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Afternoon T

| Opinion | March 25, 2017

by T. Katz

Q: Did RESPECT die … and I missed the obituary? There are so many disrespectful people, everywhere I go. What can we do to demand a little R.E.S.P.E.C.T. back into our lives?

A: It does sometimes feel as though respect has left the building for the big dirt nap, doesn’t it? I’m not sure I understand exactly what has happened to respect or its often ignored little brother: simple common courtesy, but bad behavior seems to be at the root of the lack of respect we see everywhere. Experts say it’s because we’ve become a society of people who have developed an unnatural sense of entitlement, but it’s sad to think that respect got bumped off somewhere along the way. Irish radio personality Frankie Byrne once said, “Respect is love in plain clothes.” For a nation that wears yoga pants not only to the grocery store, but dinner and a night at the theatre, you’d think that respect wouldn’t be so hard to put on.

R.E.S.P.E.C.T. We all have a right to request the same thing as the Queen of Soul. A little respect when we get home. Oh, and when we go to work and we’re out in the world and, honestly, wherever it is we walk in the world. But, demanding respect isn’t always the best way to get respect, because it often makes people resentful. And, by golly, disrespectful + resentful = a terrible combination. There is a longstanding general rule of “To get respect you have to give it.” But, what happens when your efforts to be respectful just get kicked to the sideboards? First, you should try to understand where the disrespect comes from, whether it’s the old trickle-down theory (if they are not respected or heard, then you are usually not worthy of their time or understanding) – or if it has to do with some problem with much deeper roots. Secondly, you will have to determine how much of your time and effort you are willing to spend on that person. Lastly, decide whether you are going to speak your mind and stand your ground. When you do? Always try to employ (to the best of your ability) your own basket of respect and common courtesy. Writer Leo Sevigny gives the following good advice: “Communicate your objectives and actions clearly to the person you wish to command respect from, with intention and with confidence.” Sevigny also talked about the importance of treating the other person with respect. “Listen to what the other person has to say and emphasize your respect for their opinion and actions.”

The dictionary defines respect as having to do with admiration, and throws around lofty words like reverence, deference and honor. Honestly, it’s best to begin with just one word: VALUE. Everyone deserves to be valued and, from that, respect is not far behind. Respect isn’t dead, my friend. We just need to breathe a little life back into it by resuscitating our ability to value one another.
xo – t.

Always Advocating Alan

| Opinion | March 24, 2017

Words Matter, but Your Behavior Matters More 

by Alan Ferdman 

I’ve heard people say “a person is a product of their genetics” and I’ve heard others say “a person is a product of their environment.” I say a person is a product of their genetics, their environment and their life experiences. All those things give an individual an opportunity to be the best they can be, but unfortunately, everyone does not take advantage of it.

For myself, I was born in Brooklyn in 1942. My father was off to war in Europe. After the war, he returned home, only to pass away before being discharged from the army. He was a medic and saw action during the Battle of the Bulge. My mother, brother and I lived with my grandparents in a small, one-bedroom apartment on Ocean Parkway in Brighton Beach. Just like a lot of New York suburbs at the time, our area was an ethnic enclave, mostly home to eastern European Jews. I remember some of my neighbors talking to me in Yiddish while I answered in English, and we both seemed to understand each other very well. Diversity never seemed to be a topic of discussion, probably because we all had similar backgrounds.

But, my brother was having difficulty dealing with the New York winters and it seemed like he was always sick. When our family doctor recommended we move to a warmer climate, my mother brought our small family to Miami Beach, Florida. Well, for a 10-year-old boy from Brighton Beach, this represented a substantial culture shock. It was 1952 and we were in the Deep South. I remember asking my mother why people were stepping off the curb when we walked by and why some people did not respond when I said hello. It took several years for me to realize it was because they were black and did not want any trouble to befall them or their families.

During our year in Florida, my stepfather, who had been dating my mother in New York, came to visit. He proposed, she accepted and they were married. So, it was back to New York, as my stepfather worked for the New York Times. At the same time, the yearning for a warmer climate prevailed. My stepfather’s family had moved to California several years prior. Knowing that much was all it took. Our clan loaded up in a 1953 Green Chrysler four-door for the trip to California, and of course, we traveled Route 66. Funny, I remember the bug screen everyone put in front of their radiators, the burlap water bag attached to every car bumper and the fact there was no air conditioning.

Despite all the challenges, we made it to California and a new adventure began. It was now 1955 and there were still individuals who would not rent an apartment to a Jew. Yet, my parents found a nice duplex on Tujunga Ave. in North Hollywood and later bought a home on Sunshine Terrace in Studio City. What a great, diverse neighborhood. I remember the old Armenian lady, who always had cookies for us, who the kids all called “Mom.” And who could forget the conservative German man, who immigrated to the United States before WWI, swore like a sailor and had a heart of gold? Then there was the elderly couple, owners of a sewing machine shop, who both had numbers tattooed on their arms. There was a retiree from Lockheed and a retiree from Chrysler Corporation, plus my favorite adult, Bob, a field engineer for Magnavox who was always building some high-tech gadget in his garage.

It was a neighborhood full of new adventures. My best buddy’s father was a contractor and we had a garage full of tools to make all those things young boys want to build. At the same time, the neighborhood reminded me I was a member of a religious minority. Not that anyone said or did anything inappropriate, but when the Christmas holidays came around, most of my friends appropriately disappeared into their homes to share the holiday with their families. It left me with an understanding what it felt like to be somewhat different and made me sensitive to others who might feel the same way.

But my biggest epiphany was yet to come. It was the late ‘80s and I was a department manager at Litton Guidance in Woodland Hills. My boss was visiting another division and I was standing in for him, when I received a call from our vice-president’s office. The secretary told me Mr. VP had to leave town and wanted to know if I could fill in for him at an important meeting. Of course, I agreed. I was informed of the time and location, but his secretary did not know the subject. I remember saying, “Not a problem; I’ll handle it.”

Because I did not know the meeting’s subject, I decided to get there a few minutes early. Hopefully there would be someone there I knew who could clue me in. Getting to the conference room, I looked in and saw three people sitting in the room. I knew them and what their job titles were. I also knew they were not in management. I was confused and since I did not know the meeting subject, I was also a little embarrassed to ask if I was in the right place. I was considering backing out of the doorway and going down the hall to ask the secretary if the meeting location had changed, when one of the individuals in the room said, “Hi, Al, come on in. You are in the right place.” So, I sat down at the table with them and engaged in small talk waiting for the other attendees to arrive.

What I soon found out was the meeting was a cultural diversity seminar put on by our Affirmative Action administrator. The three people already sitting in the room were invited to present their perceptions of what it was like to be black and work at our company. One of the presenters was a young lady in her 20s. She started her presentation by saying, “I never go to meetings early.” When asked why, she replied, “Whenever I am the first and only person sitting in a conference room, other employees will stick their head in the door and when they see me, they leave and come back later.” She was sure the reason was because she was black. At this point, it did not make any difference what anyone in the audience said. Her perception was her reality.

Wow, I was blown away. I almost did the same thing. Not for the reason she stated, but because I was not sure enough of myself to ask about the meeting. I thought long and hard about what I had learned. I came to realize when a person perceives something to be true, you cannot use words to convince them to change their opinion. Behaviors need to change, so an individual will convince themselves to reconsider. I also thought, if a person feels unjustly treated because of their race, what about their ethnicity, religion, language skills or job title?

I was convinced I needed to do all I could to fix the problem. Not only did I vow to never do anything like that again, I brought the issue to my staff, explained the situation and asked them to follow my example. A person should be sensitive to the feelings of others, not because it is politically correct, but because it is morally correct and because it will return to you, in friendship and cooperation, 10 times over.

So, by now I hope you realize, even a Brooklyn transplant, who took over a thousand words to tell this story, strongly believes, “Words matter, but your behavior matters more.”

*The views and opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette*

What More to Do?

| Opinion | March 17, 2017

by Betty Arenson
A lot of hay was made about U.S. Representative Steve Knight’s town hall meeting on March 4.

Apparently the pessimistic views were: the meeting wasn’t for the right reasons (he had to be “cajoled” and guilted”); it wasn’t the right time (8 a.m.) and it wasn’t the right venue (seating for about 280 people). Democrats complained and one local man, Charles Vignola, dedicated a commentary to it last week.

The area that Knight represents spreads far and wide. If the implication is that this is the one and only town hall meeting to be held in Knight’s term, that’s unfair. Frankly, so is the complaint about the amount of seating.

Considering the lack of interest in voting, as proven by the constant reminder of low voter turnout in elections, it seems that selecting a venue of nearly 300 people was logical, but no one will convince the naysayers of that.

Charles Vignola posed a reasonable question to representative Knight: What are Knight’s “thoughts on how to address the 11,000 Americans killed every year by gun violence?” Knight’s response was that he is in favor of universal background checks.

Aside from the question being practical, it was also interesting. It was interesting because Vignola works in the movie industry and there’s no faction in the country that promotes using guns and making it sexy more than the movie business.

Not even the NRA.

The NRA promotes the right of ownership as a protected right under the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment. It highly promotes gun safety and being knowledgeable about using one.

The movies, on the other hand, clearly show how to get a gun, by any means, at any cost, using it for every nefarious act possible and if several people are maimed or killed in the process, oh well. It all looks very heroic and cool.

The lethal perpetrators are glorified as attractive bad boys, often with a lot of wealth and clout — luxury at their finger tips. On the other side of the coin is the relentless thug mentality where the strongest survive and loom over their turf.

I’ve yet to see in these settings one gun gotten via showing ID, filling out an application, waiting 10 full days and getting the weapon registered.

The prudent questions to those in the movie industry are: “What are you doing to change the culture of the big business you work in? Do you refuse to take part in any activity to make or promote such a violent product? Do you talk to your co-workers and suggest the same? Do you go to your bosses to encourage and effectuate change in the industry?”

Secondly, I wonder if any of the like-minded attendees would have asked U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, a Democrat, that same question. Gutierrez represents Chicago — the shooting/homicide capital of the United States.

The Chicago Tribune reported 4,368 Chicago shootings in 2016 and 588 between January 1 and March 13, 2017.

CBS News reported 762 Chicago shooting homicides in 2016; the most in 20 years, and 1,100 more shootings in 2016 than 2015.

