The Sloppy Raise, Council 101


Tonight’s meeting was brief, but not brief enough to have spared several councilmembers from awkwardness. Councilmember Boydston generously praised the Canyon High School Theater Group’s recent success in competition, but none of its members showed up for their certificates. Councilmember McLean had to ask City Manager Ken Striplin for a definition of “contract city.” And Councilmember Weste and Mayor Kellar took quite a while to grasp the nature of the councilmember pay raise they were voting on. Even with all the bumbling, the council managed to approve a raise for next year in a 3-2 vote, reversing a decision they had made mere months ago. Things are off to an auspicious start for 2016.

Panel Me This

“Everybody’s not home for the State of the Union–that’s obvious,” observed Mayor Bob Kellar as he opened the meeting. Mayor Pro Tem Dante Acosta then delivered the invocation, a freeform prayer of sorts: “May our words and our deeds be pleasing.” Both Kellar and Acosta emphasized titles when referring to one another, helping December’s transitions to sink in.

While Canyon High’s drama students were dramatically absent for their recognition, Saugus High’s phenomenally successful cross country team members came to the meeting to be recognized as CIF champions. They’ve spent an unprecedented 10 years finishing in the top three.

Public participation followed. R.J. Kelly requested that the cross valley connector be named “Santa Clarita Veterans’ Highway” (or similar) in honor of the thousands of veterans living in the SCV. He pointed out that everyone on the council had served in the armed forces or had a family member serve. Kellar followed the remarks by asking whether fellow councilmembers would support agendizing the item, and they agreed.

A number of speakers addressed mobile home park rent and appeals when they came to the podium. The most compelling comments came from Dave Boizelle, a resident of Greenbrier Mobile Home Park. He explained that he is filing an appeal against his park’s rent increase. The appeal will go before a panel which consists of two representatives for park owners, two for renters, and one neutral arbiter. Unfortunately, one of the renters on the panel is also from Greenbrier, and she will have to recuse herself from voting on the appeal. Boizelle believed this doomed his appeal, as park owners wouldn’t vote against their self-interests. That would mean at best a 2-2 vote, and ties aren’t enough for an appeal to be ratified. To highlight his point that park owners wouldn’t be impartial, he read a statement from Dowdall Law Offices, which represents Santa Clarita’s mobile home park owners: “This form of panel is not impartial but evenly unbalanced…two partisans cancel each other out.” It seemed clear that a means of substituting owner/resident representation in cases of recusal was necessary.

However, City Manager Ken Striplin seemed to think that the system was working fine. After public participation concluded, Striplin said, “I understand the concerns that the speaker spoke of, but I can also tell you that, historically, that has just not played out…In the appeals that we’ve seen, we have not seen the decision of the panel come down to party lines, so to speak.” This conclusion seemed utterly at odds with the structure of the panel, the forced recusal of the Greenbrier resident, and the statement from the park owners’ attorney, but Striplin assured the council that despite recusals in the past, the panel had operated fairly and effectively.

Councilmembers McLean and Weste were not satisfied with Striplin’s assurances. They made a point of asking whether they could do something to address the potential for unbalanced decisions, and City Attorney Joe Montes explained that the ordinance would have to be amended. Weste wanted to “find a way for there to always be an alternate.” The council supported discussing potential amendments at a future meeting. Striplin added that there have been discussions about changing some senior home designations to family spaces, and the council also wanted to discuss that sooner rather than later.

Other remarks from Striplin and the council included support for L.A. County Sheriff’s Department. Al Ferdman had expressed some misgivings about the station moving west of Santa Clarita and about the lack of a station in the east valley, and the city manager assured him that current discussions were aimed at improving presence rather than decreasing it. Mayor Kellar echoed Striplin’s support, contending that Santa Clarita gets access to a lot of big department resources at a cost-effective rate through its contract. He seemed to be heading off any calls of “let’s start our own police department!” at the pass.

Avoiding Larry

The consent calendar came and went without much discussion and without speakers. Most of the items dealt with bookkeeping matters like approving tract maps and landscape contracts. One item gave up to $130,000 to Southern California Edison to develop plans for “undergrounding” utilities along Soledad Canyon Road, which will make for a more pleasing skyline. All items passed with the recommended actions.

One of the votes went 4-0 instead of 5-0, however, because Kellar recused himself. The item was a parcel map approval involving Spirit Properties, and Kellar explained that he wouldn’t vote because he had had “a business transaction in the past” with Spirit’s Larry Rasmussen. Of course, Kellar hasn’t always been so meticulous in avoiding votes that affect his pal. As Mike Devlin wrote in 2014, “Kellar voted ‘yes’ to pay Larry Rasmussen $1.1 million for the future billboard property.” That was quite a long time ago, of course, but the question of when to recuse oneself is always popping up in a valley as small and connected as Santa Clarita.

Sloppy Vote

After approving a 3% increase in fire district developer fees (this puts Santa Clarita in line with the rate for unincorporated LA County), it was time to discuss councilmember compensation. Didn’t that just happen a few months ago?, the attentive reader asks. Yes, it did. Tonight was a revisitation of last year’s vote 3-2 against giving the City Council a raise. Recall that the council always votes on raises that will take place after elections.

Discussion began with Cam Noltemeyer making several points about how the council was already adequately compensated, especially if benefits were considered. She then pointed out that councilmembers receive different benefits (in line with city staff benefits when elected), but she believed, “Every single councilman should get the same pay. The same pay. And let’s start being open with the public because you definitely are not.” Noltemeyer meant that Boydston should be compensated as well as Kellar, McLean, and Weste, but she even extended her statement to include Mayor Pro Tem Acosta, who is also getting lower benefits since he came on so recently. “And Acosta too, I guess, reluctantly,” she conceded.

Mayor Kellar asked if any of the councilmembers wished to discuss the matter. Councilmember McLean started with a question based on the use of the term “contract city” in earlier comments from this evening. She asked, “I was just wondering if you can explain what it means that we’re a contract city?” City Manager Ken Striplin then explained that it meant that Santa Clarita contracts with LA for services like fire. “So it’s providing for those types of services specifically and not giving contracts on individuals projects?” McLean queried. With that concept clarified, Kellar again sought action on the item.

Staff normally supplies a recommended action, but on the pay raises, all that was written was, “Provide direction to staff regarding Councilmember salary.” This led to confusion.

Weste: “I’d like to move the recommendation for the increase of the council compensation.”

Kellar: “I have a motion…is that the 5%?”

Weste: “If the council’s willing, yes.”

Kellar: “Do we have a second?”

Acosta: “I’ll second it.”

McLean, over Acosta: “Wh…OK, I was going to say if you don’t I will but you did, so…”

Boydston, over Kellar: “Discussion! Yes, there will be discussion…I thought this was settled three months ago!”

Boydston contended that Councilmember Weste’s motion had been improper, as she had moved the staff recommendation, which was only to provide direction–there were no specifics much less a recommended increase. Boydston’s speech soon veered into into grandstanding. He said that council pay had increased roughly twice as rapidly as the rate of inflation, and that seniors weren’t seeing any meaningful, comparable increase in social security benefits. He asked why the vote had to be brought up again–had their workload increased dramatically in the past few months?

