Shortly after the meeting began, Mayor Kellar’s leaky water glass began to mar his notes and agenda. It was then that I fantasized about being able to write “Faulty cup brings City Council meeting to a premature close.” Alas, it was not to be.
After professing allegiance to our Motherland and recognition of some high school kids who are awfully good at sports, it was time for our monthly lesson in public safety. I trust I wasn’t the only one delighted to hear some super-helpful summer security tips. For instance, sleeping with an open window is unsafe, especially for females living alone! And don’t forget to lock your doors before you go to sleep, either. What clever ways to foil thieves and rapists--thanks, City of SC!
Public Participation came next, and perennial podium fixture Allen I-am-the-Chair-of-the-Canyon-Country-Advisory-Committee Ferdman defended the tactic of citizen bombardment of the Council over traffic concerns. He noted a lack of progress on the Benz Road problem—to be discussed later in the evening—and other local traffic problems as evidence. People involved in the Canvas/Linda Vista traffic headache expressed preemptive support for the Benz issue as well. Indeed, before the agenda item dealing with Benz Road had even been reached, people were already getting riled up and giving us a taste of what was to come.
City Manager Ken Pulskamp fought back with a cool, logical (but ultimately unsatisfying) “I ask that everybody keep an open mind.” Pulskamp shone more brightly in his discussion of 08/09 Operating Budget draft. The good news was that the City will “maintain financial solvency” through this period. Still, he cautioned “This is not the year to be taking on new, significant expenditures”, citing growth in the general fund of a paltry 1%. The general financial picture painted, he offered us the chance to ruminate on some more specific budget highlights. Among these: $200,000 to work towards a resolution with CEMEX; $100,000 for Old Town Newhall professional services and marketing; two commuter buses; demolition in preparation for the (second) Newhall Library; and new positions like a tree specialist, commercial enforcement deputy, and community preservation officer. Budgeting for the expansion of Central Park and Phase IV of the Santa Clarita Sports Complex was also discussed. Pulskamp summarized his presentation by stating that because the City budget has been “conservative and balanced”, we will still be seeing improvements and expansions while many other cities cut back in the face of a less-than-ideal economy. The budget will be up for formal approval at the June 24th meeting.
The only speaker on the budget was TimBen Boydston. Miraculously, he resurrected the spectre of Big League Dreams, asking whether it’s the wisest investment in the current economy. Pulskamp responded by saying that the Big League Dream Feasibility Study is already underway but has been allotted no additional resources.
Before moving on, Councilmember Laurene Weste gave a plea that the City budget to help out the Senior Center. Apparently, a sum of $75,000 is urgently needed to help support the Meals-on-Wheels program so vital to the senior community. Said Weste “You cannot let grandmas and grandpas of America starve in their communities.” Everyone largely fell in line behind the need to ensure funding, and the City Manager promised to make sure this was reflected when the budget returned on the 24th.
Then it was time to deal with traffic on Benz Road. This is one of many instances in the valley where “residential streets carry major traffic flows” as A. Ferdman nicely summed it up. People looking for shortcuts drive on Benz Road at high rates of speed. This in turn threatens the safety of residents and diminishes the quality of life for homeowners. But if you block traffic flow through Benz, cut-through drivers will simply destroy the quality of life for people living on adjacent streets. Andrew Yi, City Traffic Engineer, made a presentation covering the results of a recent survey on this very dilemma.
T’would’st have been better for Mr. Yi if this survey had ne'er been sent out.
Indeed, it pitted neighbor against neighbor, was extraordinarily biased, and it delivered the predicted result: most people want the traffic patterns on Benz Road to stay the same because they like using it as a shortcut. There were plenty of Benz Road residents ready to give the survey the skewering it so richly deserved, and plenty of nearby residents ready to support it in hopes that the traffic headaches wouldn’t be diverted their way.
Here is a small sampling of what was said. I withhold credit for the quotations because I think I got the names mixed up along the way—so much for blogger credibility, eh?
“Andrew…you’re throwing us under the bus. There’ve been many times when…I don’t know what to say I’m so angry right now.”
“Convenience is never as important as safety.”
“I’m very disappointed in the City Council. You have not kept your word, nor do I believe you ever intended to.”
“The situation is going to go from nightmare to beyond belief.”
“Part of good government is good planning.”
“You do not throw an entire neighborhood to the sharks.”
“How much longer do they have to live like this?”
Some of these comments got really dramatic—even tearful. One woman claimed that as she crossed the street, a motorist accelerated from his pause at a stop sign and tried to hit her! We even heard the story of a man who brandished a gun after a Benz Street woman told him to slow down! The lives and safety of children were said to be riding on how the Benz Road issue was resolved.
Councilmember Marsha McLean demonstrated her frustration over all this. “What are the physical solutions? Period! That’s all. What are the solutions?”
Mayor Pro-Tem Frank Ferry took a different approach, urging thoughtful decision-making since any decision will make a policy statement. He brought up de facto policies of never cul-de-sac-ing public roads or adding speed bumps.
The discussion vollied back and forth from City Attorney to Yi to councilmembers to Pulskamp for a while, with the only conclusion being that enough direction has been given for the City to work on and Ken Pulskamp to report back shortly. In short, it is far from "over", and everyone will be trying to answer to the disparate demands of residents of Benz Road, their worried neighbors, and convenience-seeking commuters.