I have been writing the “Always Advocating Alan” weekly Gazette column for over 18 months. The effort has added up to more than 75 individual columns dedicated to local Santa Clarita Valley issues, along with a few places I have visited, and things we should all feel good about. There have been individuals who have approached me to say they look forward to reading my column, and as an author, I can easily say, nothing will make a writer feel any warmer inside. My goal has been to be interesting, informative and accurate. When I express an opinion, I do not expect everyone will agree with my conclusions, yet if I caused each of you to think about the subject revealed, I accomplished my goal. To be as accurate as possible, I will only write about instances I have become aware of through researching newspaper articles, city and county released information, and personal observation, plus I will name my sources. I only ask, if you have conflicting information, or you just think I got it wrong, please post your information or opinion on my Alan Ferdman Facebook page. If after looking over the information you provide, I find that my column contained some inaccurate information, I will clarify it in my next writing.
I appreciate the Gazette forwarding my column to the city prior to publication. The city has started to respond, and the Gazette is publishing their comments after my column. I take it as a positive, because city staff is reading what has been written, and taking the time to provide feedback. It looks like I must be doing a good job, because for the most part, the unnamed city respondent seems to expand on what I wrote, or just says the same thing a different way.
For example, let’s review last week’s City of Santa Clarita reply. The first comment responds to my indicating, “The city … took a portion of Bermite property by eminent domain, for construction of the Saugus Metrolink Station and a small piece on Golden Valley Road. The property owner took the city to court, and in 2010, Natalie Everett reported in the Signal, the city having been slapped with a $20 million judgment along with an additional $5 million for attorney fees.” The city responded by indicating it took eight acres of land for construction of Golden Valley Road and a part of the Saugus Metrolink Parking lot. “The final settlement had the city paying $25.3 million for legal fees and both properties. I thank them for the additional information and correcting the number published in The Signal.
The next two city comments state, “The quote from then City Manager Ken Striplin was taken out of context. He is referring to the opportunity to take control of the land not the settlement. They further indicated “it was not a feasible purchase due to future liability and potential issues of ownership.” My article included a quote straight out of The Signal, and added an explanation, which read, “Ken Striplin, Assistant City Manager at the time, stated, ‘This really is a huge victory for us … It gives us the opportunity to do something positive,’ as the remainder of the property loan could be purchased for an additional $13 million.” But the city declined to take advantage of the opportunity, so the city just paid the judgment. Out of context? I don’t think so. Sounds like the same thing said a different way.
Another city comment states, “The amount of land available for development has not been determined for the Whittaker-Bermite Property,” and included additional information on the process for gaining development approval. But, I never said the amount of land available for development had been determined. I questioned the statements in Jim Holt’s July 27, 2018 Signal article where it reported Russ Edmondson DTSC Spokesman as saying, “The Department of Toxic Substance Control estimates that approximately 975 acres will be suitable for unrestricted use … This means all but 21 acres … are expected (to) be available for development.” If the city feels this is an important issue to confront, I wonder why they did not take exception to The Signal’s article when it was published.
But, the third comment is where we are in total disagreement. Information about screening the Saugus Aquifer Water Treatment Plant had been discussed at numerous multi-jurisdictional meetings, which are open to the public. Just to be sure there was no misunderstanding, I got on the phone and confirmed with another attendee that the screening of the Water Treatment Plant was first brought up as a City of Santa Clarita requirement, three screening panels were installed, then when nothing further was accomplished, we were told the plan to plant trees to screen the rest of the facility was nixed by fire department regulations. We were later informed by Mr. Amini, representing the contractor performing the work, and Tom Cole, representing the City of Santa Clarita, that an alternate screening plan was in the works. Then, at the last multi-jurisdictional meeting, after a year of asking and waiting to see the new plan, Whittaker President Eric Lardiere was in attendance and informed the audience, he thought the facility looked just fine and no further screening would be accomplished. City Councilmember Kellar then chimed in and stated he thought when the community came to understand the benefit of the Treatment Plant, they would not care how it looked. If Whittaker, whomever that may be, is now saying, “no promises were ever made to screen the treatment plant,” the person is either misinformed, or is just being untruthful. Commitments relative to screening were brought forth in open public meetings, and therefore can be validated by attendees other than myself. The Water Treatment Plant will be in operation for at least the next 30 years. Not only will it be an eyesore for us all, but it will also hamper the economic growth of the neighboring Soledad corridor areas. We need answers as to why the city is not willing to enforce Whittaker taking action to mitigate the visual blight they are adding in the center of our city.
While I welcome the city’s comments, in order for their input to be considered a trusted source, they should include the author’s name, as well as the name of individuals being quoted. Anonymous comments are not conducive to building confidence in the information provided. From my standpoint, however, their comments are of great value, because they typically have more detailed information on the subject, and when the city shares their knowledge, the public benefits. You can also be assured, when inaccurate information is included, they will be called out on it.
So, I intend to continue working diligently to maintain your confidence and trust in the information we publish. It requires comprehensive research so the truth can see the light of day, while letting the chips fall where they may. My future entries may tell of things going very right or very wrong. As a 50-plus year resident of the City of Santa Clarita, I do it because I love this city, and realize making it an even better place takes an honest look at what is going on all around us, every day.