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Death Cafe

| Gazette, News, Uncategorized | August 2, 2013

An ironic new movement is coming to town: it’s an idea that is just taking its first breath, but its focus is on taking one’s last.

In an almost eerie resemblance to a wake or funeral, strangers gather for food and conversation, all with a desire to process grief, beliefs, feelings and experiences associated with death. These group discussions are called “Death Cafes,” and they are cropping up nationwide, breathing new life into the concept of death – coping with it, wrestling with it, accepting it, even questioning it.

“It is time for people to be able to talk openly and honestly about death and life in a safe space,” explains Betsy Trapasso, who has launched the movement in Los Angeles. “Death Cafes offer people this opportunity, which is why the movement is taking off all over the world.”

Death Cafes bring together people with as disparate of backgrounds and experiences as one can imagine. The first group held in Santa Clarita included a pediatric oncology nurse, grieving parents, a social worker, a Shaman, an east coast intellectual, and a gay man wrestling with his religion. Much of the discussion, in fact, centered on beliefs about the afterlife.

Says Trapasso, “Our objective is to increase the awareness of death with a view to helping people make the most of their (finite) lives.”
The Death Café website and Facebook page will tell you that “at Death Cafes people come together in a relaxed and safe setting to discuss death, drink tea and eat delicious cake.”

For this community, Trapasso led a group, complete with dinner and comfortable seating and made the handoff to Lisa DeLong of Canyon Country, who will now facilitate “Death Café Santa Clarita” beginning this month.

“Having this conversation in a loving, safe environment,” says DeLong, “is a great gift. Letting the process of grieving take as long as it takes.”

DeLong knows firsthand what that process feels like, as she lost her eldest child, a son named Justin, to cancer 13 years ago. And her second son began battling cancer when his age was just in the single digits. Lisa DeLong and Shawneen Rubay recently founded “Justin Time Children’s House,” a new non-profit organization designed to aid kids who are in the grieving process. (See Sidebar)

The first Death Café Santa Clarita will be held on August 14, led by DeLong and open to a finite number of guests, who will eat and talk through these issues.

Before you consider this a foreign, bizarre topic, or think that you have to be looking terminal illness in the eye, you have to consider the scope of its relevance. Perhaps you were one of the 700,000+ likes or 34,000 shares of the Michigan bride’s Facebook page, where she posted a photo of herself, clothed in her fluffy white gown, clutching her bouquet and kneeling at her father’s grave. Or maybe you saw the viral video of the (not actually engaged nor getting married anytime soon) “bride” having the wedding dance with her dad, because he wouldn’t live to see her wedding day.

The topic literally touches everyone in this lifetime, and each Death Café experience is different, as a

Death Cafe leaders (L to R): Shawneen Rubay, Lisa DeLong and Betsy Trapasso

host of related topics reveal themselves. According to Trapasso, some Death Café facilitators choose to come with a discussion “menu” prepared, but she likes to let the conversation evolve.

“What we hope to accomplish and why we are creating a Death Cafe is to create an environment where others can speak and share about what is often considered the ‘unspeakable,’ death and dying,” explains Rubay. “We welcome the conversations in hope that the participants will feel a sense of connection and freedom to ask their questions and express their views on the subject without fear or judgment.”

While the topic seems random, it really dovetails nicely with the current culture. Nowhere else can foodies gather and combine it with one of the biggest cultural buzzwords around: conversation. After all, citizens are advised daily – whether the topic is the Zimmerman trial, same-sex marriage or political ethics – to join the conversation.

So, why not try a new topic?

For more information, visit www.DeathCafe.com and
www.JustinTimeChildrensHouse.org or find both organizations on Facebook. (search Death Cafe Los Angeles)

JustinTime Childrens Home

The name is a nod to Justin DeLong, the son of co-founder Lisa DeLong, who launched the non-profit organization with Shawneen Rubay this year. These two women aim to provide a community in which no child has to feel alone in grief. The mission of Justin Time is to help children and families who are grieving the death of a loved one find hope and healing within themselves.

In a drop-in community space in Newhall, the staff will offer art therapy and writing workshops as part of its program, structures through which emotional support can be offered.

Visit www.justintimechildrenshouse.org

Food Pantry’s Annual Food Drive

| Gazette, News | July 20, 2013

The City of Santa Clarita is partnering with the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry to accept non-perishable food items food donations for residents in need. Residents can help alleviate hunger in the community by dropping off food at one of seven locations now through August.

Items most desired by the Food Pantry include: tuna, peanut butter, canned meats, fruit, tomatoes, dried soups, cereal, macaroni and cheese, shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, deodorant, bar soap, diapers and feminine hygiene products.

“The summer is a difficult time of year for families with children who count on free or reduced-price lunches provided by local schools,” commented Mayor Bob Kellar. “Community members can help improve the lives of those facing difficult times by contributing items as part of the city’s annual food drive.”

Collection bins for non-perishable food donations have been set-up at seven city facilities, including: City Hall, located at 23920 Valencia Boulevard; the Santa Clarita Sports Complex, located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway; the Transit Maintenance Facility, located at 28250 Constellation Road; Central Park, located at 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road; the city’s Corporate Yard, located at 25663 Avenue Stanford; Old Town Newhall Library, located at 24500 Main Street; Valencia Library, located at 23743 Valencia Boulevard; and Jo Anne Darcy Library in Canyon Country, located at 18601 Soledad Canyon Road.

This is the fifth year the City has partnered with the Food Pantry to raise awareness and collect donations during the summer from the community to provide supplemental food on a short-term basis to qualified, local residents.

“The annual summer food drive comes at a critical time of year and enables us to restock depleted food items so we can continue to supply vital resources to the community,” said SCV Food Pantry director Belinda Crawford. “Our mission is no child should go to bed hungry in Santa Clarita and this effort allows us to work together to accomplish big things.”
Since 1986, the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry has been distributing food to low-income residents. The Food Pantry relies on donations from the community to provide supplemental food on a short-term basis to qualified, local residents.

Non-perishable items may also be directly donated to the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry, located at 24133 Railroad Avenue. Donations will be accepted from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon every Monday through Thursday.

For more information on the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry, visit scvfoodpantry.org or contact Belinda Crawford of the Food Pantry at (661) 255-9078.

Barbecue Supports Local Homeless Veterans

| Gazette, News | July 18, 2013

by Andrew Thompson

Tim Davis, Bridge to Home’s executive director, said the VFW’s invitation to host the fundraiser was a welcome one, adding that such events help the shelter to grow and to continue having good seasons. The winter shelter is currently seeking to expand upon the services it offers Santa Clarita’s homeless population, including its free dental clinic, a program called “Families to Home” that assists families with finding housing, a counseling center, and a medical services referral program that’s new this year.

Davis noted that, while the shelter’s services are extended to a variety of homeless clients, not only veterans, the homeless veteran population makes up a significant number of individuals served by the shelter.

“At the shelter, on the average year, about 10 percent of our clients are veterans,” Davis said, pointing out that in 2011 a study by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority discovered there were more than 9,000 homeless veterans living in Los Angeles County, including approximately 900 women. Los Angeles is estimated to have the largest homeless population of any city in the United States.

Davis, who served 21 years in the Air Force, claimed that his own experience had shaped his outlook on the issue.

“These are brothers,” Davis said.

The Santa Clarita Winter Shelter will open for its winter season on Monday, November 25, 2013. The shelter accepts monetary donations and volunteers, but Davis also recommended that, after the shelter opens, anyone desiring to help should check online to see an updated list of items that the shelter needs the most.

“Everything you have in your house, we have in our house,” Davis said.  “And the more that people can donate that to us, then the less we have to go buy it.”

For more information on Bridge to Home or the Santa Clarita Winter Shelter, visit btohome.com or www.santaclaritashelter.com, respectively. For more information on Veterans of Foreign Wars, visit www.vfw.org.

Tim Davis, Bridge to Home’s executive director, said the VFW’s invitation to host the fundraiser was a welcome one,

At the barbecue

adding that such events help the shelter to grow and to continue having good seasons. The winter shelter is currently seeking to expand upon the services it offers Santa Clarita’s homeless population, including its free dental clinic, a program called “Families to Home” that assists families with finding housing, a counseling center, and a medical services referral program that’s new this year.

Davis noted that, while the shelter’s services are extended to a variety of homeless clients, not only veterans, the

At the barbecue

homeless veteran population makes up a significant number of individuals served by the shelter.

“At the shelter, on the average year, about 10 percent of our clients are veterans,” Davis said, pointing out that in 2011 a study by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority discovered there were more than 9,000 homeless veterans living in Los Angeles County, including approximately 900 women. Los Angeles is estimated to have the largest homeless population of any city in the United States.

Davis, who served 21 years in the Air Force, claimed that his own experience had shaped his outlook on the issue.

“These are brothers,” Davis said.

The Santa Clarita Winter Shelter will open for its winter season on Monday, November 25, 2013. The shelter accepts monetary donations and volunteers, but Davis also recommended that, after the shelter opens, anyone desiring to help should check online to see an updated list of items that the shelter needs the most.

“Everything you have in your house, we have in our house,” Davis said.  “And the more that people can donate that to us, then the less we have to go buy it.”

For more information on Bridge to Home or the Santa Clarita Winter Shelter, visit btohome.com or www.santaclaritashelter.com, respectively. For more information on Veterans of Foreign Wars, visit www.vfw.org.

First of Eight Concerts in the Park

| Gazette, News | July 11, 2013

By Andrew Thompson

Santa Clarita officially kicked off its summer “Concerts in the Park” series on Saturday, July 6, with Queen classics like “Flash,” “We Will Rock You/We Are the Champions,” and “Bohemian Rhapsody” as the sun began to set at Central Park.