Gutierrez held a large town hall this month which included (predictably) the anti-Trump theme, a Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) representative, LGBTQ, Planned Parenthood, the environment, and of course, Gutierrez’ omnipresent passion and reason for breathing: immigration — that’s code for an unfettered acceptance and protections for illegal immigration.

There was no reference whatsoever of his area’s gun violence — shameful. There was not one direct confrontation to Rep. Luis Gutierrez with the question posed to Steve Knight. After all, if you end up on the talking side of a bullet, does it matter if you’re pro LGBT, Planned Parenthood, the environment or are any kind of immigrant?

Perhaps Knight should have offered a second answer: “This is a country-wide problem, worse  in some areas than others. I’ll talk to Luis.”

Obamacare, Government and You!

| Opinion | March 17, 2017

by Jim Lentini
As we see the turmoil of Congress trying to deal with Obamacare problems and enforcing the promises of President Trump to address the problems created by Obamacare, our economy, and weakness of global issues, the increasing costs of healthcare are at the forefront for the taxpayers who are paying for all these mistakes!

Remember before we had the Affordable Care Act our medical industry had been governed by our federal and state governments for 100 years! The health insurance industry had to have a loss ratio of 80 percent or greater before applying to the state insurance commissioner to raise rates for a block of business. And, by federal mandate, out of the 20 percent gross profit to operate allowed, must have had a net profit of 3-5 percent to stay viable to pay future claims. It worked and the reasons cost increased was because of increased medical costs of equipment, drugs, and of course, fraud of benefits.

If you or the government had contacted the “experts” in the field of medicine, insurance agents/brokers, and industry they would have advised the government to address the three areas below to correct the rising costs:

Fraud: It is a known fact that fraud is a major problem and adds to the cost of health care. If the government prosecuted this problem, it would greatly reduce the cost of healthcare.

Pharmaceutical: Another known fact is the rising cost of drugs, as it was last calculated as over 40 percent of healthcare costs. When drug companies spend 15, 20, 25 million developing a new drug, if the government gives them credit for development, the Rx would not have to be passed on to the patient.

Medical Malpractice: Another factor is that doctors and all medical providers must pay an exorbitant amount for their E & O insurance. If the government keeps them accountable but provides a more reasonable insurance plan, this will greatly reduce the cost to the patient.

If those in the Obama Administration and Congress had addressed these three basic problems instead of bureaucratic, self-serving decisions, it would have provided better control and cost saving to insureds and taxpayers. This would have cost taxpayers much less than the billions spent for a self-destructive plan that reduces the quality and benefits of healthcare and increases costs that will greatly affect our economy. But then, it will go down in history “we had to pass it to find out what’s in it,” and those who “want to keep their coverage can do it,” etc. Remember, those who passed the law exempted themselves from it and kept the “Cadillac” plan we the taxpayers pay for! Who works for whom??

May the Lord protect us and guide the current administration in correcting the rights established by your forefathers and what our veterans fight and defend our freedoms for! Protect us from the enemy within!

Replacing Obamacare

| Opinion | March 17, 2017

The American people have had enough. They are fed up with false promises of reform and proactive government. The people of this nation are through trying to clean up the mess that Obama left when he thrust the Affordable Care Act on their shoulders.

In the coming weeks, Republicans will unveil their carefully sculpted masterpiece that will do away with the Affordable Care Act once and for all: an apple, a big glass of mineral water, and a free copy of The Reagan Diaries to inspire hard work and self reliance.

This customizable health care plan depends on several factors – age, gender, religion, and number of Lynyrd Skynyrd albums obtained and stored. For example, those over the age of fifty will be the recipients of a Granny Smith apple. Women will have the right to chose … between a pink glass and a clear glass of water. Muslims and Jews will have the option to reject the apple during times of fasting, but the Reagan readings will remain mandatory.

Under this plan, credits can be earned in order to help individuals pay for other insurance options. To earn these credits, all you have to do is discard your iPhones and send them to your local DMV for impounding. The government will work out a deal with the phone company to refund most of your money – which will be more than enough money to pay for cancer treatment.

Some opponents of this plan argue that a glass of water and fruit is not enough to solve other issues, like the inability to afford emergency surgery. But, socialists are always harping about how the U.S. needs to begin thinking about “preventative healthcare.” Well, the fact is, an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and most diseases are probably the result of dehydration. We have plenty of sources that tell us this, and people in the government have access to information that we do not.

Signing up for the program is simple. Unlike Obamacare, where the website was as useful as a load of bricks, these signup methods are much more relevant and up-to-date. Republicans know how today’s hipsters are fond of nostalgia and rustic vibes. Because of this, they have re-introduced the telegraph, so that clients can communicate with several touches of a button. The youth will love it, and it will create jobs for people who have experience as telegraph operators.

Sign up today at your local post office, or wire an operator with your telegraph, which can be purchased at your local DMV.

Always Advocating Alan – ‘Rain Rain, Go Away, You’re Disturbing CLWA’

| Opinion | March 17, 2017

by Alan Ferdman

How well do you remember your first year in college? No, not the football games, drunken parties and fun, I was thinking of the Survey 101 classes. Those courses are provided to give new students a broad look at career paths they might decide to pursue. One of the classes you probably encountered, or if you are planning on being a college student you should strongly consider taking, is Business 101.

In this class, you have been, or will be, introduced to business organizational concepts of sole proprietorship, partnerships and various types of corporations. Each form of business structure has its advantages and disadvantages. If you intend to start a business of your own you will need to consider which structure to use. Most importantly, new entrepreneurs also need to have a strong grasp of supply and demand concepts, because no matter how good an idea you may have, if there is no demand for your product you will not be in business very long. Now, if your product is highly sought after, you might consider implementing one of two seemingly counterintuitive strategies.

Sometimes, company executives decide to ask a premium price for products in high demand. They believe higher prices breed a consumer perception of a product’s desirability and high quality. Using this strategy is a way to maximize profit without having to invest additional capital. Others tend to take the opposite approach. If their product is in high demand, they decide to produce more of them, hoping for an increased sales volume, thereby generating more profit.

All that is nice in theory, but no matter how good your product or service is, someone else may also be in a similar business. Hence, if you really want to stay in business and make a profit, a strategy to deal with competition is very important. Realize also, even if your product is original, is currently in high demand and you are initially successful, someone else may see an opportunity to provide a similar product or service and take business away. They may charge a lower price, provide an improved product, or provide better customer service. We see this happening all the time with cell phone companies, cable TV providers, auto manufacturers, and others. Whenever I see a tire store open next to an existing tire store, or a pizza place open next to another restaurant that specializes in pizza, I wonder what they are thinking. Starting a business is hard enough, without having an established major competitor next door.

Lastly, there is the concept of product obsolescence. Think back to the days when VCR rental stores seemed to be on every corner, or when auto manufacturers were thinking about making a CB radio standard equipment in every vehicle. Some products and services simply lose their worth to new technologies, new sales methods, economic drivers or just changes to the public’s perception. A successful business manager needs to be continually monitoring the market for his company’s products. He or she must remain open to the idea of continually improving the company’s offerings and must also be ready to incorporate new products and services when the right opportunity presents itself.

Now that we have looked at an overview of Business 101, there is an area of business which does not consider any of those business concerns. It is the public utilities arena, and they play by their own set of rules. When it comes to how we acquire electricity, natural gas and water, there is only one supplier for each in Santa Clarita. For example, if for some reason, you are not satisfied with the gas company’s product, service or price, there are no competitive suppliers available. The gas company owns the pipes to your house or business. If you want natural gas you will be buying it from them. Sure, you could change the appliances in your home to be all electric, but that is a drastic step to take and not a likely solution for the average customer.

Today, with the apparent end of the California drought in sight, I want to focus on the public utility most on the public’s mind today. That is the service provided by our water companies, which are considering a merger. First, our two major water companies, CLWA and Newhall County Water District, are monopolies and operate with neither the motivation or controls necessary for a normal company to survive. Santa Clarita’s water providers exist with the primary goal of maintaining the water company’s bureaucracy and work force, as opposed to providing maximum value to their customers. How many times have you heard our water companies ask for higher rates based on selling larger amounts of water, needing to fund infrastructure improvements or having to purchase more expensive state water. Then, when the drought became apparent, the water companies asked the public to conserve and when the public complied, they asked for increased rates because selling less water did not give them sufficient revenue to support the existing infrastructure. What is even more frustrating was, at the time they expressed the need for additional funding, we saw full page newspaper ads most every day asking residents to conserve and offering financial incentives for grass removal and irrigation system changes. What I saw was my public utility, using part of the fees I paid, to incentivize the use of less water so they could end up charging me more.

Next came the idea of a valley-wide water company merger. At first the public was told, “No decision has been made, we are just looking at the possibility.” Then came a couple of informational meetings, and suddenly we have Water Board directors announcing their support for a merger, based on the economy of scale. Their planned savings is $1.5 million per year, or $14.5 million over the next 10 years. That is a pretty healthy sum if we were talking about the Ferdman family budget, but it is far less impressive when you become aware it is less than 1 percent of the CLWA yearly budget.

But then comes a new surprise on Saturday, March 11 when the Signal reported that Newhall Water Board President BJ Atkins stated the merger would “save the Santa Clarita Valley $14 million per year, about $40 per household” and there would not be any immediate reductions in staff. Really? Then where is the savings coming from? Is this new savings estimate a misstatement or a new revelation? A public utility’s savings is only real when it is accompanied by reduced product cost, driving a reduction in customer rates. Without a cost reduction, there is no savings and it becomes apparent this whole merger scheme is being played out to promote another unrevealed agenda.

So, while we wait for the complete story to unfold, I continue to get phone calls urging me to tear out my lawn and plant dessert flora. My answer to their request is to raise my “bow finger” and remind them it has been raining a lot. I like my lawn and it appears the drought is over. Our water companies should stop their campaign to make Santa Clarita look like Arizona and stop wasting the money I send them every month.

My Vision for America

| Opinion | March 13, 2017

by President Donald J. Trump
My fellow Americans, I have only been president for 31 days, and already things are looking up. The stock market is skyrocketing, consumer confidence is at a record-high, ISIS is retreating, and my enemies are all ugly, despicable slobs with very large thighs.

But this is just the beginning. When you elected me president of the United States, you voted for a political revolution. You recognized we had serious problems that only I can solve. And I am going to solve them.

