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Tax Relief or Ponzi Scheme

| Opinion | December 15, 2017

by Blair Bess

Last Monday marked nine years since Ponzi-king Bernie Madoff made his perp walk into the U.S. District Courthouse in Manhattan. Last month, the Justice Department announced that over 24,000 of Madoff’s victims will begin receiving payments totaling $772.5 million. It’s the tip of the iceberg.

In all, nearly $4 billion will be dispersed from the government’s Madoff Victim Fund. Deputy Attorney General Ron Rosenstein says it will be “the largest restoration of forfeited property in history.”

Unfortunately, the victims of the president’s past financial machinations will never fully be compensated for the large sums of money they lost through Citizen Trump’s misdeeds, mismanagement, and misrepresentations.

These include investors in Trump’s defunct casino properties, hotels, and resorts; enrollees in his Trump University and other risky business ventures bearing his name. Not to mention, vendors, contractors, employees, and small business owners who were never able to be made whole by Mr. Trump.
All those lawyers who defended Citizen Trump, keeping him personally solvent while his investors got burned? Somewhere tucked in the president’s safe is a register with the names of great legal minds who got stiffed out of enormous fees as well.

When questioned about his bankruptcies, Citizen Trump said everything he did was within the law. While he, his family, and the Trump Organization regularly walk a slippery slope in their business dealings, he is, for the most part, right.

Good tax attorneys and bankruptcy lawyers tender good legal advice with the expectation they’ll be paid handsomely for their efforts. Which is what attorneys defending the president against charges of alleged illegal business practices, collusion, and obstruction of justice are, doubtless, anticipating.

While the four bankruptcies the president acknowledges total a fraction of “other people’s money” that Bernie Madoff made off with, upwards of thousands of Citizen Trump’s backers lost billions. Granted, some of those burned were banks, but those institutions have shareholders, investors both large and small.

A truckload of Trump Premium Vodka couldn’t wash away the woes of anyone having had financial dealings with Mr. Trump or his “Organization.”

President Trump’s latest financial boondoggles are the House and Senate iterations of a Tax Reform Bill. He shilled for Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Mitch McConnell big time, not to mention Wall Street millionaires, interested parties like the Kochs, the Mercers, the DeVos Family, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, and every other one-percenter and major corporation in America. And with passage of the respective bills in both Houses and reconciliation underway, the Salesman-in-Chief has proven he’s no apprentice.

He is the consummate promoter, having hit many economically-festering states — both red and blue — whose voters put him into office. These are ordinary folks who believe the president has their best interests at heart. But Donald J. Trump has no one’s best interests at heart other than his own. Never has.

The president said this “big, beautiful tax cut” will “cost me a fortune … believe me … I have some very wealthy friends. Not so happy with me…”
When someone habitually implores you to believe them, as the president does, don’t.

The only people who won’t be so happy with the president will, inevitably, be the people who believed in him, trusted him, and voted for him. The ones he allegedly cares about.

When a traveling salesman can’t deliver on his promises, he leaves behind lots of angry customers; in this case, it’s we the people who will pay a heavy price for his lies. They say the customer is always right. Until the salesman proves them wrong.

The tax plan the president and Republicans have sold the public is nothing more than a Ponzi scheme of epic proportion. There will be no “victim fund” for middle-class and low-income Americans.

The big question is: Will President Trump’s be the first perp walk across the White House lawn? And will Ryan, McConnell and their minions be following close behind?

Always Advocating Alan – Oh NO! More Ugly Solar Panels Installed Behind Canyon View Estates in Canyon Country

| Opinion | December 14, 2017

by Alan Ferdman

With 2017 and Santa Clarita’s 30th anniversary coming to an end, it is time to reflect on the year’s passing. While the city celebrates the 30 best things to happen in 30 years, I’ll bet the solar panels on the hill above Canyon View Estates is not one of them.

You might remember when I wrote about them earlier in the year. The first set of panels were installed in a hodgepodge manner, not only creating an eyesore for the Canyon View Estates residents, but for residents across the valley as well. They can be seen from the back yards of homes in Shangri-La, in North Oaks, and on Soledad Canyon Road looking north to the hills. In the past, I have attended City Council meetings, when Councilmembers were so concerned with aesthetics, they had developers change building architecture, landscaping and building placement. At one City Council meeting, Councilmember Marsha McLean was so concerned about how things looked, she went so far as to criticize a building’s color on an artist’s rendering because, as she put it, “it stood out like a sore thumb.”

Yet, when complaints started rolling in to the city about the Solar Panels above Canyon View Estates, the answer came back as; there is nothing we can do about it, our hands are tied, because the permit authority for Manufactured Home Parks rests with the State of California Housing and Community Development Department. According to Santa Clarita’s City Manager Ken Striplin, “We found out about the project when everyone else did, when it was built.” But was all that true?

Looking back at the timeline, on June 28th construction had started and KHTS published an article, authored by Perry Smith, alerting the public. Officials at the State Housing and Community Development (HCD) were contacted and indicated there is no appeal mechanism in their permitting process. Ms. Evan Gerberding, Deputy Director of Communications and Tribal Liaison, was contacted and quoted as saying, “HCD officials consider local city and county ordinances that would be applicable. Based on HCD’s consideration of local zoning and laws, the project wouldn’t have been stopped.” She went on to say, “There was no basis for us to say no, or deny that permit, which might have been caused by Santa Clarita having no ordinances on the books related to installing Solar Panels directly on the ground. I raised the issue at the September 12th City Council Meeting and Mr. Striplin indicated the city did not approve the project. Even later, when Santa Clarita Staff showed me the HCD permit application, “local approval” was blank, indicating coordination with City officials, per the HCD process documentation, did not happen.

Remember the article telling of, Mr. John Caprarelli, Santa Clarita Building Official, indicating, “A City inspector was on site recently to verify the project did have the necessary permits filed with the HCD.” So much for the allegation, the city was unaware of the project until it was built. I also wondered if the City Inspector verified the project meets Santa Clarita building codes, or did he just verify an HCD Permit existed. Yet, when I took the question one step further, and asked city staff; “What are the boundaries of Canyon View Estates manufactured home park entitlement, they replied, they did not know. So, tell me, how could the Santa Clarita Building Inspector Know all the appropriate permits had been obtained, when he did not even know whose jurisdiction the panels were being installed on.

Mr. Lee Barnathan’s September article in the Gazette indicated additional Solar Panels were planned to be installed. So, did our City Council spring into action and put the City Attorney to work to get a “Cease and Desist Order,” did any of our Council Members contact HCD for clarification, or did our Mayor use his authority as City Spokesperson to contact the Governor to help put an end to unelected bureaucrats approving projects which destroy our communities, or has the city even found out the entitled boundaries of Canyon View Estates? The answer is NO, NOTHING HAPPENED. All which did transpire was, Councilman Kellar penning letters to legislators, such as Acosta and Wilk, asking for legislation to prevent issues like this happening in the future.

Now at Christmas, we get to look at the latest addition of ugly Solar Panels sprouting up in Canyon Country, while City Staff sits quietly and watches. It appears our City Council’s hands are not tied, they are just sitting on them. While conspiracy theories abound, I agree with Councilmember Miranda who said, “I’m trying not to see that,” but I can’t help thinking if the same thing was happening on a hill in Valencia, someone would find a way to eradicate the damn things.

So, on Christmas eve, when Santa and his Reindeer deliver presents around Santa Clarita, I wonder just how big the Naughty List will be.

Pearl Harbor was the Great American Unifier

| Opinion | December 7, 2017

by Blair Bess

Pearl Harbor Day leaves us with a stark reminder that the number of WWII veterans is dwindling rapidly. The epic struggle against forces of undisputed evil, fought by the fathers and grandfathers, mothers and grandmothers of so many of us, may soon be relegated to the annals of American history, yet no military conflict since the Civil War has had a more dramatic impact on who we are as a nation.

In the wake of the Great Depression, and in the years leading up to December 7, 1941, cauldrons were bubbling throughout the world, ready to spill over with the least provocation. Globally today, we find common denominators.

Vladimir Putin is the 21st Century’s answer to Josef Stalin. In Asia, a handful of countries are attempting to solidify their economic and military dominance over the Pacific Rim. Europe is reckoning with nationalist fervor, fascism, and neo-Nazism. And at a time when the world appears to need us most, America is stepping back from the preeminent position it has held since 1945.

In this century, seeds of oppression are being sown. An ideological schism is widening here at home. Separateness, anger, isolation, and – for some – belief in racial and ethnic supremacy, is a constant in the lives of the morally depleted and socially disenfranchised.
None of this is new to the American Experience. Social unrest, economic hardship, and the threat of foreign influence posed a threat prior to WWII. Racial inequality and injustice were prevalent throughout the U.S. The KKK was resurgent and a homegrown Nazi movement emerged in the guise of the German-American Bund.

Then came Pearl Harbor. Suddenly, Americans started behaving like Americans, one nation united — for many of us, under God. Indivisible. A country where liberty and justice for all meant something. It would be misleading to suggest that everything in the homeland was sunshine and happiness. It wasn’t. Anti-Semitism and racism continued to be a blight on the American landscape, poverty and economic malaise were still a plague among us.

And yet, one “Day of Infamy” gave all in this nation pause when confronted by the very real fear that our way of life was being threatened by forces beyond our shores. Rancor at home began to dissipate. People of all races, colors and creeds came together out of a sense of mutual need and the desire to combat those who would do us harm.

As disunited as these United States may have seemed at the time, and may appear to be today, the thought of separating us from our shared values and common beliefs was intolerable to all Americans. Together, we bonded and rose up against the clear enemies without, rather than the perceived enemies within.

This is the America that those who would do us harm, once more, fear; instruments of evil who believe that by disrupting our political, social, and economic norms we will be crushed. Unpredictable leaders abroad, like North Korea’s Kim Jong Un, corrupt Russian oligarchs, and Putin’s government, pose real threats to our country.

We cannot turn away from this reality and close ourselves off to the world, ignoring the dangerous players who inhabit it. Nor can we make nice, no matter what the motive may be, with those committed to incite discord among us. Of utmost importance, we must remember to stand by the friends and allies who stood by us then — those who continue to stand beside us today.

