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Letters to the Editor

| Opinion | August 23, 2019

Assemblywoman Christy Smith’s distorted attack on The Gazette and publisher Doug Sutton, as printed on her FB page, may have pleased her cheerleading base but it serves as an abject example of what occurs when one gets twisted advice. By the latter, I mean the body of words has the markings of someone else who shall remain nameless here.

For a free press outlet to print an opinion page by its publisher/owner and have it attacked by an elected official who took the real point off into the weeds, is substantially astounding when the purpose is to destroy the publication.

Clearly Christy Smith does not believe in The First Amendment!

As for some detail, Doug Sutton clearly expressed he is sick and tired of being called a “White Nationalist”, “White Supremacist” ’ etc. just for being born white.
He is hardly alone in that knowledge. Of course people who are different than “the norm” (whatever that is) are cut from the herd, bullied, demeaned, harassed, etc., by all sorts of rotten people, but the focus always seems to be on certain white-skinned people as the really bad guys. Simple: we are not.

It would take more time and space than this paper has to list the details of the obvious examples.

An assemblywoman trying to crush a small business in her district; put her constituents out of a job…by the way that includes some who actually voted for her, is shocking. Smith has specifically identified other businesses who advertise in The Gazette with the obvious intent to harm each of them and their employees as well. Without doubt, this is not over yet!

This is a woman that many people in the 25th District voted to represent a lot of people in Sacramento; her stepping stone to bigger things. For those, I’m sure she thanks you for your vote. Careful: think twice before turning your back—it’s about that sharp blade.

My vote will be for the representative that believes in that thing called The First Amendment! Smith does NOT.

-Betty Arenson

 

I have read Doug’s 8/16 Rant three times and am baffled by any “controversy” it has caused. The non-stop cries of “racist!” from the Left, the media and low information trolls on the internet are ignorant and misplaced. Doug’s column contains nothing remotely racist or pejorative; it is simply his opinion as guaranteed by the First Amendment which, as some forget when in disagreement, means “freedom of speech.” That is the bedrock foundation of America. Any talk of boycotting the Gazette supports censorship and reveals almost criminal stupidity.
The creators of the hilarious (and LGBTQ endorsed) “Avenue Q” musical got it right: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist.” It’s human nature. Nonetheless, inflated race-baiting from the Democratic Party is designed to spur the same kind of mass hysteria as the Salem Witch Trials where 19 women and men were hanged. However, this time they just want to win an election but, hey, if we have to destroy a few lives along the way.

– Paul P

I know Doug and he is not advocating white supremacy! A person can read anything they want into what he has to say but I for one support his views!
He is a good and upstanding person.

– Ellie Lacy (Gazette advertiser)

Democrats Wrong to Turn Their Backs on Anti-Trump Republicans

| Opinion | August 22, 2019

Winston Churchill understood that in times of national emergency, it was imperative to forge alliances with anyone willing to help – no matter how odious those allies might be. As the British prime minister famously declared in 1941, “If Hitler invaded hell, I would make at least a favorable reference to the devil in the House of Commons.”

In politics, as in international warfare, you win by addition, not subtraction. You win by welcoming anyone who wants to join the ranks. That’s how successful coalitions are built. But it’s amazing how so many litmus-test Democrats seem impervious to reality.

The other day, Oliver Willis, a senior writer at the liberal media website ShareBlue, tweeted his disdain for three prominent anti-Trump Republicans: ex-GOP congressman Joe Walsh, and conservative commentators Bill Kristol and David Frum, all of whom have signaled their willingness to make common cause with Democrats.

“Joe Walsh isn’t good. Bill Kristol isn’t good. David Frum isn’t good. These people are not worthy allies,” Willis wrote. “They’re working to undermine what is good. They’re just embarrassed at Trump for saying the BS out loud.”

Willis was applauded by many in the lefty Twitterverse. But prominent Trump critics on the right – including George Conway, Max Boot, George Will, and Peter Wehner – give voice to the restiveness within Republican-friendly ranks. According to recent polling, it appears a sizable number of reality-based Republicans and Republican-leaning independents are loath to vote for Trump again – not necessarily because they now oppose him on policy, but because his tweets and reckless antics have simply exhausted them.

For instance, Tom Nichols is a Republican who teaches at the U.S. Naval War College who is begging for any reason to vote Democratic in 2020. He wrote last Thursday: “I don’t care if Sen. Elizabeth Warren is a mendacious Massachusetts liberal. She could tell me that she’s going to make me wear waffles as underpants and I’ll vote for her …I don’t care if Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders is a muddle-headed socialist from a rural class-warfare state …He could tell me he’s going to tax used kitty litter and I’ll vote for him.”

Why? Because Nichols is fed up with Trump’s “compulsive lying, fantastic and easily refuted claims, base insults, and bizarre public meltdowns … It is a sign of how low we have fallen as a nation that ‘rational’ and ‘not compromised by an enemy’ are now my only two requirements for the office of the president of the United States.”

And Boot, an ex-foreign policy adviser to John McCain and Mitt Romney, is rooting for a blue victory. Earlier this month, he pleaded: “Don’t mess this up, Democrats. To preserve American democracy, we need to get rid of Trump. Then we can return to debating our normal policy differences.”

But because these people have toiled for the red team – George Conway (who calls Trump “a sociopath”) helped investigate Bill Clinton’s sex history during the 1990s, and Bill Kristol was a cheerleader for George W. Bush’s Iraq war – they’re deemed to be unacceptable allies in 2019. As one liberal magazine, The Nation, contended recently, “They’ve had their day. Democrats don’t need their votes.”

Really? If I’ve learned anything while covering national politics for the last 30 years, it’s the axiom that a campaign or a party needs all the votes it can possibly get. That’s not exactly rocket science. And fortunately, during that Twitter spat the other day, some Democrats seemed to get it.

Neera Tanden, a former Hillary Clinton advisor who now runs the Center for American Progress, wrote, “Our democracy is under siege. Make allies wherever you can. We can disagree again when Trump is gone.”

Elizabeth Bennett, a former congressional staffer, added: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend, at least while our mutual enemy is still a threat. Maybe we should just graciously accept the help b/c they can speak to people who won’t listen to us.”

Or as the old saying goes, “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” That’s still true – unless purist Democrats spurn the Republican migrants by building a wall.

Copyright 2019 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at WHYY in Philadelphia and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

Constitutional Problems with the Second Amendment

| Opinion | August 22, 2019

by Rob Werner

Our educational institutions indoctrinate us to believe that the United States was founded as a Democracy. In fact, the founding fathers were adamantly against both democracies and authoritarian governments. They neither wanted a new king or voters redistributing rights or wealth. The constitution and the bill of rights were designed to create a representative government with limited authority, one that could not render decisions that violated certain rights retained by the people. The founders recognized that times change and provided provisions to amend the constitution. But they were convinced that changing our constitution should not be an easy task.

The Second Amendment states: “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

The advocates of the Second Amendment preferred an armed populace over a standing army. At the time arms included defensive and offensive weapons, anything an army may need. The founders were revolutionaries and concerned that either a monarch or what might currently be called a progressive would ultimately take control of the government and constitutional safeguards would be ignored.

Thomas Jefferson said, “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”

What constitutes arms has advanced over generations not only to include multiple shot assault weapons but missiles and bombs. Advocates of rifle and gun ownership claim that they are supporting the constitution’s provisions providing the right to keep arms. But even they acknowledge the need for restrictions. Those restrictions violate the Second Amendment.

In recent years restrictions are constantly added. Preventing alleged mentally ill people with violent tendencies from acquiring firearms is now almost universally accepted. Odds are that such people who threatened violence in the eighteenth century would have had a short life expectancy. The problem with this approach is that not only is it contrary to the constitution, it sets a basis for denying weapon ownerships to classes of people. A significant number of people believe that supporters of the current president suffer a mental disease. Imagine an executive order by a future progressive president declaring such a disease and immediately initiating the confiscation of guns.

It is difficult to amend the constitution, but it can be done. It was done in the last century to both establish prohibition and repeal it. It was done to give women the right to vote. It was done to limit the term of those serving as President. However, on the failure of The Equal Rights Amendment to win approval, amendments have been abandoned in favor of redefining the constitution to comply with progressive views.

The progressive’s problem with amending the constitution is that amendments require the approval of two-thirds of congress and three-fourths of the states. Their desire to eliminate gun ownership would not pass. However, if they were willing to work with their opponents a compromise could be reached that protected the basic gun/rifle ownership rights of the Second Amendment and added limitations and securities that the public desire.

Rocky Mountain High

| Opinion | August 22, 2019

I am still on my journey across the Heartland of America. You remember, those places that President Obama complained that “they cling to their guns and their religion.”

My first impression is that the American West is stunningly beautiful. The deserts near Tucson with their signature Saguaro cactus and a plethora of wildflowers contain an unexpected bounty of life.

I next stayed in Williams Arizona near Flagstaff, and took the package tour that included all meals, hotel and a vintage train ride to the south rim of the Grand Canyon where an air-conditioned bus and expert guide took us to some of the outlooks not available to private vehicles. The Grand Canyon Railway and Hotel is a well-oiled machine that also included entertainment, a gunfight and a train robbery. For me the beauty of the scenery was matched by the warmth and goodness of the people of Williams. As our train passed the homes of people who were living off the grid, many gave us a cheerful wave.

My next stop was Page Arizona, gateway to Lake Powell and the Glen Canyon Dam which tamed the mighty Colorado River. The shoreline is longer than the entire western coast of the United States. It is home of the Rainbow Bridge and magnificent views of mesas and buttes that rise dramatically out of, and around, the lake.

Heading further east I drove past the amazing other worldly Monument Valley. My day ended in Colorado in the town of Cortez only eight miles from the park entrance of the World Heritage site of Mesa Verde. You must see the pueblos clinging to the sides of the rock cliffs to believe them. Upon first viewing I was reminded of another World Heritage site that I visited last year, Petra in Jordan. Both are equally impressive despite their construction being separated by about one thousand years and two thousand years of technology.

Heading points east for our ultimate destination in Niles Michigan, which is just across the state lines from South Bend Indiana, home of Notre Dame University, our journey took us over the magnificent Rocky Mountains via a pass that marked the Great Divide and was over 10,000 feet in elevation, while on our way to the Mile High City, Denver Colorado. Talk about a Rocky Mountain High. Peaks still with patches of snow, western towns, cattle ranches and outdoor recreation resorts were the rule of the day. Beauty abounded whenever one took a moment to appreciate God’s creation.