First, in 10 days I will be introducing to the Congress the Fat Cows Act of 2017. Under this legislation, every American over 200 pounds is going to be deported. Because we need to face facts: this is a fat country, and we will never Make America Great Again, unless we Make America Skinny Again.

Every slob has to go; it is as simple as that. Enacting this legislation will reduce our nation’s healthcare costs – because when you’re a cow, not only do you look disgusting, but we spend billions keeping you alive. When you’re out of the country that will end.

Not only that, but we will be shipping these individuals to third world countries, where they will be eaten by the starving children over there. Think about it: the only reason why Americans are this fat in the first place is because of our long history of colonization in these countries. We stole their wealth; it is only just that they get paid back by devouring our nation’s whales.

Some of my critics claim I am introducing this measure as a subtle way of deporting Rosie O’Donnell, whose butt cheeks alone qualify her for removal. To that I say, getting rid of Rosie is not the impetus behind this policy, though it is definitely a plus.

Second, I have been thinking about my pledge to build a wall on our southern border. This is one of my highest priorities. However, while having a tremendous poop this morning, while using toilet paper lined with gold, I realized things are kinda complicated.
Number one, if we build a wall, those bad hombres can just build a boat and get around it. All it takes is a mattress, some wood and a propeller. That’s unacceptable. So, in addition to a wall, we are going to need a border going up the east and west coasts.

But when I realized that, another thought came to mind, all during this single poop. The Trump intelligence and the Trump colon were working together perfectly. That is, we will also need to build a roof. What’s to stop them from parachuting in?

Essentially, in order to protect this country I am proposing turning the United States into one large Trump Tower. I didn’t want to take this measure – but I have no other choice.

No More Slobs, No More Bad Hombres – that is how we Make America Great Again. I will be writing again soon, after my next poop, when I will then create my foreign policy.

 

**WARNING: SATIRE. The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Obamacare Drips with Taxes

| Opinion | March 12, 2017

It isn’t just the mainstream media invoking fear into Americans about repealing-replacing Obamacare; it’s a local bludgeoning stick as well.

Recently a group paid to publish a gigantic ad (“DON’T TAX my HEALTHCARE”) in a local newspaper that a blind person could not have missed.

Three glaring points of the ad are: 1. The misleading content is by some illusive group promoting a scare title; 2. President Trump, by extension all Republicans and, specifically, Rep. Steve Knight (CA-25), are going to raise your taxes for healthcare and 3. The message is all about degrading Knight as the November 2018 election approaches. That time frame isn’t long in the land of politics.

The disingenuous ad, with no details, falls in line with the national Left and its propaganda.

Democrats whining about tax increases rings hollow and surpasses hypocrisy. The absence of disclosure of Obamacare’s many mandated taxes arises either out of ignorance or convenience. Whichever it is, the lack is reckless.

AMERICANS for Tax REFORM lists the taxes imposed by Obamacare’s 2,700 pages:

  1. 156% increase in the federal excise tax on tobacco. Effective February 4, 2009. *The median income of smokers is $36,000 per year.
  2. Obamacare Individual Mandate Excise Tax. The Health and Human Services (HHS) Obama-appointees define “qualifying” health insurance. If you do not buy theirs, you must pay an income surtax, effective January 2014. Pages 317-337.
  3. Obamacare Employer Mandate Tax (on 50 employees or more), Pages: 345-346.

*All filers must submit proof of coverage to the IRS. The combined burden of individual and employer mandate tax penalties is $65 billion/10 years.

  1. Obamacare Surtax on Investment Income creates a new 3.8% surtax on investment income. A $123 billion tax hike as of January 2013; Bill: Reconciliation Act; Pages: 87-93. *Other unearned income includes (for surtax purposes) gross income from interest, annuities, royalties, net rents, and passive income in partnerships and Subchapter-S corporations. ** The 3.8% surtax does not apply to non-resident aliens.
  2. Obamacare Excise Tax on Comprehensive Health Insurance Plans, effective January 2018. A 40% excise tax on “Cadillac plans.” Pages: 1,941-1,956.
  3. Obamacare Hike in Medicare Payroll Tax.$86.8 billion tax hike effective January 2013. Bill: Reconciliation Act; Pages 2000-2003.

 

  1. Obamacare Medicine Cabinet Tax . $5 billion effective as of January 2011. This tax erases the healthcare savings account and flexible spending account. Pages 1,957-1,959.
  2. Obamacare HSA Withdrawal Tax Hike (Health Savings Account). $1.4 billion tax increase effective January 2011. Page 1,959.
  3. Obamacare Flexible Spending Account Cap—aka “Special Needs Kids Tax.” $13 billion tax hike effective January 2014. *Erases parents’ ability to take FSA money and pay for schooling for special needs children. Pages 2,388-2,389.
  4. Obamacare Tax on Medical Device Manufacturers. Tax hike of $20 billion—a 2.3% tax hike on 409,000 people in 12,000 plants of medical device manufacturers, irrespective of profit. Pages: 1,980-1,986.
  5. Obamacare “Haircut” for Medical Itemized Deductiona tax hike of $15.2 billion tax effective January 2013. It increased the threshold of deducting medical expenses from 7.5% of Adjusted Gross Income to 10%. Pages: 1,994-1,995.
  6. Obamacare Tax on Indoor Tanning Services. $2.7 billion tax hike effective July 2010. New 10% excise tax on Americans using indoor tanning salons. Pages: 2,397-2,399.
  7. Elimination of tax deduction for employer-provided retirement prescription drug coverage in coordination with Medicare Part D. A $4.5 billion tax hike effective January 2013. Page: 1,994.
  8. Blue Cross/Blue Shield Tax Hike. $400 million increase effective January 2010. It mandates that the special tax deduction in current Blue Cross/Blue Shield companies will only be allowed if 85% or more of premium revenues are spent on clinical services. Page 2,004.
  9. Obamacare Excise Tax on Charitable Hospitals(minimal increase effective immediately). Taxes each hospital $50,000 if they fail to meet new “community health assessment needs,” “financial assistance,” and “billing and collection” rules set by Obama-appointed HHS bureaucrats. Pages 1,961-1,971.
  10. Obamacare Tax on Innovator Drug Companies. Tax hike of $22.2 billion tax hike effective January 2010. Annual tax of $2.3 billion based on share of sales made each year. Pages 1,971-1,980.
  11. Obamacare Tax on Health Insurers. Tax hike of $60.1 billion effective January 2014. Annual tax on the industry based on insurance premiums collected that year. Imposed through 2018 but fully imposed in 2014 on firms with $50 million in profits. Pages 1,986-1,993.
  12. Obamacare $500,000 Annual Executive Compensation Limit for Health Insurance Executives($600 million effective January 2013). Pages 1,995-2,000.
  13. Obamacare Employer Reporting of insurance on W-2 forms(minimum dollars effective January 2012). “Preamble to taxing health benefits on individual tax returns.” Page 1,957.
  14. “Black liquor” tax hike (on a type of bio-fuel).$23.6 billion tax hike effective immediately. Bill: Reconciliation Act. Page 105.
  15. Obamacare Codification of the “economic substance doctrine.” $4.5 billion tax hike effective immediately. *This allows the IRS to reject completely legal tax deductions and other legal tax-minimizing plans just because the IRS deems that the action lacks “substance” and is merely intended to reduce taxes owed. Bill: Reconciliation Act. Pages 108-113.

It’s important to remember that President Obama promised Obamacare was NOT a tax—that is until his Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. went before the United States Supreme Court and claimed that it is a tax (which was needed to get Obamacare passed).

 Democrats are angry they didn’t win the seat that Steve Knight holds. Be assured the propaganda will know no boundaries as we roll to the November 2018 election.      

 **The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

 

Afternoon T

| Opinion | March 11, 2017

Q: There are a lot of people in my life who routinely do and say things I don’t like and I’m wondering if I should speak up or simply continue to remain quiet (and unhappy).

A: Before I even consider carving into this beast, I’m thinking you already know that whether you say something or not, there will be discomfort. Therefore, you are going to have to seriously consider choosing to speak or not speak to determine the heat of the seat where you sit.

There is a friend in my circle who, whenever they see me shake my head at bad behavior, is fond of the phrase: “Suck it up, Buttercup.” When I first heard it, I thought that was a little harsh and said so. My friend laughed and said “Life is harsh! The sooner you learn that, the better.” Ouch. Thanks, Harshy McGillacuddy. But, he’s also spot on. Right sometimes feels terribly wrong and that is MESSED up, but it’s also why we admire heroes – we know that their fight for right is, more often than not, painful. Not just uncomfortable.

Over these past handful of months, there are a whole LOT of people who are doing and saying things publicly that folks all over the world don’t like. Grown-ups everywhere behaving quite badly. Worse than toddlers, really. Emotions are high and conversations are routinely being heated to a full, rolling boil. Most of the time, engaging a discussion at all ends up being gasoline on an already raging fire. Nope! Not helping. Then again, to remain silent … might hurt even more. At times, silence can be golden, but there are plenty of times it can be perceived as approval, not just of bad behavior, but potentially gravely harmful actions. One need only open a history book to see proof of that.

When we make the decision to speak up, we must be prepared for even greater discomfort because, unfortunately, not everyone appreciates hearing disapproval of what they say or do. They say that poking bears with sticks will end badly. I know from experience that they’re not open to criticism either. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t discuss badly behaved elephants in the room.

So, my tender friend – before opening our pieholes, let’s consider a few things:

The greater good. Speaking up can prevent bad things from happening.

Shared Knowledge. Others might not know what you know, until you tell them.
Investment. When you address bad behavior, you show you care.

Now, besides addressing that which is said or done in your own parlor when company comes a-callin’, consider using your words to take on the bad behavior of those whose actions affect life on an even larger scale (see those above-mentioned grown-up toddlers). You speak up via your pen or laptop! It might be uncomfortable at first, but there will be a hero’s hug waiting for you when you do. You stand up for what’s right! You just might sit a little taller when you do.

Always Advocating Alan

| Opinion | March 10, 2017

Good Projects Come to Those Who Wait 

by Alan Ferdman 

Having lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for over 50 years, I have watched our area change a great deal. When I arrived, the valley was very rural, with few traffic lights and little traffic. Everyone lived in Newhall or Saugus, as there were the only two post offices in our area. We lived in a laid-back community and we could easily drive to wherever we wanted to go.

