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Abandoning Love and Embracing Hate

| Opinion | January 24, 2019

by William Tozzi

In the proverbial race between love and hate, the haters appear to be leading the pack. It makes me wonder where all this hate and venom are coming from. Hate is certainly not in our genes, nor in our essence, so it has to be a learned condition. But where is everyone learning it? My opinion is it’s unwittingly being taught in the schools, colleges, and universities by ill-advised educators. It is also learned from the irresponsible and poisonous reporting by some in the media.

All of my life, I’ve embraced love as a means to achieve unity, to attain harmony, and a way to bring us all together, not to keep us apart. But recently love is has lost its meaning, its intent, its power, and its charm.

I’d love to make this world a better place, but love is no longer working. Everyone seems to be caught up in unrelenting and overpowering hate. There’s too much hate and bitterness in the world today, and I feel there’s nothing I can do about it. I’m totally overwhelmed by this condition. I feel helpless.

The culture of the world has changed. Hate is everywhere and has crept into everything. It can’t be avoided. The standards of courtesy and respectability used to be high. Now, they are low, almost non-existent.

I’m becoming tired of fighting hate and rage. It’s pushing me and others like me down the road to depression. The hate is endless. The word “love” is being removed from our vocabulary. Soon it will no longer be allowed by the politically correct police. I’m running out of options. Sadly, I’ve been left with no choice but to resort to uttering the words of that familiar adage: “If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.”

So, this means I’ll have to kiss my values and my independence goodbye, becoming part of the angry and hateful mobs. I’ll have to relearn what’s suitable for me and to redefine my basic instincts. Hate now will become a good thing and make me strong. Love will become evil, only for the weak.

I’m thinking it will take a lot of hard work and valuable time to be a successful hater. I will have to learn to associate with all the other haters and become just like them. I confess, I am not experienced in this area of negative thinking. I’ll have to surrender my soul and discard it with all my other baggage, such as kindness, understanding, and compassion.

By doing this, I’ll be proud to become the best hater ever. I might sink to an even lower level than all of the other haters and show them how horrible I can be. I will become so evil and hateful; I imagine the devil might even become jealous of me.

I will want to show them what real hate and venom can turn you into. I would go so low; the only direction left will be up.

I’ll learn, first hand, what hate can do to my outlook on life, lowering me down to the lowest standards of crudeness and indecency.

I wonder if I will enjoy becoming one of those lost and misguided fools. Can I gaze at myself in a mirror and be proud to be looking at the spiteful person I’ve become? Will I be happy spending the rest of my days devoid of love, kindness and understanding?

I DON’T THINK SO.

There is a problem with that scenario. No matter how hard I try to embrace hate, I will never be able to hold onto something so toxic, hazardous and harmful. There will always be something to be missing, and that something is love.

After recognizing the lack of wisdom contained in the aforementioned adage, I will never consider making the error of embracing hate. Therefore, my soul will always belong to me.

Besides, embracing love comes with a lot more benefits.

I guess I’ll have to focus on normal life where love is the answer, and will always remain the winner.

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

Donald Trump, King David or Hitler?

| Opinion | January 24, 2019

by Stephen Smith

Preface:

I wrote this piece three weeks ago. Since then, the unsupported news reports and false allegations have doubled down. Name-calling and abuse by the press certainly were rampant in Washington, even during the times of the erudite Thomas Jefferson. He actually paid to have slanderous articles published. The problem is that in this era of 24-hour news, the same story gets airing and discussion hundreds of times distorting its real significance. The danger is that truth and perspective have all but vanished.
Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Reich Minister of Propaganda under Adolf Hitler once stated:

“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”

Donald Trump, King David or Hitler?

For years now, there have been many Democrats who are obsessed with accusing Republicans as being the same as Hitler. Those charges were levied against the centrist George Bush. It is consistent with Democrat strategy to use ad hominem attacks against the president when they lack arguments against his policies. A recent example of these absurd comparisons came from Congressman Hank Johnson, who may best be remembered for his statement during a House Armed Services Committee hearing held on March 25, 2010. It occurred while discussing a military base on Guam, and he stated, “My concern is that the Island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize.”

Did he ever attend middle school? It’s astonishing that he keeps getting re-elected. The following was recently reported by the Washington Examiner: “Americans elected an authoritarian, an anti-immigrant, racist strongman to the nation’s highest office.”

Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga., also told attendees at a NAACP “Jubilee Day” event in Atlanta’s historic Friendship Baptist Church this week, “Americans, particularly black Americans, can’t afford to make that same mistake about the harm that could be done by a man named Hitler or a man named Trump.”

The Congressman’s hatred cannot justify his ignorance and the promulgating of lies. He went on to say horrible things about the 63 million Americans who voted for Trump. Being a person of color is not an excuse for the congressman’s form of disgusting charges against the nature and physical condition of the American People who desired lower taxes and less government interference in their lives. Ad hominem attacks run rampant once again.

I reject the absurd comparisons to Adolph Hitler, and it is an insult to the memory of the 9 million Jews who were put to death in the concentration camps. Congressman Hank Johnson needs to apologize and beg forgiveness from all those who suffered under the Holocaust.

I say it’s time to start making a new comparison. It is time for President Trump to be charged with being just like King David. I can hear President Trump speaking these words in front of a gaggle of the press and disrespectful leftist Democrats. Psalm 4: 1-4 (from a Good News version)

“1. Answer me when I pray, O God, my defender! When I was in trouble, you helped me. Be kind to me now and hear my prayer. 2. How long will you people insult me? How long will you love what is worthless and go after what is false? 3. Remember that the Lord has chosen the righteous for his own, and he hears me when I call to him. 4. Tremble with fear and stop sinning; think deeply about this, when you lie in silence on your beds.”

Oh yes, I did just accuse President Trump being just like King David. So far, I have not found any MIGA (Make Israel Great Again – more properly AGIM) hats, but I know they are out there somewhere. The hats were most likely discovered in the treasure trove found by the Templar’s, under the Temple of Solomon. I expect they are now buried in the Money Pit at Oak Island Nova Scotia. King David and Donald Trump have proven to be very lustful with nine legendarily gorgeous wives combined, and all bore them brilliant and beautiful children. They both had children and grandchildren who are Jewish. They both commanded armies and ordered attacks on enemies. They both lived in relative luxury and came from simple early backgrounds. King David made Jerusalem his capitol and Donald Trump established American territory in Jerusalem by moving the American embassy to Israel’s traditional capitol. They both had problems with adultery. They were both insulted and chastised by self-proclaimed prophets. They were passionately loved and hated. Both were wise and foolish.

King David and President Trump often were examples of self-will run rampant. They both defeated an opponent who was considered unbeatable with a nearly free weapon. One with a slingshot the other with tweets. One loved playing a lyre and Democrats accuse the other of being a liar. Homonym runs rampant. Poets and musicians? Well, everything can’t be the same.

Under their leadership, their respective countries prospered. Both loved (loves) the God of Abraham. When King David was ending his reign, Israel was thrown into chaos and suffering. That lasted until his wise and righteous son, Solomon, (not the troubled Absalom) became King. It will be interesting to see if one of the Donald’s sons aspire to the Presidency.

That’s it! It is now obvious that President Donald Trump is not Hitler. Clearly, American President 45 is channeling the great King David from 3,000 years ago. Somehow, David’s 23rd Psalm seems remarkably appropriate in these divided times. From the King James Version:

1. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 3. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. 4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 6. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”
Amen, brother!

Letters to the Editor

| Opinion | January 24, 2019

The Wall is necessary to stop the drug traffic, criminals and gangs.

In addition to the Wall we need this!

Stop the “goodies”. No more benefits for illegals. No food stamps, welfare or social security. This should apply to the new influx only. Those already here to be advised that their benefits will end at a designated date.

Bob Comer
Valencia

Dear Editor,

Thank you for running Alan Ferdman’s weekly column. I appreciate having a well spoken, avid meeting attendee’s explanation of the current events. It not only helps us stay informed but also keeps the local government accountable.

Peter

Religious Liberties Are Being Attacked. Again?

| Opinion | January 24, 2019

by Gary Curtis

Second Lady Karen Pence has returned to teaching art part-time at a Church-sponsored, K-8 Christian-school in Northern Virginia, where she taught for a dozen years when her husband was a congressman.

The school has clear behavior standards for employees and students. It reserves the right to refuse applicants or expel students who engage in homosexual or transgendered behavior, or otherwise violate “the moral principles of the school.”  The liberal media find this shocking, “anti-gay,” and worthy of public shaming and political criticism.

Employment applications at Immanuel Christian School in Springfield, Virginia ask applicants to affirm that God “intends sexual intimacy to occur only between a man and a woman who are married to each other and that God has commanded that no intimate sexual activity is engaged in outside of marriage between a man and a woman.”

Applications further clarify moral misconduct which violates the occupational qualifications for employees of this Christian school. These include, but are not limited to, such behaviors as the following:

“…heterosexual activity outside of marriage (e.g., premarital sex, cohabitation, extramarital sex), homosexual or lesbian sexual activity, polygamy, transgender identity, any other violation of the unique roles of male and female, sexual harassment, use or viewing of pornographic material or websites, and sexual abuse or improprieties toward minors as defined by Scripture and federal or state law.”

Rather than understanding these biblical standards as traditional Christian teachings, the progressive left sees these restrictions as discriminating and hateful. CNN’s Kate Bennett demonstrated her disapproval of Karen Pence’s employment when she tweeted: “So, lemme get this straight, the second lady of the United States has chosen to work at a school that openly discriminates against LGBT adults and children?”

Jewish commentator and radio host Ben Shapiro replied: “So, lemme get this straight. You’re a reporter but you’ve never heard of religious people before? ‘BREAKING: Pence’s wife is working for a Christian school that requires that Christian students pledge to abide by Christian standards of sin that have not changed in 2,000 years.’”

CNN’s anchor John King asked if it matters that taxpayer dollars are being used to pay for Karen Pence’s housing and Secret Service protection. The panel he was moderating seemed a little surprised by the bizarre premise. Sirius XM correspondent Olivier Knox hesitatingly responded, “So, do you mean, does her — do her First Amendment freedoms get somehow curtailed because taxpayers pay for her accommodations and security? I don’t know that a lot of people would sign on for that.”

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, believes that criticism of Second Lady Karen Pence amounts to “attacks on Christian education by the mainstream media.” He said the left’s “real problem isn’t that Mike Pence’s wife is working at an evangelical school — but that evangelical schools exist at all.”

Perkins insisted Immanuel Christian doesn’t “ban” anyone from the school but rather sets standards of behavior which apply to everyone. “As Christians, our behavior doesn’t define us — we define our behavior,” he said.

Vice President Mike Pence responded to this criticism of his wife’s short-termed service to the Christian school, calling the negative reaction “deeply offensive.”

Interestingly, the same week this criticism of Christians and Christian institutions occurred, President Trump re-affirmed his support for religious liberty and conscience protection, during an address on Religious Freedom Day, on January 16. U.S. presidents have done likewise annually since 1993, when legislation passed to strengthen these First Amendment liberties. He said:

“On Religious Freedom Day, we celebrate our Nation’s long-standing commitment to freedom of conscience and the freedom to profess one’s own faith…The right to religious freedom is innate to the dignity of every human person and is foundational to the pursuit of truth.”