Thousands gathered to the sound of the music, with some socializing on blankets and lawn chairs, others throwing Frisbees and footballs, and still others enjoying the food, beverages, and treats offered by the various vendor booths. Some guests had to walk for blocks just to make it to the event, many carrying their coolers and blankets from whatever parking spots they could find, once those in the park and all along Bouquet had been taken.  But the mood was light and spirits were high as visitors made their way toward the distant strains.

The evening’s performers, a Queen tribute band called “Queen Nation,” worked to keep the energy high as they played off of the small mob that had gathered in front of the stage to dance and sing along. At one point they thanked the audience, declaring that they had “missed” Santa Clarita in the five years since their last performance there; at another point in the show they light-heartedly asked audience members to raise their hands high as they took a photo for their Facebook page.

Santa Clarita’s Concerts in the Park series is a family-friendly event, with neither alcohol nor smoking permitted in the Park. The series, managed by the City’s Arts and Events Office and supported by various sponsors, will present a new band performing in Central Park each Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. for eight consecutive weeks.

A list of upcoming acts includes:
July 13:  Poor Man’s Poison, a California band inspired by a wide variety of genres, including folk, Americana, country, and rock, and a recent “Best New Act” winner at Nashville’s Texaco Country Showdown

July 20: Bostyx, a California band that pays tribute to the music of both Boston and Styx

July 27: Platinum Groove, a variety dance band that performs a wide variety of musical styles, including “classic rock, swing, disco, new wave 80’s, top 40,     current dance, funk, Motown, R&B, jazz, and oldies”

August 3: Incendio, an instrumental group that performs world music centered on the voice of the guitar

August 10: Boogie Knights, a disco revival show “complete with choreography, polyester, afros, bell bottoms and crazy humor”

August 17: Lisa Haley and the Zydekats, an Americana/Cajun/Zydeco band featuring the Grammy-nominated, fourth-generation fiddle player

August 24: The Spazmatics, a “new wave ‘80s show” that performs songs by “Oingo Boingo, Duran Duran, Thomas Dolby, Billy Idol and more”

Central Park is located at 27150 Bouquet Canyon Road, Santa Clarita, CA 91350.  For more information on the upcoming bands or the Concerts series, please visit arts.santa-clarita.com/events/concerts-in-the-park/.

Dr. Van Hook Celebrates 25 Years at COC

| Gazette, News | July 3, 2013

“’Fireball’ to Take Helm of College of the Canyons.” That was the headline in the Los Angeles Times in 1988 when Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook took the job as superintendent-president at College of the Canyons.

In these 25 years, Dr. Van Hook as seemed to uphold that moniker. She has made a tremendous impact on the college and the community, creating a wake of motivation everywhere she becomes involved.

At the time, Dr. Van Hook was the 37-year-old dean of the Lake Tahoe Community College District, the youngest person ever to serve as a district-level community college CEO in California. She was also one of only five women of the 70 CEOs in the state. Twenty-five years later, College of the Canyons resembles its former self in name only, having been transformed into one of the leading, most innovative and widely respected community colleges in the nation.

The college’s budget, for example, has grown from approximately $8 million in 1988 to nearly $181 million today. Enrollment has grown from 4,000 to a high of 27,000 students. And physical space has quadrupled, climbing from just under 200,000 square feet to today’s 812,000 square feet across two campuses, with additional construction this year.

She has had an effect on, not only the college, but the lives and livelihoods of the hundreds of thousands of people who have embarked on an educational journey there.

One of the few people who had a sense for what this “fireball” could do was Michele Jenkins. A member of the Board of Trustees today and in 1988, Jenkins was the board president who led the development of the CEO search. She remembers vividly how one person stood out above all the rest.

“At the time, I couldn’t help but smile to myself, thinking about how much of a difference she was going to make at the college because she’s just so dynamic,” Jenkins recalled. “Days later, after she had been formally introduced, I asked one of our instructors what he thought about our new president, to which he replied, ‘Administrators come and go, and it won’t really make a difference who the administrator is.’ I simply smiled again and thought to myself that he has no idea what this woman’s leadership will bring to College of the Canyons. Today, 25 years later, I’m still smiling.”

Until Dr. Van Hook was hired, COC presidents typically stayed for about four years. One of her first goals was to create the college’s first educational and facilities master plan. Five plans later, the college has been radically transformed, the result of a seemingly non-stop series of construction and improvement projects that continues to this day.

College of the Canyons has been propelled forward by a unique combination of community support and daring leadership. Aided by the passage of two multimillion-dollar bond measures over the past dozen years, Dr. Van Hook has presided over the highest level of construction since the college opened in temporary quarters at Hart High School in 1969. She has substantially transformed the Valencia campus – and provided the vision to create an entirely new campus in Canyon Country.

“Dr. Van Hook is, without a doubt, the most accomplished CEO in the California community college system,” said Michael Berger, president of the College of the Canyons Board o Canyons Board of Trustees. “Better yet, she’s our CEO. Her ability to forge relationships and partnerships has been invaluable – and her leadership, imagination and perseverance have reaped incredible rewards for so many people, businesses and organizations in our community. She has inspired those around her to learn more, to do more and, most importantly, to dream more.”

Additional major facilities have been built or expanded, including: the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center at College of the Canyons, the Library and TLC (The Learning Center), Mentry Hall, the Family Studies and Early Childhood Education Center, Aliso Lab and Aliso Hall, Pico Canyon Hall, Hasley Hall, the East Physical Education Building and tennis courts, and, of course, the Canyon Country campus and its first permanent facility, the Applied Technology Education Center. Construction has begun on a new Student Services & Administrative Center, and a groundbreaking for the new Institute for Culinary Education is expected later this year.

One of Dr. Van Hook’s mantras is: “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you dream it, you can do it.” It’s a philosophy that is at the core of most, if not all, college initiatives that bear her trademark of excellence and innovation. It also drives the adventurous, entrepreneurial spirit behind so many successful programs – and a track record that other colleges can only dream about.

“People who believe in themselves and the power of teamwork inspire vision, energy, commitment and courageous leadership at every level,” Dr. Van Hook said. “Those qualities propel College of the Canyons to new possibilities and exciting outcomes. The result? Expansion of instructional programs, securing significant increases in funding, launching a robust building program, and increasing our full-time staff by more than 300 percent. These qualities have helped us develop partnerships and collaborative initiatives, take calculated risks, be entrepreneurial and, most importantly, believe that we could create our own future. And, together, we have done just that!”

Dr. Van Hook passionately believes and understands well the value of inspirational mentors. She attributes much of her early drive to excel to a college administrator who instilled in her the confidence that she could become whatever she wanted to be. The positive influence on her self-confidence and ultimate development of her potential was a turning point that opened her eyes to the possibilities, which is precisely what she now does for others. Years of mentoring have given her the ability to see in people what others do not yet see, inspiring and empowering them to aim high and achieve their highest potentials.
“Dr. Van Hook’s leadership has created an environment of outstanding educational opportunities for all of our students, which has directly enhanced the Santa Clarita Valley’s quality of life and economic well-being,” said Doris Marie Zimmer, chair of the College of the Canyons Foundation Board of Directors.

A strong believer in California’s community college system, Dr. Van Hook began her higher education at Long Beach City College. From there, she went to California State University, Long Beach, which honored her recently as its 2013 Distinguished Alumna for the College of Liberal Arts. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1972. While in school, she worked as a Head Start preschool teacher and, upon graduation, became a junior high school teacher. She later earned a master’s degree and doctorate from the University of La Verne.

While working as a counselor at Santa Ana College, she launched the highly regarded New Horizons program, which helps re-entry students succeed in college. The program was ultimately implemented at 60 community colleges throughout the state. From there she went to Feather River College to serve as dean of instruction/student services in 1984. Two years later she became dean of the Lake Tahoe Community College District – her last stop before returning to Southern California to take the top post at College of the Canyons.

A quarter century later, Dr. Van Hook is not only the longest-serving community college CEO in the state, she is a widely respected visionary and leader – the go-to CEO of California’s community colleges. Named chancellor of the Santa Clarita Community College District in 2008, she is widely regarded as a strong, knowledgeable and consistent advocate for community colleges statewide and nationally. Her passion for higher education has contributed to her receiving every statewide recognition that can be bestowed on a California community college CEO.

“Having watched Dianne for 25 years, I can honestly say I have never met anyone who comes close to combining so many of her talents: extremely bright, hard working, growth mindset, caring, thoughtful, generous and flexible,” said Joseph Gerda, assistant superintendent and vice president of instruction at College of the Canyons.

State Assemblyman Scott Wilk, who served on the Board of Trustees prior to being elected to state office in 2012, said Van Hook’s dynamic leadership has created countless opportunities and transformed the college into a place where “miracles happen every day.”

“I had the honor and pleasure to serve on the board for six years and witness firsthand the college’s profound impact on people’s lives,” Wilk said. “College of the Canyons is intensely focused on student access, achievement and success. That focus comes straight from Dr. Van Hook, whose vision and passion for educational excellence are boundless. The Santa Clarita Valley is truly fortunate to have had her at the college’s helm for the past 25 years.”

Gibbon Conservation Center Raises Awareness, Seeks Support

| Gazette, News | July 3, 2013

By Andrew Thompson

At the mention of gibbons, one might picture the petite primates swinging about the treetops of their Southeast Asian home.  But one need not travel all that way when Santa Clarita residents can spend an entire morning with the gibbons in their city’s own Gibbon Conservation Center, a facility that sees raising awareness about the animals as a primary goal.

“We call them the neglected or [forgotten] ape,” says Senior Primate Caregiver and Researcher Gabriella Skollar, “because everybody knows about great apes – gorillas, chimpanzees, bonobos, orangutans – and they… they [are] very important, and they [are] also endangered, but gibbons are endangered too, and they are also apes.  So… they just need a little more attention.”

Yet bringing people closer to the gibbons is only part of what the Gibbon Conservation Center provides.

As its name implies, the Center also seeks to help conserve those species of gibbon that are struggling in wild, achieving this by coordinating with other zoos on captive breeding programs.  In addition, the Center provides a unique opportunity to access the animals for both scientists and students alike.

