Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Happenings: Elsmere Saved, Tesoro to Annex, the "Turd" Word

In keeping with the long-standing tradition, tonight’s City Council meeting began late because of a closed session[1]. City Attorney Carl Newton explained that the City Council had discussed the lawsuit recently filed by Save Our Library, the group that hopes to prevent the City from contracting with LSSI, LLC. Attorney Don Ricketts argues that giving a private company access to library records would violate privacy rights[2]. Claritans, who stood all but unanimously against a rush to privatize library operations, will now see their tax dollars spent trying to defend the very action they would prefer to see attacked.

Mayor Pro-tem Marsha McLean delivered the invocation. She asked that people help out Santa Clarita’s homeless shelter, which is trying to add another 15 beds as winter approaches. McLean also spoke of the need to support the SCV Food Pantry. This can be done by buying a ticket (and bringing canned food) to a concert put on by the band Humboldt Squad[3]. Several other bands—all of which consist of high school students—will also perform. If listening to aspiring musicians loudly aspiring isn’t your thing, you could also just make a donation.

Cub Scout pack 577 led the flag salute—a detail included for reasons soon to become apparent. Mayor Laurene Weste then called Brad Berens forward to receive a key to the city. “We don’t do this often” noted Weste, as she handed Berens what some might describe as a giant novelty key[4]. Between tears, she explained how Berens had done an immense amount of work all in service of Santa Clarita’s senior community and said, “We will miss you just so much I can’t tell you!” McLean could barely hold back tears herself.

In the middle of Brad Berens’ recognition, just as a photo was about to be taken, City Attorney Carl Newton interrupted everything to point out that the flag-saluting scouts had not yet had their picture taken. Looking a bit perplexed by Newton’s horrible timing, Mayor Weste pointed out that the appropriate time for the scouts' photo would be after they were through fussing over champion-to-seniors Brad Berens. When he had a chance to speak, Berens fussed over the City Council as well. Of Ender, he recalled “looking into her heart” and remarked that “We are so damn lucky to have you here.” To the Mayor Pro-tem, he said “Marsha, your heart is as big as this valley.” Finally, he recalled how he had spent a day helping out seniors with former boss Laurene Weste. He went into the house and spoke with the elderly resident while Weste crawled under the home to pull out feral cats with her bare hands. Both still remember the scratches Laurene suffered in her feline battles.

A proclamation in recognition of Domestic Violence Awareness month followed. Mayor Weste remarked that “In this century, it [domestic violence] needs to stop.” Others seemed to agree. Members of the Board of Directors of the Domestic Violence Center stood wearing purple ribbons while Mary Ree, President, praised the City for making the proclamation, gave some domestic violence statistics, and described what the center does[5].

With yet another recognition—this time highlighting a group that unites a community with art, the NOMAD LAB Youth Art Program—it wasn’t until 6:42 that the City Council got onto its real business.

Deanna Hanshiro, who has become the face of opposition to Santa Clarita’s library takeover, spoke on Item 2. This item recommended the rejection of bids for construction of the Old Town Newhall Library—all 26 of them. Apparently, the low bids didn’t include some of the requisite documents, and the next lowest bids were considerably higher. The City Council voted to take the recommended action.

Hanashiro, however, did not have questions about this particular action so much as about the takeover in general. She asked City Manager Ken Pulskamp: why had Calabasas ended their contract with LSSI?; why did the City write in 1999 that it wouldn’t get the special property tax for libraries, but it now believes that it will get that tax?; would library staff be employees of LSSI or the City?; and can teens volunteer at the library since it benefits a privately-held, for-profit company?

Shockingly, Pulskamp actually answered some of the questions. He said that Calabasas had had city employees assume LSSI’s role in operating libraries because it had been their plan all along, “not because they had any negative feelings towards LSSI.” Extensive review by City Attorney Carl Newton led him to believe that the City could indeed collect the tax for library services. Library staff would be LSSI employees and not City ones—thus the cost savings. Finally, Pulskamp admitted that “we do not know definitively” whether it will be legal for students to volunteer at the library when it is run by LSSI.

The rest of the Consent Calendar passed with the recommended actions.

