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Katie Hill On Hearings, Hypocrisy

| News | March 7, 2019

Katie Hill has been a congresswoman for two months and she’s already sick and tired of the hypocrisy.

As vice chair of the House Oversight Committee, she had a front-row seat as Michael Cohen testified last week. While she found him believable, she didn’t like what she saw and heard from her Republican counterparts.

“When the GOP members were suggesting, ‘He’s a liar, you can’t believe him,’ the part that they failed to mention – and this was getting under my skin, quite a bit – was he was lying and got convicted of lying for protecting the president,” Hill said Sunday during a 29-minute interview as she drove in Agua Dulce. “That’s exactly what it was related to, so when he stopped lying to protect the president, that’s what they’re upset about.”

Hill wasn’t done yet, saying the Republican Party that she knew as a child (and her father joined) is not the same.

“The reason he was a part of the Republican Party was because it was supposed to be the party of law and order and protecting our country. That doesn’t even seem to register as part of the calculation anymore,” she said. “It’s all about defending Trump and it’s about what has to happen to protect him, as opposed to getting to any kind of truth. It’s just mind-blowing.”
Another place she called out hypocrisy was first mentioned in the online magazine Politico, in which she called out Republicans for using a tactic called “motion to recommit.” In the House, the minority party uses this as a way to send a bill back to committee or add a late amendment right before the final vote. Hill says this tactic doesn’t allow members to read the amendment before it’s added to the bill, so a blind vote could come back to hurt a congressperson in some future election.

“Clearly [Republicans] are doing this as a ploy and not because [they] actually give a s–t about the issue,” Hill was quoted. She told the Gazette that she knows Democrats have used the same tactic when they’re in the minority. She added she would like to see the rules amended to give members at least 24 hours to read the amendment’s text.

She said there’s even more hypocrisy within the moderate Republicans, some of whom have told her that they despise Trump but publicly support him. She refused to name names but expressed hope that these members would remember the oath they swore to the Constitution as more important than re-election and holding onto their power.

“The way the districts are gerrymandered, it puts the most conservative people into these concentrated districts, it makes it hard for these Republicans,” she said. “They’re so afraid of being primaried and the power Trump holds within the Republican base. They don’t think they can separate from him.”

As for the president, Hill said she was glad he walked away with no deal from North Korea rather than take a bad deal. But she was highly critical of Trump, using Cohen’s testimony regarding signed checks that Cohen said was used to pay off porn star Stormy Daniels to state that Trump committed crimes.
She acknowledged that there is a presumption of innocence, even for a president, but added, “When you have evidence of checks that were signed while he was in office, related to the cover-up of payments that we know for a fact were made, that’s where the presupposition of innocence starts to fade away. Does that mean he’s going to be convicted of it, that he’s going to be charged with a crime? No, not necessarily, but it certainly is a disturbing indication that that was the case.”

She also acknowledged that Hillary Clinton committed crimes, as former FBI Director James Comey testified in 2016. Clinton has never been prosecuted, something Trump and his supporters often mention.

Hill said Trump’s alleged transgressions are far worse, and the severity must be taken into account.

“Coordinating with a foreign entity to manipulate elections or to influence aspects of foreign policy, I have serious concerns about,” she said. “That is a far different thing than using an email server, or even committing campaign finance violations.”

Other topics she discussed:

–The Mueller Report should be made public, except for ancillary people who aren’t criminally accused and would be harmed by having their names publicized. Yet the current law only requires the attorney general to make only a summary report available to Congress. Hill said she’s willing to negotiate on who sees the full report, suggesting that maybe only the Intelligence and Judiciary committees (she sits on neither). But ideally, Congress decides.

“Even if he doesn’t make the report public, that will not be the end of it,” she said. “We will find a way, whether we have to subpoena members or other figures. We will find a way of getting that information out there.”

–Impeachment is a non-starter until the Mueller Report is finished. But all bets are off once it’s released.

“Ultimately, impeachment is a political process as much as it is anything else,” she said. “If we think the information that comes out of the Mueller Report are warranting of impeachment, then the American people need to be on board with that as much as the representatives in Congress. Otherwise, it doesn’t matter.”

–The original intent to overturn the president’s emergency declaration was to see how many Republicans would join the Democrats. Thirteen House Republicans voted with the Democrats, and four Republican senators plan to do the same when the bill reaches their floor. That’s not enough to override an expected Trump veto, but Hill said there might be more defectors once it becomes clear exactly from where Trump will divert funds to build his wall.

“Armed Services (a committee Hill serves on) is going to start looking into the military construction projects that are going to be pulled due to the emergency declaration,” she said. “Some of them might be impacting them right here at Edwards (Air Force Base). We’ll have to see what that looks like. What we do know is that it’s going to absolutely impact military-family housing and other critical infrastructure projects for our bases and for the men and women serving our country, and their families. I think that could be the tipping point.”

–The Oversight Committee soon will look into the process by which White House security clearances were authorized. Hill said it’s not known if Jared Kushner will be called to testify.

She also wants to hold hearings on prescription drugs and Aliso Canyon.

Overcoming Obstacles – Shelby Jacobs’ Journey from Segregation to NASA

| News | March 7, 2019

Shelby Jacobs encountered racism and segregation growing up in the Santa Clarita Valley in the 1940s and ’50s. He couldn’t get jobs in places his white peers could, he lived in a segregated area, and he worked for some of his Hart High classmates.

While other African Americans he knew felt victimized, resentful and angry, he never let it bother him, becoming class president before moving on to UCLA, where he became one of the first black mechanical engineers.

His claim to fame is developing the camera system used to photograph the separation of the parts of the Saturn rockets in the Apollo program for NASA. A famous photo and film from the unmanned Apollo 6, launched the day Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated, shows parts falling away against a backdrop of the Earth’s curvature – the first time there was visual proof that our planet is round.

Today, Jacobs is 83 and lives in Oceanside. An exhibit at the Columbia Memorial Space Center in Downey called “Achieving the Impossible: The Life and Dreams of Shelby Jacobs” runs until the end of this month.

NASA named him an unsung hero in 2009. He truly remains a hidden figure, one of many black people who helped the country achieve greatness in the space race.

“I developed a reputation early in life, self-confidence based on my ability to perform at a level equal to or better than my peers,” he said by telephone from his home. “That’s what I did in high school. When I (went) in industry, I did the same thing. I never suffered from a lack of self-confidence that I could do whatever was required to do. I became known as a can-do kind of guy.”

Jacobs was born in Texas and moved to Val Verde in 1945. At the time, Val Verde was one of the few places opened to black people. Jacobs recalled it was the only place between Los Angeles and Bakersfield.
According to a 1984 Los Angeles Times article, “it was one of only a few places blacks could go for recreation, others being Lake Elsinore in Riverside County, a section of Venice Beach and a park in Pasadena that was open to blacks one day a year.”

Jacobs fondly recalled one massive swimming pool there that was nicer than any other pool in the county, other than the one near the Coliseum used for the 1932 Olympics.

“We were the envy of the area because we had an Olympic sized pool,” he said. “Little did they know it was put there to keep us out of other recreational venues. Blacks were sometimes angry (at that).”

He attended Castaic Elementary but did not recall the Confederate flag that flew over Interstate 5 at that time. At Hart, he was one of three black students in his 65-person class. Inside the school walls and on the athletic fields, he excelled, starring in track, basketball and football. He also was elected senior class president.

“He was quite an athlete,” friend Susan Davy remembered.

Outside the school was a different story. His summertime job prospects were slimmer than his white counterparts. While they could work at gas stations or the phone company, his options were limited to busing tables Tip’s Restaurant in Castaic Junction or picking watermelons, cantaloupes and potatoes in the fields.

He would do yard work at the Davy’s home. At the same house, his college-educated mother worked as a maid because she couldn’t find any other work.

“There was considerable class difference between myself and Susan,” he said. “I went to school with people I worked for, my parents worked for.”

When he earned a scholarship to study mechanical engineering at UCLA, Hart Principal George Harris warned Jacobs that there weren’t any black engineers, so his job prospects would be limited.

The second-class treatment was evident, but Jacobs never let it get him down.

“I never exhibited anger because I found out anger only affects me,” he said. “It doesn’t solve the problem, so I refused to be angry about what was going on historically, up to and including now. It was only causing me to harbor anger and hatred, and they would be directed at people who may be innocent of the problems.”

He studied at UCLA for three years but left before graduation to take a job at Rocketdyne in Canoga Park. According to the Los Angeles Times, only eight of the 5,000 engineers were black.

He faced discrimination and racial comments, and earned a lower salary.

In 1961, Jacobs transferred to Rockwell in Downey, where he spent the next 35 years until retiring as upper management in 1996.

It was at Rockwell that he helped design the camera system. He said it was because NASA wanted proof that the parts of the Saturn rocket would safely separate and not damage the vehicle. This was important because President Kennedy had set the goal of reaching the moon before the decade ended, and this was a necessary step.

“The Apollo Saturn (rocket) was the most powerful thing we’d ever built,” he said. “We had to make sure the camera system would endure the environment.”

NASA has said that the separation film and photo are among the most viewed in history.

And it all started in the Santa Clarita Valley.

“I was inclined to be temperamentally suited,” he said. “Many blacks that I knew, historically (and) all my life, had reasons to be angry about our conditions, from slavery (forward). I tended to find the people as divine intervention. I was disposed not to be angry because I had to live in Val Verde.

“I was able to assimilate without carrying the baggage of how ugly the underbelly was/is.”

COC Faculty Union Reaches Tentative Agreement

| News | March 1, 2019

The Santa Clarita Community College District and College of the Canyons Faculty Association have reached a tentative deal on a new two-year contract, the union’s chief negotiator said.

