As the November 6, 2018 City Council Election draws closer, I frequently ask friends if they are intending to vote. What does not surprise me, is the number of those I speak with who don’t even know Santa Clarita has a city council, or cannot name anyone on it. While I can see some advantages to have such a blissful lack of knowledge, I know several council members who wish I shared such bliss. But, the reality is, since the Santa Clarita City Council has a large influence on all our city resident’s daily lives, we need to pay attention to their decisions.
Since the City of Santa Clarita’s formation in 1987, as a California General Law city, our residents have been represented by a five-member City Council. Every two years, we alternately elect two or three city council members. Currently, our city council members are elected “at-large,” meaning every city resident is given the opportunity to vote on every candidate. This year, there will be three seats up for grabs, currently held by Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Bill Miranda. Seats held by Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth will become available in 2020.
Santa Clarita does not elect a mayor or mayor pro-tem; these are positions chosen amongst the city council itself. Their additional responsibilities include conducting city council meetings and leading various ceremonial occasions. Neither of these two positions is granted any authority in excess of the remaining city council members.
Now comes the challenge, because with 15 candidates on the ballot, it is almost overwhelming. Currently on the ballot is TimBen Boydston, Ken Dean, Jason Gibbs, Brett Haddock, Mathew Hargett, Marsha McLean, Bill Miranda, Sandra Nichols, Cherry Ortega, Logan Smith, Diane Trautman, Sankalp Varma, Sean Weber, Laurene Weste, Paul Wieczorek. (Do not consider the order of candidate names as having any significance other than they are in alphabetical order by last name.) You might be thinking, “Who are these people? What have they done? What do they want to do? How will this election affect my daily life? Whom should I vote for?”
That is precisely why I am writing this “self-help” column. First, I suggest you NOT vote for a candidate because your buddy likes them, their name is familiar, or they are a member of your political party. City councils are intended to be a non-partisan office, and I believe it should stay that way. The best way to make an informed decision on how to cast your ballot is, to listen to the candidates themselves. Determine which of the candidates you perceive will do the best job representing our city, your interests, and our future, and then cast your ballot knowing you are making the best decision possible for your city, yourself and your family.
Since 2006, the Canyon Country Advisory Committee (a division of the Santa Clarita Community Council) has conducted city council election events. For this election cycle, their “meet and greet” format will be used. Each participant will be given the opportunity to introduce themselves, have a 15-minute question and answer session (where audience members come to the microphone and ask the questions they consider most important), and an opportunity to wrap up. With only two CCAC meetings prior to the November election, and a two-hour time limit per meeting, only 10 openings were available. The CCAC Board of Directors made the decision to give priority to the candidates who had chosen to provide a ballot statement. At the Wednesday, September 19 CCAC Meeting, candidates TimBen Boydston, Brett Haddock, Logan Smith, Diane Trautman, and Sankalp Varma will be participating. At the Wednesday, October 17 CCAC Meeting, candidates Jason Gibbs, Bill Miranda, Sandra Nichols, Marsha McLean, and Laurene Weste will be participating.
Both “meet and greet” meetings will be video recorded and uploaded to Youtube. Links to the presentations will be provided on the CCAC Facebook Page, in my subsequent columns in the Gazette, and emailed to CCAC friends and members. But feel free to view the events in person and ask questions you believe are important. CCAC Meetings are held on the third Wednesday of the month, from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Mint Canyon Moose Lodge Banquet Room, 18000 Sierra Highway in Canyon Country. Everyone is welcome, and the event is free.
Another great opportunity to see and hear the city council candidates in person will be occurring on October 8, when the College of the Canyons’ Civic Engagement Steering Committee, the Santa Clarita Valley League of Women Voters, and the Canyon Country Advisory Committee will be jointly hosting a Candidate Forum where all 15 candidates have been invited to participate. For this event, all candidates have been asked to provide information about why they should be elected to serve on the city council and what they believe are the top three issues facing Santa Clarita residents today. This information will be provided both online and in print at the forum.
This new and exciting format will be putting forward unique questions to each candidate, generated by the forum steering committee prior to the event. If you have any burning questions you would like raised, please forward the question and the candidate to be queried to firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be sure to inform the committee of your suggestions. The COC Candidate Forum will be held in the Dr. Dianne G. Van Hook University Center, located at the College of the Canyons Valencia campus on Monday October 8. The forum itself will take place from 7 to 9 p.m., but if you can be there a little earlier, we would welcome meeting and hearing from you between 6:30 to 7 p.m. This meeting will be live-streamed, as well as video recorded and uploaded to Youtube. Links will be provided on each of the hosts’ Facebook pages. As with the other candidate events described above, everyone is welcome and there is no charge for admission.
Now, I hope you found this information worthwhile, informative, and you have been marking your calendar with these important dates. But in case you forgot, let me help you. Wednesday, September 19 is the First CCAC Meet and Greet, Monday, October 8 is the COC Candidate Forum, Wednesday, October 17 is the second CCAC Meet and Greet, and Tuesday, November 6 is Election Day. On the ballot, you will get to choose candidates for federal, state, and county offices, as well as Santa Clarita City Council choices. Each elected office is important, as decisions made affect our daily lives in some way. Yet, city council members provide representation closest to all of us. Taking a bit of time to find out about our city council candidates and making an informed decision is the hallmark of our great republic. I know I can count on you to make the right decision.