From the moment we crossed into Colorado, another type of Rocky Mountain High became apparent. The good peoples of Colorado’s acceptance of recreational cannabis; vendors were everywhere. Overheard while leaving a restaurant in Denver, “Wait in the car, children, your mother has to go pick something up at the cannabis store.” It may have been said in jest, but the effects on society, in general, are already being well documented. Even in small towns, there is a shabbiness and decay that is not seen in similar locations in Arizona, Iowa and Nebraska where cannabis is still illegal. There was public vagrancy by characters appearing slightly stoned even in the Mesa Verde gateway city of Cortez. Speaking to locals, they agreed that crime and more serious drug use was up. Clearly, also more dependency on public services and entitlements. Colorado is a stunningly beautiful state, but I believe that legalizing cannabis has not served the people of Colorado well. That said, the people of Michigan are looking forward to having recreational Mary Jane next year.

Next Chapter, 1000 miles of corn. Can you say gasoline with 10% ethanol?

Always Advocating Alan – The Race for a 2020 City Council Seat is Underway

| Opinion | August 22, 2019

It seems a little early, but along with our national election campaign teams gearing up, so goes the 2020 Santa Clarita City Council election cycle. With Councilmember Kellar indicating he will not seek another term, perspective candidates are starting to emerge, and you should expect to see many more coming out of the woodwork in the future. This appears like a great opportunity for an opinion columnist, who has no intention of adding his name to the candidate list, to share his philosophy, and the demeanor I would like to see displayed by the person who would get my endorsement and vote.

I have been retired for the past 13 years and I still have a hard time believing, “time passes so quickly.” Whenever I have been confronted by a person who is despondent about how much longer they will have before they retire, I tell them the following true story. It is of a memory, clearly and visibly fixed in my mind. As it turns out, I was in my office in Woodland Hills, and on the phone with a peer talking over retirement planning, when I recall vividly saying, “But I have 25 more years to work.” Then, almost like the instant you change television channels, those 25 years plus 13 have become the past.

So today, instead of jumping out of bed to get to work, my mornings are filled with sitting in my front atrium with my wife Pam, enjoying a cup of coffee, smiling about all the natural beauty I am surrounded by, and thinking about how lucky I am to be where I am today. As I ponder the future, it seems even more relevant for an individual, or a governmental agency, to follow the words our City Managers have spoken so often — “Decisions made in good times are more important than the decisions made during bad times.” Did I realize when I purchased and planted a little tree a half century ago, that today it would have grown from being no larger than a broom handle, to have a trunk I cannot reach around, and provide shade for the atrium all day long? No, I did not have that much foresight, but it was a good long-term decision, and in most cases, good long-term decisions are the ones which bear the most fruit. So, I will be looking for a candidate who shows an aptitude at implementing long term goals, as well as putting out short term fires.

Next, I will be searching for the candidate who is not overly consumed with telling us how wonderful everything is going, and wanting us to believe that if we just vote them in for another term they will stay the course and nothing will change. We deserve council members who carefully determine which areas truly deserve a positive note, and resist jumping at every perceived opportunity.

For example, last week the Signal contained an article on Thursday August 15, titled “Santa Clarita lauded as hard-working city.” It stated, “Local leaders weren’t too surprised to hear Kempler Industries naming Santa Clarita the 12th-hardest-working city in America.” Holly Schroeder, President and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corporation stated, “I’m not so entirely surprised to see we’re so hard working,” and Councilmember Laurene West went on to comment, “We have a lot of seniors and young kids working hard.” It sounded insightful, so I decided to see what I could learn about Kempler Industries and the criteria they used.

Visiting their website, I discovered Kempler Industries is located in Elk Grove Village Illinois. Within the company’s description it revealed, Kempler Industries “stocks one of the largest inventories of used machinery in the world.” “Family owned and operated since 1962, we have been buying and selling quality used machinery for more than five decades.” Not exactly a nationally acclaimed research firm, staffed with PhDs.

Per the Signal article and Kempler’s website, Santa Clarita’s “rankings were based on the following metrics: average commute time of 34.9 hours, average workweek 38.4 hours, percentage of workforce 16-64 is 63.9%, and percentage of senior workforce aged 65 and up showing 20.2%.” “Washington D.C. tops our (Kempler’s) list at number one with an overall score of 90 points out of 100.” They indicated, “D.C. exceeds the national average commute time, average workweek hours and percent of seniors still in the workforce.”

So, let me get this straight because it sounds as if the longer it takes the average employee to get to work for less than a full time job, and the more seniors in the city which are still working, rather than being able to retire, the higher you score?

Plus, did you catch their data? If Santa Clarita’s work force 16 and up equals 63.9 percent plus 65 and up equals 20.2 percent, that segment totals 84.1% of the workforce. Are they telling us with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, 12.1% of our workforce is 15 years of age and under? Does not sound like something to brag about to me.

In addition, San Francisco was the only California city to make the top 10, coming in 7th hardest working in the country. Are you kidding me? The American city with the 7th largest homeless population, regularly in the news for problems with trash, streets full of used needles and disease scored in the top ten? Even Washington DC, with the 5th largest homeless population in the U.S., topped the Kempler hardest working list at number 1. It appears the Kempler “Hardest Working City” list is based on some very superficial data.

What I am going to be looking for in a candidate for the 2020 Santa Clarita City Council is a person who not only acknowledges and celebrates all the good things we have, but is also ready to embrace and champion solutions to the problems facing our residents every day. It would be an individual looking for a way to shorten commute times by taking decisive action, and fixing our ever-increasing density, traffic, and parking problems. Our city should not be saddled with a council member who accepts the status quo and simply wants our residents to be the solution to increasing traffic by just leaving earlier and spending more time on the road.

My candidate would be a person who realizes and embraces changes in our communities’ wants and needs. Our youth have been waiting for the City to provide a BMX track for over 10 years, and our lack of fairgrounds translates to a loss of many opportunities to Ventura and the Antelope Valley. In relation to emergency health care, we have a shortage of paramedic services, and even though we are in an LA County Fire District, it is an issue which could easily be mitigated if our City Council had a desire to do so. Lastly, our council needs a member who will challenge staff by insisting on having an understanding of everything they present for approval, because such a form of oversight only makes staff better at what they do.

We are a great city, but we are facing growing pains and challenges which must be addressed. So, if you are ready to step into the fray and take on these challenges, I urge you to throw your hat in the ring and be ready to inform all who will listen what you intend to do in making our city even better.

Is Trump a White Supremacist or Have We Changed the Definition of Racism?

| Opinion | August 22, 2019

by Alexx Rufus

Clearly, we have awakened a climate of hostility within the nation. It is Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, grandmas versus naked grandmas! And, the number one question is, “Is President Donald Trump a racist or have we changed the definition of racism?”

Since ethnicity and religion are such important factors in deciding whether you are right on political issues, I’ll state mine: Christian/ African American. If we want to be technical – I’m 62.5% African American, 25% Caucasian and 12.5 Native American (1/8th – I am eligible to apply for membership unlike most who claim to be Native American).

Although I absolutely hate the argument that your skin/ethnicity determines whether or not you are correct on a political issue, to please anyone who wants to know, there you have it.

I am a millennial and I believe a small portion of my generation understands true racism – depending on where you lived and your upbringing. I understand racism from some deep levels. I’m from Illinois, and I’ve had to fight many times, sometimes at the threat of being killed simply because my skin is brown. I’ve been hated by some Caucasians simply because of my ethnicity. My mother is half African American and half Caucasian. Her mother (African American) and her father (Caucasian) were teenagers when my grandmother became pregnant with my mother. When my grandfather’s parents learned he got a black girl pregnant, they moved him out of Chicago to Colorado because they did not want to be associated with having black grandchildren. That is racism.

But, is saying something you disagree with racist? What if you believe certain elements of life belong to me because I’m African American or I believe certain elements belong to you because you are not African American – is that racist? Well, that depends. I’ve had many people say to me, “you don’t sound black.” To which I’ve responded, “what do you mean?” The reason I don’t sound black to many is because of the way I articulate things. Is that racist? No, it’s a stereotype that finds its influence through entertainment/social media, mainstream news, television and music. These things have conditioned people to believe all African Americans are the same without any diversity of thought, lifestyle, interests or skills. I once believed Caucasians had no rhythm or soul. Imagine how surprised I was when I realized Bobby Caldwell wasn’t black! Was that racist, no, it was a stereotype based on the information being fed into my head (mental conditioning). It would have been racist to assume that your life has no value because my race is superior to your race or vice versa.

To the main question, is Trump racist? No. As a person from impoverished communities in Chicago, who has witnessed much violence including my mother being shot, who has lived in a building with such poor conditions that the city of Chicago condemned, who grew up on welfare and other forms of public aide – I say absolutely not.

Has Trump said some moronic things, of course, has he said some stereotypical things – absolutely, but does he hate ethnic people – NO! Trump is a pistol that shoots off at the mouth, yet he is the first president in a long time that actually does things that benefit this country and the citizens of the country. What is ironic is that people liked Trump until he ran for office. Although many were upset with him for going after Obama and his birth certificate, they still liked him. After running for office and winning, he is now considered racist and a white supremacist.

It amazed me and actually makes me scratch my head at the things called racist today. I disagree with you politically (YOU’RE RACIST), I disagree with you morally (YOU’RE RACIST), I believe capitalism is a great system (Oh now you’re REALLY RACIST), I believe everyone can be racist, not just white people (SHUT UP, KILL HIM, HE’S NOT BLACK)! Is there racism in the world? Of course, and there always will be as long as there are people.

I’ve now reached a point in life that in order to convince me something is racist, I need to see a court case with tons of evidence, a scooter and a flying unicorn in order to believe it. This is because everything is claimed to be racist in today’s society. I’m just waiting for the day we say toilets are racist because they are white.

In my view, this has much to do with the Democratic party wanting control of our nation’s laws and wanting to remain in power. Although the right is not innocent of not spinning narratives in their favor, I’ve seen the left spin so many narratives it’s astonishing. If you’re a Christian, it’s because you’re a white supremacist. If you voted for Trump it’s because you’re racist. If you support borders it’s because your racist, if your last sentence (see above) couldn’t distinguish between your and you’re, you’re racist. The narrative of “if you disagree with me, it’s because you’re racist” is used so much by liberals that when I hear it, I immediately lose interest in the conversation.