On this Pearl Harbor Day, let’s remember those patriots who volunteered to go forth and sacrifice everything they held near and dear — some making the ultimate sacrifice — for the sake of our freedom and independence. And keep in mind that there are patriots still here among us, in and out of uniform, ready and willing to do the same. We Americans came together as one people before. We will again.

Are Too Few Paying Taxes?

| Opinion | December 7, 2017

Whenever a person is trying to make a point they use an extreme example. When it comes to talking about how some states mismanage their revenue (your tax money), California is often referred to as the joke in the story. The state is often seen as a place that doubles down on taxing everything that walks, talks, sits and moves. However, one place that stands out as an extreme example of what can really go wrong if California continues down the path it’s on, is New Jersey.

Imagine for a minute that a state has nearly 9 million people living in it, and that 100 of them contribute 40 percent of the tax base. That’s right, 100 people pay nearly half of all state income taxes that the remaining 9,000,000 people rely on and spend!!! Continue to imagine that when one of those taxpayers moves out, the entire state budget can go into a crisis.

When hedge fund manager David Tepper moved from New Jersey to Florida, he took about $6 billion in income with him. He also removed about $500 million in tax revenue from the state when he left. A state should never give that much power to a few individuals. In California the numbers can be worse.

Out of 33 million people in the State of California, 5,700 pay nearly 20 percent of all the taxes spent by the other 32,994,300!! How does that ever happen? Before you think it’s because they earn “too much” money and you don’t, think about the idea that they are buying something and you get to use it. When does it make sense to turn the focus to the politicians spending money that we do not have? They constantly look for new ways to tax small business and “the rich” and give lower income and middle income earners a tax break. Nearly 40 percent of people in the state of California pay zero state income tax — zero, zilch, none.

What if they actually did the opposite? Should politicians go out and raise taxes on the middle class and lower income earners? The only way to stop the politicians who control, and are ruining the state of California, is to have the taxes they impose impact everyone. Maybe then the residents of California will stop this class warfare and realize that people with money can leave California for states like Florida, Texas, Nevada and Wyoming. Places where there is zero state income tax. After all, you can always return to stay in your vacation home in California but have your official residence be in another state. Celebrities, professional athletes, hedge fund managers and dot-com millionaire millennials do it!

Arif Halaby is a Certified Estate Planner in California and President/CEO of Total Financial Solutions, Inc., a financial and insurance services company in Santa Clarita that prides itself in protecting principal, eliminating fees, and designing higher income strategies. 661-753-9683

Always Advocating Alan – How YOU are Going to PAY for Parking in Newhall

| Opinion | December 7, 2017

by Alan Ferdman

It all started over 2 decades ago, when City Manager George Caravalho and the Santa Clarita City Council decided to take advantage of State of California’s Redevelopment Agency benefits, by declaring Downtown Newhall blighted. Implementing a Redevelopment Agency was in the best interest of Santa Clarita because, a portion of the blighted area’s tax base was returned to the city, for the purpose of mitigating the blighted conditions.

To insure nothing was left out of the Redevelopment Plan, City staff, under the direction of City Manager Ken Pulskamp, put together the Newhall Specific Plan, which was approved by the Santa Clarita City Council in 2005. The plan contained 2 very important points. First, was a strategy to entice new development in old town Newhall. To accomplish that goal, zoning was changed to allow development on Main Street without having to provide parking to support it. Second, was a commitment to build 2 Parking Structures, one at each end of Main Street. Parking provided by the 2 Parking Structures was planned to accommodate the parking needs of Main Street development, as opposed to developers providing parking as an integral part of their projects. The first structure was planned to be completed and in operation by 2007. As most of you know, construction of neither of these two parking structures took place at that time.

Then the unexpected happened. As a part of the 2011 State of California Budget Act, the California Legislature approved the dissolution of the state’s Redevelopment Agencies. As of February 1, 2012, new projects within the Newhall Redevelopment Agency boundaries would no longer be subsidized by the state. Yet, even though funding for the planned parking structures was no longer available, the Santa Clarita City Council failed to act in eliminating the incentive of allowing development on Main Street without providing parking, and did not return the zoning to look like the rest of the City.

In February 2016, the Santa Clarita City Council (with exception of TimBen Boydston who voted no, and Laurene Weste who was not able to vote on the issue because of the proximity of her property) approved a project authorizing construction of a Laemmle Theater, a mixed-use project of Residential over Retail, and obligated the City to fund construction of the first 372 space parking structure on Main Street, to the tune of $15.2 million. Neither Laemmle nor the retail component of the mixed-use project was required to provide any parking. If the Laemmle Theater was planned to be built anywhere else in the city, it would have been required to provide 162 parking spaces. So, who paid the parking bill. You did, because the money came out of your taxes accumulated in the City’s General/Facilities fund.

Well at this point, City Staff realized the financial impact of not accounting for future parking in downtown Newhall. Their next plan to fund future Main Street parking was, to establish a “Business Improvement District,” and have existing businesses pay for future parking needs. As you might have expected, existing business owners did not relish this idea, and since they could defeat formation of the District with a majority opposition vote, staff did not proceed.

So, staff came up with another option called “Parking in Lieu,” and it all came to a climax at the November 28 City Council meeting. This method required a fee of $39,000, (the cost of 1 parking space in the new parking structure), be paid for the first 1,500 square feet of development and an additional 1 space fee for every 350 square feet thereafter. While it may be a little hard to visualize, 1,500 square feet is just shy of 4 two car garages in size, and if you owned a restaurant and just put in 4 additional tables, it is obvious 1 parking space would not be sufficient to facilitate your business expansion. But, the staff and council thought $39,000 was too expensive, and reduced the fee to 15% of a parking space, translating to requiring 1 parking space for every 9 two car garage sized developments.

What all this means is, at some time in the near future, Main Street in Newhall will need a second Parking Structure. Just like last time, sufficient development funds will not be available, requiring construction to be paid for with General Fund money, and just like last time, you will pay the bill. Yet, that is precisely what the Council approved as “they kicked the can down the road” and voted to continue to provide developers in Newhall “a gift of public funds” not available in any other part of our city.

Real Property Owners Pay on E for COC

| Opinion | November 30, 2017

by Steve Petzold

In June of 2016, Santa Clarita community college district voters approved a Proposition 39 bond measure for College of the Canyons popularly known as Measure E, which authorized the district to borrow up to $230 million for capital improvement and repair projects. The debt incurred for Measure E is layered on top of the debt incurred for Measure C (2001) and Measure M (2006).

Proposition 39 was passed by the voters in 2000, and gutted an important taxpayer protection provision of Proposition 13 by lowering the required super majority of two-thirds to 55 percent for bond measure approval.

In April of 2017 the college issued $50 million of bonds under their Measure E authority, and the property tax bill for 2017 is our first chance to look at what the E bond will cost real property owners across the Santa Clarita Valley.

The payment rate per 100,000 of assessed valuation increased 56 percent from 27.579 (2016) to 43.045 (2017). On my personal residence (approximate assessed valuation $400,000), this meant an increase of $63 year-to-year ($107 to $170). While the nominal amount may appear small on one home, it is a very large amount across the Santa Clarita Valley. As the community college authorizes additional debt, and interest rates continue to increase, the payment amount will escalate in future years.

The numbers for the aggregate payment rate of .043045 (all bond issues combined) can be confirmed by property owners by analyzing their annual property tax bills. You simply look under “Voted Indebtedness – Community College.” The tax collector payment rate is multiplied by the net taxable value also found on your bill.

Interestingly, the payment rate advertised by the community college district during the 2016 election cycle was $15 per $100,000 of assessed value. The actual rate attributed to Measure E funding was 15.30 according to the Los Angeles County auditor controller. It is common in bond propositions to have the payment rate estimate to be low. But wait … there is more.

Measure M (2006) was sold to the voters as having a payment rate of $9.73 per $100,000 of assessed valuation. According to information provided by the Los Angeles County auditor controller, the payment rate attributable to Measure M debt (which includes some Measure C debt that was refinanced) is $18.867 — yes, almost double the estimated rate disclosed to the voters when the measure was placed on the ballot.

At the end of June, 2017 the total estimated bond debt for the Santa Clarita Community College District was $263,000,000. Based upon a student population of 30,000, this amounts to $8,766 per student. Based upon a state standard FTES (Full Time Equivalent Students), bond debt exceeds $20,000 per student, assuming the college’s estimate of 13,000 FTES.

Shockingly, a large percentage of COC students (best estimate 45 percent) live outside of the Santa Clarita Community College District. We are building and maintaining facilities for students who do not contribute to the construction, repair, renovation, and maintenance of physical plant.

While community college districts advertise free and low tuition, it is important to understand that it is the taxpayers and district real property owners who pay the bills. The real cost is extremely high, and going higher.

Save the CFBP

| Opinion | November 30, 2017

by Blair Bess

As Congress struggles to enact legislation that will bring tax relief to the rich and obliterate healthcare for the not-so-rich, another battle is brewing beneath the “Swamp”: the never-ending struggle to decimate the lusterless policies that affect the lives of ordinary Americans. These are the policies put in place to protect us no matter what our political persuasion may be.

Wresting control of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or CFPB, is the latest move by the administration to gut any regulatory body designed to ensure that “the 99 percent” of us are not taken advantage of, or endangered by financial institutions.

The CFPB is part of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and was designed to avoid repeating the financial calamities that occurred in the wake of the stock market collapse of 2008. The same Wall Street that then-candidate Trump railed against during the 2016 presidential campaign; swamp-dwellers the president promised to rid the American public of, which he has, so far, failed to do.

The collapse that precipitated Dodd-Frank has been variously attributed to complex investment schemes by banks “too big to fail,” as well as a lack of regulatory oversight. The law was enacted to avert practices on Wall Street that nearly caused international financial markets to collapse.

Since its inception six years ago, the CFPB has safeguarded Americans from financial harm. It’s followed up on nearly 2,000,000 consumer complaints and has returned almost $12 billion in refunds and cancelled debts. It’s helped nearly 30 million Americans through its enforcement actions. Earlier this year, the agency assessed penalties totaling $100 million against Wells Fargo Bank for its toxic lending practices and fraudulent activities, which included the systemic opening of unauthorized deposit and credit card accounts.

