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

| News | September 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

| News | September 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Assembly Fiscal Committee Gives Green Light to Wilk Legislation

| News | September 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

Senator Scott Wilk to Present Workshops at College of the Canyons

| News | August 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Valladares to Switch Races?

| News | August 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Mike Kuhlman Named Superintendent-Elect of Hart School District

| News | August 29, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mark Cripe – from Law Enforcement to Politics

| News | August 29, 2019

To Mark Cripe, law enforcement is political; so is being a congressman. Law enforcement requires listening followed by action; so does being a congressman.
Cripe checks both boxes, as a Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy who has worked with non-violent, at-risk youth. He will retire next March after 29 years. Now, he wants to take a next step and represent the 25th district in Congress. He’s one of several Republicans vying to unseat Rep. Katie Hill next year.

“I consider myself a no nonsense guy. If we’ve got a problem, let’s address the problem and move forward,” he said. “I’m pretty much a what-you-see-is-what you-get guy. I’m not your typical politician. I’m a straight shooter, and I’m running to try and be a common sense voice for my entire community.”

Some might argue the sheriff’s department is in need of some common sense right now. Sheriff Alex Villanueva has been widely criticized for some decisions, including rehiring a deputy who had tried to break into the apartment of another deputy with whom he had been in a romantic relationship. The woman had accused the fired deputy of placing his hands on her neck and harassing her with text messages. The county Democratic Party has said it regrets endorsing Villanueva.

“The sheriff is L.A. County’s highest elected county official,” Cripe said. “The Board of Supervisors is elected by district, but the sheriff is elected by all districts. What deputies do affects how people vote for sheriff.”

Cripe, 54 and a Quartz Hill resident, said he knows that as a deputy, he represents the elected sheriff (he’s served under five of them), and that requires him to “answer a call.” He does this best as a sergeant supervising seven Vital Intervention and Directional Alternatives (VIDA) teams. His experiences led him to write a book, “Love Loudly: Lessons in Family Crisis, Communication, and Hope.”

According to the sheriff’s department website, VIDA is a 16-week program for non-violent, at-risk youth ages 11-17½ that brings together community-based organizations, volunteers, schools and families to teach youth the value of effective decision making and taking responsibility for their futures.

Cripe has done this work for almost 20 years. What he has learned is when kids sometime make bad choices, there is sometimes a valid reason. Like the boy who had been in 47 foster homes by the age of 13.

“You start having compassion,” he said. “You start listening to the stories, and you start to understand how to fix that, how to stop breaking kids.”

Now, he wants to transition into not breaking government. As he sees it, many people are anxious about the direction the country’s taking and the places people such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren want to take them.

“Some people don’t like where we’re at and would like to move us to a socialist type of scenario,” Cripe said. “Other people don’t want to have anything to do with a socialist country. I’m one of those people.”

Actually, Cripe said, he considers fire and police departments, as necessary, calling these “little government socialism.” His objections lie with what he calls “big government socialism,” which he says “is hurting things that this country (is) built on, the Constitution. (I’m) trying to step up and be willing to be a voice against that.”

He thinks that Hill (D-Agua Dulce) is “flirting” with the socialist wing of the Democratic Party, and he wonders if she is the fifth member of “The Squad,” made up of Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All are women of color; Hill is white.

“Her social networking puts her with The Squad,” Cripe said. “She is not coming out and saying, ‘Knock this stuff off, that’s ridiculous.’ Maybe she’s trying to support other freshman congresswomen, but it is cause for concern.”

Other platform points include:

– He realizes that taxes are necessary for such things as infrastructure, but he wants more accountability to decrease fraud and ensure the people, organizations, institutions and governmental branches that would benefit from taxes actually receive them.

Generally, he favors less tax, would consider a flat tax, and objects to the aspect of President Trump’s tax plan that limits the state and local deductions to $10,000.

“That might be great for Oklahoma, but the costs in California? That 10 grand doesn’t go very far,” he said. He would prefer a sliding scale based on how expensive it is to live in a state.

– He favors a barrier at the southern border, not to keep out migrant workers, with whom he has no problems, but to keep out drugs and members of various cartels and gangs. At the same time, he acknowledges that any wall wouldn’t completely keep out undesirable elements, but it would slow down the flow of drugs and violence entering.

“Some kind of barrier instead of an open desert is a better arrangement,” he said.

Cripe said he knows he is an underdog in this race. He entered late and lags far behind in fundraising, having only collected $15,410, of which $13,118 is available. But he is undeterred.

“If we have the ability to create change for the betterment of our community, then we should do that,” he said. “The question is run and let the voters decide if they think I have what it takes to be the change they want or need.”

Recycling Woes

| News | August 29, 2019

It used to be simple for John Sinapyan, owner of Sierra Recycling. People would bring in their plastic, glass or cans with the CRV designation, he’d pay them for it, then he would sell those containers to companies that would process the materials and send them to China, where they would be recycled into something else. Everyone made money.

It’s no longer so simple because China is no longer accepting as much, and companies don’t know what to do with their trash, nor do they know where to sell it. Sinapyan says he’s getting 25-30 percent less per pound than he used to.

“What can I do? We don’t have a choice,” he said. “Since July, it’s impacting us really bad.”

What’s happening now is actually a ripple effect two years in the making. In 2017, the Chinese government announced new standards for what recyclable materials it would receive. Before that, 10 percent of the seven million tons of garbage China bought came from the U.S.

According to the Los Angeles Times, China found that the United States often shipped contaminated and poorly sorted recyclables. The Orange County Register reported that last year, China forced the return of any bales that weren’t 99.5 percent recyclable. Diapers and food waste, for example, are not recyclable and usually end up in landfills. Most haulers are also unable to recycle plastic foam or any paper product with a plastic lining, which includes virtually all disposable beverage cups.

This year, the Chinese government said it would accept only the most valuable plastics and paper, which total less than 1 percent of what it took in 2016.

China’s refusal to take the world’s garbage has led to some investment in U.S. recycling plants, but scrap waste is piling up in warehouses and parking lots, the Register reported. Some is ending up in waterways, oceans, landfills and incinerators. In nearly all cases, waste disposal is more expensive and increases pollution.

Other countries, such as Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia, are getting more plastic garbage but lack the ability to process as much garbage as China, NPR reported.

“China’s trying to do something. That’s the problem they’re having,” Sinapyan said. “I hope the United States will open manufacturing (centers).”

Because it’s more expensive, and because no one wants the garbage, people aren’t buying as much material to recycle. Larry Vaccaro, a 22-year veteran of recycling in the state, said it’s a matter of economics. Right now, raw material, such as oil, is cheap, and cheap oil makes it cheaper to make more plastics.

“The economics favor the landfill when it comes to our own trash,” Vaccaro said.

Another bad sign are the complete closures of all 284 RePlanet recycling redemption centers, including the ones at a Ralphs in Valencia and Albertsons in Saugus. RePlanet was the state’s largest recycling redemption center. Now, 750 employees are out of work.

Lance Klug, a spokesman for CalRecycle, a state agency, told the Times that 996 such centers have closed since 2015.

Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit that studies issues in California’s recycling industry, estimated to the Associated Press that more than 40 percent of redemption centers have closed in the last five years, resulting in consumers getting back only about half of their nickel and dime deposits on bottles and cans.

