Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happenings: Smaller Signs, Empty Awards, NAFF Called Out

Tonight, the image broadcast from SCVTV seemed larger and sharper than usual[1]. It was more than sufficient inspiration for taking unflattering screenshots of the council, but I can’t come up with even one flimsy excuse for posting them. Sigh.

After Laurene Weste recited Gene Autry’s "Cowboy Code" for the invocation, it was time for some awards. “Our city staff is often recognized for the hard work they do,” explained Mayor Marsha McLean.

Take the “Achievement of Excellence in Procurement” award. It came with a handsome mini-obelisk trophy, widely regarded as the monument most befitting the procuring professional. And how exactly does a procurer obtain such recognition and such a mini-obelisk? A visit to the National Purchasing Institute’s website suggests it isn’t too difficult. Santa Clarita was one of over 150 cities, states, and counties to win the exact same distinction—excellence in procurement[2]. There was a questionnaire that asked cities to “self-score” their use of best practices followed by a $400 application fee followed by review from two members of an evaluation committee followed by congratulations awarded to the dozens and dozens of winners. The City’s department is no doubt great, but is such an award…meaningful?

Comments from the City Council followed. Councilmember Frank Ferry offered a reminder of the upcoming open house with Lewis and Shapell Operating Corporations. These are the fellas the City would like to partner with for development of the Whitaker-Bermite property. Councilmember Bob Kellar restricted his comments to football: “What a great Super Bowl Sunday!” Councilmember Laurene Weste, meanwhile, remarked on a very successful Charlie Chaplin Festival.

Mayor McLean had the most to say, as usual, and her comments included some advice about dishwashing. She said that many concerned residents have told her about a white film that has started to appear on their dishes. McLean reassured Claritans that there hasn’t been a change in the water supply; it’s a change in dishwashing detergent formulations that is at fault. Phosphate-free detergent is here to stay in California—it’s good for the environment but bad for a crystal-clear finish. McLean advised people to use vinegar to help fight film on their plates and glasses. She said that for households like hers, where doing dishes is a common chore, gallon-size jugs make an economical choice. With luck, these household tips may become a regular feature at CC meetings.

McLean also gave updates about high-speed rail and the special election for the State Senate, 17th District. This is the one where Darren Parker is scheduled to lose to Sharon Runner amidst protestations of irrationally optimistic dems.

On the Consent Calendar were a number of familiar items. The massage ordinance was officially adopted after its second reading. Santa Clarita’s prostitutes will not have to obtain certification from the California Massage Therapy Council before servicing men in seedy establishments. (The same certification will also be required for legitimate masseuses.) There are more restrictions on where auto dealers can set up shop, and there will be a change in the retirement system for newly hired employees.

It was Item 6, however, that drew the most concerned comment. “Randy the Pond Guy” (last name Runyon, I think) was worried about the City’s plan to install LEDs in more traffic signals. He held up a little LED flashlight and said that the brilliant light may not only blind people temporarily but also permanently. (This made his shining of an LED flashlight at the City Council seem a little reckless.) “I think it’s blinding our community” he announced, encouraging further research before LEDs are unleashed on Claritan retinas. “LEDs are brighter…and that brightness can blind you.”

Randy distrusts LED lighting.

In response, Mayor McLean asked City Manager Ken Pulskamp about the availability of studies on the safety of LED traffic lights, which are used throughout the country. “Do you think there’s information out there?” she queried. Pulskamp was “not sure” but promised that staff would investigate.

Ultimately, all items on the Consent Calendar were approved with the recommended action.

There was a public hearing about temporary non-commercial signs. Campaign signs are a notable member of this category, and they’ll be appearing once City Council campaigning begins in earnest all too soon. City Attorney Joe Montes detailed limitations to the size and placement of signs: maximum 32 square-feet sign size with mandatory removal within ten days of the event being advertised. Signs cannot be placed in the public right-of-way, as usual. To encourage compliance, he said that staff will remove any improperly sized or placed signs and charge $50 to get all of the signs back. If the owner of the signs sets them out illegally again, there is a $100 fine to get back each sign. A third violation means paying $200 to get back each sign.

The City Council liked the plan. Alan Ferdman did not. He recalled that former City Attorney Carl Newton had advised that campaign signs are free speech and ought not be regulated. Ferdman asked, saucily, “Do campaign signs no longer represent free speech?” This was a troubling point. Just as we Catholics accept the Pope's infallibility, so too has the City Council accepted the infallibility of Newton’s opinions. Were they willfully ignoring Newton tonight, or did their actions imply that Newton can make mistakes? Yikes.
TimBen Boydston was also distressed by the limitations placed on signage. He described how Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean had displayed very large signs during a campaign when staff told him he could not display signs of the same size. He worried that signs were being regulated as a means of squashing opponents and called it an “anti-democratic ordinance.”

