Thursday, March 27, 2008

Only in SCV: The Carnival Clarita Forgot

I finally got around to exploring the flashing lights and carousel music emanating from the back parking lot of Valencia Town Center[1]. I’ve driven past several times this week and was left with two questions: what the hell is this carnival and why is no one going to it?

Claritans contemplate entering the carnival grounds.

A friend and I decided to investigate and found a bona fide traveling carnival. We spoke to the lady working at the ticket booth, and she said that she and the rest of the crew travel around Southern California for 42 weeks of the year setting up their attractions (said friend: "it must be a colossal hassle to set up and tear down all those rides"; I concurred). They sleep in trailers parked on-site and move from town to town, spending perhaps a week in each one. I suppose this was my first time interacting with carnies, and I hope it will not be my last.

If you look carefully, you'll see at least four carnival patrons. (above)

Is there anything lonelier than a riderless Ferris Wheel? (below)

Our impromptu interview with the lady at the admission booth answered the first of my questions, but I was still left wondering about the second: why were there only 14 people inside the carnival gates? Certainly it wasn’t the admission price, which stood at a mere dollar-fifty. It wasn’t the lack of fun rides; there were plenty of classic carnival vomit-inducers. I think the poor attendance was (and is) explained by the water-hole phenomenon. If you’re a wildebeest in Africa, you’re not going to go drink out of pond or watering hole unless you see some other animals already there. A lack of other wildebeest could mean the water is foul or crawling with dangerous crocodiles. And what are Santa Claritans but a bunch of wildebeest? Indeed, we want to see our fellow Claritans taking part in an activity before we feel secure in joining in.

I can sympathize. I too am troubled by semi-abandoned carnival grounds where the rides have no riders and the music has a slightly sinister twang. Still, the three or four families inside looked like they were having a good time. And isn’t a vague sense of unease part of the fun of carnivals anyhow?

If you feel like exploring the Carnival-Clarita-Forgot, it will be around through Sunday. Admission is $1.50, rides are inexpensive ($15 for unlimited rides), and the gates open at 5:30p.m. You've seen the mall before--fight the wildebeest instinct and do something different. It's fun, cheap, and not around for too much longer.

[1]The area near Citrus Drive.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Happenings: A City Council Meeting of Safety, Singing, and Scandal

Per usual, tonight’s City Council meeting began with a variety show. There was a spoken word performance by Mayor Bob Kellar, award-giving/photographing-of-award-giving, and even a pack of high school singers. They gave a performance that was exceptional in its use of sparkly blue costumes, high-volume soloists, and unorthodox hand gestures.

Next, we were subjected to another installation of the Public Safety Topics of the Month series. This month, Claritans are invited to meditate and act on the heady topic of “Emergency Preparedness.” To help us in this endeavor, there was a presentation chock-full of practical tips. For instance, we learned that we should have water, a flashlight, and food around in case of an emergency—golly gee is that swell advice! It didn’t stop there. We learned that “Smoke detectors is what’s going to alert us if there’s fires” and that they should be installed in homes and properly maintained.

Eventually, though, it became time for Public Participation, formerly my favorite part of council meetings but now the cause of much dread. Indeed, the anti-Burrtec Materials Recycling Facility gang turned out in force for the third time. Gang leader Alan Ferdman wasn’t pleased. He was stood up at meetings, the plan for the MRF was only put on hold—not ended outright, and the City Council wasn’t acting swiftly or decisively enough for his tastes. About two dozen other residents near the planned recycling facility site echoed his sentiments. All want to see Burrtec stopped cold. At least two of the speakers even went to the trouble of visiting the MRF in Sun Valley where, apparently, there were papers flying around the facility and plenty of other undesirable characteristics.

Many believe that the public is entitled to be heard—I’m finding the anti-MRFers are making me reconsider this entitlement. Burrtec is already backing down, the City Manager and City Attorney have both explained that the Council must at least look over the EIR if it's submitted, and there was, once again, no item on the agenda pertaining to this topic, so the Council couldn’t act on it. I understand that the MRF is a big deal, but perhaps commenters could wait for actual developments in the Burrtec plan before rushing to express outrage.

The remainder of Public Participation focused on misdeeds of councilmembers regarding the upcoming election. Attention has shifted from Kellar to Ferry. Cam Noltemeyer, David Gauny, and Bruce McFarland were among those upset with Mayor Pro Tem Ferry for paying for flyers in support of Laurie Ender. Predictably, Bruce McFarland was bashful when he addressed Ferry, beginning: “Let’s play ‘Who broke the law?’” and encouraging the audience to determine who on the council was a “lying, cheating, un-American crook.” Ferry elected not to respond, and McFarland was likely left wondering whether his words were ever-so-slightly over the top (answer: they were).

