Logan Smith knows his age might be a factor in people not voting for him for city council. But he insists Santa Clarita is getting younger, and the current councilmembers do not typify.
The five current members’ average age is 68.2 years. But take away Cameron Smyth (46) and it’s 73.75 years.
Smith, 25, is vying for one of three seats held by Marsha McLean (she turns 78 in September, Bill Miranda (75) and Laurene Weste (she turns 70 in October).
According to the city’s website, 30 percent of the population is between 30-44. Another 6 percent is between 20-24. Only 9 percent is 65 and older.
“I don’t feel like the average person in Santa Clarita has a voice in that chamber,” Smith said.
He seeks to change that by acknowledging he doesn’t have all the answers, but he’s willing to read and research the issues and hear the residents before casting a vote – things he doesn’t see the current council doing. While he refused to attack any councilmember by name during the 51-minute interview, he points to the Lyons-Dockweiler extension, cannabis sales and the recent homelessness ban as examples.
Regarding Lyons-Dockweiler, numerous Placerita Canyon homeowners came before the council to express opposition to the extension.
The council sat silently – Smith said it was “stony-faced” – and then unanimously voted for it. Smith thinks the councilmembers didn’t read the staff reports closely enough and came into chambers already having made up their minds.
“Fundamentally, we need public servants who serve the public,” Smith said. “That’s not something I’ve seen in that council chamber.”
Some believe Weste stands to gain financially from the extension, which Weste has denied repeatedly.
“If anybody is using their public office to enrich themselves, that’s unconscionable, especially to the detriment of people who live here and work here,” Smith said.
Another example Smith points to is cannabis sales. The council earlier this year extended a ban on commercial cannabis businesses, on top of its already existing ban on medical-marijuana dispensaries. The only legal marijuana in the city is a maximum of six plants indoors per residence.
During the March 27 meeting, Smith, who regularly attends council meetings and makes public comments, usually identifying himself as “a candidate for city council,” criticized the council for failing to read various online reports that show links between the availability of medical marijuana and fewer heroin and opioid overdoses. He also took the five members to task for failing to see the potential revenue stream by legalizing and regulating cannabis and not “stick our heads in the sand and allow the black or gray market to continue to thrive.”
McLean needed clarification on the differences between medicinal and recreational marijuana, and stated she favors medical cannabis. Smith scoffed, saying McLean voted for the ban in the first place.
Resident Bart Joseph, who called himself “a four-time cancer survivor,” also spoke about cannabis’ importance to his recovery and how he can’t afford to grow his own in the city. Weste said she was sorry for the hardships Joseph had suffered.
“The council nodded and was concerned – and voted unanimously to extend the moratorium,” Smith said. “I don’t think any of them, except Cameron, did the bare minimum before voting.”
A third place Smith found the council’s research lacking was the recent unanimous passing of an ordinance that sets out to block homelessness on public streets. It bans individuals from sitting or lying down in various public spaces, including streets, sidewalks and landscaped areas.
Smith said he isn’t sure the council adequately read the text because “If you sit on a sidewalk, you can be fined $500. If you sleep in your car in the driveway, you could be ticketed. If you sleep in a tent in the back yard.”
Smith acknowledges that these violations won’t happen, but he thinks laws shouldn’t be written so generally that they could be interpreted in unintended ways.
“Model (United Nations) students at College of the Canyons are held to a higher standard when they write fake laws,” Smith said.
Smith, who works as a field organizer for the California Clean Money Campaign, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization favoring public funding of election campaigns, said he got the idea to run last summer after hearing Bernie Sanders speak in Chicago.
Sanders told the audience that anyone who is thinking of running for office needs two pieces of advice: do it, and don’t hire consultants.
He didn’t, and now he has his sights set on City Hall. He would be the youngest to ever be elected. Smyth, 28 when he was first elected in 2000, is the only person elected in his 20s. The next youngest was Frank Ferry, 32 when elected in 1998.
“The council thinks we’re still a small town. That’s blatantly incorrect,” Smith said. “To stick your head in the sand and act like we’re not the third largest city in Los Angeles County is reckless and irresponsible to the people.”
(Editor’s note: This is one in an occasional series profiling the various local candidates for elected office.)