After more than 200 years as a constitutional republic, we can no longer take our First Amendment freedoms for granted. Living out our supposed religious freedoms and conscience protections may bring us public criticism, targeted shaming and even legal prosecution.

The Apostle Paul told young Timothy that “…all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.” 2 Timothy 3:12 Modern English Version (MEV)

Let us pray for the genuine believers who are serving our nation in public office. Pray for Vice President and Mrs. Pence. The Left’s attack on Mrs. Pence is emblematic of their disdain for all religious people who are not socially liberal. May they and we bravely endure the mocking and lies of evil people.

Peter admonished believers to “live your lives honorably among the Gentiles, so that though they speak against you as evildoers, they shall see your good works and thereby glorify God in the day of visitation.” 1 Peter 2:12 (MEV)

May the political activists and adversaries around us see our good works, humble spirits, and pure motives, so they will be drawn to our God and His godly goals for these last days.

Always Advocating Alan – A Sunny Day to Drive Around the City

| Opinion | January 24, 2019

With the gift of water from heaven over (for now), I am wondering how each of you enjoyed a drought-free January. My sprinklers have been off for almost a month, which cut my last water bill in half. All the while, my landscaping is looking better and better.

Since old man sunshine decided to show his shiny face yesterday (Saturday), my wife and I decided to take a drive around Santa Clarita. As we drove down some of Santa Clarita’s main boulevards, we could not help but notice how fresh and clean the air smelled, and how beautiful all the trees were looking. We remarked how we remember the city planting the then scrawny young saplings, and how time has helped them grow into mature, luscious trees.

As we drove down what used to be old Bouquet Canyon Road, my sense of humor kicked in. I chuckled about how our decision makers renamed the street “Railroad Avenue,” and then started planting climbing vines along the side of the road to screen out our view of the trains. Sometimes you just have to wonder, what are they thinking?

Then it was eastbound on Soledad Canyon Road back to Canyon Country, when those unattractive, waywardly placed solar panels above Canyon View Estates came into view.

If you recall, solar panels started to appear on the hillside in June of 2017. Unfortunately, the permitting process for projects within Manufactured Home Parks fall under the jurisdiction of the State of California’s Housing and Community Development (HCD) department. KHTS published an article alerting the public. While HCD indicated they “consider local city and county ordinances that would be applicable … There was no basis for us to say no, deny the permit.”

Plus, there is no appeal process. In addition, the City of Santa Clarita informed the public, “A City inspector was on site recently to verify the project did have the necessary permits filed with HCD”.

But it was not that cut and dry. It turns out, the HCD planning process provides for “Local Approval,” which never happened, and the appropriate section on the Canyon View Estates permit application form was not filled in. In addition, city staff did not even know the boundaries of the Canyon View Estates Mobile Home Park, so how could they have determined all required permits had been obtained?

Plain and simple, HCD and city staff dropped the ball. Then, after community outrage and a year of investigation, KHTS reported on July 16, 2018, the solar panels did not comply with the conditional use permit for the Manufactured Home Park. The permit was originally issued by the county and required 50 percent of the property be maintained as open space. As a remedy, the city sent a “Notice of Violation” citing the property owners for installing solar panels both inside and outside the park boundaries, without having obtained the required permits.

When the Notice of Violation did not produce any results, The Signal (on September 12, 2018) reported on the city filing a lawsuit with the Los Angeles Superior Court, asking for a “preliminary and Permanent injunction” and to “abate a public nuisance.”

In addition to not obtaining required permits, “City officials said other complaints in the lawsuit include the owner’s failure to submit a hillside development plan or a geotechnical report which determines whether the land can support the structure. Operating a power-generation business on the park property, which is not zoned for such activity, is also a violation of the city’s municipal code.”

To add insult to injury, On January 11, The Signal reported “Power first went out for almost half of the 445 residents in Canyon View Estates at shortly after 9 a.m. Wednesday (Jan. 9).”

On Thursday, two electric company employees joined the property’s maintenance personnel at a bank of transformers to affect repairs, but only succeeded in causing additional equipment damage. “The transformers (equipment), according to residents, are part of a hybrid system integrating energy transferred from the hillside solar field.” Finally, to temporarily mitigate the power outage, The Signal reported on January 14 that generators would be brought in, but “only to part of the neighborhood on Thursday and then the other part on Friday.”

As a city, we are now over one and a half years into this issue, with no final resolution in sight. To make matters even worse, the Canyon View Estates Management Company even installed additional panels, after the issue of their placement was questioned. Does this indicate the owner has a special in with the city, or is this just pure arrogance?

Then comes the question of public safety. Even though HCD spokesperson Alicia Murillo was quoted as saying, “The inspection revealed the installation was in accordance with the approved plans and there were no violations,” I question why those plans were not immediately available to service personnel, and wonder if the design provided for modern troubleshooting provisions.

Next comes Julia Roether, the Edison Senior Project Manager, who did not know what kind of electrical distribution and billing system Edison has with Canyon View Estates. Are you kidding me? What kind of records does Edison keep?

Finally, there was a property owner, who believes the benefits far outweigh the aesthetics. He is quoted in the Gazette as saying, “the complex will have power during a rolling blackout.” But according to Steve Hochman, an energy broker with Solarhawk, unless Canyon View has a battery backup, (which it does not) the power couldn’t be stored. And in the event of a rolling blackout, the loop between the battery and the homes must not be linked to the power grid, or it will shut down.

Organizations who provide the public with critical resources, like power, need to do better when interfacing with the public. They must start requiring communication specialists to not just shoot from the hip, but take enough time to understand what they are talking about. That is, if they intend to maintain our trust.

All these issues are a part of the problem, and as community members, the burden is on us to ensure problems raised do not slip through the cracks. The city taking a year and a half on an issue of public safety, as well as a property owner leaving residents without power for a week, is far from acceptable. Remember, you can accomplish a great deal by making your voice heard.

Governmental agencies, public utilities and even private endeavors work at the pleasure of their customers. When confidence is lost, customers leave elected officials at the ballot box, and they put private companies out of business by spending their money elsewhere. So, even when we have voted for officials who claim to take care of business, it is up to us to hold them accountable.

Hopefully, it will not be long before I get to take another sunny day drive around the city, and at the end, view a beautifully landscaped hillside having returned to Canyon Country.

The Scourge of Ad Hominem

| Opinion | January 18, 2019

Stephen Smith

Author, documentarian and talk show host, Larry Elder “The Sage of South Central” has often said that “Facts are Kryptonite to Democrats.” (FYI- Kryptonite emits a radiation that takes away the powers of Superman.) House Speaker Nancy Pelosi always seems to have trouble with facts. She often says things like, “Experts tell us that…” without citing the expert or any studies to support the point. My favorite remains her assertion that giving the unemployed one dollar generates two dollars in the economy. I still cannot believe she said it with a straight face. Clearly, she believes in magic.

Recently, during a meeting at the White House, Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen provided a presentation citing the various problems we must deal with at the border. In this case, the Secretary for Homeland Security is the holder and collector of the relevant statistics. No one can know more. Nancy Pelosi aggressively interrupted her and stated, “I reject your facts.” Nielsen responded, “They are not my facts, they are the facts.”

Nielsen wrote: “They didn’t want to hear about criminal aliens, drug smugglers, smuggled & abused children or violent caravans trying to breach the border wall.” Later in a press conference Nancy Pelosi suggested that the administration is at war with reality. Senator Dick Durbin said that “It wasn’t a credible presentation … It was preposterous.” It seems that the best possible source of the facts, when not consistent with the Democrat world view, must become viewed as falsehoods.

Talk about being border-crisis deniers. The only way to explain this form of cognitive dissonance supports my belief that progressive thinking is a religion, which is based on faith, and not facts, science or history. Perhaps the discomfort created by the cognitive dissonance explains all the pseudo-righteous indignation. (Cognitive dissonance, the mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information – Encyclopedia Britannica.)

On Tuesday, January 8, the president gave his message to the nation, live from the Oval Office, about the problems we have been experiencing on the southern border and the need for a secure barrier. He gave a litany of the arrests made on the border of people with criminal records, gang membership, human and drug trafficking, and murders committed by people in the United States without our permission. He demonstrated the need for people seeking entry into our country being properly screened at an official port of entry. He spoke in favor of building a steel slat wall as a major part of having effective border security.

The wall constructed in San Diego has already proven effective. Many of the long serving Democrat leadership, for example Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer, in past years have called for a wall. Without explanation of their change of heart, they now demonize the same border security actions, now that they are being called for by President Trump. After the president’s address, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and Speaker Nancy Pelosi came on the air to express their rebuttal.

What happened next, I hope will become a learning moment for all who follow political discourse. Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi, looking very much like pallid lifeless zombies posing for Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” during their presentation, failed to offer any facts or supporting reasoned evidence against the United States securing our southern border with a combination of technology manpower and a proper barrier. (Note: I just used an ad hominem attack, and if you are a liberal Democrat, you were likely offended and found it non-productive.) Chuck Schumer tried for high ground when he said he wanted the U.S. to be remembered for the Statue of Liberty and not a border wall. Perhaps he forgot that the Statue of Liberty is on Ellis Island where over 12 million legal immigrants were screened and processed before being allowed entry into the United States.

Unlike the Berlin wall, our wall is there to keep bad people out, rather than keeping good people in. It too, would become a symbol of liberty. They did not consider that not having a wall allows our borders to become an attractive nuisance, making the U.S. legally liable for any harm that may befall the trespassing foreign nationals. It’s like having a swimming pool without a locked gate and high fence. If someone sneaks in and drowns, you would be found guilty of negligence.

What is significant, is that the speaker and the minority leader, as well as most Democrat spokespersons, began engaging in a form of argument known as:
“Ad Hominem” (Latin, to the man)
Definition of ad hominem: (Merriam-Webster)
1: appealing to feelings or prejudices rather than intellect.
An ad hominem argument.
2: marked by or being an attack on an opponent’s character rather than by an answer to the contentions made.
Made an ad hominem personal attack on his rival.
Ad Hominem attacks were the only arguments they made. The president was accused of being immature, racist and a whole litany of other epithets. Not once were the president’s arguments challenged with reasoned evidence or provable facts.

On January 9, Chuck and Nancy once again met with the president. He asked her if he were to lift the government shutdown, would she authorize funding the wall. She said no. He stood up and said, then we have nothing more to talk about, and the president then left the room. Their well-reasoned response and solution was charging the president with being “cruel” and “callous and throwing a temper tantrum.” More ad hominem run rampant. There is no weaker or more immature method of argumentation than ad hominem. It’s reminiscent of school yard taunts of “Your mother wears army boots!” and “You’re ugly too!” It’s a device used when your position is unsupportable and indefensible. It appeals to our worst selves rather than our best aspirations. It denies working on real solutions. It demonstrates that the Democrats are interested in creating more division and suffering for political purposes than having the best interests of the American People. It supports the contention by “The Sage of South Central” that “Facts are Kryptonite to Democrats.” Yes, I know the president used ad hominem for political purpose when he campaigned. All men have flaws. Even President Trump.

