Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happenings: Boydston Out, Ender In

On this twenty-second day of April, there were not one but two meetings to endure—enjoy?—at Santa Clarita’s City Hall. The first represented a changing of the guard and the second represented Laurie Ender’s public debut and first chance to prove herself as a Councilmember. I suppose I shall discuss both.

I served on City Council and all I got was this Lousy Plaque…

Tonight, it was time for TimBen Boydston to end his 18-month stint on the City Council. A protracted farewell comprised the bulk of a special pre-meeting meeting.

City Manager Ken Pulskamp was the first to thank Boydston for being so willing to take on all the demands associated with serving on the City Council. Councilmember Marsha McLean called her time with Boydston “fun”, and was also deeply appreciative. I was uncertain how Mayor Pro-tem Frank Ferry was going to address TimBen. He decided to sum things up in a light-hearted way, saying “I know you and I had some fun moments both publicly and privately” in reference to their verbal scuffles[1]. Councilmember Weste seemed exhausted as she described all the sacrifices one must make to serve on the Council and thanked TimBen for being willing to make these. Mayor Bob Kellar too was, you guessed it, appreciative.

Then it was TimBen’s chance to hold the talking stick. He expressed his own gratitude towards people who had helped him while on the Council. If it had been the Oscars, the orchestra would have played him off stage after the first twenty, but SCV is more willing to indulge its departing public servants. I’ll spare you the vast list, but he said thanks to folks like Paul Brotzman, people in the City Attorney’s office, administrative professionals on the third floor of City Hall, Gail Ortiz—“High Priestess of Propaganda”, and his fellow members of Council. He gave a shout-out to those representing “different” voices in the dialogue that is Santa Clarita: Jeff Wilson (SCVTalk), Linda Slocum (SantaClaritaRealEstateBlog), and even lilolIHeartSCV (I suppose linking here would be redundant).

Boydston then moved on to a discussion of the future. He was optimistic about his replacement, Laurie Ender, believing that she will not just bend to the will of certain councilmembers. He hoped out loud that she will “surprise them much as I did”. TimBen Boydston’s closing tokens were copies of a guide to ethics passed out to all Councilmembers. “May God Bless the City of Santa Clarita” he finished, earning enthusiastic applause.

But that wasn’t the end! Nay, state senator and assemblymen reps were sent to thank him and offer scrolls, letters, plaques, and other arcane forms of written appreciation. The public addressed Boydston, too. David Gauny of SmartGrowthSCV went through some of Boydston’s greatest hits—hospital hard-headedness and increasing arts funding, among others—all while managing to take a swipe at Field of Dreams and indirectly snub Laurie Ender. Bruce McFarland declared TimBen an “honorary democrat” for having acted so ethically and selflessly, thereby eliciting some hearty laughs. Said Cam Noltemeyer, who was grateful for TimBen's push for lobbyist registration: “What a breath of fresh air you were […] We expect you to be coming back up here in two years.” It's not as though Boydston was such a radical or discordant force on the Council, but he was willing to ask uncomfortable questions and really gave thought to the issues he was deciding. He was also persistent, asking lots of questions and giving excellent follow-up on issues (like his 19th public reminder that Field of Dreams is a misnomer). Tony Newhall summed up most of the sentiments expressed by Claritans quite well: “Thank you for being your own man.”

Thereafter, City Clerk Sharon Dawson swore in Laurie Ender next to the City Seal. She received some pretty thunderous applause and looked very pleased. When given her first chance to speak, Ender gave a speech that was a mix of sincere gratitude, the word “honored”, and track and field analogies. Mayor Bob Kellar then took the oath yet again to more thunderous applause.

New Meeting, New Group of Outraged Citizens

For the trend-conscious, outraged Santa Claritan, getting upset about MRFs was so last month. April is all about opposing the Avenue at Santa Clarita[2], a project that developer Monteverde Companies is proposing for what was once the Smiser mule farm. The initial plans include a massive hotel, seven restaurants, and very high-density commercial space packed into a parcel that the reasonable would call far too small. More details on it and helpful graphics can be found on the new site being run by WeThePeopleSCV.

More than twenty Claritans showed up to speak out against this project tonight, and twice as many submitted written comments in opposition[4]. David Gauny suggested that proposing a ludicrous over-development for the site was all part of Jeff Lambert’s[3] plan: “The game goes like this […] the project comes back and it’s reduced 25% […and] the public appears unreasonable because the developer’s done all of these reductions”. Boydston elaborated on Monteverde/Lambert’s transparent, audacious ploy.

After Public Participation on the Avenue at Santa Clarita ended, Old Town Newhall was discussed. Streetscaping and new parking structures are going to be phased in, which five local business owners/commenters thought would be murder on businesses already struggling to survive in the area. They advocated fixing things up all at once to avoid becomin an area forever under construction. Tearing down whole portions of blocks and rebuilding brand new buildings were activities casually mentioned in this discussion, too; it’s going to be interesting (i.e., terrifying) to see how everything turns out.

The last little issue of contention was whether attorney-client privilege would be waived in a matter concerning Bob Kellar--among others--, forms, and finances. This issue arose near election time, and releasing the confidential memo was the City’s way of showing there was nothing to hide. Still, Mayor Pro-Tem Ferry was very upset at the idea of acquiescing to the demands of Kellar/Council critics, calling the relationship between attorney and client one of sanctity. Ultimately, he was out-voted.

The question of the night, though, was how did brand new Councilmember Laurie Ender do? Well, she was lavished with indignation by Cam Noltemeyer, asked a couple of questions, and mentioned near and dear community events when she had her chance to address the public. Overall, I think she’ll fit in just fine.

[1]Or his verbal bullying, depending on your perspective. I thought it was interesting that he added the “and privately.” What goes on behind those closed council doors?
[2]Their site can be found here. Monteverde Companies, incidentally, is based in Santa Clarita.
[3]The man with an uncomfortable blend of private and public planning/consulting experience. His website.

[4]This represented a decidedly pre-emptive strike; they have yet to even contract with a company to produce the EIR.

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