According to Garrett Hooper, the union secured a 3.71-percent raise for academic year 2018-19, which ends June 30, and another raise tied to the state’s cost of living adjustment (currently 3.46 percent) for academic year 2019-20.

Additionally, the faculty will now be paid the same rate for work inside and outside the classroom (called “non-instructional rate,” it was paid $17 an hour less, Hooper said), and the hourly pay rate for teaching summers and winters (called “overload”) will increase from $70.91 to about $75, and this will increase at the same rate as what the adjunct faculty union negotiates for its members.

There are 11 non-compensation aspects, too, upon which the sides had previously agreed. These include counselor workloads, evaluations and enrollment caps.

The union had wanted a 5.5-percent raise but accepted less to increase the overload and non-instructional pay rates. The 3.71 percent is exactly what the district offered.

“We’ve negotiated the best deal we thought we could achieve, and that’s all we can do,” Hooper said. “There may be folks that are disappointed we didn’t get the 5.5, but negotiations is just that, and compromise has to be made. We believe that we got something the faculty can support.”

It remains to be seen if the faculty will vote to approve the contract. Hooper said that he will hold several informational meetings over the next two weeks (the first one was scheduled for Wednesday). After that, the union will have two weeks to vote.

Eric Harnish, the school’s vice president, public information, advocacy and external relations, was neutral in his comment about the agreement.

“Our mediation discussions have been positive, and we’re confident the conclusion of the process will result in a fair and positive outcome that reflects the critical role of our faculty members in affecting student success,” Harnish said in an email.

Before this agreement was reached, the sides had declared an impasse, which union leaders said has never happened before. The union rhetoric also started to sound more like the antagonism associated with the battle between United Teachers Los Angeles and is school district.

There was picketing and demonstrations for the first time. Teachers wore green T-shirts and carried green signs that said, “Fair Contract Now.”

“We feel a lack of respect. It’s pervasive and it’s systemic,” Hooper said. “This is what has outraged faculty the most. One way you show respect and value is by honoring the hard work through the paycheck, through the salaries. Now, more than ever, it’s time to do that. … “What we’re asking for is quite reasonable. Our position is the district has the money to honor the faculty. We’re tired of what we believe is constant disrespect.”

The tentative agreement also means the sides don’t have to go to fact finding, in which both sides would have justified their positions in front of a neutral panel of independent arbiters from the Public Employee Relations Board. The panel would have made recommendations to the district board of directors, Hooper said, and the board could have accepted or rejected them.

No More Neighborhood Voting Precincts

| News | February 28, 2019

Get ready to say goodbye to neighborhood voting precincts and welcome voting centers.

Starting with the March 2020 primary, citizens will go to any of the vote-center locations in Los Angeles County to cast their ballots. They can vote on primary day or up to 11 days before. Or they can vote by mail.

According to Mark Meuser, a Republican constitutional law attorney based in the Bay Area who ran for Secretary of State, it’s about time.

“I think vote centers, based upon where elections are in the state of California and the direction we’re going, I think vote centers is a necessary choice that we need to make,” he said.

Senate Bill 450 (also known as the Voter’s Choice Act) passed in 2016 and called for counties to offer voters more choices in how they could cast ballots. These included vote centers and mail-in ballots. Madera, Napa, Nevada, Sacramento and San Mateo counties held elections using this format in 2018.

Under the new system, according to the website vsap.lavote.net and Meuser, everyone will receive a ballot in the mail. Voters may simply fill it out and mail it back in the postage-paid envelope, but it must be received no later than three days after the election.

Or they can go to any vote center (locations have yet to be finalized; Meuser said Uber and Lyft give free rides to the polls on election days) and cast a paper ballot there.

As Meuser sees it, the advantages to such a system include lower election costs, better-trained personnel, convenience for voters and increased machine oversight.

Meuser mentioned an Orange County cost analysis that showed traditional voting methods cost between $23.4 million and $40 million; vote centers would cost between $8.5 million and $14.1 million.

Meuser said most of the election problems he sees occur at precincts because of limited training the poll workers get. With voting centers, the workers will get more training, and since the centers are open for 11 days, there’s time to work out problems before the expected Election-Day crunch.

“We live in a transient society where people may want to vote close to work, close to home, on their way from point A to point B as they run errands,” Meuser said.

And for those people worried about the voting machines themselves, Meuser said there would be fewer machines, thus making it easier to protect them.

“When it comes to technology breakdowns, you got 1,000 machines versus 100 machines,” he said. “For security purposes, it’s a lot easier to secure 100 machines than 1,000 machines. It’s a lot easier to secure something for 10 days in one location than one day in 1,000 locations.”

One problem that has plagued elections, Meuser said, is provisional ballots, and this system eliminates such ballots. In the past, a voter received a provisional ballot if he or she went to the wrong polling place or tried to vote at a poll place while listed as an absentee (mail-in) voter.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, provisional ballots are “a fail-safe mechanism for voters whose eligibility is uncertain.” In California, a provisional ballot is rejected if the signature cannot be verified, but Meuser said the plan is for additional county registrar workers to verify signatures.

Meuser ran for Secretary of State on a platform that incumbent Alex Padilla did a terrible job of keeping voter rolls accurate. He acknowledged that this system isn’t foolproof, and that it is possible for people to research names of people who haven’t yet voted (perhaps because they’re dead) and go to various voting stations and vote several times as several people, since the law doesn’t require ID checks.

Attorney Eric Early, who ran for attorney general, also thinks the system is OK on its face, but he has some concerns. These include busloads and caravans bringing people to vote a certain way, long waits on par with the Department of Motor Vehicles and intimidation at these voting centers.

“I’m concerned about the potential to lead to fraud and voting abuse,” he said.

Meuser said that if somebody votes, the computerized system will not allow a duplicate vote for that same name. And each ballot has a bar code that, when scanned, will disallow a duplicate vote.

“We are going to know who won on Election Day, which is a win for the integrity of elections in California,” Meuser said.

COC Board Cited for Lack of Self-Evaluation

| News | February 21, 2019

After Edel Alonso won election to the College of the Canyons board of trustees in 2016, she said she noticed that the board’s policy is to conduct annual self-evaluations. In looking at past meeting agendas and minutes, she found the board had not performed them seven times since 2004.

“The timing, I think, is off,” she said. “If we have a board policy that says it should be done, annually, I’m very uncomfortable when we don’t do it annually. If there’s a rule, we should follow it.”

Documents the Gazette obtained and interviews with various board members show no self-evaluation took place in 2006, 2009, 2011 and 2014-17, although the 2013 evaluation was completed in 2014.

Board self-evaluations are one of many factors in determining a college’s accreditation. Although Canyons has always earned full accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and College’s Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC), there is some concern that could change in the next accreditation cycle, in 2022.

“In our accreditation documents, (the ACCJC has) cited the board for not having appropriate, scheduled and authentic evaluations on a regular basis, but then another accreditation cycle comes through and they haven’t remedied it yet,” faculty president Wendy Brill-Wynkoop said. “The accreditation has a standard that the board needs to maintain, independent of the administration.”

The ACCJC’s Standard IV.C.10 requires colleges to have board self-evaluation policies and procedures as a prerequisite for accreditation. As COC board member Joan MacGregor explained it, “We make the decisions on how the (public) money is spent. We are the final decision-making body for the budget, for personnel, for facilities, for the various things that are going to affect the students in the classroom. The board needs to make sure that we have our goals set.”

The nonprofit Community College League of California’s trustee handbook says boards must have “regular” evaluations. COC’s Board Policy 2745 reads, “The Board is committed to assessing its own performance as a board in order to identify its strengths and areas in which it may improve its functioning and will do so on an annual basis.”

There are no rules that state where meetings must take place, but they must be public and properly posted, per the Brown Act. In the past, documents show, evaluation meetings have occurred on campus but also at board member Michael Berger’s house, Newhall Land and Farming and the Oaks Club of Valencia when it was called TPC Valencia. (Berger declined comment, citing unrelated union negotiations that have reached an impasse.)

To earn accreditation, which lasts six years, the ACCJC requires member colleges to carry out a self-study, compose a report, and undergo peer review. In short, the ACCJC process consists of two elements: the college evaluating itself and the ACCJC evaluating the college. Self-study differs from self-evaluation in that the entire college – all departments and programs – examines itself in the context of the ACCJC’s policies, eligibility requirements and standards. After the college writes the report, a team of educators visits the school, conducts interviews with various people, including the board, and examines evidence.

Based on all information gathered, the visiting team takes action by writing a report and determining accreditation. It can make recommendations or issue sanctions. Recommendations require attention or risk future sanctions, which don’t cost a school its accreditation, but the ACCJC withholds reaffirmation until it’s satisfied the college has adequately addressed the issues that caused the sanction in the first place.

This happened at The Master’s University last year, when the Western Association put the accreditation on probation because of a “pervasive culture and climate of fear, intimidation, bullying, and uncertainty among significant numbers of faculty and staff,” “a pattern of seemingly arbitrary personnel actions … with a lack of due process and in violation of existing (school) Employee and Faculty Handbooks” and too-cozy relationships between board members and the college president, according to the report.

COC has never been sanctioned, but it received recommendations pertaining to its irregular board self-evaluations in 2002, 2008 and 2013, documents show.

It is the 2013 episode that most alarms Brill-Wynkoop and MacGregor.

The accreditation team noted that meetings in June, September and October mention discussions but no proof of any goals or action plans.

“Concerning the Board’s self-evaluation process, the Board has not fully benefitted from the guidance received in 2002 and 2008 visiting teams, and would benefit from specific improvements in its process,” the report said. “In order to increase institutional effectiveness, the team recommends that the Board formalize and adhere to a regular cycle of review for Board policies.”

