Patti Sarpizio at City Council – Just wanted to make sure that all of you got copies of these photographs. Alright, I’m here tonight because I’m a very concerned resident of the city of Santa Clarita. I’m sure you’re aware that people are collecting signatures for a referendum against City Ordinance 14-02 the now Metro billboard agreement. I’d like you to know what’s happening since the beginning of the referendum process. There is illegal activity going on in our city to prevent citizens, voters, the right to exercise to petition their government. The laws regarding a referendum are clearly spelled out in California Election Code section 9241. There are people in the city who have the lawful right to collect signatures. Who are paid to do such a thing and it is totally legal to do that. There are also people here who have been paid to block the signature gathering process. The blocking activity stepped up after the Metro executive committee meeting in which the Metro executive committee extended this issue for 30 days. Residents, multiple residents, have observed incidents where petition blockers have started arguments with shoppers, signature gatherers, people who have registered, many people have registered unsubstantiated complaints to store managers against people who are properly behaving and collecting signatures. I’d like for you to take a moment to look at the pictures I’ve provided with you tonight. The first picture is a photograph taken at Carl Boyer Dr. Wal-Mart. The woman in the black hat, I’m going to call her Black Hat Lady because I don’t know her name and the black woman there. The Black Hat Lady is a petition blocker. The black woman was falsely accused of batter, she did not touch the Black Hat Lady who was exercising her right to collect referendum signatures. Picture number 2, same woman, Black Hat Lady, different blouse, different day. Man standing beside her, All Vision executive who is involved in the 50-year contract with the City of Santa Clarita. Picture number 3, a swarm of blockers who are blocking the petition gathering process, this happened yesterday at Target on Golden Valley. Picture number 4, Black Hat Lady again, happened today at Stater Brothers Market, blocking a petition gatherer’s lawful right to gather signatures on this referendum. The sheriff of Santa Clarita has been called several times and several times, many times, check their log, since Saturday, the day before Easter. We’ve collected names, and phone numbers, photographs and videos, of petition gatherers, shoppers, and other residents who have observed the unlawful obstruction of the Democratic process to sign a referendum and to collect signatures on the referendum. We can verify that blockers have been hired by Citizen’s Solution. Blockers have refused to show their petitions which is against the law. I would like to know what our City Council is going to do about this. I would like to know what the sheriff of Santa Clarita is going to do about this?
Alan Ferdman at City Council Meeting – …I would like to talk to you about the oath the majority of you took just this evening. In it you pledged to protect the Constitution of the United States and California so I ensure you would tell me you will protect the rights of our citizens to make their voices heard through use of the lawful referendum process. Unfortunately, California Law sets the bar so high it takes a team of lawyers to put it together and a staff of workers to obtain a required number of signatures equal to a number larger than the number of residents who voted in the last City Council election. As with any issue there will be people opposed and they have the right to voice their opinion as well providing that they do so in a lawful, reasonable manner. Yet today we see paid blockers who harass those individuals collecting signatures, harass our residents, and hamper the Democratic process. This is not the atmosphere Santa Clarita needs, wants, or deserves. You as our Councilmembers can quickly remedy the situation with a simple letter addressed to All Vision indicating your dissatisfaction with this method of doing business and demand they discontinue the process of blocking our citizens from exercising their constitutional rights. I think it’s a very important issue and I hope that you take action extremely quickly. We need to and must keep Santa Clarita free of practices to trample on our citizen’s ability to exercise their rights as so indicated by law. Thank you very much and I hope you take action very quickly.
Steve Petzold – I speak to the same concerns that Patti and Alan had. You may have seen the email I sent you on Monday morning very concerned about the harassment that we’re been having out with the petition gatherers at the various locations here across Santa Clarita. I personally feel that it would be helpful if the city issued a statement or a press release saying that the petition gatherers are acting in a legal fashion and that they should be given protection by the county sheriff. We don’t have a lot a lot of detail about what happen during the arrest on Saturday. Today I got a report that there was blockers down at Trader Joes so I went down there and in fact there are 3 individuals who are blocking the petition gatherers at Trader Joes. It was up to a private security guard from Copper Hill to hold back and restrain the blockers from harrassing the petiton gatherers. I called the non-emergency number at the Sheriff’s office and then told that officers were responding to the Trader Joe’s location yet during the 15 or 20 minutes I was there, there were no officers that came. I’d like Sherrif Johnson here to take the opportunity to address the coucnil and let them know exactly what the policy is of the Sheriff’s department relative to the harrassment of petition gatherer’s at Trader Joe’s. thank you for your consideration of this issue and I think it’s important especially with the upcoming Cowboy Festival I think the petition gatherers should be given a place and guidance as to where they can locate themselves outside this highly attended location.