“We get students and scientists sometimes from the other side of the world,” Skollar says.

“For students who want to learn about primates – sometimes it’s a big step to go to a rainforest and study gibbons or other primates in the wild – this is a good first step to learn about… primate behavior,” she adds.

The Center has been hidden away in Saugus since 1976 and has been open to the public since its creation.  Only about a year ago, however, did the Center open for general hours.  Anyone may now visit the Center on Saturdays or Sundays from 9:30a.m. to noon, provided its not raining or a holiday.

During that time, visitors can experience just what’s unique about the animals.

For one thing, Skollar says, gibbons exhibit social behavior very similar to that of humans.  That includes forming pair bonds that can last for years (and sometimes even forever), making use of advanced cooperation in their parenting, and displaying complex abilities for communicating and learning behavior.

But it might be what you might hear, more than what you see, that leaves the biggest mark.  After all, says Skollar, gibbons are well known for their unique songs and calls.

“It just… makes you feel like… you’re in a forest somewhere when you hear that,” says Joe Bonaccorsi, a volunteer at the Center, recalling hearing the gibbons at daybreak on those occasions when he has stayed overnight.

Skollar counts waking up to gibbon vocalizations as among her favorite aspects of her career.

“In the summer, it’s like, 5:30 in the morning – you don’t need [an] alarm clock,”  she jokes.  Skollar says she hopes that the public will join in the experience.

“[People] need to come and see this place,” she says.  “In the summer we get a little bit less visitors, and we need more… we are so happy when people come and – and hear them – we [are] happy to talk about gibbons.”

For more information on the Gibbon Conservation Center, including information on visiting, volunteering, or making a donation, please visit www.gibboncenter.org.

The Signal Opposes Gazette

| Gazette, News | June 28, 2013

By Andrew Thompson

The Santa Clarita Valley Signal contested a petition by the Santa Clarita Gazette & Free Classifieds to be adjudicated by a California Superior Court last week, arguing that the Gazette failed to meet established criteria necessary to be deemed a “newspaper of general circulation” and therefore permitted to publish legal notices.

In California, a publication is required to meet certain requirements in order to print legal advertisements such as “doing business as,” trustee, and bankruptcy notices. State law mandates that such notices be published in a local newspaper, and these ads provide a source of revenue for the papers that publish them.
The requirements for adjudication are outlined in the California Government Code, with Section 6000 describing a newspaper meeting the criteria as one “published for the dissemination of local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character, which has a bona fide subscription list of paying subscribers, and has been established, printed and published at regular intervals in the State, county, or city where publication, notice by publication, or official advertising is to be given or made for at least one year preceding the date of the publication, notice or advertisement.”
The contest by The Signal argued that the Gazette lacks a “bona fide subscription list,” suggesting that the petitioner’s list of subscribers was insufficient in size and failed to indicate the number of subscribers who are in Los Angeles County or the Santa Clarita Valley; that the Gazette “has not disseminated local or telegraphic news and intelligence of a general character,” but is instead “focused almost entirely on classified advertisements”; that it changed its format and motto two months before filing its petition and changed its name in March of 2012 to aid in its attempt at adjudication; that it contains “thinly-veiled advertisements and press-releases,” generally lacks sufficient news content, and lacks staff dedicated to news content, with the “albeit minimal” content of the Gazette produced by “advertisers… not reporters”; that the editorial “Doug’s Rant” is the kind of content “of interest to one’s Facebook friends”; and that the Gazette “has not been established under the name ‘Santa Clarita Gazette and Free Classifieds’ for one year, as indicated by the use of variations on the “Santa Clarita Free Classifieds” name on the website, e-mail addresses, and social media accounts associated with the publication.

In their reply, attorneys for the Gazette argued that the “contestant’s allegations… [were] patently false” in that they “[cited] cases that cite the wrong statute… with regard to a percentage requirement of the population,” which does not exist under California Government Code Section 6000; that the petitioner had and would “produce its subscriber list showing that the majority of the subscribers are paying subscribers… in Los Angeles County”; that the Gazette “has disseminated local news and intelligence in the county” such as “restaurant reviews, local government board meetings, local news, police activity, and local sports information,” and “has published articles regularly over the last year,” with its use of advertisements “no different than any other newspaper that relies on advertisements for revenue such as The Santa Clarita Valley Signal”; that the Gazette has been published with the title Santa Clarita Gazette & Free Classifieds for more than one year, and that the names of associated websites, etc. are irrelevant to the requirement under Section 6000; that copies of its subscriber list and newspaper would be provided for review; and that the Gazette “carries the same local news as The Signal,” with “Doug’s Rant” being “no different” from editorials found in The Signal and the content of the Gazette “more than [covering] the local and county news… as required under California law.”

The reply also suggested that the contestant was “seeking to keep its monopoly over the legal notice advertising business as the only newspaper in the Santa Clarita Valley… that is a newspaper of general circulation.”

Doug Sutton, Publisher of the Gazette, said he wasn’t sure whether The Signal could view the Gazette as a legitimate threat to its advertising revenue.
“Our intention is not to publish all the legal ads The Signal is able to publish,” Sutton said. Because the Gazette is published weekly, rather than daily, and is seeking only county and not city adjudication, it would be limited in the scope of legal ads it could publish, even if its petition were granted.

“A lot of legal ads have to be posted consecutive days, which is a service we cannot offer,” Sutton noted.

The initial hearing had been set for June 20, 2013, and the contest was entered on June 17, just three days prior. Sutton admitted he was surprised by the timing.
“We were rather disappointed at the late date of The Signal’s counter,” Sutton claimed. “The legal notice had been posted in The Signal by law for nine days… it was a little confusing that they waited until three days before the hearing to petition the court for the hearing.”

Sutton said that he first considered seeking adjudication when readers began to contact him requesting to file “doing business as” notices in the Gazette.
“We thought it would be nice to offer this additional service for people requesting it,” Sutton said.

At the hearing, the judge granted a 90-day continuance to allow the defendant to review more evidence. Sutton said he believes the legal costs associated with the continuance will be a burden to his efforts should he decide to continue.

“Our financial resources are limited, and this almost puts us out of the game,” Sutton said. “Although I haven’t made a final decision, at this point in time I’m not sure which direction we’re going.”

The Signal is owned by Morris Multimedia, Inc., one of the largest privately held media companies in the United States. The company, headquartered in Savannah, Georgia, owns more than 65 publications and 11 television stations throughout the United States and the Caribbean.

Representatives of both Morris Multimedia and The Signal were contacted for this article, but declined to comment, with a representative of The Signal deferring questions to The Signal’s legal team.

The new hearing has been scheduled for September 20, 2013.

Sand Canyon’s Deadly Curve

| Gazette, News | June 13, 2013

To some residents in Sand Canyon, it seems like an oak tree just south of Alamo Canyon Road can magnetically pull speeding cars toward it, resulting in debilitating injuries and sometimes death. The truth is that the curve near that site is too difficult to maneuver when drivers fail to observe the 45 mile-per-hour speed limit.

In September of 2011, one of many car accidents at that site occurred when Canyon Country resident Nathan Wolitarsky was driving home and lost control of his vehicle. His family was home, unaware of the near fatal crash, until one of them received a phone call from someone on the scene.

“I thought it was a fender bender,” remembers Nathan’s father, John Wolitarsky. “But when we came around the corner they had lights up and there were fire trucks and emergency personnel. Nathan’s car was halfway up Mr. Fisher’s hill. It looked like a train wreck initially. I thought, ‘There’s no way he survived that.’ It was ugly. Really ugly.”

Ken and Nancy Fisher live in the house on the property where so many have crashed. They have witnessed a great number of tragedies, including the death of teenager Dakota DeMott last year and 29-year-old Brittany Schlumpberger last month. Even as far back as 32 years ago, 17-year-old David Spencer veered into the same tree.

The role of homeowners at the site of such drama is a challenging one. But the Fishers have accepted the role and affected the outcomes.

“He saved Nathan’s life,” John Wolitarsky said about Ken Fisher’s quick action. “There was a fire that started underneath where Nathan was sitting. He had the presence of mind to get a shovel and use dirt on the fire to put it out. Literally, he (Nathan) could’ve burned to death.”

Wolitarsky learned that the sheriff’s department wasn’t planning to contact the family until they had more clarity about the situation. “By the time we got there, the jaws of life were well at work,” he said. “It took them 40 minutes to get him out of the car. The entire engine block came out. They pulled him out where the engine used to be. The biggest miracle is he didn’t sever any arteries, didn’t sever any veins.”

What about that particular location? Is it the tree?

One local resident, who asked to remain anonymous, weighed in on the issue. “It’s the curve of the road and people’s speed. If there was no tree, it would be a fence. If there was no fence it would be the hill. If there was no hill it’d be the house.”

In other words, the issue is reckless driving and the decision to ignore the speed limit on Sand Canyon Road. “It’s a curve

and, just like anywhere you go, you should slow up,” said Sgt. Richard Cohen, from the Traffic Unit at the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station. “There are plenty of curves and there are plenty of accidents all over Sand Canyon – it’s not just there.”

Sgt. Cohen said that the sheriff’s department has added attention to the area, including last month, when several motor officers were conducting traffic enforcement on Sand Canyon. The officers “happened to witness a young teen on the roadway driving about 85 miles per hour, passing on the wrong side of the roadway,” he said. “She had several kids in the car, and was on a provisional license (the earliest period in a driver’s license, where passengers are not allowed in the car). The kids said, ‘Thank you for pulling us over, we thought we were going to be killed.’”

That speeding incident occurred at 9 a.m., proving that the accidents are not just related to driving in darkness. Many are at night, including Wolitarsky’s, whose crash meant numerous surgeries and rehabilitation for leg injuries. His recovery has been considered remarkable.

“I relive this thing every day when I drive by that tree,” said John Wolitarsky. “Not the horror. Every day I drive by the tree I thank God for Nathan. Without fail.”