Following this, then-board president Michele Jenkins wrote to the visiting team chairman that the board held eight self-evaluation meetings between 2008 and Oct. 14, 2014, the date of her letter. Brill-Wynkoop and MacGregor believe that was a lie.

Still, after Jenkins’ letter, the ACCJC reaffirmed the school’s accreditation and disregarded the recommendation. “The Commission noted that the policies are in fact reviewed annually by the College Executive Cabinet and forwarded to the board only when revisions are needed,” a letter from the ACCJC to the college President Dianne Van Hook dated Feb. 6, 2015 said. “Therefore, the Commission acted to set aside this team recommendation.”

“If you read the whole visiting-team report, which is almost 80 pages, and you read the final letter, which again are both public, it’s hard to reconcile the two because there’s problems that just disappeared between the two,” Brill-Wynkoop said. “And then they (visiting team) jump in their car and they go away, and then a week later Michele Jenkins writes this letter saying, ‘Whoops I misspoke, we really are doing them and here is all the evidence,’ but there isn’t any evidence.”

MacGregor said she told Jenkins publicly that she thought Jenkins had lied.

“If you read the letter and then you look back at the minutes, we did not have a board evaluation. We didn’t have the things that were stated,” MacGregor said. “Lying is a hard word, but definitely not truthful, not completely truthful in that letter. I never had the chance to see the letter to the accreditation committee.”

Jenkins said she recalled the letter when parts were read to her. “We’ve done self-evaluations. I don’t know if we’ve done them every year. We do do them,” she said.

She then asked who’s requiring annual board evaluations. Told it’s Board Policy 2745, she responded, “If it actually says we’re gonna do it on an annual basis, we need to decide are we really going to do it on an annual basis or modify policy?”

ACCJC President Richard Winn said writing such a letter is rare. A school also is allowed to challenge the report by showing new evidence that could lead to a different conclusion.

“You have evidence that those board evaluations didn’t really happen? It’s entirely possible that that evidence was not known to either the commission or the team at the time the decision was taken,” Winn said. “Accreditation is a human enterprise. We do the best we can.”

The ACCJC underwent controversy of its own during this time after it threatened in 2012 to revoke accreditation to City College of San Francisco, citing problems with fiscal management, governance, student services and technology. What ensued were two lawsuits, a state audit, a federal reprimand and the retirement of the ACCJC president.

Winn declined to speculate a link between the ACCJC’s turmoil and the COC accreditation report’s irregularities.

“The team deals only with recommendations. It does not determine the final action taken by the commission,” he said. “The commission will often weigh the significance of a finding, they will calibrate it with decisions they’ve made on other institutions where similar issues have arisen.”

After years of no self-evaluation, the board completed one in 2018. Alonso said the board used a 62-question survey in which each board member rated himself/herself and the board as a whole on a five-point scale. She said she objected to this instrument because she found the definitions of each rating point (unsatisfactory, below average, average, above average, excellent) unclear. Plus, she wanted all questions to reflect the three authorities that govern the board: its policies, the state Education Code and the ACCJC standards.

MacGregor said the evaluation lacked specific goals.

“There should be an evaluation instrument that was used to (determine) how are we going to improve our interaction and communication,” she said, “but also how are we going to improve the actual meetings themselves to make them more productive? What are the committee assignments? Where is our budget? What are we doing to expand our networking and advocacy abilities?”

The board has not yet undertaken its self-evaluation for 2019, but Brill-Wynkoop said she knows what she wants to see.

“The board needs to maintain independence and transparency so that as a public institution, we know that our tax dollars are being spent appropriately,” she said, “and I think this is an example of where there isn’t transparency.”

Two COC Students Make Finals at American College Theatre Festival

| News | February 21, 2019

Gazette Editor and College of the Canyons student Sarah Farnell made history when she and fellow COC student Fox Smith

Mark Cortez (left) and Fox Smith (right)

were named Region VIII finalists in the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival’s Irene Ryan Acting Scholarship competition. It was the first time COC students reached the finals.

The regional festival, which brings together 400 students from various public and private two-year, undergraduate and graduate programs from Arizona, Central and Southern California, Hawaii, Southern Nevada, Guam and Utah, took place last week at Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Sarah Farnell (left) and Hudson Hedge (right)

Farnell said she performed a one-minute monologue from “The Monogamist” by Christopher Kyle and a two-minute scene from the 1974 play “Seascape with Sharks and Dancer” by Don Nigro in the preliminary rounds. She thought that since she was competing against more advanced students, she wouldn’t reach the later rounds, but when she did, she had to scramble to come up with a third scene.

She chose something she wrote: “Smoke and Mirrors,” which she called “a total joke. I wrote a bad theater piece and played it seriously.” She spent a day reworking it into what she called a “satire, film noir, soap opera, anti-smoking PSA.” It ran three minutes, she said.

Her coach, David Stears, said Farnell showed her “Smoke and Mirrors” in its original form. “She wrote it to be played seriously,” he said. “She showed it to me, and I said, ‘This is awful. This is just an awful piece of theater if you play it seriously, but if you turn it into a telenovela-type piece and present it over the top, it (would be) hysterical,’ and I can say without a doubt, it was the crowd favorite.”

Astudent from Brigham Young University won the regional. COC student Fox Smith also reached the finals, performing a one-minute monologue from “Deer” by Aaron Mark, a two-minute scene from Spike Heels by Theresa Rebeck and a three-minute scene from Octopus by Steve Yockey.

According to the Kennedy Center’s website, the 50-year-old festival involves 20,000 students in eight regions. Previous Irene Ryan winners include Sheryl Lee Ralph (“It’s a Living,” “Moesha”), Dan Butler (“Frasier”) and Kevin Rahm (“Judging Amy,” “Mad Men”).

Ryan (1902-1973) was most famous for her role on “The Beverly Hillbillies.” Her foundation has awarded these scholarships since 1972.

Hart District Acknowleges Brown Act Violations

| News | February 14, 2019

The William S. Hart Union High School District acknowledged it committed a Brown Act violation when a bond oversight committee failed to provide a link to a meeting agenda.

Debbie Dunn, executive assistant to district Superintendent Vicki Engbrecht, said in an emailed response to local bond watchdog Steve Petzold that the violation of Government Code Sec. 54954.2 occurred because there was no direct link to the Jan. 10 meeting agenda on the district’s home page. Starting Jan. 1, a direct link to the most current meeting agenda has to be posted on the primary website’s homepage.

Petzold had sent a letter dated Feb. 8 to Engbrecht and Suzan Solomon, presiding member of the Measure SA bond oversight committee, detailing the problem. In keeping with the law, Petzold also demanded that the committee should call a special meeting, with proper notice, “to make null and void (invalidate) all actions taken” at the meeting.

Under the Brown Act, a body has 30 days to correct a problem, but Dunn emailed the same day. Her email, which Petzold provided to the Gazette, said, “I have confirmed that the only action taken at the January 10 meeting was approval of the minutes of the September 13, 2018, meeting. We understand that this action is void and the minutes will be placed on the agenda of the next meeting for approval.”

COC Board Accused of Brown Act Violations

| News | February 14, 2019

College of the Canyons’ board of trustees committed Brown Act violations by failing to post meeting times and agendas of its finance subcommittee, the faculty president and two board members allege.

A community member also alleges a different violation by failing to provide a link to the board agenda on the college website.

The finance subcommittee was established during the April 23, 2008 meeting, according to the minutes. While the Gazette was unable to find a printed list of members, many named current board President Michael Berger, fellow member Michele Jenkins and Vice President of Business Services Sharlene Coleal as members (Jenkins confirmed her involvement, Berger declined comment, citing the unrelated union negotiations that he said have reached an impasse; and Coleal, who was traveling in Sacramento, hung up on a reporter).

At issue is whether this is a standing committee and, therefore, subject to the Brown Act, which governs meetings conducted by local legislative bodies and presumes public access unless specifically excepted.

According to the law, “a commission, committee, board, or other body of a local agency, whether permanent or temporary, decision-making or advisory, created by charter, ordinance, resolution, or formal action of a legislative body” is subject to the Act.

The law also requires meeting times to be posted at least 72 hours in advance and an agenda or agenda packet made available.

COC’s Board Procedure 2220 states, “The Board may by action establish committees that it determines are necessary to assist the Board in its responsibilities. Any committee established by board action shall comply with the requirements of the Brown Act and with these policies regarding open meetings.”

Several people, including board members Joan MacGregor and Edel Alonso, and faculty president Wendy Brill-Wynkoop believe this is a standing committee. They say that Berger, Jenkins, Coleal, and various members of Coleal’s staff meet regularly and report to the board.

This matches Jenkins’ own description: “Sharlene and her staff in the business office go through and summarize the items that we reviewed and sends it out to us for our own information and to make it easy when we’re at board meetings. We can refer to them if we want to help illuminate any unusual financial issues.”

MacGregor said she and Alonso would like to serve on that subcommittee, “but it’s been consistently Michele and Michael Berger the past six years.”

“If they’ve been meeting on a regular basis and they’ve been appointed to that committee, it sounds to me like a committee,” Alonso said. “If it’s a standing committee, then they need to follow the Brown Act, and that means they need to advertise their dates and agendas and minutes and so forth.”

But College of the Canyons Public Information Officer Eric Harnish said in an email the board did not follow through with any subcommittee meetings after April 23, 2008. Jenkins said the subcommittee meets only “once every couple months or so and only if there’s something unusual in the agenda, in terms of the financial area.”

However, the Gazette found 13 agendas and two email summaries from Aug. 6, 2013 to July 1, 2014 on Business Services Department letterhead. Many of those meetings were held regularly on the first Tuesday of the month.

