Monday, February 18, 2008

Only in SCV: City Council Candidates Debate

Brace yourself for a barrage of numbers: On the 15th, Claritans were treated to two hours with the five candidates vying for two City Council seats[1,2]. (Barrage over). The debate brought us a little bit of everything. Bob Spierer critiqued Newhall Hardware’s business plan (too much money tied up in inventory, apparently), Maria Gutzeit mentioned eminent domain, Laurie Ender said “soccer dads”…

I’m going to skip over the stuff on which all of the candidates agreed, namely that we should improve traffic, have a good relationship with LA County, and encourage business in the SCV. After warming up with these easy issues, I was happy to hear Stephen K. Peeples[3] ask about Henry Mayo.

Generally, everyone agreed that we need a hospital expansion and another new hospital to boot. The candidates could have easily addressed whether they wanted to see all of the proposed medical office buildings go in, etc., but few did. Kellar, Spierer, and Gutzeit skirted specific answers by saying they were helpless until they had the revised Environmental Impact Report for the hospital expansion in hand. Ender was more direct, saying that HMNMH is “our one and only hospital” and advocating expansion until a new hospital facility is built. Trautman was the most specific, however, saying that she would support 2 of the 4 proposed medical office buildings with a mandate for the inpatient building. She reminded us that she spent hundreds of hours looking at plans and contracts regarding HMNMH as part of the City Planning Commission.

As for what to do about Canyon Country and eastern Santa Clarita in general, candidates got controversial. They made outlandish suggestions for things like graffiti control, code enforcement, a community center, and more community-enhancing amenities. Additionally, it was all aboard the Stop CEMEX Express after Spierer mentioned the mega-mining project.

Maria Gutzeit’s candor about redevelopment in Newhall got everyone’s attention. She said “I would say that, um, we’ve been afraid to utter the big scary word about eminent domain, and instead we have businesses that are dying a slow death. I’m very scared that downtown Newhall is going to be boarded up soon.” Gutzeit says business owners in Old Town know what is coming and deserve to be bought out fairly and promptly.

Kellar took a different tack, encouraging us to be charitable and donate our purchases to needy private businesses. Trautman echoed some of these sentiments.

Spierer won major points for offering business advice: “We need to work with those business owners and educate them.” Newhall Hardware, for example, wasn't sufficiently "educated" to know how to efficiently handle its inventory.

Finally, Ender asked of the redevelopment project “Does the end justify the means?”, noting—as other candidates did—that Newhall is in the midst of a rough transition period. She suggested that a perfect storm of local construction and downturns in the national economy was working against businesses. Unfortunately, there was no forecast for when the storm would clear.

If you survived these two hours and have a masochistic streak, you don't have to wait long for your next fix. Just two days from now (February 20th) we get to hear from City Council candidates again.

[1]For election information, visit Vote Santa Clarita .
[2]The debate can be heard on KHTS website here.
[3]For a lesson in humility, visit Mr. Peeples's website.

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