I love debate, I love open conversation and diversity of opinion. And it’s a shame that I can have this with so little liberals before the ad hominem attacks start. Yet, I can have diversity of thought with many conservatives, even heated debates, and still come out as friends and smiling.

Apart from the economic benefits and some balance between the 1st and 2nd amendments and other highly charged areas, I believe a crucial benefit has come from Trump being elected. That is the revealing of the heart. As a Christian, I believe what the scripture says, “… for out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks.” It amazes me when someone basically says, “I’m Christian, but I hate you because you support Trump.” Or they used to be a Christian, but they left because Christians supported Trump, etc. Technically, they were not Christians, but that’s another topic. As Christians, we should have love for one another – no matter what our political leanings or diversity of thoughts are. Wouldn’t you agree?

Trump is not the face of Christianity nor is he the savior. Trump is just an elected official that promotes some belief tenets (definitely not all) that are present in Christianity – such as the really hot button “abortion.” The argument I’ve also heard so much, “well, what about the white man using the bible to enslave black people?” First, that argument only works on someone that hasn’t studied and understood white slave owners “REMOVED” content from the bible which talks much about freedom. On top of that, slaves were punished for reading so discovering freedom might have led to death. There is a museum in Texas that still has an old “Slave Bible” that shows everything removed to make slaves compliant.

Does that mean the bible itself is bad? No, it just means that some people removed content to prevent understanding and more than likely, those who removed the text were not Christian. To say the bible is bad because some bad characters used it corruptly is like saying “cars are bad because some people drive drunk.” So, the comparison between Trump and the racism of Christianity is flawed on many levels, but that is for another topic.

All in all, Trump is not racist and he’s not a white supremacist. He’s just a person that shoots off his mouth while the liberal media and political field immediately take what he says and tries to spin a racist narrative. We’ve allowed the definition of racism to be altered so much that it really has little meaning these days. The applied use of racism has become as common as saying “hello” or “good morning.” One day, Trump will open a speech with, “My fellow Americans…” and the liberal news will take it and say, “He is so racist by saying My fellow Americans… What about the people that are not citizens?” Well, in my view, that is why he would say, “My fellow Americans.”

Always Advocating Alan – Solar Panels – Canyon Country’s Monstrosity on the Mountain

| Opinion | August 15, 2019

If you are a resident of Canyon Country, or drive through the area on occasion, I’m sure you have noticed the hillside, north of Soledad Canyon Road, just west of Camp Plenty, covered with solar panels. The panels were installed in a hodgepodge manner, not only creating an eyesore for the Canyon View Estates residents below, but for residents across the valley as well. They can be seen from the backyards of homes in Shangri-La, in North Oaks, as well as from Soledad Canyon Road looking north to the hills.

Installation of these panels started around April 2017, with Kerry Seidenglanz, Managing Partner of Canyon View Estates being quoted in the Signal as saying, “the project is being done with the resident’s best interest in mind.” Well, there are a fair number of Canyon View Estates residents, and a whole bunch of Canyon Country residents who do not agree; in fact, they believe the project is an eyesore and want the panels removed.

After over a year of waiting, the City of Santa Clarita published a news brief on September 12, 2018, indicating the city had “filed a formal complaint with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, regarding solar panels installed at Canyon View Mobile Home Estates.” The complaint asks the court for “preliminary and permanent injunction and declaratory relief to abate a public nuisance,” related to the solar panels. The City alleges the solar panels were installed without proper permits, in violation of the Santa Clarita Municipal Code, and in violation of Canyon View Mobile Home Estates’ conditional use permit, which states that 50% of the park needs to be maintained as open space.” On January 27, 2019 the Signal reported the trial court date to be set at October 21st.

Currently, the two sides are doing their respective due diligence, and according to this past Friday’s Signal, the plaintiffs are requesting the ability to depose City Manager Ken Striplin. This centers around the comment made by our City Manager to the City Council, City staff, and to the defendants in 2017 “regarding the lack of authority by the city to issue solar panel permits.” On October 10, 2017, Striplin told the City Council, “The city of Santa Clarita does not have local control or permitting authority over solar panels in mobile home parks.”

On the City side, their attorneys are taking the position, “the City Manager is an ‘apex-level’ employee and therefore lacks sufficient information to offer specific responsive testimony relative to the burden of producing a City Manager for deposition.” So, what is an apex level employee and how does this justify not deposing our City Manager? According to the American Bar Association, “To avail itself of the apex-deposition doctrine, the party opposing the deposition (the City) generally must show that (1) the witness (our City Manager) lacks unique, first-hand knowledge of the facts at issue and (2) other, less intrusive means of discovery have not been exhausted.”

Unbelievable. Last week, our Mayor was quoted, in reference to explaining expenditure defined in the City’s mid-year budget adjustment saying, “I’m assuming that all this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead and use the money.” She went on to indicate, “When we receive information that an action is OK to take, we go by what our staff puts forth.” Now this week, our city’s “Legal Eagles” are taking the position that our City Manager lacks unique, first-hand knowledge of the facts on the solar panel issue? When I asked who is minding the store, sadly it appears the answer is, “all those lower paid employees residing in City Hall cubicles.”

But looking back on what transpired, there was a time when the City’s position was, “the city of Santa Clarita does not have local control or permitting authority over solar panels in mobile home parks.” Councilmember Kellar sent a letter to State Assembly Member Dante Acosta, dated July 10, 2017, lamenting over, “The current (mobile home park solar permitting) process not providing an opportunity for any local input to allow consideration of unique local circumstances.” He later spoke about the project, during the September 22, 2017 City Council Meeting, when Council Member Kellar reflected on who approved the solar panel project, by saying emphatically, “We did not do it. The City did not know one thing about it.” Yet, by then it was after June 28th, and construction had started.

KHTS published an article, by Perry Smith, alerting the public. The article told of officials at the State Housing and Community Development (HCD) having been contacted and indicated there was no appeal mechanism in their permitting process. Ms. Evan Gerberding, Deputy Director of Communications and Tribal Liaison, was quoted as saying, “HCD officials consider local city and county ordinances that would be applicable. Based on HCD’s consideration of local zoning and laws, the project wouldn’t have been stopped.” She went on to say, “There was no basis for us to say no, or deny that permit. HCD evaluates the safety of the project as well as any regulations the city or county may have in place, before issuing a permit.” Lastly, the article told of, Mr. John Caprarelli, Santa Clarita Building Official, indicating, “A City inspector was on site recently to verify the project did have the necessary permits filed with HCD.” So much for the allegation, the city was unaware of the project until it was built.

I was curious and wanted to read it for myself, so I went to the HCD website to better understand their permitting process. My search led me to HCD’s “Mobile Home and Special Occupancy Plan Review Booklet.” Getting to page two, I found a checklist titled “Documentation Standards for Permits.” Item 1, asked for “approval and signature from the ‘local planning department’ on the Mobile Home and Recreational Vehicle Park Government Agency Approval form or equivalent document.” Wondering which city employee signed off on this permit, I raised the issue at the September 12th City Council Meeting. Mr. Striplin indicated the City did not approve the project. In addition, the City was not aware of the HCD booklet or requirements. Councilmember Marsha Mclean asked staff to look into the matter.

Several months later, Mr. Tom Cole showed me a copy of the HCD Canyon View Estates Permit and the section related to local approval was blank. The next question asked was if the solar panels were installed within the boundaries of the Mobile Home Park entitlement. It took almost a year for Mr. Cole to answer the question, when he revealed locating the Canyon View Estates County Permit, which required 50 percent of the property to remain as “open space,” which today is clearly not the case.

The story of Canyon View Estates and the owner’s solar panels is not even close to resolution, and today we sit waiting on lawyer time, even though every day we get to look at the monstrosity on the mountain. In court, the City has alleged the solar panels were installed without proper permits and is asking for the solar panels to be removed, while the property owners want to leave the panels in place in order to maintain their investment.

Yet the public needs to stay alert and watch carefully to be aware of how this issue plays out. Just as important as removing the panels are to our Canyon Country residents, corrective action to avoid the missteps which have occurred must be put in place by Santa Clarita staff and the City Council. Every agency which had a part in this permitting process failed to carry out their responsibilities in some way. Individuals communicating their agencies positions, attempted to protect themselves and their agency by shooting from the hip, and as the story unfolded, were proven wrong.

I can only hope, all concerned, take this as a learning experience, and fix what is broken.

Soft Tissue Racist

| Opinion | August 15, 2019

by Wil Durst

What a long, hot, lousy stinking summer. We’ve spent so much time sending thoughts and prayers to Gilroy and El Paso and Chicago and Virginia Beach and Dayton and even Toledo, there’s hardly been time for ice cream and barbecues and theme parks. Who can relax with everybody so focused on being strong?

Fireworks are out of the question as the horrific spate of mass shootings has the entire country recoiling from any loud noises, and yes, that includes the strident denials by the president that his vitriolic rhetoric has anything to do with riling up the racist element often referred to as his base. We’re not saying all Donald Trump supporters are lethally ignorant racists, just that most lethally ignorant racists are Donald Trump supporters.

In response, he said, “I don’t think my rhetoric is racist at all. As a matter of fact, I think my rhetoric brings people together.” And it has proven to be effective in bringing white supremacists together with immigrant victims.

Under intense pressure from vulnerable GOP congressional candidates, Trump did manage to mumble something about racism being bad. Of course, his words might have been easier to understand if he had taken off the hood.

45 went on to blame video games, the internet, mental illness and all sorts of things, somehow neglecting to mention the word “guns” at all, while claiming the only true answer to this disturbing spray of terror is his desperately needed immigration reform. Yep. Everything is always all about the wall. Except Mexico paying for it.

Although blaming mental illness, Trump also failed to mention it was he who got rid of Obama’s regulation that kept people who received Social Security checks for mental illnesses and deemed unfit to handle their financial affairs from buying guns. Probably just slipped his mind. That’s one slippery mind.
It’s also worth noting that people hearing Donald Trump accuse hatred and mental illness for being responsible for the madness pointed out to their televisions in varying degrees of intensity, “you, that’s you, you’re talking about you.”

What nobody mentions about this 2nd Amendment brouhaha, it’s not the guns so much as the bullets that are the real problem. Guns don’t kill people, bullets do. They are the things that put the holes in the body making the blood leak out way too quick.

Trump declared he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, so the general consensus is it must be his soft tissue. And that’s a lot of soft tissue. I can’t wait for the upcoming announcement by the president that there is no room in his administration for racists because all the slots have been filled by his family.

