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

| News | August 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

City Panel Fights Funds for Canyon Country Community Center

| News | August 1, 2019

Th11-Paper money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Getting to Know Suzette Valladares

| News | August 1, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Other platform points:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| News | July 26, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

| News | July 25, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

College of the Canyons receives Grant for Online Career Education

| News | July 18, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

News Briefs and Updates

| News | July 18, 2019

Katie Hill Divorce

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming Moffat vs. Wilk Hearing Update

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

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

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

Heaton and Mueller vs. Wilk – Getting Personal with Warren Heaton

| News | July 18, 2019

Part 1 of 2 Series
To successfully unseat state Senator Scott Wilk next year and reclaim the 21st district for the Democrats for the first time since 2012, Warren Heaton and Kipp Mueller have some things to overcome, aside from the usual challenges of beating an incumbent.

For Heaton, it is being a Democrat who can reach both liberal and conservative residents.

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

Nonetheless, Wilk will be a formidable opponent; so here’s a first look at what Heaton is doing to address concerns. Check back next week for Mueller’s take.

Warren Heaton:
The College of the Canyons adjunct faculty member and immigration attorney said he likes good policy that benefits the most people, having seen from his time in the insurance and banking fields how good regulations protect consumers and how bad regulations end up costing consumers money. His challenge is to figure out how to enact policies without alienating a large swath of voters, be they Democrat or Republican.

“District 21 is a microcosm of what’s going on in the United States, where you have this urban, educated, professional class who are doing relatively well. They can afford to buy a home. They have health care. Their concerns are related to education, the environment, public transportation,” he said. “Then you have this rural part of the district, and their concerns are jobs, health care, the lack of public transportation; you have addiction issues, and they’re struggling to hang on.”

He said he thinks public transportation is one issue where he can bridge the divide. Urban voters who drive the already clogged freeways welcome a faster, cleaner option; rural voters who can only afford to live in distant places such as Adelanto, Hesperia and Palmdale want to get into town faster.

Another uniting issue: green jobs. If urban voters want more green jobs, as Heaton believes, those jobs can be in rural areas. He suggested the Antelope Valley.

“I’m about smart policies that will benefit the entire community, not just one party over the other. I’m left on some issues and right on the others, but I think that’s exactly where this district is,” he said. “This district isn’t an extreme district where we’re going to decide things based on abortion rights or gun rights.”

From his time as a COC adjunct faculty union representative, Heaton sees a great pay disparity between adjunct and full-time faculty. He applauds the legislature for passing Senate Bill 1379 in 2016, which gives these part-timers collective-bargaining rights.

Wilk voted against the bill while in the Assembly.

“Wilk was part of the problem,” Heaton said. “There’s a difference between good policy and ideology. You can’t just step into government with some ideological stance and think you’re going to be an effective legislator. You have to understand how your ideologies are going to interact with policy and how that’s going to interact with people you represent.”

Wildfire Town Hall

| Community, News | July 18, 2019

Join Senator Scott Wilk, Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Assemblyman Tom Lackey on Monday, July 22, from 6 to 8 pm at a wildfire town hall meeting.

Hear the experts discuss:
Best practices for keeping your home safe in a wildfire
Preventative measures being taken by utility companies
State and county preparedness plans
City response/action plan

It will take place at The Centre (former Activities Center), located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway.

RSVP to: 661-286-1471 or http://tinyurl.com/y58dkq5c

Wilk has Challengers

| News | July 12, 2019

Two attorneys have announced they will challenge Scott Wilk next year for Wilk’s 21st Senate district seat.

Kipp Mueller, who handles discrimination, wrongful termination and retaliation cases; and immigration lawyer Warren Heaton, who also teaches at College of the Canyons, have declared their candidacies.

Both list healthcare, housing and homelessness concerns as platform issues on their candidate websites. Both favor the public option for healthcare, and both express alarm at the cost of housing and the rise of homelessness as a result.

Muller also seeks to “re-establish a strong middle class that suits the 21st century” by strengthening unions, enforcing the labor code and balancing the budget. He wants to safeguard reproductive freedoms and women’s rights, and he recognizes the need to do something to combat climate change.

“Now, most families fear the first of the month. We’ve seen decades of stagnant wages while healthcare, housing and other life expenses continue to climb,” Mueller said in a statement. “An economy that used to work for families like mine has now turned into millions of families just struggling to get by.”

Heaton, who declared last week, supports “a dramatic expansion in public transportation” and more infrastructure funding. He also supports more money in K-12 education and investments to lower student-loan debt and increase the number of full-time faculty members.

Justice Delayed is Justice Denied

| News | July 12, 2019

Chris Ball is experiencing first hand how slowly the wheels of justice turn, and he isn’t happy about it.

Ball, who last year filed a lawsuit alleging his bookkeeper misappropriated, embezzled, converted and/or diverted $1,586,732.06 going back to 2006, wants Neilla Cenci thrown in prison for it. Cenci remains free, and Ball said she declared bankruptcy once she was caught (a call to Cenci went unreturned).

Ball has petitioned the county district attorney’s office to get things moving, and he isn’t happy about the speed. He has taken the tact that the more annoying he can be, the more likely the case will be handled just to make him go away.
“I’m really good at throwing hand grenades. I’m really not good at persuasion,” he said. “When it comes to dealing with institutions, that’s the only way I know how.”

To that end, Ball filed a public records request seeking, among other things, various records and memoranda related to District Attorney Jackie Lacey using the phrase “Justice Delayed is Justice Denied;” and the overtime and disciplinary records of Deputy DA Adewale Oduye, who’s handling Ball’s case.

Ball admitted he’s not the least bit interested in what’s found. He just wants to light a fire under Lacey and her staff.

“If she has gone out, got herself elected by promising swift execution of justice, then I’m here to tell you that that is not happening,” Ball said. “My Public Records Act request is the only mechanism I can think of that will force the top management at the district attorney’s office to pay attention to my case. … I want the district attorney to get pissed off and say, ‘Look, I don’t need this s***. Go ahead and prosecute this case.’ That’s what this is about.”