Boydston has had a strained relationship with some staff and fellow councilmembers over compensation in the past. He once filed a claim against the City for about $10,000–the discrepancy in benefits between new and old councilmembers once a two-tier health care system had been adopted. Boydston contended that it wasn’t about more money but about paying everyone the same to do the same job. He was unsuccessful. At the time, he had suggested being OK with everyone taking the lesser benefits as well so long as everyone got the same deal. Boydston used the tactic of less is more again tonight, suggesting that the council actually vote to cut its compensation by 10% and give the funds to senior care.

Though Boydston spoke a lot, the rest of the council was silently clamoring to get to the vote without engaging in the merits of a raise. Weste and Kellar showed that they lacked a rudimentary understanding of the item, since Weste thought they could only do a 5% raise (not 5% per year) and Kellar thought it only applied to one year and that’s why Weste had said 5% (it applied to two). When asking for clarity from Dante Acosta, who had seconded the motion:

Acosta: “I believe it was 5% per year”

Kellar: “That was your interpretation, that it was 5% per year for a total of 10?”

Acosta: Nods, mumbles something

Weste’s recommendation and stated understanding had been 5% total, so how Acosta came to this interpretation is not clear. Perhaps his earlier prayer had granted him greater clarity than that afforded me or The Signal‘s Luke Money, who tweeted “Unclear on whether the #SCCouncil approved a 5% total pay increase or for 10% (5% for two years). Will check as soon as meeting ends.” In any case, the vote took place and  went 3-2, with those running for reelection this year voting against the raise (Boydston, Kellar), and those not running for reelection voting for it. And even though it’s for 10% total (Money got clarification from the city clerk), that is a tiny amount relative to the budget, and it marks the first time councilmembers will receive over $2000 a month.

LA County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl calls irate speaker an ‘asshole’ and it’s awesome


As colorful as our City Council meetings get during public comments, we’ve never seen a show quite like this. But then again, we’ve never had a gadfly like John Walsh nor a badass like Sheila Kuehl.

Towards the end of Tuesday’s meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, a man named John Walsh came to the podium to chastise the board for their earlier vote to welcome Syrian refugees to Los Angeles County.

But when he called Supervisor Sheila Kuehl an anti-semitic “scumbag,” Kuehl punched right back.

SUP. SHEILA KUEHL: Listen, you asshole, I am a Jew! My mother was a Jew! And if you say that again, I will shout the entire time you are talking! Thank you.

Walsh continued yelling as his microphone was cut. Supervisor Hilda Solis, who was chairing the meeting, asked a sheriff’s deputy to remove Walsh before Kuehl intervened and asked him to continue his speech. Walsh goes on for a while, but with his microphone cut, we don’t know what he was saying.


John Walsh also spoke earlier in the meeting where he dropped at least one f-bomb in an anti-muslim tirade.

JOHN WALSH: …If you believe in Islam, you’re going to go to heaven and you’re going get 150 houris, H.O.U.R.I.S. and you’re going to fuck them all day and all night for the rest of eternity. And your wife disappears. That’s what it is. And I say it. And if you vote for these terrorists, let the blood be on your hands, Miss Kuehl. Let the blood be on your hands, Miss Solis and let the blood be on the hands of Mark Ridley-Thomas…

HILDA SOLIS, CHAIR: Time has expired. Next speaker, please.

JOHN WALSH: Scum bags!

LA Times story on the Syrian refugee vote here.

You can try your best to watch video of the meeting here, but it requires something called Windows Media Player, so good luck with that.

Mayor Kellar on Toeing the Line, Acosta Ascendant


At tonight’s Santa Clarita City Council meeting, Councilmember TimBen Boydston was passed over yet again for the position of mayor pro tempore. The title instead went to Dante Acosta, who has served less than half as long as Boydston. The title of mayor went to Bob Kellar; it’s now his fourth time. Fittingly, there was quite a production before Boydston’s mayoral aspirations exited stage right. Well over 20 people spoke or submitted cards in favor of Boydston for the position of mayor pro tem while scarcely anyone even mentioned Kellar or Acosta. Yet the council was not swayed by supportive public testimony and chose to keep Boydston from claiming the title. Tonight probably didn’t mark the “death of democracy” as one rather dramatic speaker put it, but it was a clear indication that the council sees being mayor as a privilege to be earned rather than a duty to be equitably shared. Let’s get to recapping.

Marsha, the Ubiquitous

The special reorganization meeting began at 5 o’clock. Outgoing Mayor Marsha McLean welcomed everyone with a performance by the Valencia High School choir. The students were dressed up in full Christmas caroling attire and sang “Here We Come A-caroling” followed by “Throw the Yule Log on, Uncle John.” The latter was a first for me, and hopefully a last. Once the choir had finished, they made straight for the door, but Mayor McLean was quite insistent on getting a photo first.

McLean warned the audience that her final comments as mayor would be lengthy because, “This is the last time that I’m going to be a mayor…for this year, anyways.” McLean spoke about her proudest accomplishments, which included organizing a coalition of northern LA County communities to fight against potential negative impacts of high-speed rail. She was also excited to have convinced the U.S. Postal Service to bring an office back to Newhall. During her term, Santa Clarita hosted one of LA Mayor Eric Garcetti’s quarterly mayor meetings as well. Trains, mail, and getting noticed by LA: the year that was.

Next, McLean read a much longer list of accomplishments to which she was less singly/directly connected. This included concerts in the park, plans for the new senior center, adding the city’s 32nd park, fighting the drought via landscaping changes, and offering mental health services and outreach. To conclude, McLean went off-script and thanked her husband for putting up with her many, time-consuming duties as mayor. She said she was looking forward to relaxing her demanding schedule for a while, at least. McLean was tickled to receive a charm bracelet as a memento. I couldn’t see all the charms, but she mentioned that there was a little Eiffel Tower.

A procession of officials or their representatives came forward next. They all offered their appreciation for the work of Mayor McLean over the past year. First up was Scott Wilk. He said that he had prepared a “fabulous” speech about McLean’s accomplishments, but she had already gone over most of them. McLean interrupted, “You can say whatever nice things you wish.” The audience laughed. His main compliment was that Marsha McLean was “ubiquitous”, showing up to represent Santa Clarita at many, many events. He mentioned her fight against being railroaded by high-speed rail. He seemed to think the advocacy was nice, but nice turned to patronizing when he made it clear that he thought he was doing the real work: “You can do whatever you want but we are gonna kill it.” The rest of Wilk’s remarks mostly involved Wilk himself, as usual.

Though Wilk had set a low bar for speeches, few of the other speakers surpassed it. A young rep for Congressman Steve Knight basically just said “thanks” a lot. The Chamber of Commerce’s Terri Crain said that her personal connection to McLean stemmed from the fact that McLean was mayor when she arrived in town, so Crain just always assumes that McLean is is still mayor. Crain laughed generously at her own little joke. Other speeches, letters, and the like came from the Castaic Lake Water Agency, College of the Canyons, Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation, the office of Supervisor Mike Antonovich, and various other persons/institutions.