But it all started to unravel when L.A. County, probably due to pressure from developers, modified the area’s zoning making it less profitable to use for agricultural purposes. Newhall Land and Farm’s Valencia community was under construction and it was the start of something big. But, nothing caused our area to change so quickly as when families south of us were looking to escape LA Unified School’s forced busing program. We thought we had struck gold, as home values were increasing at the rate of 5 percent per month.

We also discovered, with growth comes houses, people, cars and post offices. When a new postal zone was established, I went from living in Saugus to Canyon Country without having to move. I must admit, in those early years I did not pay much attention to local government. My boys were growing up and my family was heavily involved in both youth and adult sports programs. But then in 2000, the City of Santa Clarita tore up the street in front of my house for slurry coating and left it unfinished for six months. That woke me up. When I complained, the rationale provided by city staff was that the contractor was having difficulty purchasing the material needed to complete the project. I thought about their answer and realized it was like “what comes out of the south end of a northbound bull.” The answer made no sense. Contractors were slurry coating streets in other areas of the city. Why would this contractor be the only one who could not get materials? So, when I read about the Canyon Country Better Than Ever Committee (now the Canyon Country Advisory Committee) in The Signal, I decided to find out more and join.

In the sprint to provide housing for all our new residents, planning primarily focused on new development, while the impact on existing communities appeared to take a back seat. Issues with new developments connecting to existing neighborhoods and causing “cut through” traffic were on the rise. The increase in traffic volumes on residential streets, which exceeded what residents felt was appropriate, was being brought up regularly at City Council meetings. A prime example was when our City Council disregarded the advice of our traffic engineers and opened Benz Road from Bouquet to Copper Hill. That decision immediately created a “cut though” traffic path bypassing the David Way traffic signal. In addition, Santa Clarita’s road infrastructure was, and still is, being pushed beyond what it was intended to handle.

Yet, there was progress being made. About 10 years ago, developer presentations to the Canyon Country Advisory Committee started to take a different direction. Developers were starting to plan projects in a way which blended with their surrounding neighborhoods.  Eliminating problems with “cut though” traffic became part of the design. Providing amenities and services needed in the surrounding area was also taken into consideration. Proposing and funding mitigations for the inevitable increase in traffic was being included. But most importantly, by providing public outreach and gaining an understanding of resident concerns, developers could refine their development plans in a way to establish community support. Unfortunately, the housing finance bubble burst and some of these projects were put on the shelf, waiting for the economy to improve.

Today demand has returned and another round of presentations and community outreach efforts is taking place. I want to acknowledge this year’s first two presentations at the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, which are revealing projects even more in line with community needs. In January, the Sand Canyon Plaza project was presented to the Canyon Country Advisory Committee by Tom Clark, the project’s managing member. Sand Canyon Plaza will be located on the northeast corner of Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon Road and extends north on Sand Canyon to the city limit. It will include upscale dining by a manmade lake and some retail. The project makes use of recycled water for both irrigation and the needs of the lake. The project also includes several varieties of living accommodations and an assisted living facility, making it the only assisted living facility on the east end of the valley. Its primary entrance is on Sand Canyon, with a secondary entrance from Soledad Canyon Road. Upgrades to both Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon Road will be provided.

It should be noted, Sand Canyon Plaza’s “housing density” is below allowable levels. When presented to the Planning Commission, a concern was raised by Mr. Burkhart (chairperson) related to understanding why the planned “retail density” is less than the minimum specified by General Plan zoning. So, if you have been wondering where the push for high density retail projects comes from, you now have part of the answer.

In February, the Park Vista project was presented by Rae Price, president of Montezuma Land Development. This project will be located in the general area of the southeast corner of Sierra Highway and Golden Valley Road, going east to Green Mountain.  As an update, from the first time the project was presented to the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, Montezuma Land Development acquired property west of their project to Sierra Highway. This enabled the project plan to provide a collector road with a main entrance on Golden Valley Road and a secondary entrance on Sierra Highway. In the project’s current plan, a connection to Green Mountain is no longer required, thereby eliminating any concern about “cut through” traffic.

With the motto “Living Life to its Fullest,” the Park Vista project provides a selection of housing dubbed “neighborhoods.” Also to be provided is a community park. While the park serves recreational purposes, the design and construction accommodates mitigation of a slide area currently threatening homes on Green Mountain. It is a win-win for the Park Vista project and the adjacent community. Hats off to Mr. Price and his team.

Even though you may have missed the Canyon Country Advisory Committee January and February meetings, all presentations are video recorded and uploaded to YouTube. You still can see it all. Mr. Clark’s January Sand Canyon Plaza presentation can be viewed at https://youtu.be/kJE2_WtqK2k  and Mr. Price’s February Park Vista presentation can be viewed at https://youtu.be/mk18irwyaHY

Lastly, if you are interested in learning about all the grading in process south of Soledad Canyon Road between Kenroy Ave. and Sand Canyon Road, the work includes the first steps for construction of the Vista Canyon Ranch project. Representatives of that project will be presenting their latest plans at the March 15, 2017 Canyon Country Advisory Committee Meeting. The event will be held in the Mint Canyon Moose Banquet Room, 18000 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country from 7-9 p.m.

You and all your friends are invited to attend, admission is free, and I look forward to seeing you there.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Women’s History Month – If You Give a Woman a Month … (A Satire)

| Opinion | March 10, 2017

We all know the saying: If you give a mouse a cookie, he is bound to want some milk. If you give a woman an entire month, she is bound to want the whole calendar. 
Throughout the 20th century, America witnessed some of the most detrimental moral and economic declines that the country ever faced – and it is no coincidence that these horrific events, like the Great Depression, WWII, and the invention of the female pantsuit, all occurred after the passage of an amendment that should have never been allowed to soil the American Dream.

After America opened the floodgates of sin and granted ladies the 19th Amendment, women across the country traded in their aprons for serrated hunting knives, thus beginning their 97-year castration campaign. Since then, our political climate has changed drastically. Females now act as breadwinners – men now act as caretakers. When you get pulled over, you may be subjected to the humiliation of a lady-cop giving you a stern warning. The situation is unnerving.

There is no going back to the country we once knew. But the most striking outcome of this slippery slope legislation is the controlled and planned obsolescence of the male. If women are paid equally, how will men earn more money? If women are allowed to ask men out on a date, how in the world can a man brag to his friends about his conquest? The basic needs of men are being ignored, because we selfishly decided to pacify the egocentric needs of women.

If allowed, women will not just stop at ruining the lives of men, but their own lives as well. The moment the first women’s bathroom was installed in the House of Representatives in 2011, women became overly confident and decided that they wanted more, once again. Now, instead of doing their jobs, female legislators will be doing their makeup and gossiping about other representatives. Sad!

We can reverse this staggering trend. We can start by removing the label of March as “Women’s History Month.” Women are equal enough, and we don’t need to be reminded to acknowledge them anymore. Secondly, if we do keep Women’s History Month, we need to add a “Men’s History Month” to make sure that females don’t get cocky. It’s about time for men to be empowered to occupy public office and take on higher positions in the workforce.

As you can see, they have been through enough as it is.

**WARNING: SATIRE. The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

The Republican Party’s Awful Healthcare Plan

| Opinion | March 3, 2017

As an American, I wanted to give Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans a chance before forcefully opposing them. But we are only a couple of weeks into the new Republican government and there are already troubling signs.

Consider the healthcare debate: a major policy goal for the GOP is repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act, known as “Obamacare.” In every way, their current plan for doing so is disastrous.

Under current law, individuals with pre-existing conditions must be covered by insurers. Because these folks use a lot of health care, they are expensive to provide for, so insurance companies compensate by raising the price of everyone’s premiums. This allows them to accept those with pre-existing conditions and still turn a profit.

Obamacare was crafted this way so all Americans could obtain coverage, not just those who were healthy. This compassionate approach, however, has made healthcare more expensive, which upsets millions of people.
The leading GOP plan for fixing this is being promoted by House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin). Ryan argues for removing those with pre-existing conditions from the health insurance market. Instead, these folks would be given insurance plans paid for by the government.

Ryan argues that this change will enable health insurance firms to lower premiums for everyone else, since they will not be saddled with caring for those with pre-existing conditions. And he’s right. If this policy is enacted, healthcare costs will decrease for 75 percent of Americans.

But here’s the awful part: His plan does not provide nearly enough funding for the insurance coverage the government will give to those with pre-existing conditions.

According to a Commonwealth Fund study, it would cost $178 billion for the government to provide quality healthcare to these individuals. Ryan’s plan only allocates a laughable $2.5 billion for this objective. That is not nearly enough to care of our sickest citizens.

If Ryan’s vision is enacted into law, those with pre-existing conditions will have terrible health insurance, receive substandard care and have to pay a tremendous amount out-of pocket.

Healthy Americans will benefit from receiving reductions in their premiums, but our sickest citizens will suffer greatly. That is awful policymaking.

Ryan must change his plan so enough funds are allocated for those with pre-existing conditions. If he does so, his healthcare policy would be a win-win for everyone. As it currently stands, however, it is a nasty, immoral proposal, unworthy of a civilized society.

Letter to the Editor – Measure H

| Opinion | March 3, 2017

Dear Gazette Editor

HOLD POLITICIANS ACCOUNTABLE, AND LEAVE THE TAXPAYERS ALONE!

I attended the MEASURE H (debate) at COC, and left with more unanswered questions than answered questions! Due to a time restriction, I was unable to present my question to the panel, hence the letter to you.

The COMMON thread throughout the evening was the NEED for Affordable Housing, to help reduce Homelessness. It was even stated that some Homeless people had jobs, along with gym memberships, so that they could shower, but could not afford a place to live due to HIGH RENTS. The city of Los Angeles mandated a portion of all NEW Housing Projects include AFFORDABLE Housing. Santa Clarita Does NOT require this. Santa Clarita does, however, want a portion of the 1/4 C increased Sales Tax which will be added onto our already high sales tax. It seemed that most of the people in attendance were in favor of an increased sales tax, but opposed to saying: “I’d rather pay for the problem to go away, than to do anything to stop or rectify the problem.”

I feel that our ELECTED Officials should be held accountable for these problems, and do something, other than always asking for a TAX INCREASE, which has NEVER solved any problem. IF Builders Claim it cost them $80,000 or more before a shovel hits the dirt, then perhaps, the City should take some cuts on permit costs, to help with Affordable Housing, so people can purchase homes! I believe IF people have to pay SOMETHING then they will feel it is theirs, they earned it, and will take pride in ownership.