Harnish wrote that shortly after April 23, 2008, college President/Chancellor Dianne Van Hook took it upon herself to approach Coleal and see if she wanted to meet with one or two trustees to discuss potential board questions. The first meeting took place in December 2010, he said, and either Berger or Jenkins would report to the board.

Because it was Van Hook’s idea, Harnish wrote, it differs from board policy and, therefore, does not fall under the Brown Act.

Jenkins disputed it’s a standing committee.

“The idea is that way, a couple of us are hearing more information so we can carry it back to the other board members at the meeting,” she said. “It meets so irregularly that I can’t remember the last time we met.”

Terry Francke, chief counsel of the Sacramento-area nonprofit Californians Aware, said this is a standing committee because the board minutes say so.

“That’s all you need for classifying it as a standing committee, if it’s been created by the board itself,” Francke said. “It has a fixed assignment within the jurisdiction of the body itself. Anything that has to do with finances presumably goes through them.”

Jenkins said college attorney Mary Dowell doesn’t think the subcommittee falls under the Brown Act (Dowell didn’t return a call or email).

“That’s not what we’ve been told by our attorney,” Jenkins said. “It depends on the attorneys you look at and how familiar they are with the state Education Code.”

The Brown Act is part of the Government Code. It says nothing about keeping and posting minutes, although the California Public Records Act allows the public to obtain copies of any minutes. MacGregor and Alonso have not seen any minutes but believe there should be some.

Since the Brown Act was passed in 1953, no one has ever been successfully prosecuted for violating it, according to the First Amendment Coalition, a nonprofit Francke worked for before Californians Aware.

Individuals may bring one of three lawsuits to enforce it, one of which is to void a past action. This is what Saugus realtor Steve Petzold has chosen to do.

Petzold, a sometimes vocal critic of the college – so much so that Van Hook once got a restraining order against him, effectively banning him from attending board meetings – accused the board of violating the Brown Act by failing to include a link on its website homepage to the Jan. 16 meeting agenda (he originally wrote the meeting was Jan. 9, but corrected himself). The letter, addressed to Van Hook, demands the board declare all actions it took at that meeting null and void.

In keeping with the law, Petzold’s letter said the school has 30 days to take action. If it does nothing, Petzold has 15 days to initiate court proceedings.

Harnish said in an email, “We are still looking into his allegation, and will get back to you about that.”

Social Media and Threats

| News | February 14, 2019

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With death threats being leveled against two Saugus Union School District board members, some might wonder how society got to this point. How does somebody escalate his or her behavior from simply expressing outrage at a meeting to making insulting comments online to threatening a person’s life?

According to one psychologist, it’s an extension of the world today.

“There’s an awful lot of bigotry out there, as you know, and it is now socially acceptable to say it,” Tarzana-based marriage and family therapist Judi Lirman said. “Somebody is very invested in what they think is wrong, and it comes from something that is probably very specifically out of their own history. I would think it would be ‘I’m not getting through to you. You’re not doing what I want. You’re not paying enough attention, so if I amp up my thing, you may do what I want you to do.’”

David Barlavi has received death threats because of his politics. In a salute to the Black Lives Matter movement, he regularly stands with his fist raised while the national anthem plays. Or his fist is raised and his other hand is over his heart while he recites the Pledge of Allegiance. He has been photographed doing this, and many people don’t like it. Some have resorted to anti-Semitic comments; others took it further, and the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station is investigating at least 10 comments.

Barlavi declined comment, but he left a note on Facebook that has since been taken down: “In light of recent events, I’d like to reiterate my belief that Donald Trump is the greatest president of all time. Thank you.”

Board President Julie Olsen has been threatened with violence because her comments about adhering to meeting rules got interpreted to mean she was attempting to limit public comment.

Lirman is not surprised that the threats happened. She said it resembles a mob mentality.

“You normally think of a mob as a group that comes together in one location and does something together. This obviously isn’t a mob in that sense, but it certainly is in terms of the kinds of threats,” she said. “It’s kind of like the mean kids ganging up on somebody.”

Of course, what has happened to Barlavi and Olsen is far from isolated. Hart Union School District board member Joe Messina has received death threats. Farther from home, former One Direction band member Zayn Malik received death threats in 2014 after posting “#FreePalestine” on Twitter. And in 2015, a reality show winner named Rebecca Francis was threatened after comedian Ricky Gervais posted a five-year-old photo of Francis laying next to a dying giraffe she had slain.

Reuters ran an article in 2014 blaming the internet for making death threats easier. It listed several: against the Detroit police chief, a writer, an entrepreneur, an actress, a gun dealer, two pro football players, a pro soccer player and a pro baseball player.

“Advanced technology has removed most of the work and hazard from sending cowardly messages to people to frighten them,” the article said. “Death threats — internet or otherwise — aren’t funny.”

 

Letter from Saugus Union School District Superintendent on February 8, 2019:

Good evening Saugus School District Community,

In the Santa Clarita Valley Signal today there was an article regarding death threats that have been made against David Barlavi, one of the Saugus Union School District Board Members. We recently learned that similar threats have been made to Board President, Julie Olsen. These threats are part of a string of social media comments related to videos posted on YouTube. The videos are a continuation of the protests made at the Board Meeting on February 5, 2019.

The Saugus Union School District supports people’s right to civilly state their opinions, and voice their concerns. The District, however, does not support threats of any kind, or the hatred expressed in the social media comments posted to YouTube, or any other social media venue. It is important that we maintain civil dialogue, even when there is disagreement.

We continue to provide opportunities for our community to participate in the public comment portion of each Board meeting. The SUSD Board policies (BB 9323) indicate that speakers at Board meetings are limited to 3 minutes, and limits the comments on a single topic to 20 minutes unless authorized unanimously by the Board to extend the time.

Further this is supported by Government Code 54954.3 which states, “The legislative body of a local agency may adopt reasonable regulations to ensure that the intent of subdivision (a) is carried out, including, but not limited to, regulations limiting the total amount of time allocated for public testimony on particular issues and for each individual speaker.”

The safety and security of all students, staff, administrators, and Board members, remain our highest priority. We are working with local law enforcement to ensure that these threats are investigated, and that safeguards are in place. We will continue to implement all current safety measures, including the use of our visitor protocol, and all procedures that ensure that we maintain a culture of respect and safety.

If you are aware of a threat to an SUSD family member (student, staff, or Board Member), report it to law enforcement immediately. Please know that our campuses are safe, and we will continue providing that environment despite the current concerns.

Sincerely,
Colleen Hawkins

Train to Plane – SCV to Burbank Airport

| News | February 7, 2019

by Steve Petzold

At a recent city council meeting, a local resident expressed his concern about using Metrolink for travel from the Santa Clarita Valley to Burbank Airport. This person’s primary concern was that the Burbank station was not on a regular schedule for the buses that service the long-term parking lots. Travelers are required to call the airport for free pick-up by an airport shuttle van.

On January 28, I decided to test the system with the intention of sharing my experience with readers of the Santa Clarita Gazette. This is my report.

Metrolink opened a new station at Burbank Airport in May of 2018 with the goal of helping travelers on the Antelope Valley line (Lancaster to Downtown Union Station) whose flight departs/arrives Burbank Bob Hope Airport. Built with millions of dollars and opened with great fanfare, it is largely underutilized by the public.

I traveled on train #210 departing Santa Clarita station at 9:11 a.m. and arrived at the Burbank Airport -North station on time at 9:47 a.m. I purchased the ticket using the Metrolink app for $6.25 one way.

Upon arrival, I called the airport for pick up (818-729-2245) and the operator picked up on the first ring and was very pleasant. She advised me that the van would arrive within ten minutes, which it did. The designated pick up area is at the north end of the station and is clearly marked.

The driver, Ara, was very nice and helpful. The van was new, spacious and clean. Ara confirmed that the station is not used frequently. I was his first pick up of the morning.

The drop-off area is in front of the terminal where airport buses discharge passengers. It is a very short walk to the terminal. I said goodbye to Ara, had a cup of coffee and read a book for a short period of time.

For the return trip to Santa Clarita, I merely walked across the drive in front of the terminal to the valet parking area where the van is parked. Ara drove me back to the Metrolink station, which is a short ride, but takes 7-10 minutes with traffic lights. The train arrived on time at 11:31.

The only “hitch” in my experience occurred when the ticket kiosk at the station was in malfunction mode. There is a hard wire phone at the Metrolink station and the operator advised me to tell the conductor before getting on the train. Tickets are not sold on board. The conductor got off the train with me at the Sylmar/San Fernando station to purchase a ticket.

I find the Metrolink trains to be very comfortable for travel. There is a conductor and several sheriffs officers on the train. Personal security should not be a concern or issue. The conductor does walk the train to check passengers for valid tickets.

I enjoyed the experience and will recommend it to my family and friends when the situation is appropriate. Travel to Burbank airport via Metrolink is an acceptable alternative which helps avoid traffic frustration and parking fees.

Travel Tips

There are three stations in Santa Clarita (Via Princessa, Santa Clarita, Newhall) and the fares vary slightly by distance.

Study the Antelope Valley Line schedule for Metrolink trains by Googling Antelope Valley Line Metrolink. The schedule for workdays (Monday-Friday) is different from the weekend schedule. The first train leaves the Santa Clarita station at 4:48 a.m. and the last train northbound from Burbank north departs at 9:50 p.m. on weekdays.

Try to arrive 10-15 minutes early. Board a car towards the back to minimize the walk to the pickup area in Burbank.

You can purchase tickets using the Metrolink app or the station kiosk.