The CFPB has put into place regulations to stop payday loan companies from trapping consumers in a web of never-ending debt and entering loans which borrowers cannot possibly pay back without loss of property or missing other financial obligations. Like paying rent. Or eating. Or medical care. Seems like a good thing.

Because Dodd-Frank was written in large part by former Rep. Barney Frank, and the CFPB essentially created by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, two avowed liberals, the agency’s mere existence has been anathema to Republican lawmakers, who believe the agency wields too much power and mires lenders in too much red tape. This opinion has some degree of credence.

Dodd-Frank has made the lending process for both consumers and businesses far more stringent; getting a loan isn’t as easy as it was in the pre-2008 days. Community banks often find themselves subject to the same standards as larger institutions; rules that often require considerable time and personnel to remain in compliance with federal guidelines. Republican lawmakers also claim there is not enough oversight of the CFPB and that its regulations are cumbersome.

The law also included a stipulation that the CFPB’s deputy director would take over, should the agency’s director leave the post, becoming acting director in the process. Which is why the CFPB is once again in the news. A battle continues to rage over who the real acting director is: former deputy director Leandra English, a career regulator, or the president’s appointee, budget director Mick Mulvaney, who famously labeled the CFPB a “sad, sick joke.”

Tuesday’s decision by Federal District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, sided with the administration, and allows Mulvaney to remain in control at the CFPB. For now. The case will likely end up before a federal appeals court.

We can only hope that politicization of the public good and the evisceration of an agency created with the interests of the American people in mind is not of paramount importance to Mr. Mulvaney. Though he may think of the agency he now temporarily heads as a joke, consumer protection is anything but a laughing matter. On that, most Americans would agree.

Always Advocating Alan – Be Grateful, Not Hateful

| Opinion | November 30, 2017

by Alan Ferdman

Over the past year or so, I have noticed a segment of our population whom have consistently bombarded mass media outlets with the message “everything we have understood about the United States being benevolent and forward looking is not true.” They want us to believe, since the United States was established, and did not practice the same level of progressive fairness they would have us practice today, our founders were racist and evil. They want to tear down the history of our country, and some claim if you are white, you should hate yourself.

Every holiday has become an opportunity for them to shame our country. A while ago, it was the attack on Columbus Day, because the United Nations said so. This month it was some celebrating un-Thanksgiving Day. One young author even wrote an op-ed claiming the Thanksgiving holiday was invented by Abraham Lincoln. But, since it sounded too much like Al Gore invented the internet, I decided to look into Thanksgiving more closely. Probably like most of you, I always remember the Grammar School version of the first Thanksgiving, when the Pilgrims celebrated their first good harvest. It should be easy to understand why the Pilgrims were so appreciative, because in those days, food did not come from the supermarket, and if you did not provide for yourself, you starved.

As it turns out, President George Washington issued a proclamation in 1789, stating in part: “Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God … both Houses of Congress have, … requested me to recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”

Then in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln established Thanksgiving as a national holiday and issued, in part, the following proclamation. “I do therefore invite my fellow citizens … to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

So, as it turns out, the Thanksgiving holiday was thought of by Washington and Lincoln as a day to thank god for the food on our table, our country and our freedom. For myself, I am thankful for living in the United States, a country continually progressing to achieve the vision of our founders where “All men are created equal,” and all our citizens are provided the equal opportunity to achieve “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” I believe each person should celebrate their heritage and remember Dr. King’s words when he shared his dream, “that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” A dream which is shared by every parent in our great country.

On this past Thanksgiving Day, just like many years past, four generations of the Ferdman clan gathered at Grandma Pam’s table to celebrate Thanksgiving together. As I looked around the table, I recognized again just how blessed Pam and I are. From my 95 year young mother to my youngest grandchild, we are all in good health. My two sons have grown to be strong father figures, successfully providing for their families, and along with their wonderful wives are raising incredible children, all of whom are well behaved and doing great in school.

A couple of weeks ago I celebrated my 75th Birthday. Now entering the fourth quarter of my life, I thought back about all the things I am personally thankful for. I remembered my wonderful New York grandparents, who took care of my mom and I when my father was off to war in Europe, and then again along with my brother when my father passed away. I am thankful for my mother who has always supported her three children, the Kaiser surgeon who fixed my birth defect, for Pam my wife of 54 years for putting up with me all that time, and for my wife and I stumbling on two companies, both of whom helped us improve ourselves and build a career. I am particularly thankful for having been able to give back to the community and I intend to continue to do so for many years to come. I am a proud American, one who is grateful for all god and our country has provided for me.

I hope you will all join me in rejecting all that is hateful, and embrace building a better future by always concentrating on the grateful side of life.

Always Advocating Alan: Tragedies, Turmoil and Trends

| Opinion | November 22, 2017

by Alan Ferdman

Early in my aerospace career, I was tasked with evaluating field failures to determine if Corrective Action was required. We were schooled to understand, our analysis needed to go further than only addressing the obvious problem reported. We were also required to determine the “Root Cause” of the incident, and look to see if similar situations existed in other areas. It was just as important to prevent issues from occurring, in our other products, as it was to fix the problem reported.

In American society today, senseless mass killings seem to be happening more often. When firearms are used, two groups immediately raise their heads and before even knowing what happened, they propose the same old diametrically opposite solutions. One group says everyone should be armed, while the others cry, eliminate all guns. Since neither of their solutions appear preordained, I decided to dust off my old analysis skills and see what conclusions I could draw from the evidence. For my analysis, I used 3 recent tragedies.

First, on October 1st Steven Paddock opened fire from a Mandalay Bay hotel room in Las Vegas, killing 59 innocent people and wounding or causing injury to almost 500 more. Some interesting facts came to light. While his gun purchases dated back over 20 years, he had purchased 33 guns over the last 12 months. They were legal purchases, traced to eight firearms dealers in California and Nevada. Paddock had passed the required background checks for each of those purchases.

Then, only a little over a month later, on November 5, Devin Kelley killed 26 people and wounded 20 others, attending the Southerland Springs Baptist Church, in Texas. Kelley had received a bad-conduct discharge from the Air Force, 12 months confinement, and two reductions in rank, resulting from being convicted of domestic violence against his wife and child. He had purchased 4 guns in the past 4 years, 2 in Texas and two in Colorado and he passed a background check for each of those purchases.

Lastly, on November 14, Kevin Neal, went on a murderous rampage in Northern California, killing 5 and wounding several others including 2 children. Earlier this year, Neal was arrested and charged with stabbing Hailey Poland, and attacking her mother. Poland filed for a Restraining Order to protect herself and her family. Hailey also wrote the judge saying, Neal “is very unpredictable and unstable … has anger issues” and has threatened our household with a gun. Neighbors also reported to authorities, Neal was firing off guns on his property at all hours. Hailey was one of those killed.

Getting started, I’ll bet you see the obvious also. All the crimes were committed by men, all used guns as their implement of terror, and all were killed during commission of their crime by firearms. Well that closes the first section of our problem analysis. I can guarantee you, none of these 3 men will ever commit a crime again.

Yet, it does not relieve my concerns. Why, because I see a far more problematic trend. In each of these three incidents there were laws and indicators set up to protect the public which were not being effectively used.

In the first instance, Paddock passed background checks and legally purchased 33 guns in 12 months. Why didn’t this ring a bell? Try opening 33 credit cards in 12 months and watch your credit score go down the toilet. It is obvious why the bell did not ring, no one was looking at the trend data.

Next came Kelley with a conviction for Domestic Violence. He passed the background checks and obtained firearms he should not have, because, the Air Force did not enter his conviction in the appropriate data base. I’m betting his data is not the only information not properly recorded.

Lastly, Kelley who was out on bail for stabbing a woman, had a Restraining Order against him and was reported to authorities for shooting off his firearms he should not have had. It was appropriate for reporters to ask Sheriff Johnston; why police had not acted when Neal was in clear violation of his court order, and when the Sheriff answered, “The law is only for people who obey it,” the core issue was staring right back at us.

From what we know, I feel confident targeting the underlying cause as a lack of integrity, competence and accountability of some individuals, entrusted to operate and maintain resources put in place to keep the community safe. If we are ever to effectively minimize the occurrence of situations like those above, our elected officials need to monitor and hold government employees accountable. They need to discontinue the practice of just passing more laws making life more difficult and dangerous for law abiding citizens.

The only real fix will come when we demand it.

DOJ’s Assault on the First Amendment

| Opinion | November 17, 2017

by Blair Bess

Attorney General Jeff Sessions is on a roll and, it would appear, hellbent on keeping his job.

Making his best effort to please his boss and rid himself of the taint associated with his recusal from the Trump-Russia collusion investigation, he has instructed the anti-trust division of the Department of Justice to put the kibosh on AT&T’s proposed merger with Time Warner if it does not spin off Time Warner’s CNN unit. Because, as we all know, CNN is the chief culprit when it comes to purveying “fake news.”

Were this any other administration, consumer protection would be sufficient motivation for the DOJ to initiate an anti-trust investigation into this deal. Media consolidation, where a small group of companies control vast holdings, does not always yield a positive outcome for consumers. Yet, the brazen misuse of power being exercised by the president through his proxy, AG Sessions, is a blast across the bow of the ship of state. The Trump administration is launching a preemptive nuclear assault on the First Amendment.

Mr. Trump does not like the reporting CNN shares with its viewers. Or that of MSNBC. Or ABC or CBS or NBC. And let’s throw in the New York Times, Politico, and the Washington Post; and, at times, the Wall Street Journal as well. The president chooses not to hear them, read them, or recognize these news organizations. He sees them as the enemy, even as he often attempts to manipulate them to his advantage. He would prefer they be silenced because they speak truth to power. They dig deep to uncover, expose, and honestly report on the sometimes-unpleasant realities of our world; and shed light on stories whose importance is unknown to those who choose to dwell in darkness.

The only news that isn’t “fake news” for the president is that which airs on Fox News or in Breitbart, the Drudge Report, and the sundry other websites that make a point of channeling the thoughts, hate-speak, deranged philosophy, and outright lies promulgated by some of the more extreme alt right organizations currently blighting the American landscape.