I just feel that Cities, and Elected Officials, need to be held more accountable for their decisions, and do more to govern and HELP those people who cannot help themselves.

No one convinced me that MEASURE H will do anything to eradicate Homelessness now or in the immediate future, with no GOVERNMENT changes.

Thank you,
Elaine Ballace, Santa Clarita Resident

The Marijuana Dilemma

| Opinion | March 3, 2017

by Michael Cruz

In 1996 California voters passed Proposition 215, which allowed for the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Let’s clarify something – you don’t get a prescription for marijuana, because it’s illegal for a doctor to prescribe an illegal drug. Instead, people are provided with a recommendation for marijuana from a doctor (who, more often than not, is not their regular physician). Many of us might recall reading about a columnist for the LA Times who saw a dermatologist (skin doctor) for a back problem and was given a recommendation for marijuana.

In 2010 Governor Schwarzenegger signed Senate Bill 1449, which made it an infraction (think traffic ticket) instead of a misdemeanor for the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana.

And most recently, in November of last year voters in California passed Proposition 64, which allowed for the recreational use of marijuana. It authorized cities and counties to regulate marijuana retail stores and collect taxes, or ban stores outright.

Proposition 64 passed by 57 percent statewide, 59.54 percent within the county of Los Angeles, and yes, it passed within the city of Santa Clarita by 52.3 percent.

The city has continued its moratorium on marijuana sales for the remainder of the year. Los Angeles County has done the same, but, it is moving forward with preparing to allow marijuana retail stores within its jurisdiction. It’s highly likely that we will have at least one marijuana retail store in the Santa Clarita Valley, whether in Stevenson Ranch, Castaic, or just beyond the city limits on Sierra Highway.

Marijuana and related products are a lucrative business. Presently, there are 15 medical marijuana delivery businesses located in our valley, with the majority located within city limits.

The following is a quote from Cameron Smyth from an article in the Signal newspaper: “I do not support opening a medical or recreational storefront facility, kind of retail, in the city,’’ said Smyth. “I don’t think that’s appropriate. But it’s worth having a discussion about local residents who might already operate a medical [marijuana] delivery business, and have reason to be in the city, as well as those who are considering the manufacturing [of marijuana products].’’

In addition, Councilwoman Weste believes that the city should put in place regulations as to residents who elect to grow their marijuana instead of purchasing it. Under proposition 64 residents will be allowed to grow up to six plants. Most people won’t be growing, they will be purchasing marijuana.

The voters have decided and we should respect their views. The city needs to develop a comprehensive plan for the sale of marijuana in our city – whether a delivery service or retail store. Either way, any sort of marijuana business must not be located near our schools, libraries, parks, houses of worship or other types of businesses that cater to minors, such as a martial arts studio. If we don’t come up with a comprehensive plan, people will continue to have it delivered, or drive to the city of Los Angeles or in the near future, drive west of the 5 freeway and purchase it.

My fear isn’t people smoking it; it is people smoking marijuana, then driving their cars. How do we educate and enforce in an effective and efficient manner? I wish I had a solution to offer, but I don’t. Nonetheless, we have a responsibility to come up with a solution, because it’s with us, one way or another.

Let me close by saying this: I support your right to use marijuana in the privacy of your home, but I ask that you respect my right not to smell it. Recently, my family went to The Patios after dinner and what did I smell, then observe? Two young adults smoking marijuana in the parking lot. After I yelled “someone has mary jane” the two young adults entered their vehicle and drove away.

Always Advocating Alan – Santa Clarita’s Great Measure H Debate

| Opinion | March 2, 2017

Alan Ferdman

Homelessness is a real and important issue. While I believe all the supporters of Measure H have the best intentions, I also believe it is important to have an honest, open dialogue whenever a large sum of money is being spent.

My perspective is influenced by my wife’s and my personal experiences with homelessness. The first was watching our children’s godparents go from owning a beautiful home and trucking company to losing it all because of cocaine addiction. No matter how much we tried to help, their addiction was too strong for them to overcome. They ended up living on the street and would disappear for longer and longer periods of time. Then, we lost all contact. Later, we were informed by their daughter it was all over.

Another instance was when my wife and I first moved to Canyon Country. A friend of ours, Ed, was living in the area and offered to have us stay with him while we looked for a house. We resided at his place for about six months, shared expenses and saved for a down payment. Fast forward 40 years and a mutual friend found Ed wandering down Sierra Highway on foot. He was homeless and living in a broken-down van off Sierra Highway, hidden from view. Ed was handicapped due to a vehicular accident that occurred about two years before we met him and he had moved back to Van Nuys. When his parents and, later, his employer passed away, his alcoholism became worse; he was unemployed and unable to fend for himself. A mutual buddy picked Ed up, got him a place to live and started an effort to set up his social security benefits. When he had to leave town for work, he called me and I completed the process. For the next seven years, until Ed was overcome by COPD, I was his “Social Security Representative Payee.” My job was to make sure he had a place to live, food on the table, medical care and a decent quality of life.

I am telling you these stories for three reasons. The first is for you to realize, some of these situations are heartbreaking, particularly when you are watching bad things happen and you are powerless to do anything about it. Secondly, no matter what the television commercials portray, many of these situations do not have a fairytale happy ending. Sometimes you have to settle for the best results you can accomplish. Lastly, it takes a great deal of time and effort to make a difference. You must be prepared for the long haul.

Knowing how important the issue is, I took special care to attend The Signal’s Measure H debate at College of the Canyons. I was looking to learn more about the measure from Ms. Hill’s and Mr. Marshall’s presentations. Hopefully, now knowing my past experiences, you have a better understanding of why I am skeptical about Measure H. After sitting through the presentation I was disappointed, as nothing new was brought forth. All we heard was the same two arguments again and again. Ms. Hill told us how raising the money would enable them to do great things, while providing little specificity. Mr. Marshall continued to lament there were no clear benchmarks to measure success, and he never provided a spending plan.

So, I went home and decided to do a little research. I wanted to know more and could not believe additional information was not available. Searching news articles, the first thing I found out was the $100 million currently available is a onetime, short-term homelessness fund established by the county in 2016. Next, the LA Times, on February 14, 2017, provided more information on planned Measure H expenditures. The Times reported $245 million was planned to be spent on counseling services over the first five years. Up to $1 billion was going to shelters and rental housing over 10 years, plus $557 million over the first five years and then $186 million each succeeding year would go to rental subsidies. Lastly, an additional $360 million is allocated for “Rapid Rehousing,” or short-term housing for those who have lost their homes due to a financial crisis. Add it all up and the planned expenditures equal $3.092 billion. Since Measure H will raise $3.55 billion, what happens to the remaining $458 million and the additional $615 million they anticipate getting from the state was not revealed.

Now it was time to look for benchmarks. Well, both Ms. Hill and Phill Ansell (LA Times) talked about placing 45,000 homeless people into permanent housing during the first five years. That is a pretty tall order and not very believable, since the total homeless population in the county is 47,000 (Signal and LA Times). In addition, the U.S. Conference of Mayors estimated 26 percent of homeless individuals are mentally ill (Cougar News), making it even more difficult.

With all the information available in the news media, I am surprised Ms. Hill did not have any of the financial information available at the debate. If I had the opportunity to ask questions, knowing where the money was going, I would have asked how their newly housed individuals were going to pay for utilities, food, medical attention, and possibly job skills training. Just putting a roof over someone’s head does not solve the total problem.

During the debate, however, I did have the opportunity to ask about funding allocations. Would the funding be divided, geographically, according to the homeless population in any given area? Ms. Hill had no answer. I was wondering if Santa Clarita would be contributing on a par with the services we will receive.

Calculating how much Santa Clarita will be contributing (amount collected per year divided by L.A. County population, multiplied by Santa Clarita Population), Measure H would be collecting $7.7 million per year or $77 million over the next 10 years from Santa Clarita. If Santa Clarita was given possession of our own revenue stream, we could spend $30 million on building a permanent homeless shelter and still have $4 million per year to operate it. Since Santa Clarita has a permanent Homeless Shelter Overlay Zone, it is a very real possibility.

I understand most of the absentee ballots are already cast, but if you are going to the polls on March 7 and make a more informed decision because of the information included in this column, I have accomplished my goal. I am still skeptical of Measure H, in part, because it is the third county-driven initiative where little outreach has been provided in the Santa Clarita Valley. In addition, the other two initiatives, Measure M and the Park District Parcel Tax passed last November bring little benefit to our area compared to our contribution. Nevertheless, if Measure H passes, I hope the plan implemented is successful. Homelessness is a real and important issue; our community deserves a real and effective solution.

A High Schooler’s POV

| Opinion | March 2, 2017

by Analyn May

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that our culture is currently dealing with a lot of problems regarding self-image. Indeed, with Hollywood’s constant ideas of beauty being forced upon teens, and even younger kids, many today struggle with fitting in and conforming to the pressure of the media.

But there’s a flip side to this problem, as well. While there are many girls applying 20 tons of makeup every day in order to look like the front of a magazine, there are many others who have the exact opposite problem and are going “full tomboy” solely in an effort to be a nonconformist. The same issue exists with boys: as much as the media uses “manly men” and sports in an attempt to sell products like cologne and beer, there are quite a few other examples in the media discouraging boys from liking anything typically considered “boyish,” like football and other athletics.

The way I see it, there are currently two frames of mind constantly being pressed on us as a society, each contradicting the other. The first is the mindset that all youths should listen to the media, buy a lot of products and useless junk, and that girls in particular should be girly girls or sexy vixens, while boys should all be rough-and-tumble men with no emotions and lots of muscle. This is a real problem, and our society is actually starting to do something about it. Unfortunately, while we’re trying to clean up that first problem, we’ve started creating a second, lesser-talked about one in the process. This is the mindset that if a person does fit into any of the categories I described they’re shallow, brainless sheep with no will of their own. By discouraging the first set of standards, we’ve unintentionally started creating a second set to force people into. These standards communicate that everyone should be an iron-willed rebel with a completely unique mindset and identity, all tradition is bad, and that fitting into a stereotype is a sign of weakness and conformity. Especially concerning teens and youth, we’ve started expecting all girls to be rebellious tomboy types who couldn’t care less about how they look, and for all boys to pretty much treat girls as the dominant sex and to give up any activities that were previously considered “manly.”