Ara said it is acceptable to call from the train for pick up. The phone number is (818) 729-2245. There are two stations in Burbank North/Airport and Downtown. Be sure to exit Metrolink at the correct station. The Burbank Airport station is west of Hollywood Way and the street address is 3600 N San Fernando Blvd., Burbank, CA 91505

Safe travels, my friends.

Court Rules Teachers Were Wrongfully Terminated

| News | February 7, 2019

Two teachers who alleged wrongful termination successfully sued the William S. Hart Union High School District and won close to $200,000, court documents show.

A judge in August awarded Ed Colley $114,427.88 and Fredrick Malcomb $84,382 in back pay, plus sick leave, benefits, 7 percent interest on the back pay and attorney fees. Colley told the Gazette on Monday that the district has not paid and is appealing the case to the state appellate court. No hearing date has been set, he said.

“Obviously, I’m very confident I will continue to win,” Colley said. “I feel very bad for the taxpayers and the students of the district because of the school board’s decision to throw money away … it doesn’t do our kids any good whatsoever for the money they will pay my lawyer. My lawyer’s total bill is about half a million dollars.”

District spokesperson Dave Campbell said the state Education Code precludes comment in personnel matters.

According to court documents, Colley and Malcomb taught Air Force Junior ROTC at Valencia High when the Air Force revoked their certifications in 2015 over failing to file certain paperwork. The two sued in federal court and lost, but have petitioned the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals; the matter is ongoing, Colley said.

While the federal suit progressed, the Hart district terminated the pair, effective June 30, 2015, claiming they were no longer qualified to teach. But Colley said that was only true related to JROTC and that he was credentialed to teach math, physics or serve as an assistant principal. Malcomb, court documents say, could have been assigned a counseling position.

The court agreed, saying, “When a local board of education wrongfully dismisses a teacher, the teacher is entitled to reinstatement, to full salary from the date of termination, including retirement benefits, and to interest from the dates upon which such salary payments were due.”

Colley was reinstated Nov. 4, 2016, effective Sept. 28, but only as a substitute teacher, a role he continues in to this day.

“The district doesn’t want me to teach math or physics,” Colley said. “They want me to be a substitute teacher.” He said substitute teachers are paid at a rate of $125 a day, but he’s making his full salary of about $500 a day.
Malcomb was reinstated the same day but by then had already taken a higher-paying counseling job at Palmdale Aerospace Academy (PAA).

Since both plaintiffs were entitled to back pay for the time between termination and reinstatement, court documents show the sides conducted several back-pay hearings in front of a hearing officer in the first half of 2017.

The district claimed the back pay must be denied by appropriate state and court decisions.

The court disagreed, calling the arguments “specious,” “untenable” and “unconvincing.”

“The judge said you don’t get to write your own laws,” Colley said. “The district’s legal theories are just wrong. They can’t win.”

Furthermore, a hearing Colley had in front of the state-mandated Commission on Professional Competence in 2018 found that the district lacked cause to terminate him. Malcomb never went before the CPC because he had already left the district for PAA. Hart’s attorneys also tried using that argument to deny him back pay; the court disagreed.

Court documents say Malcomb blamed his termination as reason for failing to find a full-time job during this time, although he substituted at PAA.

“Malcomb believes that the District’s decision to non-reelect him was a huge reason for his failure to find a job during this period,” the court documents say. “His job counselor at the College of the Canyons informed him that he would have a ‘hard time finding a job because of the (termination).” The documents say Malcomb had to disclose the termination on every application, thus damaging his chances.

After Colley was terminated, court documents say, he sought letters of recommendation from various Valencia administrators, only to have the principal declare none would come. He also got elected to the Castaic Lake Water Agency board, and he continues to serve on the new Santa Clarita Water Agency board.

Katie Hill’s Take on State of the Union

| News | February 7, 2019

When Katie Hill met Donald Trump before the State of the Union address, she said he told her, “I’ve been watching you.”

Chances are, that’s going to continue, given Hill’s comments relating to Trump’s speech and her upcoming work in the House Oversight Committee, where she’s vice chair.

During her nine-minute conversation with the Gazette, Hill (D-Agua Dulce) opined about various aspects of the speech. She said she felt optimistic at its beginning, but it quickly devolved into the usual Trump rhetoric, so she was ultimately disappointed.

Trump spent time talking about the need for some sort of barrier, or wall, along the southern border. Hill expressed disdain for the word “wall,” pointing out that Trump sometimes used the word, but also “see-through steel barrier.”

However, despite the president’s choice of words, Hill said she is not opposed to funding for some type of barrier, wall, fence or whatever. She said she will wait to see what the security package will contain, but she expects it will be some kind of compromise in which both parties can claim victory.

Hill said she stood and applauded so many times during the speech that her feet hurt. Cameras caught her up when Trump said of China “that after years of targeting our industries, and stealing our intellectual property, the theft of American jobs and wealth has come to an end.”

Similarly, she stood when Trump said, “Two weeks ago, the United States officially recognized the legitimate government of Venezuela, and its new interim president, Juan Guaido.” And she stood when Trump declared, “Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.”

When Trump credited women for filling a majority of newly created jobs, Hill rose and joined her fellow clad-in-white congress members in cheering. When Trump pointed out more women were serving in Congress than ever before, she joined in with chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A!”

At times, she also was shocked at what she heard. When Trump said, “If there is going to be peace in legislation, there cannot be war and investigation,” she told Rachel Maddow on MSNBC that was when she pulled her notebook out of her purse and started writing things down.

“Wait, did he really just say that? The people who were sitting near me were, like, ‘Did he really just say that? That we can’t have investigations?’ ” Hill said. “It was so blatant. I guess it is par for the course. To me, that’s just scary.”

Hill made it clear that investigations are necessary, and as a member of the oversight and armed services committees, she welcomes them in the name of transparency.

“Frankly, it’s a national security crisis,” she said. “We need to be looking at this. We need to be asking the tough questions about where his foreign policy decisions are actually taking us, how does that factor into our place in the world and, frankly, what are his ties to these foreign entities and where that leaves us.”

Other points Hill made:

She explained how she became both a member of the presidential escort committee and oversight committee vice chair: She was selected by leadership to escort Trump, giving her a brief audience with the president, something her predecessor, Steve Knight, never got.

Similarly, committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) nominated Hill for vice chair, and no one challenged (Hill sat next to Cummings at the State of the Union address).

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen was scheduled to testify before the oversight committee, but he backed out citing concerns for his and his family’s safety. Hill told MSNBC that Cummings wants Cohen to testify publicly, a sentiment she shares.

“Our job on the Oversight Committee is to find the truth and to share it with the American people, and we really need to do that,” she said. “That’s how we’re going to move the needle on really bringing all of this into the light and make sure that people understand the risks we are exposed to because of this president, and do ultimately what needs to be done.”

She explained why she endorsed Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) for president last week, even though the entire Democratic field is not set. The day after she endorsed Harris, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) entered the race. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) will announce her decision Sunday (she’s expected to run), and former candidates Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden may yet enter.

Hill said she knows who is in or who will be in, and she backs Harris. To wait, she said, is to play politics and have people chase her for an endorsement. Better to get it out of the way now, she said.

Santa Barbara Parents Sue Over ‘Inclusivity Instruction’

| News, Uncategorized | February 7, 2019

Three people affiliated with the William S. Hart Union High School District said they had not heard of a Santa Barbara parent group’s lawsuit that seeks to void a contract between the local school district and an organization that allegedly discriminates against whites, males and Christians, among other groups.

These same people expressed shock at the suit, yet were confident it wouldn’t happen here.

A nonprofit called Fair Education Santa Barbara, whose website says its mission is to “advocate for fair, unbiased, transparent and non political education policies within the Santa Barbara Unified School District (SBUSD)” alleges that a nonprofit called Just Communities Central Coast uses policies and procedures for teachers and students that discriminates against eight majority groups including men, whites, heterosexuals, Christians and the wealthy.

“Under the guise of promoting so-called ‘unconscious bias’ and ‘inclusivity’ instruction, JCCC’s actual curriculum and practices are overtly and intentionally anti-Caucasian, anti-male, and anti-Christian,” the lawsuit alleges.

Fair Education seeks to void the current $300,000 contract the district has with JCCC. The lawsuit alleges the district has paid $1.7 million since 2013 and claims the district has a conflict of interest with JCCC because at least seven individuals, including a current board member and an assistant superintendent, worked for JCCC and are major donors.

Eric Early, a former attorney general candidate, represents Fair Education and told the Gazette that JCCC violates the Constitution when it singles out one group as the cause for the country’s ills.

“You can’t single out one race as being the root cause of all the others,” Early said. “You can’t single out one gender as being the root cause of all the others. You can’t single out on religious belief as being the root cause of all the others. That’s what JCCC is doing.”

On its website, JCCC says it “offers cultural competency training to organizational leaders, education seminars for the general public, leadership training institutes for students and teachers, and customized consultation to local agencies for diversity and organizational change initiatives.”

Of its seven listed staff members, six are Hispanic and female, and three were born in either Mexico or El Salvador.

The right-leaning, pro-Trump newspaper The Epoch Times wrote that the JCCC has training materials that say the U.S. is a “profoundly racist” country. “Oppression based on notions of race is pervasive in U.S. society and many other societies and hurts us all, although in different and distinct ways,” the paper quotes the material.

Early used the word “indoctrination” when referring to the JCCC in his interview with The Epoch Times. It was that word that caught the attention of Hart district spokesperson Dave Campbell.

“That is a huge word,” Campbell said. “That’s not just teaching something. That is saying you are purposely going to change someone’s mind to your way of thinking, and that is clearly something that would not be going on in our district.”