He expressed confidence he could work out a deal with Congress on “meaningful background checks,” but Moscow Mitch McConnell has gone full turtle, pulling his head into his shell and refusing to encourage or discourage any optimism. Which is his way.

Suspicions run rampant they’re both counting on the 116th Congress returning from recess on the Monday after Labor Day and being distracted by the umpteen other catastrophes, calamities and cataclysms that will surely arise before their arrival, once again making this issue as dated as the fashions worn by trustees at the Asylum of Charenton. Which in 1814 played a role similar to…Congress.

Copyright 2019, Will Durst, distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate.

Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin. For a calendar of personal appearances, including his new one-man show, “Durst Case Scenario,” please visit willdurst.com.

Plan a Stadium in Santa Clarita Now!

| Opinion | August 15, 2019

by Rob Werner

Before the City of Santa Clarita was created, residents knew that we were destined to become a big city. This knowledge allowed the city to have long range plans and take actions to ensure the city both had numerous amenities and did not become a concrete jungle.

It led to some limitations on development and the setting aside of land for community needs. This includes the green boundary, hiking trails, the network of bike trails, larger streets with green meridians and numerous parks.

Sometimes what we get is a mixed blessing. Like all political entities the city is subject to influence from major developers, especially Newhall land and Farming. The City’s desire to obtain a mall and the developer’s claim of excessive costs led to granting tax incentives to a company that owned land surrounding the mall. This resulted in massive increases in the value of the land. No tax incentive was needed. It has also been claimed that this developer used the city to stop the development of a proposed competing mall in Canyon Country.

Early residents knew that we would ultimately need an East to West freeway connecting the 14 to the 5. Despite the knowledge, constant demand and numerous studies, the City failed to achieve the construction of such a freeway. Instead, we were given the Cross-Valley Connector. When it was first completed it eased some traffic issues. However, the connectors primary purpose seems to have been opening new parcels for development.

As new developments are constructed adjacent to the connector, more traffic accumulates and there are more demands for additional stops to service all these developments. Owners of property adjacent to the connector were the primary beneficiary. They gained millions in increased property values. We would have been served better had we designated it as a highway and required developers of adjoining properties to pay for on ramps so that traffic flow was not impeded.

We still have enough, undeveloped land to build a stadium or coliseum. But as our city grows our options for where to place it diminish. We still face the fact that monies and power interests remain focused on the west side of our valley. These same interests face a conflict as more profit may be derived from building homes and commercial sites then from utilizing available lands for a stadium.

West side developers also might become an obstacle to development of a coliseum on the east side of the valley as such could result in an increase in values and interest in further developments to the east.

There is an undeveloped area on the east side of the valley which may be an ideal spot for a stadium. On the south side of the 14-freeway heading toward Palmdale, there are sand mining areas. This includes the area desired for the Cemex mine. After years of litigation the City finally prevailed in its efforts to stop the mine. However, the success was short lived as Cemex has filed new litigation.

If this land could be utilized for a stadium, the development might be able to compensate Cemex and end the litigation. Furthermore, the area has nearby rail lines and there is adequate surrounding undeveloped land so that the stadium could be connected by a network of rail lines providing easy access from anywhere in Los Angeles County. There are also vast amounts of undeveloped lands surrounding the site that could be used for hotels and commercial establishments.

Let’s start planning the development of a stadium now!

Faith, Community and the Constitution

| Opinion | August 15, 2019

It was interesting to see that contributor William Tozzi has discovered the root cause for my establishing the “Stultus est Sicut Stultus Facit” (Stupid is as Stupid Does) awards, which were inspired by the genius Forest Gump. Mr. Tozzi identified the “Ego Sum Stultus Virus – translation: I Am Stupid Virus.” He went on to say that “The virus is intended to cause self-destruction of our society from within. There will be no reason for any foreign invasion, because we will collapse from the inside.”

As a result of the tragic shootings in El Paso and Dayton, the virus has demonstrated its full effect on our leftist friends who quickly stated that to stop the violence all you need to do is get rid of guns. No guns, no violence. Should a bill like that pass, the cost to personal liberty and privacy would be overwhelming. We would have embraced the trading of our unalienable and enumerated rights for a false sense of security. Instead we would have gained an unstoppable all-powerful police state.

History has shown the issue is not the weapon; it is what is in the heart of the perpetrator. Recent mass murderers in the United States have made weapons of mass destruction out of everything from automobiles to box cutters to commercial fertilizer.

I am currently on a road trip heading to points east and think I may have encountered places where they have found the cure for the “Ego Sum Stultus Virus.” My first stops were Tucson, Williams, Page and Snowflake Arizona. This is the beginning of the flyover states that President Obama identified as “where they still cling to their guns and religion.” Whenever a local discovered that I was from California, they would proclaim, “Welcome to America!”

In Arizona, by passing a test and getting some training, one can conceal and carry. Perpetrators need to fear gun toting civilians in addition to law enforcement. Both will happily introduce them to the wrath of God. I said to a local in Williams, “Home of the Grand Canyon Railroad,” that their town seemed to be a community of faith and a deep love of country. She said yes and that it was a wonderful place to raise a family. She said the only real problems they had with violence and crime came from the tourists. The website for Snowflake proclaims, “Come for a day; stay for a lifetime…Snowflake is the heart of America where neighbors care and there is always a friendly greeting!”

In Page I met a legal immigrant from Serbia who was managing the local Texas style steak house. She is a proudly patriotic American nationalist and is stunned, fearful and angry over our nations move towards socialism. People who have immigrated to the USA from leftist-socialist nations are always shocked by our youth’s acceptance of socialism. These immigrants understand the “road to perdition” our nation now finds itself on.

The left has removed from the public square, nearly all the values of western civilization, especially those regarding the sanctity of life and how to live in a civil society. We must teach those values and help those who have slipped into darkness before they murder. It is in towns that “still cling to their guns and religion” where people of faith, community and the Constitution, have found peace and the cure for the “Ego Sum Stultus Virus.” It would serve our “Stultus est Sicut Stultus Facit” presidential candidates to spend some time in these communities. The townspeople will work hard to find out if the candidates can be cured.

Where Do We Go From Here?

| Opinion | August 15, 2019

by Harry Parmenter

I went to Walmart today, less than a week after the tragedy in El Paso. Tragedy/bloodbath/mass shooting, call it whatever you want, but maybe pure evil fits best. Another young man with an assault rifle and an insane manifesto creating a theatre of hate culminating in an orgy of killing. Dead bodies, traumatic life changing injuries and innocent people and their families scarred for life. And the hits keep on coming. Right now someone, somewhere, is sobbing uncontrollably, suffering forever sorrow for their irreplaceable loss. It could be me, or you.

This is America today.

The flag flew at half-mast outside the Walmart Golden Valley store. The parking lot looked sparse and inside I could feel the sober, subdued vibe of grief, fear and uncertainty. There was minimal chatter, no buzz of humanity, bantering or bargain hunting. Instead, most of us were probably thinking about the hunting that went on at the El Paso store, then the next night in Ohio and the week before in Gilroy…

It all seemed to begin at Columbine 20 years ago. Young men with hearts and minds blackened by malevolence, the early days of the anonymous sewer of social media, the internet and its disturbed extension, the dark web, poison seeping into our lives with the blood of innocent children, women and men of all ethnicities and faiths.

I was in Orlando last December and one day when I found the nearest Starbucks I looked across the street and saw, quite unexpectedly, the now infamous Pulse nightclub where, not long before, young gay men were executed by another demented killer armed with high powered artillery and ammunition.

The club shuttered after the incident and is now an abandoned shrine, the walls covered with photos of once happy faces now gone, their lives cut short through no fault of their own except, to their sick assassin, “the crime” of homosexuality.

These sick “landmarks” show what our country has become, a place where no one is safe anywhere: not the mall, not the gym, not the movie theatre, not the school, not the playground, not the concert venue, not the casino—and we are all culpable because we have done nothing to change the situation. We simply take it for granted, are horrified when it occurs, but return to our lives over time…until the next one. Unless we fall in the victim family pool. Then the torture never stops.

What can we do? Blame guns? Mental illness? Increase security? Decrease liberty? All this astounding technology yet we cannot stop these slaughters, the country churning beneath the surface with disaffected outcasts so twisted they kill for pleasure, for anger, for some inexplicable cause.

In times like these you wonder God where is? How can this happen? How does this make sense if the universe has any semblance of order?

The world has lived through dark times and continues to turn. America itself has seen the devil repeatedly and put him away. But this contemporary epidemic is insidious, serpentine, much like the conspirators of 9/11 and their hijacking of Muslimhood. Hitler and the Japanese we simply destroyed with bombs, boots and brawn, breaking their will. Those who took the beach at Normandy 75 years ago (or died trying), one of the greatest victories in military history, would be equally vexed by this dilemma, this amorphous disease infecting our nation.

Words are powerful and can be used to inspire the strong to saintly pursuits or turn the weak into vicious, soulless murderers. High powered weaponry is accessible in more ways than we can fathom. Consensus and collaboration are non-starters. Division and disdain carry the day.

We must somehow find the truth, the source of this malignant hemorrhage, these corrosive crimes. The prime suspects line up: guns, mental illness, young men raised without fathers, social media and the internet. None of the above, all of the above, who knows; we have to start somewhere. However, we must resist the temptation to turn any of these into political bogeymen. Everything matters, anything can have ramifications. Childhood is where it usually begins.

Above all I pray we can coalesce as a people and seek common ground. This is not a black and white conflict. We have somehow birthed this ideological evil and must pause our political differences to take steps in the right direction, ANY direction, just not accept this violence as the new normal.

I often think our country today is collectively incapable of the sacrifice and unity it took to assemble, let alone fight and win World War II. Now we face a new challenge and, while we need leaders who will bring us together, it’s not just on them. All of us play a part. Simply listening would be a start, but if we keep arguing the killing will continue.

Will Republicans Finally Disown Trump’s Incendiary Racism?

| Opinion | August 8, 2019

Amidst the latest bloodshed – the worst of it triggered by a white racist domestic terrorist whose El Paso manifesto echoes Trump’s racist rhetoric – I bet you’re jonesing for some good news. I’m happy to share what I have. Admittedly it isn’t much, but at this point we should probably be grateful whenever a few Republicans wake up and smell their party’s white supremacist stench.

“The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth,” wrote Nebraska state senator John McCollister. “We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries ‘sh*tholes,’ tells women of color to ‘go back’ to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth.”