Frank Ferry brought up some worthwhile points about the sign fines. “Who’s gonna collect your signs at $100 a pop?” he asked, “You’re not reclaiming anything for $100.” Ferry explained that the fines were too high relative to the cost of printing new signs, so he expects no one will actually pay to get seized signs back. Marsha McLean talked about accidentally displaying a sign that strayed a couple of inches into the public right-of-way. She asked for a little bit of leniency before signs are seized, essentially suggesting addition of a leeway-for-one-sign-that’s-maybe-a-little-bit-within-the-public-right-of-way clause. Seriously. “They’ll get the message” promised Kellar, who trusted staff to use their good judgment.

Finally, the City Council voted to hold some “high interest topic” study sessions in the Council Chambers so that they can be televised and recorded. This is cheaper than installing cameras in the Century Room, which Pulskamp said would run $180,000. The LED man came back up during the comment period and argued that one can produce decent video with less than $180,000 in equipment.

There was some discussion about how taping all study sessions might help prevent the spread of misleading information. Frank Ferry brought up NotaFerryFan (he makes YouTube videos that show the City Council in a skeptical, less than favorable light) and called him a “unanimous” (he meant “anonymous”) video editor whose critical work kept Ferry on his best behavior. McLean felt that having videos of all meetings would allow the truth to prevail, but Mayor Pro-tem Laurie Ender said “Mr. Reynolds doesn’t need the truth to do his videos.” This made NotaFerryFan not so “unanimous” anymore (though his identity was revealed on SCVTalk long ago[3]). Ender, who is generally portrayed as a puppet of Ferry by NAFF, doesn’t seem to be a fan of the videos.

In the end it was decided that the important meetings will take place before cameras in the Council Chambers, thought what constitutes an important/high interest session remains to be seen.

During Public Participation, a man from Newhall complained that he cannot add on a bathroom to his Newhall home because codes demand the whole home be raised and redone or kept entirely the same. Weste explained this is to comply with FEMA, and seemed sympathetic to the man. The meeting ended around 7:30.

[2]Many excellent procurers out there
[3]If you read this you obviously read SCVTalk and probably know about NickelDime’s whole “outing” of NotaFerryFan.


Alan J. Ferdman said...

I Heart

You do an excellent City Council Meeting recap.
It is comforting to know that someone is listening.

The Perkins Girls said...

Hello...I adore your blog! I wanted to pass along our press release announcing the launch of Faking it Flawless, a custom sunless tanning business in Valencia. My two sisters and I are the owners of the business (all three of us are SCV natives) and are passionate about bringing awareness to the harmful effects of UV sun damage.

We would love to have you visit our new space (off McBean and Summerhill Lane) and possibly collaborate on a post about skincare. I look forward to working with you and hearing from you soon!

don ricketts said...

where is nickeldime's outing of notaferry fan?

Anonymous said...

Here, Don:

lawritersgroupdotcom said...

Hi I was wondering if you'd be open to posting about our new writers group for creative writers in the SCV on April 5th.  I tried to look for your email address on your blog but couldn't find one.

I'm super excited to bring these groups to SCV because I grew up out there.

About our groups:

LAwritersgroup has been running creative writing workshops in Los Angeles since 2003. Each group has a maximum of 12 writers and runs for 8 weeks, meeting one evening a week.  We are open to writers of all levels and kinds, with an aim toward getting words on the page through creative writing prompts and providing a safe place for writers to create new work and exchange feedback on works in progress.  We are not a lecture environment nor a class, but a writers group in the traditional writers workshop sense.  To see what groups we offer and how they work check out our Meeting Schedule (http://www.lawritersgroup.com/schedule.htm) and our (Moderators http://www.lawritersgroup.com/ModeratorBios.htm).  Whether group members write novels, screenplays, essays, poems, journal entries, children's books or whatever creative writing someone might enjoy, they are welcome in our groups regardless of experience.  We often have published authors sitting next to poets sitting next to screenwriters sitting next to aspiring novelists or children's book writers, sitting next to writers who just like to journal.  Our groups are not about lectures but are about creating new work and soliciting critique from peers and the group leader (moderator) if they chose to bring work in for feedback.

Click here to read a detailed description of our writers groups (http://www.lawritersgroup.com/writers-group.htm)

Our SCV Moderator will be Kirby Timmons, an SCV local.  You can read his bio here:  http://www.lawritersgroup.com/ModeratorBios.htm#KirbyBio 

We charge $280 for new group members and $240 for returning group members.

Our new Santa Clarita writers group will take place on Tuesday Evenings beginning April 5th from 7:30pm - 10:00pm and is hosted in a private residence near McBean and Decoro Dr.

Feel free to pass this along to anyone who might be interested or email me back with any questions at lawritersgroup at gmail dot com.

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