Tonight’s City Council meeting ended up being not about the recent City Council elections but rather a local family’s agonizing loss. Krissy McAfee told the story of losing her son to a heroin overdose. Black tar heroin, she said, is entering our communities largely unnoticed and unopposed. She hoped that speaking at tonight’s meeting would make Santa Clarita’s media, law enforcement, elected officials, and families understand the damage the drug is doing.
Prior to her speech, the meeting was rather routine. It didn’t actually begin until 7:06 pm, after over an hour of apparently non-televised "todo" over the re-elections of Marsha McLean, Laurene Weste, and Frank Ferry. After being sworn in, a ceremony that has surely grown tedious the fourth time around, the re-elected trio moved to the back of the room for a small reception.
Once everyone had their fill of cake and congratulations, Councilmember Laurie Ender read a declaration making April “Autism Awareness Month” in Santa Clarita. She cited a figure that 1 in 67 of Santa Clarita’s schoolchildren have been diagnosed with some form of autism. Members of SCAAN, the Santa Clarita Autism Asperger Network, came forward with their children and spoke about the prevalence of autism. They then posed for the traditional photo beneath the City Seal, one little boy making jazz hands next to Mayor Pro-Tem Marsha McLean. Ender observed that making the autistic kids endure an hour of election-related pomp and circumstance might not have been the best idea, but the City Council applauded them for their good behavior.
During Councilmember reports, Laurie Ender went on to thank Adele MacPherson for her 18 years of hard work at City Hall, handing her a bouquet of flowers and giving a hug. Bob Kellar applauded Santa Claritans for raising some $200K for over twenty local charities at the recent “Dancing with the Stars” fundraiser. Marsha McLean, who lamented traveling to Century City to foxtrot, stated that one of her goals over the next four years will be to get a big facility in Santa Clarita that can host such events. McLean then reported on business beyond the City Council’s control, and for once the news was good: there will be no cuts to Santa Clarita library service, and the feared cuts to Antelope Valley Metrolink service will not take place—there will be a 6% increase in fares instead. (Whether we can actually afford all this without going deeper into debt was not mentioned.)
Finally, Mayor Laurene Weste remembered the lives of four recently deceased Claritans in whose honor the meeting would adjourn. Her voice trembled as she spoke words in memory of each, especially Trae Daniel Allen, the young man who died from a heroin overdose. She had spoken with his parents earlier and said that the City has to do more to help out families struggling with drug addiction.
The Consent Calendar was approved with the recommended actions taken for all items. It was quite a mundane list: addition of some new no-stopping zones on busy roads, approval of checks, and additional money for landscaping at the Discovery Park project.
During Public Participation, Trae Daniel Allen’s mother, accompanied by her daughter, spoke about the dark conclusion to her son’s four year struggle with oxytocin and heroin addiction. On Tuesday, March 23, she went out to warm up her car for work and saw her son lying on the driveway with foam coming out of his mouth and his nose. She started shaking him and screaming until the rest of her family ran out of the house. “All I could say was please wake up, please wake up!” Krissy McAfee said that it was Trae’s 17-year-old brother that called 9-1-1 to say “My brother’s dead.”
McAfee continued, recalling that she had tried many times to get local law enforcement to follow up on information she provided about drug dealers. She said that she knew the man who dumped Trae on her driveway that morning, and despite repeated calls from both her and neighbors, she never heard about any action being taken against heroin dealing. She went on to say that a week after Trae’s death, another person died of a heroin overdose, and a third person died last week.
Since none of the three heroin-related deaths have been covered in The Signal, McAfee said that many don’t realize the problem posed by Mexican black tar heroin. She described how dealers are infiltrating middle-class communities throughout Santa Clarita.
There’s nothing harder to watch than a mother talk about the death of one of her own children. That she was upset with the Sheriffs for a perceived lack of response to her calls is understandable; we count on them to keep drugs off of the streets. They may have taken action and not reported back to her, but we won't know until they issue comments. And it was clear that McAfee felt responsibility too, describing unbearable guilt over not stopping her son before it was too late. And, of course, there’s the uncomfortable fact that Trae was ultimately responsible for his own actions, at least until the addiction took over.
Councilmember Frank Ferry said that he wants to do away with the school district’s zero-tolerance drug policy, which he called “antiquated” and ineffective, doing little to stop serious drug problems. Ferry said that at his school, they give drug-users one chance to stay if they sign a contract, submit to weekly drug tests, and meet minimum attendance and academic standards. He said that this approach is far better than simply transferring a student to a new school.
Councilmember Bob Kellar had some stern words for the Sheriff’s Department. He said this was not the first time he had heard of people calling in tips to the Sheriff’s Department with nothing being done. Kellar looked the new captain in the eye and said “This is not acceptable.” He ordered Becker to come back to the City Council in two weeks ready to report on what he will be doing to stop this growing drug problem.
Laurie Ender asked a group of girls who had come forward to speak about international child rights and welfare to talk to their friends about what they had heard. She said the story means so much more coming from peers than adults, and the girls nodded tearfully.
There's only so much that anyone can do to save people from themselves and their addictions, and heroin addiction is said to be one of the most intense there is. We don't yet know the whole story, but it will be important to find out the scope of this problem in Santa Clarita.
Here is the agenda.
I'm going with the spelling of his name presented on the agenda; KHTS said it was "Trey", however. His last name differs from his mother's as she re-married after he was born.