These are concerns posted on Facebook. Kathleen D. Carver wrote that the last time she recycled; she was paid less than in the past for her year’s supply of cans and bottles. “Someone is pocketing all that money,” she wrote.

Dawn Doherty Matthews posted that she has been recycling to teach her granddaughter its importance. “She’s collected five big bags. Now what do I do?” Matthews wrote. “This is so sad.”

The closures mean people will either throw their recyclables directly into the garbage or place them in curbside recycling bins, which are often filled with contaminated material that must be discarded.

Mayor Marsha McLean said she favors waste-to-energy plants that incinerate trash at high temperatures, producing energy and decreasing what’s put in landfills. Reports vary about how much pollution it creates, but McLean believes education is necessary to prove its merits.

“We tried to do our recycling center out here; people got up in arms,” she said. “Right now, no one is willing to invest in facilities to get rid of stuff to get rid of landfills.”

Meanwhile, McLean said, the city has recycling agreements with Waste Management and Burrtec that if any resident needs containers, they are provided free. And there are some recycling centers still operating within the city limits that pay for some items. McLean suggests the website www.earth911.com to find a local place.

Sierra Recycling is one such location. Sinapyan said he has seen an uptick in business, and it helps that he has exactly one employee and low rent. He would like to see Congress pass legislation protecting mom-and-pop centers such as his from monopolies, but it’s going to take the citizenry petitioning its leaders for that to happen.

“It’s not fair,” he said. “The United States is based on small businesses.”

Vaccaro said there is a discussion centered on something called Extended Producer Responsibility, in which manufacturers take responsibility for what happens to the products they make at the end of the products’ lives.

Without using the EPR moniker, several state bills address this. Assembly Bill 1080 and Senate Bill 54 would require 75 percent of single-use plastic products be phased out by 2030, and AB 792 would require beverage-container producers to have no less than 75 percent postconsumer recycled plastic content on and after January 1, 2030.

It remains to be seen what will happen. Vaccaro said, “Recycling will never be the answer by itself.”

It also remains to be seen if Facebook poster Angie Southwick’s opinion becomes the norm. She wrote, “It’s not worth the time and money put into it.”

Assemblywoman Smith Calls for Gazette Boycott

| News | August 23, 2019

Assemblywoman Christy Smith called for an advertising boycott of the Santa Clarita Gazette over publisher Doug Sutton’s weekly column, “Doug’s Rant.”

“I will no longer be promoting my official state activities, nor sponsoring paid campaign advertising in Santa Clarita Gazette and Free Classifieds,” Smith wrote on her Facebook page.

Anthony Breznican’s Twitter post (@Breznican) on Saturday morning was the first public outcry. Smith’s Facebook post followed shortly after on Sunday morning.

At issue is Sutton’s August 16th column in which he voices his opinions about racism, white supremacy and Donald Trump. Many of the hundreds that commented on Smith’s post expressed shock and disgust that Sutton seemed to be at best minimizing, and at worst denying, that these things exist in Santa Clarita or the Trump presidency.

“Come on you Trump derangement sufferers, please tell me words and actions of what this man has said or done to cause you to believe that he believes the white race is better than all other races and he should have control over all other races?!” Sutton wrote. “Don’t give me the poppycock of him saying that some illegals coming in to our country are criminals, saying the squad should go back to where they came from or Baltimore is a horrible place to live. Seriously, if you think those words represent the definition of a white supremacist then I almost feel sorry for you. And if you think statements like those cause sick people to shoot other people, then I definitely feel sorry for you.”

In an email, Sutton explained that this column’s purpose was to point out that many who the left call “white nationalist” or “white supremacist” are not. He also asserted that the left is more concerned with name calling and labeling than problem solving.

“I agree there are negative factions in every area of our political landscape,” he said. “I disagree that it is as rampant as those criticizing me may feel.”

Smith (D-Santa Clarita) didn’t return calls to her cell phone, her Sacramento office or her district office. On Facebook, Smith quoted a Morning Consult/Politico poll from last week that said 47 percent of voters perceive white nationalism as a threat, and she referenced FBI statistics that showed hate crimes increased from 2014-17.

“I’m exercising my ‘white privilege,’ the privilege of moving money, marshaling resources, and saying no more,” she wrote. “I urge anyone who supports this publication with your ad dollars to do the same. Let’s show our neighbors we stand with them.”

Many posters applauded Smith’s decision. Many wrote similar to Kathye Armitage’s post: “Thank you for speaking up about this. I am with you.”

Other posters called Sutton names. Abby Savell called him “a simpleton who in his own white male privilege, has no idea of how to process deeper layers of thought and nuance of any sort.” Bruce McFarland said he was “a blind self-deluded man.”

The group CA25 United for Progress expressed support for the boycott and provided a link on its Facebook page of 38 Gazette advertisers’ email addresses and 42 business listings.

One Smith supporter, Victor Lizano, posted an encouragement to email Gazette advertisers inviting them to join the boycott. At least one person, Breznican, did.

“I live in Santa Clarita and there is a boycott movement happening against the Santa Clarita Free Gazette over the publisher’s recent column excusing and diminishing the danger of ‘white supremacy,’” Breznican wrote in an email an advertiser forwarded to the Gazette. “In the current issue he dedicated a full page to a ‘rant’ declaring that white supremacy is a hoax. He has previously called himself a ‘defender of the problem of whiteness,’ and the new column includes a section dedicated to white pride. Your company advertised in that issue of the Gazette, and you deserve to know what kind of articles are appearing alongside your company’s name.”

Sutton said in an email that he has received “significant support from those advertisers who have been contacted and encouraged to pull their advertising. I will also say that for every one of these attacks on me and this newspaper there have been just as many in support of us.”

“The purpose of this boycott is to shut down my paper and put good people out of work. Furthermore to silence an opinion they disagree with and to shape the media landscape locally to their liking and opinion,” he said. “The method of group thinking I’ve seen on social media is actually a sad reflection on many in our community to jump on a bandwagon based on inaccurate descriptions of my opinion.”

Saugus school district board member David Barlavi, who posted that he donated $100 to Smith’s 2020 re-election campaign, told the Gazette that Sutton must retract his comments; acknowledge racism, white supremacy and white nationalism exist and apologize.

Sutton says he challenges the critics to specify “the exact words I used that conveyed I’m a racist. I was, in no statement, condoning or encouraging any form of white supremacy, I was not stating any superiority of any race. I’ve also written before that all forms of mistreatment of any person of any race, religion, nationality or sexuality is wrong!”

Poster Guy Nohrenberg also challenged Smith to specify which parts of Sutton’s column she found objectionable. And David Goss sent out an email to advertisers in response to the email he received.

“While it’s everyone’s right to disagree with others, I do not feel it’s right to attack an entire business over one person’s comments,” Goss wrote. “Doug’s paper employs some very wonderful people, and while the purpose of this hit piece is to hurt Doug, it also affects hard working people of the Gazette who may or may not share the same opinion as Doug. I would encourage you to not make a decision on whether to continue to advertise with the Gazette based on this underhanded and horrible practice of outing advertisers in an attempt to shame them into removing their advertisements.”

What To Do About Acosta’s Open Water Board Spot

| News | August 22, 2019

Now that Dante Acosta has resigned his seat on the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency Board, the county finds itself in the same situation it found itself in late last year when it appointed Acosta in the first place.