The City Council then worked through the rest of the agenda with nary a hiccup. (Actually, Councilmember TimBen Boydston tried valiantly to get a couple of motions relating to parking carried but was shut down.) Even the skating park issue seems under control as City Staff attempts to find a suitable location for a temporary park while the present skate park is demolished and a new skate park is constructed.

There shall be no City Council meeting April 8th due to the Santa Clarita Municipal Election. Thus, until April 22nd, we’ll just have to get by on all the wonderful memories of City Councils past.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

OMG It’s Nature: Of Lizards & Lyme Disease

This is the first in a new series of post-headings: "OMG It's Nature". Originally, it was "OMG It's Freakin' Nature", but I withheld the "Freakin'" for those with more delicate sensibilities. These posts will focus on the natural goings-on in Santa Clarita.

I've decided to start with fence lizards, an oft overlooked but profoundly important part of SCV's native fauna. And they're scurrying around all over in the recent warm weather, so why not give them a shout-out? The story isn't a new one (the research I reference is nearly 10 years old), but it's one I like very much. In any case, I present to you the fence lizard (and ticks, bacteria, and rodents, too) and hope that the next time you see one, you'll exclaim "OMG It's Nature!"--in a good way.

There are plenty of animals that no one but the most ardent of tree-huggers wants to see in their yard: ants, skunks, rabbits, wasps, American Coots, etc… The list of animals we welcome with open arms is decidedly shorter, usually just some smallish birds and butterflies. To this list of beasts gleefully greeted by homeowners I propose an addition: the Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis). No, they don’t sing or flit about flowers, but they do help in the fight against Lyme Disease.

Western Fence Lizards (also called Blue-bellies) are exceedingly common, even in our own backyards. In recent weeks you’ve probably noticed them getting active again and scampering over fences, rocks, and paths. At this same time of year ticks also grow more active. I've had a couple of ticks myself, and they’re thoroughly unpleasant. Apart from the gross-factor (who likes having an invertebrate parasite stick its head in your bloodstream?) public health officials point to a long list of tick-borne diseases[1]. There’s Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, Tularemia, Babesioisis, and--most infamously--Lyme Disease.

Lyme Disease is caused by a spirochete bacteria called Borrelia burgdorferi. Locally, it is the black-legged tick (Ixodes pacificus) that is responsible for passing on the spirochetes to the blood stream of their human hosts. When this happens, Lyme Disease follows.

Happily, we have Western Fence Lizards on our side. Not only do they eat ticks, but they cure the ticks that bite them of the Lyme Disease spirochete.

Indeed, when an immature tick (called a “nymph”) happens to bite onto a lizard for its blood meal, something remarkable happens. As the tick feeds, proteins in the lizard’s blood serum destroy spirochetes in the tick’s gut. Thus, when the tick is finished feeding and drops off the lizard, it is no longer a carrier of B. burgdorferi and won’t cause Lyme Disease in the next animal (including humans) that it bites.

The experimental support for this phenomenon is exceptionally strong. In a 1998 study by Robert Lane and Gary Quistad at UC Berkeley, 10 fence lizards were captured and brought into the lab[2]. The researchers placed 10 nymphs on each lizard. These nymphs were from a colony of ticks that were confirmed carriers of the Lyme Disease causing spirochete. After the ticks finished feeding on lizard blood, Lane and Quistad re-tested them for presence of the spirochete. Precisely 0% of the ticks were infected.

In a complementary experiment, the researchers dropped live spirochetes into blood serum drawn from lizards or mice. The spirochetes did just fine in the mouse blood, living for 2 or 3 days, but all of the spirochetes were destroyed after just one hour in culture with lizard blood serum. The protein responsible for destroying the spirochete seems to be present in other local lizard species as well, such as the alligator lizard[3].

Western Fence Lizards: not only are they fun to watch, their blood carries, in the words of Lane & Quistad, a "thermolabile Borreliacidal factor"! I'd look more excited if I had some of those.

As very common hosts of tick nymphs, Western fence lizards do us a great service in destroying the spirochetes responsible for Lyme Disease. Studies have begun to investigate how effectively lizards reduce the prevalence of the bacteria in ticks in the wild, and this work should be of great interest to those working in the fields of public health or epidemiology.