The president chooses to ignore any factually-accurate, heavily sourced, well-reported stories that call into question the behavior of those surrounding him, his own missteps and misdeeds, as well as his incomprehensible agenda.

News organizations that the president targets, in this case CNN, are not perfect. They do, on occasion, make mistakes. There have been instances where their reporting has been inaccurate. The difference between these legitimate journalists and those occupying the president’s preposterously parallel universe, however, is that they are willing to own up to their gaffes when they occur; publicly apologize, or print retractions and, in some cases, dismiss editors and reporters who fail to get the story right.

Besides the aforementioned sources upon whom the president chooses to rely, it is becoming increasingly clear that many transmitting “fake news” do so unwittingly. Social media has created an international community that, in theory, is bound together by a desire to connect, to invite, to “friend,” to “like,” to share. Therein lies a danger. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo!, WikiLeaks and many more outlier websites that are emerging each day have become less obvious repositories of misinformation.

Unlike the mainstream media, there are few true fact-checkers in the far-reaching social media world; mostly, there are algorithms. There aren’t enough bodies – canine or human – to pull back the proverbial curtain and reveal for all to see that the great and powerful Oz might just be a racially-motivated social misfit, a four-hundred-pound hacker sitting on his bed, as the president would have us believe; or someone in Russia, China, North Korea, the Ukraine or, quite possibly, merely a wretched propagandist like Stephen K. Bannon.

While sites like Snopes and FactCheck.org do exist, it is up to consumers to take the initiative to uncover the veracity of the information being disseminated online. Though these organizations have a dedicated group of determined flesh-and-blood contributors in the mix, much of what is confirmed or debunked through these sites is rooted in algorithms as well.

Technology may accelerate the ability to source and gather information and check facts, but there is nothing more reliable than doing so the old-fashioned way: pick up the phone, pound the pavement, collar those in the know. Which is exactly what the free press, in all its permutations, attempts to do. And precisely what the president doesn’t want them doing.

The draconian measures the Executive Branch is attempting to employ to silence CNN through the judiciary should frighten anyone who values truth and free speech. Opinion and propaganda is not news, yet it is precisely what the president and his proxies want us to accept as reality through their efficient and unbridled use of social media. Consumer beware.

Always Advocating Alan – Santa Clarita Valley’s Ever Increasing Water Rates

| Opinion | November 16, 2017

by Alan Ferdman

It has been said, “Everything that is old is new again,” and nothing proves these words of wisdom truer than the way some of our elected officials move out to sell an unpopular project. One well used technique has been to deny something is going to happen, over and over again, until the public is used to hearing it, and then going ahead and doing it anyway. Think about it, isn’t this the way our water company merger has taken place?

It started in February 2016, when The Signal reported, “More than 100 people showed up … to participate in the first public workshop scheduled to discuss the proposed merger. …. Officials representing the valley’s water wholesaler and importer …. announced their intentions to merge.” While the majority of speakers either wanted more information, or opposed the merger outright, we were told the final decision had not been reached, and agencies were working together and would keep us informed of their progress.

By November 2016, the backroom deal had been made, and our water suppliers’ website started touting “roughly $1.62 million in savings annually, which comes largely as a result of staffing reductions over time.” Just so you understand, at each meeting I attended, the Water Board and Staff members made it clear; savings would be accomplished by employee attrition and would not result in any consumer rate decreases. So, what happened to all the benefits and savings?

Then it turns out, the merger requires a change to California Law, so California Senator Scott Wilk came to the rescue with SB634 in February 2017. An August Signal Editorial related; “Wilk wrote in an email to The Signal last April, it’s my bill, chastising this newspaper for questioning water board officials about details on policy changes, rather than asking him.”

Therefore, for the June 21, 2017 Canyon Country Advisory Committee meeting we did exactly what he asked, and invited Senator Wilk, or one of his staff, to provide a presentation on SB634 contents, and explain how the merger would benefit our valley. While his staff accepted our invitation, when the time came, they declined to attend and sent two Water Board Directors plus the Newhall Water Manager, who gave us their same song and dance. Their presentation can be seen on Youtube.
Right On SCV reported Governor Brown signing SB634 into law on October 16, 2017 paving the way for the Water Company merger to become a reality. Just days after the bill was signed, Valencia Water Company announced completing their three year “Cost of Service” analysis requiring a 13% rate increase. Not to be out done, Santa Clarita Water a division of CLWA completed their own “Cost of Service” study and wants to raise rates 16% over the next three years.

Then, Mathew Stone penned a column for The Signal where he confirmed, “proponents had been careful not to promise reductions in rates,” but failed to mention they also did not disclose the “Cost of Service” process which was going to overwhelm any predicted savings.

My take is, I have a real problem with our water companies; using revenue from my rates to buy full page ads in our local paper encouraging water conservation, paying homeowners to take out their turf to save water, supplying equipment to businesses and homeowners to save water, and when their program of conservation efforts is successful, they raise our rates to charge more money because they are selling less water. I believe public utilities, in general, have a business model directly opposite of commercial industry. When I purchase from a commercial firm, I normally pay less, if I buy more. With our public utilities, I pay a higher unit cost if I use more, and I pay a higher unit cost if I use less. Someone needs to explain how selling less water does not equate to pumping less, buying less state water, using less chemicals and less electricity, culminating in a lower overall cost.

You will have one more chance to let CLWA know how you feel about this plan. If you live within the SCWC boundaries you received a notice of the meeting, included on page 5 of a plain white paper report, in a plain white envelope. Several individuals I spoke with thought it was junk mail and discarded it. I wonder if that was the authors intent all along.

On November 20th, 6:15 PM at a Public Hearing to be held at 27234 Bouquet Canyon Road, next to Central Park. Santa Clarita Water Company customers can provide verbal testimony and written protest of SCWC proposed rate increases. I hope to see you there.

UCLA Bruins

| Opinion | November 16, 2017

by Blair Bess

Bruins fans, beware. I’m about to step into a deep pile of bear poop.

Something stinks in Westwood. Specifically, the behavior of UCLA basketball players LiAngelo Ball, Cody Riley, and Jalen Hill, who were arrested in China last week and charged with shoplifting a pair of expensive sunglasses from a Louis Vuitton store in Hangzhou. There are news reports that the three may have been involved in similar thefts at several other shops nearby.

According to LiAngelo Ball’s father, LaVar, “Everybody making it a big deal, it ain’t that big of a deal.”

I disagree.

Although first-time shoplifting offenders in California typically face misdemeanor charges and potential penalties of fines and/or time in a county jail, that’s not the case in China. Formal charges usually end up in a conviction and defendants can arbitrarily be sentenced to probation or spend years in prison. The judicial system is politicized and there are no guarantees that ordinary Chinese citizens will receive a fair trial. Guess it all depends on who you know.

Which leads us to the three Bruin bear cubs. While they may not be personally acquainted with the president of the United States, he interceded on their behalf and they were subsequently permitted to leave China and return home. If this had been your kid or my kid, President Trump would not, in all likelihood, have phoned Chinese President Xi Jinping to spring us from jail. Those calls are usually reserved for former advisors and cabinet members, family, and, on occasion, athletes who don’t take a knee.

Even if the president hadn’t done so, these wayward ballers have the might, muscle, expensive legal representation, influential alums, the Bruins Nation, and the PAC-12 seated beside them on the bench. DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!

Unlike many Chinese citizens charged with offenses of this nature, the trio did not stew in a squalid state-run jail awaiting trial. They were not sitting in a windowless cell before being released this week. They were holed up in the luxurious five-star Hyatt Regency Hotel, not the Hangzhou Hoosegow. They were never under house arrest. They were “detained.” As in detention. As in the kind of punishment meted out to wayward seventh graders.

According to some media reports, the three were even able to work out in the hotel gym, perhaps in anticipation of a return to Pauley Pavilion. Call it the home court advantage. And while they may not share misty watercolor memories of their trip to China when they’re back in Westwood, they did have a view of Hangzhou’s beautiful West Lake, room service, high-speed internet, and satellite TV. Upon which they may have watched their less-incorrigible teammates kick Georgia Tech’s butts last week in Shanghai. Without their help.

Let me be clear. I do not wish these young men ill. I didn’t want to see them do time in a Chinese prison. But I do think meaningful punishment is in order upon their return stateside.

How about this: Revoke their athletic scholarships and kick their butts off the team. Permanently. No hand slaps. No sitting it out for four or five games or even a season. Gone. Game over.

These young men have been attending a public institution to which most applicants do not gain admission. There aren’t enough places at the table for them. Because they’re just plain old, ordinary, hard-working students and not student athletes. While contributions from generous alums help subsidize the scholarships many of UCLA’s players are granted, a significant portion of their education, as well as facilities in which they study and reside, are still paid for by the citizens of the State of California. Do these wayward Bruins merit our largesse after breaking the law and causing an embarrassing international incident? I think not.

My views may seem a bit draconian to some. I beg to differ. There is a sense of entitlement among many student athletes that is, in the long run, potentially debilitating. From a very early age, these young men and women are coddled and complimented and pumped up to a degree that they begin to believe their own press: that they are untouchable, invincible, superior. We do them a disservice in perpetuating this fantasy. Yet, we continue to do so. Why? Because universities and colleges make vast sums of money off the blood, sweat, pain, suffering, and triumphs of these very same athletes.

If these young men want to play, they must play by the rules that apply to all of us, whether on the court or off. UCLA is emblazoned across their jerseys and jackets. In this case, they were representing not only their school, but all of us at home. The games our teams play overseas — exhibition, regular season, or in the Olympics — are meant to show the world the best America has to offer. These guys were neither our best nor brightest. Wrong is still wrong and bad behavior cannot go unpunished, especially when it is criminal in nature. All of us must play on a level field. In life, and under the law, we are all supposed to be equal.

I honestly feel sorry for LiAngelo, Cody, and Jalen. But being benched would be insufficient and unfair to the millions of athletes worldwide, both amateur and professional, who manage to keep their noses clean, consistently demonstrate good sportsmanship, and set a good example for their peers and their fans.