Acosta, a former Santa Clarita City Councilmember and Assemblyman, had been nominated by County Supervisor Kathryn Barger to sit on the board as the county’s representative. He resigned Monday to take a job in El Paso, Texas, with the Small Business Administration.

The seat will no longer exist as of January 1, 2023, the result of Senate Bill 634, which created the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency. The law requires the number of directors to be cut from its current 14 to nine all-elected positions. Current board Vice President Maria Gutzeit said the board is trying to downsize now. President Bill Cooper and member Lynne Plambeck said in December that they would like the seat eliminated.

“It’s largely up to Kathryn Barger and the country supervisors,” Gutzeit said. “They can choose to select someone or leave it unfilled.”

Barger spokesman Tony Bell emailed to say the position would be filled.

“We are looking at a number of qualified candidates and expect to notify the Board with a decision as soon as possible,” Bell said.

Stacy Fortner, a former Castaic Lake Water Agency board candidate, said she’s interested in the position, which represents between 900 and 1,000 customers in Castaic and Val Verde. She added that she spoke to Barger’s Santa Clarita field representative, Stephanie English, on Monday in the district office about the seat and other available positions.

A Relieved Citizen, a Local Hero and a Cleared Landscape

| News | August 22, 2019

by Michelle Sandoval

Last week the Gazette reported on a local resident’s concerns about an excess amount of dry brush behind her home that she feared was a serious fire hazard. Judith Gilbert, from Canyon Country, resides in the Sierra Park mobile home complex, next to the Tres Robles Homeowners Association condos. After numerous calls to the City and local fire officials pleading for help to have the brush removed, the majority of which went unanswered, Judith called the Gazette with her story.

Gazette reporter Lee Barnathan, who covered the original story, spoke to Station 107 Captain Ryan Chapin, who eventually did stop by to inspect the brush. Barnathan writes, “Chapin said it would be simple to use a weed trimmer, remove the grass and throw six inches of mulch or bark to prevent further growth. But if a fire arises, the station is right across the street and would respond quickly.” Judith Gilbert is 80 years old, nothing about using a weed trimmer or throwing mulch would be “simple” for her.

This led to the Gazette staff putting their heads together to come up with a solution to help Judith and the other nearby residents. We decided to call some of our loyal advertisers who specialize in tree and brush removal to see if they would be willing to offer their services pro-bono and remove the dry brush. Right away, a hero emerged. Erik from Erik’s Tree Service & Brush Clearance agreed to take care of the problem for Judith, quickly and free of charge. In fact, he informed Judith that he, along with his wife, Natalie, and two children, Gabe and Ali, would be taking care of the brush personally.

“What bothers me is that people won’t go outside of their zone to help others. Especially when it comes to senior citizens. They need help and they need to be listened to. I just felt in my heart that it was the right thing to do,” he stated.

Erik and his family do a lot in the community to help seniors, especially during the holidays when they pay them special visits and just sit, talk and do arts and crafts. It is important to them that no one is lonely and alone in these times.

Erik added, “This is something I will remember forever, just seeing her face and smile meant everything to me.”

He concluded by saying that this is a service he will provide for her on a yearly basis, so that Judith can rest easy and enjoy her home life, without any fear of possible brush fires.

A Letter from Judith:


Regarding the brush removal, all I can say is if you need to know or get something done in this Valley, CALL THE SANTA CLARITA GAZETTE.
A big thank you to you, Lee and the Gazette staff. This newspaper is also a voice of truth, reason and common sense. Rare commodities these days.

-Judy G

For information on Erik’s Tree Service & Brush Removal, call 661-480-0030.

Wilk Measure Urging Congress to Fix a Retirement Policy Impacting Teachers Passes Both Houses of Legislature

| News | August 15, 2019

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announces that Senate Joint Resolution 3 (SJR 3) has cleared both houses of the Legislature. SJR 3 urges the federal government to repeal two federal retirement benefit laws that can reduce Social Security for teachers along with some other groups of public employees and their spouses.

“There’s no other way to say it: this federal policy is completely unfair to its most valuable public servants, especially educators,” said Wilk. “School is starting back up right now, and it’s the perfect time to send Congress the message that teachers and their families should not be treated unjustly. They are entitled to every cent they have paid into social security.”

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) and Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP), passed in the 1970s with little statistical analysis, were designed to prevent “double-dipping” from social security and other government pensions. The GPO cuts benefits when an individual receives a government pension, and their spouse is eligible for social security from non-government employment. Similarly, the WEP cuts an individual’s benefits when they are eligible for social security and government pensions from separate employers.

Why does this matter? It is unfair.

If you have had a non-public sector career and, for example, in later life become a teacher, the social security benefits you earned from your non-public sector career could be slashed or altogether eliminated. Teachers, as a group, do not receive generous retirement benefits, so a policy that penalizes them from receiving their rightfully earned Social Security from a previous job is really a double whammy and infinitely unfair.
72-percent of teachers are women. The ramifications of this penalty are usually discovered when a spouse passes away and a widow’s household income is dramatically reduced because social security benefits are gutted.
If you work in the private sector, pay social security and are the spouse of a person who is eligible for a pension that does not pay into social security (like a peace officer or teacher) the benefits you rightfully earned may be diminished by up to 50 percent.

Other consequences of these problematic policies are that they disproportionately affect lower-income workers and can discourage qualified individuals from seeking public-sector jobs such as STEM education. Our future depends on students having access to education in science, technology, engineering and math. Experts in these fields (e.g., people that have good careers in aerospace) may not consider second careers in education because of the ramifications to retirement under WEP and GPO.

“The GPO and WEP are unfair to public employees and harmful to the nation’s workforce,” said Wilk. “I hope Congress hears this message and finally takes action to repeal these harmful policies.”

SJR 3 has support from a number of education and law enforcement associations, including the California Teachers Association, the California Retired Teachers Association, the Peace Officers Research Association, and the Statewide Law Enforcement Association.

Senator Wilk represents the 21st Senate District which includes the Antelope, Santa Clarita and Victor Valleys

A Concerned Citizen, a Fire Captain and Some Dry Brush

| News | August 15, 2019

Judith Gilbert saw the growth and became concerned.

The vegetation on the other side of the wall that divides the Sierra Park mobile home complex and the Tres Robles Homeowners Association condos had turned brown. Gilbert, 80, feared fire.

Calls to the city and County Fire Station 107 went mostly ignored for a month. Finally, a fire captain visited Monday and told her it was not a fire hazard, which didn’t appease her.

“Ten or 11 homes are affected,” she said. “It’s very close to my house.”
Fire is a reality in the area. In just the past four months, there have been at least three small fires in Canyon Country alone: a vehicle fire that spread to brush near the 14 Freeway at Golden Valley Road in April (called the Golden Fire), a vegetation fire that broke out in a residential backyard in May and a July fire that destroyed several RVs.

Gilbert has lived in the complex on Soledad Canyon Road for nine and half years. She recalled a fire behind the complex about six years ago that was caused by a flicked cigarette; her home wasn’t damaged. A year or so after that, someone had cleared the brush but she didn’t know who because she wasn’t sure who owned the land. She said she had spoken to fire department officials and wondered if they had found out and contacted the landowner.

The heavy rains this past winter led to new growth. Now, that growth is dry and has crept up the cinderblock wall at one end and along an iron fence the HOA erected on the other end.

