It seems a little early, but along with our national election campaign teams gearing up, so goes the 2020 Santa Clarita City Council election cycle. With Councilmember Kellar indicating he will not seek another term, perspective candidates are starting to emerge, and you should expect to see many more coming out of the woodwork in the future. This appears like a great opportunity for an opinion columnist, who has no intention of adding his name to the candidate list, to share his philosophy, and the demeanor I would like to see displayed by the person who would get my endorsement and vote.
I have been retired for the past 13 years and I still have a hard time believing, “time passes so quickly.” Whenever I have been confronted by a person who is despondent about how much longer they will have before they retire, I tell them the following true story. It is of a memory, clearly and visibly fixed in my mind. As it turns out, I was in my office in Woodland Hills, and on the phone with a peer talking over retirement planning, when I recall vividly saying, “But I have 25 more years to work.” Then, almost like the instant you change television channels, those 25 years plus 13 have become the past.
So today, instead of jumping out of bed to get to work, my mornings are filled with sitting in my front atrium with my wife Pam, enjoying a cup of coffee, smiling about all the natural beauty I am surrounded by, and thinking about how lucky I am to be where I am today. As I ponder the future, it seems even more relevant for an individual, or a governmental agency, to follow the words our City Managers have spoken so often — “Decisions made in good times are more important than the decisions made during bad times.” Did I realize when I purchased and planted a little tree a half century ago, that today it would have grown from being no larger than a broom handle, to have a trunk I cannot reach around, and provide shade for the atrium all day long? No, I did not have that much foresight, but it was a good long-term decision, and in most cases, good long-term decisions are the ones which bear the most fruit. So, I will be looking for a candidate who shows an aptitude at implementing long term goals, as well as putting out short term fires.
Next, I will be searching for the candidate who is not overly consumed with telling us how wonderful everything is going, and wanting us to believe that if we just vote them in for another term they will stay the course and nothing will change. We deserve council members who carefully determine which areas truly deserve a positive note, and resist jumping at every perceived opportunity.
For example, last week the Signal contained an article on Thursday August 15, titled “Santa Clarita lauded as hard-working city.” It stated, “Local leaders weren’t too surprised to hear Kempler Industries naming Santa Clarita the 12th-hardest-working city in America.” Holly Schroeder, President and CEO of the SCV Economic Development Corporation stated, “I’m not so entirely surprised to see we’re so hard working,” and Councilmember Laurene West went on to comment, “We have a lot of seniors and young kids working hard.” It sounded insightful, so I decided to see what I could learn about Kempler Industries and the criteria they used.
Visiting their website, I discovered Kempler Industries is located in Elk Grove Village Illinois. Within the company’s description it revealed, Kempler Industries “stocks one of the largest inventories of used machinery in the world.” “Family owned and operated since 1962, we have been buying and selling quality used machinery for more than five decades.” Not exactly a nationally acclaimed research firm, staffed with PhDs.
Per the Signal article and Kempler’s website, Santa Clarita’s “rankings were based on the following metrics: average commute time of 34.9 hours, average workweek 38.4 hours, percentage of workforce 16-64 is 63.9%, and percentage of senior workforce aged 65 and up showing 20.2%.” “Washington D.C. tops our (Kempler’s) list at number one with an overall score of 90 points out of 100.” They indicated, “D.C. exceeds the national average commute time, average workweek hours and percent of seniors still in the workforce.”
So, let me get this straight because it sounds as if the longer it takes the average employee to get to work for less than a full time job, and the more seniors in the city which are still working, rather than being able to retire, the higher you score?
Plus, did you catch their data? If Santa Clarita’s work force 16 and up equals 63.9 percent plus 65 and up equals 20.2 percent, that segment totals 84.1% of the workforce. Are they telling us with an unemployment rate of 3.8 percent, 12.1% of our workforce is 15 years of age and under? Does not sound like something to brag about to me.
In addition, San Francisco was the only California city to make the top 10, coming in 7th hardest working in the country. Are you kidding me? The American city with the 7th largest homeless population, regularly in the news for problems with trash, streets full of used needles and disease scored in the top ten? Even Washington DC, with the 5th largest homeless population in the U.S., topped the Kempler hardest working list at number 1. It appears the Kempler “Hardest Working City” list is based on some very superficial data.
What I am going to be looking for in a candidate for the 2020 Santa Clarita City Council is a person who not only acknowledges and celebrates all the good things we have, but is also ready to embrace and champion solutions to the problems facing our residents every day. It would be an individual looking for a way to shorten commute times by taking decisive action, and fixing our ever-increasing density, traffic, and parking problems. Our city should not be saddled with a council member who accepts the status quo and simply wants our residents to be the solution to increasing traffic by just leaving earlier and spending more time on the road.
My candidate would be a person who realizes and embraces changes in our communities’ wants and needs. Our youth have been waiting for the City to provide a BMX track for over 10 years, and our lack of fairgrounds translates to a loss of many opportunities to Ventura and the Antelope Valley. In relation to emergency health care, we have a shortage of paramedic services, and even though we are in an LA County Fire District, it is an issue which could easily be mitigated if our City Council had a desire to do so. Lastly, our council needs a member who will challenge staff by insisting on having an understanding of everything they present for approval, because such a form of oversight only makes staff better at what they do.
We are a great city, but we are facing growing pains and challenges which must be addressed. So, if you are ready to step into the fray and take on these challenges, I urge you to throw your hat in the ring and be ready to inform all who will listen what you intend to do in making our city even better.