Cenci was arrested September 6th in connection with pilfering $37,755.48 that an IRS audit of Ball’s construction company revealed. An arrest report from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Department showed she was granted $20,000 bail. No charges were filed; instead, Det. Robert Morris of the Sheriff’s fraud and cyber crimes bureau investigated, executed search warrants and found more than 1,000 checks totaling almost $1.5 million deposited mostly into five banks or credit-card companies: Visa, Discover, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America.

Morris submitted his findings to the DA. Public Information Officer Paul Eakins and said the office got the case April 24th.

Ball received an email June 24th from Oduye saying he had been assigned the case.

That didn’t sit well with Ball.

“Detective Morris built your case with bank search warrants and told me in March that he had proof from the thief’s bank records and from my bank records that she had stolen over a million dollars,” Ball wrote in an email to Oduye the same day. “April, May and June have now gone by. That’s 90 days that your office has done NOTHING.  That’s 90 days the embezzling thief can hide the stolen money or plan her escape. That’s 90 days she has enjoyed her freedom.”

Oduye responded with a request to meet. Ball wrote back, “I do not need to meet with you, and I have no questions for you, except one: What will it take to get urgent action from your office?”

Ball explained that his civil matters – suing the banks and merchants that laundered the stolen money and getting Cenci’s bankruptcy overturned – are strengthened if Cenci is arrested again. Also, the theft-insurance company won’t pay out until there is an arrest, he said.

On June 28th, Oduye responded that civil litigation carries no weight and that he must evaluate the case to determine if he could prove it beyond a reasonable doubt. He said he would meet with Morris, and Morris confirmed to the Gazette that the two had met.

“Although I cannot make any promises, I do hope to come to a filing decision within the next 6 months,” Oduye wrote.

That didn’t sit well with Ball, either. He responded by attaching the state’s victims’ rights laws that, among other things, call for “expeditious enforcement” and “expeditious disposition” and that a victim is entitled “to a speedy trial.”

“The success of my civil case and the recovery of stolen assets are dependent on your prompt action,” Ball wrote on June 29th.  “My civil case is directly relevant to your statutory duties. Ignore that at your own peril.”

“He’s taking a lazy approach, and I’m not accepting it,” Ball said.

Ball added he doesn’t have time to try and meet with Lacey to put a face to the case. Nor does he care if his actions tip off Cenci.

“The detective is just as frustrated as I am,” Ball said.

Morris said Ball’s actions have “kind of got the ball rolling much better.” But he knows how slow things move.

“That’s just part of the program,” Morris said. “I get frustrated sometimes with how it works because the system is bogged down. The DA has to work at the pace they’re given. They work with the parameters they have. They’re short bodies, they have a heavy caseload, and they have to work by statute. Sometimes, the general public doesn’t understand. They think it needs to go faster, but its part of the process.”

If Ball had his way, the process would resemble what’s seen in Hollywood: full justice in an hour.

Instead, wife Krissy Ball said, “Nothing is happening, and it’s driving us insane.”

FPPC Investigates Westfield

| News | July 3, 2019

The company that owns the Valencia Town Center is being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission over failing to file campaign-disclosure forms related to its leasing space to College of the Canyons during the Measure E campaign in 2016.

According to documents provided by FPPC Commission Assistant Sasha Linker, Delaware-based Westfield LLC is being asked to explain why it didn’t file major donor and expenditure forms when the Committee for College of the Canyons – Yes on Measure E did.

The form in question, Form 461, is required whenever an entity contributes at least $10,000 to a campaign in a calendar year. Westfield donated about 5,244 square feet of space for the Yes on E campaign, according to a letter to the FPPC from Westfield attorney Stacy McKee Knight obtained via public records request and given to the Gazette.

The problem is that the Yes on E Committee filed appropriate documents indicating it estimated the fair-market value of the space to be $25,000, although it was leased for free.

Robert McCarty, who filed the documents for the committee, declined comment. “People at the college are taking care of this issue,” he said.

McKee Knight’s letter, dated April 30 and addressed to Intake Manager Tara Stock, explains that the monetary value didn’t reach $10,000 for the 92 days the Yes on E Committee occupied the space. She estimated that the going rate at the time was $8,600 for 82 days, still short of the required $10,000.

“No current member of the Center’s even leasing staff had any communications with any COC representatives regarding the value of the leased space and was not aware COC filed a form declaring $25,000 as the value,” McKee Knight’s letter said.

The FPPC also is investigating COC for, among other things, possibly using an employee to secure the lease.

John Musella, head of his eponymous public relations firm that counts Westfield as a client, didn’t return a call for comment.

Pork Barrel Spending: Congress’ Piggy Bank

| News | July 3, 2019

It is the bane of many a congressperson and often brought up around an election: pork barrel spending.

It’s the appropriation of government spending on localized projects secured solely or primarily to bring money to a representative’s district. It typically benefits a few, but the costs get passed to everyone.

Some could argue that the St. Francis Dam Memorial, which Rep. Katie Hill secured as part of a public lands package, is an example of such spending – even though the financial amount is nominal compared to the infamous Alaskan “Bridge to Nowhere.”

“I take every opportunity to bring resources back to our district and accomplish our local priorities,” Hill said in a statement. “I was proud to ensure the St. Francis Dam Memorial was signed into law by the President…”

Hill has not been accused of pork spending, nor has the nonprofit Citizens Against Government Waste ever named her its “Porker of the Month,” a dishonor it bestows on an elected official it deems as having “blatant disregard for the interest of taxpayers.”

In its latest newsletter, CAGW indicated its following four pieces of legislation:

–House Joint Resolution 22, a Constitutional balanced-budget Amendment. It allows for one exception: Congress must authorize excess spending by a three-fifths roll call vote of each chamber.

–HR 1957, Taxpayer First Act. This passed the House on a voice vote. It improves safeguards for taxpayers when dealing with the IRS, upgrades management and customer service at the tax agency, and creates a pathway for modernizing the administration of tax laws.

–HR 109, the Green New Deal, a proposed stimulus package that aims to address climate change and economic inequality. Although it failed to advance in either the House or Senate, 29 Californian Democrats signed on, but Hill didn’t.

–HR 1384, Medicare for All. Hill signed on as a co-sponsor.