Senator Ted Cruz – yes, Cruz – said on Sunday morning, “What we saw yesterday was a heinous act of terrorism and white supremacy. There is no place for this in El Paso, in Texas, or anywhere across our nation.”

And early Monday morning, the conservative, pro-GOP Washington Examiner posted an editorial that assailed El Paso’s “white nationalist terrorist,” and declared: “Some conservatives and Republicans have hesitated to acknowledge that this a growing scourge, but after El Paso any such reluctance is unacceptable … Trump needs to make clear that he hates white nationalism as something un-American and evil.”

So at least some on the right are finally speaking out, but rest assured, they won’t get much help from Trump, who on Monday blamed the slaughter of Hispanics on the media and “fake news.”

The problem for Trump is that “The Media” accurately showed him at a May 8 Florida rally railing about immigrants crossing the border, and when he asked, “How do we stop these people?” somebody yelled, “Shoot them!” – and when his cultists laughed, cheered, and applauded, the cameras caught him smirking. He didn’t admonish the crowd, he indulged it: “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”

“The Media” has given him ample opportunity to renounce his incendiary bigotry. On the White House lawn last Thursday, as he prepared to leave for another rally, he was asked how he’d respond if the crowd chanted that four Democratic congresswomen of color should go back to where they came from. Instead of saying that the chant was racist, that the four women were Americans, he said this: “I don’t know if you can stop people (from chanting). You know what my message is? I love them, and I think they really love me.”

Trump didn’t order the El Paso shooter onto the killing field. But ever since he descended his escalator in June 2015 to attack Mexico for sending “criminals” and “rapists,” he has given verbal aid and comfort to aspiring white domestic terrorists. The shooter’s manifesto assails an Hispanic “invasion,” echoing a word that surfaces in a number of Trump tweets. The shooter also once retweeted a photo of the word “Trump” spelled out in firearms.

Trump himself has long winked at the potential for violence. Meanwhile, his regime has cut off funding to a national terrorism database that has charted the rise of right-wing domestic terrorism. You have to be willfully dense, or deep in denial, to not connect the dots – case in point, acting Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who said “no politician is to blame” for El Paso.

David French, a conservative lawyer who writes for the conservative National Review, has connected those dots. On Monday, he pointed out that the rise of the violent right is “directly related” to Trump’s rhetoric.
“Most Americans remember the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Do you remember the white supremacist who killed a black man in New York with a sword? Do you remember the attempted church massacre in Kentucky, where a white supremacist who couldn’t gain access to the church gunned down two black victims at a Kroger grocery story instead? Do you remember that a member of an ‘alt-Reich’ Facebook group stabbed a black Maryland college student to death without provocation, or that a white man in Kansas shouted ethnic slurs before shooting two Indian engineers in a bar, killing one?” French wrote. “Substitute ‘jihadist’ for ‘white supremacist’ or ‘white nationalist’ and then imagine how we’d act.”

Monday from the Oval Office, Trump read from his TelePrompTer and said that white supremacy is bad. We’ll soon find out whether he has the gravitas to say that to his rally fans.

Copyright 2019 Dick Polman, distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at WHYY in Philadelphia and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.

An Undiagnosed Illness Immobilizing Our Country

| Opinion | August 8, 2019

by William Tozzi

If you were wondering why an out-of-control debate about a presidential election is dragging on for such a long time, you are not alone. However, I have a theory about what’s causing it, and wish to shed some light upon the reason.

In my quest, I’ve discovered a top-secret, undiagnosed and fatal virus running rampant and tearing this country apart. It’s real, it’s true and it’s being spread across the United States by a covert foreign entity, using aerosol attacks, particularly in the Washington, D.C. area.

It’s a devastating illness because it causes both political and academic lunacy. It severely affects the brain, vocal cords and hearing. It filters out the truth, hinders understanding of what’s happening in the real world and stifles civil conversation. It causes negative and hostile thinking, distracting the country’s attention away from what really needs to be done.

It’s a new mode of biological warfare, using a non-detectible strain. The virus is intended to cause self-destruction of our society from within. There will be no reason for any foreign invasion, because we will collapse from the inside.

This illness is scientifically called the Ego Sum Stultus Virus – translation: I Am Stupid Virus.

Those infected are oblivious they have been in contact with this deadly virus. It causes unrecognizable aggression and violence, as it eats away at their soul.

This is my analysis and explanation of why the country is disintegrating, of why we are in such terrible shape today. I wonder how we can ever survive?

How will we choose to fight this infection? We can follow the usual plan of attack, blaming each other, calling each other nasty names and ignoring the real problem. Instead of moving ahead, we are obsessed with false and dishonest issues of impeachment, conspiracy, obstruction and collusion. We use words like bigot and racist to describe anyone who disagrees with us. Persistent uninhibited use of all those words is making them meaningless and renders all arguments absurd.

In addition, colleges and universities are no longer teaching, but indoctrinating the fertile minds of the students.

The virus is causing a lot of false discourse about our history. Our heritage is said to be racist, our founding fathers are said to have been bigoted.

“In God we trust” has become a stale old phrase, no longer relevant these days. Why should we stand for the National Anthem? Why should we have borders? Who needs laws? Morals and citizenship, no longer have any meaning. Our country is spiraling out of control.

The disease is turning the nation up-side-down. We’re changing the laws of nature, redefining gender We support killing unborn babies. We’re making marriage and families a thing of the past. Respect and kindness are no longer achievable. Honesty is gone. Forget about the truth, facts don’t matter anymore. Sanity and common sense no longer exist. There is no longer respect for authority. A clueless socialist world is ready to commence.

If I am somehow mistaken about the virus causing this stupidity, then, unfortunately, all those who display symptoms are not really infected, but are actually that ridiculous. They really believe their un-American, disrespectful and obsessive mind-set should be shared by everyone in this country.

I can only speak about what is happening today. I tremble about what tomorrow will bring. Global warming will end the world in 12 years. If the socialists become in charge, the end will come a lot sooner Heaven help us.

My heart goes out to all of those afflicted by this dreadful malady and pray they can find a way to recover. I hope they can manage to control their rage and direct their efforts to unifying America and returning it back to the greatest country on earth.

Although some of my analysis may be sarcastic, I believe truth will prevail and justice will be served

Copyright 2019, William Tozzi, Golden Pen Writers Guild, Santa Clarita, CA

Suddenly Suzette

| Opinion | August 8, 2019

Suzette Martinez Valladares is one of the Republican candidates seeking to unseat one term leftist Democrat incumbent Katie Hill for United States Congress in 2020. I recently had an opportunity to speak with her with a desire to learn what makes her tick.

Suzette is an adamantly proud and concerned constitutionally-oriented Hispanic woman who has spent her life in advocacy for pre-school children, including intervention services. Call it working to help people who are unable to help themselves.

Hers is a profoundly American story. Her father started as a farm laborer who later had a small business. Her parents dedicated their lives to ensuring their children might experience the American dream and our traditional values. Despite limited finances, they sent their children to a private Lutheran school. They constantly reminded Suzette that she was going to have a more secure life than theirs through the application of a higher education.

The two questions that most voters directly ask candidates are, “Why are you running?” and “What are you going to do for me?” Political philosophy is a much lower priority for constituents than the questions of, “Do you care about me, my family and my community?”

When I asked her “why,” she told me she was motivated because of her desire to guarantee a better future for her 2-year-old, and dealing with the pain and frustrations of having so many in her immediate family suffer with terminal cancer. She knows that finding the cure needs to become a national priority.

There is a slogan that I think might be a driving force for Suzette — “God, Country and Family.” The logic goes like this; you cannot get the country right unless your values are spiritually grounded, and you cannot get your family right unless you get your country right. I suspect that despite all the slings and arrows of a political campaign her core remains strong.

A few quick points on her policy views:

– She is a Hispanic woman from an immigrant family who believes in a well regulated immigration policy with more secure barriers on our borders, strict verification for those requesting asylum and better processing resources and flexibility in obtaining work visas.

– She supports a strong public/private investment in doing the research necessary to fight the scourge of cancer. We must do what is necessary to win this battle.

– The answer for better medical care and outcomes is still to be found in the private sector. Medicare for all will be a major disaster, people would die waiting for treatment. Insurance must be free to be sold across state lines. R&D cost for prescription drugs must be shared with consumers outside of the United States.

– Government money going to the states should be by block grants with few restrictions.

– A free market economy and a limited government works and must be encouraged.

That’s it. Suzette Martinez Valladares is a candidate worthy of your consideration. She has proven throughout her life that she cares about the people and believes in the future of our community. She is rooted in America’s traditional values and opposes the rush to socialism that so dominates today’s political environment. She has the communication skills necessary for the job and a demonstrated commitment to our Congressional District.

I would love to see the looks on the faces of the leftist-progressive Democrats when a Conservative Republican Hispanic woman swears the oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States. Nancy Pelosi and A.O.C are probably already stocking up on high-blood pressure meds.

Politics – Yay! Politicians – Yuck!

| Opinion | August 8, 2019

by Rob Werner

Politics is a necessary part of our representative government.  Politicians are the cancer that feast on it. They come in the cloak of every ideology and populate the leadership of every political party.

Many people believe term limits will prevent the creation of politicians.  This belief is a fallacy. Term limits increase the number of politicians. It suppresses the development of governing skills.  It ultimately surrenders policy decisions to the bureaucrats. Successful candidates for political office become politicians to win elections. Their election is funded by the sale of their souls to interest groups such as developers or unions.  Their drive for recognition and power is their major attribute. They camouflage their political ideology if they have one by promoting whatever will get them elected. They take for granted the support of those who brought them to prominence and sell them out to attract other voters.

Political office holders who start as good representatives often become politicians.  Some don’t. Senator Rand Paul appears not to have become a politician. While maintaining his loyalty to his party he retains the principles of his ideology which is not modified by public opinion polls.  He neither hesitates to support or disagrees with the President.
One might surmise that entering politics exposes people to a disease which converts them into politicians, but labeling this condition as a disease attracts sympathy.  This condition is more a character flaw. One that should make you run for cover from the most affable, gregarious and agreeable people who utilize their ability as a smoke screen for personal gain and power. They are the hackers and profiteers of fake cures.

Democrat President Harry Truman has been quoted, “You can’t get rich in politics unless you’re a crook.” Today, our government is dominated by people who have become multimillionaires via government employment.
Mitt Romney and the late Senator McCain are examples of Republican politicians.

Romney the son of a liberal governor became a liberal Republican to win the Governorship of Massachusetts. Then to win the Republican presidential primaries, he pretended to be a hard-core conservative.  He now portrays himself as the conscience of the Republican Party.