Nominations, Pleas, Decisions

McLean’s last duty was handing the gavel to the city clerk, who then asked for nominations for mayor. Boydston tried to nominate Bob Kellar first, but Councilmember Laurene Weste was quite insistent on having the honor. Kevin Tonoian was opening nominations and Weste spoke over him, saying, “Move Bob Kellar!” while Boydston more calmly began, “I would like to move…” An uncharacteristically aggressive Weste cut off Boydston, saying, “I already did it.” Boydston countered, “I have the floor, m’am,” and Weste came back with, “I moved first.” Mayor McLean snuck in, “And I seconded!” Kellar took the title. He posed for a picture and everyone clapped, but the fourth time around just isn’t quite as magical as the first time, or the second time, or the third.

Mayor Kellar made some remarks about what’s in store for the city in 2016, and he then opened the special meeting to public participation–there were 18 speaker cards. While several speakers were congratulatory to Kellar as they came forward, no one came forward expressly for the purpose of congratulations. All were there to advocate for Councilmember TimBen Boydston to be the next mayor pro tem. (Former mayor Carl Boyer didn’t go as far as a recommendation, but he did advocate reinstating a formal rotation of who got to be mayor.) The speeches kicked off with TimBen’s wife, Ingrid Boydston. She was brief but poignant, asking that the council take three pieces of advice when making its decision. The first was from the Bible (treat people the way you want to be treated), the second from kindergarten (play fair), and the third from politics (respect the voter). It was a solid opening, and a steady stream of pro-Boydston speakers followed. Most argued that Boydston was competent and that the mayoral position was supposed to rotate fairly. He had been voted in, so he deserved a chance to serve as mayor.

Steve Petzold, the main man behind tonight’s show of support, gave the most passionate speech. Recalling last year, when Petzold and Patti Sulpizio had advocated for Boydston to be mayor pro tem, only to be ignored by the council, he said, “I considered that to be an insult.” Petzold agreed with The Signal editorial board, which he said had a “blinding flash of the obvious” recently when it wrote: “To bypass TimBen suggests the council has an inner circle wielding power, a situation not justified in the city’s constitution.”

Former Santa Clarita Mayor Carl Boyer spoke about his support for a formal rotation. “I was offered by Mr. McKeon to be the first mayor and I gave that up because I believed that the principle of rotation was a basic keystone of good government, so we rotated according to the number of votes that each of us got.” He said he even supported Jill Klajic as mayor even though he thought she wouldn’t be good at it. He sincerely believed in the merits of a strict mayoral rotation where everyone gets a chance “so the people can be heard.”

“I don’t know if there’s ever been so much attention to selection of mayor pro tem” said Patti Sulpizo, the second-to-last speaker. She said the news coverage, social media discussions, and show of support tonight were essentially unprecedented. And she was correct.

After public comments came to an end, Bob Kellar said he would entertain a motion for mayor. There was a long, anxiously silent pause of fully ten seconds before Councilmember Weste spoke up and said, “Dante Acosta.” Mayor McLean let out a far from emphatic “I’ll second.” Before a vote, Boydston asked for discussion. Since everyone had predicted that it would be Acosta instead of Boydston for mayor pro tem, Boydston didn’t seem surprised and spoke calmly. He simply asked that the councilmembers explain their decision because so many speakers had presciently requested that they do so. He said “Give reason for the vote…that was a request that I wanted to make of each councilperson…we have thick skins or we would not be here.” Enthusiastic applause followed; people wanted to know the reason Boydston had been overlooked. Perhaps more accurately, people wanted the other councilmembers to go on record saying their reasons.

Only Mayor Kellar replied. He was passionate and unapologetic about his decision, which was clearly a vote against Boydston rather than a vote for Acosta, who wasn’t even mentioned. (Acosta sat by quietly throughout the vast majority of the special meeting–one of the reasons he got the title of mayor pro tem.) Kellar’s words weren’t particularly coherent, as he often began a statement only to end it mid-thought, as if there were certain things he wanted to say but stopped short of saying. For example, he began, “There’s a lot of elected people in this room…” but didn’t succinctly finish the thought. The implication, of course, was obvious–there were political pressures and considerations even though the mayoral title is supposed to be mostly ceremonial. Kellar said that decisions should be made based on “information and experience and listening,” and that they all needed to be “working together in a responsible matter.” Kellar added that Boydston kept bringing up issues where he’d lost the vote, advising Boydston, “When you’re on the minority side you simply leave it alone.” Kellar felt Boydston acted as if he were “above it all…we write a separate book for this one!” Boydston, in short, did not toe the line.

Everyone but Boydston voted for Acosta to be mayor pro tem (Boydston did say he thought Acosta would do a fine job).

Cake followed.

Back to Your Regularly Scheduled Council Meeting

Councilmember Laurene Weste delivered the invocation to open the city council meeting that followed the special reorganization meeting. Weste, who had not uttered one word of explanation for her decisions over the previous hour, was apparently been saving her speaking voice for less controversial subjects. She fondly remember the departed Duane Harte and asked that people think about America’s veterans.

During public participation, a number of residents of Sierra Park (a senior mobile home park) came up to speak about the change in ownership/management they’ve been dealing with. One woman who lives at the park worked for the new company following the takeover. However, she resigned after just a few days because she felt the company wasn’t acting in accordance with the law and that residents were suffering as a result. Several elderly residents came forward and said that they had lost rent control through deceptive contracts or business practices and that no maintenance of the grounds had taken place. One speaker predicted “a new class of homeless seniors.”

Other speakers included Lynne Plambeck, who asked that a restoration of Bouquet Canyon creek be named to honor the Savaikie Family. Sandra Cattell pointed out the need for more charging stations for electric cars. She suggested that car dealerships which sell electric vehicles could each pay for a station, as has happened in other cities. Al Ferdman brought up his most recent criticism of the plan to subsidize a Laemmle Theatre in Old Town Newhall. Ferdman said that recently released figures reveal that half of the theater’s screens would only have 45 seats, which hardly seemed to justify a $14M subsidy/incentive to build.

City Manager Ken Striplin was first to reply. He said that the mobile home park complaints were news to him but promised quick outreach. Striplin wasn’t entirely clear about the extent of the city’s jurisdiction over the park (it seemed limited), but he said they could at least investigate tree maintenance and a few other issues that had been brought up. He had the council’s support on this. Councilmember Weste said that the city needed to contact the California Mobilehome Ombudsman: “It’s time.” Kellar asked for Striplin to clarify the $14M pricetag for Laemmle. Striplin said that $10M of the $14M would go to building a parking structure, which Kellar felt defeated Ferdman’s argument that the city was lavishly subsidizing the company. (Ferdman would later respond that the parking lot was being built immediately next to the theater and was sized to accommodate the seating needs of the theater, so it still counted as a subsidy.)