The Western Fence Lizard has a relatively small range—primarily just California, Oregon, and Nevada--so Santa Clarita is lucky to fall within this area. And since the lizards are doing so much for us, perhaps we should consider being a little more welcoming to the likable little reptiles. Rock piles for basking and abstaining from pesticides would be great. Keeping pet cats inside (have you ever noticed how many lizards cats take?) would be even better. I know that prioritizing wildlife over an exceptionally green lawn is decidedly unnatural for most Claritans, but it might be worth a try.

Now, just because we have lizards whose blood proteins destroy Lyme Disease spirochetes doesn’t mean we don’t have to worry about Lyme Disease. Infected nymphs and adult ticks will likely always be around, at least in small numbers. In California, there are new incidents of Lyme Disease every year, and it’s important to take the threat seriously. Still, it’s nice to know that our risk of the disease may be lessened by our friends, the fence lizards.

[1]Ticks, like mosquitoes, are shockingly good at spreading disease. Both of these bugs are essentially just biological syringes, and I’m sure mom warned you not to share syringes with your friends.
[2]Source: R.S. Lane & G.B. Quistad. 1998. Borreliacidal factor in the blood of the western fence lizard (Sceloperous occidentalis). Journal of Parasitology vol. 84, pp. 29-34.
[3]Source: M.M. Kuo, R.S. Lane & P.C. Giclas. 2000. A comparative study of mammalian and reptilian alternative pathway of complement-mediated killing of the Lyme Disease spirochete (Borrelia burgdorferi). Journal of Parasitology vol. 86, pp.1223-1228.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Happenings: Open Space Saga, Part 458 (at least)

Last July, Claritans gave their support to establishing an Open Space Preservation District. Since then, things have gotten progressively more complicated with no end in sight. Below, Jim Farley--Open Space watchdog extraordinaire--details the newest chapter in this story. But first, I think we could do with a little recap.

1. In 2007, a measure to establish an Open Space Preservation District was presented. Open space was to be funded by a $25/year assessment on home owners. The assessment was to potentially increase by $1 per year as well.

2. Roughly similar attempts to have property owners foot the bill for open space acquisition historically failed, as in 2005.

3. This most recent attempt was much better funded. Scott Wilk, who needs no introduction, ran the campaign. Where the money to support Wilk's efforts came from remains unclear (or at least I haven't heard anything about it).

4. When it came time to vote, the open space initiative was approved by a large majority.

5. It was discovered soon after the vote that 7 large property owners (e.g. Whitaker-Bermite and a few developers) held about 25% of the voting power. Their ballots were supposed to be weighted based on how much of the assessment they would pay. However, the large property owners were being assessed as little as 6% of the assessment amount used to weight their votes. This troubling voting scheme is dictated, apparently, by Proposition 218. Click here for more details and figures. For the City's interpretation, click here[1].

6. The City was charged with appointing an Open Space Financial Accountability & Audit Panel. Despite having five qualified applicants by the first deadline, the City chose to extend the process to accommodate [supposedly] those affected by fires.

7. But all in all, about $35 million worth of open space should be a good thing, right?

Actually, #7 is exactly the problem. Jim Farley discusses a memo below that says parks and park facilities, not just open space, would be valid uses of the assessment money. [NOTE: the City's website says 10% or less of the assessment will go towards "improved active parkland"; where park facilities fit in I'm unsure]

Last years passage of the Open Space Preservation District happened largely because the voters were led to believe that revenue from the assessment could be used solely for the purchase of vacant land to be held into perpetuity as open space. The voters were lied to.

Here is the background:

In 2007 the property owners in the City of Santa Clarita approved the Open Space Preservation District that applies an assessment to their property tax to be used to purchase vacant land. The measure was essentially the same as a measure that was voted down by the property owners in 2005. In the campaign to convince the citizens of Santa Clarita to vote yes on the Open Space Preservation District the number one selling point used was that the measure “was different this time” (2007 vs. 2005). In 2005 the measure failed largely because the money from the assessment could be used for any purpose within the cities Open Space, Park, and Parkland program. The money could have been used for maintenance or construction of facilities in existing parks in addition to being used to purchase open space. The “difference”, being sold in 2007, was the assurance that the money from the assessment could only be used for the purchase of vacant land. This was being promoted by council members, city employees, and the Open Space Committee. The promotion was instrumental in moving enough voters from their 2005 NO vote to a 2007 YES vote and helped to ensure the measures passage. The promotion was also a lie.