Campbell said that he was unaware of any district contract, also called a memorandum of understanding, that is as large as the agreement the Santa Barbara district has with JCCC, a sentiment board members Steve Sturgeon and Joe Messina echoed.

“I’ve never seen anything specific to a magnitude of an MOU, other than potentially with our own union,” Sturgeon said. “It’s typically for services, and we may have an estimated value associated to it.” As an example, Sturgeon said there could be an MOU that allows a teacher to teach six periods instead of five.

Messina said the district already teaches diversity and equality in the social studies curriculum.

As for the possibility of a similar lawsuit happening here, Sturgeon said, “Not with his board, but who knows with future boards? I’ve been on the board for 20 years. Could it happen? Sure. Santa Barbara is proving that.”

Stairway to Safety: A New Stairwell Invention

| News | January 31, 2019

by Natalia Radcliffe

Darleen Peterson, a woman in her late eighties, has recently invented a contraption that makes it easier for citizens in wheelchairs to descend stairs in times of emergency.

In a nutshell, the invention consists of separate sections of wood which are attached to a wall under a stair railing that can be pulled out and over stairs when needed.

Peterson said kitchen doors are a good idea as models for the sections of wood, as they only cost $40 to $45 per door, and are easy to install.

This is because the hinges of the kitchen doors would be attached to the wall closest to the stairs, allowing them to fold up under the railing when they are not in use. The hole where the doorknob usually is would have a rope or chain looped through it, so the doors could easily be pulled down over the stairs.

To prevent the users in wheelchairs from flying down the ramp over the stairs, there would be a contraption similar to the mechanism that rolls up a garden hose at the top the stairs. One end of a chain or rope would attach to the wheelchair, and the other end would be looped around the contraption. A person would slowly release the chain as the person in the wheelchair goes down the ramp.

Depending on how wide the pieces of wood are cut, people who can walk down stairs on their own would be able to use them at the same time.

Peterson’s inspiration to invent this contraption was attained from her own life.

She lives a multi-story building, and on a normal day, her fellow disabled neighbors use the elevators to access the bottom floor.

However, in the case of a fire or earthquake, for example, there is a good chance the elevators will not work. Even though there is a backup system, Peterson said it is not reliable. When this happens, her neighbors in wheelchairs are stuck on the upper floors with no way out.

While Peterson was home one summer day, the power went out for a few hours. This served as the catalyst to for her to ponder how her wheelchair-bound neighbors would be able to get to the bottom floor in an emergency.

“I was just sitting here with nothing to do, and thought there has to be a way to get these people down the stairs,” she said.

Peterson said this contraption will aid her disabled neighbors in getting to safety faster during an emergency, while giving firefighters and other emergency personnel time to deal with emergency situations, such as natural disasters.

She has shown her plan to two local firefighter captains and the Fire Marshal in Sacramento, and they liked the idea.

She is hoping to get approval from state officials in Sacramento to allow her to move forward with turning this invention into a reality.

City Will Go to Court Over Solar Panels

| News | January 31, 2019

Back in July, the city found a way to force removal of the solar panels at the Canyon View Estates mobile home park, citing how the applicable county permits require 50 percent of the property to be maintained as open space. The panels violated that, so the owners needed additional permits from the city.

The city gave managing partner Kerry Seidenglanz until Aug. 11 to meet with city officials and either detail how the panels will go away or seek the additional permits.

From all indications, Seidenglanz ignored the city, forcing it to go to court. A judge will hear the matter in Chatsworth on Oct. 21.

“They are out of compliance with the city on their development agreement when they originally put that part together,” Councilmember Bob Kellar said. “Unless that owner decides to take them out on his own accord or something like that, we’re not backing down. We’ll find ourselves in a courtroom and see if we can beat him on this.”

According to the press release the city sent out Sept. 12, the city asks for “preliminary and permanent injunction and declaratory relief to abate a public nuisance,” related to the solar panels, which are considered an eyesore because of the non-symmetrical way they were placed on the hillside behind the park. The city alleges the solar panels’ installation violated the city’s municipal code and the park’s conditional use permit, which states that 50 percent of the park needs to be maintained as open space.

Additionally, the suit alleges the property owners did not obtain the necessary permits, did not submit the required geotechnical report, did not complete the required hillside development plan and are operating a power-generation business within the park, a zoning violation.

“While the City supports efforts to move to renewable energy, the City takes seriously its responsibility to enforce conditions of approval, which are designed to protect the quality of life in Santa Clarita, balancing the need for development with the preservation of open space,” the release concluded.

In fall 2017, and without the city’s knowledge, the Canyon View Estates owners put up about 6,000 solar panels on the hill overlooking the property after removing the vegetation. The city seemed powerless to stop the project because, as a classified manufactured home-planned unit development, Canyon View Estates required only state approval. Seidenglanz said he only needed to get approval from the state Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), which Seidenglanz said he got after “50 inspections.”

After much community outcry, the city took months of research and communication with the HCD and county before finding the open-space requirement.

Seidenglanz, City Community Preservation Manager Daniel Rivas, City Attorney Joe Montes and spokesperson Carrie Lujan didn’t respond to phone calls or emails.

Dual Language Immersion Introduced – Students to Start Learning Spanish in Kindergarten

| News | January 31, 2019

Believing in the benefits of understanding a second language, the Saugus Union School District is starting a dual language immersion (DLI) program next year at Highlands Elementary School.

The district unveiled the plan on its website following months of discussions with parents, teachers and a new superintendent, and the board approved it in December. The district held its first two informational meetings this week. One estimate put the turnout at Tuesday’s session at Highlands at 75-100 people.

According to the RAND Corporation, between 1,000 and 2,000 such programs exist nationally,
although this would be the first in Santa Clarita. Assistant Superintendent Isa De Armas said she knows of programs in Glendale, and that new Superintendent Colleen Hawkins worked in a similar program in the Corona Norco Unified School District.

RAND’s report noted that in Portland, Ore., DLI students outperformed their non-immersion peers on state accountability tests, and they reached English proficiency faster.

Many studies have shown that DLI programs don’t affect a student’s English skills, and De Armas said that’s important because California schools require English proficiency.

The program’s design is to make students bilingual and biliterate in English and Spanish, meaning they can read, write, speak and understand both languages, regardless of what language is spoken at home (the district’s website says not to change what is spoken at home).

Two kindergarten classes (maximum 55 students) at Highlands will be taught at a ratio of 90 percent in Spanish to 10 percent in English. The next year, as first graders, the classes will be taught at a ratio of 80:20, and so on until fourth grade, when the ratio is 50:50. That ratio will continue through fifth and sixth grades.

De Armas said although Spanish is the second language, it could be any language. The Glendale Unified School District currently offers seven DLI programs.

De Armas said many parents, especially those of first and second graders, wondered why they start only at kindergarten.

“We had to start somewhere,” she said. “I wish we could offer it in all grades.”

Reasons for the limited scope to start include: Highlands has lower enrollment and is centrally located; teachers need a special credential, and the district has two, De Armas said; and she wasn’t sure of the interest level until the informational meetings.

However, if the interest level is high enough, De Armas said she would consider a third class, provided the district could find another properly credentialed teacher.

California passed Proposition 63 in 1986, which declared English the official state language. Local resident Greg Aprahamian, whose kids went through the Saugus district and are not in the William S. Hart Union High School District, said a DLI program is problematic in that it undercuts English at the state level.

Furthermore, Aprahamian said, he considers the program not dual-language but Spanish-dominant.

“The English language is a unifying force in our country, in California,” he said. “We need to communicate with one another, and English is how we do it.”

De Armas said regardless of what languages are spoken in schools, the state requires students to demonstrate English proficiency. “Dual language immersion lets you learn another language instead of waiting until junior high or high school,” she said.

Aprahamian also objected to the district finding money for this program, but when he urged the district for years to find money for art, music and gym, he was told there weren’t enough funds.

He also said he finds it unfair that his property taxes fund the schools, but the district will accept transfers into the DLI program, and those people won’t be paying into the schools.

“If you live in Palmdale or Sylmar and you work in Santa Clarita, this is a big opportunity,” he said. “We’re paying Saugus housing prices. We’re not paying Palmdale housing prices. We’re not paying Sylmar housing prices. We have to share the resources with people not paying for it.”

He also said he fears those transfer students won’t score as high on standardized tests, thereby lessening the value of the school district and, consequently, affecting home values.

“We’ll have to see what the performance is,” Aprahamian said. “Will these students be proficient as the students doing the regular curriculum in English? I don’t think so.”

De Armas said Saugus district parents have first crack at this program. Once all Saugus students have their spots, any other students are welcome to transfer into the district, provided they satisfy the two school districts’ transfer rules.

Katie Hill Speaks at Women’s March in Los Angeles

| News | January 24, 2019

Stacy Fortner has seen Katie Hill at several previous women’s marches, but this was the first time Fortner saw Hill there as her congressional representative.

“You get a proud moment, that you were a part of putting her there,” Fortner said.

Hill (D-Agua Dulce) was one of many speakers to take to the podium last weekend in downtown Los Angeles. She spoke early, and only for about a minute, but she stressed that the work isn’t yet done, and she would like to see more diversity in Congress starting in 2020.

“I’m here to tell you that the work that you did last year got the most historic, most diverse, most women ever elected to Congress. But that means women make up only one in four members of Congress, and if you look at the two sides of the aisle, you can see the difference in the diversity that we got. But that means that we’re never going to get to true equality unless we get equal representation,” Hill said. “So, this is the moment that we start again. We’ve taken a little break. Now, it’s time to get back to work, because you see what’s happening in Washington. We can’t move forward on getting affordable health care for everyone unless we start to work again. So, we need you to show up. The activism has just started. Get back to work. It’s time for 2020 to watch out for us, because we’re coming again.”