A High Schooler’s POV

| Opinion | January 17, 2019

By Analyn May

I remember back when my DS Lite was my most prized possession. My favorite game on it? Kirby Super Star Ultra. One level in particular I found really fascinating, particularly from a story perspective.

See, your goal in a normal level was to get through a side-scrolling obstacle course to get to the door that led you to the next part. But in this particular level, sometimes you had to go back to previous areas before you could advance. Why? Because in this level’s strange “world,” each area was like a little mini-dimension which affected the others around it.
For example, one area had a solid tree that you couldn’t bypass. In order to get to the door on the other side, you had to sidetrack your way to a seemingly unrelated door which took you to another tree—but this tree had a breakable block in the center, and nothing helpful on the other side. You had to break the block, go back the way you came, walk over to the solid tree, and—voila! The previously impassable tree mysteriously had a chunk missing from the middle, and you could go right through it to the door.

Okay, that’s nice, I hear you saying, but what does it have to do with high school? Or anything in life? Well, I think life is like that weird little level. Sometimes there’s a door you really, really want to go through—or even know that you’re SUPPOSED to go through.

Maybe that door is marriage, or a particular job, or living in a specific city. But sometimes, there are unbreakable trees in the way, and you just can’t figure out why. A lot of people seem to think that the answer is waiting, but while this may be true sometimes, I think that often the “waiting” is actually supposed to be spent working on something else. Perhaps whatever tree is standing in your way won’t go away until you chop down a tree in a different area of your life.

Sometimes the connections aren’t obvious. You don’t know ahead of time that going back to college is how you’ll meet your future spouse, or that mending your relationship with your kids will help you mend your relationship with your boss. And sometimes the connections don’t even make sense after the fact—after all, we’re only human, and on this side of Heaven we’ll never see how all the puzzle pieces of our life fit together. But I hope that I’ve helped someone realize that breaking the trees we can is often the only way to break the ones we can’t.

Yet, as always, that’s just my POV. Until next time, this is Analyn May, signing off.

Will it be Robert’s, Rosenberg’s, or Random City Council Rules of Order?

| Opinion | January 17, 2019

Always Advocating Alan

Those of us who have been watching Santa Clarita City Council meetings for a very long time have witnessed meeting rules, ethics, norms, and procedures discussed from time to time. Normally the subject comes up when a council member is displeased with a council decision, blaming the outcome on how the decision was made. In this case, it revolves around the ill-mannered 2019 mayor selection.

This episode was kicked off during the last city council meeting of 2018. Most often, the individual serving as mayor pro tem becomes the next year’s mayor.  But this year, it looked as if Councilmember Kellar had a different plan. Now, I am not accusing anyone of violating the Brown Act; yet, at the same time, it did look as if a deal had been struck. Councilmember Kellar made his desire evident by putting forth a motion nominating Cameron Smyth to be mayor, with Laurene Weste seconding the motion.

It seemed that if Cameron would vote for himself, the decision would be history. What they did not count on, however, was Councilmember McLean defending her position in the rotation by nominating herself, and Councilmember Miranda seconding her motion.

Then the fun began. You would think, Councilmembers who have served for multiple terms, would know how the meeting was supposed to be run. But that was not the case, as the city attorney and city manager were peppered with questions as to the order the motions should be voted on. If you have wondered who truly runs the city, this should have given you a clue. It came down to the fact that the city has not adopted any formal “Parliamentary Rules of Order.” Still, it was finally decided the second motion, making Councilmember McLean the Mayor, would be voted on first. On the roll call, Smyth and Kellar voted NO and McLean and Miranda voted YES. That left the decision in the hands of a very uncomfortable Mayor Weste, who after stalling a bit, voted YES.

Well, the outcome left a disgruntled Councilmember Smyth. He felt disrespected and questioned why Weste would second his nomination and then vote for McLean. He requested the Council agendize a discussion to accept a more formalized set of meeting rules. To that end, at the January 8 city council meeting, Agenda Item 13 (a seemingly appropriate number) initiated another chaotic discussion.  Staff recommended, “The City Council … consider adopting broader rules of order, as contained within Robert’s Rules of Order or Rosenberg’s Rules of Order” or “consider amending the existing Council Norms and Procedures by adopting rules specific to nominations.”

I made my preference known during public comment, I spoke of the unnecessary complexity using the 704-page “Roberts Rules of Order,” and suggested the more concise 7-page “Rosenberg’s Rules of Order” would be more appropriate for our city meetings.  I also noted that Rosenberg’s does not support a “Consent Calendar,” but instead suggests each agenda item be announced, explained, and discussed prior to a vote. While I believe the public would wholeheartedly support such a change, I am not holding my breath. Also, Rosenberg’s rules would have multiple motions voted on in order of the last in getting first vote.  Using this approach makes the most sense.  It prevents a Councilmember from locking the discussion by jumping in with a first motion, severely limiting the ability of other council members to raise alternate solutions. I also thought it odd when Councilmember Kellar, who favors voting on motions in the order they have been raised, attempted to “Call the Question” during the discussion. He must not realize doing such is making a motion to end discussion, and if his preference was established as the city council meeting norm, voting on such a motion would not be possible.

Then came the discussion relating to the yearly selection of Mayor and Mayor Pro-tem, with Mayor McLean favoring a regular rotation. Unfortunately, all Councilmembers did not concur.  While the City Council continues to claim Mayor and Mayor Pro-tem are purely ceremonial positions with no more power than any other council members, it is simply not true. Both positions receive more publicity and have been regularly used as a step-up during council election periods. As recently as the last election, weren’t both positions filled by council members running for re-election? You bet they were.

From my point of view, if council members are elected at-large, they are equals. While Councilmember Kellar indicated that not using an ordered rotation would never prevent a council member with opposing views to serve as the Mayor, he must have forgotten about Boydston serving six years on the council without being selected to the post, and the fact Councilmember Smyth was made the mayor just two years ago.

The council continued on, with little progress, until staff reminded them that this agenda item gave the council an opportunity to provide staff with direction on how to proceed. “The City Council’s direction will be incorporated into a future item for Council consideration.”

So, Councilmember Miranda submitted a motion to adopt Rosenberg’s Rules as written. The motion failed with Kellar, Smyth and Weste voting NO. Next was consideration of Kellar’s motion to adopt Rosenberg’s Rules, modified to “vote on motions in the order raised. The motion passed with Kellar, Smyth, and Weste Voting YES. Notice a pattern developing?

Lastly, there was a council consensus for staff to generate options related to an “Agreed Upon Mayor, and Mayor Pro-tem, Rotation.” Those options were requested to include latitude provided by retaining the yearly mayoral decision to be made by motion and council vote. Staff agreed to return to the council with suggestions at the next meeting or the meeting thereafter.

The city seems to have strayed from the way it all started. Allen Cameron reminded us on Facebook, “Thirty-One years ago, the first City Council …  adopted a “mayor selection” process … That process was a simple formula … each Council member was appointed “Mayor” for a year, in the order of the number of votes each received in the election.”

It appears most likely the council will decide to adopt Rosenberg’s Rules of Order, with exceptions being made to allow for a Consent Calendar, while changing the order of voting from “Last Motion Raised” voted first, to “First Motion Raised” voted first. Should that transpire, they will have accomplished nothing. Rules with escape clauses, guidance and modifications to allow “business as usual” will never be followed or accepted long term. They are just put in place to make it sound as if something has been accomplished, when in reality, it allows those at the top to continue doing what they have always done.

Sadly, we will just have to wait for “the other shoe to drop” at a subsequent council meeting.

 

Editorial Cartoon

| Opinion | January 10, 2019

The Stupidity Flu

| Opinion | January 10, 2019

by William Tozzi

A brand new virus is going around
An illness that’s really true
It’s not just my imagination
It’s called the Stupidity Flu

There’s no doubt about it
It’s making its debut
You’ll hear all about it here
Beware of the Stupidity Flu

All over Washington, D. C.
It’s affecting quite a few
The Senate and the House
Are infected with the Stupidly Flu

The lawmakers shirk their duty
Of passing legislation through
Could that reason possibly be
The malicious Stupidly Flu

I can’t believe the words they say
Nor the many things they do
I’m sure they’re under the influence
Of the horrible Stupidity Flu

Will they succeed in pulling apart
This great country we once knew
I hope it will never happen
Due the grip of the Stupidy Flu

The media and the journalists
Make statements that are untrue
They probably became tainted
By the strong Stupidity Flu

The radicals among us
March in lockstep right on cue
They’ve certainly been infected by
The illogical Stupidity Flu

All of the haters in this country
Have become a lot more cuckoo
Since they were contaminated by
The dreadful Stupidity Flu

It doesn’t have a remedy
And research is overdue
If you’re not extremely careful
You’ll develop the Stupidly Flu

Its presence remains undetectable
Its diagnosis you’ll misconstrue
You won’t know you’re a victim of
The sneaky Stupidity Flu

My tongue-in-cheek analysis
Is just my point of view
I hope you’ll never come down with
This strange Stupidity Flu

When Being Liberal Isn’t Liberal Enough

| Opinion | January 10, 2019

As the 116th Congress convenes in Washington this week, one of the more interesting spectacles to take place will be the seating of Democratic Socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Much has been made of Ocasio-Cortez’s rhetoric and political philosophy since her defeat last year of former Rep. Joseph Crowley of New York’s 14th Congressional District, one of the most powerful Democrats in the House and a close ally of Nancy Pelosi.

In the wake of her primary victory over Crowley, Ocasio-Cortez told CNN, “We won because, I think, we had a very clear winning message, and we took that message to doors that had never been knocked on before.”

Ocasio-Cortez faced an incumbent who had grown complacent and disenfranchised from those he was elected to serve. She campaigned on a platform that promised to address issues that affected voters in her district including affordable housing, increased income inequality and poverty. Ocasio-Cortez called for Medicare for all, a federal jobs program, and has been quite vocal about abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Before taking her oath of office, Ocasio-Cortez targeted Pelosi intimate Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., leader of the House Democratic Caucus – a high-profile position a few notches below Pelosi’s own in the party hierarchy. Jeffries represents a district adjacent to that of Ocasio-Cortez. It appears she’d like a new neighbor. Preferably one she has hand-picked (or anointed) and who shares her own brand of progressivism, which Jeffries does not.

Therein lies a problem for the Democratic Party and their Blue Wave. How far to the left must a believer in more traditional liberal policies veer in order to satisfy those who believe party “elites” like Pelosi, Crowley, and Jeffries have failed average Americans?

Conservatives rarely (okay, mostly never) agree with Nancy Pelosi, but now a new breed of Democrat – or Democratic Socialist in the case of Ocasio-Cortez – poses an even greater challenge. In their eyes, Pelosi’s brand of liberal isn’t liberal enough. While that may be a fair assessment from their perspective, it would be somewhat self-destructive to arrive in Washington intent, as Ocasio-Cortez seems to be, on waging internecine warfare, status quo be damned.

