Is your Santa Clarita life better today than it was four years ago?
Will your life be better four years from now?
With the 2018 Santa Clarita City Council election drawing near, candidates are out participating in forums, debates, and events, trying to say things they think will get you to vote for them. But in reality, this is a time when each of us should be asking ourselves, “Are things better today than they were 4 years ago, and if I vote for a particular set of individuals, will my life be even better four years from now?” How you answer the question is partly determined by your own personal experiences and what is constantly being placed in front of you. So, let me diverge from answering those questions while I provide some examples of what we’re being told.
I want to start with the good side of things, by thanking Matthew Stone for his response to my column last week. In contrast with the previous week’s author, Matthew simply answered my question and then provided his own take on the situation. That is what honest dialogue is all about. Matthew’s perspective may differ from my own perception, but that’s alright, because when you engage in honest dialogue, you typically learn something new. I’ve always been of the opinion that nothing is ever gained by only discussing things with individuals who agree with you. It is crucial to have an open dialog in order to gain an understanding of other perspectives and perception if you intend to accurately evaluate your own position. You may even change your opinion, and believe me when I say; having an open mind is a sign of personal strength and integrity.
Now let’s look at how the dialog tone differed with the city’s response to the billboard and traffic issues. I don’t fault Ms. Lujan because she’s new. She wasn’t around when the billboard proposal was on all our minds and is just repeating what she has been told. At the same time, she needs to realize that in contrast, I did not just recently come to the party. I’ve been following the billboard issue in Santa Clarita since joining the Canyon Country Advisory Committee in 2000.
Plus, during the 2013-14 timeframe, I was in personal contact with Edwards Outdoor Advertising and the Outdoor Advertising Association who funded the No on Measure S campaign. Sure, the city already owned the land they decided was a location for the new billboards, but it was zoned Open Space, so they rezoned it to business park. Sure, the city purchased Edwards Outdoor Advertising, but they used the ploy, if you don’t take our offer, Metro will just evict you and you will get nothing. Sure, they caused 47 boards to come down, but they were the small Edwards-owned boards which our local businesses used, not the big billboards. Lastly, they didn’t mention after Measure S was defeated, Clear Channel and CBS offered the city a deal to take down all their billboards in the city in exchange for two electronic billboards on the I-5 in the industrial area, but the city was not listening.
Yet, there is little we can do about it now, so when a city councilman compared the billboard removal at Sierra Highway and Soledad Canyon with Measure S by saying, “There was an initiative a couple of years ago to remove billboards that the voters chose to defeat, so we have had to find other ways to get some of those billboards removed,” it is an improper analogy, and I just ask the city to discontinue blaming the public for where we are today.
In contrast, traffic is another story. It is bad and getting worse. No one I have come across likes the idea of sitting in traffic every morning while taking their children to school or going to work. Plus, if you live near a school, try getting in – or out – of your neighborhood at the beginning or end of a school day. Traffic congestion wastes time, creates additional pollution, and harms the quality of our lives.
If the city was doing such a good job completing traffic studies and requiring new developments to mitigate traffic problems caused by their increased use of our infrastructure, how did we get in the situation we are in today?
The answer can be found in the current General Plan’s (OVOV) Circulation Element. Page C-5, Table C-1 defines the levels of Service Standards for Urban Streets as rated, from A (Free Flowing) to F (High Delays). There is no lower grade than F. Next, go to page C-12 for a discussion of Peak Hour Traffic Conditions, which reads, “the current (a.m.) and (p.m.) peak hour conditions will continue to worsen over time.” Finally, look at page C-15 and read the Recommendation for Street and Highway System, where it states, “The city strives to achieve a LOS of D or better … while recognizing in higher density urban areas …. A level of service F may be necessary to implement the General Plan.”
Now let’s see someone try to tell us we are not where we are today because it was planned all along. For Ms. Lujan to say the OVOV plan “involved significant input from residents and business owners” almost sounds like she is blaming the residents for the problem, which is just the wrong road to go down. Our residents may have commented on the OVOV General Plan, but final review and approval was the responsibility of the Santa Clarita City Council and the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
In my opinion, traffic congestion remains Santa Clarita’s public enemy number one today. Not because it is caused by development, but because it is caused by our city government not requiring sufficient infrastructure be provided to accommodate all of our new residents. I have not yet decided who will get my three votes come November 6. I am keeping an open mind, and over the next month will continue to attend the remaining forums and other events to listen to what our candidates have to say. But, for the candidates who don’t believe traffic congestion is the key issue in this city council election, I believe they have lost touch with reality, and they will most likely not get my vote.
When you ponder about who to vote for, ask yourself if your City of Santa Clarita life is better today than it was four years ago. I urge you to find out all you can about the candidate’s main issues and solutions. If you have the opportunity, ask them how they intend to make a difference by making your life even better four years from now. Then make your decision on who to vote for – an informed decision – because creating a brighter future is what this election is all about.