Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Happenings: Controversy Averted (Disappointingly) at City Council

Tonight’s City Council meeting was excessively civil. Reasonable points were made and acknowledged, and reasonable counter-points were offered and discussed. Even the potentially contentious issues of lobbyist registration and Las Lomas development elicited nothing more than appropriately impassioned testimonials. I have no patience for this sort of behavior.

Indeed, it was with some disappointment that I watched the Council skirt the first potential flare-up over Big League Dreams[1]. They are a private baseball stadium builder, and Councilman Frank Ferry is very enthusiastic about the prospect of them building a fantasy-inspired field in SCV, a plan currently being explored. If you’ll recall, Council member TimBen Boydston’s remarks on such a stadium being a waste of money prompted a verbal tongue-lashing from Ferry some weeks ago. Today, Canyon Countryan Steve Lucia expressed his opposition in public participation, calling it “repulsive” for the City to aid the private company with tens of millions of dollars for a stadium. Then, Boydston brought up a B.L.D. project in Gilbert, Arizona that exceeded the original budget by about 70%[2]. Ferry, however, stayed out of the fray and made no mention of the issue whatsoever.

Reason and cool tempers prevailed again when it came time to discuss renaming the road called, variously, Bouquet Canyon, San Fernando, Main Street, etc. Leon Worden, Claritan-of-Consequence and over-estimator of parade attendance, made an eloquent plea that Saugus names (Bouquet) stay in Saugus while Newhall names stay in Newhall. His sentiments were echoed as others suggested an extension of the name “Railroad Avenue” and still others called for additional study. Ultimately, the plan for street name change has been tabled. San Fernando road remains San Fernando road for at least a while longer.

Ball parks and street names might be poor fodder for controversy, I reasoned as the meeting passed the 90-minute mark, but lobbyist registration would surely provoke more passion. I was wrong. There was discussion of fines for failure to register as a lobbyist, whether attorneys would be exempt from registering, and availability of the registration online. Trust me; it was thrilling. Discussion will continue at the next meeting by which time some problematic language in the ordinance will be corrected. Regardless of when they'll ultimately register, Laurene Weste pointed out (while eyeing Hunt Braly) that "We know who the lobbyists are."

Cam Noltemeyer proved a godsend when it came to keeping the lobbying discussion interesting. During two of her four-hundred and eighty-six comments tonight, she mentioned a peculiar observation about City Council. It seems that, on occasion, they eat an evening meal in the company of one another. Alright, so dinner seems normal, especially during busy City Council meeting days, but she said that she’s seen lobbyists begin “swarming” just as these 5 o’clock suppers begin. Her suspicions that inappropriate business/discussion might be going on behind closed doors were quickly allayed by Ferry, however, who assured her that they had most recently used dinnertime to discuss Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Kellar’s ironing, not the business of Santa Clarita.

Next on the agenda was a resolution opposing Las Lomas (“The Hills” in Spanish—does that mean MTV will be filming a reality show there?). The development would bring 5,500 dwelling units and associated commercial space into 550 acres just outside SCV. Everyone from Congressman Buck McKeon to Supervisor Antonovich sent reps to read letters expressing firm opposition to the project. I don’t see why they’re all so against it. I mean, the only problems with the Las Lomas site are that it’s an important wildlife corridor, geologically unstable, fire-prone, ecologically sensitive, has land with slopes in excess of 50%, and would require millions of tons of grading. Oh, and the planned development would exceed density standards set forth by the general plan, has an unrealistic transit program, would aggravate traffic problems, has major infrastructure issues, and is utterly absurd in every way imaginable. Other than that, it’s just fine.

Poor, mild-mannered Matt Klink of Las Lomas Land Company was the only one in favor. After apologizing for poor penmanship on his comment card (really), he offered a letter from a higher-up in his company that showed Las Lomas was smart growth and forward-thinking development. Providing this letter amounted to throwing a single drop of water at the raging inferno of opposition against Las Lomas (at least on part of people outside of LA City and the LA Mayor's office). To paraphrase SCV Mayor Marsha McLean, you just don’t build houses on steep mountains next to freeways, and everbody knows it. In case you haven’t gotten the point yet, here are what three Claritans had to say about Las Lomas:
“Such a ridiculous project.” Diane Trautman
“This is irresponsible from A to Z.” Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Kellar
“This is a terrible project. It’s universally known.” Councilmember TimBen Boydston

With Las Lomas settled, all that remained was discussion of the Certificates of Participation associated with the Open Space Preservation District. Cam Noltemeyer brought up the issue of vote/assessment allocation that has been discussed at length by herself, Sterling King, and Jim Farley[3]. The City assured everyone that the vote was legal (the term “super-compliant” was actually used) and that the records had been made totally public because there was nothing to hide. I suspect that the explanation proved predictably unsatisfactory to the Claritans most involved in the Open Space issue. In any case, a call for transparency in government actions has remained the central theme in Council meetings ever since Boydston uttered the word “collusion” all those months ago. I doubt it's going to go away any time soon.

Random Notes:
The issue of Henry-Mayo-expansion returned briefly when Dr. Gene Dorio spoke in the public participation section. He reaffirmed his opposition to any expansion that didn't first make provisions for more operating rooms. Henry Mayo CEO Roger Seaver's attempts to spin Dorio's letter of opposition and similar letters from more than 70 other hospital staff members was called a "deception."

IHeartSCV was mentioned by TimBen Boydston, specifically a remark about the relationship between the length of City Council meetings and his presence at them, here. Gosh golly!

[1]Do you dream BIG?
[2]I don't believe this is the article cited by Boydston, but it deals with the Gilbert budget drama
[3]I present a summary here

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I believe this is the editorial TimBen cited: http://www.eastvalleytribune.com/story/100069