Writing “Always Advocating Alan” at this time in November seemed a little awkward. Halloween is over, and by the time you read this article, the 2018 midterm and City Council elections will also be history. So, even though my crystal ball was not clear enough to tell me who the winners would be, I decided to write a little bit about both.
Halloween is one of my favorite times of the year. Why? because it provides a chance for our children, and young adults, to show their creativity by coming up with costumes and getting out in the world to interact with those they have never met, by asking for a “treat.” Pretty scary stuff when you are very young.
As a pre-teen living on Ocean Parkway in New York, I do not recall anything about Halloween. I became aware of the holiday after I moved to Studio City in California and was excited about the prospect of being visited by costume-clad kids. But alas, living on a hilly street, no one ever came to the door. Later in the evening, some of my friends and I would go down to the “flat land” in North Hollywood and try our luck. We even visited Bob Hope’s house in Toluca Lake a couple of years, where his butler would stand out front and hand out 50 cent pieces. That was a big deal in the 50s.
Halloween blossomed for Pam and I after we moved to the Santa Clarita Valley in 1965. In those days, parents would load up children in cars and vans and take them all over the valley. I was overwhelmed the first year and settled into a ritual of buying boxes of 100 candy items, so I could keep track of how many children visited. At the height of it, 350 children trick-or-treated at my house. Unfortunately, soon after came the scares about candy laced with needles and other things, and the number of trick-or-treating children fell off dramatically. In recent years, there have been few houses on my street lit up on Halloween night. Trick-or-treaters normally number about 50 neighborhood children, carefully watched by parents or family members.
But it always brings a smile to my face and warms my heart when one of the children walks up to my display and I hear “trick or treat,” particularly the little ones who do it so timidly. Plus, I even get to think about Halloweens gone by, when a parent reminds me that they trick-or-treated at my house when they were young.
As far as the city council election outcome, I don’t know who will win, but I can only hope whomever is elected will come to realize that it is just as important to openly discuss the challenges Santa Clarita currently faces as it is to advertise any success the city may have achieved. Plus, it never builds confidence when the city takes credit for someone else’s ideas or achievements.
Doing the peoples’ business in public, keeping the public informed and providing a forum to ask questions of our city’s elected officials and city staff is what city council meetings should be all about. On the demeanor of the council and staff at council meetings, Diane Trautman described it eloquently in an October 26 Gazette article. She said if a person comes before the council and is either critical or offers an opposing viewpoint, “It is not treated as a matter of disagreement. It’s treated as an insult to the councilmembers. So, there’s not a welcoming of different ideas. It seems everyone has to agree.” I’ll take it one step further by including, “many questions raised by residents at city council meetings are never answered.”
Providing a forum to bring up important issues in more than three-minute visits to the city council podium is the main reason I enjoy writing “Always Advocating Alan” for the Gazette. I do not object when my text is forwarded to the city prior to publication, because many times the city chooses to respond. Plus, once in writing, staff comments can no longer be challenged as a fabrication.
Which brings me to Ms. Lujan’s response to my column last week. It starts off, “In response to Alan Ferdman’s editorial.” Webster’s dictionary defines an editorial as “a newspaper or magazine article that gives the opinions of the editors or publishers.” I do not write editorials, I write opinion columns, as defined by the words printed under every one of my submissions by Gazette management. In discussing Santa Clarita City Council’s actions on homelessness, Ms. Lujan indicated “In 2017, the Ad Hoc Committee on Homeless Issues was formed by the Santa Clarita City Council” and the “Community Task Force on Homelessness met for the first time in October.” Since both groups are made up of individuals selected by city staff who meet in private, do not produce any minutes and do not reveal when their meetings will take place, it is not surprising the public would want to know what is going on. Plus, if these two committees are formed by the Santa Clarita City Council, why don’t they fall under the Brown Act open meeting law, and why do the council and staff want to keep their discussions secret?
In contrast, I have been asking a question about Measure H funding for quite some time. In the July 20 response to my column, Ms. Lujan stated, “In just over a year since Measure H was passed, Bridge to Home has already been approved for more than $1 million in Measure H funding for operations and development. So, last week, I asked: “We keep hearing about … 1 million dollars from Measure H being allocated to Bridge to Home. Perhaps my pen pal Ms. Lujan will explain when the funding will be available, over what period of time, and if it is a recurring allocation.” The response came from Ms. Edwards, Board President Bridge of Home (BTH), who stated, “In September, BTH responded to a Request for Proposal to provide year-round shelter services. …. We are waiting to see if BTH will receive the contract. …. That contract will begin early in 2019 and amount to $987,000 annually for three years to fund year-round operations.”
Translation: As of this date, Bridge to Home does not have the funding. I hope they get it, but in the meantime, there is no good reason for the city not to capitalize on the county’s desire to build a year-round shelter in our valley. A collaborative effort using an open, public process would be very beneficial to bring forth ideas to help solve the problem. I can only hope the three individuals elected to fill those council seats decide to host open public discussions and deliberations on the homelessness issue.
Stay tuned, because there is even more to this story.