Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happenings: SCV's Own Stimulus

Councilmember Marsha McLean began tonight’s City Council meeting by reciting a Dr. Seuss-esque poem from a Cowboy Poet[1]. The verse was about getting things done, and it was dedicated to Kenny P.[2] and others who accomplish oh so much in this City of ours.

Thereafter, we were encouraged to donate our organs as part of Donate Life month. I recently had to renew my license, and after hearing about all the wonderful ways that my innards could potentially save and improve lives, I regretted writing “No, they’re mine!” next to the donation check box on the renewal form. If you possess a more gracious soul than I and happen to have any spare livers, kidneys, hearts, corneas, and so forth, there will be an iced bin outside of City Hall where you may deposit them.

Next, the City Council members had a chance to go around and share their little reports with their fellow councilmembers and the tens of Santa Claritans watching the meeting. Laurie Ender was deeply distressed that her young son and his friend, when taken to the new skate park, couldn't quite skate with the rough-and-tumble older kids and heard the F-bomb being dropped with reckless abandon. She suggested thinking about a 12-and-under skate hour (enforced on the honor system...) during which time one would hear the F-word just as often, but uttered by higher-pitched voices. Then there was much rejoicing over the successful Earth Day event and Cowboy Festival by Weste and McLean and the other sort of obligatory, quickly forgotten updates and encouragements.

Then it was time to put the meat in meating as we moved onto the real business of running a city. Under the heading of Newhall Redevelopment, there was an uncommented-on item to increase funding for the next stage of the library project (architectural, engineering, and infrastructure services). About $1.7M will be used to design the library that promises to save Old Town Newhall from sinking into destitute obscurity.

The recommended actions on all Consent Calendar items were taken in a similarly comment-free fashion. Some highlights included passing an ordinance to restrict sex offenders to residing in places at least 2000 feet away from trails, parks, and paseos (does such a place exist in SCV?), approval of a sort of progress report on keeping Public Access Channel 20 alive, and the awarding of the much-hyped new street-sweeping contract, which probably deserves an entire post of its own.

After this excitement, there was a Public Hearing to decide whether a 4-lot subdivision in the Happy Valley community would be approved. The applicant, Mr. Norris Whitmore, was just not a likeable man, rather like the same-named Mr. Whitmore on Lost…except not so rich and powerful. Some neighbors came forward to voice opposition to subdividing a very large, quiet lot into 4 large-but-not-nearly-so-large-as-before lots. Whitmore countered by saying he had scaled back the subdivision from 5 lots to 4. Still, views would be marred and the community of the neighborhood irrevocably changed by the project; we were treading on very familiar ground. When Whitmore argued that the Happy Valley neighborhood had several two-story homes, like the kind he would build, the real estate inclined Councilmember Kellar pointed out that Whitmore was responsible for most of these homes, and that he was driving the decent people of Happy Valley to become more and more defensive against his unwelcome developments. Ultimately, though, Whitmore’s subdivision was approved. No one was surprised.

After this matter was decided, a Tolling Agreement involving the County Sheriff’s Dept. and contract cities in LA County (i.e., us) was briefly discussed. Part of the surcharge that the City pays to the County was used in a settlement between a Compton sheriff and three women whom he raped. Clearly, that’s not what we should be paying for, so this agreement will remedy the unjust spending of contract city funds.

Finally, it was time for Skampy to shine during his delivery of a 21 point plan to save the City of Santa Clarita from financial ruin. Began KPuls, “These are very unusual economic times.” (Wait, what? When did that happen!?) “The City is not immune…” He then drew a comparison between other cities, which are doing nothing but waiting for federal aid, and Santa Clarita, which will lead its own way out of the recession by implementing a 21-point plan. Unfortunately, we had to hear about all 21 of these points[3].

Each point was a mini action plan of sorts drawing on many different sources of funding and aiming to make the City business-friendly by a number of different means. Several of the suggested actions would subsidize permit fees to lower the costs of doing business in SCV. For example, #4 (“Film Incentive Program”) would make it cheaper to film within the valley with permit subsidies. This particular item struck a chord with a number of people who are dismayed to see the film industry leaving Southern California, its rightful home. There were also some clever streamlining ideas, like a “Development One-Stop” on the first floor of City Hall that would offer all pertinent development permits in one place. Of course, there were some more questionable ideas, too. Kampman proposed an additional 2% tax on hotels. This would produce about $400,000 a year that could be used to attract big events to SCV and enhance tourism. Still, raising taxes during times such as these isn't a necessarily intuitive course of action. Then there was the "Think Santa Clarita Valley/Shop Local” campaign which, while lavishly praised, I think is over-rated. I have never once been influenced by any of that Shop Local! advertising. Sorry—there’s just no getting around the fact that they have better paper towels at the Wal-Mart in Long Beach, and I’m not going to sacrifice my quality of life in the name of shopping locally.

Most comments supported Pulskamp’s plan, praising it for its boldness, creativity, and promise. The Don Fleming (FLEMWATCH ALERT!) came forward to give his blessing and offer a tortured string of awful car puns (e.g. being “steered in the right direction”). Alan Ferdman, however, wanted more general fund dollars to go towards the Community Center in Canyon Country, not a select few mega-money-makers in Valencia. Of course, a community center doesn’t generate cash the way an auto-dealer or shopping mall does, so it will have to wait. Having never been to a community center in my entire life, I feel quite OK about supporting the money-makers now and the community center later.

After everyone had weighed in and given their support, Ferry closed with a little spiel about fear, washing his own car, and hope. Then the Council voted, and the plan was unanimously approved.

During Public Participation, there were remarks made about homeless shelters, motorcycles, and non-profits being charged for space at Earth Day and other City events. As you might have guessed, all of these matters will be looked into more thoroughly.

[2]Note: I will be trying out a number of nicknames for City Manager Ken Pulskamp during this entry.
Read the 21 points here.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...


you are the breath of fresh air santa clarita needs to understand all that is truly lame about our civic leadership. i can only hope that many, many others catch the subtle sarcasm you employ to call out the apathy and ineptitude of those who claim to represent us.