In a statement, Hill said, “When I sign onto a bill, the only thing I take into account is our community and country, and the way it will affect or benefit our safety, security, and prosperity long-term.”

Hill did not answer whether she was part of the HR 1957 voice vote or give her view on HJR 22.

Hill also responded to a separate question about last week’s Democratic debates.

Almost as soon as Kamala Harris declared her presidential aspirations in January, Hill endorsed her, telling MSNBC that Harris “has been an exceptional leader in the state of California, and I think she is exactly the kind of candidate we need to show the right kind of vision we should have for this country.”

Then came the presidential debates last week, and from many indications, Harris merged as one of the winners.

A Politico/Morning Consult poll found 29 percent of respondents rated Harris “excellent,” more than any other candidate. The Los Angeles Times declared Harris probably won the state’s primary with her performance. And USA Today noted an uptick in interest in Iowa, home of the first primary next year, the Iowa Caucases.

Hill indicated she couldn’t be more pleased.

“Kamala Harris showed the American people what I’ve known since I met her: She has the values, strength and vision this country needs in this moment,” Hill said in a statement. “Senator Harris was steady, laid out her plan and brought her personal experience to the conversation, all which I thought made her performance incredibly successful.”

Harris succeeded by calling out frontrunner Joe Biden for his almost nostalgic comments of getting along with segregationist Senators and for opposing federally mandated busing to integrate schools.

Hill also said she thought other candidates impressed, too, listing Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar and Cory Booker, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

“I look forward to this conversation continuing into 2020,” Hill said.

Money Money Money

Hill’s campaign announced that she raised more than $720,000 in the recently completed quarter and more than $1.365 million this year. A statement from the Hill campaign said fewer than 10 Democrats nationally raised as much in the second quarter.

News Briefs and updates

| News | June 28, 2019

College Investigated

The law might have broken when an employee at College of the Canyons possibly signed a lease to use space in Valencia Town Center in support of Measure E, and it’s being investigated by the state Fair Political Practices Commission.

According to an email from Commission Assistant Sasha Linker, the FPPC is investigating “laundered campaign contributions” and “contributions by intermediary or agent.”

Linker’s email also provided documentation, including the same documents the Gazette previously was given: an event agreement between the school and Westfield, which owns the Valencia Town Center, to lease space in the mall between March 25-June 25, 2016 as a Yes-on-E campaign headquarters; and a document listing the college’s Rockwell Canyon Road address and contact as Claudia Dunn, then the special assistant to Chancellor Dianne Van Hook. The phone number was redacted; the original document lists a college number.

Linker’s email said the FPPC also is looking into the claim that “COC acted as an intermediary by allowing the (Yes on E) Committee to conduct campaign activity from the location (suite 2312) in the Valencia Town Center Mall.”

Richard Michael, who runs the website Big Bad Bonds, previously said the school’s actions violated the state Education Code. On Monday, he called the FPPC letter “kind of a form letter, but it indicates it’s going to the next stage. … The fact they’re looking at it is significant.”

Linker’s documentation also included the letter sent to Van Hook. It repeats the allegations being investigated and adds, “At this time, we have not made any determination about the allegation(s) made in the complaint.”

Linker’s documents say that by July 3, the FPPC will decide whether to investigate, refer to another government agency or take no action.

College spokesperson Eric Harnish said in an email the school has not received a copy of the complaint. “When we do, we will work with the commission to ensure the issue is properly resolved,” he said.

Board member Joan MacGregor said she was aware the FPPC was investigating. “I hope everyone kept proper records. I hope everything was done correctly,” she said.

Former City Council Candidates Settle in Court

In the final disposition of the case of one city council candidate’s civil harassment restraining order against another candidate, Sean Weber was awarded $22,000 in costs and attorney fees, court documents show.

Weber originally filed for a restraining order for himself, his mother, father-in-law and brother May 9, 2017, against Brett Haddock, court documents show. Weber claimed he feared for his and his family’s safety.

Haddock, who like Weber unsuccessfully ran for city council in 2016, was ordered to pay $1,500 per month starting June 1. Weber and attorney Troy Slaten said that as of last week, they had not been paid.

Haddock had appealed to the state Court of Appeal, citing the First Amendment and receiving support in an amicus brief from the UCLA School of Law’s First Amendment Clinic.

But the court ruled 3-0 that Haddock also engaged in private harassment, which isn’t covered under the First Amendment.

“I felt like the red herring was the (First Amendment). It had nothing to do with it, the restraining order,” Weber said last week. “It was his other conduct that I went to court over. It’s his private conduct by contacting of my friends and family and all that kind of stuff.”

The case was returned to the trial court, which awarded most of the $29,000 Slaten said he sought.

Haddock declined comment except to say, “Sean Weber is a psychopath and I want him to leave me alone. It’s ironic that I can’t get a restraining order on him.”

Wilk’s Doggie Donor Bill clears first Assembly Committee

| News | June 27, 2019

Senator Scott Wilk, representing the 21st Senate District, announced recently that Senate Bill 202 (SB 202), his “Doggie Donor Bill,” has passed the Assembly Judiciary Committee. SB 202 allows for an improved, more humane method of collecting blood donations from animals.

“Pets across California run the risk of no available blood when they are in crisis. Our shortage of animal blood has resulted in many people losing a pet simply because blood was not available when the animal was in need,” said Senator Wilk. “This is something that can be remedied and should be. My bill will go a long way toward relieving the shortage, while at the same time providing for a much more humane way to collect blood from animals.”

Veterinarians rely on products provided by animal blood banks to perform transfusions and other life-saving operations in their practices; however, California’s restrictive regulatory framework has limited available options in the state resulting in only two commercially licensed blood banks leaving California pet owners and veterinarians with a limited supply of blood. In addition, animals in these ‘closed-colony’ facilities are caged for years at a time in these facilities to draw blood.

The solution provided in SB 202 is simple: expand the pool of available animal blood donations by allowing for volunteer donations from pets – not unlike how people give blood. This practice, referred to as “community blood banking,” is allowed in every state but California. SB 202 would require community blood banks to be commercially licensed and meet health and safety standards set by the state.

“Animals should be able to go home after they donate blood, just like people do,” said Wilk. “Allowing for this compassionate method of collecting blood is the right thing to do for all our furry friends. I’m thankful to my colleagues for their support, and I look forward to continuing this work going forward.”