In early July, she said, she contacted Station 107, located just across the street. “I talked to six or seven different captains,” she stated. “They said they’d check into it. I started July 2, and I haven’t heard back.”

A neighbor who contacted the City got a similar lack of response, Gilbert said.

Station 107 Captain Ryan Chapin said he has seen narrow land strips in which weeds grow but are not connected to any brush. A brush area of concern ends up on a declaration list, which leads to an inspection, he said, which makes it easier to find the property owner.

“If it’s an unsightly thing, we’re not in the business of going around and telling people to clean up their yards,” he said. “If it’s a genuine fire hazard, we will start working towards getting that handled.”

He nonetheless promised to drive by and take a look.
Councilmember Bob Kellar, reached while on an Alaskan trip, said he often receives calls about dried brush, such as that which runs close to the Metrolink stations.

“I said, ‘Thank you much.’ I made a call, and within a week, it was all cut back,” Kellar said. “If there is an issue, I reach out to Public Works (Department).”

This only applies to city owned land, Kellar explained. If it’s on private property, “We don’t have a right to take taxpayer’s money and go out there and deal with something unless it poses some kind of a real threat to safety. Then we’ll take another look at it.”

This strip of land is private property owned by the HOA, a tile search revealed. A call to the management company resulted in leaving a message for the HOA board, but no one returned the call.

Captain Chapin went over, spoke to Gilbert, inspected the growth and determined it was “just weeds and nothing that poses a significant fire hazard to either side.”

“We explained to her, and that’s why she feels like she wasn’t getting a response from Fire, because it doesn’t even come near the qualifications of that being a brush situation where we would go to our brush-clearance unit,” Chapin said. “Whoever cleaned it before, that was on their own volition.”

Gilbert said she felt like she and Chapin weren’t speaking the same language.

“The way he said it, he passed it off as nothing,” she said. “He didn’t really convince me.”

Chapin said it would be simple to use a weed trimmer, remove the grass and throw six inches of mulch or bark to prevent further growth. But if a fire arises, the station is right across the street and would respond quickly.

“There’s little to no fire hazard. Could those weeds catch on fire? Any patch of weeds could catch on fire, but it doesn’t pose a life safety risk or a hazard to those structures,” he said. “It’s not connected to brush. There is no brush. It’s just some small little weeds.”

Meanwhile the brush remains, as does Gilbert’s concern.

“Maybe I’m making too big a deal out of it,” she said, “but it’s going to get worse.”

*Check back next week as the Gazette tries to help Judith solve her brush problem.

Assemblywoman Smith’s Bill to Expand Homeowner Protections Receives Governor’s Signature

| News | August 9, 2019

Assemblywoman Christy Smith (D-Santa Clarita) is pleased to announce her Assembly Bill (AB) 1106, which extends Los Angeles County’s Enhanced Homeowner Notification Program, has received Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature. The bill continues the program’s fraud prevention, information and free counseling services for property owners and tenants. The measure also marks Assemblywoman Smith’s third bill signed into law.

“It’s no secret California is facing a housing crisis, even during this period of economic expansion,” Assemblywoman Smith said. “This bill provides a safety net for homeowners who have worked hard to purchase and maintain their homes. I’m immensely proud to partner with the Los Angeles Department of Consumer Business Affairs (DCBA) to prevent foreclosure and real estate fraud, promote tenant protections and honor the dignity of work.”

The program has equipped homeowners with resources to keep their homes since its inception in 1992. Through the enhanced program, DCBA has been able to prevent home foreclosures, facilitate successful loan modifications and help homeowners navigate predatory real estate practices. The bill allows Los Angeles County to continue these services for another decade by extending the sunset date. AB 1106 also amassed coauthor support from fellow Los Angeles County representatives, Assemblymembers Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and Al Muratsuchi (D-Torrance) and Senator Henry Stern (D-Malibu).

“The Department of Consumer and Business Affairs’ Foreclosure Prevention Program has saved over 475 homes from foreclosure, helped homeowners save more than $30 million in successful loan modifications and helped them with fraud avoidance,” said Joseph Nicchita, Director of Los Angeles County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. “I thank Assemblywoman Smith for championing this measure with support from Assemblymembers Bloom and Muratsuchi and Senator Stern, ensuring the homeowners of Los Angeles County can continue receiving this important service.”

AB 1106 takes effect on January 1, 2020.

Discrimination Against Natural Hairstyles is Now Unlawful

| News | August 9, 2019

by Natalia Radcliffe

In 2018, a video went viral of a 17-year-old Black male wrestler who had his dreadlocks cut during a wrestling match. He was given an ultimatum: cut the hair or lose the match. The teenager chose to have his dreadlocks cut, and ultimately won the match. However; since then, the video has spurred people to question the situation, wondering if it could have been handled in a different manner.

These and other similar stories were part of the inspiration for Senator Holly J. Mitchell, who represents the 30th senate district, to propose senate bill 188, which has recently been passed into California law as of July 3rd.

Senate bill 188, also known as the Create a Respectful and Open Workplace for Natural Hair (CROWN) act, attempts to protect individuals whose natural hairstyles are not always conducive to what is thought to be a “professional” hairstyle, which the bill describes as “closely linked to European features and mannerisms.”

Within the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, it is illegal to specifically discriminate in the workplace or with housing, based on characteristics such as race.

The CROWN act further expands upon the concept of “race” to “also include traits historically associated with race, including, but not limited to, hair texture and protective hairstyles,” which “includes, but is not limited to, such hairstyles as braids, locks, and twists.”

“We are not talking about rainbow-colored tresses or pink mohawks,” said Mitchell during a policy hearing in March found in a press release. “We are speaking of groomed hairstyles like my locs, that would, without question, fit an image of professionalism, if bias or negative stereotypes of Black people were not involved.”

According to the bill, the common concept of “professionalism” does not include hairstyles such as braids, locks and twists, as those are not typical European hairstyles, so “those who do not naturally fall into Eurocentric norms must alter their appearances, sometimes drastically and permanently, in order to be deemed professional.”

It explains that some of the methods of achieving this can incur damage to the person’s hair in an attempt to be seen as more “professional.”

The bill goes on to say that “acting in accordance with the constitutional values of fairness, equity and opportunity for all, the Legislature recognizes that continuing to enforce a Eurocentric image of professionalism through purportedly race-neutral grooming policies that disparately impact Black individuals and exclude them from some workplaces is in direct opposition to equity and opportunity for all.”

Hence, the CROWN act was created.

The bill’s protection not only includes Black individuals, but other people as well, such as Native Americans or Orthodox Jews, whose natural hair conducive to their race or religion does not represent a European look.

The bill “will ensure protection against discrimination based on hairstyles by specifying in Gov Code 12926 and Ed Code 212.1 that the protected class of race also includes traits historically associated with race identification, such as hair texture and hairstyles,” according to the office of Senator Mitchell.
As of January 1, 2020, all businesses and schools, both existing and new, will be required to comply with the law. All types of schools are included to comply under the law, such as charter schools, all non-religious private schools and all religious private schools, as long as the law does not infringe on the religion’s philosophy.

Santa Clarita’s assembly member, Christy Smith, Democrat, supported the bill. “The CROWN Act is a critical step in eliminating implicit biases, empowering marginalized communities and honoring equity and diversity,” Smith said.