The solution to the disproportionate number of accidents is not clear. Whether it means adding speed bumps to Sand Canyon or reducing the speed limit there, the ultimate decision lies in the hands of the City of Santa Clarita Traffic Engineering Department. One resident sums it up with, “The biggest question is—since Nathan, Dakota and Brittany, what has really changed there? Not a whole lot.”

Dangerous Seasons for Teens Prom and Graduation Time Increase Alcohol Fatalities

| Gazette, News | May 23, 2013

By Cary Quashen, C.A.S.

Prom and graduation season is here again. While this is a time of celebration, unfortunately, many special events are marred by tragedy. We often think of car crashes and teen age drinking, but alcohol poisoning is attributed to teenage drinking deaths as well.

One mom hadn’t heard from her son in hours. It was past curfew and he was long overdue. Frightened and concerned she showed up at the home where the graduation after party was, only to find her son in a cold running shower, drunk, passed out, in hypothermic shock, turning blue and having seizures. His friends heard mom come through the front door and ran out the back door. He almost died.

She cried as she shared her story. “I started drinking at the after prom party, trying to be cool, one of the crowd. I just wanted to fit in. However, before I knew it, I had consumed five to six drinks in an hour. That evening I was raped, too drunk to care for myself or about myself, to ward off the unwanted sexual advances. They left me passed out with no clothes on.”

These stories are real, stories local Santa Clarita families and teens tell. I have heard hundreds and hundreds of them as a high-risk teen counselor in every community I have ever worked in. Many think teen drinking is a right of passage. Many think it is just a phase their teen will grow out of as they get older. However, alcohol poisoning is real and it can kill.

What is alcohol poisoning? It’s overdosing on alcohol (AOD), no different than any other drug overdose, and drug overdoses kill.

It’s estimated that 7,000 deaths occur each year from alcohol overdosing, drinking too much alcohol too fast. Families learn, in the most difficult way, that alcohol can be a lethal drug.

Teenagers are particularly vulnerable to AOD. Most who suffer from AOD are first-time drinkers and had never been drunk before. Many are put to bed, by friends or their own parents, to “sleep it off,” only to be found dead in the morning. Their friends or parents didn’t understand that if a person drinks too much alcohol quickly before falling asleep, the alcohol will shut down breathing and heart functions and kill a person within a few hours.

Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing, the heartbeat, and the gag reflex (prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these body functions. After the victim stops drinking, the heart keeps beating, and alcohol in the stomach continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. Victims often choke on their own vomit; breathing slows and becomes irregular or stops;  one’s heart beats irregularly or stops; low body temperature (hypothermia) lead’s to cardiac arrest; hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar) leads to seizures and AOD can lead to irreversible brain damage. Rapid binge drinking (which often happens on a bet or a dare) is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious.

If you suspect that someone may have ingested a fatal dose of alcohol, help is required immediately. Call 911 and stay with the victim; keep the victim from choking on vomit; tell emergency medical technicians the symptoms; and if you know, how much alcohol the victim drank. Prompt action may save a life.

Bystanders (friends, parents, and strangers) have responsibilities. They should know the danger signals and don’t wait for all of the symptoms to be present; be aware that the person who has passed out could die; don’t try to guess the level of drunkenness and it is imperative one call 911 immediately.

Cary Quashen is a high-risk teen counselor, a certified addiction specialist. He is the president and founder of ACTION Parent & Teen Support Group Programs, The Zone, and ACTION Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment programs. Cary may be reached at (661) 297-8691.

Third Annual Flair Care Package Drive to Benefit More Than 110,000 Military Families

| Gazette, News | May 17, 2013

Notable eco-friendly Southern California dry cleaners, Flair Cleaners, announced its third annual Flair Care Package Drive this month, in conjunction with the USO Greater Los Angeles Area.  This annual event commemorates Armed Forces Day and Memorial Day and pays tribute to America’s military. In addition to the drive, Flair will clean or launder up to five shirts, blouses or pants for all active duty military personnel and veterans at no charge from May 24 – 26, 2013. Flair is proud to provide discounts year-round to military customers and complimentary American flag cleaning.

“This annual event is our family’s way of demonstrating our ongoing support to our servicemen and women and their families, a tradition that started more than 50 years ago with our complimentary flag cleaning,” said owner Gary Futterman.  “We consider it a privilege to work with our communities and our customers to collect much needed supplies for the USO through our annual Flair Care Package Drive.”

Flair Care Package Drive
The annual Flair Care Package collection event is one of the largest collection efforts in Southern California, designed specifically to support the USO’s effort to send essential supplies to soldiers stationed both here and abroad.  Residents and businesses throughout Southern California are being enlisted to donate supplies for active duty military personnel that will offer a “touch-of-home,” regardless of where they are deployed.  Donations can be brought to any of the five Flair Cleaners locations – Burbank, Studio City, Valencia, Santa Monica, and Redondo Beach – from now through Memorial Day weekend.

Everyone who donates will receive a certificate for 50% off dry cleaning as a thank you.  Items needed for the Flair Care Package drive include water and individually packaged snacks, personal hygiene supplies, music, and DVDs.  A complete list can be found on the Flair Cleaners Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/flairdrycleaners.

“USO Greater Los Angeles Area, which serves more than 110,000 military personnel and their families annually, is delighted to once again partner with Flair Cleaners in this drive for our troops,” said Executive Director Bob Kurkjian. “We receive no government funding and rely entirely on the generosity of patriotic citizens and philanthropic businesses like Flair Cleaners to help provide the ‘touch of home’ that the USO is famous for.”

About USO Greater Los Angeles
USO Greater Los Angeles Area, Inc., an independent, not-for-profit organization, lifts the spirits of more than 110,000 troops and their families annually throughout the counties of Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura. The USO is anchored by airport centers at LAX, Ontario and Palm Springs as well as outreach at military bases. USO staff and 500 dedicated volunteers provide high quality, critical support and morale boosting programs and services to troops and the wounded, ill and injured military and their families, and families of the fallen. USO Greater Los Angeles Area receives no funding from the federal government or Department of Defense, relying on the generosity of individuals, corporations, community organizations and philanthropic giving to support its work. Since 1941, the USO has been on the ground everywhere our troops are, from the far reaches of the world to our very own backyard. Learn more at www.BobHopeUSO.org.

Amgen Tour of California passes through Santa Clarita

| Gazette, News | May 16, 2013

By Andrew Thompson
Cyclists fought hard for position in a tight pack as they crossed the finish line on Magic Mountain Parkway Tuesday afternoon, completing the third stage of eight in this year’s Amgen Tour of California.

The racers had fallen back into a pack soon before crossing the line, the peloton having overtaking a breakaway group of four bikers who had previously led.

Cyclist Peter Sagan of Cannondale finished first, followed closely by Michael Matthews of Orica-GreenEdge and Tyler Farrar of Garmin-Sharp.  Sagan, a 23-year-old cyclist from Slovakia, had also won five stages at last year’s Amgen tour and three stages of last year’s Tour de France.

Tuesday’s route, which saw cyclists traveling from Palmdale to Santa Clarita, was the third of eight to be completed in as many days during a race that began in Escondido and will end in Santa Rosa.  The cyclists departed from Santa Clarita on Wednesday morning, headed to Santa Barbara for the finish line of Stage 4.

First held in 2006, the Amgen Tour of California is now considered one of the preeminent annual cycling events in the United States.  The race is partnered with Breakaway from Cancer, a nonprofit aimed at raising awareness of the resources available to those whom cancer affects.

For more information and updates on the Amgen Tour of California, please visit www.amgentourofcalifornia.com.  For more information on Breakaway from Cancer, please visit www.breakawayfromcancer.com.

COC Speech Team Brings Home Medals

| Gazette, News | May 3, 2013

COC Speech Team

The College of the Canyons speech team won five medals during the five-day Phi Rho Pi National Speech Tournament held at the Warner Center Marriott Woodland Hills last month.

First-year competitor Hillary Phillips won a gold medal in Persuasive Speaking—a first for the team—for her speech about the dangers of button batteries. Phillips was also awarded a silver medal in the Programmed Oral Interpretation category.

“The COC speech team is a place where you can grow as a performer and a person,” said Phillips. “It’s tough, but awesome. It’s just one of the greatest experiences in life to know you gave your all and are rewarded for it.”

Shawn Kern, COC speech team president, earned a bronze medal in Prose Interpretation for performing a short story about a male figure skater competing in the Olympics who is in love with his skating partner.

Jesse Warme also earned a bronze medal in Impromptu Speaking and Derek Isomaki earned the team’s first bronze medal in the Speech to Entertain category for his humorous speech about the “Friend Zone.”

“I’m very humbled to take this journey with the team every year and see how each person grows,” said Michael Leach, director of the COC speech team. “With a lot of hard work, team members continue to have more success and develop some of the most important skills employers seek.”

Phi Rho Pi is committed to increasing knowledge and appreciation of speech and forensics arts. The organization annually offers community college students a national tournament that is consistently one of the largest in the nation, welcoming more than 75 schools and 600 coaches.

The College of the Canyons speech team provides students with the opportunity to hone their public speaking and acting skills through local, regional and national competitions.

Those interested in joining the team next year are encouraged to audition on Friday, May 24. Students selected to join the team will begin preparing for the speech season in the summer. To audition, contact Michael Leach at michael.leach@canyons.edu to RSVP for an audition slot.

Thomas the Tank Rolls into Fillmore

| Gazette, News | April 27, 2013

By Michelle Sandoval

I know all about Thomas the Tank Engine and his friends. I’ve watched hours of the television series, read dozens of books and purchased my fair share of Thomas toy trains. I (begrudgingly) thank my two-year-old nephew for this. When I had the chance to attend Fillmore & Western Railway’s annual Day Out with Thomas event this past weekend I naturally jumped at the opportunity.  So with our conductor’s hats on and our boarding passes in tow, we headed out to Fillmore.

