Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Happenings: In God We Trust

Even with no explicit mention of the Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, tonight’s meeting contemplated the role of God in Santa Clarita. More precisely, the Council considered whether God’s name belongs on city seals and in dance studios, but I will address those topics as they chronologically arose in tonight’s summary of the CC meeting.

The meeting got off to a late start[1] as a closed session runnethed-over its allotted time. The City Council discussed the latest pony coming round the litigation carousel (a law-suit over landslides). Only after staring at the “City of Santa Clarita City Council Meeting Will Begin Momentarily” banner for 16 minutes did the meeting at last began.

Councilmember Ender convocated by discussing autism and Autism Awareness Month. She read one mother’s comparison of living with an autistic child to ending up in Holland when you planned to go to Italy. Ender then segued into recognition of the City’s development of Project Lifesaver. This collaborative effort gives wristbands that can be tracked by law enforcement to what Project Lifesaver International describes as “Alzheimer’s, Autism, and Special Needs Wanderers.” It’s quite literally Lo-Jack for people[2]. The program will surely give peace of mind to families of autistic children and others lacking self-sufficiency and prone to “wandering.” Finally, there was a resolution to recognize Autism Awareness Month, and many came forward to take pictures beneath the City Seal, as goes without saying.

The next recognition went to the California Mother of the Year who just happens to live in Santa Clarita. Myrna Condie was lauded for her extensive volunteering efforts and active role in foster care and mothering/grandmothering. One wonders how this award is given (are the children interviewed?) and its implications for familial dynamics (“you better listen to me—I’m the best damn mother you could’ve got!”). Bob Kellar gave a very nice speech in praise of Condie's many virtues, and she was called forward to be recognized and, you guessed it, take pictures.

Thereafter, Rick Gould (Director of Parks & Rec) gave an update on the City’s anti-gang task force and general gang-related progress. The Community Court Diversion program has successfully kept a number of little creeps from Santa Clarita from having to go through the San Fernando juvenile court system. These creeps then do community service and probation in SCV. Gould continued by noting that the City continues to do an excellent job of preventing graffiti and promptly eradicating it wherever it happens to arise. One such place—the new skate park—struck a chord with the Mayor. Explicitly summoning the persona of MayorDude, he said it was OK for kids to snitch on their peers who tag the skate park or anything else. After this announcement, the City’s graffiti tip line was flooded with calls coming from children who had been closely watching the City Council meeting, just waiting for permission to reveal the identities of skate park taggers. After this little summary, there were yet more pictures with the City Council beneath the City Seal.

With the presentations concluded, it was time for councilmembers to make their general comments. No one had anything particularly interesting to say—Arbor Day and Cowboy festival approaching, etc.—until it came time for Councilmember Kellar to talk. He observed that a number of cities (Victorville, for one) have added the words “In God We Trust” to their City Seal. Kellar thought this would be an excellent idea for Santa Clarita as well, helping bring SCV “back to basics”, and asked the Council for their opinions on agendizing his proposition. Everyone on council agreed it was worthy of discussion, and Kellar pre-emptively suggested that the matter could be decided by SCV voters during the next election rather than by the Council itself. So agendized “In God We Trust” shall be, giving God-haters throughout Santa Clarita something to chew on for a couple months.

When it came time for the Consent Calendar, most of the discussion was focused on Item 2, a second reading of an ordinance that would allow bicyclists in Santa Clarita to ride on sidewalks with certain restrictions. Maria Gutzeit called the ordinance “bike-washing”, essentially lip-service to the Bicyclafia that makes the City seem more interested and invested in bicyclists than it really is. She brought in a bike shoe that looked very difficult to walk in and asked how she should be expected to walk (vs. ride) through crosswalks (as the ordinance would require), and how impractical and potentially dangerous it could be to allow riding on sidewalks only in the direction of traffic (as the ordinance would require). I was hoping she would slam the bike shoe on the podium, gavel-like, but she elected not to do so. Her points were clear nonetheless.
While some, like Gutzeit, targeted specific parts of the ordinance, others were for scrapping it altogether. There were many offers to take the councilmembers riding to see what it’s really like bicycling the mean streets of Santa Clarita. One bearded man enthusiastically offered to let the female members of the council ride with him on his tandem bike (“Men folk, you’re on your own,” he said.)

Ferry gave an apt metaphor of digging through bicycle and vehicle codes as opening Pandora’s Box. Everyone is trying to limit liability, and reading the code reveals just how pervasive these liabilities are and how tricky they are to account for. Laurie Ender, for example, raised the specter of a bicyclist riding through the crosswalk and taking out kids and asked who would be held responsible. Rather than belabor the discussion, Mayor Ferry decided to leave things unresolved for the night. They tabled the item to some time before summer break, and encouraged bicyclist input during the interim.

Other stuff that got passed without much comment included an update to integrated waste management code (now goes to a second reading) and a directive to City staff to aggressively pursue County transportation grants and national Recovery Act funds.

During Public Participation, it was time for more God. A certain Ms. Johnston of a certain Santa Clarita dance studio has contracted with the City for many years to offer dance classes in the Seasons catalog. However, she received a letter that informed her that she would no longer be listed because her students dance to “Christian spiritual music” (along with many other types). Johnston appeared to be a perfectly lovely lady, and her removal from Seasons was troubling. If she choreographed some post-modern lyrical dance interpretation set to Native American religious chants that no one could understand, we know the music wouldn’t have been made an issue, despite being as explicitly religious as Christian music. Furthermore, where does one draw the line for religious music? Apparently, Johnston spoke with staff who asked why she couldn’t use music like Britney Spears, but even Ms. Spears has been known to invoke Buddhist/Hindu and Christian faiths (e.g., “I’m Miss bad media karma…I’m Mrs. ‘Oh my God that Britney’s shameless’” are lyrics from the highly unlistenable “Piece of Me”).

What almost certainly happened is that some annoying parent called in and bitched about the music, terrifying some hack into taking unnecessary action. I have spent some time trying to imagine who such a person might be. Did her daughter complain about the music being lame, and the mother decided to invoke the “separation of Church and State” argument to get more Lady Gaga and less Lifehouse? Is she a mother whose existence is so utterly care-free and empty that she has time to meddle in that which most of us would consider to be not worthy of our time? One can only speculate as to just what brand of ridiculous the parent who brought about this change in dance studio contracting is.

This is the woman trying to fill the minds of impressionable young children with dangerous messages about Jesus and loving thy neighbor and being a good person.

Typically, parents who didn’t like the music in a dance class would go to a different dance studio…Lord knows there are enough of them. But in Santa Clarita, that is not how things work. That which we do not like should change for us because it’s never a problem with our values and our worldview; it’s a problem with their values and their world view. The meeting closed with promises to delve into the issues brought up by the public both in regards to Calgrove and the dance studio.

[1]Agenda here
[2]Lifesaver International


Anonymous said...


What was the Calgrove issue that was raised?

A Santa Claritan said...

Oops--that part of the story seems to have disappeared from my summary.

The Calgrove Corridor Coalition wants the City to clarify its zoning of the Smiser Mule Ranch property under the One Valley, One Vision general plan. They're being told different things by the County and City (the property is zoned commercial vs. zoned commercial with residential overlay, etc.) and want it to be clarified so they know what's in store for their community. Ken Pulskamp will apparently be talking with the CCC soon.

Anonymous said...

"...in regard to" not "in regards to" look it up!