Next, there was a Public Hearing about the annexation of Tesoro del Valle and West Creek. People were uneasy and inconsistent in their pronunciation of “Valle”—even people who lived there. It was, variously, “val-EE”, “VAL-aey”, or “val”, but only rarely “VIE-yae”. Regardless, it was clear that residents of the northerly neighborhoods want to annex and that the Tesoro HOA’s Board of Directors and developer Montalvo (roughly synonymous) don’t in order to maximize the developer’s potential gain. Of course, they said their opposition arose from a desire to be annexed as one community, not in the piecemeal fashion the City was proposing wherein developed parts of the community were annexed while others were not (presumably as a favor to the developer, noted McLean). Many residents said they were tired of waiting and of being misrepresented by the HOA, and the City Council ultimately sided with them. There will now be a second reading of an ordinance pre-zoning nearly 3,000 acres of West Creek/Tesoro del Valle, and an application for annexation will be filed with LAFCO.

Under the heading of New Business, the City approved creation of a Citizens Public Library Committee. After their utter failure to build any actual community support for the library takeover, the City Council is looking to give the impression of community support and involvement by creating a committee. It goes without saying that the committee will be diverse and inclusive in its membership, that it will comprise well-respected community members, and that its mere existence will be used as evidence that LSSI-run libraries are better and more responsive to the unique needs of Santa Clarita’s readers. “Credibility is a huge issue for this community,” said Councilmember Frank Ferry. One hopes that there will be no applicants to serve on this committee, or perhaps only applicants who demand a return to the County of Los Angeles and discuss nothing else at their meetings.

Finally, Laurene and Marsha were all giggles and smiles as they got to the item acquiring 842 acres of Elsmere Canyon. As a little joke, McLean moved the recommended action before it had even been discussed. (Since she has worked to preserve the area for a couple of decades, she was entitled to take ownership of the item’s passage). Rick Gould showed some photos of the site including a California Condor like the one he said flew over his head on a visit with Ken Pulskamp. (Laurie Ender joked that condors are attracted to shiny objects and advised the bald Pulskamp to wear a hat next time he goes hiking).

With obvious pride, McLean formally moved the recommended action—but wait! There was a public speaker. As Cam Noltemeyer walked forward, Ferry said “C’mon, you can’t be opposed to this one!” But she was. She spoke about the questionable legality of the Open Space District that is funding the acquisition, questioned the appraisal of the property (City Manager Pulskamp said that it was being acquired for half of what was a $12M appraised value). It was something of a buzzkill. This was one of those times when one should bite one’s tongue. While Noltemeyer had some valid points, Elsmere has huge symbolic importance, especially for those who have lived in Santa Clarita long enough to remember when Elsmere Canyon almost became one of the world’s biggest landfills. Obviously, the City Council gave its unanimous support to getting the property.

The meeting closed with Public Participation. Recently, Councilmember Frank Ferry sent a letter to Associated Builders and Contractors, a group represented by Castaic Lake Water Agency candidate Kevin Korenthal[6]. In the letter—printed on the City’s letterhead—Frank made ludicrous claims about the supposedly incendiary rhetoric that Korenthal used when talking about opponent Ed Colley and the City Council. It was all bluster.

David Gauny and Kevin Korenthal both spoke about the letter. Gauny called what Frank Ferry did “despicable on multiple fronts.” He was particularly upset that Frank was trying to get a man fired from his job just because he was running to serve on the water board against Ferry’s wishes. Gauny identified a pattern. Anytime someone opposes Frank politically, he tries to destroy them professionally and personally. After Gauny ran for City Counil, Ferry released a “45-page dossier of information” on Gauny aimed to destroy him. TimBen Boydston was also attacked by Ferry for his run for City Council, and Kevin Korenthal was just the most recent victim of this “political sport” with a letter apparently aimed at getting him fired. The quotable Gauny closed his remarks by saying “My grandmother told me a long time ago: you can’t polish a turd.” This, of course, was a continuation of Gauny’s brownout motif[7].

When Kevin Korenthal spoke out against Frank Ferry, he came off as very much the bigger man. There was no anger in his voice. He simply observed that he had tried his best to keep Associated Builders and Contractors out of the race but that Ferry and Colley had forced them in. Korenthal correctly identified the tactics used against him as another example of Ferry’s not-so-subtle attempts to keep people from being politically active. He requested that, in the future, Ferry contact people directly when he has questions about their words or conduct instead of trying to get them fired.

The meeting ended at 8:38.

[1]Here’s the agenda.
[2]More on the library lawsuit
[3] Details.
[4]A la J-to-the-Wilson of
SCVTalk, who has identified the City's love of giant novelty scissors, checks, spades, etc. for various events and ceremonies. This key is probably more accurately "very large" than "giant," however. I
Domestic Violence Center of Santa Clarita
[6]From The Signal
[7]From his
opinion piece in The Signal

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This video says it all:

Good for Gauney and Korenthal. They both definitely have my vote!