energy, and addressing housing and homelessness so people can live closer to work and don’t get pushed out by rent increases.

Her Facebook page goes into more detail and adds additional platform positions relating to improving digital infrastructure and online privacy; reforming labor so unionization is protected, banning forced arbitration and letting people opt out of AB 5 if they want; and reforming prisons, cutting costs and improving worker programs for non-violent offenders.

Suzette Valladares: The Republican originally ran for Congress but switched to Assembly amid being courted by the local and county Republican Party, which endorsed her. So did The Signal, although it gave no reason why.

Valladares’ campaign website and Facebook page mention no platform points. It took an email to the campaign to get a list: reduce the state’s cost of living, allow parents greater educational choices for their children, stop human trafficking and drug smuggling at the borders, protect neighborhoods and decrease homelessness through solutions that include housing, mental health and substance abuse treatment; and “bring thoughtful balance to a state government dominated by an out of touch political class.”

Valladares also never answered questions relating to her residency and complaints that she didn’t pay staffers and consultants. She has said she lives in Acton, but sources have said she really lives in Palmdale, which is not part of the 38th district. A subsequent email to her press contact went unanswered. She has to establish residency by Tuesday.

Lucie Volotzky: Born in Montreal and naturalized in the 1980s, the Republican speaks three languages, owns two Blissful Sleep mattress stores in the San Fernando Valley and is a former model. People who talk to her can’t help but notice her strong French-Canadian accent.

Among her platform points: repeal AB 5 to help independent contractors, amend Proposition 47 to hold people more accountable for their crimes, ensure Central Valley farmers have the water they need, give everyone better school choices, cut taxes, end loopholes and limit regulations, protect soldiers and veterans, and pass common-sense legislation to tackle homelessness and sex trafficking. Like other candidates, she is short on details and specifics.

Wilk Announces Bipartisan Measure to Make CA More Military Retirement Friendly

| News | February 20, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is District Voting for City Council Inevitable?

| News | February 20, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

People who have called for district voting were pleased.

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

Those opposed expressed their displeasure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All four are white.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miranda did not return numerous calls for comment.

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

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

What People Are Saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Construction Begins On SCV Water Treatment Facility

| News | February 13, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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