The items on the consent calendar were fairly routine. The legislative platform for the new year was approved (i.e., political items where the city will take a stand only to be ignored by Sacramento) and dial-a-ride vehicles were purchased. Cam Noltemeyer spoke about item 9, which was the second reading of an update to development codes. There was language about marijuana sales, and she asked whether medical marijuana shops could do business in Santa Clarita. City Attorney Joe Montes said the answer was no, even though there are places that would benefit from it, for example, places like that would be helpful with cultivation.

The final bit of business was considering FY 2015-16 mid-year budget adjustments. General fund revenue was increased $3.4M in light of higher than expected tax revenue and other income. Expenditures included $120,000 to continue CEMEX opposition efforts (so much for victory, eh?) and some changes to staffing, such as three graffiti worker positions and a film permit specialist position. The changes were accepted by the council.

During the second round of public participation, several Boydston supporters had a chance to provide their immediate feedback on the council’s snubbing on Boydston. Cam Noltemeyer said that tonight, we had seen “the most desperate” (the struggling senior mobile home park residents) and “the most arrogant” (4/5 of the council). Patti Suplizio asked about all the people who Bob Kellar had said shared his concerns about Boydston. “Where are they?” she asked, “Was there an unscheduled secret meeting that I missed? How do we get your ear?” Sulpizio viewed public comments as all but worthless, since minds have usually already been made up. Andrew Taban offered his “condolences” to the city over “the death of democracy tonight.” He felt “surprised and hurt and disappointed.”

Steve Petzold, however, took Boydston to task for suggesting that there were some unscrupulous real estate agents taking advantage of seniors (Boydston had suggested this during remarks about senior mobile home housing). Petzold said the realtors he knows are very careful and forthcoming with disclosures and notifications. Boydston clarified his remarks in response.

One final exchange illustrated why things are the way they are for the council. Some CSUN graduate students spoke about Santa Clarita’s homeless population, which they have come to know through their work and through Single Mothers Outreach. In response to this and the senior housing concerns, Boydston suggested forming a city committee on homelessness. Boydston asked if anyone else shared his concerns and would support agendizing his idea. Kellar was upset by what he thought was an implication that the city hasn’t done enough to address homelessness. He thought Boydston was overly influenced by public sentiments, often having knee-jerk reactions. He held up the stack of comment cards and said that if Boydston had his way, decisions would be made simply by counting them up, leading to a “train wreck.” Dante Acosta tried make peace. He said that Boydston’s phrasing had implied that anyone against forming a new committee wasn’t interested in helping the homeless, when they really were. Acosta argued that discussion with staff was a better first step than forming a new committee. In short, Boydston wanted to make noise and start a campaign, Kellar was OK with the status quo, and Acosta wanted to play nice. Thus their respective titles. The meeting ended, and that’s it for recaps until 2016.

Breaking: Hart District Election Results Are In

The first numbers are in. Incumbent Steve Sturgeon has defended his seat, while Linda Storli is off to an early lead against incumbent Gloria Mercado-Fortine.

Area 1 (live results here):
Gloria Mercado-Fortine: 44.2%
Linda Storli: 55.8%

Area 4 (live results here):
Andrew Taban: 36.1%
Steve Sturgeon: 63.9%

In low-turnout elections like this one, about 75% of voters will vote by mail. These first numbers include all of the VBM ballots that have been counted so far. Because this first count represents such a big share of the total votes, the leaders at the first count will almost always hold on to their lead. Time will tell, of course, and we’ve got plenty of time. We might not see updated numbers for a few hours.

How much does an election cost? This much.

About one-tenth of two-fifths of the valley will be electing board members to the Hart school board on Tuesday, and it’s been the most colorful election in recent memory. For the benefit of the voting public, and in the interest of transparent elections, we’re posting the campaign finance disclosure forms for each candidate. I asked all four candidates for copies of their forms. Two responded (Taban and Mercado-Fortine) with their copies of their forms. The other two (Storli and Sturgeon) did not respond, so theirs came from someone who did a public records request with the County.

For now, these are posted without comment, except to say that these weren’t easy to come by, and that shouldn’t be the case. I really hope that our local agencies will take steps in the near future to make disclosure in elections readily available to the public online, or at the very least, in Santa Clarita. Currently, these forms only exist in paper form in Norwalk, which is basically Disneyland, with banker’s hours to boot.

Sorry. Pre-coffee and all. Here are the forms:

(Update: a few more forms have come in for Storli’s campaign.)

Area 1:

Gloria Mercado-Fortine (1st period, includes forms 460, 497s, and 460 amendment)
Gloria Mercado-Fortine (2nd period, includes forms 460 and 497s)

Linda Storli (1st period, form 460)
*New:Linda Storli (1st period, form 460 – premature filing)
*New: Linda Storli (Form 497)
Linda Storli (2nd period, form 460)
*New: Linda Storli (2nd period, form 460 amendment)

Area 4:

Steve Sturgeon (1st period, form 460)
Steve Sturgeon (2nd period, form 460)

Andrew Taban (1st period, form 460)
Andrew Taban (1st period, form 460 amendment)
Andrew Taban (2nd period, form 460)
Andrew Taban (Form 497s – all)


CC Recap: Self-denial and Curious Requests

Say what you will about the Santa Clarita City Council, but its members aren’t getting rich–they make in a year what the city manager makes in a month. And at this evening’s meeting, they nobly denied themselves a raise when given the opportunity. So who are we to deny them their bickering? Tonight, the disagreements centered on the future of Old Town Newhall, the right policy for solar power, and whether homeowners ever really need big trashcans. It’s recapping time.

Land of the freeEEEE!

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar’s invocation was a rousing call to the ballot box. He encouraged residents to make an informed vote this November, and he reminded them that men and women have died to protect our voting rights. Kellar may have been preaching to the choir–I don’t think too many non-voters watch council meetings–but it’s always good to be reminded.

“Now we get to go to a very lovely part of the meeting,” said Mayor McLean, ushering in a diverse (i.e, long) procession of presentations. Sergeant Danial Dantice was applauded for his outreach to Santa Clarita’s homeless population. The diminutive Dantice has helped connect homeless people with local resources and has been both compassionate and successful. Next, October was designated as a month for domestic violence prevention and breast cancer awareness. The Santa Clarita Domestic Violence Center, Circle of Hope, and Soroptimists came up to speak briefly, the latter group giving a $10,000 check to Circle of Hope.

The Master’s College Chorale was then invited up for a performance. They began with “Tap-tap,” Sidney Guillaume’s piece about Haitian public transportation. Yes, really. According to its composer’s website, the song “is inspired by the beautifully colored buses and taxis in Haiti…a metaphor encouraging people to ‘jump on the bus’ and not let opportunities pass them by.” The group then transitioned to singing the national anthem–of the United States, not Haiti. The singers surrounded the audience during their performance, and they really reached for the high note on “land of the freeEEEE.” The chorale was warmly applauded and praised for its interesting performance. This seemed like a natural finale for the City Hall presentations, but it was not. A representative of the LA Economic Development Corporation came forward to recognize Santa Clarita for being a finalist (i.e., not the winner) of LA’s most business friendly large city award. Santa Clarita’s many business-friendly programs and policies were praised.