During her campaign, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez promised she would be responsive first and foremost to her constituents. She was critical of her predecessor, who focused more on building a political power base in D.C. than on the folks in the neighborhoods back home. It cost him his seat in the House. Yet, by her earliest rumblings, Ocasio-Cortez could suffer a similar fate two years hence should she not keep her word with those in the Bronx and Queens who put her in office.

In a recent New Yorker profile on Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., former New York Congressman Steve Israel recalled that when he and Schiff first came to Washington in 2000, they were told during their orientation that there were three kinds of members of Congress – “the ‘pothole member,’ who concentrates on district issues, the ‘political member,’ who works on moving up the ladder, and the ‘policy member,’ who digs down in specific policy areas and becomes the expert on the floor of the House.”

Most newly-elected members being seated this week are there for one reason. And it wasn’t Donald Trump. It was because voters at home believed they would be more responsive to “pothole issues” like healthcare than were their opponents. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was elected on that basis, yet she increasingly presents as though she is more intent on becoming a “political member” than she’d initially led her constituents to believe. As she well knows, it doesn’t take much to remind voters when a politician isn’t listening and doesn’t keep their word.
In these precarious times, it shouldn’t matter whether our leaders are conservative enough or liberal enough. What should matter is that they do the job they were elected to do, which is representing those of us back home. Squandering the opportunity to do so in exchange for building one’s own personal political brand is a betrayal of a constituent’s trust. Hopefully, the newest members of the 116th Congress will keep that in mind as they settle in to begin the business of governing.

Copyright 2018 Blair Bess distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Blair Bess is an award-winning journalist and columnist. He can be reached at bbess@soaggragated.com.

Immigration Reform Made Easy

| Opinion | January 10, 2019

by Stephen Smith

For years I have felt that our approach to immigration reform was insane. Both sides of the aisle have failed our country. The time has come to act. I now offer my solution. May it be a beacon shining in the night for rational thought and a compassionate working solution that considers practical reality.

My Immigration Plan

1. No solution, I said no solution will work unless we can manage and control entry into the United States. All passage into our country must be directed through an official port of entry and customs. It is in our best interest if there are screenings for health, criminal history and bad intent. Further if there is a desire to take up residency, it is important to verify that they can be self-sufficient or have adequate sponsorship. Any violators should become subject to instant deportation or incarceration. Period. I see no way to achieve this without some sort of physical barrier. History has shown that where we have employed walls with technology and manpower, they have worked. Nothing works perfectly, but a multi-tactical, strategic approach is effective. Strict enforcement would make our intentions very clear. If you cannot support this one issue, you have disdain for the spread of communicable disease, national security, safety in our communities and sovereignty. Further, without enforced borders, people in our country without our permission will continue to suffer by living in fear and secrecy.

2. After security and public health screenings, visas should be easy and cheap to obtain and be required for all visitors. With proper filing, they may be renewable. They shall consist of these types:

2a. Tourist and short-term business trip. Expires after one to six months, depending on visitor’s needs.

2b. Student Visas which must be renewed annually with verification of school attendance and progress. Upon graduation may apply for permanent visa.

2c. Emergency medical visa for patients and attendants. Time limited.

2d. Temporary Work Visa for seasonal and short-term workers. For three to nine months. Requires exit at end of term. Easy to obtain.

2e. Permanent work and resident visa. Holders have demonstrated ability to be self-supporting through either wealth, work or sponsorship. Renewable every two years with a six-month grace period. Required for transition to citizenship. Holders will be issued Social Security numbers.

2f. Diplomatic and other special purpose, such as touring foreign artist, athletes and support staffs. Flexible depending on circumstance.

3. All visas shall be in the form of a working ATM card with bio-metrics and photograph. Any money earned or won when in the United States shall be paid directly to the ATM card by the employer. Severe penalties shall be assessed to employers who do not comply. Visa types A-D shall be taxed at the time of deposit at a flat rate of 15 percent. 10 percent shall be distributed to the communities where the ATM cards are being used to help provide local services such as police, fire, education and health. Five percent shall be used for administrative costs of banks and government. Holders of type E and F visas will be taxed according to current applicable rates and laws.

4. All undocumented people living in the United States will be required to apply for and obtain the appropriate visa. Those who could only get the temporary visa may appeal to obtain a permanent status visa.

5. Any violation of the terms of the visa will result in the holder being subject to deportation. The ATM will be immediately terminated, and funds in the account distributed at the time of deportation. Appeals may be considered by agents of the U.S. Department of State. Any conviction of a felony or three misdemeanors will result in the termination of the Visa and deportation after serving the applicable sentence and facing any other legal actions.

6. Since they are full participants in our existing tax requirements, holders of type E visas will be eligible for any applicable government programs and entitlements. All others should only be eligible for appropriate public supported emergency medical care. Private charity should be encouraged, especially for nutritional and housing assistance. Government dependency must be discouraged for all visa holders.

7. DACA qualified individuals shall be issued a type E visa, without needing proof of sponsorship and self-sufficiency. They will have three years to take and pass citizenship exams and to be sworn in. If they fail to do so, the visa will begin requiring proof of sponsorship and demonstrate the ability to be self-supporting. Otherwise, they may be deported, subject to appeal.

8. All immigrants who have served honorably for two or more years as first responders or in the military shall receive a type E DACA visa with a fast track for citizenship.

9. Long-term undocumented residents who pay all back taxes and penalties on previously unreported income can demonstrate being good, contributing members of the community and pay a fine not to exceed $5000 will be issued a type E visa. All others who do not have a criminal record shall be issued a temporary worker visa, with all income now being deposited into the visa ATM. They shall be scheduled for a deportation hearing to be heard within nine months, where it can be decided if they deserve a permanent visa. Failure to appear or comply will result in immediate deportation.

I will not address the issue of those seeking asylum and refugees in this offering. The problem is very complex, and we currently lack the infrastructure to properly deal with this problem. Around the world, we have yet to see an approach that is effective.

There it is. Come to this country seeking work, get an ATM visa where all your income is deposited and your income is taxed immediately upon deposit. That tax money is spent in the community where you work and do business. Data can be easily collected so local officials can better delegate to where resources are needed. Access to your money will be turned off when your visa expires. This should help solve the problem of people overstaying legal entry.

In summary:

The border is secure, and everyone knows the rules. We can screen for health, security and need. Getting the visa is easy and failure to comply is swift deportation. There is special consideration for DACA. All others who have already entered the United States are accounted for. They will either receive a permanent visa or a temporary visa. Under the temporary visa they will have time to close their affairs before exiting or to make appeal for permanent status.

I have yet to hear a proposal better or more inclusive than this one. It is fair and solves the problem of people operating in the shadows. To work, it must be kept simple. Too many additional exceptions and standards will destroy its effectiveness. Remember, the Constitution was only 16 pages before we began to mess with it.

If you like this idea, please share it with your friends and elected officials.

Always Advocating Alan – Streetlight Sensibility Returns to City Hall

| Opinion | January 10, 2019

With 2019 underway, my third yearly cycle of writing weekly columns for the Gazette begins anew. While it does make me feel fortunate to have the ability to share my opinions with you, I value even more providing a public service by including details of issues facing our community.

An example has been the dissemination of information related to the Lighting and Landscaping ballot issue. Over the past three weeks, my columns spoke to the issue, first in general terms, then making the public aware of city council’s actions starting in May of 2017; the second detailed when the street light purchase was first approved, and finally a narrative of how the two streetlight districts were founded and funded, all in order to understand why the assessments are different in Streetlight District 1 and District 2. Many Santa Clarita residents have written letters, sent emails and called city hall objecting to the streetlight assessment increase, as well as the ballot process currently used.

With Mayor Marsha McLean and City Manager Ken Striplin realizing how strong the opposition is, swift action has been taken. Staff included an Agenda Item on the January 8 City Council Meeting Consent Calendar, with a recommendation for the council to cancel the current Landscaping and Streetlight District ballot and public hearing. Even though I am writing this on Sunday afternoon, I am confident the vote will be unanimous to cancel the election.

I wholeheartedly support cancellation of this current assessment ballot initiative. In this Sunday’s Signal, Mayor Pro-Tem Cameron Smyth is quoted as saying, “We need to do a better job of communicating this … If we have to spend additional dollars to send a follow-up mailer … Something that is easy for a non-technical person to understand so they know exactly what they’re voting on, I think that is money well spent.”

While I also agree with Cameron’s comments, I believe the city needs to take a hard look at how Santa Clarita’s Assessment Districts are being managed and make changes as needed.

Within the 2018/19 Landscaping and Lighting District Engineers Report, you will find technical details and financial information relating to two Streetlight Zones (Districts) and Sixty-plus Landscaping Zones (Districts). Throughout the past several years, staff has looked to combine this data in one common Engineers Report, making their effort less cumbersome and eliminating duplication of boilerplate information.

But, having the information in one document DOES NOT MAKE THEM A SINGLE PROPOSITION 218 ASSESSMENT DISTRICT. Each zone (district) has unique special benefits, which only apply to the properties within their zone. To maintain the spirit and letter of Proposition 218, financial management and voting for changes to each Zone (District), must be handled separately.

To show why, consider the fact that it may have sounded like (District 2) Levy A at $12.38 per EDU was not paying their fair share. But District 2 was originally established by the county and is funded by a combination of Ad-Valorem property tax and the Levy A assessment. Currently, the total Levy A revenue will raise $3.3 million per year. Levy B, on the other hand, at $81.71 per EDU, will raise $2.6 million per year. Without changing the assessments, the combined Streetlight Districts will raise $5.9 million this coming year and will pay Operation and Maintenance costs of $4.8 million.

There is plenty of money being raised, and if we have the desire to balance out the assessments, questions relative to what the District 2 Ad-Valorem contribution of $2.8 million can be used for must be clearly understood. Acting hastily and losing the $2.8 million Ad Valorem contribution would simply be a tax increase, with the deficit made up by District 2 (Levy A) residents. As government finances are never simple, we need to consider these changes very carefully and stay informed.

Hopefully the city will provide a “follow-up mailer … something that is easy for a non-technical person to understand so they know exactly what they’re voting on” in the future.

The New Year also kicks off another round of Canyon Country Advisory Committee Meetings, where community members are invited to attend and hear information on local issues. This month presentations will include, the latest news on “Bridge to Home” and efforts to open a Year-Round Homeless Shelter presented by Mike Foley, Reported Contamination Found in Val Verde Drinking Water presented by Gavin Tate, New IRS Tax Return Rules presented by Rick Drew, and Landscaping and Streetlight Issue Details presented by Alan Ferdman.

The Canyon Country Advisory Committee meets on January 16, from 7 to 9 p.m., in the Mint Canyon Moose Banquet Room, 18000 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country. Admission is open to all residents and there is no admission fee. I hope you will choose to join us there.

Resolutions Our Politicians Won’t Keep

| Opinion | January 4, 2019

by Tom Purcell

“Celebrating the holidays with friends and family the past few weeks was great, but I’m tired, bloated and crabby.”

“The New Year is upon us! What a great opportunity to start fresh and resolve to do great things in 2019.”

“How about I share some resolutions I hope our political leaders will keep. Here’s one: Federal government, please stop spending so much!”