The lie has now been exposed in a memorandum to Santa Clarita Councilmembers from Special Legal Counsel Maryann Goodkind dated November 27, 2007. The memorandum was a response to a question Councilmember Boydston raised concerning the use of funds for the district. The memorandum states “The short answer is that Assessment District funds may be used to construct park facilities by law” [emphasis added]. In order to ensure that the funds are used solely for the purchase of vacant land the council must approve the issuance of Certificates of Participation for that purpose. Certificates of Participation (COP) are a financial instrument used by the city to borrow the money for land acquisition, and are paid back by the 30 year revenue stream from the property tax assessment. When they are issued, and only then, do they by contract tie up the money only to be used for the purchase of vacant land.

On November 13, 2007 the council approved the issuance of COP’s in the amount of $17,200,000. This is about one half of the projected revenue stream of approximately 35 million dollars. The difference can still be used for any other purpose within the Park and Parkland program. Why is the city not moving forward and issuing the COP’s for all of the money so it will be used only for the acquisition of land as promised? The city has finally seated the Financial Accountability and Audit Panel for the preservation district. While I was not chosen to serve on the panel I have relayed this information to panel member Alan Ferdman so the panel can be diligent in following up on this.

My organization had many dedicated people who were committed to getting the true message to the citizens on this measure. It is unconscionable that there were those in the city who were willing to do anything to see this measure approved, even lying to their constituents. I spoke early on during the campaign about the lack of trust coming from our city on this issue. The lack of trust continues. This is not likely to change with the council election coming up. All candidates have expressed their endorsement of this measure. Most have bragged that they were active participants in bring this measure to the city.

Jim Farley

Farley is right that this memo is troubling. I'm not sure the lies were intentional, though; it would be easy to inadvertantly overlook some of the legal ramifications of the assessment language. However, there’s a simple solution: at the next City Council meeting, each member of council could clarify their position on what the assessment money should be used for. Saying something as simple as “Even though the money could be used for other purposes, I’m committed to using it to acquire open space only.” This would allow us to chalk up the legal complexities of what assessment funds can purchase to nothing more than unintentional oversight.

As the current chapter in the on-going open space debacle, and I’m sure we’ll be seeing the memo mentioned in letters to the editor and at the next City Council meeting. As for the next chapter, I’d like to see more attention paid to how land acquisitions are being prioritized, a hugely important consideration.

[1]They use some questionable reasoning. For example, just because one group represents 65% of voters doesn't mean they "control the vote"--things are a little more complex than that.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Happenings: Golden Valley Ranch Partnership Means 900 Acres of Open Space

NOTE: As the ever-vigilant G. Ortiz noted in the comments, the event was at 11am today, not noon. If, by some small chance, you attended at noon based on the information presented here, I offer you an apologetic air-hug.

It’s late notice, but there’s something exciting going on tomorrow. The City has partnered with Pardee Homes and PacSun LLC to set aside some 900 acres (~1.4 square miles) of open space. The so-called Golden Valley Ranch is situated in eastern SCV[1].

I do not excel at geography, but I am fairly confident the open space dedication will protect land somewhere around the bottom half of this map, or thereabouts. (I think that's sufficiently evasive language).

I know it’s not an entirely rosy picture—developers are required by law to mitigate environmental damage these days, and plenty of other wildlands in Santa Clarita are under threat—but more than a square-mile of open space is still a big deal, especially in our City. If you want to go to the Wednesday, March 12 dedication at 11am, the press release directs you thusly: “The dedication event will take place at the Golden Valley Ranch trail head, located at Big Cedar Drive and Hidden Willow Drive, just off Via Princessa and Marsha McLean Parkway.” I know, those are a lot of names to take in, and I have comments about them all (Marsha McLean Parkway? Big Cedar Drive?) but I choose instead to smile, knowing that a decent chunk of the SCV will stay in a natural state. And who doesn't heart that?

[1]It’s not clear whether there will be an anti-celebration should coyotes from the Golden Valley Ranch open space area start devouring pets in the nearby Golden Valley Ranch homes.

Happenings: MRF Madness, Kellar Critics at City Council Meeting

Oh…my…Lord…there were two-and-a-half hours of public participation at tonight’s City Council meeting. At 3 minutes max per comment, that’s a lot of Claritans with a lot to say. I am in the midst of a rather demanding project right now (thus the dearth of new posts for the past couple of weeks), but things will be considerably better starting next Wednesday. In any case, work and a vociferous public have dictated that I restrict my recap to the public participation portion of tonight’s City Council meeting.