Fortner said she liked what Hill had to say, and she didn’t think Hill’s attitude was any different now that she’s in Congress.

“Her responsibility is to represent us, and I think she’s doing a fabulous job,” Fortner said.

Hill spokesperson Kassie King said Hill was well received, even by people too young to vote.

“I think it’s really powerful when a 4-year-old girl knows who her congresswoman is, and that was happening over and over,” King said. “We had several young women, young girls come up to Katie, and young teenagers and such. They were really excited. They had seen her on their televisions. They had heard about her story from the papers. They had talked to their parents about it, and they were really excited to meet a congresswoman who they connected with who is becoming very accessible.”

Committee assignments

King added that Hill has been assigned to the oversight, armed services and science, space and technology committees. Hill had previously said armed services was her first choice, and she said in a statement that aerospace “is the backbone of my district’s economy.” She also previously said she would be happy with oversight and science, space and technology.

Looking Back on the LAUSD Strike of 1970

| News | January 24, 2019

When Los Angeles teachers walked out in 1970, Carol Goodman felt apprehension.

“I wasn’t excited,” said Goodman, who as Carol Steinhardt was a senior at Cleveland High, and only about two months from graduation when about half the United Teachers Los Angeles union struck April 13 seeking higher pay, smaller class sizes and increased spending. “We didn’t know what to expect. We were very concerned about whether we’d graduate. Would we complete the (academic) requirements?”

Over 45 minutes Monday, Goodman reminisced about that time, recalling what she could about living through a strike that lasted 30 days and expressing gratitude that she worked for a school district (William S. Hart) that never has come close to an impasse.

One point Goodman made again and again was what a different time 1970 was versus 2019. With no cell phones, no internet and no social media, information about the strike came from either the Los Angeles Times, the Valley News and Green Sheet (now Daily News) or the teachers themselves.

“It (the strike) did not come out of left field, but we certainly didn’t have a media blitz like you do now,” Goodman said. “The teachers spoke of it a little bit, but as I recall, not much. They didn’t want to influence the students on way or the other. There might have been some sanctions against that, for all I know.”

Other signs of different times: Administrators called parents, threatening that the strike would prevent the seniors from graduating, she said. The school district hired retired people (Goodman stressed “people,” not “teachers”) and driver-training instructors from private schools to come in and teach, even though it was more like babysitting. “They didn’t have the vetting process they have now,” she said.

One such person was in charge of Goodman’s physiology class, but the students pulled a prank on her by dressing up a plastic dummy with a shirt, sunglasses and hat and seating it as far away from the teacher as possible. Whenever somebody cut class, the dummy became that student, and other classmates would answer “here” during roll call.

“She was blind as a bat,” Goodman said of that teacher.

She remembers going to school every day (“Parents didn’t have the inclination to keep their kids out of school,” she said), but she couldn’t recall if she was in class the entire time. A social studies teacher who did not strike held combined classes in the library three days a week, which Goodman said was her introduction to what her college life at San Fernando Valley State (now California State University, Northridge) would be like.

An assistant principal took over Goodman’s English class, she said, and it became more like a creative writing class.

Because the school didn’t have enough staff to adequately watch the approximately 3,000 students, the campus was opened at lunch; Goodman’s friend Eva-Lynne Socher (now Leibman) would drive the two of them in her parent’s car to a McDonald’s on Ventura Boulevard for lunch.

Goodman said she would talk to the teachers who were picketing and complain about what was going on and how much she missed them. She stressed she and her fellow students did not join the protests.

Since the strike lasted as long as it did, it took a financial toll on some teachers. Goodman said a teacher she was fond of came back after three weeks.

“I remember him looking so sad and distraught, and he didn’t want to talk about coming back to work,” she said. “I think he felt very badly that he had to, but financially he just couldn’t afford it.”

When the strike ended May 13, teachers had won their first contract, 5-percent raises, smaller classes (although Goodman did not recall overcrowding) and advisory councils on which they would share power with administrators. But they lost an average of $1,100 while on strike and failed to gain more funding from Sacramento, where Gov. Ronald Reagan was unsympathetic.

A court later found that state law did not allow for collective bargaining and threw out the contract. This led to the 1975 Rodda Act, which established the teachers’ right to collectively bargain.

Goodman said she was “relieved” when the strike was over, but teachers did not accept the work the students did in those weeks, so Goodman and her classmates went to school an hour earlier and stayed an hour later to make up the time and work.

But overall, she regrets the strike.

“It was difficult,” she said. “I loved going to school the whole time I was in school, and it was important for me to be there. There was anxiety, of course, and a feeling of, ‘Why are we even doing this? This is silly,’ as far as the work we were given.”

The strike had one effect on Goodman: One reason she and her then-husband moved to Santa Clarita was to avoid enrolling their children in the Los Angeles Unified School District. Her son and daughter graduated from Saugus. She said her son’s a realtor in Reno, Nev., and her daughter is a professor in Kazakhstan.

As for Goodman, she retired from the Hart district in 2015 after 32 years, first at Saugus as the registrar and then at district headquarters overseeing the student information system. She also spent time at Hart as an assistant speech and debate coach.

“The horror stories I hear, we look at each other and say, ‘Thank God we’re in the Hart district,’ ” she said.

Radio Host Joe Messina Starts Local Podcast

| News | January 18, 2019

Fed up with the one-sided comments he sees on social media and a lack of civil discourse in the area, Joe Messina has decided to do something about it: start a podcast.

On Friday, the first episode of “Trending SCV” will air on spreaker.com featuring Stephen Daniels, who hosts his own podcast, “The Talk of Santa Clarita.” Messina said they’re covering such topics as Sen. Scott Wilk’s influence, “the establishment” and “white privilege.”

“I’m going to try and pull back the curtain and find out what the real story is. I am definitely now tired of all the hypocrisy in and around the valley when it comes to issues,” Messina said in a podcast introduction on spreaker.com. “I’m tired of seeing only one side of the issue being hammered home.

“The heat is rising. I’m talking about global cooling, global warming, whatever. I’m talking about the political heat in this valley. We can’t even talk to each other anymore. People that have been friends for years no longer can be friends. This is wrong. It’s not what made this city strong.”

Messina, already known for his talk show “The Real Side,” said this show would differ in that it would deal exclusively with area issues, such as proving or disproving what elected officials or community organizers said. An example might be a directly elected mayor. Many people obviously want it, he said, but have they considered what it would take to make that happen, such as needing to rewrite the city charter?

Although he had no other confirmed guests as of Monday, he said he would like to have on the show elected and non-elected officials, community organizers and others who assemble rallies, and anyone outspoken enough – especially if they’re outspoken on Facebook.

He said he especially dislikes some of the local forums in which an opposing (read: conservative) comment leads to personal attacks.

“You won’t get pounded on the show for having another idea. You will get pounded on for simply not telling the truth,” he said. “Since a lot of those Facebook pages are protected by a small group of outspoken people who hide behind sock puppets or block you because they don’t want you to see what they’re saying, it makes you reluctant to go there because it simply becomes a nasty mob scene. Many people I know forego going to Facebook altogether because they don’t want the pile-on. Even when they have real information, and they can prove what they say, they won’t go there. But you can come here. You can get me information. I’ll put it out.”

The David Barlavi Salute

| News | January 17, 2019

Perhaps you’ve seen this before: David Barlavi standing with his fist raised while the national anthem plays. Or his fist is raised and his other hand is over his heart while he recites the pledge of allegiance.

He did this again at a recent water board meeting, but he said he’s been doing this for a few years now, inspired by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick and the Black Lives Matter movement.

“I think everybody should be doing it,” the attorney and Saugus Unified School District board member said. “We need to hold our law enforcement officers to a much higher standard, and everybody needs to be on board with that. It’s not only good for civilians, but it’s good for police departments to make sure that they have the right training and the right attitude to make sure they’re not violating people’s rights in any way, especially in a disparate way with people of color.”
Kaepernick originally sat during the anthem, starting with the third game of the 49ers’ 2016 season, to protest racial injustice and oppression. The next week, he started kneeling.

He hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, but actions sparked a wider protest movement that intensified after President Trump suggested owners fire players who protested during the anthem.

Black Lives Matter predates Kaepernick’s kneeling by three years, beginning on social media after George Zimmerman was acquitted of murdering Trayvon Martin in the Miami area. It became nationally recognized from people demonstrating against the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., and Eric Garner in New York.

Barlavi, who is white, said he has never received a negative reaction to his protest, and also said he has not reached out to Kaepernick.

He added there is a practical reason to his fist raise.

“I’m too old to kneel,” he said with a laugh.

Barrie Eget Throws it Down

| News | January 17, 2019

“Indio! Are you ready?” Barrie Eget intones. The boxing crowd at the Fantasy Springs Resort Casino roars. “For the thousands in attendance here this evening and to the millions watching around the world: Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to throw down!”

People who watch boxing matches likely are familiar with Michael Buffer. Maybe they know Michael Buffer’s brother, Bruce, who announces UFC matches. They might recognize Jimmy Lennon or his son, Jimmy Jr. Fewer probably know Eget, but the Santa Clarita resident has made a nice living as a ring announcer these last 10 years.

He’s announced fights on HBO, Showtime, ESPN, NBC and CBS. He’s traveled to Canada and Mexico as well as Philadelphia, New York, Dallas, Miami and, of course, Las Vegas. Not only does he announce boxing matches, but also MMA and arm wrestling. Last year, he said, he announced 21 events.