The story of Thomas originated back in 1913, but it wasn’t until 1942 that the stories really took off.  Founded on The Railway Series by the Reverend Wilbert Awdry and his son Christopher Awdry, these books were based on stories Awdry told his son during his recovery from an illness. They all followed the adventures of a group of trains that lived on the Island of Sodor, and many are based on personal experiences. Over the years these books have inspired numerous films and television series.

Every year for two consecutive weekends the Fillmore & Western Railway welcomes Thomas onto their tracks with a fun filled festival and train ride.  Kids have the opportunity to actually take a ride on Thomas and participate in numerous railway themed activities.  Fillmore’s downtown Central Park plays host to this event.

Aside from the actual train ride, which is fun and quite charming, there are plenty of things to keep the little ones entertained. Bouncy houses, arts and crafts, temporary tattoo stations and exotic animal shows are just a few of the events to partake in.  There is also a great Imagination Station where future conductors can play with toy trains and experiment with different tracks. And make sure you have your photo taken with Sir Topham Hatt, the manager of the Northwestern Railway, before you head home.

Need to add more Thomas merchandise to your child’s collection? The Fillmore & Western Railway has got you covered with a huge Thomas & Friends gift tent. Here your little ones will have their choice of hundreds of Thomas themed items, and while most are quite pricey, there is something there within everyone’s budget.

In the end my nephew had a blast at Day Out with Thomas, and there is plenty for the adults to do as well, as the park is bordered by quaint little antique shops and specialty stores.  Thomas is only in town through April 28th so make sure you and your little future engineers steam roll your way over to the Fillmore & Western Railway before Thomas heads back to Sordor!

Tickets for the event are $18, and include a 25-minute train ride and entrance to the festival area.  Thomas the Tank will be in Fillmore for one more weekend this upcoming Friday, Saturday and Sunday. For tickets or information call 866-468-7630 or visit www.fwry.com

Chartering The Course: The Successes and Setbacks of the Albert Einstein Academy

| Gazette, News | April 26, 2013

by Andrew Thompson

From the outside, Santa Clarita’s Albert Einstein Academy for Letters, Arts and Sciences is almost indistinguishable from a traditional office building.

On the inside, however, the building is alive.  Children take Monday-morning quizzes.  They interact with their teachers during their classes, and they catch up with one another between them. The Einstein Academy is indeed a school, a visitor is almost startled to realize – and, to hear Jeffrey Shapiro tell of some of its successes, a rather impressive one.

“This school was really started because people in this community recognized that they needed an alternative, smaller environment for their children,” says Shapiro, who serves as the Executive Director of the AEALAS Foundation, which developed the academy.  Created when a group of parents eschewed a “one size fits all” style of education, Shapiro says, the Albert Einstein Academy is now working with dedication toward the goal of helping “every student to thrive.”

Structured to serve students from grades seven through twelve, the three-year-old Albert Einstein Academy hosts only seventy-five students per grade, with twenty-five or fewer students in each classroom.  The school, Shapiro notes, is college preparatory, places a strong emphasis on the arts, and provides full sports for students in both junior high and high school.  But several factors also clearly distinguish it.  The Einstein Academy, for instance, has community service requirements for all of its students (fifteen hours a year for students in junior high and twenty-five hours a year for those in high school, which Shapiro says students often exceed).  It also requires all students to take at least four years of a foreign language in order to prepare them, Shapiro says, “to compete and work… in an environment without borders.”

Shapiro cites the cleanliness of the school’s restrooms as one indication of the respect with which Einstein Academy students treat their school.  On the other hand, it doesn’t seem like the school is treating the students half badly, either.  Its cafeteria, for example, offers twenty different choices for lunch every day, with options including everything from hot to cold to vegetarian, gluten-free, and organic.  Sushi, Shapiro notes, is one example of a highly favored dish.

According to Shapiro, the Albert Einstein Academy has earned so much positive attention that parents have even called from other districts requesting that the AEALAS Foundation open additional schools.  In the San Fernando Valley, Shapiro says, parents were so eager to see an Einstein Academy of their own that they went and found a site for it.  A school in the San Fernando Valley will indeed be opening soon, Shapiro notes, along with ones in Thousand Oaks, San Diego, and even Cleveland, Ohio.

“And, hopefully, we’ll also have an elementary school in Santa Clarita,” Shapiro adds.

Shapiro says “hopefully” regarding that elementary school because frankly, so far, it hasn’t looked promising.

In fact, anyone who happened to be just about a mile from the Albert Einstein Academy at the Saugus Union School District’s Board meeting on Tuesday night would have found out that not quite everybody is welcoming the Einstein Academies with open arms.    At that meeting, the Saugus Union School District Board rejected the AEALAS Foundation’s petition to establish a school within the District for a fourth time, with a very different picture painted by the information presented from its findings report.

According to the findings presented at the meeting, the AEALAS petition presented “an unsound educational program for the pupils to be enrolled.”  Specific areas of concern included the school’s proposed methods for teaching both English and Mandarin Chinese, its ability to properly provide for special education students, and its failure to provide “reasonably comprehensive” descriptions of several of its plans and procedures.  The report stated that “the petitioners are demonstrably unlikely to successfully implement the program set forth in the AEA charter petition,” claiming unreasonable goals, unrealistic projections, contradictory and misrepresented information, an inadequate number of signatures, and inadequate descriptions of procedures among the reasons, while further stating that  “the AEA Charter Petitioners are unfamiliar… with the requirements of law that would apply to the proposed charter school.”

At the meeting, one speaker commended the Board for assessing the petition without bias despite occasional criticism.  Comments made by Board members regarding the AEALAS petition drew attention to the fact that the Board had spent “considerable time and resources” assessing the petition, while Board member Rose Koscielny commented dryly that she had said everything she wished to “the first three times.”  Her comments drew chuckles from some in the crowd, in which opinion of the AEALAS petition seemed to be split at best.  No one at the meeting, when given the opportunity, asked to speak in the petition’s favor.

Shapiro wasn’t present, but said beforehand that he didn’t expect the petition to be approved.  Instead, Shapiro noted, he hopes that the process will go before the Los Angeles County Board of Education on appeal.

Still, he argues, he doesn’t think the Saugus findings add up.

Shapiro points to the positive feedback he’s received from other educational bodies and individuals as explanation for why he says he finds the Saugus Board’s denial puzzling.  Shapiro says, for example, that the Ventura County Board of Education told him AEALAS had “the cleanest, most complete… and most compelling charter petition ever to come before them,” and adds that the superintendent of a San Diego County district that recently approved a K-12 school praised the Einstein Academy as “a place where students want to be” and called it “a place I would send my sons.”

Shapiro says he thinks that many of the specific findings reported by the Board are specious.

“It’s kind of difficult to truly say we have an unsound educational program when you look at the success of the school,” Shapiro argues, pointing to what he says are actually the achievements of the current Einstein Academy in terms of its diversity, special education, and finances.

The current Einstein Academy, however, was chartered under the Hart Union High School District.  The elementary school districts as a whole, Shapiro says, have been less open to AEALAS, although Shapiro also points out that the local elementary school districts have never approved a charter school.

At the Saugus Union School District meeting, Board President Judy Umeck made clear that the Board’s decision regarding the petition will be open to public inquiry.

“If you have questions about this, please feel free to contact the Board members of the Saugus Union School District – not necessarily others who may have their information third hand,” Umeck said.  “We will absolutely be delighted to explain to you our rationale and to point you to where our information is.  Our district office is open.”

Meanwhile, despite the denial, Shapiro is not the kind of person to be deterred.  After all, Shapiro notes, he’s a mission-driven person at his core.

“When I really believe in something… it matters to me,” Shapiro says.  Then, referring to the Einstein Academy as a whole, he adds, “This is something I very much believe in.”

For more information on the AEALAS Foundation or the Albert Einstein Academy, please visit www.aealasfoundation.org.  For more information on the Saugus Union School District and to read the findings regarding the AEALAS elementary charter petition, please visit www.saugususd.org.  

Canyon Country Merchants Association

| Gazette, News | April 20, 2013

A Typical Meeting

By Andrew Thompson

Diane Southwell has been involved with Canyon Country for more than half a century.

“In the early 1960s…the Mint Canyon Chamber of Commerce telephone rang in [our] home,” she says.  “That tells you how small of a community we were; we didn’t have…an answering service, or anything.”

In those early days, Southwell says, Canyon Country was a special place. It was an area full of future promise – it formed the foundation of what would eventually become Santa Clarita – and yet, it also managed to stay true to its pioneer roots.

“We had frontier days,” Southwell says, recalling the time when many Canyon Country residents owned horses and the community featured themed events. “It was wonderful family entertainment…now we don’t have room for things like that, but we still have the same family…feelings, here.”

Canyon Country Merchants Association members: L-R Kim Kurowski, Diane Southwell, Alan Ferdman, RJ Kelly, George Thomas, Doug Sutton, Patty Kelly

Canyon Country may have maintained its family feel, but the fact is that the landscape of the Valley has drastically changed. Canyon Country has joined with several other communities to become the single, incorporated City of Santa Clarita. The focus of developers has largely shifted to the west side, with newer residences and vast commercial centers having sprung up in areas like Valencia. The Canyon Country Chamber of Commerce has merged to become part of the broader Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce and, ultimately, some residents have been forced to face a hard truth: many of their fellow Santa Clarita residents believe that, while other parts of the Valley are now flourishing, Canyon Country had been left in their dust.

“We kind of got lazy about it, I guess,” Southwell admits, referring to the growth of Canyon Country, relative to that on the Valley’s west side.

But many still feel like the current perception of Canyon Country (lovingly referred to as the “stepchild” of the Valley by some who live there) is somewhat unfair.Southwell contends, Canyon Country has much to offer.

“Canyon Country is a wonderful place,” says Southwell, “and we need to be doing more about promoting all our businesses and all our events, and our activities, and creating more activities.”