Slow Your Road

A new issue emerged during tonight’s public participation. Or, more accurately, a new version of an age-old issue emerged. Residents of Dorothy Street recently became connected to Golden Valley courtesy of the Five Knolls project. This has turned a quiet residential street into a busy thoroughfare. As one man put it, the street is now “an unregulated speedway.” Residents explained that it’s hard for them to even back out of their driveways. One woman said that she can’t allow her grandchildren to play in the front yard any more, and she added that the dangerously high speeds of motorists force her to act as a human shield as she helps her disabled daughter to cross the street.

Elaine Ballace brought us the latest developments on mobile home rent increases. The unanticipated jumps in rents have residents scrambling for help and appeals, and she felt that the City has been helping park owners more than renters. “The City is in bed with the greedy landowners,” she contended. Ballace said it’s fine for Santa Clarita to get awards for being business friendly, but she wondered whether they were equally friendly to mobile home park residents.

With an oddly apologetic tone, Santa Clarita Soccer Center owner Scott Schauer said that he was gradually moving forward with the process of relocating his facility. It has operated legally for years, but new residents in the area have continued to complain about the noise. Rick Bianchi of The New Home Company (Villa Metro Developer) said he supported the decision to move. This was not too surprising because it means his company won’t have to build a giant, ugly, and expensive sound wall between the soccer field and homes. Anyone who’s been to Villa Metro knows that it’s surrounded by enough giant, ugly walls already. Bianchi revealed that, “We had to make adjustments to sales prices because of this business,” and he defended their disclosures of the soccer center’s presence to prospective buyers. So it seems that people who bought homes next to the center paid a lower price for the bother, and now they’ve almost succeeded in driving said bother out of the neighborhood.

Too Late to Un-Laemmle?

City Manager Ken Striplin responded only to the comments about Dorothy Street. He said that some money from the Five Knolls development had been set aside for “traffic calming” measures. Once traffic patterns have settled after the opening of other roads in the area, staff will conduct studies and present traffic management options to residents.

The councilmembers went around to offer comments next. Councilmember TimBen Boydston had an idea for a project opposite the library in Old Town Newhall. This is the Laemmle spot. It’s not officially called that because negotiations to build a Laemmle Theatre still aren’t finalized, but that’s what four-fifths of the council and over 90% of public speakers have said they want. Boydston had been excluded from these talks previously because of his own theater business. He was able to speak on the topic tonight, however, and he asked if any other councilmembers would agree to agendize a public discussion of the Laemmle proposal and/or of his alternative idea. No one would support him. Councilmember Dante Acosta employed two metaphors to explain his reasoning. He said that the City was dating Laemmle, and that they’re moving towards a commitment so it would be inappropriate to look for a new partner now. He also suggested that there was a giant cruise ship sailing towards a common future, and Boydston couldn’t expect to change course of the whole ship now that he was on board. Throughout the discussion, Boydston never actually mentioned what his alternative idea was, but since it shall never be, I guess we don’t really need to know.

The other councilmembers made less contentious comments. Veterans Day events, the State of the City Luncheon, flu shot clinics, and other harbingers of winter were discussed. Mayor McLean thanked staff for helping to arrange a conference in Santa Clarita with Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and other mayors. She said they were “impressed.” Naturally.


The items on tonight’s consent calender were a humdrum mix of maintenance contracts, recreation projects, and bookkeeping measures. There were a couple of exceptions.

An item on waste management franchise agreements upset both Cam Noltemeyer and Mayor McLean, but for different reasons. Noltemeyer used the agreement as an excuse to discuss the City’s deafening silence about the proposed Chiquita Canyon Landfill expansion. She asked why they weren’t opposing the dump or at least talking about it. Noltemeyer felt that she was always dismissed for being a community activist, so she reminded the council that she was a trash ratepayer as well. Patti Sulpizio echoed Noltemeyer’s remarks in a more upbeat style. She said that Chiquita may be outside the city boundaries, but that was also the case for many other issues in which the City had nonetheless involved itself. Tthink Elsmere Canyon, Cemex’s mining site, and the proposed high-speed railway, she suggested. “Fight with us, fight for us!” Sulpizio encouraged.

Mayor McLean spoke on the same item. She first appeased Noltemeyer by saying, “I don’t yell at people…I think community activists are just swell.” She then asked City Manager Ken Striplin whether the City had taken a stance on the Chiquita Canyon Landfill EIR. He said that staff had sent a letter, but apparently the council didn’t read it because McLean requested to look it over.

Then McLean got back to the item itself, which wasn’t about Chiquita so much as it was about temporary bins and roll-off boxes. She was appalled that some very large temporary trash bins would be allowed in residential areas. “How could they possibly have that much solid waste?” McLean demanded to know of staff. Explanations were offered. Sometimes a lot gets thrown away in a big move, or after a death, or after a big party. This was not enough for McLean, who wanted specifics. “Items, items, items, what items?” she wondered. At one point, Ken Striplin actually detailed the sorts of trash one could expect in the wake of a party, such as disposable paper goods.

Mayor McLean remained unsatisfied. “I have a problem with this,” she said, contending that most waste is recyclable and that recyclables and garbage shouldn’t be mixed in one bin. She called the waste bin contract, which seemed relatively routine, “Completely new and different than what has been provided before.”  McLean tried to make a case that people could abuse large bins by using them to throw away electronic waste and other items forbidden from the normal trash-stream, but no one stepped up to support her. Most of the council and staff seemed satisfied with the idea that the waste haulers would appropriately sort the waste to find recyclables. “Alright so fine,” she said, sensing defeat. In a separate vote on this item alone, only McLean opposed the measure, wanting more time and details.

The rest of the consent calendar was approved with the recommended actions. One final item of note was a plan to start preserving all recordings of council meetings indefinitely. “They said we wouldn’t live forever, and there you go,” smiled TimBen Boydston.

Public Hearing

A public hearing to grant Valencia Water Company a franchise inspired a crisis of identity. The franchise agreement was written up as it would be for a private entity, but whether the VWC is private was up for debate. During comments, Lynne Plambeck explained that the Public Utilities Commission had ruled that upon being acquired by a public entity (in this case the Castaic Lake Water Agency),  the VWC’s private status was no longer valid. Plambeck and Cam Noltemeyer argued that the CLWA has tried to keep VWC private because it benefits from the status and lack of public scrutiny. Beverly Johnson, VWC Vice President and Controller, insisted that Plambeck and Noltemeyer were mistaken. “We are a private corporation,” Johnson said. It’s not quite as simple as anyone was claiming because there are still suits and appeals in the court system. Public/private status may not be determined to everyone’s satisfaction for a long time to come. In any case, tonight’s franchise agreement really just kept up business as usual. Water will be bought, provided, and charged for, with about 1% of the rate going to the City.

