The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, a Claritan’s thoughts naturally wander towards family, thanks, and City Council meetings. These were all on the mind of Councilmember Frank Ferry. He invoked (invocated?) tonight’s gathering by describing how excited he was to have his son return from college for Thanksgiving. In the spirit of the season, he suggested that “Tomorrow through next Sunday, call ten people who made your life better.” How nice! Of course, this kinder, gentler Ferry would give way to the belligerent one we’re used to later on in the meeting. But for at least a few minutes, all was sweetness and light.
Los Angeles Fire Chief P. Michael Freeman was warmly thanked as he prepares to retire from his post. “This man has given his life to the service,” said Mayor Laurene Weste, who presented Freeman with a key to the city and a personal gift of 9/11 fire pins.
Updates from councilmembers followed. Councilmember Laurie Ender proposed looking into the creation of a local sports hall of fame (“Hometown Hall of Fame”) to recognize Santa Clarita’s sundry Olympians, all-stars, and record holders. Everyone seemed tickled with the prospect, which will be discussed at a future meeting. Councilmember Bob Kellar talked about a new church to which he had been invited. Mayor Pro-tem Marsha McLean described meetings with LA County regarding libraries. She also thanked the people in the supermarket “who stop to say ‘hi’ and who stop to say ‘thank you.’” Mayor Weste looked forward to opening the community gardens in early December, not generally regarded as the ideal time to establish vegetables.
With the exception of one item, the Consent Calendar passed with the recommended actions and without discussion. Many of the items related to Old Town Newhall. Duane Harte, Leon Worden, and Carol Rock will be part of the Newhall Redevelopment Committee for four more years; more property in Newhall will be acquired by the City; and outdoor dining is officially allowed in parts of Old Town. Every councilmember but Bob Kellar also gave the go-ahead on very specific types of outdoor merchandise displays, an ordinance made for the all but exclusive benefit of Caston’s.
Under the heading of Unfinished Business, the City Council appointed a Citizens Public Library Advisory Committee. Darren Hernandez, the inept Deputy City Manager stumbling clumsily through the library takeover process, attempted a presentation. Out of 72 applicants, many of whom were prodded into applying by the City, 37 were selected to serve. City Manager Ken Pulskamp apparently doesn’t expect them to get much done, saying “I can’t imagine 37 people will agree on anything!”
Hernandez highlighted the “diversity” of the committee nominees. They number among their ranks five former library professionals, a retired doctor, a daycare director, three persons involved in homeschooling, a couple of self-described PTA moms, two attorneys, a high school student, and a landscape architect. Whoop-de-frickin-do. Among the group of three dozen people, not everyone has the same job! Many members have used or even worked in a library! Some of these people have kids who like books and need educating! Some, like Berta Gonzalez-Harper and Phil Ellis have already given their enthusiastic support to the takeover! In their six to nine meetings over the coming months, I’m sure that this group of Santa Clarita’s best and brightest will get a heck of a lot done—and they’ll probably have a heck of a good time doing it! My exclamation point key has stopped working because of overuse, so it’s time to move on.
Not everyone shared my/CC’s enthusiasm for the committee. Speakers pointed out the obvious—no one who had been a vocal critic of the takeover had been appointed to serve (though a couple of milder critics, arguably, were). Cam Noltemeyer called it an “After the fact type of committee,” and Lynne Plambeck called it a “‘Yes’ committee.” Wryly, Carole Lutness floated the question “You didn’t choose me…I wonder why?” Many also pointed out that the County has disputed Santa Clarita’s plan to collect the special library tax that the County formerly collected. This was part of how the City planned to fund the local libraries.
The City Council responded. “Having 72 [applications] to go through was a treat!” said Ender, explaining that applicants were chosen for having “a strong desire to see our libraries be successful.” She explained that the committee excluded outspoken critics because they were looking more for an attitude of “let’s make them [libraries] awesome!” than for a debate. Marsha McLean contested the idea of the yes-committee, saying “We put people on that we thought would give a good opposing view.”
Ferry was unusually vocal about the topic. He said that this was all an effort to move the libraries “from good to great”, a phrase he repeated many times. While Ferry was excited about the advisory committee, he predicted that a committee of this size would suffer drop-outs after the first couple of meetings. Thus, he suggested allowing any applicant who attended the meetings to replace appointed members absent more than two or three times. This could open the door for people like Lynne Plambeck or Alan Ferdman to serve. Ferry was quickly scolded by Ken Pulskamp. “I hate to disagree with you,” whined the City Manager, as he explained that Ferry’s idea was unacceptable for various, unconvincing reasons.
In the end, the 37 nominees were accepted and the library ad hoc committee (Ender and McLean) will take care of substitutes and replacements if need be.
Another citizen-stocked committee was discussed next as recommendations about sites for the MRF (Materials Recycling Facility) were presented to the City Council. Burrtec Waste Industries, Inc. will have to purchase one of the sites selected by the committee: the Hondo oil refinery site, Gates King Industrial Park, or a site in the Saugus Industrial Center. The Hondo site seems to be the most preferred, receiving the highest score. The almost-as-highly scored/ranked Gates King site gave several residents pause. A member who had served on the MRF site selection committee said he wasn’t aware that 600 trees might have to be felled to accommodate the facility. With legal and environmental issues for that site, it seemed unofficially off the table. The City Council approved the recommended action of directing Burrtec to purchase one of the top three sites.
Finally, the City Council approved a new lease agreement for the County of Los Angeles for the Jo Anne Darcy Library. $622,000 in City funds will be given to the County for completion of the library renovation. The renovation had been halted shortly after the vote to withdraw from the County of Los Angeles Library System—officials said that county funds oughtn’t be used to fix a library they were being kicked out of. Ferry threw a little tantrum about all the horrible things that the County of Los Angeles has done to Santa Clarita, stealing its library money to use elsewhere, etc… His mood was provoked when Assistant City Manager Ken Striplin suggested that LA took taxes from non-incorporated residents who used SCV libraries, but they didn’t return an equal amount of library services at SCV libraries. He bellowed and bounced in his seat and said that it was inexcusable for anyone to think that they were better off with county-run libraries. The City paid to build the libraries, he said, and the County just took money.
Laurie Ender expressed the same sentiment somewhat more calmly: “It’s time to move forward!” In an example of what Tim Myers has brilliantly christened “Ender Math,” Laurie said that 95% of people who use libraries don’t care who runs them. They haven’t come to give an opinion about the library takeover and probably don’t even know it’s happening, so they’re cool with whatever. She said there is a little boy named Derek who just wants his Canyon Country library to be open again so he can check out some books. Can’t we help Derek out?
During Public Participation, the same elderly man from last week (the one who lives at the mobile home park) spoke before the City Council. He had a meeting with the rent control panel and staff helped him through the process, but he still insisted that the City doesn’t care about poor people. Next, Richard Green complained about the high price of participating in the City’s adult softball league. Bob Kellar asked that discussion of these softball fees be agendized, citing the necessity that middle-aged men be allowed to play softball in a league setting for a price below what it costs to maintain the fields and run the lights. Mayor Weste agreed, saying “these are proud men” who would suffer in silence if the City Council didn’t step in. I hope they act soon, or people may just have to play softball informally and for free—perish the thought!
Finally, David Gauny remarked on the libraries and other matters, saying, “We are completely going ass backwards on this stuff guys.” It was build a library first, figure out how to operate it, fund it, etc… second. The meeting adjourned with wishes for a safe and happy Thanksgiving. At the risk of sentimentality, Happy Thanksgiving!