“I’m incredibly grateful for what I’m compensated,” Eget said while picking at a plate of chicken nachos at a local pub. “I feel like I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”

Life around the sport
Eget grew up around boxing, the son of Julian Eget, whose obituary said he was vice president of the World Boxing Hall of Fame and president of the Golden State Boxing Association. By following his father around such places as the Olympic Auditorium, he was exposed to Lennon and how the venerable announcer “paid close attention to getting the names right.”

Eget’s connections to boxing also put him proximate to promoter Dan Goossen, who gave Eget his first announcing job for $100, at Pechanga Resort & Casino.

Along the way, he’s had his share of memorable moments. His highest-profile appearance came March 7, 2015, at the sold-out MGM Grand Garden Arena when he announced the title fight between welterweights Keith Thurman and Robert Guerrero on NBC (Thurman retained his title in a unanimous decision). Eget said it was the most-watched boxing show in 20 years.

“For me, it was pretty sensational,” he said.

There was a scary time for him in 2011 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. in which a split decision went against what the fans thought (and Eget, too), and they got unruly. The problem was there was still one fight left on the card, and the promoter asked Eget to announce that.

“I had guys threatening me like I had made the decision,” he said. “They made it clear they were going to kick my ass.”

Behind-the-scenes prep work
The best announcers make it look so easy, but Eget insists there is a great deal of prep work that goes into what he calls “the show.”

The week before the fight, he starts working on the names. Besides the fighters’ names and nicknames, there are sanctioning body presidents, sponsors, judges, referees and famous people who will be in the crowd. And if Eget announces an entire card of up to 11 fights, that’s a lot of names. He spends a great deal of time practicing in his living room.

“You want to make them feel special,” he said.

Spanish names are relatively easy since they’re phonetic (he’s also learned how to roll his Rs). But a fighter from Ukraine can be a challenge.

Sometimes, he doesn’t get the pronunciations until the day before the fight because that’s when the fighter and his entourage finally arrive.

When it’s fight night, his job becomes simple: “Get everybody excited about what’s going to happen.”

When the fight ends, he has to read the decision, and he said Goossen taught him that is more important than the prefight hype and introductions, because it is absolutely essential to properly announce who won and if a title is retained or won. Unlike the pre-fight stuff, the decision is handed to the announcer immediately, and he has to parse it and announce it quickly. When the result is a knockout, it’s easy. When it’s a unanimous decision, Eget has to make sure he says the right name. A split decision is the most challenging, but Eget still has to make sure he announces the judges’ decisions and winner’s name correctly (a draw is similar, but there’s no winner to announce).

Buffer and Lennon
One reason Eget might not be as well known as Buffer or Lennon Jr. is because they’re associated with networks. Buffer announced on HBO; Lennon Jr. on Showtime. Eget negotiates directly with promoters. He said he had a good run with Ten Goose Boxing until Dan Goossen died and the company went in a different direction. He also did a lot with Oscar De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions until the company decided to go with more Latinos.

Of Lennon, Eget said, “He’s incredibly gracious. He goes out of his way to talk about the show he caught, (how it’s) nice to see me, and things like that. It would be like Picasso coming up and saying, ‘Your artwork looks great.’ Jimmy’s incredibly supportive.”

Buffer? Not so much, and this saddens Eget greatly, for he idolized Buffer. Watch his videos on YouTube and hear that some of his inflections mimic Buffer.
Eget credits Buffer and his “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” catchphrase as revolutionizing the industry. No one had a signature line before Buffer; now, everybody does (Eget uses “It’s time to throw down!” and trademarked it, as Buffer did with LGRTR).

The problems come when Buffer believes his trademark has been infringed. In 2002, Bruce Buffer told ABC News that he has been involved in “maybe over 100” legal actions over the phrase.

Eget has run afoul, too. In 2013, Buffer’s lawyers went after him because Eget says, “Are you ready?” Eget said he also was served in 2014 and 2015. Each time, he had to spend thousands to retain an attorney, who made it go away without settlement and before it went to court.

“I went from idolizing him to I can’t stand him,” Eget said. “It’s a game they play, which is sad.”

He hasn’t had any problems in a few years, and he even has people coming up to him and saying, “Hey, you’re the throw-down guy.”

His next local gig is Feb. 8 at Sportsmen’s Lodge in Studio City. There, he will stand in the ring, rile up the crowd and announce what’s happening.

Maybe he will remember the lesson Goossen imparted to him: “A ring announcer can make or break a fight. A good ring announcer can make a night great. A great ring announcer can make it magical.”

Ribbon Cutting for the Newhall Ranch Road Bridge Widening

| News | January 10, 2019

On Friday, January 18 at 10:00 a.m., the City of Santa Clarita will be hosting a public ribbon cutting event to celebrate the completion of the Newhall Ranch Road Bridge Widening Project. The event will be held at the northwest corner of the Newhall Ranch Road Bridge.

Along with the Santa Clarita City Council, Supervisor Kathryn Barger, Fifth District, County of Los Angeles, and representatives from both the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works and Caltrans will be in attendance.

The multi-million dollar project expanded the bridge to provide an additional traffic lane in each direction – increasing the number of lanes in each direction to four. In addition to improving trail connections with a new undercrossing trail in the west bank, the project also added a raised median and a new protected sidewalk and bike path on the south side of the bridge. The Newhall Ranch Road Bridge Widening Project is a federally funded project and is part of the Building and Creating Community theme in the Santa Clarita 2020 plan.

Attendees may park at the Valencia Village shopping plaza located adjacent to the event site. Signs will be posted to direct attendees to the event site along the street. To RSVP for the ribbon cutting of the Newhall Ranch Road Bridge Widening Project, contact Kirsten Lindgreen with the City of Santa Clarita at klindgreen@santa-clarita.com or at (661) 255-4321. For additional details about the project, contact Project Manager Jackie Lillio at (661) 286-4131.

Don’t Miss the Great American Lunar Eclipse

| News | January 10, 2019

by Steve Petzold

One of the greatest natural wonders we can experience on planet Earth is observing a lunar or solar eclipse.

During the evening hours of January 20, the shadow of the Earth will cast itself across the surface of our Moon, producing a lunar eclipse. This event can be observed from Santa Clarita and the entire Western Hemisphere. Monday, January 21 is Martin Luther King Day, and schools will not be open, which means it will be an ideal date for families with children.

A lunar eclipse does not require any special glasses for eye protection. The eclipse can be observed with your naked eye. However, a pair of binoculars or a simple telescope will help to enhance your experience.

In the days prior to the eclipse, you may find it beneficial to step out and watch the waxing Moon at the same time of day, around 8 p.m. You will notice its movement toward the east as the Moon orbits the Earth.

From the west coast of North America (Pacific Standard Time) here is the timing you should note. For individuals with a casual interest, the critical time for observation will be from 7:30 until 10:00 p.m.

7:10 p.m. a light shadow (penumbra) will begin to appear
7:34 p.m. partial eclipse begins
8:41 p.m. total eclipse begins
9:12 p.m. the middle of totality
9:44 p.m. total eclipse ends
10:51 p.m. partial eclipse ends
11:15 p.m. penumbra last visible

From Los Angeles, the Moon will be approximately half way up in the sky (49 degrees) between the horizon and the zenith, making observation easy on your neck, and above the trees and hills of the Santa Clarita Valley. This is ideal for personal comfort.

The eclipse can be viewed from the comfort of your backyard. It is not necessary to travel out of the city to a location with a darker sky.

The local astronomy club, The Local Group (www.lgscv.org) is scheduled to be at Central Park beginning at 6 p.m. Club members are glad to allow guests to share the experience with their telescopes and binoculars. Using your eyes and not your hands is the common courtesy. I suggest that you dress for comfort (hat, jacket, shoes) and bring a camping chair.

This will be an incredible opportunity for adults and children. Let us hope for a clear sky in Santa Clarita.

Enjoy!

My submission to the Santa Clarita Gazette was prepared with reference to an article by Joe Rao published in the January 2019 issue of Sky and Telescope Magazine.

Knight’s old Office Now Up For Grabs

| News | January 10, 2019

The owners of the building that housed former Congressman Steve Knight’s district office have changed their minds and invited Rep. Katie Hill to use the location. However, it doesn’t appear that Hill’s people are aware the space is again available.

Kiza and Richard Hilton said they believe that the disruptions and demonstrations that previously occurred at the Carl Boyer Drive location would not repeat since a Democrat is now the representative. Those activities included a 2017 “die-in” to protest Knight’s voting against the Affordable Care Act, one of several demonstrations that year. Also, a bb or pellet gun caused a small hole in a window in April.

“It was just a hassle,” Richard Hilton said.

“That behavior was driven by extreme liberals, and that, probably, extreme conservatives would probably approach the whole situation differently,” Kiza Hilton said. “I reached out to Katie, letting her know I’d love if she’d be a tenant in the building. I was a big supporter of hers.”

Additionally, Kiza Hilton said, the architect who originally wanted the space has not signed any lease.

Hill had said she wanted to keep all of Knight’s district offices in the name of continuity, and she said in a statement that the Simi Valley and Palmdale locations, needing only phone and internet connections, would open Monday.

Spokesperson Kassie King didn’t sound like she knew of Kiza Hilton’s invitation.

“When we initially reached out, we were given a response that that location wasn’t interested in hosting the next congressperson,” King said. “If that has changed, our district director is currently looking into many different options in Santa Clarita, so we will reach back out to that building and we will include them on our list of properties we’re surveying and making sure that that property is still one that will fit the needs of our constituents.”

King added that Hill wants the district staff evenly distributed around the three offices. Kiza Hilton said congressional offices must be properly vetted; since this one has been, that step is saved.

Richard Hilton, saying this is more of a business decision, said his wife took the lead on this.

“I’m not opposed to it,” he said. “It’s a great office. Beautiful building, beautiful office.”

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