Sources/more information:
•Senate Bill 188: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billTextClient.xhtml?bill_id=201920200SB188 •ABC news: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TeboOIciwwI • https://sd30.senate.ca.gov/sites/sd30.senate.ca.gov/files/sb_188_crown_fact_sheet_2.pdf

Getting to Know Angela Underwood Jacobs

| News | August 8, 2019

If a congressperson is supposed to work for the people they represent, Angela Underwood Jacobs has the requisite experience.

The banker and Lancaster City Councilmember might be best known for leading the charge to draft an ordinance known as “Gabriel’s Law.” It’s named for Gabriel Fernandez, who was tortured to death by his mother and her boyfriend in 2013 when he was just eight years old. Social workers with the county Department of Children & Family Services faced criminal charges for mishandling evidence of escalating abuse. The mother pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole; the boyfriend was convicted and sentenced to death.
“When Gabriel Fernandez passed away, it was such a senseless death. As a mom, as a parent, it completely broke my heart. The mayor and I were talking, having a conversation about life, and we started to talk about him. I said, ‘We need to find a way to do more to protect children, their families and DCFS as well,” stated Underwood Jacobs.

The Lancaster City Council unanimously adopted the ordinance in 2017. Now, all county social workers must digitally record visits made to Lancaster homes.

“If nothing else, we are sitting at the table talking about what else we can all do better, and that is what this is about — saving lives and figuring out easier ways to get things done,” she said.

Underwood Jacobs hopes to do the same for the 25th congressional district, so she challenged Rep. Katie Hill for the seat, one of four Republicans to do so.

“What I do really well is establish meaningful, working relationships with people with diverse backgrounds, ages, ethnicity and other socioeconomic factors; and yes, even across party lines,” she said. “Together, we are the solution. Individually, we are special, but together, we are spectacular.”

Underwood Jacobs said she grew up Republican with a conservative value system. These values include being fiscally responsible (she would cut unnecessary spending, opposes higher taxes and favors reducing the national debt), earning an honest day’s pay for an honest day’s work and placing a high importance on family and education.

She subscribes to some of today’s Republican Party standards as well; for instance, she favors funding the President’s border wall, opposes Medicare For All and favors a minute of silence in school for prayer.

In addition, she also believes in equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, bemoans the lack of civil communication in society and Washington (“We need to be able to hear one another, and we’re not doing a great job of that”) and defers to the courts on abortion while stressing she never would terminate a pregnancy herself.
“Everyone has to stand before God and be judged. That’s not my job,” she said.
Underwood Jacobs furthermore defers to people she considers experts. For example, the Mueller report proved Russia interfered in the 2016 election. “If they say Russia meddled, I have to believe that,” she said, admitting she has not read the 448-page redacted report. “I have to trust the experts are doing their job.”

And she’s not afraid to stand corrected. She criticized Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce) for voting for the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination and segregation based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in a wide variety of areas including public education. Underwood Jacobs said this bill, currently in the Senate, would allow boys and girls to compete on the same teams, although the bill says nothing of the sort.

“That’s what I read,” she said. “I don’t want to misspeak. I’m going to triple check. Your questioning gives me pause. I want to make sure I’m right.”

“I know who I am,” she said. “I’m hoping that I’m doing myself justice. I know my heart is in the right place. I know my mind is in the right place.”

To date, Underwood Jacobs’ campaign claims it has the highest percentage of in-district donations out of all candidates in the race for the 25th District. They have raised 130% more than Hill in itemized donations.

Hill campaign manager Kelsey O’Hara disputed the percentage. Citing Federal Election Commission numbers, O’Hara said Underwood Jacobs had 95 itemized donations, compared to Hill’s 872.

Jason Downs – Showbiz to Santa Clarita

| Entertainment, News | August 8, 2019

Three-year-old Jason Downs took his first dance steps watching his parents bopping around the living room to the 50s Oldies but Goodies. Born in Columbia, Maryland in 1973, the budding actor, singer and dancer grew up in the small community of Ellicott. “I first heard Elvis Presley sing while dancing with my parents, and when I watched him perform on some television reruns I was absolutely transfixed,” explains Jason. “His presence was electric and when I saw the frenzy he created in the audience, I was hooked – I knew I wanted to sing, dance, and act just like Elvis. I watched, I studied, and soon I was doing a flawless impersonation of the King of Rock and Roll.”

Downs with Neil Patrick Harris in Clara’s Heart

At the age of nine, Downs joined Ellicott’s Little Theater on the Corner and landed the role of Conrad Birdie in the youngsters’ production of “Bye Bye Birdie.” The live theater experience sharpened Jason’s love of acting; he was swept away by the dynamic relationship between the audience and the actors on stage.

It wasn’t long before he had added the moves of Chuck Berry and Cab Calloway to his dancing repertoire. Then he saw Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video when he was ten, and became a student of his movements. Jason’s impersonations of the singing stars made the young performer a hit at parties as well as on the stage, but he began to feel that something was missing, “Impersonations were a good party trick, but I needed to develop my own unique style. I bought a guitar and began studying and writing music – learning the craft of song writing in my spare time,” he said.

Downs on the set of Hairspray and with Ricki Lake

Jason continued acting and in 1987, at the age of 13, the teen landed a role in filmmaker John Waters’ movie “Hairspray,” starring Sonny Bono, Debbie Harry, Ricki Lake, and Divine.

“The movie was patterned after the popular ‘American Bandstand’ television show hosted by Dick Clark,” explains Jason. “It featured the music and dances from the 50s. Waters loved my dancing; he called me ‘the Mashed Potato kid.’ (The Mashed Potato was one of the popular teen dances of the day). I only had one speaking line, but I was a featured part of the ‘council’ (the regulars on the dance floor) and I became a local celebrity.”

Jason got an agent and began doing national commercials and voice-overs. Academics were still an important part of his life, but he was a paid actor through most of his childhood in Maryland and admits that his favorite part of high school was performing in the musical productions.

He earned scholarships to New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. To help pay for the prestigious school he got part time jobs, worked as a handyman for Fifth Avenue families, and began concentrating on his singing and songwriting. “After I graduated, I made a country western demo and showed it to a woman who worked for one of these families. She gave it to a cousin who was a hip-hop producer for rappers. He liked the sound, and told me if I could add some rapping, we could shop our ‘Hick Hop’ sound to Jive Records.”

In 2000, Jive produced Jason’s first album with the eye-popping cover title “White Boy with a Feather.” Reaching back to an ancestry that included some Cherokee blood, Jason struck a pose on Wall Street wearing nothing but his boots, guitar and a feather in his hair. The cover and the songs created a sensation – especially in Europe where the album worked its way into the United Kingdom’s Top 20. The successful album sales led to concerts and touring in front of cheering European crowds.

“I was living the dream,” says Jason, “but the bubble was about to burst. As I was preparing to do a second album, Jive Records was sold and the phenomena of Apple Music and iTunes shook the music industry. I was suddenly on my own with few prospects and realized that my music success had been based on a trendy craze. I was still being an ‘impersonator.’ I hadn’t developed the unique style I wanted and that had sidetracked my acting career. After graduation, I could have been working my way up the acting ladder, doing guest shots in television series like ‘Law and Order’ instead of playing to the fleeting adoration of fickle teenage fans.”