The primary issue in Senator McCain’s last election to the Senate was his advocacy of the repeal of Obamacare.  After his election, he cast the deciding vote against its repeal.

On the Democrat side, we have numerous reversals of opinions on immigration and sexual misconduct.

Illegal immigration is constantly the subject of news stories. Parodies published on Facebook, include prior speeches of Presidents Clinton and Obama as well as leaders in the house and Senate supporting strict enforcement of our immigration laws.  Were the statements made because they believed what they said or because it was popular at the time?

Numerous congressional hearings include Democrat representatives who advocate prosecution of sexual misconduct and harassment even though they are perpetrators of such acts.  Some benefited from secretly paid government funded hush money.

California passed a law requiring Presidential candidates to disclose old tax returns, those filed prior to entering political service.  We would be better served requiring government representatives to account for all the money they acquired while they were employed bythe government.

Always Advocating Alan – Mid-Year Budget Adjustments and Audit Findings

| Opinion | August 8, 2019

How the leadership of an organization, or a governmental entity, manages the results of an issue raised or an audit finding speaks loudly. It is as if their actions provide a window to the organization’s soul, and the way they handle adversity opens a door for all to see.

I learned that lesson early. The majority of my work career occurred within the military aerospace arena, and as a department manager, I logged many hours reading and implementing defense acquisition regulations, federal acquisition regulations, military specifications, contracts and product requirement documents. Believe me, when I advise young engineers entering a similar endeavor,  I tell them to never take those kinds of documents home to read at night, unless they are looking to be put to sleep.

My responsibilities included validating my department’s procedures and work performance, and was being accomplished to the requirements set forth in those documents. In fact, it was our taxpayer dollars paying the bills; and spending those resources properly was, and should always be, mandatory. During that time, it would have been nice if the world trusted I was doing the right thing; but it was never the case. With almost 50 simultaneous contracts regularly in work, it seemed like the world was full of auditors, as my departments were regularly subjected to a barrage of government, customer and company audits.

I had a choice. I could struggle through each audit event by continually defending our methodology, or I could implement documentation techniques which did not put an extra burden on my employees, preserved our company’s intellectual property and was clear enough for outside auditors to understand. Next, we included a periodic set of our department’s own internal audits, and discontinued preparing for outsiders looking in. In that way, we were able to use outside audits to validate the effectiveness of our business practices, and by taking effective corrective action we brought outside audit findings down to an insignificant level.

Now by sharing my perspective on dealing with audits, I trust you will have an understanding as to why I am dismayed at the City of Santa Clarita’s response to the Open Space and Parkland’s Financial Accountability and Audit Panel’s concerns over the $2 million transfer of funds from the Open Space District, to “cover a shortfall in the facilities fund.”  By voting not to approve the report describing the transfer, the panel put in place what amounts to an “audit finding.” City staff could have responded by indicating they would look into the matter and provide an answer by a certain date, but instead they pushed back by trying to bully the panel into approving the report. While Communications Manager Carrie Lujan  indicated “the panel’s action changes nothing,” what it does do, is show the community how the city operates.

In last week’s Gazette article by Lee Barnathan, Councilmembers joined in the conversation.  Councilmember Smyth indicated “the shortfall comes from the city using facilities fund money,” and “the city finalized the land purchase for the center in 2017.”  But, the Signal reported the council purchased the land in 2014 for $4.7 million, and when I checked the facilities fund balance in this year’s budget, the balance is north of $70 million. So where is the shortfall? Was it a shortfall in the amount appropriated for the purchase, and if so, why did the December 12, 2017 mid-year budget adjustment call the action a “funding swap?” Wouldn’t it be more appropriate for staff to put the shortfall in front of the council and request approval of an additional appropriation?

Even more significant is Mayor McLean’s comments as she is quoted saying, “I’m assuming that all this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead and use the money to build the active park at the Community Center.” She went on to indicate, “when we receive information that an action is OK to take, we go by what our staff puts forth. As far as I know, this was all done the way it was supposed to be done, and until something different comes up, that’s what we go by”.

So, let me get a clear understanding of what our Mayor’s position is. The Santa Clarita City Council just goes by what the staff presents, assuming they did the right thing? Then who is watching the store? It is the City Council’s responsibility to keep staff on the straight and narrow, not just assume everything is OK.

There are council meetings where hundreds of pages of information are presented for approval, usually with a good number on the consent calendar, meaning the staff does not even intend to present a report about them, and the council will most likely not even speak to them. One of the best examples is when the staff presents the 250-page yearly budget for approval. They provides an overview, and if you look at the document itself, the majority of the information is presented at such a high level it is impossible to grasp if the budget is balanced or not. One notable exception is the description of the Capital Improvement Program. Each planned project is shown separately with the ability to show five years of financial planning, including any unfunded monetary requirements. But in actual practice, only the amount supposedly expended in previous years and the amount planned for the current year are included. A separate sheet reveals unfunded amounts per project.

For the past several years I have gone before the City Council when the yearly budget is being placed before them for approval and asked for an explanation of how the information included shows actual and accurate capital improvement project planning. As I have not received an explanation, this year out of frustration I went further and challenged the City Council Members to present the capital improvement planning process to the Canyon Country Advisory Committee.  None of them have accepted the invitation. Perhaps, they all use our Mayor’s method of “assuming that all this was looked at before the decision was made to go ahead,” and “we go by what our staff puts forth.”

From my perspective, it is sad this issue popped up in connection with the Canyon Country Community Center. Our local residents are very supportive of this project; in fact, even before it is built, removal of a hideous billboard has made a drastic aesthetic improvement of the intersection. Unfortunately, this situation has greater implications than related to just this project’s financial transparency. It shows how our city is managed, how audit findings are handled and most importantly how corrective action is implemented.

Councilmember Smyth indicated Ken Striplin, Santa Clarita’s City Manager, and Joe Montes, City Attorney, will meet with the Financial Accountability and Audit Panel before August 26 to “provide clarity.”

I’m hoping the City takes some positive action to prevent recurrence of this situation and goes further than just moving some financial allocations between funds… but we will just have to wait and see.

Raging Moderate – Tyrannical Twitter Tirades

| Opinion | August 1, 2019

President Donald Trump’s Chaos Strategy was working overtime last week with a series of typical topical tyrannical Twitter tirades. He tore into Robert Mueller then pivoted to energize his base by tossing out attacks against anybody with the temerity to criticize the administration’s inhumane immigrant incarceration policies. It was a week where the vitriol spewed like a pinwheel of bile in a wind tunnel.

A Democratic aide claimed Mueller’s testimony was integral because “If people haven’t read the book, they’ll watch the movie” but not even Stephen Spielberg could have saved this production. A motorcycle chase might have helped, but probably not. Some killer robot CGI… maybe.

It’s easy to see why the former special prosecutor prefers the darkness. Although this was his 89th testimony in front of Congress, his performance was so uninspired, the reluctant witness seemed to nod out himself a couple of times along with many members of Congress and most of the viewing public.

A few Republicans couldn’t even sumon the energy to pepper him with antagonistic questions. But it was the performance of Mueller himself that set the tone. Dial tone. The man is stiffer than Mitch McConnell wearing buttless chaps on a gay pride parade float.

One problem is Mueller’s about as vindictive as a throw rug. They sent a Boy Scout to take out a vampire. The Democrats needed Van Helsing and got Dudley Do-Right. The fired up the Bat Signal and Bruce Wayne’s butler Alfred showed up.

Trump complained Mueller shouldn’t be allowed another bite of the apple, ignoring the precedent established by Republicans when they took multiple bites out of every apple in the Benghazi barrel.

But the 74-year-old’s testimony was exactly what anybody who had paid attention to his report or press conference could have predicted. He takes straight and narrow to levels previously unheard of in mathematics.

Every question posed resulted in his stating he either couldn’t or wouldn’t answer. Others he didn’t answer. Hard to figure what Democrats expected: that he would suddenly remember a smoking gun under a couch cushion or be seized by the irresistible urge to do the right thing or be struck by a bolt of religious righteousness? They threw up a Hail Mary but the quarterback fumbled the snap.

The one thing Mr. Mueller did do was reiterate over and over that the Russian government was responsible for a sweeping and systemic effort to interfere in our election for the purpose of getting Donald Trump elected over Hillary Clinton. And not only will they do it again, but “they’re doing it as we sit here.” Sparking Congress to immediately spring into action to do nothing.

Senate Democrats proposed two pieces of legislation to provide election interference protection but Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called them partisan and announced he would not allow either to receive a vote earning him the viral sobriquet, Moscow Mitch.

Then President Trump turned up the distraction meter, tweeting that Elijah Cummings’ Maryland district is “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess” after earlier encouraging four Democratic congresswomen of color to go back to where they came from. Responding to accusations of racism, Trump said he doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, meaning it must all be packed in his soft tissue.

And he’s got a lot of soft tissue.

Copyright 2019, Will Durst, distributed by the Cagle Cartoons Inc. syndicate.

Will Durst is an award-winning, nationally acclaimed columnist, comic and former sod farmer in New Berlin, Wisconsin. For a calendar of personal appearances, including his new one-man show, “Durst Case Scenario,” please visit willdurst.com.

“We Have Met the Enemy and He is Us”

| Opinion | August 1, 2019

Listening to the Democrat responses to the recent testimony by Special Investigator Mueller regarding his report on Russian collusion in the last Presidential election, I was left dumbfounded. I confess that I do not have a law degree and believe that our legal system holds that all of us are innocent until proven guilty by the prosecution. It is not a burden to prove someone innocent. Hearing Democrats insisting that the President was not proven innocent shows that this investigation and hearings were an act of extreme political partisanship, and not an effort to protect and defend the Constitution.

Let’s look at a few of the facts:

Trump supporters who were prosecuted were done so for acts not relevant to the investigation, or were victims of perjury traps.

Evidence in the report stated that no Americans were involved in collusion with the Russians. The report did not look at the apparent collusion with the Russians by Hillary’s campaign.

Mueller stated that he was not obstructed at anytime during his investigation. He was not threatened or fired.

The attacks on the President are based on musings he had between his attorneys and advisers who recommended he should not take those actions. Guess what? He did not take those actions on advice from his attorneys.

He supplied every document to the investigators that they requested. He wisely did not give an interview with the investigators because of their use of perjury traps. He did give written testimony.