The onslaught of oration began with anti-Burrtec comments, part deux. All Burrtec wants to do is install a Materials Recycling Facility (i.e., indoor dump with high turnover of garbage) next to some Newhall/Canyon Country neighborhoods. But the fine people of Santa Clarita simply will not have said MRF nor the 872 truck trips a day that come with it.

I lost count of commentors after a while because they all seemed to converge on a few common messages. I’ve enumerated these for your convenience:

1. The proposed MRF will be smelly, ugly, and generally unpleasant to live next to.
2. It’s not technically a dump, but there will always be trash present at the facility, so it might as well be a dump.
3. Nearly 1000 garbage trucks every day plus the cars of MRF personnel would make not for traffic headaches but traffic migraines on Sierra Highway.
4. The MRF should be sited next to an existing landfill, not a neighborhood.

Some took things to a personal level when it came to this heated issue. At least two Santa Claritans called out Councilmember Marsha McLean, who took several minutes to complain about an ugly electrical pole earlier in the evening. One woman said “Worried about an unsightly utility pole? Try a dump.” Cringeworthy, no? Other commenters noted that this was a sensitive time with City Council seats up for grabs, and the Council should be more responsive to the public outcry against the MRF. Still others pointed out what they thought was blatant hypocrisy: the City opposes CEMEX on the grounds of pollution and traffic aggravation, but they’re not unified in opposition to the Burrtec MRF that will bring about its own pollution and traffic problems.

Throughout this barrage, Ken Pulskamp and Mayor Kellar made feeble attempts to fight back. Our City Manager told us that “the City is not proposing it [the MRF]; Burrtec is proposing it.” Mayor Kellar reminded everyone that they were only entertaining an environmental impact report, not signing off on the project. But even with these reminders and the Mayor’s request that the audience withhold applause, there was much clapping for Alan Ferdman when he claimed that it was "inappropriate" to so much as consider the MRF. In short, Pleasant Valley and other homeowners made their stance clear: a Materials Recycling Facility off Sierra Highway is completely unacceptable. The attack may be preemptive, even premature, but homeowners want to be sure their opposition is heeded.

Then there were comments targeting Mayor Bob Kellar. Bruce McFarland demanded Kellar follow-the-rules-or-resign not once but twice in a three-minute speech (this is in relation to Kellar's failure to disclose annual earnings, something required of California public officials). Lynne Plambeck looked like she needed a hug as she spoke about how nasty Scott Wilk (who is now working on the re-elect Kellar campaign) has been to her in election mailers through the years. Kellar responded per usual by saying “Thank you Mr./Mrs./Ms. So-and-so. Our next speaker is…” Only after everyone had their turn did he defend himself. I’m not sure who to side with in these Kellar-centered debates. There are conflicting signals. Critics imply improprieties because Kellar has his hands in both City business and the real estate business. At the same time, Kellar comes off as a stoic, generally decent guy who seems like he’s trying to keep his public and private lives separate--who can blame him? Whichever of the two it is, it’s clear that serving on the City Council and trying to lead a private life in Santa Clarita can cause for some serious friction.

I fully recognize that many insanely important things happened after the first three hours of City Council this evening, but for tonight, this shall have to do.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Happenings: Planning Commission Resolves to Recommend

Tonight’s Planning Commission meeting brought Santa Clarita one step closer to annexing Hasley Hills/Castaic in the non-binding, not-really-anything-but-quasi-symbolic way we Claritans love so much.

By a vote of 5-0, the Commission acted per the agenda recommendation[1]:

“Staff recommends the Planning Commission open the public hearing; receive testimony from the public; and adopt Resolution No. P08-04, recommending to the City Council that it adopt a resolution to adopt the Negative Declaration and approve Master Case 07-206; General Plan Amendment 07-003, Prezone 08-002, Annexation 07-003, and Sphere of Influence Amendment 07-001 for the Hasley Hills/Valencia Commerce Center Annexation.”

I know—it’s like Russian dolls. We have a recommendation to adopt a resolution to recommend adoption of a resolution in one masterfully constructed sentence. The impression I got, essentially, is that the City is just laying the groundwork that will make potential future annexation into Santa Clarita faster and easier for Castaicians, our neighbors to the north.

Commissioners Dennis Ostrum and Diane Trautman wanted to be sure that the recommended actions wouldn’t prevent citizens in Castaic from deciding if they annex into Santa Clarita or incorporate on their own. Sharon Sorenson clarified things: LAFCO has mechanisms to ensure majority rule, so even with pre-zoning and general plan amending, Castaic could still incorporate rather than annex into Santa Clarita. It's up to the residents.

