At this first City Council meeting of 2008, CEMEX mining has again moved to the forefront of Clarita’s collective consciousness. It’s the headache that keeps on aching; we’ve been talking about CEMEX since the last millennium (i.e., 1999)! Tonight, however, we got a special treat. It was a discussion of two brilliant suggestions to resolve the conflict between CEMEX and the City of Santa Clarita provided by none other than United States Senator Dianne Feinstein.
As it stands, the City wants to prohibit mining in excess of historical mining levels. That is, only 300,000 tons of material can be removed each year. Senator Dianne Feinstein, devoted environmentalist, asked the City to consider increasing this level by a factor of five. After all, CEMEX has a God-given right to turn a profit on the land, and CEMEX claimed it would need to extract 1,500,000 tons of sand and gravel each year for its project to be “economically viable.” That translates into 757 smoggy, sand-dropping, road-clogging truck trips a day for decades to come.
An even better idea was the option of saddling taxpayers with a $170 million bond to buy out CEMEX’s lease. It would have to be approved by voters, but it’s an option. The thing is, the Bureau of Land Management would still own the sand and gravel mineral rights on the land in question and could actually sell them again. I’ll say that one more time: taxpayers could buy out CEMEX and the BLM could then re-sell the mining rights to someone else. Inexplicably, this perfect little solution was dismissed by the Council!
Councilmember TimBen Boydston responded appropriately. In a composed, mini-tirade he remarked: “I was under the impression that she [Feinstein] was trying to help us. […] Is someone on her staff smoking particulates from mining? […] This is not help in any way.” Speakers like Andrew Fried and Pauline Harte agreed that CEMEX must be continue to be fought. Thus, Santa Clarita remains opposed to the mining.
Boydston also made some interesting remarks about another favored issue, the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital expansion project. By Paul Brotzman’s estimate, it won’t be discussed again until May because of hold-ups with the hospital’s revised Environmental Impact Report. Boydston noted that Roger Seaver et al. had been pushing hard for a timely resolution to the expansion but that “Now, suddenly, it doesn’t seem to be quite so important.” He knows what’s up. As SCVTalker J-to-the-Wilson and other Claritan commentators have wryly noted, waiting for a new, presumably Boydston-less Council after the April elections might make it easier for HMNMH to get its plans approved. This new tack means SCV’s 2007 buzzword of “collusion” must now be replaced with buzzphrase “strategic, quasi-slimy, manipulative delays". That’s not quite as catchy, is it?
In an unusual show of restraint, Cam Noltemeyer spoke only about half a dozen times this evening. Her resounding theme was that more building—in the form of a new Civic Center, HMNMH’s expansion, the Westfield mall expansion, the 21,000 units in Newhall Ranch—would exacerbate already existing problems. Apparently, forcing too much stuff into too little space can actually decrease quality of life and increase traffic congestion. Obviously, we must temper Cam’s views with what we have to gain from all the new building— 60,000 new neighbors and a Cheesecake Factory.
Apart from CEMEX and development, the Council discussed and approved Mayor Kellar’s pet initiative, a $40K investment in a year-long series of informative safety months. This was quite timely, as Old Orchard resident Edith Coranzo had expressed concern over increased gang activity earlier in the evening. In Kellar’s own words, “important information on issues of importance” will be disseminated to the public.
The evening closed with a discussion of a chance to build a new Civic Center to improve the current, out-dated courthouse and Sheriff's department. Ken Pulskamp could scarcely contain his giddy enthusiasm for the prospect of uniting State, County, and City into one grand, centralized center. In infomercial-like fashion, he noted this was a limited-time opportunity. After the Council and public offered comments, a bold, daring plan of action was approved:
“RECOMMENDED ACTION: Discuss and allow the City Manager to continue discussions with Los Angeles County Supervisor Antonovich's Office.”
Indeed, discussions shall be allowed! Rejoice at will.
*NOTE: Laurene Weste wasn’t at the meeting tonight because she was in a traffic accident on the way to the meeting. We hope she’s alright and wish her the best.
A good place to get background on this issue is this interview that covers one chapter of the ever-evolving CEMEX affair. Complex issues of land ownership, mineral rights, leasing, air quality, etc… are discussed in relation to Stonecrest—remember that?
Senator Feinstein’s website. Be sure to click on “Breakfast with Dianne”. Sounds like a bad sitcom, no?