Based on his testimony and apparent lack of knowledge, it may be likely that the report and principle investigation was done by someone other than Mueller. Evidence suggests that the fix was in, and it inspired this horrific political act. Yet the Dems press on, proving my point. Precursor investigations are underway. I wonder what the Democrats will be saying after the fraudulent acts by the “Deep State” are finally exposed. What will Representative Nadler and Schiff do when the real collusion evidence points to an ex-President and ex-Secretary of State whom they admire? Since this has been an act of cynical political bias the answer likely will be NOTHING!

I wrote the following, for another purpose. Since my writing, various members of the “Squad” have declared white men to be the terrorist, made multiple remarks and recommendations that are racist and anti-Semitic and have made sophomoric remarks about the protests in Puerto Rico that would make Marx and Che proud. Nancy Pelosi has declared solidarity with these valued members of the Democrat family.

Reflecting on the recent press conference by the squad of four, Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Ayanna Pressley, Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib; they appeared to be passionate in their rage, sincere in their beliefs, extremely self-assured, rejoicing in their lust for power, profoundly ignorant and seemingly unaware that theirs is the historic voice and intolerance of tyrants and fascists. Their arguments reek of projection and were full of lies and half-truths. Their beliefs reflect the indoctrination and failures of our public education system. They lack understanding of what it historically means to be an American and a free self-supporting people.

In another time or place they would be viewed as sophomoric and immature students who would achieve wisdom as they grow up. The problem is they are now among our elected power elite and are dragging down the media and the Democrat Party on their path, which leads to mass suffering.

“We have met the enemy and he is us.” (“Pogo” by Walt Kelly)

Letter to the Editor

| Opinion | August 1, 2019

Thanks for your great newspaper. I look forward to reading it every weekend.

I have always tried to patronize the advertisers in the Gazette whenever I need a product or service, and let them know where I saw the advertisement.

This past spring I noticed a small roof leak over the tub in the our bedroom. Truthfully, my wife noticed it while I tried to ignore it. I received a quote from a roofer working on a neighbors home and put it aside when it stopped raining.

I remembered an ad in the Gazette for a roofing supplier that advertised in the Gazette, J.B. Wholesale Roofing, which said they could refer folks to a local qualified roofer. Smart consumers always get a second opinion on a significant home improvement project

Long story short, I called J.B. and they referred me to a local licensed roofer who quoted the work for $1,000 less,

The work was done this past weekend and I know he purchased some replacement tiles from J.B. to complete the project . He was very professional and carefully described the cause and scope of work necessary for the repair.

I really feel that the ad in the Gazette saved me from over paying a significant amount of money, and urge your readers to patronize those who advertise in the Gazette.

Keep up the great work and never stop ranting.

Your satisfied reader.

Steve Petzold

Always Advocating Alan – Are Benefit Assessment Districts Really Beneficial?

| Opinion | August 1, 2019

The City of Santa Clarita was formed as a general law city. What this means is the city founders decided not to write a “City Charter,” but instead chose for our municipality to simply follow state law. One constraint placed on general law cities is they cannot impose taxes. Alternately, they establish charges for services provided to residents, and in accordance with Proposition 218, the City can propose benefit assessment districts so as to establish fees to pay for services which provide a “special benefit” to specific properties. The details are described in an engineer’s report.

But, for benefit assessment districts to be established, over 50 percent of the affected property owners must vote in favor of forming the district. Fees are then collected yearly, as a part of your property tax bill.

One of the first benefit assessment districts which really piqued my interest was the “Open Space and Parkland Preservation District,” which came into existence in 2007. While it often appears the idea for a benefit assessment district may come out of the blue, Santa Clarita had been having dialog about an open space district as far back as 2001, as described within the “Staff Presentation of Open Space Plan to Santa Clarita City Council, dated May 18, 2001.” Then in 2005, the public was made aware of a city initiative to establish the district. An engineer’s report for “Open Space and Parkland Preservation District,” prepared by Harris and Associates dated September 8, 2005, contained the details. The first attempt failed, as the proposal did not have a sunset clause and a maximum cost to the property owners was not defined.

Two years later, a new initiative to establish an “Open Space and Parkland Preservation District” was back on the front burner. This time the proposal included a 30-year sunset clause, with the ratepayer cost established at $25 per year, with a $1 per year maximum cost escalator. Council and staff committed to purchase land in order to implement a green belt around the city and included authorizing a maximum of 10% of the purchased land to be available for use as active parkland.

Councilmember Laurene Weste and Parks Director Rick Gould appeared on SCVTV’s Newsmaker of the Week on May 27, 2007 and answered various questions, taken from a transcript of the program. Leon Worden asked, “If you take this money and start buying land, what guarantee is there that some future city council won’t come along and sell it or develop it?” Councilmember Weste answered, “This is being done under Proposition 218 guidelines. For a future city council at any time to do anything to that land, they would have to go back through the same process and go to a vote to the people.” Parks Director Gould answered, “The money that would be accrued from the district would be only used for the purchase of parkland. This measure is focused very much on land acquisition, and primarily on undeveloped land, to keep it from being developed in the future by whoever might own that land. Leon Worden then asked, “So the money that is raised from this, if it passes, can only be spent on raw land? Parks Director Gould answered, “That’s correct.”

I had high expectations. What a great concept; money only being spent on what we voted for, plus Councilmember Ender had put me on the financial accountability and audit panel. Yet my enthusiasm waned shortly after. It turned out the fee of $25 per year with a $1 addition each year thereafter, happened to correspond with the repayment cost of the City borrowing $30 million, but instead only $15 million was borrowed, making me suspect the ratepayer cost had been inflated. Yet, staff was doing an excellent job looking to buy land for open space, while joining with other agencies to share the cost, but no interest was apparent to purchase land for active parkland. Staff had been telling us for years about Santa Clarita’s deficit in parkland acreage, and without active parkland, justification for the District would not have been possible.

Then I started to notice the concept surrounding Proposition 218, giving taxpayers the right to vote on taxes, was not as pure and transparent as advertised. In 2008, the City laid out the plan to dissolve all landscape maintenance districts funding center roadway medians and reforming them, along with adding some new areas, as LMD 2008-1. Those who were already in a district vastly outnumbered the new participants, and were told they were getting a reduction. Not surprisingly, the proposal passed, dragging in other areas, which had voted no.

Shortly after I had left the FAAP, staff looked to purchase land outside the open space three mile district boundary, by claiming even if a tip of the land was within that limit, it was acceptable to do so. But, after the information became public knowledge, staff sort of fixed the problem by reallocating funds so open space money was not used outside the district.

Next came questions about the Shangri-La drainage benefit assessment district which had been operating in the red for several years. Rather than going to the community to solve the problem, staff elected to burden a nearby landscape maintenance district with the cost, while continuing to collect from the Shangri-La district in order to repay what staff had been borrowed from another.

Lastly, was the landscape and lighting district, which sounded very much like the LMD 2008-1 plan. Staff indicated a desire to combine the two lighting districts, promising homeowners in one district a reduction, and looking to redefine financing in the other by substantially increasing their fees. Fortunately, when the truth came out, the Council cancelled the election.

Currently, the city is facing a situation, where the Open Space and Parkland Preservation District Financial Accountability and Audit Panel voted three to one, to not sign off on last year’s open space expenditures. One issue is, “The recommended expenditure adjustment in the Open Space Preservation District Fund includes a $2 million funding swap for the Canyon Country Community Center land acquisition,” outlined in the December 2017 mid-year budget adjustment. In addition, in this year’s engineer’s report, staff has planned to expend $755,000 on administration of the district. An amount I feel is overly excessive.

I realize there will be mashing of teeth, and displeasure at City Hall, for my pointing these issues out. But benefit assessment districts was an area I wholeheartedly supported. I trusted staff and the City Council to keep their word and only spend funds as defined at the time we cast our ballot forming the district. It is unfortunate I must now foretell of never voting for a benefit assessment district again, until management of our districts can be brought back on the straight and narrow.

Perhaps the City of Santa Clarita needs a Financial Accountability and Audit Panel, with their scope expanded to oversee all Santa Clarita’s benefit assessment districts.

Resurgence of Progressive Anti-Semitism

| Opinion | August 1, 2019

by Rob Werner

There has been a resurgence of anti-Semitic rhetoric among progressives beyond the hate speech of Louis Farrakhan. We now have the rhetoric of U.S. Representatives, Omar, Tlaib and Ocasio-Cortez.

There can’t be resurgence without a history. Progressives have a history of labeling those they differ with as racist. These claims against others are a smoke screen for progressive racism, anti-Semitism and suppression of liberties.

Woodrow Wilson was the first Presidential hero of the progressive movement. Our educational system teaches us that he was a great liberal president during WWI and the inspiration behind the League of Nations. He instituted the draft, income tax and raised death taxes. He was also a segregationist and member of the KKK. The KKK was against African Americans, Jews and Catholics. While his rhetoric against African Americans painted these people as a sub-species, his attitude toward Jews was more in conflict.

Anti-Semitism is different from other forms of racism. It often contains an odd mix of recognition, reliance and despise. An anti-Semite might recognize some “good” Jews – such as fellow progressives. They may think Jewish doctors and lawyers are more skilled. They may need the services of a Jewish money lender. Generally, they otherwise believe Jews are the scum of the earth and want to avoid and restrict them.

Major universities came up with the concept of racial or Jewish quotas. Colleges sought to limit admissions to reduce the Jewish enrollment based on the percentage of Jews in the population.

Franklin Roosevelt was the next progressive president. The Democrat party was still the party of discrimination and segregation. As a good politician, except for evil money lenders, this president presented himself as a hero to all people. He appointed progressive Jews to his government and the Supreme Court; nevertheless, he was still anti-Semitic.

William Shirer had been a reporter stationed in Berlin and other European cities. He witnessed Hitler’s rise to power and the actions of the Nazi government. In his book, “Berlin Diary,” published in 1941, he describes German oppression and extermination of Jews. Not to the extent of concentration camps, but enough to show that Jews could not survive.

Later, Shirer in “A Native Return, 1945-1988” describes a conversation he had with Supreme Court Justice Frankfurter, a close friend of the president. Frankfurter had emigrated from Austria and was concerned about what was happening. The Justice informed him that he had asked Roosevelt several times about the fate of the Jews. The president repeatedly told Frankfurter that the Jews were transported to the East to provide cheap labor for the Nazis, not for their extermination. Documents recently released by our government establish that the death camps were no surprise. The administration knew early on about death camps but kept it a secret.