“Spending is certainly out of control. Federal debt is up nearly $1.4 trillion the past year. That’s nearly $11,000 in debt per American household – nearly $4,200 per person. And as interest rates rise, the payments on our debt are skyrocketing.”

“I’ll tell you what else is skyrocketing: my family’s health insurance premiums. My deductibles are so high, we’ll end up in the poorhouse if any of us gets sick. Hey, Democrats and Republicans, can you resolve to come up with a bipartisan solution for the massive cost of health insurance?”

“Regrettably, such reforms are not likely to occur. There is a growing chasm between Republicans and Democrats. As Republicans hope to undo Obamacare in the courts, more Democrats are supporting a single-payer government program. As more families suffer from high premiums and high deductibles, more Americans, according to Bloomberg, are warming to a ‘Medicare for All’ concept.”

“They are?”

“Bloomberg says a Kaiser Family Foundation survey found last March that 59 percent of Americans favor the Medicare for All concept. Even when it was defined as a single-payer, federal program, 53 percent favored it. Some 75 percent favor a Medicare for All option if it lets people who have coverage keep their plans.”

“The way Obamacare allowed people to keep their plans? OK, if it’s unrealistic for our political leaders to spend less and improve health care, can they at least resolve to improve our public discourse?”

“Everyone has been hoping for that. Trump’s supporters wish he would cool it with some of his tweets and his opponents are throwing around some heated language, too. With divided government in 2019, it appears discourse is going to get worse, not better.”

“Look, so much is at stake. We want our political leaders to work with each other to address our problems. We want them to end this silly government shutdown. Don’t all of us, Republicans and Democrats alike, want them to knock off the nasty politics and address our spending, health care, infrastructure and immigration reform challenges?”

“I wish that were the case. USA Today reports that the only thing all Americans can agree upon is that our country is incredibly divided. Our politicians reflect our division. Again, look at health care. Republicans want market-based reforms that they hope will drive insurance premiums down. Democrats want the polar opposite: more government control. Or look at the Trump investigations. A majority of Republicans want them to end, but a majority of Democrats want the incoming House-majority Democrats to investigate more! Government gridlock, here we come!”

“For goodness’ sake!”

“It’s a bit odd that so many Americans are so unhappy about so many things when a lot of things are going very well for our country. The economy is doing well. Wages are rising. Sure, we’ve got challenges, but it’s too bad we can’t count some of our blessings as we address them.”

“Sure, we’re blessed, but after chatting with you I feel even more tired, bloated and crabby.”

Copyright 2019 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of “Misadventures of a 1970’s Childhood,” a humorous memoir available at amazon.com, is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact Sales@cagle.com or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at Tom@TomPurcell.com.

Editorial Cartoon

| Opinion | January 3, 2019

The Fix is In

| Opinion | January 3, 2019

“I alone can fix it.”

That’s what the current occupant of the Oval Office told cheering delegates to the 2016 Republican National Convention.

He pointed to “war and destruction abroad” as one of the most critical challenges facing the United States. And he told the American people that he alone could “fix” it.

Unfortunately, the only thing Donald J. Trump appears capable of fixing is the 2016 election that put him in office.

Despite denials and repeated lies that he took no part in violating federal election laws, the Justice Department has clearly identified him in court documents as an unindicted co-conspirator.

More criminal is Trump’s unilateral decision to pull 2,000 American troops out of Syria, thus ending a critical mission that supported rebels intent on ending the authoritarian regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The move places at risk our longtime allies, the Kurds, stymies the progress we’ve made against ongoing threats posed by ISIS, provides solace and assistance to Russian troops and the Iranian military, and could lead to a terrorist staging ground for Hezbollah.

In addition, Trump’s misguided actions have compromised the security of our chief ally in the Middle East – the State of Israel.

In Trump’s perverse world view, making nice with murderous heads of state in Saudi Arabia is far more constructive to maintaining stability in the region than taking them to task and expressing outrage over the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Responsibility for the murder has been placed squarely at the doorstep of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman by the president’s own intelligence advisers. The same prince whose government is committing ongoing war crimes against the people of Yemen. With the full support of this president.

At the outset of the Trump presidency, many in Washington were comforted when Trump surrounding himself with experienced, competent advisers like Chief of Staff John Kelly, whose feet are now halfway out the door of the Oval Office. Also among that group: National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster – gone. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson – gone. And, now, Defense Secretary James Mattis – gone.

Syria was the final straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back for Mattis, prompting this much-decorated Marine Corps general with forty years of experience leading our nation’s most elite troops to sever his ties with the Trump administration.

In Mattis’s letter of resignation, the defense secretary wrote, “My views on treating allies with respect and also being clear-eyed about both malign actors and strategic competitors are strongly held and informed by over four decades of immersion in these issues.”

Contrast Mattis’s decades engaged in helping to formulate the strategic military and defense goals of the nation (as well as combat experience in various theaters of war) versus Trump’s boyhood time served in a military school due to incorrigible behavior and two years of diplomatic, military, and economic chaos while occupying the White House.

Mattis went on to say, “I believe we must be resolute and unambiguous in our approach to those countries whose strategic interests are increasingly in tension with ours. It is clear that China and Russia, for example, want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model – gaining veto authority over other nation’s economic, diplomatic, and security decisions to promote their own interests at the expense of their neighbors.”

And there lies the rub, plain and simple: Russia. Remember, “No collusion?” Why then, within hours of the commander-in-chief’s move to withdraw troops from Syria, did Russian President Vladimir Putin laud Trump’s action? And why did Putin take it one step further and question when we would be withdrawing our forces from Afghanistan, only to have Trump acquiesce hours later by ordering the draw-down of half our forces now based there? No collusion, indeed.

Under this administration, our country has been on life support. We are nearing a Constitutional breaking point and in danger of forfeiting our place as the shining light and spirit of free democratic societies throughout the world.

What is most frightening is that the true leaders Americans had counted on to guide us through the Trumpian debacle have either thrown up their hands in disgust and resigned, or have been unceremoniously kicked out the door of the Oval Office like rusty tin cans.

Not to worry, though. The “fix” is in. Because as long as Trump is in the White House and he has allies like Vladimir Putin to guide him, our nation’s position in the world will be forever secure.

Copyright 2018 Blair Bess distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons newspaper syndicate.

Blair Bess is an award-winning journalist and columnist. He can be reached at bbess@soaggragated.com.

An Epiphany in Old Town San Diego

| Opinion | January 3, 2019

by Stephen Smith

I bring you tidings of great joy, for I have encountered a spark of liberty on Boxing Day while having lunch at a Mexican restaurant located in Old Town San Diego.

When our waiter delivered my iced tea with extra lemon, (I very rarely have alcoholic beverages, although I do like a good margarita) I requested a straw, which restaurants are now allowed to provide only upon request, stating that I was acting in defiance of the EPA and Coastal Commission. He leaned forward and whispered that he just did not understand why straws were restricted when used straws do not end up in the ocean, they end up in landfills. My response was that the purpose of the new law was fundamentally not about protecting the environment. That was only a distraction; the real purpose was for the governmental elite to have control and dominance over the people.

With the quiet intensity of a disciple who was consumed by a recent epiphany, he leaned over, held perfectly still and softly spoke some of his recently realized truth, “They are taking away more and more of our liberty every day, and doing it one step at a time!”

For me, it was as if our small corner table became bathed in the glow of enlightenment. I just could not stop smiling. Who was this thirty-something Hispanic waiter? What was his story, where did he emanate from? I had to ask. It turns out he was born in Mexico and immigrated to the United States, where he became a citizen. Since leftists now dominate education, like those of us who understand the need and power of the dream that was brought to us by our founding fathers and the dangers of leftist-progressive democrat policy, he began to study on his own. He told me several of the books that have influenced his thinking. I recommended to him “The Road to Serfdom” (1944) by Friedrich Hayek of the Austrian School. We both appreciated the lessons that can be learned from reading George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” and “1984.”

It has been my experience that there is a big difference between the thinking of people immigrating to the United States to follow the American Dream and working to build a new life, versus those who come to America to only seek work and escape poverty. The first has heard the gentle siren call of liberty and freedom, while the latter is simply trying to survive. Both usually have fled from a country with an oppressive politically leftist (re: socialist or communist) government.

Those who came to embrace the American Dream are the first to recognize our countries step-by-step loss of liberty, and are outraged because they recognize that we are on “The Road to Serfdom” that will eventually turn America into the same type of society that they risked everything to escape.

Those who came seeking survival usually have only known a statist government their whole lives, and when they become citizens, they are more comfortable voting for candidates who embrace the Socialism they knew back home. Is there any question why our leftist-progressive democrats elected are willing to risk the welfare and safety of our country to prevent effective border control and well-regulated immigration policies?

Open borders lead to more leftist voters, which results in an expansion of power. I embrace those who wish to follow the rules and come to our remarkable country, and who are also dedicated to following the American Dream. I have compassion for those who are suffering. We should contribute to their basic welfare by helping with their food and medical needs as an act of charity. We should do what we can for them in their home countries. We even can issue short-term work permits for those who are able to do work in areas where we have labor shortages. However, we simply cannot take care of everyone who wishes to come to America without a likelihood of being self-supporting. Remember, under President Obama, our national debt doubled to over 20 trillion dollars. The Republicans have done little to turn the coming debt disaster around.

Oh yes, by the way, San Diego has had a border wall for years. Sorry Mr. Schumer and Ms. Pelosi, though not perfect, in San Diego, the wall has worked. The same is true everywhere else it has been tried. Please stop lying to the American people and pass the funding. Go ahead and call it a fence or a barrier and call it a victory over Trump. (He will sign it under a different title.)

In closing, I would like to give a shout out to Corey, who posted a very interesting comment on my writing under “Doug’s Rants.” For the most part, he was very kind and complimentary. However, he took umbrage with my using the term “Leftist-Progressive Democrats.” He objected to his perception that I was lumping all Democrats together and that he had friends and family that are good people and left-leaning Democrats.

I use the term of Leftist-progressive with very specific intent. I do not take it lightly. It is very different from today’s meaning of liberal. Certainly, today’s Republicans, such as George Bush, are to the left of Democrat John F. Kennedy. The issue is touchy, because most of my liberal friends define their political position as whom they are as a human being. Challenge their politics and you challenge their humanity. That leaves us with a common view of the left that those who believe in original intent Constitution are evil, while Conservatives believe that those who embrace the ideas of socialist and Marxist policies as wrongheaded.

The Leftist-progressives are the ones who embrace Marxist policies which have caused historically untold death and suffering. Socialism sounds good, but has been proven again and again to be evil. They have become obsessed with power, reject the individual and embrace the collective to achieve their ends. So, thank you Corey for your kind comments, and I apologize to your liberal friends if there was any confusion. To better understand, may I suggest that you get on the web and look at this article. It helped guide my thinking and usage of this term.

“Leftism Is Not Liberalism” by Dennis Prager, published Tuesday, Sep 12, 2017.
https://www.dennisprager.com/leftism-is-not-liberalism/

The year 2019 is looking to be an interesting time. God bless us, everyone!