Who, then, would try and stand in the way of a little pre-zoning and sphere-of-influence-amending? Steve Teeman of the Castaic Area Town Council[2], for one, was opposed. He talked about the 3,000-strong community of Hasley Hills pushing actions like this one forward while the other 22,000 Castaic residents want to make sure the community acts in a unified way and it its collective best interest. Also from the Castaic Area Town Council was John Kunac. He condemned the planned action, saying “There’s no information yet!” Kunac was not against annexation per se, but he wants the public to see a study on annexation due out early next year before any actions are taken. He expressed skepticism over just how much Castaic stands to gain from annexation. Further, he claimed that the City of Santa Clarita is trying to carve out for itself the one portion of Castaic that will make incorporation for the remainder of Castaic financially unviable.

Despite these pleas, Kennedy, Burhart, and Ostrum noted that they were just facilitating future actions and not doing (or recommending the City do) anything drastic and unalterable.

I laid out my own set of rules for annexation in this March's piece in inside SCV[3] magazine. Unfortunately, my recommendations are not yet part of the annexation dialogue.

[1]Full City of Santa Clarita Planning Commission agenda available here.
Castaic Area Town Council site.
[3]The magazine and my article

Monday, March 3, 2008

Happenings: Trivia Nights Return to SCV (rejoice at will)

LA has started catching up with the rest of the nation over the past couple of years with trivia nights at bars, pubs, eateries, and what-have-yous. Until a few months ago, Santa Clarita was even in on the action. Every week, you could head to the Rose and Crown (you know, the little British pub on Lyons in the 99-cent store parking lot) to eat fish & chips, drink beer, and answer questions about the winner of the 2002 Oscar for Best Picture or the most populous city in Finalnd. You jotted down answers after vigorous debate with your table over who really knew their game show hosts or pasta shapes better. You dreamed of winning the $25 gift certificate, proof of your supremacy in the trivia realm. Things got competitive as your table tried to shut out that family of seven that won every week. There were highs and there were lows. It was team trivia, and it was good.

And then it all went away. Personally, I blame a certain M.C. (“Trivia Master”) whose name starts with a J- and ends with an –osh…but I will stop short of naming names. His 80s announcer voice, while occasionally amusing, could not win the love Santa Claritans had already lavished upon former announcer, Tara. Slowly, teams that once competed regularly began to show up less often and, eventually, the Rose and Crown bid trivia nights a stern British farewell.

It's back, cheesy logo and all. Click here to go the the King Trivia website.

After months and months of wandering through a cold, trivialess valley, trivia night returned to the SCV just last week. My fellow Claritans, I urge you to partake in this most universally appealing of activities. Here’s what to do/expect:

1. Show up to Chuy’s on Wednesday nights before 8pm with friends, family, love interests, or nice vagrants you meet at College of the Canyons. (Any group is fine; trivia nights draw families, twenty-something hipsters, and groups of jaded baby-boomers alike). Chuy’s Mesquite Broiler Restaurant is the Mexican place located on the Old Road in Stevenson Ranch. I know, it’s hard for me to leave Santa Clarita proper, too, but I think a foray into Stevenson Ranch for some trivia is forgivable. If anyone asks, say you only left the City of SC to keep an eye on the shady characters in SR.

2. Sit on the patio (that’s where the action is).

3. Determine your team name. Try something local, like Team Flemwatch or Saucy Saugusans.

Luc presides over the trvia fest.

4. Order some drinks and eats and let the trivia unfold. Trivia Master “Luc” will guide you through seven rounds of questions over an hour-and-a-half or thereabouts. There is no pressure; you scribble down answers your table agrees on and hand them in. Whoever has the highest score at the end of the night gets a gift certificate to Chuy’s, and there are opportunities to win free rounds and other goodins if you are particularly adept at Simon Says or Rock, Paper, Scissors.

Having now devoted nigh on 500 words to promoting Wednesday Trivia Night at Chuy’s, you may suspect I have some selfish interest in the fate of said trivia night. I do. I want to challenge you and your team in trivia, and it’s so much the funner when there’s a good turn-out. Come on, Claritans, I know you are all very good at eating and drinking and feeling competitive with your neighbors. So why not do what you do best? It's time for trivia.

P.S. One of the answers this Wednesday night will be "Vienna." I promise.