SB 202 is sponsored by Social Compassion in Legislation and has support from a number of veterinary medicine and animal advocacy groups, including the California Veterinary Medical Association, California Veterinary Medical Board, Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. SB 202 will now be heard in the Assembly Committee on Agriculture.

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

City Creates New Illegal Firework Reporting System

| News | June 27, 2019

The City of Santa Clarita is now offering residents a new way to report firework use in the City. Through a new “Illegal Fireworks” category in the City’s Resident Service Center RSC), community members can pinpoint and submit exact locations where fireworks are being set off, and include incident-specific details. The Resident Service Center is accessible on the city’s website and through the Santa Clarita Mobile App.

As the Fourth of July approaches, residents can begin submitting locations that have been problem areas for illegal fireworks in past years. This information will be automatically transmitted to the Sheriff’s Department so they can enter it into their database and know where they should focus their patrols. This information gathered will be used to “predictively” map out problem areas of concern for law enforcement efforts. Reporting illegal fireworks through RSC will not result in an immediate response from the Sheriff’s Department.

“Fireworks can be hazardous to people and pets, and create unnecessary danger in our already fire-prone environment,” said Captain Lewis of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station. “This new feature will assist our crime prevention team and patrol deputies to plan out proactive enforcement and patrols in the days leading up to, and after the Fourth of July and other times of increased fireworks usage in the community.”

When residents search for the “Illegal Fireworks” category in the Resident Service Center online or through the mobile app, they can access the correct form by using search terms “fireworks” or “illegal fireworks.”

To access the Resident Service Center, visit santa-clarita.com or download the Santa Clarita Mobile App.

The Elephants in the Room

| News | June 27, 2019

When a political party loses seats it has long held, its leaders tend to come together, lick wounds, figure out what went wrong and try to fix it.

It’s also a time people get vocal, maybe snipe at each other and maybe air grievances in public.

It’s happened before. It’ll happen again. It’s still happening with the Republican Party of the 38th Assembly District.

The locals suffered some big losses during the last cycle. Katie Hill and Christy Smith became the first Democrats to win the congressional and Assembly seats. And although school board seats are non-partisan, Democrats David Barlavi and Laura Arrowsmith won in the Saugus district.

It was not a total loss. Many Republicans won or held onto non-partisan seats, including in the city council, William S. Hart, College of the Canyons, Newhall and Sulphur Springs school boards. But the Barlavi and Arrowsmith seats particularly stung, local party chairman Mark Hershey said, because “They’re the biggest, most visible ones.”

It became too much for some younger Republicans, who started shouting that there was a need to reach younger voters, to raise more money, to recruit new talent to run for offices. And it rubbed some of the old guard the wrong way, resulting in disagreements and the censure and removal of one of the Central Committee members.

Allegations flew, many unsubstantiated. But one thing was clear: Local Republicans had lost their way a bit and would need to refocus to win back seats in 2020.

“My expectation is that they’re going to do their jobs,” said Mike Garcia, a 25th congressional district candidate. “I have been leaning on them. I’ve been somewhat patient with them realizing that they are still reeling from the last election. They’re still trying to figure out who they are, and I know they’re working through some of the personnel issues. … It’s still early, but this is something that’s got to start right now, so I’m hopeful they’ll get it together shortly.”

The truth is, there’s only so much a local political party can do. The county, state and national parties handle much. In fact, party communications chair Joe Messina said, the local party, known as the 38th AD, is chiefly responsible for getting Republicans elected to local races such as city council, school boards and water boards.

But losses up the ballot hurt, too, and might affect local results, so the party leaders have discussed what went wrong in 2018. In the Saugus races, Messina said, Barlavi benefitted from two Republicans running. The 38th AD endorsed Jesus Henao, but Evan Patlian also ran, and he split the vote. Barlavi beat Patlian by 5 percentage points and Henao by 11.

Arrowsmith unseated Judy Umeck, Messina believes, because she was a young, energetic teacher who also benefitted from the voter turnout that sent Hill and Smith to victories.

So, what went wrong? Local Republican leaders focused on several things: The Democrats had higher voter registration, raised more money and had more community involvement. Messina said plans are being drawn up to combat the other party’s gains, although he declined specifics.

But some, such as Cardon Ellis, 36, also felt there was a greater need to reach younger voters through social media. He suggested increasing the online presence on Facebook and adding a simple “Donate” button on the main website (scvgop.net).

“He came in with grandiose ideas,” Messina said, adding he isn’t sure social media wins races but recognizes it brings awareness.

Ellis was liked enough to be appointed to the 38th AD Central Committee. But he also rubbed some people the wrong way. Messina would only say, “He was doing things that were putting the committee in danger.”

Regardless, Ellis was censured and removed from the Central Committee by a 5-2 vote. He provided a list of reasons, all of which he denied. These include incurring expenses without permission, telling a reporter he was not impressed with the Republican candidate, creating his own team to respond to media stories and then not disbanding it, and berating older members.

Ellis particularly objected to the following: “The member has in essence created his own ‘ghost committee’ and doing what he wants the way he wants. This makes for the committee wasting way to much time in cleanup mode. He has created what may be too many liabilities for the committee.”

Ellis blames Messina, but his removal didn’t please everybody. Ellis showed texts of support from Councilmembers Cameron Smyth and Bill Miranda, Smyth saying he told Messina he didn’t approve and Miranda expressing condolences and regrets that the committee removed “the young high energy guy who has ideas and can move us forward.”

“You’re going to have disagreements. It’s the nature of the game,” Smyth told the Gazette. “That being said, I’ve never seen a Central Committee member removed like Cardon.” Since the seven Central Committee members are elected to four-year terms, Smyth thought it could have been handled at the ballot box.

Miranda said he thought Ellis brought his demise onto himself because he didn’t take the time to listen and learn. But he also said he would like to see Ellis back on the Central Committee.