A little more than a year ago, Canyon Country residents and business owners George Thomas and R.J. Kelly were thinking much the same.

Thomas, the owner of a restaurant called Route 66 Classic Grill that regularly holds bike nights, classic car shows, and other community events, had decided to investigate what needed to be done to put more of an emphasis on events in Canyon Country. When he spoke with a City official, the advice he received was clear: Thomas would need to get people organized if he wanted a better chance of winning the City’s ear.

Meanwhile, R.J. Kelly of Int’l Tax Network – Thomas’s friend and occasional business associate – was also becoming aware of the importance of organizing to promote the interests of some of his fellow merchants.

“We felt that…there wasn’t a lot of communication between the City, the Chamber, and other organizations regarding Canyon Country, and Canyon Country is one of the largest suburbs of the city,” Kelly says. “And…we kind of felt like we were getting slighted over on this side of town, and we wanted more involvement.”

One day, while discussing their shared interest in helping the Canyon Country business climate and community as a whole, the two men decided that it was time for something to be done.

“[We] sat down one day and put our heads together and said, ‘Yeah, we – we need to move on this,’” Kelly recalls. “We agreed that we just need to band together as business owners, or managers, and…try to get some support from the City and organize amongst ourselves to improve the business climate in Canyon Country.”

They decided to act. The result was the formation of the group that would come to be known as the Canyon Country Merchants Association.

“We just kind of put out the word, and ended up with about 10 merchants that all got together,” Kelly says.

One of the merchants they first approached with their idea was Doug Sutton, a 15-year resident who owns Valley Publications, another Canyon Country business.

“I think, for me, it rang a bell,” Sutton says, recounting the surprise he experienced when he first moved to the area and discovered both the negative perception of Canyon Country and the lack of travel to the area by many other Santa Clarita residents.

Sutton says he has friends from Valencia who claim they can’t even remember the last time they traveled to the eastern part of the Valley. “They think it’s been two or three years since they’ve been to Canyon Country,” he says.

That’s a trend, some members of the Merchants Association believe, which must be changed. “We wanna get some folks to come over here…” Sutton says. “And we can show – ‘Hey,’ you know, ‘we’re a nice community, we’re a family community, we’ve got lots of good businesses – come check us out once in a while.”

Since coming on board with the Association, Sutton has gone on to become its Chairman. As a board member of the Chamber of Commerce, Sutton also serves as one of the representatives of the Chamber, under whose umbrella the Canyon Country Merchants Association operates.

But the Merchants Association’s meetings include several other prominent Canyon Country figures as well. Alan Ferdman, another longtime resident who also serves as the chair of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee and has recently announced that he will be running for the City Council, is one of the meetings’ regulars.

“It really is true…the Valley is really not two sides of the Valley, it’s really one Valley,” Ferdman says. “It’s a really good thing to see if we can get synergy across the Valley in…making everything work,” he adds. “And that’s another goal of the Merchants Association.”

Kimberly Kurowski, a Saugus resident, has found a benefit to working with the Association to forward a cause of her own. “I believe in getting everybody to shop local,” she explains, “and Canyon Country is part of our ‘local,’ so I want to do what I can to help.”

Lupe Hafner of Doctors Express, Santa Clarita – a medical clinic also located on Soledad that opened only eight months ago – has attended just three meetings, but says she certainly likes what she’s seen so far. “I think you need to go to these meetings so that you can get to meet people and see – you know, how you can work together, and help each other,” Hafner says, noting that she has made a variety of helpful connections by doing so herself.

There are other regular Association attendees – including that original Mint Canyon Chamber of Commerce associate and 54-year resident Diane Southwell. But, perhaps just as noteworthy as the merchants and other members, have been some of the Merchant Association’s recent guests. Organizing has, in fact, gotten the City’s ear. Recently, representatives of the government of Santa Clarita have attended Merchants Association meetings regularly to coordinate with the committee, and have expressed their desire to work with the Association in the creation, execution, and publicizing of Canyon Country events.

Other attendees have included representatives of institutions such as College of the Canyons, as well as the Sheriff’s and Fire Departments. Ed Bernstein, a director with the Old Town Newhall Association and the owner of the membership discount card 25Score, has also attended and expressed his interest in working with the Association to promote local merchants. And one of the most important regulars is another representative of the very organization under which the Association currently works: Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce President/CEO Terri Crain.

“Terri Crain has really been a valuable asset,” Sutton says. “She doesn’t live in this part of town, but she recognized the need for what we’re trying to accomplish, and she bought into it, and she’s really been a big help.”

(Taste of Canyon Country, one of the important upcoming events Association members are organizing, is actually one of the official events of the Chamber of Commerce.)

Yet, for all the commitment of City officials, organization presidents, and more, most of the Association agrees that an absolutely essential key to the future of the Association will be the growth of the membership itself.

“All are welcome,” Sutton says. “We would love to have anybody – even if you’re not a business.”

Sutton points to Southwell as someone who is not a merchant, but still is committed to helping the Association work toward its goals. And one needs not even be from Canyon Country to attend.

“Anyone…even outside of Canyon Country who is interested in helping us promote Canyon Country is welcome to be on the committee,” Kurowski states.

“We welcome the merchants to give us a phone call,” Kelly says, “…to come and spend an hour with us, and bring some problems to solve, and bring some questions to ask, and possibly bring some solutions.”

The Canyon Country Merchants Association meets at 10:00 a.m. on the second Thursday of every month at the Sulphur Springs School District Office, located at 27000 Weyerhauser Way, off Via Princessa. For more information, contact Doug Sutton at doug@scfree.net or the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce at 661-702-6977 or info@scvchamber.com.

Veterinarian’s Corner – Snake Season

| Gazette, News | April 18, 2013

It’s that time of year again! The sun is shining, temperatures are heating up, and critters of all kinds are awakening to the beautiful days of spring. What better way to welcome spring than to take Fluffy for a nice hike along one of Santa Clarita’s many gorgeous trails?

However, before packing your sunscreen, bottled water for you AND your four-legged companion, and your cell phone, you might want to make a detour by our hospital. The reason is that, along with the natural beauty that surrounds us everywhere in Santa Clarita, the variety of native wildlife we share our community with includes an often unpleasant neighbor: the rattlesnake.

A native species in our community, rattlesnakes can be found year-round, though spring and summer tend to be the peak seasons. Rattlesnakes are the only venomous snakes in California. There are eight species of rattlesnakes, and three of these are native to California. The Western Diamondback is the most commonly involved in bites and, unfortunately, the most poisonous on a venom-by-pound basis. The Mojave Green Rattlesnake’s venom is by far the most dangerous, as it is not only cytotoxic, but neurotoxic, causing respiratory muscle paralysis, in addition to the more common circulatory, clotting, and blood abnormalities. The only rattlesnake reported to inhabit the Santa Clarita Valley is the Southern Pacific Rattlesnake, though the Mojave Green Rattlesnake has been, in recent years, suspected of being involved in fatal bites to pets, and at least one person in our community.

Although dogs are, by far, the domestic species most commonly involved in rattlesnake bites, cats can also be bitten by these critters. In my experience, about 1/3 of the cases I have treated were bitten while on hikes, and 2/3 of the cases were bitten in their own yards or local parks.

When a dog is bitten by a rattlesnake, the bite may or may not be initially obvious. If you suspect your pet may have been bitten, particularly if you actually see the rattlesnake, the best course of action is to bring them immediately to the vet. Dismissing the possibility of a bite because you can’t see bite marks may cost your pet precious time, and will be more expensive for you, as animals treated in the later stages of rattlesnake envenomation often require much more intensive care, and have a much worse prognosis.

It is impossible to initially determine whether a bite is “dry,” meaning that no poison has been delivered by the snake. Approximately 20 percent of all bites are “dry,” according to the literature. In my personal experience, only one dog out of the couple of hundred I have treated did not develop the anticipated symptoms, and was presumed to have suffered a “dry bite.”

There are varying opinions as to whether smaller, younger snakes, deliver more poison than bigger snakes, and whether bites to the limbs carry a better prognosis than bites to the body or the head. We do know that the smaller your pet, the more poison on a per pound basis he is likely to have received, and the more guarded their prognosis becomes. This also means that, in general, smaller dogs may require more antivenin than a larger dog.

The treatment of rattlesnake envenomation is directed at trying to stabilize the pet’s cardiovascular parameters (circulatory shock is the first life-threatening symptom of rattlesnake envenomation), addressing the pain associated with the bite, neutralizing the poison with antivenin, and treating clotting and blood abnormalities with plasma, and blood transfusions, if needed. Some veterinarians also treat for the possibility of infection with antibiotics.

The use of steroids to treat rattlesnake envenomation and its effects is highly discouraged by the majority of the experts.

Rattlesnake bites are often medically, and especially financially, difficult to treat. The expense associated with the antivenin ($600+ per vial), the hospitalization, and tests performed to monitor the progression of the envenomation, along with the treatment for the secondary complications mentioned above, can easily run into the thousands of dollars.

There is a rattlesnake vaccine available for dogs and, although the efficacy of the vaccine has not been fully evaluated by independent research, it is a very safe vaccine. It is given as a series of  2-3 boosters according to weight, and at Advanced Care Animal Hospital we recommend boosting every six months for high risk dogs. The purpose of the vaccine is to buy time to get your pet to the hospital, and to hopefully reduce the amount of antivenin needed, and thereby the cost, to neutralize the poison. The vaccine is NOT, however, a substitute for prompt veterinary care should Fido get bitten.

Snakebite kits, homeopathic cures, and other myriad “alternative treatments” for rattlesnake envenomation marketed through some disreputable outlets are, at best, useless and, at worst, could significantly adversely affect the outcome of the snake-bitten dog.