Letter to Rep. Steve Knight

| Opinion | November 16, 2017

Dear Congressman Steve,

I am a supporter of you and the good work you are doing to represent our district in Washington D.C. In fact, I was a supporter of your dad. I still have a banner on my office wall:”Pete Knight State Senator.”

I am representing, in this letter, the good people who are landowners in Bouquet Canyon, Saugus. We have an ongoing problem and we need your help.

In 1937, when the Bouquet Reservoir was built, it was agreed upon for the dam to release annual rainfall from the lake to the property owners below, based upon the measured rainfall for that year. This was dutifully done until about 10 years ago. Then the water was released based on the ability of the flow, not to overflow across Bouquet Canyon Road caused by the lack of maintenance of the creek bed. As you know, many of your constituents live in the Antelope Valley. Many use Bouquet Canyon Road and Vasquez Canyon Road as the main artery in commuting to their jobs in the Santa Clarita Valley. There is a high accident rate on these roads.

For the past 10 years many, many wells have run dry. When I bought my acreage in 1973, the water table was at 5 feet. Now it is at 90 feet in depth. Bouquet Creek used to run year around. Now the only runoff is from a passing rain.

The Forest Service tried closing the road for six months, which left many people in Green Valley with difficult access to the Santa Clarita Valley, as well as stranding the good people of Bouquet Canyon, since Vasquez Canyon Road was also closed due to a landslide. This stopped the numerous accidents from happening, but did not solve the problem.

The problem is the lack of maintenance of the creek by the Forest Service. When I first bought my property in 1973, we took our families camping in Bouquet Canyon (and there was) fishing of planted trout. The Lions Club had a great park for blind kids, which now has been abandoned and is in disrepair. The Canyon is now full of graffiti and dumped trash in the river.

We have explored all the state and county agencies such as Fish and Game, DWP, Forest Service, a 530-page environmental impact report and other State of California agencies, to no avail. All we get is “buck passing”! The usual response is that we cannot disturb the habitat of the three-spined stickleback fish. The ultimate dichotomy is when a representative from Fish and Game stated two years ago at our meeting that the creek contained the WRONG stickleback fish and they would need to remove it and replace it with the correct fish.

We believe this is a federal responsibility, since the Bouquet Lake sits on federal land administered by the Department of Forestry under the Department of the Interior. Under President Trump’s administration, we understand that it is a take-charge person, Mr.Zinke, who is in control and is making many positive changes. We hope with your input he might give attention to our problem.

We know that this is a year in which you are seeking reelection. Most of us, I believe, are firmly in support of your policies. I myself have the 4×8 banners in the front of my ranch in your support at election time, as well as monetary support for your campaign.

You need us, we need you. Can we work together to make this right? Many thanks!

Roy G. Marson

The House of Representatives’ Tax Plan

| Opinion | November 16, 2017

by Rick Drew

I’m not thinking that the House of Representatives’ new tax plan is going to cut taxes for many middle class families as advertised. This new plan says that it is going to be simpler and provide the “biggest” tax cuts in history. In this plan the standard deduction will be doubled, providing single filers $12,000 and joint filers a $24,000 deduction from their taxable income. The Child Tax Credit will be increased from $1,000 to $1,600 for each child under 17 years of age.

Over the past many years, taxpayers have been eligible for the “Personal Exemption” credit of $4,050 for each dependent on the 2016 tax return. This credit would reduce a family of five’s income by $20,250. This exemption credit is to be eliminated, thus increasing a family’s income by $20,250. The credit for state taxes paid will be eliminated. The Medical Expense credit will be eliminated, though most taxpayers cannot take this credit because it was for expenses over 10 percent of the adjusted gross income. Many education credits, such as the American Opportunity credit and the Qualified Tuition credit will be eliminated. Credit for alimony paid is to be eliminated and could cause issues for divorcing couples. The moving expense deduction for those that relocate more than 50 miles from their previous jobs is also being done away with, just to name a few changes.

I have been preparing income taxes for the past 25 years. I compared three of my client families’ 2016 tax returns and then I applied the new plan’s changes to each return.

The first family has a joint income of $67,288. Dad works and mom doesn’t work outside the home. They have three dependent children, two of which are eligible for the child tax credit. The couple owns a nice single-family home with a mortgage. Comparing their 2016 tax return as it was, then changing the figures to reflect the proposed new tax plan. This dad and mom would have to pay $1,530 more in federal income tax. That’s going to hurt.

The second tax return I worked with was for a married couple in their early 40s. Dad and mom have three dependent children, none of whom are eligible for the child tax credit, due to income limitations. They own a single-family home with a mortgage. Their joint income is $143,942. Comparing the figures on their 2016 tax return as it was, then changing them to reflect the new tax plan, the results would increase their federal income tax by $5,082. Ouch!!!

The third comparison is for a married senior couple with no dependents. They are retired and have pensions, social security and some other earned income. They own their home with a mortgage. Their 2016 tax return showed an adjusted gross income of $93,512. After applying the proposed changes, the difference in their income tax is a savings of $128. Whoopee.

All of my example families are middle class Americans just trying to live the American Dream. This proposed tax plan seems to be targeting businesses and the wealthy. I do not envision this plan helping the American “]middle class family as it has been proposed. I hope that this current plan will not pass and a fairer plan will be developed. If it passes in some form or another, it will not take effect until 2018. So all taxpayers have at least one more year before major tax changes might take effect.

Rick Drew is a CTEC Registered Tax Preparer.

The Emperor Has no Clothes

| Opinion | November 10, 2017

by Blair Bess

Someone needs to cloak Mr. Trump in a copy of the Constitution. The emperor clearly needs new clothes.

Whether one agrees with the president’s political philosophy – or lack thereof – Republican and Democratic leaders must remind him that the Constitution provides for the separation of powers: the Executive Branch, the Judicial, and the Legislative. All three branches of our government have clearly defined responsibilities. The president can’t or refuses to comprehend this, which is a bit disturbing, as he swore an oath that he would, to the best of his ability, “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States of America.” It appears the president’s best isn’t good enough.

The president believes the American judicial system is a “laughingstock” because he cannot bend it to his will. During an interview last week, President Trump said, “The saddest thing is that, because I’m the president of the United States, I am not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. I’m not supposed to be involved with the FBI. I’m not supposed to be doing the kinds of things that I would love to be doing and I’m very frustrated by it.”

That’s right, Mr. President, you’re not supposed to be involved with the Justice Department. It’s a separate branch of government. Article III of the Constitution trumps all. No matter how much you would love to, you’re not supposed to interfere with criminal investigations, including those that uncover illegal activities committed by members of your administration, your advisors, or your family. You are not supposed to weigh in on sentencing guidelines – be they military or civil – and proclaim that former Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl or New York City terror suspect Sayfullo Saipov be put to death for their actions; interference that quite possibly influenced a military judge’s disposition of the Bergdahl case and could potentially do the same when it comes to your own Justice Department’s ability to try or sentence Saipov. And, most importantly, you are not supposed to obstruct justice.

The United States of America is not a monarchy, Mr. President. Our government is not a private-sector organization over which you wield total control. You were elected president, not emperor. Sorry to hear of your frustration, but that’s just the way democracy works. The American colonies revolted against a monarch to form a more perfect union. Our Founding Fathers had direct knowledge of oppression and authoritarianism, thus the Constitution was crafted in such a manner as to ensure that the people of this nation would never again be subjected to the whims of a tyrant. Or wannabe tyrants, for that matter.

Some of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court, including one appointed by the president, have been or are originalists who believe the Constitution is not a fluid document, that it should remain stable as written and not deviate from its original intent or interpretation. These include the late Justice Antonin Scalia, his replacement, Justice Neil Gorsuch, and Justice Clarence Thomas. And it’s not just a conservative opinion. The very liberal justice, the late Hugo Black, held this belief.
It is the mission of The Federalist Society, an organization that wields tremendous influence among Republican conservatives, to populate the entire American justice system with originalists, if possible. The society has made originalism one of the cornerstones of its existence. Hence, Mr. President, you are in direct conflict with the philosophy of the same lawyers and legal scholars who are guiding you in the selection of your present and future appointments. Presidential meddling or tampering with the way our judicial institutions operate is in direct conflict with their core beliefs. And it goes against the grain of any American who holds dear our basic constitutional rights and freedoms.

In his fascinating, but disturbing, book “On Tyranny,” Yale University professor Timothy Snyder notes that it is a mistake “to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions – even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do.”

Draining the swamp is one thing. Trampling on the Constitution is another. Snyder writes that institutions fall, one after the other, unless each is protected from the beginning. It is our duty and in our own best interests to stand up to tyrants, no matter what our political affiliation or persuasion. We the people and our leaders must recognize this if the great American Experiment is to last beyond the decade.

Money is King

| Opinion | November 9, 2017

by Betty Arenson

Big money is married to a number of things and Major League Baseball and the National Football League are two of the spouses. Considering the recent news coverage of events surrounding these two professional sports entities, shame is as non-existent as is enforcing rules, and common decency.

Breaking rules, breaking laws and acting uncivil all be damned. It’s about let-them-keep playing no matter what and keep the money rolling in.

One would think that the commissioners of these two bodies would be authoritative figures, however their actions present them as mere figureheads; specifically MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

The kneeling controversy need not be detailed here; we’ve all seen it. The bigger issue is the NFL’s own rule: “The National Anthem must be played prior to every NFL game, and all players must be on the sidelines for the National Anthem.
“During the National Anthem, players on the filed and bench area should stand at attention, face the flag hold helmets in their left hand and refrain from talking. The home team should ensure that the American flag is in good condition…

“It should be pointed out to the players and coaches that we continue to be judged by the public in this area of respect for the flag and our country. Failure to be on the field by the start of the National Anthem may result in discipline, such as fines, suspension, and or the forfeiture of draft choice(s) for violations of the above, including first offenses.”

Goodell refused to act as the responsible leader. Instead he offered: “It is an important moment in our game … the controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players.”

That’s a bunch of words and no meat.

The no-shame displayed by NFL’s players’/employees’ criminal activities would be detrimental to Average Joe America. The San Diego (team) lists 656 NFL arrests from 2000 to mid-May 2014 … over three years ago.