Before the vote, Councilmember TimBen Boydston and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar engaged in a pointless argument about whether more water conservation actions could be demanded of Valencia Water Company or CLWA in the franchise agreement. Boydston asked, for example, why more recycled water wasn’t used. Kellar wanted to keep the discussion brief and focused, but Boydston said leadership was the business of the council and that a comprehensive discussion was needed to lead the way. In the end, everyone but Boydston agreed to the franchise.

Debate over another tricky topic–how residential solar power is paid for–was deferred until next meeting. Mayor McLean made it known that she was frustrated with California’s demand for energy conservation while diminishing the financial benefits of home solar power. Boydston and Acosta began to offer some counter-arguments about the cost of the electric utility infrastructure. In any case, a meeting withe SoCal Edison will be held to go over technical details of the changes in store for solar. Ultimately, the City can do little to change decrees from Sacramento, so this will probably prove to be another futile discussion.


No Raise For Now

The City Council is allowed to adjust the compensation of future councils. Since people tend to stay in office for so long, it’s basically voting to give yourself a raise–just not technically. The opportunity comes around every two years, and the council could have given itself as much as a 5% raise for both 2015 and 2016, amounting to a 10% raise overall.

The only speaker was Cam Noltemeyer, who said no one (except maybe TimBen) deserved a raise. Boydston agreed that they should keep their compensation as is. When Boydston explained himself, it sounded to me like he was gearing up for some back-and-forth, but pushback never materialized. Mayor Pro Tem Kellar seconded his motion, and the majority of the council decided to forego raises for the next two years. McLean, who voted against the 0% raise, had pointed out that they’d only be getting about $200 more a month for being on call 24 hours a day, attending many meetings, and serving in many functions.

Councilmember Boydston tried to start a discussion about the disparity in benefits among councilmembers. The longer-seated ones are getting thousands more per year than newer members, like Boydston, for cash-in-lieu of healthcare benefits; this has to do with changes to benefits plans for city staff. However, City Attorney Joe Montes advised Boydston that it was not the right time.

Keating Complains Again

The meeting closed with public participation. Al Ferdman became unusually animated as he spoke out against the council for being unwilling to discuss alternatives to a Laemmle Theatre. By Ferdman’s math, it would take 350 years of tax benefits for the Laemmle to cancel out the $14M subsidy the City will likely provide.

Lynne Plambeck returned to the podium for some follow-up on water and waste issues. Plambeck asked the City to look into Chiquita Canyon’s use of green waste as an “alternative daily cover” for its landfill. She said that the practice is contributing to odor problems, and she was troubled that green waste was being counted as “recycled” when it was really ending up in a landfill.

Finally, Villa Metro’s most sensitive resident came forward to remind anyone who had forgotten that life in Villa Metro is loud. David Keating felt that progress on the soccer center noise issue amounted to too little to late. He sounded like he was auditioning for the part of plaintiff in a civil suit as he said that his wife had to be hospitalized because of the noise. “My wife has been hospitalized because of the trauma, noise, sleep deprivation, psychological effects… We moved out of our home for six weeks. The new home company didn’t disclose the soccer center to us.” He claimed that his tremendous amount of trust in The New Home Company and the City of Santa Clarita had been misplaced. In short, it seems that Keating is both extraordinarily sensitive to noise but was extraordinarily oblivious to the presence of a noisy sports facility by the home he bought. The meeting ended with Keating, as yet, unsatisfied.

Joe Messina Mocks Caitlyn Jenner, Cozies Up To LGBTQ Hate Group


Joe Messina is poison.

Over the last week, Messina has spent time on his radio show, The Real Side, mocking Caitlyn Jenner and a trans student at Wellesley College. He’s called National Coming Out Day and other events celebrating the LGBTQ community “garbage” and he’s given his seal of approval to a radio guest who called homosexuality “really harmful”. Messina’s also been getting chummy with an anti-gay hate group.

None of this is surprising, of course. Disparaging the LGBTQ community is part and parcel with the CONSERVATIVE BRAND Joe Messina has for years been cultivating on The Real Side, SCVNews and other local outlets that have happily offered Messina a platform to voice his toxic opinions on gender identity and sexuality.

It would be easy to dismiss Joe Messina as a gauche nuisance because Lord knows he’s far from the only person in the Santa Clarita Valley who dismisses the LBGTQ community. Unfortunately for the SCV, Joe Messina  wears two hats: aside from running a right-wing radio show, Messina first and foremost is an elected board member for the William S. Hart Union High School District. Messina is perched atop a school district that encompasses six high schools and approximately 23,000 Santa Clarita Valley students.

It’s an uncomfortable arrangement that breeds  tension between Messina’s obligations as a public school official and his quest to fashion himself the SCV’s Glenn Beck. Though members of the Hart School District may try their damnedest to ignore it, Joe Messina the conservative talking head is inescapably intertwined with Joe Messina the Hart School Board member.

When Joe Messina denies the prevalence of gun violence in the U.S., he’s doing so as a representative of the Hart School District. When he gives credence to thoroughly-debunked birther conspiracy theories, he’s doing so as a representative of the Hart School District. When he denigrates Syrian refugees, he’s doing so as a representative of the Hart School District.

When Joe Messina makes fun of transgender people, when he spreads his special Brand of homophobia over the airwaves, he’s doing so as a representative of the Hart School District. And when the Hart School District does nothing to reign him in, the district sends a message that it’s okay to insult LGBTQ students and staff. This is all particularly problematic when you consider that Messina, at least ostensibly, is tasked with evaluating policies to protect students from harassment, bullying and abuse.

High Schools have long been hostile to LGBTQ students and teens that are gay or transgender are more likely than their peers to be subjected to harassment and abuse. According to a 2011 survey by The National Center for Transgender Equality, 78 percent of K-12 students who identified as either transgender or gender non-conforming reported they had been harassed—35 percent reported they had been assaulted.

The Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network’s 2013 school safety report found that 69 percent of LGBT students felt unsafe at school and 85 percent reported that they had been verbally harassed at school in the last year.

Enter Joe Messina. Over the last few months, Messina has repeatedly mocked Caitlyn Jenner. On an episode of The Real Side from October 19, Messina brought on Tami Jackson, senior editor at a website called, a site the Southern Poverty Law Center describes as “virulently anti-LGBT.” And wouldn’t you know it? Joe Messina has his own author’s page on BarbWire! Way to network, Joe.

BarbWire was founded by Matt Barber who is a prominent member of The Liberty Council, an organization the SPLC has classified as an anti-gay hate group. Barber, who has called same-sex marriage “a crime against nature” and voiced support for anti-gay legislation in Russian and Nigeria, has amassed a lengthy dossier at both GLAAD and Human Rights Campaign.