Petzold, Ferdman and Farley Now Honorary Members of Punk Band ‘Streetlight Manifesto’

| Opinion | January 3, 2019

(Satire)

For the past few weeks, three concerned Santa Clarita citizens have addressed grievances against the city’s latest proposed modification to streetlight assessments that would raise certain property owners’ yearly rates.

The three outspoken individuals, Steve Petzold, Alan Ferdman and James Farley, cared so much about these lights that they caught the attention of popular third-wave ska band Streetlight Manifesto.

“We never thought anyone would actually put out a real Streetlight Manifesto,” lead singer Tomas Kalnoky said. “We just thought the name sounded cool.”

The band’s discography uncannily aligns with that of the trio’s, including the album title, “The Hands That Thieve.”
“Once again, it was just supposed to sound cool. We never thought that it could be a metaphor for a municipality raising taxes for street lights,” Kalonky said.

The band also recognized these oversight overlords as having “intense anti-establishment, punk-rock energy.”

“Sure, we have mosh-pit energy, but we definitely don’t have the stamina to read through city contracts. They’re in.”

The group is planning to tour in 2019, with three additional bass players now in their line-up.

“We don’t even know if they play bass,” Kalonky said. “But that’s not the point. They’ve earned it.”

Always Advocating Alan – The City’s Lighting District Circus Would make P.T. Barnum Proud

| Community, Opinion | January 3, 2019

This is the third installment of my City of Santa Clarita Lighting and Landscaping issue trilogy. Part 1 spoke to the Lighting Assessment District proposed changes and ballot, in general terms, and raised a lot of questions. As a result of that column, Ms. Lujan, the City of Santa Clarita’s Communication Manager responded, with what she titled “Clarifications,” and invited me to give her a call.

I took her up on her offer, but unfortunately, it was the end of the week, and we did not have sufficient time to address our mutual concerns. So, even though I took exception to some of the information she presented, I decided to wait a week before responding. Instead, I wrote a Part 2, which followed the issue over the last year. I studied and used information from past council meetings, Engineers Reports, and postings on the city website. The narrative I provided shows the lighting issue has been piecemealed in front of the city council for over a year. Our council members knew -or should have known – all about it.

Now, a week has passed, with “not one additional word” coming from the city. So, I believe it is appropriate to respond with my “Clarifications to their Clarifications.” Since several of the city’s comments address the same part of the issue, I decided to group them, using quotes from their response.

To start, the city’s comments stated, “The $2.8 Million is a subsidy. Ongoing assessment revenues are not adequate to support all streetlight operational and reserve funding requirements. This creates an annual funding gap of $2.8 million, which the city covers with general property tax revenues.”

While the statement is partially true, I used information from the 2006 Lighting District Engineers Report to understand how we ended up in this situation. What the “Plans and Specifications section” revealed was, prior to the incorporation of the City of Santa Clarita, street-lighting services were provided by a special benefit district administered by the County of Los Angeles named CLMD 1867, which is funded by ad valorem property tax revenue, with a rate set by Proposition 13. On July 24, 1979, County Lighting District LLA-1 was formed. LLA-1 boundaries were wholly within the City of Santa Clarita’s borders and included the boundaries of CLMD 1867 within it, as 1867 relative to the city boundaries was a smaller district.

As of July 1, 1998, all Street Light Districts within the city have been under the jurisdiction of the City “Streetlight Maintenance District No.1 (previously LLA-1) and No.2 (previously CLMD 1867) respectively. It is (and became) the city’s responsibility to prepare and levy the annual assessments necessary to maintain the streetlights within the District.”

“The ad valorem portion is handled thru the County Auditor and the State Board of Equalization and is not acted upon by the City Council.” In addition, any new development would also be required to annex into District No 1, which is not supported by ad valorem tax revenue.

The above information provides an understanding as to why the city’s two Streetlight Levy(s) are different. It has nothing to do with someone not paying their fair share. In one case, District No 1, the Levy pays their entire street lighting cost, while in District No 2, the levy makes up the difference, between the amount ad valorem revenue provides, and the remaining cost. Why? Because it was planned that way and has been managed that way from the start. In both cases, the revenue is obtained as a part of your property tax bill, with the ad valorem amount determined and provided by the County, not the City. As stated in the February 23, 2018 agenda item 11, “ad valorem revenues …. the city has ALWAYS included in its streetlighting budgets.”

As it turns out, the 2018/19 Engineers report shows the entire cost of Street Light Operations and Maintenance at $4.9 million, supported by current revenue of $5.9 million. Even if you add in the bond debt to purchase the street lights and the conversion to LEDs of $268,409 per year, there are enough funds to support the district without any further increase to either assessment levy. The city’s assessment increase justification narrative is flawed. There is no emergency.

In reference to my question about money being transferred out of Fund 359, the city responded by stating, “The $4,444,513 transferred out of the Streetlight Assessment Fund is necessary to correct budget appropriation from the Ad Valorem Fund to the Streetlight Assessment Fund.”

Interesting, but misleading. The amount “transferred out” was $4,503,503, not $4,444,513. While the $4,444,513 expenditure was authorized by the Council on Jan 23, 2018 to pay for the Tanko Lighting Contract, for conversion of Streetlights to LEDs, what happened to the remaining $58,990 which you did not account for? Also, why was $464,352 transferred out of the Ad Valorem Account and then moved into the Assessment Account? This appears to be a shell game, where the public must find the “pea.” Since the information does not provide insight into the extent of the costs or a balance associated directly with either assessment levy, but displays a composite of both, it raises more questions as to the necessity to raise Levy A (Dist. 2) or maintain the level of Levy B (Dist. 1).
The city insists, “Street lighting and landscape services are both components of the City’s Landscaping and Lighting District.” Mr. Tonoian was quoted in the Gazette on December 13, 2018, as stating, “these votes cannot currently be separated … because again, street lighting and landscape maintenance are part of the same district.”

In this case, the city is using semantics to confuse the issue. Lighting and Landscape assessment levy(s) were not even described in a single district Engineers Report until 2017, after the current city plan was conceived. Prior to that, they were in two separate documents. Even then, each assessment levy is unique, and was initiated by showing a “special benefit” to a set of properties. Votes are to be weighted within the boundaries of each assessment levy. It makes no sense from a legal perspective, or otherwise, to claim a property owner who falls within one assessment levy should be able to have their vote counted to influence a different assessment levy. It makes no legal or moral sense; it’s just nonsense. The idea of combining the vote of several separate assessment levy(s), with some getting a decrease and some being charged more, is simply a way to influence the election’s outcome.

The city further asserted, “Anticipated Operational savings will pay down these bonds and allow the city to pass along future savings by reducing the streetlight assessment in equally among all property owners.”

That is just pure spin. With the total cost of bond principal and interest repayment of $26 million, and a projected savings of $22 million over 30 years, there will be no savings to pass on. Then, long before the 30-year payment plan will reach a climax, and you can bet there will be another bond to install new more highly technical cost-saving equipment.

The city talks to LMD Assessment reductions by saying, “The Property owners within some local LMD zones, previously financed local park maintenance with funds from their LMD assessment and their property tax. This two-tiered funding created an inequity.”

I’m sure they mean property owners CURRENTLY finance park maintenance within their LMD, because this initiative has not yet been accepted. The city should provide names and locations of the 13 parks where funding for maintenance is being removed from LMD assessment roles. Then, explain how these residents were funding the parks with both assessment and general ad valorem property tax funds. Are these parks available for use by the general public? Are any of the parks inside a gated community? Because any parks not fully available to the public should not be financed with taxpayer dollars. Then tell us where the proposed maintenance funding is going to come from. Will it be a special fund, or the general fund? Until we know all the answers, we should have no problem rejecting the proposal.

The city went on to say, “No pending development projects have been included in this ballot process.”

But in the Gazette article on December 13, 2018, Ms. Lujan is quoted as saying, “Developers whose projects are not yet developed but are within the affected areas appear to get as many votes as units they’ll build.” So, Ms. Lujan, what does “no pending development projects” really mean? Please say it in plain English. Will developers get to vote based on what they are entitled to build, or what they have built?

In addition, the November 13, 2018, Agenda item 8 Staff Report tells of staff negotiating the assessment rate for Vista Canyon Ranch (LMD Zone 32), where the developer desires to include additional landscape area in their LMD. Since this project has not yet been built, how many votes is this developer getting?

Lastly, the city indicated, “Items placed on the Consent Calendar can be discussed at Council Meetings. A member of the public can speak on a consent item to get clarifications, ask questions or raise issues.”

It is a good thing we can! If it was not for James Farley, Steve Petzold, and myself rising to the podium to challenge this issue, the street light assessment election would have taken place without a word of comment, clarification or adjustment. Items raised during Public Participation, or from the consent calendar, and spoken to by the public rarely get a staff presentation, and just as rarely get their questions answered.

I recommend a NO VOTE on this issue. As taxpayers, we deserve to be told the complete story, have our questions answered, and be treated with both honesty and integrity.

On December 31, KHTS and the Signal reported, “Santa Clarita Officials To Consider Terminating Landscape, Lighting District Fee Assessment Increase,” at the January 8 City Council Meeting. While this is very encouraging news, we are not at the finish line yet. It is important for us to show up at this city council meeting to share our objections and concerns and “seal the deal” by having our city council terminate the current assessment election process.

I look forward to seeing you at 6 p.m. on January 8 at City Hall. In the meantime, rest easy and have a very happy and safe New Year.

2018 in Review – The following articles are Satires Published in 2018. Read at your own risk.

| Opinion | December 28, 2018

SCV Residents Can Now Use Homeless Portal to ‘Help’ Homeless

SCV’s latest productive effort to aid the homeless involves a new app called “HomelessnessGO,” which will collect the homeless population and store them in an online database.

Here’s how it works: After downloading HomelessnessGO on a mobile device, the app tracks the user’s real location and leads them to the nearest transient. Upon reaching an encampment, the user can activate the “citation capsule,” discharging virtual citations to trap the offender. By simply dragging a finger across the screen, the user is able to fling these violation notices at the target, trapping them indefinitely in the portal.

To incentivize users, the app rewards points to especially active trappers, and these points can be redeemed at City Hall for small, non-cash rewards, like keychains and lanyards.
“Our Ad Hoc committee has been working tirelessly by the water cooler at City Hall to come up with a solution to the problem,” Mayor Pro Tem Cameron Smyth said. “This was honestly the best we could do.”

The application also allows users to connect with other players while capturing the homeless.

“You should just see Main Street at night,” Councilman Bob Kellar said. “It really brings the community together. This app is the one thing that keeps us from becoming the San Fernando Valley.”

For more information about HomelessnessGo and what you can do to further alienate the homeless, take a deep, long look at the person in the mirror staring back at you, or visit ww.Santa-Clarita.com.

Interns Wanted to Educate Bob Kellar about Reefer

Due to the recent legalization of marijuana in the state of California, the city is searching for young, street-wise interns to explain how marijuana works to Bob Kellar.

The city will be conducting a series of interviews in order to find the right candidate – preferably someone with enough patience and willpower to sit through hours of “back in my day…” and unwarranted real estate advice. Candidates are expected to know the difference between household spices and marijuana, and successfully list the distinct differences to the senior councilmember.