Joe Montes City Attorney: With regard to the Cowboy Festival, the United States Supreme Court, in a similar situation involving a county fair has outlined the rules appropriate for signature gathering activity at an event that is a paid admission, city sponsored, event. the city is able, for purpose of safety and traffic flow, is able to designate an area where individuals who are interested in doing that activity can undertake that activity. City staff has looking at appropriate areas, one has been in the parking field and one in the event itself. Anybody going into the event itself will have to buy a ticket but there will be a designated area within the event and also in the parking field. It is important that the signature gatherers understand that they need to stay in those areas because this year especially we do have a slightly different layout at the Cowboy Festival there will be different traffic concerns in terms of moveemnt of people and there are a lot of buildings constraining the site. So we want to make sure that the traffic flow continues to move and the areas that will be designated will be areas where lots of people will be moving past so that shouldn’t be a concern. With regard to the blockers, the cases I’m familiar with regard to collecting signatures for referenda are on private and shopping centers all deal with the situation of the store tryin to restrict the activities, not dealing with other individuals who may be advocating not signing the petition to the extent there is a physical altercation between individuals out there and it rises to the level potentially of a criminal concern and that would be within the perview of the sheriffs to address.
TimBen Boydsten: Mr. Montes, with regard to the signature blockers, you are not aware of any state law or any city law that has any penalty for people that would be interfering or trying to stop people from signing signatures for a referendum or petition?
Joe Montes (in response): I am not, I am aware that with regard to the Penal Code there are certain provisions that deal with blocking pedestrian traffic on public property, I’m not aware of a similar rule with regard to private property. Again it might be the Sheriff has some insight into exactly what level of interference constitutes a violation of the Penal Code to their policy, but I’m not aware of a specific Penal Code section or City Ordinance that would deal with this situation.
TimBen (response) : Is it possible for your office to look and see if anything from the state with regard to that you may not be aware of since you got this at the last minute?
Montes (response): That’s at the pleasure of the council, we can certainly do that.
TimBen (end response):The other thing, for me, whether there is you know, the billboard referendum is successful or not has become a secondary question as far as I’m concerned. It is very disturbing to me that we have people coming in from out of town that are seeking to block people from signing a referendum at all. I think the Democratic process wherein we have the right to petition our government is sacred and it is unfortunate that it is taking place within the City of Santa Clarita. I know it is taking place within the City of Santa Clarita because I have a firsthand experience with people who are paid to try to stop people from gathering signatures and my wife equally was harrassed by someone who, that is appaently their job because they are seen around town. Whether you’re for or against the billboard deal i think we’re past that with regard to this. This is, this is where people are just trying to put their right down, people should have the freedom and the ability to go and sign a petition for anything. This is Amercia and it disturbs me a great deal and I don’t know is there any way that the city has a legal right Mr. Montes, to address a letter to the All Vision company who is a possible future business partner to tell them that we do not approve of this?
Montes (response):well in terms of a legal right certainly the city can send any letter the city would like to send. If the council is going to give direction to send that letter I think that may have an agenda issue, that’s not an agencised topic for tonight but certainly if there were some violation of the law that were discovered I think that all the parties would be put on notice
TimBen: Would my fellow councilpeople be amenable to putting this on the agenda for the next meeting. (silence) Do I have any support for that from anyone? Putting the, a discussion of a letter to a possible future business partner with regard to how they’re conducting business at this time in our city.
Councilmember in response: I believe I heard the City Manager indicate that there’s going to be a follow up with our Sheriff’s department on this matter and I think we ought to leave it at that.
TimBen (in response): I’m not hearing enough support from the council to put that on the agenda then I cannot do so.
Later in the evening:
Berta Gonzalez-Harper: Okay, this time around I have to be a little less nice. I am responding to people who were here regarding the “so called” (hand motions) blockers of petition gatherers. Okay, I can’t speak for every person at every location but the woman in the black hat is a local resident. I met her for the first time on Saturday when I arrived at the Wal-Mart in Canyon Country while they were loading a woman who was screaming at the top of her lungs, ‘I ain’t done nothing!’ And I asked her (woman in the black hat) what had happened, she told me what had happened, another woman standing with her, also a local resident told me she had a shopping cart pushed into her the day before. I personally, I’m a local resident, I’m not paid by anybody to do anything, spoke with nine, nine, petition gatherers. Out of the nine, one was civil and respectful when I declined and said why I was declining. Every one of the other ones provided incorrect information such as, ‘sign this and the billboards will come down,’ ‘sign this because they made a backroom deal and you guys were aced out of it and they’re going to do this whether you like it or not,’ and tons of comments like that by people from Kentucky, I ask! Florida, Illinois, two brothers from Missouri so don’t tell me that this is a pristine, local grassroots effort because it’s not. And just as you Mr. Boydston say that they have the right to gather those petitions, I as a resident, have the right to say, you are not telling people the truth and this is why and you don’t have to like it so it’s not as one sided as you are trying to portray this. These people are lying to people and trying to get people to sign these petitions under false pretenses. As a matter of fact this reminds me an awful lot of that whole library 30,000 petitions that all these people signed that included my name, the one person that really was never going to sign that petition. So I caution you, be careful of who you guys lay down with because you’re not only going to come up with fleas you’re coming up with mange.