Dr. Amanda Gillen
Advanced Care Animal Hospital
19406 Soledad Canyon Rd
Canyon Country        (661) 263-4334

Conference Center Presentation Sparks Debate

| Gazette, News | April 18, 2013

By Andrew Thompson

Council members at recent meeting

A presentation on the proposed Santa Clarita Conference Center ignited a lively discussion at last Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, with tensions among some of the councilmembers apparently coming to a head.

The presentation, made by a representative of a firm called Kosmont Companies, related a variety of findings regarding the location, cost, and other details of the conference center’s proposed development. The speaker estimated that the facility would cost approximately $40-$65 million to build, plus additional operating costs, all of which could vary, depending upon a multitude of factors, such as the center’s size and what measures would be taken to offset those expenses.  Councilman TimBen Boydston questioned the speaker, suggesting that the City would never be able to recoup the costs from an increase in sales tax revenue alone.

“We need to look out for the taxpayers in Santa Clarita by killing this completely, well, and 100 percent,” Boydston said,  calling the conference center a “loss leader” and “corporate welfare” – terms that seemed to touch a nerve with some in the Council Chambers.

“I don’t see it that way – it’s an investment in our city,” said Chamber of Commerce Chairman Fred Arnold, addressing the Council. Arnold said that the Chamber supports continued investigation into the opportunity.

“We’re not looking for corporate welfare,” Arnold added. “We’re looking for opportunities to bring our guests into town…so they can see our great city, so when we build [up] Newhall Ranch and Vista Canyon and all of the other developments, we become a world-class city.”

Speaker addressing the meeting and council

Another speaker at the meeting expressed concern over the review’s survey methodology, the discussion of locations for the center, and the cost to taxpayers. A third, who said he had worked in the hotel industry in the local area, said he supports the idea of the center because he has seen hotel business turned away. He also urged the Council to continue pursuing a public-private partnership.

James S. Backer, a Chamber of Commerce Board member and the head of JSB Development (the company behind the design of Vista Canyon), said in a separate interview that he agrees the City has been doing a good job of handling the issue so far, but also noted that he believes the City needs to be “prudent” as they consider how to proceed.

“[The center] really needs to be grounded in the market, and in our ability as a community to support it,” Backer said. He also noted that, while he approves of the idea of a public-private partnership, he’s also aware it’s unlikely any private company would be willing to collaborate on a project predicted to lose funds. He said he wants the City to be sure that Santa Clarita is economically ready for the center before it makes any final decisions.

At the Council meeting, most of the members seemed to concur that no final decision needed to be made.

“I don’t think we’re – by receiving this report – we’re not obligating ourselves to anything except for information,” Councilwoman McLean noted.

But Councilman Boydston pressed the issue, igniting a debate.  In one instance, he tried to begin a point by asking if Stockton had a conference center.

“Who the hell wants to go to Stockton?” Councilman Ferry interjected, annoyed by the apparent comparison. Councilman Boydston clarified, saying that he didn’t believe Santa Clarita taxpayers or citizens want Santa Clarita to emulate other cities in its economic decisions.

“But saying, ‘Kill this today?’  That is irresponsible,” Ferry argued. “I mean, I get you don’t want any growth, and you want us all to drive a horse and buggy…I get it – I appreciate [it], you’re very consistent,” he said.

At one point, Ferry sought to end the debate by calling the question. Some confusion followed as to whether there could be any further discussion, with Boydston objecting to having been cut off. Kellar allowed Boydston to continue, but urged him to make his point so that the Council could vote.

“I don’t think we want to emulate other cities,” Boydston said. “And I think this is the wrong proposal.”  Boydston called the project a drain on taxpayers, stating, “It doesn’t make any sense.”

“There is no project, for heaven’s sakes!” Councilwoman McLean countered, pointing out that the Kosmont presentation was merely a report.  “You can’t just ‘kill’ something like that,” she said.

The Council moved to a vote on whether to continue the search for a public-private partnership opportunity for the conference center’s potential development. The vote passed four to one, with only Councilman Boydston opposed.

The next Santa Clarita City Council Meeting is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, April 23 at 6:00p.m. The Council meets in the Council Chambers on the first floor of City Hall, located at 23920 Valencia Blvd., in Santa Clarita, CA.

Arts Watch

| Gazette, News | April 17, 2013

Uncommon and Amazing Techniques

Marjorie Sarnat will demonstrate mixed media art under the title of Uncommon and Amazing Techniques Workshop at the June 17 meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists’ Association (SCAA). This event is free and open to the public. SCAA meets at 6:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble, 23630 Valencia Boulevard.

Author-artist Sarnat enjoys success as a fine artist and professional designer. In the design field, her experience includes designing collectibles, children’s books, paper dolls and more. Her award-winning “Project Runway® Designer Dolls,” a creative craft for kids, was licensed to a major manufacturer. In addition, she’s an experienced textile artist, designing fashion prints for fabrics.

As a fine artist, Sarnat actively exhibits in galleries and juried shows, winning numerous awards for her work. She’s a member of Women Painters West, Collage Artists of America, and other local art groups. She’s an alumna of The School of The Art Institute of Chicago and holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and teaching credentials from Eastern Michigan University.

She studied under acclaimed artist Joe Abbrescia and was an instructor in his art school near Chicago. She also served as the editor-in-chief of Arts & Activities Magazine. Today, Sarnat offers mixed media workshops based on techniques in her Art Studio Secrets series of books. View her art on http://www.sarnatart.com/.

There is expected to be standing room only by 6:30. Visit www.SantaClaritaArtists.org for more information.

COC Canyon Country Campus to Host Spring Star Party

| Gazette, News | April 16, 2013

How big are the stars? What do they look like? Many astronomers throughout history have sought the answers to these questions by looking through a telescope. But even with the aid of telescopes, these far away pinpricks of light remain mysterious.

The ever-expanding universe and its stars — the double star Regulus in particular — will be brought into focus at the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus’ spring semester Star Party in May.

The spring Star Party will take place from 7:30 to 10 p.m. Friday, May 3, in the Canyon Country campus’ Carl A. Rasmussen Amphitheater. Admission is free of charge and open to the public.

At the event, guest speaker Dr. Gerard van Belle, currently an astronomer at the Lowell Observatory, will share his findings and research on optical interferometry.

A novel approach to star gazing, optical interferometry involves the simultaneous use of small telescopes to create a single large telescope, which provides astronomers with high-resolution images of stars.

“We are very excited to hear Dr. van Belle’s findings on stellar astronomy and direct imaging,” said Ryan Theule, dean of the Canyon Country campus. “This will be a great chance to learn about the universe and a rare opportunity to do so from an expert such as Dr. van Belle.”

While an instrument architect for the Keck Interferometer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Dr. van Belle made the first-ever direct measure of non-spherical stellar shapes, which won him the first annual JPL Award for Outstanding Research in 2001.

After van Belle’s presentation on direct imaging of the stars, he will lead a Q&A session with the audience.
Members of the college’s Physics/Astronomy Club, The Local Group Astronomy Club of Santa Clarita and the Burbank Astronomy Group will also set up telescopes aimed at any celestial bodies that are visible, which attendees can view.

In relation to Dr. van Belle’s presentation, COC astronomy professor Teresa Ciardi will lead a demonstration with the aid of star models, which children in the audience can take home.

“I will also be setting up two hands-on science tables where K-12 students and their families can play and discover some physical properties that we utilize in astronomy,” said Ciardi.

Though some seating will be provided, Star Party attendees are encouraged to get to campus early with blankets, lawn chairs and picnic baskets, to enjoy a festive outdoor atmosphere as the sun begins to set and the night sky emerges.

Food and beverages will also be available for purchase at the event through the Canyons Café on the Canyon Country campus. A portion of the concession sales from the Star Party are being donated to the Dr. Ram Manvi Memorial Scholarship to benefit students who are majoring in the fields of mathematics, science or engineering technology.

Dr. Manvi was the former Dean of Math, Science and Engineering at College of the Canyons and was instrumental in launching the campus’ initial Star Party event in 2009.

On May 3, the COC Canyon Country campus annual spring Star Party will take focus on the ever-expanding universe and its stars by utilizing state-of-the-art optical interferometry technology to create high-resolution images for all to view. Attendees are encouraged to visit the campus and enjoy a festive outdoor atmosphere as the sun begins to set and the night sky emerges.

For more information about the College of the Canyons spring 2013 Star Party, please call the Canyon Country campus at (661) 362-3801.

Santa Clarita Valley Chamber to Hold Mixer in Canyon Country

| Gazette, News | April 15, 2013

The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce will be hosting a business mixer at the College of the Canyons Canyon Country Campus (CCC) on Wednesday, May 15.

Attendees will have the opportunity to network and learn about various businesses and services offered throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

“It is very exciting to hold the SCV Chamber Mixer once again at the Canyon Country Campus,” said Ryan Theule, dean of the Canyon Country campus. “This is a great opportunity to showcase the facility and the fantastic student programs we have to offer to the community.”

The Chamber previously held a mixer in 2008 at CCC, a few months after the campus first opened.

Aside from learning about the campus’ highlights and achievements during the past five years, attendees will also have the chance to learn more about the college’s Career Technical Education (CTE) program, which provides students with academically rigorous and relevant education and content in high-wage, high employment potential industry sectors, as identified by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Intended as a “taste of Canyon Country,” this year’s mixer will feature food samples from approximately 15 local restaurants for attendees to enjoy. During the event, students from the college’s Fine Arts division will provide musical entertainment. Student representatives from the college’s Culinary Arts program will also be on-hand to highlight the exciting developments of the successful program.

The mixer will be held from 5:30 to 7: 30 p.m. at the Applied Technology Education Center (ATEC), Quad 7.

Non-SCV Chamber members who wish to attend the mixer can purchase tickets at the door for $20. The cost for SCV Chamber members is $15.

For more information about the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, visit www.scvchamber.com. To RSVP, call (661) 362-3802.