Downs decided to take a time out and escaped to a quiet, introspective life in Woodstock. The hiatus turned his life around. He met his future wife and fellow actor, Sharon. The couple had two children and Jason began to develop an appreciation for life outside the limelight. He didn’t give up acting altogether. In Woodstock, basking in a newfound maturity, he found he could be himself, not just an impressionist, and landed his first staring role in the independent film, “Racing Daylight.”

Another life changing moment occurred when Sharon’s sister, Laurie, introduced him to his soon-to-be brother-in-law, Weston Middleton. The two men quickly bonded over shared show business experiences and the couples became close friends. The friendship led to the collaboration and support of each other’s career goals.

Middleton’s movie industry jobs prompted him to move to California and return to his hometown of Valencia and in 2014, the Downs family decided to join them. By now, Jason had added a new talent to his show business repertoire — writing novels and screenplays.

Once settled in their new hometown, it was a natural next step for the two men to explore a new business idea – an Internet Protocol that uses integrated media to develop screen writing technologies. Both Jason and Weston have been working with the Santa Clarita Business Incubator to make their idea a reality.

Getting acclimated to a new town and working on a new business partnership are just a few of the activities that are keeping Jason busy these days. “I love the Western history in the Santa Clarita Valley,” says Jason, “it prompted me to write the script ‘Time Dancer,” which is about a time traveling cowboy in the 1850s. His ranch is located in Placerita Canyon. The script gives me a meaningful way to contribute to this valley’s history and keep the history of the Western alive. It’s also a way to connect with the community.”

Part of that connection involves the Santa Clarita Rotary Club, an organization he joined earlier this year. He has been lending his talents to the club’s fundraising and service projects. Most recently, Jason served as master of ceremonies for Rotary’s Peoples Choice Car Show, which was held in June to raise funds for three organizations dedicated to helping the homeless: Family Promise, Bridge to Home and The Village Family Services.

“My family and I love this community,” concludes Jason, “and by contributing the skills I have learned over my career in the entertainment industry, I hope to play a new part — a part in Santa Clarita’s dynamic commitment to the quality of life for all its residents.”

Katie Hill’s Primary Opponents Look Back at her First Six Months

| News | August 1, 2019

Earlier this month, Rep. Katie Hill marked six months in office. Meanwhile, her primary opponents expressed ranges of dissatisfaction with her performance.

Hill (D-Agua Dulce) listed nine accomplishments in a press release. They range from the mundane (opening district offices, attending town halls, community forums and community events) to her leadership positions, to the various pieces of legislation she either led or voted on that had passed.

She introduced five bills, one of which passed the House but remains in a Senate committee. That’s House Resolution 1064, which expands whistleblower protections to include talking to a supervisor in the employee’s direct chain of command up to, and including, the head of the employing agency, or to an employee designated to receive such disclosures.

Another bill, HR 1015, calling for a St. Francis Dam memorial to be built, became part of a public lands package that President Trump signed. It’s the only piece of Hill-sponsored legislation to become law.

Hill also wrote four amendments that passed out of committees and one amendment that passed out of the House. That was for HR 3055, which increases federal firefighting funds by $7 million that is paid for by decreasing a different fund by the same amount. The bill has yet to be assigned to a Senate committee.

“The work that we’re able to do on the local level – accomplishing our community priorities and performing constituent services – are my top priorities. Even in a divided government, we can come together and get things done for our district,” Hill said in a statement. “I’m proud to use my positions in leadership to advocate for our community at the highest possible levels and I look forward to many more years of success, together.”

The first accomplishment listed is for 204 constituent cases opened, 72 cases completed (51 successfully) and $336,773.96 in total benefits for constituents.

District Director Angela Giacchetti explained that, while every case is different, all are related to problems with federal agencies. Hill’s constituent problems mostly deal with departments related to veterans’ affairs and immigration, Giacchetti said.

Many constituents sought help securing VA-related survivor or Medicare benefits, or getting visas to travel to a foreign country to attend a family funeral, she said.

“Usually, these cases get to us when something is stuck, and our job is to unstick it,” she said. “Sometimes, all it takes is a letter from our office.”

Predictably, Hill’s Republican opponents are not impressed with her first six months. Three criticized her allegiance to Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and most found her too liberal for their tastes.

“Katie Hill’s lack of performance, her self-professed adulation of Nancy Pelosi as her hero, and her focus on following Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s socialist agenda more than our district the past six months affirms my decision to run against her,” Mike Garcia said in a statement. “She has proven herself unwilling to do this job and would rather spend her time on cable news shows defending the positions of the extreme wing of her party. We need a representative that is more focused on the needs of our district’s constituents than the shameless desire to be a member of the liberal elite.”

Angela Underwood Jacobs last week described Hill’s first six months as “lackluster.” On Tuesday, she explained.

“She’s gone back on her word. I believe she’s been in lockstep with Nancy Pelosi and her agenda,” Underwood Jacobs said. “Originally, she said she would be independent and stand her own ground. I don’t see that, personally. She’s a Socialist Democrat who’s done everything she could to undermine the core principles our country was founded upon.”

Underwood Jacobs criticized Hill for favoring Medicare For All and voting for the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination and segregation based on sex, sexual orientation and gender identity in a wide variety of areas including public education. Underwood Jacobs said this bill, currently in the Senate, would allow boys and girls to compete on the same teams, although the bill says nothing of the sort.

Underwood Jacobs also said Hill favors letting 16-year-olds vote. In fact, Hill voted for HR 1, which allows 16-year-olds to register to vote.

Hill also voted for a bill that prohibits removal proceedings against certain illegal immigrants and provides them paths toward permanent-resident status. Underwood Jacobs said this allows illegal immigrants to engage in gang activity and let people with multiple convictions to apply for permanent residency. In fact, immigrants with one felony or three misdemeanor convictions (not counting some cannabis and domestic-violence misdemeanors) are ineligible.

“She is out of touch with the people in the 25th congressional district,” Underwood Jacobs concluded.

Mark Cripe took a different tact, first saying, “I will always give people in office the respect they deserve, so you are not going to hear me bag on Katie Hill, plain and simple. I may feel that I would have done things differently; but first of all, she’s a freshman, she’s just figuring her position out, and that can’t be easy to do given all the turmoil going on between everybody.”

But then Cripe expressed dissatisfaction with Hill’s connection to Pelosi.

“Nancy Pelosi has taken Katie Hill under the arm, and Nancy’s pretty much gone in directions that are different than I would go,” Cripe said. “She’s grooming Congresswoman Hill. Where’s that gonna go, and how far left are we gonna go with all that?”

Cripe also said he didn’t like that she voted against a law that provides $4.5 billion for humanitarian assistance and security to respond to migrants attempting to enter the country through Mexico. Trump signed the bill July 1.
“If we’re going to help these people, if we’re going to address significant problems within our own infrastructure so these people do get due process, then we need to get the funds to do so,” he said. “I would have definitely voted for that bill to get those people the help they need.”

Actually, Hill voted for the original bill but voted against the final bill. In a statement, she explained that she found the Senate’s version “a rush job” that didn’t include enough accountability to ensure the funds actually kept the children safe and the border secure.

Finally, Suzette Valladares said, “I would characterize (Hill’s first six months) as lockstep, progressive, liberal, not reflecting the values of the 25th congressional district.”

City Panel Fights Funds for Canyon Country Community Center

| News | August 1, 2019

Th11-Paper money

In a rare rebuke, a City panel last week voted against approving a financial report that included a $2 million transfer from one City fund to another because it believed the City was wrong to allocate the funds this way.