“With this project, the city hopes to end Kellar’s night terrors concerning the state of “dope in Santa Clarita,” said a city spokesperson. “Hopefully we will live to see a day when Bob ceases to break into the office at night (in just a robe), grab his trusty baseball bat and hunt for skateboarders who are out past curfew.”

SCV Cover Band Index Reaches Dangerous Proportions

The City of Santa Clarita recently announced the line-up for this summer’s Concerts in the Park – but experts are now warning the public of an impending crisis that could shake the city to its core.

Every summer, the city hosts a slew of bands at Central Park, while families picnic and teenagers try cigarettes. This year, however, the city’s CBI (Cover Band Index) is at an all-time high. Our town has never seen numbers like this, leading scientists and residents concerned about the consequences.

“It’s not necessarily the number of cover bands that is concerning this year,” a local geologist commented. “It’s the sheer magnitude, and potential energy, of the kinds of bands that are set to play this year.”

It’s Green Day. It’s the Foo Fighters. It’s catastrophe. Every single name on the lineup has enough potential energy to activate the inner angst in most middle-aged residents, and stir the existing angst in the smoking teenagers.

“What we’re looking at here is a humanitarian crisis in the making,” FEMA administrator Brock Long said. “First, one person starts head-banging, and the next thing you know, Uncle Greg is engaging in a mosh pit by the playground. That multiplied by the power of cover bands who try really hard. … It’s a mess.”

In fact, each cover band has a measurable effect on specific portions of the venue, beginning with aging fans at the front, followed by excitable parents in the middle, surrounded by emo/fringe teenagers on the outskirts. These hotspots determine how widespread the damage will be in direct relation to demographic.

“Slipping in a Tom Petty cover band isn’t going to be enough to cool things down,” a police officer said. “We will do the best we can this year to prevent as many white people from bouncing up and down to music as possible.”

Council OKs Court-Ordered ‘Time-Outs’

After a rather raucous council meeting concerning Santa Clarita’s stance on sanctuary cities, Mayor Laurene Weste quickly discovered the need for order in the chamber. Her solution: time-outs designed for grown adults.

At future council meetings, Weste reserves the right to “put naughty men and women in the corner until they learn how to behave.” If public participation gets out of hand, offenders will be escorted by sheriff’s deputy to the corner of the room until they have thought about what they’ve done.

“We will not have name-calling in public,” Bob Kellar said. “We reserve that kind of talk for the grown-ups in my cigar room.”

This initiative will take much-needed sheriffs off of the streets and put them in the council chambers where they will kindly ask the public to put signs away – over and over again.

“Our sheriffs have been training vigorously to perfect stern looks and ear-grabbing techniques,” Weste said. “I’m excited to see it carried out at our next meeting when we, as a city, take a stance on the war in Iraq.”

City Creates Santa Clarita Coloring Book
Draw Your Life in SCV ‘More Interesting’

With a colorful, 30-year history that includes industrial development, population growth, and fires of disastrous proportions, the next logical step for our beloved municipality was to turn that rich history into a minimalistic coloring book for folks of all ages. And that, we have.

Thanks to the personalization opportunities of this project, owners of the book have the chance to make the art their own. Draw yourself introspectively thinking on that weird bridge in the wash by Magic Mountain. While you’re at it, color in some friends. You can draw anything to make it drastically different than your life off the pages. After all, you are the one coloring by yourself.

Be prepared to rip open that 32-pack of crayons and use that brown to color in rockin’ landmarks like the Oak of the Golden Dream, a hut, and of course, that weird bridge in the wash by Magic Mountain. Draw yourself looking 15 pounds thinner, lying next to the oak. In the picture, you look like you did in college before Maria broke your heart. And there you are, cherishing the sturdiness of that oak; the kind of sturdiness that you were never able to achieve in your relationship with Maria.

This local interactive activity will enrich the lives of children across our valley. Never before have students been able to satiate their ever-growing urges to give their artistic take on that butterfly-looking sculpture at Central Park. And, even though you are no longer a student, you are a student of life. Use your experienced hands to re-create your 21st birthday on the page. It’s December, it’s cold, and in this reality, Maria managed to show up. In fact, everyone did. They all remembered in this world. Maria didn’t laugh at your request for a Bionicle as a present for your adult birthday. She delivers. You are all smiling around the butterfly with glee.

Because of Santa Clarita’s latest attempt to bring culture into the valley, the possibilities to heal old wounds and disconnect from reality are endless.

Bob Unleashes ‘Killer Kellar’ Council Smack-Down Play-by-Play

During Tuesday’s Council Smack-Down, Killer Kellar issued fatal blows to Municipal Mutilator McLean. The two had it out for the whole ring to see, with a penalty given by Civic Slayer Smyth.

The fight was far from clean, and began after Wild Weste decided to retire her famous move, the “gavel grapple.” Killer Kellar tackled Municipal Mutilator McLean during the first quarter.

Referees failed to step in, despite McLean’s claim that the move “came from fifth field.” The refs refused because “there’s literally no such thing as fifth field.”

The time-out was enacted after Civic Slayer Smyth called for the move after McLean’s plea. The solution: sudden death by discussion.

Killer Kellar was first to fight. Assisted listening devices engaged. No turning back.

K.K. issued the “kush-krusher,” a tactic usually used against skateboarders with an affinity for reefer. This incapacitating blow can send a fighter flying all the way to San Fernando – where the grass is literally greener. This time the kush-krusher was aimed at the Municipal Mutilator, but she held strong.

“Double-M” McLean fought back as hard as she could, bringing out the “passive-aggressive punch.” This is often combined with the phrase “as a strong woman,” accompanied by words like “resent” and “do not appreciate.”

Wild Weste came to the rescue in the third quarter, suggesting a vote after sudden death. The Municipal Mutilator earned victory by a slim margin, but did not get away without a final hit from the Civic Slayer, as did each of the fighters. Smyth made sure each member got an old-fashioned civic slaying.

All in all, it was a dirty fight. The unexpected elbow drop from Killer Kellar will go down in history as the freak move “from fifth field.”

Civics for the Civically Unengaged

If you are a registered voter in the City of Santa Clarita, chances are you got a packet from the government within the past few weeks. And if you are anything like everyone else, you couldn’t care less.

For the most part, people would rather play in traffic than get involved in the political process. The government needs to create new methods to engage voters in a way that is interesting and worthwhile. Until then, here are some entry-level ways in which citizens can get involved with this primary.

Use the Ballot as a Coaster

The pages of a ballot have been proven to retain more water than the average piece of junk mail. Even through enduring weeks of water spills, we still manage to push our pens onto those meaningless pages and record dentist appointment times. Those primary ballots make sturdy coasters, and you can rest easy knowing that your democratic duty did not go to waste.

The Ballot Drinking Game

This isn’t your average drinking game. This one is called the “Civic Sip.” Every time you see a name you have never heard of, take only a sip. Because you will be very intoxicated by the end.

The Ransom Note

Don’t you hate it when you have to go to CVS and buy a magazine just to get some illegal cash? A ballot provides free material. Simply cut out the letters, and you have yourself a perfect crime. No more thumbing through Time magazine just to blackmail your ex-wife. Now, you can have your cake and exploit it, too.
Murder Mystery

Have a few friends over. Assign each friend a name that you see on the ballot. Have them create a character based on the name and occupation. For example, you could be Nickolas Wildstar, the Libertarian Recording Artist. Or, you could fancy yourself to be Shubham Goel, the unaffiliated Virtual Reality Manager. Either way, you are going to have the time of your life attempting to fill those shoes in a murder-mystery setting.

Frisbee

You’ve thrown it into the trash before – now try throwing it to your son, for once. Enjoy an afternoon in the park tossing the symbol of democracy back and forth, all while solving our nation’s obesity crisis. You won’t regret it.

A Woman Who Really Knows What it Means to be Free

| Opinion | December 27, 2018

by Stephen Smith

For those who happen across this op-ed, I wish a very happy and prosperous New Year. Even if you do not come from a Judeo-Christian heritage, I hope that in this past Christmas season you took time off to cherish and honor your parents, friends and family. Even if it is viewed only as an exercise, it might be a good time to review the Decalogue, more commonly known as the 10 Commandments.

With its statements of not to murder, steal, give false testimony and covet, I believe it is the finest set of rules on how best to live in a civil society ever conceived. You might even consider its requirement to take some time each week to be holy and contemplate the possibilities that there is a divine power in the universe greater than ourselves. An explanation, better stated than I ever could, is found in Micah 6:8.

“He hath shown thee, O man, what is good: and what doth the Lord require of thee but to do justly and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

I believe that for many in our country, our nation has become a very dark place. I also believe that it is because we have forgotten what we once knew and that we can regain what we have lost if we rediscover our founding principles and the lesson learned by Western civilization.

I hope that in the coming year, we (in no particular order):

•Will experience a time of spiritual and intellectual renewal and revival. We need a new “Great Awakening” and to once again teach our rising generation civics – as originally intended by our founders.

•Will view those with whom we disagree as simply wrong and not evil. I hope that we can take more time to understand the views of those with whom we disagree. I also hope that in doing so, we can also rely on historical wisdom and experience to predict outcomes, and not just feelings.

•Can be passionate in our beliefs without sacrificing civility.

•Can end political correctness as the new religion. No one should suffer forever for something said long ago. What matters most is what kind of person you are today. The term “It’s a Dog Whistle” should be banned for being impossibly stupid and ambiguous.

•Will rediscover our founding principles and follow them in the administration of government. Justices who do not give value to original intent of the Constitution and the actual text of law in making their decisions should be impeached. Justices, who legislate from the bench by making rulings that make new law, should be impeached. Their job is to follow and interpret the law, not to make it.

•Understand that most issues are best handled locally. Federal government cannot and should not be all things to all people. A limited government is always best.

•Should, whenever possible, choose liberty.
•Should emphasize individual responsibility over the collective.

There was a time when people, seemingly instinctively, were adamantly self-reliant. They were often called “rugged individualists.” Back in the mid-sixties, when I was only 15 years old, I met such a person. I often think about her.

My father was born and raised in the Ozarks of Arkansas. His parents and his three brothers lived in a one room homestead, far back in the woods with no electricity or running water. They attended a single-room school. During the depression, his father committed suicide. He was only 6 years old. Unable to provide for the boys, his mother sent the brothers off to be raised in a Masonic orphanage. I never met my grandmother, but I did visit her and my grandfather’s graves. In 1964, we took a trip see the old abandoned homestead. On the homestead next door lived the remarkable Ms. Yates. As we approached her 100-plus year old house and small farm, the 65-year-old, a grey haired sturdy woman, was man-handling a plow being pulled by her mule.

As we got closer, we could see a small field of corn with pumpkins growing in their shade. She also had a vegetable garden for her table and a flower garden to decorate her home. Also seen were a pen with pigs and a chicken coop. We later learned she had no electricity and her water was drawn by a bucket from her well. When she spotted us coming, she quickly ran inside her house. We became concerned that we may have frightened her.