So, society has accidentally set up a catch-22: If you don’t fit into one stereotype, you have to fit into another. The cure for this is not to set up more stereotypes for people to choose from, but rather to get rid of them completely. As long as a girl wears makeup because it makes HER happy, and not because of peer pressure, don’t assume she’s shallow. The same goes for a boy who likes sports and wants to be a famous football player when he grows up. And if someone doesn’t fit those descriptions, respect them equally and don’t make assumptions.

Everything I’m saying basically comes down to the Golden Rule, but it’s never a bad reminder to treat others the way you’d like to be treated … whether they fit into your idea of a stereotype or not. Until next time, this is Analyn May, signing off.

The Measure of Measure H

| Opinion | February 25, 2017

What is Measure H? What is a homeless person? How do these two issues intersect? Measure H on the March 7th ballot is a 10-year one-quarter cent sales tax to raise $335 million yearly for building dignity and security for our homeless population.

(It) is not just a Los Angeles issue; it is also a Santa Clarita issue. And yes, everyone has a different perspective of looking at a homeless person, sometimes (with) a negative outlook, and rightfully so. You have those whose concerns are the vagueness of the government with their so-called comprehensive plan, not dealing with the what, when, where and how. And you have the naysayers who cry «not in my backyard.» But they are in our backyards. They live in our riverbeds, in our parks, under and over our bridges and freeways, and behind our shopping centers, sometimes on the wet and cold cement in front of our stores.

When thinking about whether you do or do not, or are unsure about supporting Measure H, I have a suggestion. Pick a miserable day – cold, raining, windy, etc., like the weather we have been having during the past couple of months. Put on a flimsy jacket, substandard shoes, and go for a walk where you know homeless people are living, or shall I say, trying to live. Stop and talk to them, ask how they are doing. Ask why they are here and how did they get here. Their answers might shock you. I guarantee you that most will talk to you and are harmless. When you are done talking to them, or if you prefer, observing them, take a look at their environment and surroundings and think about the nice, warm, cozy home you are about to go to. And, hopefully, like them, you are a little wet and cold, (but) you are about to have something they don’t: a warm change of clothes and a hot cup of coffee. Also, see if there are any children, seniors, disabled people, and maybe a veteran. Ask yourself, what is the depth of how they got there? What was the starting point of their downward spiral? Where did their paths go wrong? The fact is, many of these people living on the street die on the street, or in their car, alone, lonely and lost.

As quoted, in part, in Gary Horton’s opinion article on Measure H in The Signal on Feb. 11, 2017, “But its authors aren’t yet able to inform voters exactly how the money will be spent. Specific details will come later, after months of community and panel deliberations. Measure H is somewhat ‘Trust us – we’re the government.’”

It is true that government, as we all know, with its bureaucracy and dragging its blind feet, needs a citizens’ oversight advisory committee to audit the tax revenues collected and the amounts expended and for what.

Think about how little one-quarter of a cent is and how far it will go. Do you spend 10 cents per bag when you go to the store? Bring your own bag and put that 10 cents to Measure H; it is a far better cause.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Vote Yes on Measure H

| Opinion | February 24, 2017

On March 7, Santa Clarita residents will vote on Measure H, a quarter-cent sales tax to fund new programs to combat homelessness in L.A. County. The initiative will raise $355 million annually and help 45,000 individuals within the first five years. If enacted, it would enable the most robust attack on homelessness in the county’s history.

The services enabled by the measure will use the “housing-first” model of combating homelessness. This approach emphasizes getting individuals into permanent housing and then providing them with support to focus on their issues. Advocates of this method argue that providing the homeless with the stability of housing is critical. It enables them to then solve their personal problems, which are often related to addiction and mental illness.

Where it has been tried, “housing-first” has been a smashing success. In 2005, Utah implemented this approach and in ten years reduced chronic homelessness by 91 percent, and the state also saved taxpayer money. This is because when individuals are left to the streets, they spend a lot of time in shelters, jails, and emergency rooms.

That gets expensive. Studies showed it cost Utah $17,000 annually to leave a homeless individual on the streets. By contrast, treating that person through the state’s “housing-first” program cost only $11,000.

So for those keeping score, Los Angeles County wants to raise the sales tax by a fourth of a penny. In real terms, that’s an extra two cents added to every $10 purchase. The new revenue will support a battle-tested strategy for helping the homeless that will save lives and taxpayer money.

And yet, despite the virtues of the proposition, some have still come out against it. The most prominent local critic is Santa Clarita Mayor Cameron Smyth. The mayor argued recently that it is wrong to vote on such a bold initiative during the March election, when voter turnout is expected to be less than 10 percent. Furthermore, he said, voters should not be asked to approve another tax increase when they already passed several in the November election.

But these critiques are meritless. First, the only question voters should have when evaluating Measure H is “Is this good policy?” The fact that it is being voted on in March is relatively unimportant. As my above paragraphs show, clearly the initiative is a good idea. The policy it funds has been tried before, with marvelous effects. It will work in Los Angeles County, too.

Furthermore, homelessness is a growing crisis. Our communities need strong solutions now. I am thankful the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors recognized this and placed Measure H on the March Ballot.

Smyth can nip at the county’s heels all he wants and argue they should have deferred until the next high-turnout election. However, that won’t occur until 2020, when President Trump runs for a 2nd term. That’s almost four years away: action against homelessness cannot wait that long.

As for Smyth’s second argument, indeed, he is correct that voters approved several tax increases last November. However, on its face, that reality is not enough to oppose Measure H. I believe voters can make up their minds and decide whether or not they have been taxed too much.

It is paternalistic for Smyth to claim that on his own. Let the people decide. If they feel they are overtaxed, they will defeat the measure at the ballot box.

Another common critique heard locally is that a far better way to help is through volunteering at the homeless shelter, not passing a new tax. While I understand the appeal of the argument, that is flat-out wrong. Working at homeless shelters is a fine, noble thing, and many great people do that. However, in a country as rich as ours, homeless shelters shouldn’t even exist. Homelessness shouldn’t exist. Measure H will be a huge step forward in making that vision a reality. I humbly ask our readers, come March 7th, to vote yes on this exciting, important proposal.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Always Advocating Alan: City Council Agreement by Consent

| Opinion | February 23, 2017

Anyone who knows me can count on finding me at City Hall at 6 p.m. on the second and fourth Tuesday of every month. I will be seated up front, waiting for the start of Santa Clarita’s City Council meeting.  Some residents find city council meetings to be a boring affair, but I find them to be quite the opposite. Almost always, there are issues presented which could: make a person happy to live in Santa Clarita, cause them to chuckle at the city blowing their own horn, become surprised to experience intrigue, comedy, suspense – and sometimes, even get to witness the councilmembers actually having a candid dialog about an important issue.

Some of our residents watch council meetings on television, and while this practice gives them a better understanding on what is happening in our city, they only get to see what the camera is pointed at.  I prefer to attend in person, because by doing so, you get to see how each councilmember reacts to public speakers, the audience, the issues and each other. Sometimes, body language speaks louder than words. It gives me a clear perspective on who is listening, who is interested, who is knowledgeable and who is not.

One section of the city council meeting which I find of particular interest is the Consent Calendar. Per the meeting agenda information, these issues are “All matters … considered routine … (which) will be enacted by one motion by the City Council. The items are not individually discussed by the City Council unless a request is made by a member of the public or the Council.”

Therefore, if no questions are raised about a Consent Calendar item, they are quietly enacted.  My concern is that important issues can be implemented without public scrutiny or council discussion. Remember, Brown Act legislation prevents a majority of councilmembers (more than 2) to discuss agenda items outside the formal council meeting. There are times (after reading the staff report and background information) I question why a specific item is considered routine.

Such was the case at the February 14 city council meeting, Agenda Item 8, “Pertaining to Library Rules of Conduct.”  When I read the Staff Report, it showed an addition being been made to the Library Ordinance (Rules) stating, “The children’s area is available for use by children and their accompanying adults and by adults who have been given permission by Library staff.  Adults that are not accompanying children and adults that have not been given permission by Library staff will be asked to relocate to another section of the library.”

I was blown away. Does this mean there have been problems with adult and children interactions at our Libraries?  This problem is related to our children, and public safety is very important. Why wouldn’t there be an open discussion? Yet, when I read the staff report and item material further, it did not identify the problem being addressed.

I decided not to speculate. Instead, I put in a speaker card at the next council meeting and asked questions directly to the councilmembers.  What is the problem being addressed?  Is this an issue at one specific location, or at all library branches? If it is an issue of inappropriate interaction between children and adults, wouldn’t it be beneficial to have a staff member permanently assigned to monitor the children’s section?

At first, there was silence. Councilmember Bob Kellar responded with a dialog about the homeless population, and, “Having read the rules and recommendations for the safety of our children and our families, (the amended library rules) are tremendously warranted.” No one else had anything to add. The rest of the council and staff had that wide eyed, “I wish I knew what’s going on,” look.

The next morning, I was at a meeting, which the Newhall branch librarian had also attended. After the meeting concluded, I asked her about the situation, and if she was aware of what transpired at the previous night’s city council meeting.  She went on to tell me that the issue was not quite what was represented. It turns out that the library has received complaints from adults who were occupying space in the children’s section. The adults were upset because the children were making too much noise and the Library personnel were just attempting to have the adults move to a different area.

So, let me get this straight – we are passing an ordinance (law) prohibiting adults from entering the children’s library section unless accompanied by a child because, the adults are complaining about the noise level created by the children? I thought: “We have finally arrived. The inmates are running the asylum.”

By Thursday, an article appeared in The Signal. Mayor Cameron Smyth was quoted, saying “the amendment came about not because of any particularly troubling incident or incidents regarding adults interacting with children at the libraries, but because of complaints from parents. I think over the last year or so we at the city have received complaints from parents who have concerns about bringing their kids to the library as a result of the number of homeless folks that spend their daytime hours there.”

Are you confused and concerned about what is really going on? One good thing about this situation is, since this is an ordinance, Agenda Item 8, presented on February 14, was only the first reading.  The ordinance will be back on the agenda for a second and final time, hopefully at the next city council meeting. If this is truly about preventing inappropriate interaction between adults and children at our local libraries, we need immediate action, which is far more effective than words on a piece of paper. The second reading will be your opportunity to ask questions and get clarification about the issue, the ordinance and enforcement.