The open space preservation district’s financial accountability and audit panel voted 3-1, with one absence, to reject the report after the City Council approved moving the money from the preservation district’s account to cover a shortfall in the facilities fund.

The shortfall comes from the city using facilities-fund monies to build the Canyon Country Community Center, Councilmember Cameron Smyth said. Smyth said the city finalized the land purchase for the center in 2017.

The panel’s action changes nothing, City spokesperson Carrie Lujan wrote in an email. Mayor Marsha McLean said the City Council’s actions were legal and within the parameters of the bylaws set forth when the open space preservation district was created in 2007. “Just because you don’t like something that was done doesn’t mean it was wrong,” she said.

Still, McLean said, City Manager Ken Striplin and City Attorney Joe Montes will schedule a meeting with the panel “and let them know what the rules are and tell them they were done under the parameters of the open space rules put in place.”

According to panel member Sandra Cattell, City officials repeatedly told the panel that it had to approve the action because it was handled correctly, and then if the panel wanted to discuss it, it was free to do so.

“We were given a phrase — funding gap. We asked, ‘Why $2 million?’ ‘It was a funding gap.’ That sends up a big red flag,” Cattell said. “What if the gap would have been $8 million?”

The City correctly told the panel that ten percent of the land bought with open space funds could be used for active parkland. Cattell said she believes the Community Center is a redevelopment and not part of open space. “That in itself is disturbing to me, that they called it open space,” she said.

Cattell also said the transfer, which made up exactly one sentence in the report, “was kind of hidden.”

“Transparency is missing,” she said. “I don’t want to see the money used this way. I understand this is an important activity center in a park-poor section of the city. It’s a vital need. It’s just wrong how they’re funding it.”

McLean said the panel’s rejection is unprecedented. The closest similar incident came in 2015 when it became public knowledge that the City wanted to use open-space funds to purchase land that was too far outside the city (the limit is three miles). According to McLean and Councilmember Bob Kellar, the City corrected the discrepancy and used different funds to buy the land.

As for this action, McLean said the report had to be, and was approved, by an independent auditor before the Council could approve.

“I’m assuming that all of this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead and use the money to build the active park at the Community Center,” McLean stated.

Asked why she didn’t check it herself, she responded, “When we receive information that an action is OK to take, we go by what our staff puts forth, and if there’s something wrong with it, then there’s something wrong with it and we’ll need to look at it. As far as I know, this was all done the way it was supposed to have been done, and until something different comes up, that’s what we go by.”

Smyth said he appreciates the panel’s value, and that city staff is providing the members with any additional information they seek. He said he expects the meeting between Striplin, Montes and the panel to take place some day before the Aug. 27 city council meeting. He said the meeting’s purpose would be to “provide clarity.”

Getting to Know Suzette Valladares

| News | August 1, 2019

Suzette Valladares has heard the comments: “You’re a mother to a young child. Why run for office? Why not stay home?”

“What are we in, 1950?” she asked, “I’m proud to be a mom. I’m proud to be a mom running for Congress.”

She’s also a Republican and a Latina, not a combination many come across but one that fits her perfectly, and she seeks to parlay that uniqueness into unseating Rep. Katie Hill next year and representing the 25th congressional district.

She was the first of what are now four Republican challengers to Hill (D-Agua Dulce), having been joined by Mike Garcia, Angela Underwood Jacobs and Mark Cripe.
She said it’s extremely rewarding “having mothers come up to me to introduce their daughters to me and say, ‘We’re so proud to have a conservative Latina leader in the community running for Congress. Thank you for showing my daughter she can do anything.’”

Valladares’ platform is informed by her family’s background and experiences; for example, her views on immigration. As an American-born child whose relatives came from Mexico and Puerto Rico, she recognizes how important immigrants have been to the building of this country, so she wants to build a path to citizenship.

Yet from a story she heard about from her grandmother, who worked with Cesar Chavez in the grape fields near Bakersfield, Valladares learned a unique twist on illegal immigration. As Chavez worked to unionize, he and his followers also had to deal with undocumented workers in the fields.

“The only way to change those conditions was to unite and to strike,” Valladares said, “and if you had people that were willing to cross that picket line, specifically people that were not documented to work because they were taking money under the table to work anyway, it contradicted what they were trying to do.”

She also wants a secure Mexican border, but not to keep out people truly needing asylum. Instead, she wants to keep out drug and human traffickers. She blames the drug cartels for abusing and exploiting young children by taking advantage of asylum loopholes to smuggle in drugs. “Just because I want a safe, secure, modern border doesn’t mean I’m not pro-immigrant,” she added.

Even the reason she became a Republican comes straight out of a life experience. A counselor knew she was vocal and showed potential for activism, so she suggested Valladares go hear then-Vice President Al Gore speak at Fairfax High in 1999.

Valladares had been raised with the values of hard work, education, religion, family’s paramount importance and giving back to one’s community. According to Los Angeles Times and Time magazine articles, Gore spoke of gun restrictions and banning discrimination against gay students.

“Everything he said contradicted what my family said,” she recalled. “Nothing he said was resonating with me.”

Other platform points:

 She opposes universal health care and “Medicare for All,” but believes health care must be affordable and accessible for all Americans. The key, then, is to keep costs down through a variety of ways. These include being able to buy drugs from other countries, selling policies across state lines and combining government and private investments.

One way she would do that is to create a Health Advanced Research Projects Agency (HARPA) within the Department of Health and Human Services to research, create and find cures and treatments. It would be modeled after a similar Department of Defense program created during the Eisenhower years that developed military and non-military technologies such as computer networking and the basis for today’s internet.

“If we can bring true cures to things like cancer or even therapies for diseases like dementia that currently have no therapy, no cure, we could more rapidly bring down the costs of health care,” she said.

 She favors President Trump’s belief that for every new regulation, two must be removed. She said that since 1970, 190,000 new regulations have been implemented. According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, the regulatory restrictions within the Code of Federal Regulations increased by more than 1 million between 197and 2016.

The Mercatus Center’s report said it is unlikely all these regulations were carefully crafted. Valladares knows this is true. Running her late mother’s non-profit daycare, she finds having a regulation that requires mats on changing tables to be of a certain thickness to be “burdensome.”

“Why are we getting so hyper-focused on the smallest of details instead of making it easier for the industry to safely open up more?” she said.

Not all regulations are bad, she said. Those that benefit public safety, the environment, clean air and clean water must remain.

 She supports block grants for early childhood education and favors local control of public schools.

 People need to hire more veterans, who in turn need to be encouraged to work, her website says. She wants to better address their families’ needs, including physical and mental health care, employment opportunities, job training and retirement benefits.

Presentation of Metro Antelope Valley Line Study Moves Forward Mayor McLean Works with Metro to Bring Additional Regular Service to Santa Clarita

| News | July 26, 2019

Speaking before the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority Planning and Programming Committee on July 17, 2019, Santa Clarita Mayor Marsha McLean advocated for the Antelope Valley Line Study to be presented to the full Metro Board. Mayor McLean urged the committee members to recommend the study be presented at the next board meeting on July 25, 2019, for additional consideration and implementation.