Michael Vick was imprisoned for running a lucrative dog fighting business. Defenseless little dogs were used as bait for fighter dogs. Dogs were tortured, electrocuted and physically ripped to shreds. Considering the massive abuse for the pure gain of more wealth, Vic lost his pampered lifestyle for 23 months behind bars. No problem, the Philadelphia Eagles were eager to sign him up in 2009 for a $100 million-six-year contract with a guarantee of nearly $40 million.

Adam “Pacman” Jones has reportedly been suspended from the NFL six times but always returns. His list of legal issues includes fighting, assault and selling drugs, but the Bengals are happy having him in spite of each and every new arrest with a (2016) three-year $22 million contract and a $2 million signing fee. He’ll need that to help pay for that $11 million court-ordered judgment to shooting victims arising out of a Las Vegas escapade.

Marshawn Lynch has multiple arrests under his belt including illegal gun charges. He was involved in a hit and run injury to another person and got off with a $100 fine. He presently has a two-year $9 million contract with the Oakland Raiders.

As for common decency, in the third game of the present World Series, Houston Astro player, Yuli Gurriel, a Cuban, made a racist gesture about L.A. Dodgers pitcher, Yo Darvish. Along with that, he spoke the word “chinito,” Spanish for Chinese boy. Aside from the overt racism, Gurriel is doubly ignorant, as Darvish is of Japanese and Iranian descent.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred ordered a five-game, unpaid suspension for Gurriel—next year; not now, with the foul deed. Such a racist act by another person at another time and place would have caused people marching in the streets calling for heads and resignations.

Effective and due punishment would have been immediately removing Gurriel out of the series. Instead, Gurriel will be a tad inconvenienced with resting on the bench and simply enjoying his already-garnered other millions.

All is well and the games will go on.

Always Advocating Alan – Terror Strikes Again. Are You Ready to Protect Yourself?

| Opinion | November 9, 2017

When I arrived home Sunday afternoon, I had a good idea what I would write about this week. Then, I turned on the television, and was informed of the 26 innocent souls who perished, plus 20 wounded, as a result of the shooting at the First Baptist Church in Southerland Springs, Texas. At the end of this horrific crime, an armed community member, who witnessed the shooting, engaged the shooter, Devin Patrick Kelley, in a gunfight. As a result, Kelley dropped his weapon and fled the scene. The community member pursued Kelley, ending with Kelley’s car crashing off the road. Kelley was found dead when law enforcement arrived.

Everything predictable then transpired. As they should, politicians offered their condolences and spoke of their promise to help the victims and consoled the public by assuring us; terror will not break our resolve to live in a free and open society. Then came the gun rights advocates, calling for additional gun control including enhanced background checks, even before we know where the guns and ammunition were acquired, and if the additional controls would have prevented the tragedy. Yet the surprise came from local Clergy, who rightfully blamed the evil in a person’s heart, as opposed to the gun in their hand, for the tragedy. But lastly, came the news personalities trying to determine the underlying psychological reasons for a person to do such a thing and asking; how can we prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future? I don’t know about you, but I am dismayed when I have to listen to this same old babble.

Every month at the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, I kick off the meeting with an example of a regular citizen who unexpectedly becomes involved in an unusually dangerous situation, and rises to the occasion by performing an extraordinary act of courage. I end the narrative by saying “It shows, there are heroes all around us” and how important it is for us to always be aware of our surroundings. In this case, the unnamed armed community member most certainly fits the category of hero.

When I start to compare terrorist incidents in the recent past, there are similarities which should not be ignored. First, terrorists have an arsenal of weapons to use. These individuals of evil have used guns, knives, cars, trucks, planes, and bombs. A rush to change laws has not, and will not, prevent these tragedies, because laws do not keep crimes from occurring. If laws would prevent crime, there would be no murder, burglary, or assault, because there are already laws which prohibit an individual from committing those acts. What prevents individuals from perpetrating crimes, is the consequence of being caught. So, if our citizens are not afforded the ability to protect themselves, if the consequence is minimized by law enforcement not being able to incarcerate criminals, or the courts hand out “hand slaps” rather than realistic sentences, individuals who would be criminals, have no incentive to behave. Too often, we read about an individual who murdered an innocent person and had a long list of arrests, plus possibly being convicted of violent crimes in the past. Maybe, they are out on bail or released on a technicality. Our justice system does not seem to be getting the job done, and putting more restrictions on law abiding citizens does not fix any part of the problem.

Second, terrorists always choose to attack “soft targets”. Why, because there is nothing to physically stop them from committing a crime. Unfortunately, as a society we tend to provide criminals easy access to those most vulnerable. I find it unbelievable, when one of our brainless elected officials push for “gun free zones”. Do these lawmakers really think criminals will stop in their tracks, and not attack an area because it is a “gun free zone”, or do you think it might make it easy pickings? I find it even more absurd, when a company employee stops a crime from occurring or protects themselves and gets fired for their effort, proving no good deed goes unpunished. As a country we need to find ways to eliminate soft targets. Since statistically, we are not likely to be caught in a terrorist situation, most of us do not consider what it would be like to be confronted by the reality we are in danger and have no way to defend ourselves. As a Department Manager, I was in an active shooter situation years ago. We were on the second floor in the rear of the building. I was told there was a shooting in the front lobby. Of course, we had no way of knowing where the shooter was, or what he intended to do. I gathered my group together and since there was no place to hide, I ushered them down the back stairs, out of the building and off the plant grounds. Fortunately, everything turned out OK, but I remember the stress of making a decision which potentially could have been disastrous if we had run into the shooter.

I see nothing wrong with issuing Concealed Carry Permits, because applicants are finger printed, subjected to a comprehensive background check, receive instruction on the law regarding when the use of deadly force is warranted, have to show proficiency with their firearm, and the permit requires periodic recertification. You may not want to assume the responsibility to carry a weapon, and I can respect your opinion, but it should not prohibit others from making the choice to be prepared to protect their family should the need arise.

Lastly, there are those who believe the police will protect us. Unfortunately, it is not a realistic expectation. The police cannot be everywhere 24/7. Our legal system tasks law enforcement with arresting those who commit crimes. Every citizen needs to understand “When Seconds Count the Police are Minutes Away” and when they arrive they will be there to write the report.

On this Sunday evening, we know Devin Kelley, was 26 years old, was in the Air Force, was convicted of assaulting his wife and small child, spent 12 months in the “Brig” and received a Bad Conduct Discharge. By the time you read this at the end of the week we will know a lot more. Yet, there is one thing that will not change. Each of us needs to constantly be aware of what is going on around us, and be ready to do what is necessary when danger crosses our path.

A High Schooler’s POV

| Opinion | November 9, 2017

by Analyn May

You know when you’re super excited about a new article idea, and your topic is political correctness, and then you sit down to the paper and see that someone’s already beat you to it?

Yeah, that happened to me today. Hey, at least it was a good article, even if it was a bit … harsher than I would’ve worded it. (Then again, given the topic, maybe that was an appropriate tone.) Perhaps I’ll still do a similar article in the future, but for now, I don’t want to feel like a copycat. So, with all that said, today’s column is going to be a little different. The holiday season is upon us, and thus, so is the time for giving gifts! Yet, while the exchange of presents should be a celebrated occasion, for many it’s also a big source of stress. So, instead of trying to show you my perspective on a political issue, today I’ll be showing you a high schooler’s point of view on gift-giving!

To kick things off, let’s talk about the timing of this article. Depending on who you ask, it might be too early for Christmas cookies or carols, but it’s definitely not too early to start shopping for gifts. Now, if you’re anything like me, you probably wait until the last minute to buy gifts, whether it’s due to laziness or forgetfulness. Well, this year, don’t! At least figure out exactly what you’re going to buy for each person on your list so that when the last-minute shopping begins you don’t end up buying a $10 Starbucks gift card for every person.

On that note, while gift cards are fine for acquaintances or co-workers, you’re going to want the presents you give to family and friends to be a bit more personalized. You probably already know this, but (it’s a good idea to) make/buy a gift that specifically caters to the wants, needs or interests of the person you’re giving it to. This tells the person you care about them enough to know what they like.

Not personalized enough for you? Add a card! Buying a card is fine, but choose one with enough blank space so that you can write your own message to the intended recipient. Don’t know what to write? Try something along these lines: Dear {name}, {holiday greeting!} I {like/love/appreciate} you so much. It makes me happy every time you {something they do for you}, and I smile whenever you get excited over {something they like, even if you’re not personally into it.} I can’t wait to spend more time with you! Love, {your name OR a reference to an inside joke.} Boom! Short, sweet, and personalized. I just saved your life. You can thank me with a check.

Finally, the obligatory good-deeds portion of the article. Here’s the thing: You don’t need to be pressured into donating to every charity mailer you get this year (in fact, you probably shouldn’t). But it is good to give something back. So, here’s my suggestion: Choose a charity that means the most to you. It doesn’t HAVE to be for the starving kids in Africa or the war on cancer, although obviously, both of those are good causes. But if you love animals, there’s nothing wrong with giving your donation to your local shelter. Or even to a family friend who’s looking for a job and really needs some cash to get by while they do. Problems don’t have to be wide-scale or life-threatening in order to be worth solving. If you would rather donate your money somewhere where you can actually see the good works it’ll do, that’s okay! Just do something. And if you ARE that friend who’s searching for a job and really don’t have any cash to spare — donate kindness or talent. Work an hour or two at the soup kitchen. Compliment your barista. Give patience to someone who doesn’t deserve it. Spreading holiday cheer doesn’t have to be financial!

I think I’ve gone on long enough, so I’ll start wrapping up. And hey, you know what? To prove I’m not a hypocrite, I’ll donate all the money from this particular article to Heifer International. You can have Mr. Sutton hold me accountable. Merry Christmas and happy holidays, everyone! Until next time, this is Analyn May, signing off.

The Corruption Iceberg is Melting

| Opinion | November 4, 2017

by Joe Messina

As we now know, Facebook is the ONLY source for real news, (and) I see post after post claiming there is nothing to see on the Hillary-Obama-Russia stories. No matter what you hear or see, Trump did it. PERIOD!