“I think the Central Committee’s got to look in the mirror and say, ‘What are we going to do to modernize ourselves? What are we going to do to fight elections in the new battlefields, the social-media battlefields, the internet battlefields?’ The days of phone calling, door knocking and print advertising, although those are still important, they don’t win elections by themselves anymore,” Miranda said. “You’ve got to be on social media. Like Cardon said, put a donor button on the website. How hard is that? We didn’t have a donor button on the website. The Democrats are raising money like crazy, they’re getting voter registration like crazy, and most of that is through social media.”

How successful the party is will be seen a year and a half from now. Miranda would like to see a consistent message that resonates with Republicans old and young. Smyth said he’s confident the Republicans will coalesce around the eventual nominees. Messina said the party is working to increase youth involvement, raise more than the $60,000 it raised in 2016 and recruit new candidates.

Garcia is one of those new candidates.

“I’m being patient, but I’m being very clear there’s an expectation that all levels of government and all levels of these Republican groups are expected to get the vote out and get the support out for the candidate,” he said.

Wilk’s Attorneys Respond to Claims

| News | June 21, 2019

Star Moffatt’s claim that Scott Wilk should be disqualified from further serving in the state Senate because of his lobbying past is untimely, improper and uncertain, Wilk’s attorneys claim in court documents.

In filing a notice of demurrer, Wilk attorney Scott Hildreth of the Sacramento firm Bell, McAndrews & Hiltachk said Moffatt’s case fails to “state facts constituting a cause of action” against Wilk and it should be completely dismissed.

A demurrer generally assumes the truth of a case’s facts but argues they’re legally insufficient.

“Demurrers are meant to be opportunities for early resolutions of cases that are procedurally or legally improper,” Hildreth said. “We believe Ms. Moffatt’s case is both procedurally improper and legally improper.”

Moffatt filed suit in 2016 seeking to prevent Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) from running for the Senate because he had been a registered federal lobbyist who had not sat out a year before seeking office, per the state’s Government Code.

Wilk had worked for Alexandria, Va.-based Anchor Consulting from 2007-11 doing public affairs work for then-Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon. He won election to the Assembly in 2012 and then won his Senate seat in 2016. He said three years ago that he received his last payment from Anchor in 2012, and an Anchor employee previously told the Gazette the company’s records showed Wilk stopped actively lobbying in 2011 before he ran for the Assembly.

Moffatt has countered that because Wilk had never unregistered, he is ineligible to serve and must be removed from office retroactively. Wilk is more than halfway through his term.

The demurrer documents make the following assertions:

–The case is moot because Wilk has already been elected, that the statute of limitations expired because the election happened, and state law holds that courts don’t have jurisdiction to either remove a legislator from office or hear such cases.

–Moffatt waited three years to serve Wilk, even though Wilk is easy to locate, making the delay in bringing an action unreasonable and prejudicial.

–Since the election happened, the only way to get post-election relief is to have another election. Moffatt should be barred from preventing Wilk from seeking any future election. “Here, the Court cannot know (and should not speculate about) Senator Wilk’s potential future candidacies and how the facts and law cited by Plaintiff would apply to said potential candidacies,” Hildreth wrote in the demurrer.

It’s not known when this demurrer would be heard because the original case, Moffatt v. Wilk, must be reassigned because of the court’s limited jurisdiction. The documents show Hildreth had sought a July 3 hearing date, but the minutes from the May 31 hearing show Wilk or his attorneys must contact the clerk of the new court to reschedule.

“Wilk and counsel members may want to withdraw their demurrer to avoid sanctions for filing their demurrer motion with the wrong court,” Moffatt said in a text.

Regardless, Moffatt said she plans to file an opposition and motion to strike the demurrer in its entirety. She didn’t divulge her entire strategy but said she would make two points: Wilk’s attorneys failed to meet and confer with her before filing the demurrer, per the state Code of Civil Procedure, and they failed to file appropriate supporting declarations.

“They jumped the gun. They were trying to do that stall tactic,” Moffatt said. “I think they put the cart before the horse.”

Hildreth cited the same law as Moffatt in asserting an insufficient meet-and-confer process isn’t grounds to overrule or sustain a demurrer.

You’ve Got Theft: Stolen Mail in SCV

| News | June 20, 2019

On June 9 at 2:31 a.m., someone pulled up in front of Stacy Fortner’s house, walked up to the curbside mailboxes belonging to Fortner and her neighbor, checked them and took whatever mail was in there.

Fortner caught all of this on her outdoor Nest camera. The man walked down Lobelia Lane checking other mailboxes. After 10 minutes, he drove away.

Because of the camera, and because Fortner called the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station, the man was apprehended and arrested.

Fortner posted the video on Facebook. Unfortunately, according to sheriff’s PIO Shirley Miller, this wasn’t the first time mail theft was reported – and it won’t be the last.

“It comes and goes,” Miller said. “We’ve made arrests with the public’s help when they’ve called and reported something suspicious like in the wee hours of the night.”

Mail theft is a federal felony punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. According to thebalance.com, a mailbox is the riskiest non-technological point for identity theft, a study released in October 2007 found.

People typically steal mail for a variety of reasons, which Miller calls a “crime of opportunity.” These include looking for money, credit cards or anything else that can be used to steal an identity, such as a new or renewed driver’s license, bank statements, credit card bills, preapproved credit card offers, re-ordered bank checks and junk mail, the latter to learn about you to determine what kind of scam could work on you or to impersonate you to someone else.

It happened to Fortner’s friends Renee Bowen and Debbie Anderson. Although neither returned calls for comment, Bowen posted on Facebook that it happened to her despite having a locked mailbox, which was one suggestion Miller had to combat mail theft.

“When the sheriff came out for a police report, he said it was constant and really hard to catch,” Bowen wrote, adding she and her husband had their identities stolen as a result.

Anderson wrote that three in a group of mailboxes that included hers were broken into earlier this month, although hers wasn’t. Still, it has required her to go to her local post office to get her mail. The last time this happened, some years ago, she wrote, the post office refused to deliver her mail for two months.

There are plenty of things people can do to combat mail theft. Miller said the best way is to mail everything from inside the post office, although she acknowledges that’s not always feasible. Even official USPS boxes can have mail stolen if the thief opens the slot and fishes with something long with a sticky tip.