“The study identifies strategic improvements that can be constructed and phased in over time to deliver regular and reliable service to the communities, like Santa Clarita, which are served by the Antelope Valley Line,” said Mayor McLean. “I am delighted to see that opportunities exist to provide bi-directional, 30-minute weekday service between Union Station and Santa Clarita in the near future.”

The 76.6 mile-long AV line has the third-highest ridership in Metro’s system with about 7,000 passengers daily utilizing up to 42 trains per day. The terrain and single tracking along the line in some areas, forces trains to travel at a slower speed which results in an estimated travel time of about two hours between Los Angeles Union Station and Lancaster.

“Enhancements to this line will make public transit more accessible and efficient for our residents,” said Mayor McLean. “I urge Metro to prioritize the scenarios within the study that can move forward expeditiously, identify funding to secure these early investments and coordinate with the Southern California Regional Rail Authority Board of Directors to include the study, its findings, and early investment opportunities within the Southern California Optimized Rail Expansion (SCORE) program.”

The Committee approved the study to move forward to the full board. The full Metro Board is slated to receive the presentation on the Antelope Valley Line Study at the July 25, 2019 meeting.

“I encourage members of the public to attend the Metro Board meeting to express their support for added train service to our City and along the entire Antelope Valley Line,” said Mayor McLean.

The Metro Board meeting will take place at 10 a.m. on July 25, 2019, at One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor, Metro Board Room, Los Angeles, CA 90012. To join the Mayor at this meeting, you can conveniently take Metrolink to Union Station and walk a very short distance to the Metro Building.

Heaton and Mueller vs. Wilk (Part 2) Getting to Know Kipp Mueller

| News | July 25, 2019

To successfully unseat state Senator Scott Wilk next year and reclaim the 21st district for the Democrats for the first time since 2012, Warren Heaton and Kipp Mueller have some things to overcome, aside from the usual challenges of beating an incumbent.

For Mueller, it is proving that he can win despite his youth and recent move into the district.

As recently reported, both candidates list health care, housing and homelessness as campaign issues. Both also are OK with the public option for health care, although Heaton said he wants people to be able to keep their policies if they like what their employers offer. Both also favor bringing high-paying green jobs to the district and think rural areas would be the best places to put them.

Nonetheless, Wilk will be a formidable opponent; so here’s a first look at what they’re doing to address concerns.

Kipp Mueller:
The 33-year-old employment attorney moved to Santa Clarita earlier this year, having grown up in Sacramento. Voters in the area don’t take too kindly to people who run so soon after establishing residency (see: Caforio, Bryan).

“The approach I have is the burden of proof is on me,” he said. “I am out here meeting people, giving our message out and seeing if people like it.”

Mueller (pronounced MULL-er) actually has worked in the district, specifically Adelanto, for several years. He feels a kinship with Santa Clarita, especially after people helped him search for his missing dog.

His work also regularly causes him to access the state’s labor code, civil code and code of civil procedure, so he knows his way around state law.

His message differs from Heaton in a couple of ways: He pushes for re-establishing a strong middle class, supports reproductive freedoms and pledges to work on the effects of climate change.

He said he believes that middle class can find jobs in clean technology.

“We have a ton of sun and a ton of wind,” he said. “I think this district, if it has a representative that the clean-tech economy knows is friendly, is an ally and will be working alongside it, we can get thousands of jobs into this district doing clean-tech work and profoundly grow the economy in this district.”

He acknowledges that a woman’s right to abortion will not disappear from California should the Supreme Court overturn Roe v. Wade, but he says reproductive freedom goes beyond pregnancy. He mentioned three bills he’s watching and would favor.

Senate Bill 464 requires training to reduce racism and bias in maternal mortality cases. SB 24 allows college health clinics to offer abortions. SB 135 expands paid family leave rights.

Wilk voted for SB 464, which currently is in the Assembly. He voted against SB 24, which also is in the Assembly. SB 135 hasn’t yet reached the Senate floor for a vote.

Mueller also wants it known he isn’t aligned with oil companies, which he places much blame for climate change and the inability to switch to alternative, cleaner fuel sources.

College of the Canyons receives Grant for Online Career Education

| News | July 18, 2019

Thanks to a recent grant from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office (CCCCO), College of the Canyons will be able to offer more online education classes and lower the cost of textbooks by expanding the use of online textbooks.

COC was one of 70 community colleges to receive up to $500,000 in grant funding to expand online Career Technical Education (CTE) offerings and provide technical support for Open Educational Resources (OER) and Zero Textbook Cost (ZTC) grantees.

“The grant will provide resources to increase access, improve quality and eliminate textbook costs to four of our high-quality online pathways,” said Brian Weston, director of distance and accelerated learning at the college and project manager for the CTE/OER grant. “Our online career technical offerings provide a clear path for students to take the next step towards success and pursue a rewarding career.”

From the college’s total award, $400,210 will go toward expanding online CTE offerings and adding OER to CAD for Architecture, Pre-School Teacher, Land Surveying, and Water Systems Technology.

The CCCCO issued grants through the Improving Online CTE Pathways program developed by the California Virtual Campus – Online Education Initiative (CVC-OEI).

The award also includes $99,790 to provide technical support statewide for OER and ZTC grantees.

“Our two projects build on the college’s leadership in innovation,” said James Glapa-Grossklag, dean of learning resources and the OEI-CVC grant’s project manager. “We were among the first California community colleges to offer fully online classes in 2005.”

The college has been a longtime leader in advocating for and implementing OER. In spring 2018, 25 percent of all credit sections were offered online. In fact, faculty using OER saved students an estimated $4 million during 2018-19, a 33 percent increase over the prior year.

“This new grant permits us to assist colleges across the state in bringing the benefit of OER to their students, particularly in fields that lead to employment in high-demand fields, thereby supporting economic growth across the state,” Glapa-Grossklag said.

The CVC-OEI’s goal is to increase the number of transfer degrees awarded by the state’s community colleges and to provide access to high-quality online programs and student support services.
New classes are expected to be offered in the fall 2020 semester.

News Briefs and Updates

| News | July 18, 2019

Katie Hill Divorce

Congresswoman Katie Hill’s husband has filed for divorce, court documents show.

First reported by the tabloid news site The Blast, Kenny Heslep is seeking spousal support from Hill (D-Agua Dulce). The two were married in 2010 and have no children.

According to court documents, Heslep provided a six-page narrative to explain the reasons. These include how he and Hill had decided she would be the breadwinner and he, who admits he has few job skills, would stay home and handle the domestic duties, which include caring for the horse and other animals on their 2.5-acre ranch.

The court documents say Hill told Heslep in June she was leaving him and stopped transferring money into their joint account, leaving no money to feed the animals.

A source told the Gazette that Hill was possibly frustrated at Heslep’s lack of work and inability to find work.

A Hill spokeswoman said there would be no statement regarding this matter.

Upcoming Moffat vs. Wilk Hearing Update

The next hearing in Star Moffatt’s quest to disqualify State Senator Scott Wilk will be August 29th, Moffatt and court documents said.

According to Moffatt, this will be a simple status conference. The case recently was reassigned, so Moffat and Wilk’s attorneys are expected to update the new judge on what is happening.

Moffatt filed suit in 2016 seeking to prevent Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) from running for the Senate because he had been a registered federal lobbyist who had not sat out a year before seeking office, per the state’s government code. Wilk was elected to the Senate in 2016 and is more than halfway through his term.

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