City council agendas are available, on the city website, starting the Thursday evening prior to the next Tuesday’s city council meeting. If you take the time to preview what will be discussed and enacted at the next meeting, you may choose to attend. It is a great way to learn about your city government. I look forward to seeing you there, when we can all find out what is really going on in our libraries. Believe me, you will find it time well spent. City council meetings are “The Greatest Show on Earth,” and there is no charge for admission.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

A Modern Trail of Tears

| Opinion | February 17, 2017

This is my third column discussing Trump’s recent changes to American Immigration policy. In most instances, spending this much time on a subject would be excessive, but what Trump has done is truly extraordinary. At this moment, it is now the policy of the U.S. government to target the entire undocumented community – 11 million people in all – for deportation.

Trump enacted this change through his recent executive order entitled, “Enhancing Public Safety in the Interior of the United States.” In the measure, Trump directs federal officials to pursue deportation of all undocumented immigrants who have committed a “chargeable criminal offense.”

By definition, the entire undocumented community falls under that category for crossing the border illegally. It is a truly jaw-dropping policy that will destroy the lives of millions of innocent families and degrade America’s standing in the world.

The undocumented will be ripped from their communities by immigration agents, and shuttled across the border, left to fend for themselves.

It will be a replication of President Andrew Jackson’s “Trail of Tears,” his infamous policy towards the native Americans in the 1830s. Looking to secure more land for white settlers, Jackson deported thousands of natives from their tribal lands, making them walk the dangerous journey across the Mississippi River. In the process, nearly 50,000 died.

Jackson justified this brutal approach, framing the natives as uncivilized savages standing in the way of white America’s economic progress. Trump has used similar demagogy to gather support for his policy, infamously saying the undocumented community was full of “murderers and rapists.” As they say, history does not exactly repeat itself, but it certainly rhymes.
Extensive research shows that Trump’s plan will also crush the American economy. According to analysis from the American Action Forum, a well-regarded think tank, his scheme will shrink national wealth by $1 trillion, cost taxpayers $400 billion, and lead to severe job losses.

Undocumented immigrants make up a critical part of our society. They prop up the agricultural and construction industries, start thousands of new businesses, and pay billions in taxes. Removing them from the country won’t just destroy their lives. It will harm ours, too.

There is literally no sound reason for Trump’s approach. It is despicably immoral, economically harmful, and against our national values. It is so extreme that it outweighs any good ideas he may have on other matters. Forget his plan on jobs, education, healthcare; forget it all (They say Hitler had a couple of sensible ideas, too). When a leader crosses the line and commits to a policy that is an act of pure inhumanity, he must be forcefully opposed.

Undocumented lives matter. They are sisters and brothers; fathers and sons; husbands and wives; business owners and preachers; romantics and philosophers; poets and intellectuals. They are just like you and me.

If Americans allow this policy to stand, and the undocumented community is deported, we won’t deserve to call ourselves a moral people. We will no longer be the land of the free. The Statue of Liberty – with its exhortation that America is a place for the oppressed – will become a symbol of tragic irony.

This is beyond politics. Trump’s actions have turned this moment into a question of who we are as a people. Do we truly cherish the vision of the founding fathers, that America must be a country that cherishes human rights and opportunity for all? Or are the words of Jefferson and Hamilton out-of date, and should America instead be a place that practices barbarism towards the innocent?

Future generations of Americans will look to those who lived now, and study how they responded to the cruelty of President Donald Trump. I hope, when it is all said and done, they will be able to view us with pride.

In 1855, the United States faced a similar surge of anti-immigrant sentiment, brought on by the rise of the Know-Nothing Party. This group parroted Trump’s ideas almost word for word. They believed the economy was rigged, diversity was a threat, and that the millions of new immigrants coming into the country then had to go.

Abraham Lincoln, in response to these people, wrote the following immortal words, which are worth remembering today:

“As a nation, we began by declaring that ‘all men are created equal.’ We now practically read it ‘all men are created equal, except negroes.’ When the Know-Nothings get control, it will read ‘all men are created equal, except negroes, and foreigners, and Catholics.’ When it comes to this I should prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense of loving liberty – to Russia, for instance, where despotism can be taken pure, and without the base alloy of hypocrisy.”

President Lincoln recognized the delusional bigots of his day, and called a spade a spade. Let us do the same with Donald Trump and ensure that his ideals don’t replace the ones we hold so dear.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Always Advocating Alan

| Opinion | February 16, 2017

A Tale of Two Residents

by Alan Ferdman

Santa Clarita property values and rents have been on the rise for quite some time. If you are invested in local real estate, you are probably smiling, but if you are currently living on a fixed income, or if you are an individual earning a lower wage, having to work two jobs to make ends meet, you may have a whole different perspective when contemplating how to keep a roof over your family’s head. For the most part, Santa Clarita rents are solely driven by market forces. There is one exception, however; the city’s Manufactured Home Rent Adjustment Ordinance puts limitations on space rent increases being charged to manufactured (Mobile) homeowners, providing the parties have not signed a long-term lease.

Certainly, manufactured home park owners have a right to earn “a fair rate of return on their investment,” while at the same time, if space rent rises too quickly, added to the manufactured home cost, it prices manufactured homes out of the market. This places the manufactured homeowner at a severe bargaining disadvantage, since manufactured homes are costly and difficult to relocate. When faced with a situation of escalating space rent costs, many homeowners not able to afford the monthly payment typically default and lose whatever equity they might have.

About two years ago, the Manufactured Home Rent Adjustment Ordinance came under scrutiny. Of concern was allowing park owners to raise space rent, each year, by the amount of the Consumer Price Index (CPI), or a minimum of 3 percent. Since the CPI had not been rising to the level of 3 percent for the past several years, residents felt they were being overcharged.  We, most likely, would not be aware of this issue if Mr. Ray Henry and Mr. Doug Fraser had not stepped forward and brought it to the attention of the City Council, over and over again, until the councilmembers took notice.

Action was taken by the Santa Clarita City Council to make it fair for all concerned. The ordinance was changed to allow space rent to be increased, in accordance with the CPI without a minimum being specified, and to account for higher cost of utilities and governmental services (property tax). In addition, the cost of capital (park) Improvements could be spread over time, a portion allocated to each space and added to the rent increase as well. Normal maintenance is assumed to be a part of existing rent amounts and are, therefore, not subject to be a part of the yearly increase. Should park residents believe the yearly increase amounts are not in compliance with ordinance criteria, a protest procedure was defined. Such protests would be decided by a five-member panel made up of two members elected by park owners, two members elected by park residents and one independent member appointed by the city manager.

Even though I thought the ordinance process was too complex and believe the included prohibition against challenging decisions at the city council level is inappropriate, I was still optimistic. I saw the opportunity for park owners to maintain a reasonable rate of return, while defining the details of the rent increase would give residents a better understanding of what they were paying for. Well, win-win solutions require an honest effort and the result was disappointing.

For the 2016 round of rent increases, specific park owners used capital improvement definitions over and above what is specified in the ordinance, added the cost of governmental services retroactively since 1993, and inappropriately challenged residents signing the petition at the Rent Panel hearing. All while city staff sat back and let it happen, and advised the panel to make decisions for which the ordinance did not provide them the authority. I brought up these issues at the next City Council meeting, where our city manager acknowledged the process was not working well. He went further to indicate that changes to the ordinance were under consideration, and he asked residents to have patience, wait for the current round of panel hearings to be completed and to expect ordinance changes before the next rent increase cycle.

Well, the 2017 rent increase cycle started without any changes in view. I attended the February 6th Rent Adjustment Panel meeting and witnessed more of the same. This time, it was the residents protesting a rent increase based on clerical errors in the rent adjustment notice. Due to “conflict of interest,” two alternate panel members were seated who seemed to have little knowledge of what was expected of them. Questions were asked of staff as to when proposed changes to the ordinance would be made public, but staff did not have a clear answer.

Thinking it over, most of these issues could be resolved by reviewing the existing ordinance and making some common-sense changes, providing city staff would follow through and make it happen. Major areas I would propose for rework include:
•Simplifying the Rent Adjustment Procedure. Change the process to have staff review each rent increase for ordinance compliance and should a discrepancy exist, take appropriate action to correct any deficiencies. Criteria for establishing “Standard Space Rent Adjustments” is clearly defined in the Ordinance (6.02.080(B)). If park owners comply with the ordinance, there should be no reason for residents to file a protest on these grounds. “Nonstandard Space Rent Adjustments” are more subjective and may come under residents’ concerns. Yet, there are specific criteria defined for this area as well. Staff should have the responsibility of ensuring compliance. If the City Council puts an ordinance in place, they should also put in place the necessary safeguards to make it happen.

•Removing all prohibitions against raising staff and Rent Panel decisions for City Council consideration. If the City Council has the authority to enact an ordinance, they should have the final say on how it is being implemented.

•Requiring park residents to obtain 50% +1 resident signatures to file an appeal is an unreasonable mountain to climb and not in line with current city practice. Today, a complaint from only one person is necessary to put code enforcement into action on a perceived ordinance infraction. I propose the same criteria be used for objective Rent Adjustment Ordinance violations and the number be reduced to 10 (or 50% whichever is less) for subjective protests.

Our City Council not only has the authority to put rules in place, but also the responsibility to verify that their decisions have provided the desired result. When it becomes evident something is not working as intended, the council needs to step up and fix it. When commitments are provided by staff, requiring completion should be taken seriously. You may not live in a manufactured home park, but at some time in the future you may run up against an issue at City Hall where, if you are lucky, there will be people like Mr. Henry and Mr. Fraser, who are willing to stand up for you, as long as it takes, to make things right.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

A Question of Morality

| Opinion | February 10, 2017

After Donald Trump released his executive orders reshaping U.S. immigration policy, I immediately went online to read them word for word. If you may recall, during the campaign Trump promised to deport the entire undocumented community, 11 million people in all – men, women and children.

He said he would make no distinction between whether or not these individuals were criminals, if they were parents of small kids, or if they were productive members of their communities. His message was simple: If a person didn’t have papers, they were gone.

Even though he was clear in his intentions, I couldn’t really believe he would actually follow through. The idea was just too immoral.

