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Special Election Off the Table

| News | December 15, 2016

The city has finalized its process for appointing the fifth council member and …

“I’m not sure what the process is,” former councilmember TimBen Boydston said.

He wasn’t alone. While not everyone expressed confusion, there were several people the Gazette spoke to who either weren’t sure exactly how the process would play out or straight-out disliked what they knew.

“I’m not impressed, to say the least,” said David Ruelas, who ran unsuccessfully for the council seats won by Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth. He said he favored appointing the third-place finisher (Boydston) until a special election could be held. “It really baffles me. I most likely will apply, but I still want to know more.”

Others, such as Kenneth Dean, felt appointment was a good idea, although he preferred input from a citizen’s committee, which was the method used in 2006 to fill Smyth’s seat after he won election to the state Assembly.

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“Bob Kellar’s an extremely intelligent man. Laurene Weste is very intelligent. Marsha McLean is intelligent. Cameron Smyth is intelligent, and he’s got government experience behind him,” Dean said of the four council members. “I think they all would know what works best.”

The council decided during its Tuesday meeting that all interested parties should fill out an application that will be available starting today at City Hall. According to city Intergovernmental Relations Manager Mike Murphy, the application will resemble the one the city uses for appointing people to commissions. In that form, applicants are required to cite relevant experience and reasons for wanting to serve. Murphy added that each person will need three letters of recommendation as well.

Interested parties need to deliver the application to City Hall by 5 p.m. Jan. 6. The council will hold a special meeting on the 17th to interview everyone, and if there are too many to get to on the 17th, the council will continue the interviews during the regularly scheduled meeting on the 24th. The goal is to have the seat filled by Feb. 2.

However, that doesn’t mean the individual members won’t speak to various candidates on their own.

“I anticipate reaching out to applicants and talking to them one-on-one and doing my own research,” Mayor Smyth said.

That might be necessary if what many believe will happen actually does: too many applicants.

“I’m sure we’re going to see a couple dozen,” Brett Haddock said.

“I think they’re going to end up extending it” to the next meeting, Matthew Hargett said. “I’m OK with it, especially in L.A. County and in Santa Clarita, (where low voter turnout is the norm). Calling a special election with low turnout, I can understand the council’s reticence.”

By choosing to appoint, the council reiterated its objection to holding a special election or appointing the third-place finisher. City Manager Ken Striplin, in his report to the council, said the election would cost $354,000, which is way more than the $175,000 city officials previously quoted.

Murphy explained that the $175,000 was the estimated cost for what would have been incurred had the council 10 years ago decided to hold a special election to fill Smyth’s council vacancy. A more accurate number would be the $333,244 it cost to hold the 2014 municipal election.

“Based upon estimated increases in eligible voter population, vote-by-mail signature verification and overall estimated professional services cost increases, at this time a City of Santa Clarita administered special election is estimated to cost approximately $354,000,” the manager’s report read.

“We added five percent,” Murphy said.

Not everyone believes it would cost that much. Ruelas said that the Measure S election in 2010 didn’t cost nearly that much and a council seat is of greater importance. “I’d like to see people vote on it,” he said.

Murphy responded that Measure S was part of a consolidated election with the county, and the city’s share was $143,007.45. This special election would have been entirely paid by the city.

Regardless of the cost, Kellar said the council didn’t want to wait until June, when the special election would have been held. “The biggest thing is, look at the timeline. We’d be going without a fifth member for six months. That is a huge problem,” he said.

Alan Ferdman, another failed council candidate, said the council didn’t discuss the option of appointing someone until the June election. “They just ignored that,” he said.

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About Lee Barnathan

Lee Barnathan has been a writer and editor since 1990. His articles have been published in newspapers, magazines and online. His new book "If You Experience Death, Please Call and Other Fatal Mistakes We Make With Language," a humorous look at the ways people misuse English, is available on Amazon or at his website, www.leebarnathan.com. He is hired by people all over the country to help them refine the message or story they wish to share with their target audience or demographic.

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