In addition to a locked mailbox, in which the carrier puts mail through a slot and the owner opens the box with a key, other suggestions include: finding out when the mail arrives and getting it then, get a box inside the post office, shred all mail before trashing it, switch to paperless billing and statements and don’t use the mailbox flag.

Miller said the United States Postal Service offers something called Informed Delivery, in which the post office sends an email each day showing what mail you’re going to get. If you don’t, you can alert the post office and any appropriate agencies.

Finally, invest in a camera as Fortner did.

Cannabis Law Could Be a Real ‘Doobie’ for Seniors in Pain

| News | June 13, 2019

Val Thomas says she suffers from severe arthritis, a cracked pelvis and has had multiple joint replacements. She has never tried medical marijuana but would like to, except there’s a ban on dispensaries in the city. Her pelvis has made it too difficult to drive, but even if she could (or if she could get a ride), she knows dispensaries are close by in Los Angeles, but she wouldn’t know what questions to ask the people working at one.
“It’s very shortsighted,” the 78-year-old said of the city’s policy. “As you get older, it’s a lot more difficult to get around. If marijuana is an alternative, it should be examined. … I’m not interested in running down to Van Nuys Boulevard and hopping in with some 21-year-old who really doesn’t understand where I’m coming from and hands me something off the shelf. I would prefer working with someone that does understand the type of problems I have and that many of us have up here.”

As the population ages and conditions associated with aging continue to increase, more people will be hurting and seeking pain relief. Many fear opioids because of their addictive and possibly deadly qualities – a Harvard Medical School study published in October found 115 people die daily from opioid overdoses in this country – and are curious about the possible positive effects cannabis could have for them.

Barbara Cochran, 82, knows some of these benefits. She was diagnosed with lymphoma seven years ago and underwent chemotherapy, which caused tremendous stomach and chest pain and nausea. She took hydrocodone for the pain until her son, Scott Stearns, who operates the American Original Collective dispensary in Rosamond, saw the pills, threw them in the trash and insisted she try cannabidiol (CBD) pills.

“My pain was gone in less than two days,” Cochran said.

She said the chemo also zapped her of her appetite, so she tried tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient that gives people the “high” feeling. It got her eating again.

Cochran has hosted “The Senior Hour,” a Wednesday-morning radio show on KHTS with Dr. Gene Dorio devoted to senior living, for many years. The pair often extoll the virtues of medicinal marijuana.

“I’ve always felt cannabis can be very useful for medical treatment and for those who have a pain-management problem,” said Dorio, who specializes in geriatrics and internal medicine. “My patients have been on opioids and I have been able to switch them to cannabis, and it’s just as effective as opioids.”

Now cancer-free, Cochran still takes two drops of CBD oil daily, either on her toast or in her coffee. “It’s like a vitamin for me,” she said. “I haven’t been sick since then. I never get a cold. I strongly believe (CBD) has a lot to do with it.”

Two city councilmembers said they have no problem with their older constituents using cannabis and having it delivered to them. But inadvertently or not, the city and county have placed obstacles on seniors getting access to such treatments. The Board of Supervisors in 2017 unanimously banned cultivation, manufacturing, processing, transportation and retail sale of medical and nonmedical marijuana in any unincorporated county territory until a comprehensive regulatory plan is in place. Supervisor Kathryn Barger, who represents Santa Clarita, introduced the measure. Barger spokesman Tony Bell emailed this week to say the ban remains in effect.

“It’s unacceptable that L.A. County hasn’t lifted the ban,” Stearns said.

Barger’s move came two weeks after the city unanimously banned cannabis beyond six indoor plants per residence. Then the city council unanimously extended the ban in March 2018. Councilmember Bob Kellar made the motion.

“Having been a 25-year member of the Los Angels Police Department, and seeing the unbelievable destruction of lives as a result of drugs, I, Bob Kellar, will never support anything having to do with drugs as long as I can follow the law,” Kellar said this week.

It is this mindset that bothers Stearns and Thomas. Thomas said Kellar’s view is “at least 20 years out of date.” Stearns said many of his clients are veterans, elderly, in wheelchairs, and suffer from arthritis and nausea. He wonders how a city can be so opposed to helping these people.

“It’s not fair to not have access,” he said. “I’d come in there with a couple of my veterans and a couple of my cancer patients and just hopefully make them feel like sh**.”

And yet, Thomas, Dorio and Stearns are not in favor of casual marijuana use and want strict regulations. Dorio, like Kellar, believes the stuff is a gateway drug, although he stresses that applies to young people. Stearns said, “You don’t need gangsters from MS-13 running a pot shop in your town.” Thomas said she isn’t interested in “getting high.”

“The people about whom most of the council is concerned are the people who can easily drive over the hill, pick up their stash and come back,” she said. “People who are older, who suffer from arthritis or pains of other types, are extremely limited in what they can get.”

The state has always seemed to have an uneven relationship with cannabis. It was the first state to legalize medical marijuana, in 1996. Twenty years earlier, Gov. Jerry Brown signed legislation that reduced marijuana possession to a misdemeanor. And the voters passed Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational cannabis starting Jan. 1, 2018.

But the voters also rejected recreational legalization in 2010, and the federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug under the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 (other Schedule 1 drugs include LSD, heroin, ecstasy and Quaalude; cocaine, PCP, Vicodin, oxycodone and methamphetamine are Schedule 2 drugs; anabolic steroids are Schedule 3). While the 2018 farm bill removed hemp from Schedule 1, the other forms remain.

Dorio would like to see marijuana reclassified as a Schedule 2 drug, and there have been several unsuccessful attempts since 1972 to change its Schedule 1 classification, most recently in 2017. Councilmembers Bill Miranda and Cameron Smyth said a reclassification might change their minds about having cannabis inside the city.

But first, Miranda said he would want to ensure marijuana is kept out of teens and young people’s hands.

“I’m a brother of an overdose person,” he said. “You have to be very, very careful to make marijuana available to young people.”

Smyth said he’s concerned that cannabis is still predominately a cash business, which to him increases the likelihood of criminal activity. According to the American Bankers Association, because possessing, distributing or selling marijuana remains illegal under federal law, money that can be traced back to state marijuana operations could be considered money laundering and expose a bank to significant legal, operational and regulatory risks.