Let’s just say there is something after one year of looking. Suppose we find out Trump called Putin and said, “Got some dirt I can use?” Is that collusion or opposition research? Paying for information from your campaign against the other guy is legal. The party you are running with paying for information against the other guy, also legal. Spending 15-20 minutes meeting with a Russian to find out if they have anything on the other guy … also legal, unless you ask a Democrat about a Republican doing it, then it’s an impeachable offense.

When Democrats do all of that and more, when close personal connections of the candidate ask Russians to help them and go out of their way not to report that they paid a “certain” organization on their federal reporting forms, Dems tell us it’s completely legal. But it’s not! It’s illegal! Remember that secret file that former FBI Director James Comey got on Trump, but decided not to verify its contents on his own? A veteran FBI official didn’t verify information, then hastily asked for a special prosecutor without a shred of real evidence. Can you imagine if we did this to Obama or Hillary?

It seems like nothing the left does is against the law, nothing. Obama didn’t break one law. He didn’t step on one word of the Constitution. Apparently, he was just shy of godhood! Then the Facebook legal expert (wannabes) write about how almost every breath Trump takes is a violation of the Constitution. Unreal! Yet not a negative word about Mrs. Clinton from those who drank the Clinton Kool-Aid.

The Harvey Weinstein issue is further proof of what I’m saying. You now have many men in Hollywood, along with Weinstein, being accused of sexually assaulting women and underage children. Actually assaulting, and in some cases, raping them! However, according to their ongoing lack of outrage calling for the firing and imprisonment of many of these people, I missed the news stories about the relentless calls to step down, have an investigation, and be jailed. I missed all the tweets from the Hollywood elites calling Ben Affleck, George Clooney and others pigs. Nope. I haven’t seen those stories AND we will never see them, because they are above the law.

But when it came to Donald Trump, simply talking about what he perceives he could get away with, well, that was a national tragedy. That man had no business running for president. He is the scum of the universe! Were these kinds of things said about the Hollywood elites or even Mr. Anthony Weiner? Nope. The double-standard is frightening!

Hillary Clinton perceives herself in “the law doesn’t apply to me” class. She never seems to know anything either. Nothing about the email server. Nothing about the millions of dollars that left her campaign and paid for the information to bury Trump. If we look to dig up dirt on Democrats with the Russians, it’s called “collusion.” If Democrats do it with bigger dollars and more tenacity, it’s called “opposition research.”

It’s never been about equality, my friends. It’s always been about them having control over us. You don’t have to look any closer than California. Look at the laws they are passing on food regulation, parenting, education, immigration, cap and trade. There aren’t any limitations because the Democrats have total control of the state legislature.

The games they play to protect the guilty. No notes were available for the “accidental” meeting of then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Bill Clinton. FBI said they had none, then they were suddenly found, thousands of emails from Hillary’s server found on internal computers, on Wiener’s computer, and more. I could list 30 pages of how the Dems have worked to cover up the corruption of the Obama/Clinton Syndicate, but you already know what they are, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on. Mark my words, like the Weinstein/Hollywood story … this is just the tip of the iceberg!

The Dangers of Political Correctness

| Opinion | November 4, 2017

by Steve Cook

Political Correctness is the bane of my existence. And whether you realize it or not, yours too. It’s cowardly and allows (encourages!) people to avoid saying exactly what they mean. We’re at a pivotal point in America where people are actually afraid to say what they believe. We’ve become a self-censoring population, being socially engineered out of our free speech! Like modern witch trials, one can be shunned or have a career ruined for simply using what were once standard words.

This sad realization first began growing in me back when I first heard the concept of “hate speech,” which I believe led to the invention of “hate crimes.” Sure, people can say some stupid and hurtful things at times, but doesn’t that say more about the speaker than the listener?
So it’s a hate crime if some jerk hates me as he’s beating me to a pulp with a tire iron just because I’m homosexual or straight or black or white? Seems like the beating itself would be enough of a crime, doesn’t it? But now, the bad guy is being judged on what he’s thinking as well. That’s a thought crime, bud, and it’s right out of Orwell’s classic “1984.” Sadly, it’s also right out of America today.
The hate speech part of it is intended to cause people to cower in fear — to train us away from using certain words … to eventually stop us from even forming our own thoughts. To self-edit.

If you’ve ever found yourself feeling, “I’d love to say that, but maybe I shouldn’t,” you’ve just created a bubble of freedom-killing totalitarianism around yourself!

Without exercising the freedom we still have to say exactly what we think, we become easy targets for the control-obsessed of the world.

Or how about the whole “person” thing? Since when is a man not a man or a woman a woman? (And please don’t go telling me about Bruce Jenner! No matter what he calls himself or names himself, the hormones he injects, how he dresses or mutilates his body, he’ll never be able to change his chromosomes and will always be male!) But, reality doesn’t seem to matter these days. For goodness sakes, Bruce became “Woman of the Year” for some magazine! Come on … there must have been an actual woman available.

Now, personhood has been foisted upon us, no matter the gender. (And yes, it’s gender; “sex” is a verb.) So, we’re stuck with personhood (formerly womanhood or manhood), persons (we used to be “people”), and other assorted blurrings of reality. Is this what they call “diversity & inclusion”? Forget diversity & inclusion! Instead, pay attention to what all men & women have in common, not the differences.

Speaking of verbiage, how about that term, “N-word”? I write this with the understanding that you know full-well what that “N” means in this case. Otherwise, no one would use that term, because it would mean nothing. But since we all know is what it actually means, why the wordplay?

“N-word” morphed from the word “negro,” which, with a Southern drawl becomes “nigra.” From there, it was a short, lazy step to the epithet that became, well … the “N-word.” (I’m avoiding use of the actual word only to save the Santa Clarita Gazette potential grief from some offended mental midget.)

The term is with us because social engineers want a PC stand-in for the actual crude word. So now we can all happily use the term, guilt free, and still insult people in the best of company! And you think you’re not subject to thought control?

Language, folks, is our primary tool of thought and communication, and to control language through political correctness is to control that thought. When you control thought, you control the people.

Are we afraid of legal repercussions? There’s a perfect quote that applies here, from the early 1900s, from when a guy named John Basil Barnhill was debating a socialist: “Where people fear their government, you have tyranny; where the government fears the people, you have liberty.” I prefer liberty.

A few years ago, when commuting by Metrolink, I began seeing posters on the trains, reading “If you see something, say something” with a close-up image of a man or woman’s face peering off to the side suspiciously.

It was chilling. Are we to spy on each other now? Are we expected to slip a note to the cops and “report” people we know for the crime of (heaven forbid!) speaking a bad thought? Everybody watching everybody? Please don’t let the PC police turn us all into spies, watching each other and waiting for a slip of the lip if we utter a “wrong” word.

It’s really quite simple. Just say what you mean, but mean what you say. Until then, we’ll never understand each other.

Less than 10 years from now, when 2026 rolls around, it will have been 250 years since our country declared its independence and told a British king to take a hike. On that quarter-millennium milestone, I plan on still being free. How about you?

A High Schooler’s POV

| Opinion | November 3, 2017

by Analyn May

If I told you that the internet was filled with violence, drugs, and extremely questionable morals, you wouldn’t be in shock at my claim. In fact, you would probably agree with me. You might even tell me that it’s such a prevalent problem that I could write an entire article on it. And I could. But here’s the thing: I don’t need to. You already know how awful the internet can be, unless you’re living under a rock (in which case, I urge you, don’t change your address. You’ll be better off). Instead, today I’m going to look at why there’s so much horrible media, and attempt to find a solution to at least alleviate some of the damage. I know hundreds before me have already tried, but there’s no harm in my making an attempt.

So, what do we know about the internet? Well, obviously, revenue is the biggest driving force for any kind of media— money makes the world go round. So logic states that if horrible media (of any kind) keeps being produced, it’s because it’s making money. Fair enough, but how do you stop something from making money? Say you find a youtube video that uses inappropriate racial slurs. Upset, you leave a dislike and an angry comment on the video, then post on Facebook to spread awareness. You’ve done all you can do, right? Wrong. The most likely outcome of your actions, no matter how well-intentioned, is that you just made that awful YouTuber an extra wad of cash. And if you aren’t already aware, this is how.

Most monetized YouTubers make their money from advertisements that play before their videos. Advertising companies pay YouTube to get their ads online, those ads are placed before videos, and then the content creators are paid for having helped YouTube fill its advertising quota. The amount of money depends on how many people view the ad — in other words, the more views a video gets, the more money the creator receives. This isn’t an exact science (you can look up exactly how it works online), but it’s a simple concept that the more popular a YouTuber is, the more money they make.

But if that’s the case, shouldn’t your angry Facebook post have harmed the YouTuber in question? Unfortunately, no. When people see your post, they’ll do one of two things: find the video you’re talking about so they can shame it too, or simply ignore it altogether, which makes your post irrelevant in the first place. In other words, you’re either helping the YouTuber by earning them more views (and therefore more money), or your Facebook friends chose to ignore a video which they would have ignored anyway. It’d be a rare circumstance that someone who was planning on watching the video, but hadn’t yet seen your post in time, then chose NOT to watch it. And about that dislike and the flaming comment you left? Sorry to say, but they have zero impact on the YouTuber’s revenue.

So, what are you supposed to do? Do nothing and let them get away with it? This may come as a surprise to you, but unfortunately … yes. Clicking away from a video as soon as you realize it’s bad, and simply leaving it at that, is the best possible thing you can do to prevent worsening the problem.

“Leave the video alone? But that’s HARD!” I hear you mentally yelling at me. I know, it is hard. That’s why awful media is so prevalent: Everyone who doesn’t like it feels the need to say something about it, and that’s only feeding it more attention, which makes the problem worse. You know how, earlier, I said anyone who was living under a rock should stay there? I meant it. Believe it or not, in the case of social media, those people are the key to the solution. If enough people start ignoring all the disturbing content on the internet, the problem will drastically diminish. It’s an unlikely scenario, but all you can do is play your part. (Notice how I didn’t use any specific examples of disturbing media in this article? None of you have anything negative to google — and give views to — once you put down the paper.)

Of course, that’s just my POV. Until next time, this is Analyn May, signing off.