Unsurprisingly, BarbWire is filled with stories degrading Caitlyn Jenner, including “BRUCE JENNER A MUTILATED, MALADJUSTED MAN!”, “JENNER, TRANSGENDER AND TRANS-LUNACY” (as well as this gem: “TIME TO PRAY FOR GOD’S MERCIFUL JUDGMENT ON AMERICA”)

Well, you can probably guess how a conversation between Messina and BarbWire’s senior editor went. Messina kicked things off talking about a meme that jokes that the Kardashian’s turned Caitlyn Jenner into a woman. It all went down hill from there. (Note: the transcription has been lightly edited for clarity)

Messina: There was a hilarious meme going around with all the Kardashian girls and who they dated and what they were like before they dated them and what they’re like afterward, you know? And they were making fun of Mr. Jenner there…where he was [laughter] 10 years ago, he spent all those years with those women and now where he is today. 

Jackson: Maybe there was a little bit of jealousy going on, he thought all those lady parts got them to be so famous, I want some of that. I don’t know.

Messina went on to suggest that the real reason Caitlyn Jenner came out as transgender was for the publicity. It’s the same argument he made in a column published in June on SCVNews. Next, Messina and Jackson began talking about Jenner’s penis and questioning why Jenner hasn’t undergone a sex change operation:

Messina: Well somebody said the other day he spent 70 or 80 grand on his face and all the other money on everything else and he hasn’t changed the part that you can’t change back. So, it’s like, okay, if he hits the big win for millions of dollars you can always go back to the way it was. You know what I’m saying? But again it’s the whole thing that people hold up Jenner in such high esteem and I’m saying what for? There are so many other people that we can give recognition to and he’s all we got?

Jackson: And when he won the golds way back when, I can understand that people looked up to him for his work and accomplishments and so forth. But since then, it’s been one bad press story after another until the latest permutation where he is supposed to be Caitlyn. But I’m sorry, I won’t call him Caitlyn. He’s still a guy! He’s got the guy parts. In his mind he thinks he’s Caitlyn, and let me tell ya, it ain’t right.

Messina: I’m just going look, if you really feel like you’re a women and if you really feel that you’re trapped in a man’s body and you’ve got the money—and he has the money—where’s the commitment? What are you waiting for?

Jackson: Yeah, yeah. Exactly.

Messina: Right? I mean nothing’s changed from the waist down. So what are you waiting for?

The implication is that Caitlyn Jenner is a fraud. Joe Messina is suggesting that any trans person that doesn’t undergo sex reassignment surgery is not really trans at all. It should go without saying, but decisions people make related to their sex organs are nobody’s business–least of all Joe Messina’s. To quote John Oliver: “Some transgender people do undergo hormone therapy or sex reassignment surgery as part of their transition, some do not. And interestingly, their decision on this matter is—medically speaking—none of your f—ing business.”

Next, Jackson called Caitlyn Jenner “freakish looking”:

Jackson: And it is funny — because I’ve been flipping the channels and I see Caitlyn and I’m like [gasp] you see him with other women and he towers over them. What is he 6’2”? And he has a lowish voice. And so there’s this freakish looking person that’s got a low voice and towers over the other women and they’re all drinking wine and trying….I just had to turn it. It just…freaks me out, I’m sorry.

At this point, Joe Messina switched gears and started complaining about “Coming Out Month” and other days that are set aside for LGBTQ awareness. (There’s a National Coming Out Day held on May 17 and October is  LGBT Pride Month. I couldn’t find information on a Coming Out Month. Please let me know if I missed something.)

Messina: So speaking of which, universities now are actively encouraging students to ‘come out’. And so universities across the nation are encouraging students to openly embrace homosexuality to mark ‘Coming Out Month’ which transpires each October.

Jackson: ‘Coming Out Month’?

Messina: Now, I get that this is really funny. In June the President signed, I think in his first or second year in office, he signed June as Gay Awareness Month. Okay? I got the nasties when I asked a simple question: gay, wow, you don’t know you’re gay?

Jackson: [Laughs]

Messina: I mean, seriously? Is there a test [unintelligible]?

Jackson You know, so where is our heterosexual awareness [month]?

Messina: Oh no, you’ll get a whole bunch of nasties. The one guy was talking about having a heterosexual pride parade and people just came out all, you know, just nasty on the guy.

Jackson: Oh no, how awful is that? Oh goodness!

Messina: Right? But again, it’s homosexuality. So you’ve got the gay awareness month in June and now the coming out month in October. So you let everyone know you’re gay in June but you have to come out again because you didn’t do it right the first time?

Jackson: You have to wait to really come out.

Messina: How many of these do you need, you know?

Jackson: We’re aware, now we’re coming out. Yeah. We don’t need any of them, but those people obviously think we do, unfortunately. Unfortunately.

Messina: I get sick of all this stuff. And the thing about it is the most important things in October—I guess October was breast cancer awareness month

Jackson: Right. 

Messina: And that was one of the first things I put up, one of the pink ribbons on our website, on The Real Side. And it gets mired down by all this other garbage.

In Joe Messina’s world, days that are intended to raise awareness about LGBTQ are a waste of time, or to use his word, “garbage.” He wrapped up the segment complaining about colleges that offer LGBTQ students lessons in safe sex. The problem, as Messina sees it, is that the LGBTQ establishment—aka BIG GAY—wants any of these holidays to begin with. Also, Messina apparently believes homosexuality is harmful:

Messina: Everything has to be special. I think for me, that’s the thing that bothers me the most is everything has to be a special, above and beyond, what’s the word, equality for these people

Jackson: Yep, yep. It’s not equality that they want. They want everyone to bend over backwards for each of these special, special groups. And you know that we’ve had the professor, or whoever it was who was asked, that got in trouble for remarking—correctly so—that homosexual activity is really harmful.

Messina: Yeah, I know. Yeah. That’s a story for another night, but you’re right.

Well there you have it.  A Hart School Board member is giving air time on his radio show to an anti-gay hate group and parroting the same LGBTQ falsehoods spread by organizations like The Liberty Council and The Family Research Council. You can listen to the entire conversation here. It begins at at the 45:20 mark.

But wait, there’s more!  On Friday’s episode of The Real Side, Messina mocked Timothy Boatright, a trans student who wanted to run for a student government post at Wellesley College, an all women’s school. Starts at the 2 minute mark. Here’s a representative quote:

Yes, she is probably vying for her own reality show or something. Now, she has picked Timothy—that’s the name he picked for himself, herself. That’s the name the human has chosen. And he’s also asked them to use male pronouns when speaking about him. But it’s an all girls school, you cannot have it both ways. What a hypocrite.”

Again, Joe Messina believes that trans people are in it to get rich and famous. None of what Joe Messina is saying should come as a shock—disparaging the LGBTQ community is On Brand. In 2007 and 2013, Messina invited anti-gay activists to attend the Mayors Prayer Breakfast. Messina invited noted LBGTQ bigot Brad Dacus in 2013 mere weeks after a 13-year-old teenager from Palmdale, Nigel Hardey, committed suicide. Hardey had been bullied because he loved cheerleading.

It’s obvious why Joe Messina is a problem for the Hart School District. Spend five minutes on Google and you can find stories of SCV students who have been bullied in school for identifying as LGBTQ. Here’s a particularly thoughtful blog post from a Valencia High School graduate who says she “learned very early that being gay in my hometown was not acceptable.”