Women in the Workplace Man on the Street interviews

| News | April 12, 2013

By Jonanthony Etrio

Santa Clarita Gazette and Free Classifieds took a “man on the street” type of poll last week. Random residents were asked to respond to the recent release of a book by Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, called “Lean in: Women, Work and the Will to Lead,” She writes that women make up only 14 percent of executive officers, 18 percent of elected congressional officials and 22 of 197 heads of state. Sandberg is challenging the idea that women have made true progress in corporate America. She urges women to “lean in” as a method of asserting themselves at work and at home.

Passersby were asked at the Westfield Town Center Mall in Valencia whether or not they agreed with her theory and why. People’s responses were categorized into two groups, older women/men and younger women/men (under 30).

Among the older women, 85 percent agree with the statement, stating women are not making much progress due to the lack of networking and also not being assertive, but rather complacent.

However, with the older males, the results were more divided — about 50 percent on each side of the issue. Those who agreed cited the same concerns over networking and not being assertive in the workplace, kind of taking a back seat. The 50 percent of males in the older age group who disagreed stated that women have made more progress in the last couple of decades than in the previous century. The same argument was true for the 15 percent of older women who disagreed with the statement.

With regard to the groups of younger men and women, the results were much more divided. A total of 85 percent of younger women interviewed disagree with the statement made by Sandberg, citing the argument that there has been tremendous progress made by women in the last couple of decades. The 15 percent who agreed stated that women need to be more aggressive in both the workplace and at home. They need to lean in. They also need to network like men do.

The younger men had some similar results, as 85 percent of them also disagree with the theory touted by Sandberg. They state that women have made terrific strides in the past couple decades. They are doing everything that men are doing, including boxing and football. The 15 percent of younger men who do agree with the book’s message state that women need to be more assertive and each woman should seek to become more of a “go-getter.”

Check the Gazette in the future for another Man on the Street report.

Local Man’s Journey from Iran

| Gazette, News | April 12, 2013

By Andrew Thompson

Persia Restaurant

 

 

 

 

 

 

When Homayoun Daryani took over ownership of Santa Clarita’s Persia Restaurant, he wanted to make the cuisine as authentically Persian as possible. At the time, less than one percent of his customers were actually Persian, so Daryani and his wife worked to overhaul the restaurant’s menu to correct the nuances of some dishes that their Persian customers knew were just not right.

“After our change, now we [get] all the Persian customers,” Daryani says. “Because they come, they know the food, they are comfortable… they are happy with it.”

Daryani was able to fine-tune his restaurant’s menu, in part, because the very cuisine he now provides is the same cuisine with which he grew up.  Daryani, after all, was born and raised in Iran.

For the most part, Daryani looks back on his experiences in his home county with nostalgia.

“Always, when you look back to everything, everything looks like a…good experience,” Daryani says of his childhood.  “Everything looks like fun.”

But Daryani’s youth was far from idyllic. In 1979, while Daryani was in his early teenage years, revolution hit Iran.  Shortly after, when Iran and Iraq became embroiled in an eight-year war, Daryani mostly managed to avoid the conflict because he attended college.  However, all that changed just before his final semester, when the government made an emergency decision: anyone who wanted to graduate from university would have to serve.
“When they called me back…at the beginning, of course, you are scared, you don’t know what to do,” Daryani says. “And, emotionally, you are attached to your family, to everybody.”

Daryani, photo by Robyn Preston Photography

But Daryani says his fears melted away when he actually arrived at his post.

“That was a complete different feeling,” he explains. “Because then they teach you that you are a savior of your country. You are fighting for your country, for your people, for your beliefs.”

Because of his engineering background, Daryani was sent to work on the naval craft that would ultimately patrol the rivers near the border. He says he derived particular enthusiasm from the fact that he had a higher rank (as a former university student), and was therefore able to lead and guide the other soldiers who were entrusted to his care.

But not all of Daryani’s memories were so pleasant.  There were also times when he was forced to see firsthand the brutal effects of the war.

“We would see the missiles coming, and [they] would destroy a whole block,” Daryani recalls. He adds that bombs sometimes dropped within five hundred feet.

“We used to run there and see what can we do [to] help – because the emergency system is not that great – so people would go and find other people, bringing them out of the…[rubble] and everything.”

Fortunately, peace was declared seven months after Daryani was called. Daryani was able to finish his degree, then complete the remainder of his military service working in factories.

When Daryani first attempted to acquire a visa to come to the United States, his application was denied, so he returned to his life in Iran. He worked, he married, he even had children; but it was while raising his first child, a daughter, that Daryani decided that it was time to try again to head to the United States – this time for good.

The move actually involved several trips and took a few years, but eventually, the entire family ended up in America. In 2003, they settled in Santa Clarita and purchased a Middle Eastern market. Then, in 2006, they bought Persia Restaurant. The couple has owned the restaurant together ever since.

Like many business owners, the Daryanis were hit hard by the recession. Their market closed after more than 10 years, and even their restaurant has struggled, at times. The difficulties can be particularly hard, Daryani says, when he thinks back to the quality of life he once enjoyed with his family back in Iran.

“We had a very nice and relaxing life. But…we basically left that,” he says. “I came almost with nothing to this country…hoping for the best,” he adds.

Still, Daryani doesn’t regret his decision.

“When I look back…I miss those [days] back in Iran,” Daryani says. “But I am not sorry for my move. Because now, the opportunities that…[are] upon us…in front of my kids, are…wide open.  And also, for ourselves…starting from zero, to here – I think this is a big grow. And I would never be able to do that in Iran.”

Even amid the hard times, however, Daryani and his family have managed not only to keep their restaurant in business; they have actually grown it through their determination.

“I think the only thing that made us to stay in business…was our hard work, being behind it day and night, working it as a family business,” Daryani says.

Daryani gives particular credit to his wife, who he says has been a true partner. He also says that, in addition to being a family-run business, Persia Restaurant has many employees who he considers to be family, as some of them have worked at the restaurant for several years.

“They have been very patient with me,” he jokes.

But Daryani’s commitment to his customers and to his quality are perhaps equally responsible for his restaurant’s success.

Daryani points out that, even as the prices of many ingredients have doubled, he has managed to keep his food prices relatively consistent.  Daryani also takes care to ensure the quality of those ingredients, and regularly uses expensive items like saffron, the most expensive spice in the world.

Darnyani also touts the flavor and health benefits of his restaurant’s cuisine. His rice, he says, is prepared in a special two-step process that makes it extra-fluffy and removes starch. Also, his restaurant almost never uses frying products; he only uses healthy oils like olive oil, and his dishes are often high in protein (his boneless chicken tenders and lamb dishes are particular specialties).

Persia Restaurant hosts events, including live music every other Friday, a belly-dancing show on Saturdays, and a buffet every Monday through Saturday from 11:30 to 2:00 p.m. But Daryani says that Persia Restaurant is perhaps most distinguished by an additional service that he literally goes the extra mile to provide. Persia Restaurant caters, and Daryani says he has made deliveries to areas as far as Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, and Marina Del Rey. Meanwhile, he has earned a reputation for being able to serve up to 500 people with food that is of the same quality as that which customers would receive in his restaurant.

Kabob Trays

Daryani recognizes the challenge of gaining new customers in a country in which some styles of cuisine reign supreme and many people seem wary to try new things. Nevertheless, he’s sure that no one who tries his dishes for the first time will leave disappointed.

“That’s impossible, [for] someone to not like our food,” he says.

Still, Daryani admits that customers will have to see for themselves what it is that he’s offering.

“People have to come and try it,” he says.  “Until then, they don’t know…what they’re missing.”

Persia Restaurant is located at 27600 Bouquet Canyon Road, Suite 100, in Santa Clarita. The restaurant can be found across from Haskell Canyon Road and the Albertsons shopping center.  For more information, visit www.persia-restaurant.com or call the restaurant at 661-513-0077.

Triumph Foundation’s 2nd Annual Wheelchair Sports Day

| Gazette, News | April 11, 2013

Saturday April 20, 2013 from 9am-5pm.

Featuring wheelchair hockey, basketball, quad rugby, handcycling, racquetball, and more.

Located:

Santa Clarita Sports Complex Gymnasium

20870 Centre Pointe Parkway

Canyon Country, CA 91350.

Come participate in this FREE event.  We will have many extra sports wheelchairs and equipment to use, coaches and clinic instruction to teach you how to play the games, and lunch for all athletes.

OPEN TO ALL!  No matter who you are or what your ability, everyone can get in a wheelchair to participate in this fun-filled day bringing awareness, inclusion, and excitement to the community.

Check out our Facebook Event page here:  http://www.facebook.com/events/527327553977584

Real Estate Q & A

| Gazette, News | April 6, 2013

Getting Your Offer Accepted In Today’s Market
Dear Coach, 
I have written multiple offers on properties and I cannot seem to get an offer accepted. Is my agent the problem?
 
Dear Consumer,
It depends. In today’s market, where inventory is so low, it is challenging, at best, to get an offer accepted. There are anywhere between 10-27 offers being submitted, on many properties, the first day they are listed.  With only one house to sell, one family will get a home and the other 9-26 will keep looking. The most I’ve heard so far is about someone who wrote 27 offers before making a purchase. It is probably not the agent’s fault. However, there are things the agent can do to ensure a solid offer is written, as well as things you, as a buyer, can do to make sure you offer the strongest terms possible. 
 
First of all, don’t nickel and dime the seller to death. Pay for your own termite inspection.  It’s less than $100. You can also pay for your own home warranty, which will cost $350-$450, depending on the size of the property.  With the current competition, a “low ball” offer will not accomplish your goal. Of course, if the property is listed too high, your agent should advise you accordingly. In addition, make sure you have chosen an agent who is well connected in the real estate community. Sometimes it’s a matter of working with a listing agent who will give you first rights on a property before it is marketed to the public. A full-time professional is important in this market and he/she should be willing to write letters to homeowners in the areas of your search asking if they have considered selling, and then follow up with a knock on the door.  
 
Becky Sill is a local real estate coach. You can reach her at (661) 373-3875

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