Immigration laws severely restricted Jewish immigration. Thousands of Jews died because they could not immigrate. The public may have demanded a change to immigration policies had they known about the extermination.

Many displaced Jews migrated to what became Israel. Roosevelt’s successor, Truman was the first to recognize Israel. Truman enforced the Neutrality Act which prohibited the sale or transfer of military weapons to Israel. It was known that the Arab countries surrounding Israel would go to war. The Jews were expected to lose. This was Truman’s final solution to the Jewish problem. He could keep Jewish supporters by recognizing Israel and blame others for Jewish extermination. After Israel won the war, our government prosecuted some violators who assisted Israel.

The U.S. did not provide military aid to Israel until 1964.

Trump’s Next Target? Food Stamp Recipients

| Opinion | July 26, 2019

by John L. Micek

So here’s another reminder that the soul of who we are as a nation, our fundamental conception of ourselves as a people, is on the line in the 2020 election.

On Tuesday, the Trump administration announced plans to throw 3 million of the most vulnerable Americans off food stamps, claiming it’s a money-saving move.

In the timing almost hilarious in its irony, this news came just hours after the administration and congressional leaders agreed to a budget deal that will boost federal spending by $50 billion in the coming fiscal year.

Given this administration’s gold-plated predisposition to the 1 percent (its faux populist posturing notwithstanding), describing this proposed cut as “cruel” and “heartless” doesn’t really do it justice.

Congressional Republicans, of course, have long had a hang-up on food stamps. Attempts to eliminate or scale-back the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (as food stamps are formally known) go back years.
In Trump, they now have a sympathetic ear.

But it’s not as if we’re talking about a real plush program.
“The average monthly benefit currently stands at $134.85 for an individual, which works out to about $4.50 per day or $1.50 per meal,” Los Angeles Times columnist Michael Hiltzik wrote this week.

In other words, that’s lunch out at McDonald’s for our fast-food addicted chief executive. Or it’s a single snack, at arena prices, at one of Trump’s hockey stadium rallies.

Hiltzik went on to note that, despite what you may have heard, food stamp fraud is “minimal.”

“According to the Congressional Research Service, about 5.19 percent of SNAP benefits were overpayments, but only 11 percent of those overpayments resulted from fraud,” he wrote. “That places the fraud rate at about 0.57 percent. The rest of the overpayments were due to errors by agencies or recipients.”

During a speech to business leaders and policymakers this week, Pennsylvania Human Services Secretary Teresa Miller said one recipient had told her of being hounded and verbally abused in a grocery store parking lot after using her electronic benefits card.

Programs like food stamps are “lifelines” to people who are “already working poverty-level jobs,” Miller said during that noon-time speech in the state capital of Harrisburg, where her audience shoveled down a lunch out of reach of most food stamp recipients.

“They’re as much there for when our own circumstances change, as they are for the people who are using [the services] now,” she continued. “Our investment in these programs goes to all of us.”

Pay close attention to what Miller is saying there: These programs are for more than just the poor. Like unemployment, they’re there for the rest of us when life throws the inevitable curveball.

And if you think that’s not you, you’re fooling yourself.

According to the U.S. Federal Reserve’s 2018 Survey of Household Economics and Decision Making: 40 percent of Americans would struggle to come up with even $400 to cover an unexpected bill.

That’s an astonishing statistic for one of the wealthiest nations on Earth. But it’s also a vivid reminder that, as much as we hear about the booming stock market and the low jobless rate, too many Americans are being left behind.

Some of the leading Democratic 2020 candidates – like Sens. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Bernie Sanders of Vermont – have made economic justice the cornerstones of their campaigns.

Those who oppose Trump and his policies already know that pushing back against, and defeating, the racist and xenophobic bile that is clearly a trait, not a tic, of this administration is the critical.

But the coming election is also about making sure that America passes what the late Hubert Humphrey called the “moral test” of government: how it treats those in the dawn, twilight, and shadows of life.

Trump’s White House has already proven that it’s all-too-willing to cast both the strangers in our land, and those without the means to defend themselves, into the darkness.

It’s up to progressives to shine a light on this callous behavior so that the mass of voters can look clearly upon it, and say, in no uncertain terms, that this isn’t the kind of country that we want to be now, nor the one that we want to hand to our children and grandchildren.

It’s a moral test that we cannot afford to fail.

Copyright 2019 John L. Micek, distributed by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

An award-winning political journalist, John L. Micek is Editor-in-Chief of The Pennsylvania Capital-Star in Harrisburg, Pa. Email him at jmicek@penncapital-star.com and follow him on Twitter @ByJohnLMicek.

The Placerita To Be

| Opinion | July 26, 2019

by Harry Parmenter

Rents and real estate are sky high. Development is everywhere. The 14 freeway is a parking lot as endless throngs cross the Antelope Valley to commute to work in Los Angeles County. Yet still, we have refuge — we have Placerita Canyon.

Placerita Canyon is still a place you can drive or bike and pull off at a number of spots to get away from it all. Donning a wide-brimmed hat and ample sunscreen I parked at Golden Valley Trail and began walking, veering off onto an unfamiliar trail. Unfed sunflowers, brush and overgrowth flanked the well-worn dirt path as the trail led further into the thick of it, with blackened trees scarred by fire, branches hanging like giant spider legs and burnt off stunted trunks rising jaggedly towards the sky. Inside one a swarm of bees buzzed around what was surely a busy nest. I didn’t stop to make sure.

The sun beat down from a deep blue sky splashed by occasional cloud breaths. I kept my head down much of the time, eyeing the gopher holes along the way, hoping they WERE gopher holes. Ever alert for the “ssss” of a rattler, having come across them before in these parts, I heard only the buzz of irksome flies and the winged messengers of nature zipping through the air. A tiny gecko scuttled in front of me, no doubt fearful of this giant thing invading his personal space. The jackrabbit racing across the road in front of a speeding car seemed the wrong analogy; geckos don’t do it for the adrenaline rush, they just want to get out of the way of the looming shadow of man.

Time passed. Equipped with a water bottle and a pair of bad knees, I found myself wondering where this trail led. I didn’t want to wimp out and turn around, hoping that eventually the path would return counterclockwise to my starting point. Deeper into the brush I went, down a series of steep dirt hills, up a few long rises, twisting, turning, losing total sight of anything familiar.

I stopped.

This was the whole point, I reminded myself, plunging into the maw of the canyon to get far away from humanity, the cell phone, the stress, the demands, the boredom of it all. Escape. Solitude. Silence.

I pushed on as a lone red hawk swooped high in the air above me. The tiny pink flags dotting the path assured me I was still on the right track and then I spied a red flag literally emblazoned with the unmistakable Home Depot logo. Product placement in Placerita! Comedy was everywhere; you just had to pay attention.

Eventually the path brought me to a vista overlooking the entire Santa Clarita Valley, a breathtaking view stretching for miles, the faint hum of the freeway and a distant roar overhead from a passing airplane. It reminded me why, despite our problems, the SCV is still a great place to live, far from the crumbling metropolis of L.A. We still have trees, ravines, canyons, wildlife and a reasonably safe place to dig in and stake roots.

I marched on and finally saw the trail winding in a long, circuitous route towards my car, and eventually I made it after a good 90 minute hike traversing four to five miles. I never saw another person, never spoke a word. Mine was not to wonder why, but simply to find refuge in our very own sanctuary, Placerita Canyon.

Statewide Rent Control: A Poison Pill Packaged as Candy

| Opinion | July 25, 2019

The cost of rent is an incredible burden on many Californians. When the median rental price for a two-bedroom apartment is around $2,300, it’s obvious that things have gotten out of control.

The question of “why?” is the issue that spurs debate – and a heated debate it is.

I had a lengthy conversation with a San Francisco-based real estate developer last year, and it opened my eyes. I was on the tail-end of my MBA at the time, so I had economics on the brain and was blown away by just how obvious the root cause seemed to me.

As with everything in our politics, optics and soundbyte-driven culture today, logic often isn’t what we turn to for answers, and rarely does anyone actually look to the root cause to solve an issue.

Politicians, left-leaning media outlets and activists will tell you that it’s those greedy real estate developers and investors driving up the costs of housing, doing their best to cast the blame on those
shameful “one percenters” driven by profits.

It’s no surprise that the same politicians are themselves seated in the higher echelons of income. Have you ever looked up how much Nancy Pelosi, Maxine Waters and Dianne Feinstein are worth?

What the multi-millionaire politicians and journalists won’t tell you is that it’s their “progressive” policies that have directly caused the problem. It all breaks down to a simple equation of supply and demand, and there is a recent “progressive” proposal that threatens to further exacerbate the housing crisis in our state.

There is an advocacy group, “Housing is a Human Right,” that is currently pushing for a California state-wide ballot initiative to implement rent control in this state. It looks good on its face to people who don’t understand what caused the crisis, and many people who are paying most of their paychecks to rent are happy to jump on the bandwagon.

I was surprised when the developer told me that it can take up to five years just to get approval to build in San Francisco, due to the stifling regulations and bureaucratic approval processes for building in this state. I’ve heard many of the same complaints from Los Angeles-based developers, and it’s the root cause of the high costs in this state.

Due to the high costs of developing in California, many don’t. Because of the long lead-time to get approval and then build in this state, it takes far too long to increase the housing supply. As the population increases faster than the housing supply we have a scarcity issue, which forces the prices up, as it will in any business.

So what would a statewide rent control law do to the supply and demand issues we already have in California? The issue with “progressive” economic policies is that they look at everything in a vacuum, and assume that everything will stay the same once their policy is implemented.

Anyone with experience outside of academia can tell you that is rarely the case.
If rent control is implemented and the regulations are not reduced to building, why would developers keep building? If it already takes five years and is extremely expensive to develop a new project, in a state that gets more hostile to business every year, how many do you think will stay here rather than fleeing to another, more business-friendly, state (as many businesses already have)?

This bandaid will not solve the housing crisis in California, and will likely make it much worse. Until we tackle the root cause (stifling regulations to building), anything else is merely a poison pill packed in a candy wrapper.

Robert Patrick Lewis is a Green Beret OIF/OEF combat veteran with 10th SFG(A), CMO of Heroes Media Group, entrepreneur, MBA and award-winning author of Love Me When I’m Gone: The True Story of Life, Love and Loss for A Green Beret In Post-9/11 War , The Pact and The Pact Book II: Battle Hymn of the Republic. Follow him @RobertPLewis on Twitter or on his RobertPatrickLewisAuthor Facebook page.

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