We soon learned that she went into her house to wash her feet before greeting us. You see, she did not own shoes, but thought it impolite to receive guests with soiled feet. She invited us into her modest neat home and we talked. She asked how we came to Arkansas and we told her of our flight on a Boeing 707. Ms. Yates informed us that she knew all about airplanes for she once took a ride in a bi-plane when a barnstormer had come to town. We leaned that by her own hand she could take care of her needs. If she ever needed some cash, to pay her property tax for example, she would sell a pig. The corn and the pumpkins were being raised as feed for her livestock. Though never married, she was social. She attended church on Sundays and went to Wednesday night revival meetings.

I later learned that she could not read or write. I suggested that she apply for Social Security or other financial assistance. Her response has forever been burned into my mind. She simply replied, “No, I figure that the government needs the money for the war in Vietnam.”

Our country was once heavily populated with “rugged individualists” such as Ms. Yates. They built this country, and there were no snowflakes among them. When they said, “I built that,” you knew that it was true. I never saw Ms. Yates again. She is now lovingly caring for God’s garden and animals. She still greets visitors with freshly washed bare feet, and her home is adorned with beautiful flowers. They come to show their respects to a woman who truly knows what it means to be free, live in liberty, and honor God, her country and her fellow man.

Letter RE: Katie Hill

| Opinion | December 27, 2018

She has big shoes to fill. Steve Knight did so many good things for the veterans and everybody else for that matter. Just the time he spent in Sacramento will be difficult for Katie or anybody else to duplicate. I try to not to be sarcastic but hope all we will get is rhetoric. Her proposed agenda scares me. Where will the funds come from? Open borders will be a disaster. If the U.S. limited immigration to those and their families with skills we need or want I’d say let them come. As Margaret Thatcher quoted, “Socialism soon fails because we soon run out of other people’s money.”

Bob Comer

Always Advocating Alan – Hoping You Had a Happy Holiday Now, it’s back to the future

| Opinion | December 27, 2018

I am hoping each of you experienced a very merry Christmas. This year, our local motorcycle community was challenged with overcoming the grief and sadness of having two prominent riding members, Anthony “Tony” Princotta, and on the next day, Cerestine “Tina” Viramontes, taking their last ride to heaven. Dealing with such tragedies brings us to the realization of how blessed we are to have another day to spend with family and friends. We are grateful to live in a community where organizations like Bridge to Home, Family Promise, Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers, and many others are there to help those in need. Plus, we also acknowledge our responsibility to keep our community on a “straight and narrow path,” so as to remain a great place to live.

With the future in mind and with the Lighting District issue “front and center” for a city council decision, it is important we realize this issue goes way beyond the purchase of street lights. This issue is a representation of how the City of Santa Clarita will communicate information regarding projects, in addition to how the city will handle charging for services from this point on.

With that in mind, I thought it would be appropriate to share some background information, and then review the timeline and council actions on the street light issue.

First and foremost, as a general-law city, Santa Clarita does not have the authority to initiate taxes. Instead, assessments are levied against property using a process defined in Proposition 218. Known as the “Right to Vote on Taxes Act,” this piece of legislation permits the City of Santa Clarita to raise revenue for projects and services which provide a “Special Benefit” to properties, provided they are established by a vote of the affected property owners. The most recent, large-scale example of using this methodology was when the city established the “Parkland and Open Space Preservation District.” During the campaign to establish this Assessment District, we were constantly assured by our city council that revenue collected by a 218 Assessment District cannot – and will not – be used for any purpose other than as defined in the proposal, and later reflected in the engineers report.

As concerned community members, we cannot allow Proposition 218 Assessment District revenue to be used for purposes outside of the District’s defined objective. We must not permit the management of separate assessments to be lumped together, so one assessments election can affect another assessment’s resources, projects, services and liabilities. Why? Because if we allow those things to go unchecked, there is no assurance district resources will not be used inappropriately and result in uncontrolled raises in our property tax bill.

In addition, Proposition 218 allows the City of Santa Clarita to include automatic cost escalators in Assessment District definitions. Currently, the city council and city staff favor using the Consumer Price Index to determine each year’s maximum assessment increase. But as concerned community members, we need to push back when a year’s assessment is raised by more than necessary to fund the district’s activities. When the “Parkland and Open Space Preservation District” was established, a “Financial Accountability and Audit Panel” was put in place. It may be time to do the same for the other Proposition 218 Districts, as well.

Last week, the city’s communication manager commented on my column. While I still take exception to several of her comments and the Frequently Asked Questions currently posted on the city website, I believe maintaining a healthy dialog is beneficial to us all. To that end, I took Ms. Lujan up on her offer, and gave her a call. We had a productive and friendly conversation, but since it was the end of the week, we lacked sufficient time to adequately address all our mutual concerns. I therefore decided to hold off my impression of the city’s comments for another week. In the meantime, so you may more fully understand the issue, let’s follow the timeline and the money by using information provided by city council staff reports.

The streetlight issue was placed before the community on May 23, 2017, Agenda Item 15, where staff advocated for the purchase of 16,125 streetlight poles from Southern California Edison at a projected cost of $9.6 million. The Staff Report continued by showing the cost of electricity being reduced by $8.85 per streetlight per month, if the purchase was consummated and the streetlights were converted to LEDs, at a cost of $5.6 Million. The estimated reduction in electricity cost was therefore $1.7 million per year. Adding in the cost of maintenance, the staff’s estimate of the yearly savings was reduced to $749,000 per year, or $22.5 million over 30 years.

All very interesting, except the dissertation ended with the statement, “Approval of the recommended action allows the city to enter into a Purchase and Sale agreement with SCE …. Staff will return …. with recommended financing options.” In plain English, the staff and council approved a purchase without knowing how they were going to pay for it.

“On September 27, 2017, the city (staff) sent out a Request for Proposal (RFP) identified as LMD 17-18-18 soliciting for Street Light transition services,” (LED Implementation), even though a funding source had not been named or approved.

On January 23, 2018, Agenda Item 11, the city council approved a contract with Tanko Lighting, not to exceed $4,444,513. It was to be funded by the Santa Clarita Lighting District fund 354, which is the LACO CLMD 1867 Lighting District supported by ad valorem (property tax) revenue. The staff report also stated, “All funds … will be returned to the Santa Clarita Light District Fund Balance upon issuance of permanent financing by the City Council.”

Then, on February 27, 2018, Agenda Item 6, the city council approved the use of “Revenue Bonds” of up to $17 million to finance the streetlight purchase and conversion to LEDs. “The total payment amount calculated to the final maturity of the bonds is estimated to be $25,630,052.” If you have been following the money, you can see the amount exceeds Mr. Tonoian’s May 23, 2017 savings estimate of $22.5 million, putting us in the hole by $3.1 million. Who gets to pay for these bonds? “The Bonds are secured from the installment payments. Pledged to the payment of the installment payments by the city are (1) assessments levied on Streetlight Zone A and Streetlight Zone B, and (2) the ad valorem revenues from Streetlight Maintenance District No. 2, formally County District CLMD 1867, which the city has ALWAYS included in its streetlighting budgets.” Let that sink in for a minute. You will not be saving, you will be paying more.

So why proceed if there is no savings? I suspect the answer is in the staff report where it says, “At Council’s discretion, the City may lease up to approximately 4,500 poles based on potential demand and location, to telecom Companies for there internet and phone equipment.” In other words, more cell phone towers close to your home, and a revenue-generating scheme for the city.

Finally, on November 13, 2018, agenda item 8, the “other shoe fell” with the council providing the go-ahead to staff to initiate a Proposition 218 election process. The direction included removing the maintenance cost of 13 parks from certain Landscape Maintenance Districts and moving the costs to the General Fund. This action does not require a Proposition 218 Ballot and could even more easily have been accomplished by a council administrative action. In addition, nowhere in the staff report does it recommend, nor did the council direct the election be accomplished for all zones with a single vote. This is clearly being done to manipulate the election outcome.

Starting with the first informational letter, the information provided has been deceptive. It stated within, “Marking the ballot with a ‘Yes’ will indicate you support maintaining streetlight services in your neighborhood and marking the ballot ‘No’ will indicate you are opposed.” Nothing could be further from the truth. This ballot will not determine if the streetlights in your neighborhood will be lit up brightly. It will determine a realignment and escalation of additional costs, not only to streetlight operation, but park and landscape funding, using a very unfair, and possibly illegal, single-vote process.

When confronted with opponents to this action at the last city council meeting, our five council members seemed confused and uninformed. But, with this issue being piecemealed in front of the council for the last year, and our council always telling us how they research and understand every agenda item before them, what conclusion should we draw? Our city council members are supposed to be representing and looking out for us, their constituents, not just trying to milk the community for all they can.

The ballot information requires far more than clarification, or a better sales pitch, as stated by Councilmember Miranda. As informed and concerned community members, there are two things we can do. First, VOTE NO on your assessment ballot and immediately return it to the city. A second, and more far reaching action, is to be at the January 8, 2019 city council meeting and voice your opinions and concerns. The best thing the council can do at this point is cancel the election and start over in a more fair and transparent manner.

The Advent Visit

| Opinion | December 20, 2018

by Gary Curtis

The four Sundays before Christmas are known in the Christian tradition as Advent. The word itself means “coming” or “arrival,” as in “for a visit.”  During the Christmas-time season of Advent, we prepare to again observe God’s “coming” or “visit” to earth and to our lives and circumstances, as the Light of the World and the Christ of Christmas.

Advent Reminders
Purposeful preparation for Advent observances in homes and churches includes four significant candles, arranged on a wreath of evergreen, in a perfect circle to symbolize the eternity of God. In the center of the circle is placed a larger white candle, known as the “Christ Candle.” It alone is lit on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.

Each candle has a different meaning, based on the Bible’s teachings about the incarnation of Christ. Each week’s candle can help us focus on one of the four virtues Jesus brought us: Hope, Love, Joy and Peace. Individually and collectively, the symbolic candles can help us prepare our hearts to appreciate the “advent” or “coming visit” of the Babe of Bethlehem.

The light of God’s love for us can help us become lights in the lives of those around us. The Advent season and activities can prepare our hearts with the joy and gladness of an increasing awareness of God’s presence among us. His name is Emmanuel, which means “God with us.”

Advent Revelations
The Advent Season reminds us of Lord’s first coming and also of our hope for the second coming of Jesus. In His first advent, the Son of God came as a baby, grew in wisdom and stature, and taught with authority, as a prophet. He willingly gave up his sinless life to save us from our sins. He is our only hope of eternal salvation and deliverance from the “kingdom of darkness.”

Best of all, He is coming again to reward or judge the living and the dead and to establish His everlasting “kingdom of light” over all the earth.

Let us rejoice and be glad, as we celebrate anew Christ’s birth and redeeming visit! And, let us eagerly look forward to His promised second visit! It is sooner now than when we first believed!

In this way, each Advent Sunday can become a teachable moment, for believers of all ages, to review the history and meaning of Christ’s first visit and give renewed understanding to the promise and hope of Christ’s second visit.

The prophet Isaiah projected the advent’s truth when he said:

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness — on them light has shined.” — Isaiah 9:2

Our Advent preparations help us welcome the Light, which has come into our world, and witness to that Light, as we share these truths and celebrate with others. By lighting one special candle each Sunday of Advent, we prepare to meaningfully magnify the birth of Jesus, the Holy Visitor.

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