Smyth believes a reclassification would allow banks to get involved, meaning credit comes into play, meaning less criminal possibilities such as fraud.

“Certainly, the time has come for the federal government to have a serious discussion,” Smyth said.

Yet Smyth and Miranda said they don’t support any brick-and-mortar cannabis shops in the city but have no problem with delivery services.

Unfortunately, Stearns said, there is no money and increased danger in delivery, so he doesn’t.

As intractable as Kellar seems, he said there is one possible way he could consider allowing cannabis inside the city: if compounding pharmacies handled it, which is something Thomas also said she favors. Miranda, again, said he would have to see how young people’s access would be limited. Smyth would want to see if compounding pharmacies could get around “the cash component” before he agreed to lift any cannabis ban.

Neither of the two local compounding pharmacies the Gazette called, The Druggist Pharmacy and Lyons Pharmacy & Compounding Lab, are involved with cannabis, although it’s not illegal.

For now, nothing will change. People can get cannabis, but they have to leave the city to do it.

“It would be nice if we grew up and joined the real world,” Thomas said.

If the county ever lifts its ban, Stearns believes a dispensary will open in the valley but outside the city limits.

And it will be he who opens it.

Wilk Case Continues in Court

| News | June 7, 2019


Star Moffatt’s quest to have state Sen. Scott Wilk disqualified from office was continued to June 14, Moffatt said. It was not dismissed after Friday’s court session, in which Moffatt had to show the court she had properly served Wilk.

“It’s still alive. I’m happy about that,” she said. “I was able to show that I had hired a legal process server who had served the complaint on May 20, I believe.”

Court documents list the date as May 24. Moffatt said Wilk’s representation challenged that they had never received a copy in the mail. Wilk attorney Brian Hildreth wrote in an email that no motion to dismiss has been made and that the case was continued to give Moffatt time to prove she had properly served Wilk.

“They must have neglected to read the proof of service because the process server had indicated he had put a copy in the mail,” Moffatt said.

She said she expects Wilk’s attorney to challenge the service at the next hearing, which she considers “a stall tactic.”

Hildreth disputed Moffatt’s claim. “The case was filed three years ago and was only allegedly served just days ago,” he wrote in an email. “Senator Wilk is not the one stalling. The continuance was to give the parties time to confirm that proper service had been made.”

Moffatt said, “I will be responding they obviously forgot to read the proof of service. Reading is important.”

Moffatt filed a civil complaint three years ago alleging Wilk (R-Santa Clarita) was ineligible to serve in the Senate because he was a registered federal lobbyist who had not sat out a year before seeking the office, per the state’s Government Code.

Wilk had worked for Anchor Consulting, located in Alexandria, Va., from 2007-11 doing public affairs work for then-Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon. He won election to the Assembly in 2012 and then won his Senate seat in 2016. He said three years ago that he received his last payment from Anchor in 2012.

Moffatt has countered that because she claims Wilk had never unregistered, he is ineligible to serve and must be removed from office retroactively. Wilk is more than halfway through his term.

Moffatt said Wilk’s election was fraudulent.

“Fraud can still go retroactive to disgorgement of his campaign donors’ funds,” she said. “The campaign donations he received were fraudulent for 2016 and (he’d) have to return those monies back. There’s no statute of limitations on that. If he committed fraud, there’s no statute of limitations to disgorge, request and return all taxpayer dollars (to the state) he received as far as salaries for 2016.”

State law indicates a three-year statute of limitations for fraud.
Moffatt had previously sought the county clerk’s office to join her in the suit and was under the impression the office had forwarded the matter to the county’s counsel.

Instead, she was surprised when the Gazette called about it, and she had to explain to the court’s satisfaction last week why she hadn’t properly served Wilk in the last three years.

“I think I had legitimate reasons why,” Moffatt said. “It will be up to the court to determine after that if the court still retains jurisdiction to move forward with the disqualification. …When you break the law, you break the law. If it’s found by the court that you have broken the law, then you have to pay whatever restitution the court orders you to pay.”

Hildreth called the suit “wrong on the facts, wrong on the law and wrong on the timing, but otherwise we are taking this as seriously as we would any other lawsuit that seeks to improperly use the courts to overturn the will of the voters of the 21st Senatorial District.”

Why No Canyon Country Hospital?

| News | June 6, 2019

Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth have heard the cries: We need a hospital on the east side of town.

“About every election cycle during at least one candidate’s forum” is how often Councilmember Smyth says he hears it, although he acknowledged he didn’t when he last ran in 2016.

Councilmember Kellar doesn’t question the need, either. He said he had a good friend with broken ribs take a ride to Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital.

“Bob, it was the most excruciating trip,” Kellar said his friend told him.

Social media is a place people have expressed their desires. On Facebook, Martha Estrada and Andrea RC have posted wishes for a new hospital, citing valley expansion and population growth.

However, it’s not happening anytime soon. It is too expensive and time-consuming to build a hospital here, whether a new one or a second Henry Mayo campus.

According to Joan Hoffman, a health care manager who posted on the discussion website Quora, two hospitals that opened in Dallas in 2017 cost between $800 million and $1.3 billion. Hoffman also wrote that 185-bed Mercy Hospital in Merced cost $166 million when it was built in 2012.

“At less than $1 million per bed, it was considered quite economical, especially for California,” Hoffman wrote, and does anyone expect the 2019 cost to be the same as seven years ago?

What the city could actually do is limited, Smyth said. It could help by speeding up the approval process should some hospital operator seek a parcel of land on which to build.

Or it could task the Economic Development Corporation with finding some company that wants to bring a hospital here. Holly Schroeder, EDC president and CEO, said the organization’s current focus is on bringing industrial, aerospace, technology and biotechnology companies into the city.

That isn’t to say the EDC isn’t ignoring medicine entirely. If a medical-office company wants to move here, Schroeder said she’s happy to help.

And there are numerous options in the city, many of which offer urgent care. Kaiser Permanente opened an urgent-care facility on Tourney Road to go with its medical offices in Canyon Country. Facey Medical Group has several area locations, including one on Soledad Canyon Road that offers mammograms, ophthalmology, optometry, pediatrics, primary care, radiology, ultrasound, treatments for infectious diseases and diabetes, and nutrition and general wellness.

Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers offers a variety of non-urgent services, including immunizations, mental – and behavioral – health counseling, family medicine, women’s health and physical exams.

Exer, which claims on its website that it’s “more than urgent care,” offers emergency-room services at lower costs.

Schroeder said she’s also aware of something she calls “centers of excellence,” in which people can go for a specific purpose, such as cancer treatment or hip replacement, that aren’t full hospitals.

But sometimes, one needs a hospital because the situation is dire, a true emergency – and according to Scripps, there is a difference between “emergency” and “urgent” – or the patient has suffered a trauma. Henry Mayo is the only designated trauma center in the area.

The way Henry Mayo was built also probably couldn’t be replicated today. It was built on land donated by the Newhall Land & Farming Company and opened in 1975 with 99 beds at a cost of $9 million.

Perhaps a second Henry Mayo facility in Canyon Country would also be a trauma center, except Director of Marketing and Public Relations Patrick Moody said it’s too expensive to build another campus. He estimated if would cost more than $100 million to build. Also, with the healthcare industry moving toward what he called “preventive care,” also known as preventative care, which emphasizes shorter hospital stays and more urgent-care facilities, it might not be profitable to build another hospital.

Gone are the days of hospitalizations for such procedures as tonsillectomies, Moody said; they’re now outpatient procedures. Open-heart surgery patients also are being released sooner than a generation ago, he said.

But say Henry Mayo officials wanted to build another hospital and had the money to do it. Moody said it still would take between 10-15 years to finally get it opened because the state regulations are extensive.

The Facilities Development Division of the Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) in 2013 put out a 129-page advice guide for working on projects under OSHPD jurisdiction. There are 10 review processes just to get a hospital built, including ones relating to building safety and seismic concerns, to say nothing of whatever city and county requirements there might be.

But if someone else wants to build one, Moody said the hospital would not object.

For now, Henry Mayo and its 232 beds will have to suffice, and Rob Skinner knows this.

“Cities don’t build hospitals, companies do,” Skinner wrote on Facebook. “Hospitals are private businesses. If a company sees SCV as a good place to earn money, then maybe they will invest the hundreds of millions needed in order to build a new hospital. It comes down to money. Just like everything else.”

The Frank Ferry Fan Club

| News | June 6, 2019

Although Frank Ferry failed to receive enough votes to advance to the Los Angeles city council runoff election in August, he nonetheless received help from friends in the area.

Several current and former Santa Clarita city councilmembers endorsed Ferry, as did a former congressman. But it wasn’t enough, as Ferry received 8.86 percent (2,862 votes), good for fifth place out of 15 candidates.

Ferry served the city from 1998-2014 and worked with Mayor Marsha McLean, Mayor Pro-Tem Cameron Smyth and Laurene Weste, all of whom offered endorsements.
McLean said that whenever she went down to the valley as part of any of the various government-related organizations such as the San Fernando Valley Council of Governments, in which she is a board member, “I let them know I support Frank.”

Smyth endorsed Ferry in a video on Ferry’s campaign Facebook page, although he identified himself as a former Assemblyman and neither a city councilmember nor a Santa Clarita resident.

Smyth told the Gazette that as an L.A. City Councilmember, Ferry would keep the relationship strong between Santa Clarita and the north San Fernando Valley.

“With Frank, you got what you saw,” Smyth said. “He was very clear about his position, and very honest about them. Whether you agreed with him or not, you always knew where he stood.”

Another person who endorsed Ferry was former Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, who said in a video Ferry posted on Ferry’s campaign Facebook page that Ferry was a person McKeon relied on for information.

“Frank worked hard and listened to his constituents,” McKeon said. “He was a strong advocate for families, police officers, our youth and our older Americans. I knew I could always count on him.”

Former city councilmember Laurie Ender also endorsed Ferry, mentioning Ferry’s work with the city’s Blue Ribbon Task Force, which the city council formed January 2010 to provide information and education to the community about alcohol/drug/tobacco use by teens (McLean also credited Ferry with it).

One person who did not endorse Ferry was Rep. Katie Hill (D-Agua Dulce), although a photo dated May 31 on Ferry’s campaign Facebook page might have given people that idea.

According to Hill campaign manager Kelsey O’Hara, Hill has a relationship with Ferry, as he was one of her teachers at Saugus High, and she invited him to host her local swearing-in ceremony in January.

Officially, Hill endorsed Loraine Lundquist, O’Hara said. Lundquist finished second with 19 percent of the tally (6,145 votes) in Tuesday’s election and advanced to August’s runoff.

As for the photo on Ferry’s page, O’Hara was unconcerned.

“It doesn’t particularly bother us,” O’Hara said. “She does know him, and she has taken photos with him.”

Wilk Animal Cruelty and Violence Prevention Act Clears the Senate

| News | May 30, 2019

This week, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 580, the Animal Cruelty & Violence Intervention Act of 2019, introduced by Senator Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, to change the way California handles animal abuse offenders.

“Animal abuse crimes are serious and should be treated seriously,” said Wilk. “The link between individuals who abuse animals and those who go on to commit crimes against humans is real. By ensuring animal abusers receive the mental health assessments needed we will be taking a step forward in breaking that link.”

Senate Bill 580 will require the most serious offenders convicted under animal abuse crimes to undergo mandatory mental health assessments and, at the discretion of the court, to attend ongoing counseling. The bill also allows a judge to assign less serious offenders to a state-approved humane treatment education course to teach them proper techniques for interacting with animals in a positive way.

Wilk cited studies showing that 90 percent of mass shooting suspects, half of all school shooters, and 71 percent of domestic violence offenders had serious animal abuse in their histories.

“Animal abuse is often the first act of violence committed by a troubled individual. Intervening with mental health assessments, and/or counseling at that early stage could save human lives down the road,” said Wilk. “This bill will not only protect innocent animals, it will also help mental health experts get someone the help they need to avoid escalating their crimes to include humans.”

Law enforcement leaders, Animal rights groups – including the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the California Police Chiefs Association, the Humane Society of the United States, Social Compassion in Legislation and a number of individuals – are all in support of SB 580.

Senate Bill 580 now goes to the Assembly.

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

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