Whitefish Caught in the Net

| Opinion | November 3, 2017

By Blair Bess

Backroom wrangling over financial transactions between government agencies and big business is not unheard of. It is, however, suspect when it involves “no-bid” contracts.

Such deals are pretty straightforward: “Our city, state … island … has a job that needs to be done. Tell us how much it will cost and we’ll sign a contract to let you do it.”

Yet arrangements of this nature are also questionable.

Which leads to how a fledgling company based in Whitefish, Montana could have been awarded a contract to restore power to the island of Puerto Rico, some 3,400 miles away. After an uproar that lasted for nearly a week, the contract was pulled this past Sunday. Questionable aspects of the transaction had arisen and remain.

According to the publication Caribbean Business, the deal between the government-owned Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, or PREPA, and two-year old Whitefish Energy was made prior to Hurricane Maria hitting the island — as in, before the island was decimated.

Last week, The Washington Post reported that Whitefish Energy’s CEO Andy Techmanski said he and representatives of PREPA discussed “what if” scenarios for recovery two weeks before the disaster was even a gleam in the hurricane’s eye. While it’s highly unlikely that the formerly two-person Whitefish Energy company or PREPA relied on crystal balls in their decision-making process, one must wonder how this arrangement materialized in the first place.

How did a company that, according to the Post, maintained a nominal staff of two in Montana, whose only prior experience was replacing a metal pole structure and splicing three miles of conductor and overhead ground wire and a separate deal to replace and upgrade less than five miles of transmission line in Arizona, win a $300 million no-bid contract in Puerto Rico? Especially when less-costly options overseen by more experienced contractors were available through the same type of mutual aid program successfully employed in Texas and Florida in the aftermath of recent hurricanes there. Yet PREPA chose beforehand not to request outside help because a deal had already been in place. Why?

According to the industry trade publication Utility Dive, the contract stipulated that government agencies couldn’t review the project’s finances. They also reported the agreement stated that Puerto Rico couldn’t make a claim against Whitefish for work delays or completion.
Sounds fishy. Whitefishy.
Here’s another good one. The New York Times reported last week that PREPA “represents and warrants that FEMA” approved the deal. Not so, said FEMA. In fact, FEMA said they had “significant concerns” about PREPA’s contract with Whitefish.

Hints of impropriety are not in the best interests of a government that had been called into question over the island’s financial mismanagement even before Maria. Given that FEMA normally helps pay for storm recovery with taxpayer money, this not-so-little boondoggle between Mr. Techmanski and PREPA’s executive director Ricardo Ramos could have left both the utility company and the people of Puerto Rico shortchanged and further in the dark, should FEMA have decided it wouldn’t reimburse expenses. It’s ludicrous to believe these gentlemen couldn’t anticipate that others might perceive their actions to be ignorant at best, or corrupt at worst.

Many people, both in and outside the media, have also pointed out that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke lives in the city of Whitefish. There’s no reason to assume, of course, that Sec. Zinke had anything to do with the contract between Whitefish Energy and PREPA. Whitefish is a small town of about 7,300 people. Everybody probably knows everybody enough to say “howdy.” And even though Sec. Zinke’s son once worked for Whitefish Energy, immediate conclusions should not be drawn.

Mr. Techmanski might very well have mentioned in passing to Mr. Ramos that he “knew” Sec. Zinke and that his son worked for him one summer. It may very well have been as benign as that. Maybe. It remains to be seen. But with allegations of travel abuses both before and after taking office, the secretary cannot afford to be tainted by even an iota of impropriety.

Let’s focus, however, on the reality of day-to-day life for the 3.4 million Americans living in Puerto Rico. Supplies and water are still short. Homes remain destroyed. Many roads are impassable. Recovery efforts are unsatisfactory, at best. And it is becoming increasingly clear to government officials that a few people were trying to rake in a lot of our tax dollars by profiteering from a humanitarian crisis in the making. The whole thing smells worse than month-old whitefish.

Always Advocating Alan: As Halloween Goes, So Goes the Nation

| Opinion | November 3, 2017

by Alan Ferdman 

With the holiday season starting, many of our thoughts go to where we will be on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas. Yet, I think there is nothing more fun than starting the season with the celebration of Halloween. I am not a person who spends weeks decorating my house or coming up with a new scary costume. I just take great pleasure in watching all the proud parents taking their children out trick-or-treating, while I get to give each one a holiday treat.

I don’t remember celebrating Halloween during my grammar school years in New York; it became an important event after moving to Santa Clarita. The first place I lived in California was hilly, and very few kids chose to trick-or-treat. When I was a little older, my neighborhood friends and I would go to a flat area in North Hollywood to pursue our candy-gathering ritual. And later, we were lucky enough to have one of our parents drive us to Toluca Lake (including Bob Hope’s house), where one of his staff would be out front treating us to a half dollar. That was a very big deal back then.

But, I never dreamed, or experienced, anything like it was when I moved to Santa Clarita. We were a small community of Saugus, Newhall and Castaic with a total population of less than 50,000. Halloween was a really big deal here. Almost every house on our block was lit up, ready for an evening of giving out candy, and parents would drive carloads of children all around our community. Halloween seemed to get bigger every year and I regularly ran out of candy before the night was over.

So, I developed a plan to determine just how many little visitors to expect. I would buy boxes of 100 individually wrapped “Double Bubble” gum and give one, plus a treat, to each trick-or-treater. At the height of my survey, my wife Pam and I had 350 young Halloween guests.

But then, things started to change. The newspapers started to spread the word about some “idiots” who were contaminating their candy by inserting sharp objects with the intent of injuring the children. Newspapers and the radio advised parents to take their children’s candy to police stations to x-ray their bounty to ensure it was safe, and we were advised to only give out individually wrapped hard candy. Some parents were simply throwing out the children’s candy at the end of the evening, and replacing it with a bag full of their own.

Next came stories of children being molested or abducted on Halloween night. Parents were now advised to never let youngsters go trick-or-treating alone and never let them out of their sight. It is important to keep our children and grandchildren safe, but at the same time, I am sad we have come to a point of having to be overly cautious and fearful.

The number of children trick-or-treating has continually declined. I switched from counting with boxes of 100 items to one box of Tootsie Pops, and giving two to each child, plus a treat. Almost no houses on my block are lit up on Halloween and I am lucky to get 50 costumed kids each year. Yet, it makes me smile and feel really great when I hand out candy to a child whose parents were trick-or-treaters at my house back in their day.

Santa Clarita is still family-friendly. There are some fascinating Halloween events here, which I came to see when three years ago my wife and I were invited to be judges at the Newhall Community Center’s Halloween Fiesta, which includes a costume and pumpkin decorating contest. The event is sponsored by the City of Santa Clarita and the Santa Clarita Sunrise Rotary. At 6:00 p.m. contestants lined up outside the center waiting to receive their pumpkin and begin decorating. The judges wandered around the room to find the best costumes in the three age groups of: 0-5, 6-9 and 10 and up. There are so many great costumes — it was not an easy job. Popcorn was provided and at 6:30 the doors opened, allowing the visitors to go through the Community Center’s Haunted House. Then, for after completing their decorating, there were also outside activities, including a jump house.

By 7 p.m. the judges had determined the best in class and at 7:15 winners were announced and called up to the stage for well-deserved recognition. Pictures of the contest winners were taken with the judges and they were guided off to select a prize at “Gift Central,” which was hosted by a member of the Salvation Army.

This event is particularly special because of the more than 500 children participating, the exceptional organizational skills of the Community Center’s staff and teenage volunteers, plus labor supplied by Sunrise Rotary. My wife and I returned for a third year of volunteering as judges, along with the second year Judge Andrew Taban and our newest judges, Nick Ventura and Debbie and Ken Chase. We had a great time, and I am hoping all the judges will return next year.

If you are looking for a truly family-friendly event next Halloween season, consider the Newhall Halloween Fiesta at the Newhall Community Center. It is an event which makes me proud to live in the City of Santa Clarita.

Redox Signaling to Promote Healing

| Opinion | November 3, 2017

by Paul Jacques

People have been searching for answers to personal health challenges forever, and medical science has found answers to these questions that I believe can change the health of the entire world.

So, why do people get sicker as they continue to age? Tens of millions of our cells are breaking down every day from aging, environmental toxins, stress, poor food choices, viruses and bacteria. When we have too many broken cells with poor internal communication in our body, chronic health issues and sickness starts to show up, which destroys our quality of life. This down-slide in our health begins after puberty in our teen years.

So, what can we do to help our body stay healthier longer as we age? We finally have answers from medical scientists and this breakthrough was not led by a drug company. It was discovered in a new field of science called redox bio-chemistry. The discovery is called redox cell signaling.

It’s not a vitamin, mineral, herb, juice, drug, or alkaline water. It’s the world’s first and only molecular supplement containing the identical redox molecules found inside every cell of our body. Once thought impossible by medical science, this unique redox cell signaling supplement has been created to replenish our body’s declining supply of redox molecules, which are required to help our body fix its own broken and sick cells to restore health to our body. This is the natural healing process.

The first product of its kind in the world, ASEA LLC has patented a Redox Cell Signaling liquid supplement and a topical gel for the skin. One daily supplement can help your body heal itself faster, naturally, so you can live healthier, look younger and maintain a healthier lifestyle and quality of life.

A recent genetic clinical study shows that these redox cell signaling molecules activate our genes to promote healing for areas of the body where hundreds of health issues occur:

Reducing body-wide inflammation
Promoting overall immune system health
Promoting overall hormonal system health
Promoting overall cardiovascular health
Promoting overall digestive/ gut health
Promoting skin and anti-aging health

The liquid supplement is classified as a dietary supplement, not a drug. It is clinically proven to be 100 percent safe with no toxic side-effects, used with existing medications causing no complications. It promotes natural healing from the inside-out and outside-in.

Said Dr. Gary Samuelson, Ph.D., the atomic medical physicist who led the medical science discovery team: “The field of redox signaling is destined to become the field of science that will fuel the greatest medical discoveries in this next century and beyond.”

Paul Jacques is an independent associate with ASEA Cellular Health. You can contact Paul at (661) 254-8511.

 

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the writer, and not necessarily those of the Santa Clarita Gazette.

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