I read through the new measures nervously, hoping they would reveal something different than his campaign rhetoric. There was language promising to “build the wall,” hire more border patrol agents, and reform the way officials apprehend immigrants crossing the border.

I had almost gotten to the end of the documents and had yet to see anything resembling a mass deportation scheme. It seemed my worst fears wouldn’t come to pass. But then I read section 5 of the second executive order, entitled “Enforcement Priorities.”

In a few bullet points, Trump laid out exactly who the federal government was to focus on for deportation. He ordered immigration officials to pursue anyone who has “committed acts that constitute a chargeable criminal offense.”

After reading those eight words, I felt a chill go down my spine – there it was, the language calling for mass deportations. Trump was really following through with his promise to tear apart millions of innocent families.

How did I figure this? Immigrants who cross the border illegally are committing a misdemeanor. By law, that is a “chargeable criminal offense.” Therefore, Trump’s executive order now makes every undocumented individual in the United States a priority for deportation.

It is, without a doubt, one of the evilest policies ever enacted by the United States.

As soon as I understood the weight of Trump’s actions, I, like many people, vented over Facebook:

“Anybody who still supports Trump, after he made the deportation of 11 million immigrants official government policy, really needs to see a priest, a rabbi, a Buddhist monk, a witch doctor; someone who can find your conscience for you.”

It was a snarky thing to post, I admit. My parents, in response, were disturbed that I was targeting Trump’s entire base of supporters, challenging their morality. In their view, I should focus my anger towards Trump – the man with the power – instead.

I am sympathetic to this, but at the same time, I stand by my words. Trump certainly deserves the most scorn for proposing this policy. But it is grossly immoral for any of his supporters to still support him uncritically after this. They must speak out. At a certain point, politics transforms from a legitimate battle of ideas to a question of character.

This is beyond Republican and Democrat. Siding with Trump on this issue is siding with inhumanity. There is no moral argument for what he is trying to do. Those who think otherwise must be condemned, much in the same way racists, anti-Semites, and holocaust deniers are.

Civility, in the vast majority of cases, is a tremendous virtue in politics. Ninety-nine percent of political opinions, while not always accurate or well-informed, are worthy of respect. But, when it comes to that small minority of perspectives which are founded on nothing but cruelty, politeness towards those who hold them is not the way to go.

As a society, we must sanction and forcefully challenge those who promote such arguments, like the view that the entire undocumented community should be deported. When we refuse to do this, when we do not make clear distinctions between what is respectable and hateful, our entire culture is degraded.

Donald Trump’s supporters must speak out against his cruel, inhumane actions. Their character – and the character of the entire nation – rests on them doing so.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

A High Schooler’s POV

| Opinion | February 10, 2017

by Analyn May

There’s plenty of talk about adults nowadays sitting jobless in their parents’ basements watching cartoons all day. Unfortunately, these adults have given cartoons a bad rap.

These sources of entertainment aren’t just a way to pass the time; for many people they serve much higher purposes, one of the most common being an escape from reality. For example, let’s say there’s a college student who takes a full load of classes, each with several hours of homework. He also holds a part-time job to help pay for the cost of those classes, and on the weekends he helps take care of his elderly grandmother. He’s busy seven days a week and the stress is starting to take its toll.

Sadly, there are those who would judge him for taking 20 minutes a day to watch an episode of his favorite cartoon. Is it fair to tell him he’s being childish and lazy if those few minutes are actually decreasing his stress and keeping his sanity? This is what bugs me about people who automatically judge adults who enjoy watching younger children’s shows. More often than not, those simple, childish cartoons are incredibly important to those watching them.

And that’s just the start. Many introverts find comfort in fictional characters when they don’t have any friends they feel comfortable opening up to. Many introverts actually end up meeting their first friends because they found others who were like them: who watched the same shows, no matter what age. Cartoons can also help people who struggle with issues such as anxiety and depression. Some people even go the distance and improve their personalities when they see characters they admire. They think, “Huh, that character’s situation feels really relatable; maybe I’ve been going about this the wrong way.”

Of course, not every person is like this, and not every cartoon has fantastic morals, but the percentage is surprisingly high.

Finally, there’s a small group of people who many overlook, which is the group that watches cartoons and kids’ shows in the interest of studying them. I’m part of this small group, as creating shows like this is what I actually want to do with my LIFE. As of now, I’m not judged for watching kids’ shows because I’m still a kid. But I’ll be watching those same shows years from now, still analyzing plots and character developments, and I hope by that time people won’t judge me or think I’m lazy because they see me watching cartoons. I want to be the one who helps the college student through his roughest years, the girl who’s too shy to make friends in real life, and the parent who wants to find something to help him or her connect with an autistic child.

For every occasional bum who sits in his parents’ basement watching TV all day and doing nothing with his life, there are many others who desperately need cartoons more than their friends will ever know. So, please don’t leap to conclusions because a full-grown adult has been watching “My Little Pony.”

Until next time, this is Analyn May, signing off.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

Always Advocating Alan

| Opinion | February 9, 2017

Will Passing Measure H Solve Santa Clarita’s Homelessness Problem?

When Doug Sutton agreed I could write for the Gazette, I set a goal for myself to alternate between things I found to be going quite well and issues which needed attention. So, this week, when my neighborhood was visited by our local taggers, I noted how quickly our residents and the City of Santa Clarita Graffiti Task Force got it cleaned up. I sat down to fat finger an article about how well our home team was doing, when my mail carrier delivered something that changed my plan.

I received an official sample ballot for the Consolidated Municipal and Special Elections to be held Tuesday, March 7. Looking through the pamphlet, there is only one item up for a vote. Measure H, if passed by a 2/3 majority, would add a one quarter cent sales tax for the next 10 years to fund a Los Angeles County Plan to prevent and combat homelessness. You might think this “came out of nowhere,” however our County Board of Supervisors, including newly elected members, unanimously declared “homelessness an emergency” and voted at the December 6 meeting to move forward with a special election.

Interesting, I thought. In December, the county proposed a special election for March and the City of Santa Clarita did not join the party to select Dante Acosta’s replacement. Well, it may be interesting, but the City of Santa Clarita’s City Council appointment process is a separate discussion, so I will get back to the issue at hand.

As usual, we hear an all familiar sales pitch: “It is such a small amount.”

Phil Ansell, director of the county’s Homeless Initiative, said, “To put this funding in perspective, a quarter-cent sales tax would translate into an additional tax of 10 cents on the purchase of a $40 sweater, or $1 on the purchase of a $400 television.”
I don’t know how many times the public is going to hear and fall for this misdirection, because sales tax is addictive. Didn’t the county just ask for, and pass, another half-cent sales tax increase for Measure M to build more roads? With L.A. County sales tax approaching 10 percent, the sweater will cost an additional $4 and the television $40 on each purchase.

This is a discussion about a lot of money. Proposition H is expected to raise $355 million each year for 10 years, as reported by the Daily News. Los Angeles County currently has a population of approximately 9,818,000. Do the math and you will find a 10 percent sales tax will cost every man, woman and child living in Los Angeles County $1,446 per year. Who does this hurt the most? Our seniors and residents living on fixed incomes, such as Social Security or SSI. Many residents are on a tight budget and have difficulty paying their bills, which puts them a short step away from being homeless themselves. Raising sales tax, a little at a time, may not seem like much, but just like the frog in water that does not notice the temperature going up a little at a time, they will not become aware of the problem until they are cooked.

Another way to look at the issue is relative to the public benefit. If passed, measure H will raise $355 million per year. Add that to the $100 million per year already budgeted by the county to combat homelessness, and over 10 years the amount reaches a staggering $4.55 billion. An estimate of the Los Angeles County homeless population, also reported in the Daily News, is 47,000. Using my calculator again, it told me the county is planning to spend $96,808 for each homeless individual over 10 years. I’ll bet if I went to the Senior Center or the VA and asked if anyone could use an extra $100,000, we could easily guess the answer we would get.
Yet, the issue gets a little more confusing when you find out Measure H follows passage of Proposition HHH, a Los Angeles city property tax measure. Approved by voters in November, it will allow the city of Los Angeles to build 8,000 to 10,000 units of supportive permanent housing. Proposition HHH authorized Los Angeles City to borrow an additional $1.2 billion over the next 10 years. Now, Los Angeles County says, it is the county which will need to provide the supportive social services, so we need money also. Could this have been the plan all along?

By now, I believe you have realized we are talking about some big money. The total of $5.7 billion is nothing to be taken lightly. Such a large amount cannot be rationalized by comparing it to the additional cost of a sweater or a television.

I have some misgivings about Measure H for the following reasons:

  • Measure H information does not disclose a clear service or spending plan. Neither has there been any information on where, geographically, the money will be spent. All the available information says is what the money may be spent on, rather than specifically how it will be spent. The recently passed County Park Parcel Tax and Measure M mostly fund projects well south of Santa Clarita. Is this another initiative where Santa Clarita will be donating resources and not be benefited very much
  • Whenever a bureaucracy of this size is created, it never goes away. This initiative is not going to sunset in 10 years. What will happen is the “powers that be” will just come back for another “trip to the money tree” when the clock runs out and you can be sure the amount needed will just get larger.
  • Measure HHH sounds like the City of Los Angeles is going to be developing housing projects. This method of housing “no-income” residents has not worked for any other large city. Why would they expect it to work here? Why didn’t Los Angeles city’s Measure HHH planners include all the support services necessary to implement their plan? Did they know, in advance, Los Angeles County was going to push Measure H and bail them out?
  • If we make the homeless program too grand and the giveaway too large it will attract a larger homeless population, not cure it. Last year, I remember reading about a city which provided space for a homeless encampment and gave out free food. It did not take long before the encampment population exploded, overrunning available resources and causing major difficulties the elected officials were unable to handle.
  • California city and county governments are starting to use sales tax increases regularly to support their need for more money. Using a consumption tax in this way is making L.A. County less attractive for businesses and hurting low-income residents.

The authors and supporters of Measure H are just pulling on our heartstrings, hoping we will look the other way, pass this measure and give them the money. Homelessness is a real problem, but it will not be solved by just throwing more money at it. It is time to start holding our elected officials accountable to come up with real solutions to our community’s problems. Until they do, let’s send them a message by voting NO on Measure H, another wasteful tax increase.

**The Views and Opinions expressed in these columns are those of the writer, not necessarily those of Valley Publications/Santa Clarita Gazette.**

 

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