With all of this in mind, may I be so bold as to suggest that perhaps—perhaps!—it’s unacceptable for a member of the Hart School Board to make fun of transgender men and woman. And perhaps–perhaps!–the Hart School District should express at least a bit of concern that one of its board members is palin’ around with an anti-gay hate group. Perhaps!

But by this point we all know what’s going to happen next: Joe Messina will claim ignorance. He’ll say he’s not homophobic, he’ll say he doesn’t have a problem with gay people and that the stories posted on BarbWire don’t reflect his beliefs, he’ll say I and others are taking his words out of context, he’ll suggest he’s the victim, he’ll say people are unfairly attacking him for expressing his honest beliefs, he’ll say he is only asking questions, he’ll wrap himself in a thick blanket of ignorance to insulate himself from criticism. “I’m just tellin’ it like it is!” he’ll say to whoever will listen, “These PC liberals are the real bigots!

We know this because he’s said it all before, or some version of it. And then he’ll flip on his microphone and continue his crusade on The Real Side.

There’s only one question worth asking at this point: when will the Hart School District stand up for LGBTQ students and faculty in the SCV? When will the Hart School District finally denounce Joe Messina in public? How can a school district ever claim it’s serious about protecting students from bullying and abuse if it can’t even be bothered to reign in the loudest bully of them all?

When I was a reporter at The Signal I was always amazed how people inside and outside of the newsroom just accepted the notion that there was some sort of invisible firewall between Joe Messina the radio personality–the  Joe Messina  who frequently says and does objectionable things–and Joe Messina the school board member. Whether you choose to acknowledge it or not, as long as Joe Messina is a member of the Hart School Board, what Joe Messina says on his radio show matters.

During my two-year run at The Signal, the Hart School District sat on its hands while Joe Messina did what he wanted so I have an educated guess as to what the district will do next.  I just hope I’m wrong.

Jonathan Randles is a recovering Signal reporter and former Canyon Country jingoist. He now lives in Brooklyn but keeps tabs on the SCV. You can follow him on Twitter @sparkyrandles and message him at sparkyrandles at gmail dot com.

CC Recap: The Meeting that Scarcely Was


I am tempted to summarize tonight’s meeting thusly: nothing happened. But that’s not entirely accurate. There were interesting developments on the Villa Metro/soccer front with sympathy for Villa Metro residents fast evaporating. And some legitimate business took place—bridges will be widened, permits streamlined, and bonds transferred. So let’s get into recapping tonight’s lean, mean City Council-ing.

Hispanic Heritage Septober

Councilmember TimBen Boydston’s invocation was a short, somber prayer for Armenian Genocide victims, hundreds of thousands of whom were killed a century ago. After the pledge and some housekeeping, it was time for less grave matters.

“It was the Spaniards who named the Santa Clara River, which led to our name, the Santa Clarita Valley,” explained Mayor Marsha McLean as she prepared to proclaim Hispanic Heritage Month. Unusually, the “month” stretches from September 15th to October 15th. It’s a Hispanic Heritage Septober, if you will. A large number of residents came forward for the photo and proclamation. There was laughter as Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar lifted a little girl onto the dais for a better view—McLean admonished him to set her back down. Patsy Ayala, chair of the SCV Latino Business Alliance (among other titles), was proud of the month and said it recognized “American citizens whose ancestors came from Mexico, Spain, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.”

After applause and photos, a second proclamation was made, this one for Rubber Ducky Festival Day. Proceeds benefit the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers. Unfortunately, the usual guy in a big yellow duck costume wasn’t present. The absence was keenly felt when Mayor McLean asked, “Do we have a rubber ducky?” When she discovered he wasn’t there, she lamented with an “Oh, darn.”

Villa Metro and the $160,000 Wall

Public participation began with Elaine Ballace asking that Santa Clarita more fully realize its role as Hollywood North. It was a somewhat confusing comment as she likened Santa Clarita to the LA subway–something that people know of but not particularly well. Ballace said that affordable housing for artists, a film festival, and an entertainment fair would be good places to start the SCV in realizing its cinematic destiny.

A couple of residents then spoke about parking challenges near the park-and-ride on Newhall Avenue (the one near the condos). They were worried that parking requirements weren’t being enforced, that there wouldn’t be enough parking with the low-income housing planned for the area, and that no one was taking accountability for managing the area.

While there were no Villa Metro residents present this evening, their complaints about soccer noise from earlier this month were addressed by both the soccer center and the developer. Scott Schauer of the Santa Clarita Soccer Center said that they’ve installed light shields and automatic light timers to make certain that lights are unobtrusive and go off when they’re supposed to. He claimed that the center has a strict policy against cussing and promised that repeat offenders would face consequences. Schauer asked that people remember the center’s long history in the valley and said that he thought some complaints made were unfair. Rick Bianchi of the New Home Company (Villa Metro builder) said that he spoke at a well-attended Villa Metro HOA meeting last week. Binachi was dismayed that his company’s offer to build a $160,000 sound wall to reduce noise by about 50% “was not very well received.” He restated that disclosures had been signed when residents were buying their homes. Thus, it seems that Villa Metro residents aren’t happy with the soccer field nor the offer to build an expensive sound wall that would lessen its impact.

In response to the speakers, City Manager Ken Striplin said that Ballace’s movie industry suggestions would be considered. He said that he knew the park-and-ride on Newhall Avenue was a “maintenance challenge”, but affirmed that it should be well-patrolled. Councilmember Boydston weighed the Villa Metro developments soberly, saying that “there are two sides to ever story.” If I had to pick a side for him, though, he seemed sympathetic to the soccer folks so long as they operated within the bounds of their permit.

Consent Granted

The consent calendar was brief and approved with just a little protest. Item 5 was the toughest pill to swallow. Councilmember Dante Acosta asked Striplin to expand on the ordinance, which expedited and streamlined residential solar cell permitting. Sounds good, right? The City Manager explained that legislators in Sacramento have now required cities to adopt such policies. He was a bit upset at the imposition, saying that Santa Clarita’s permitting process had been working just fine and that top-down control was counterproductive if anything. Al Ferdman was more intrigued by Item 7, which involved a lot of movement of library bond proceeds but ultimately seemed like a zero-sum game (it was, confirmed Striplin). Without any further discussion, the consent calendar was approved unanimously with the recommended actions taken on all items. Thus, solar panel permitting will change, Lost Canyon Road Bridge will be widened, and bond funding will be sorted out.

There was a public hearing on financing of Bouquet Canyon Senior Apartments under a Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act (TEFRA) resolution. Part of the approval process included extending the amount of time that the apartments would be restricted to older, low-income persons. Councilmember Weste was pleased, but she asked that everyone think about ways to achieve even longer-term agreements to provide such housing. As it stands, most of these requirements expire after a few decades. Without further discussion, the TEFRA resolution was adopted. The meeting ended just a little after 7.