Tonight’s City Council meeting was Ferryless. Mayor Marsha McLean began the meeting by assuring concerned Claritans that he was fine—i.e., not suffering ill health—in reference to his absence following severe surgical complications this past winter. Because of his absence, it was decided that discussion of the new Public Safety Committee would be delayed until the next meeting. This left an agenda comprising symbolic votes of support and rather more concrete increases in levied assessments. And then there was concrete support ($200,000) for the Economic Development Corporation that takes mostly symbolic actions, so it was a rather symmetrical evening, in the end.
During the Awards and Recognitions phase of the evening (that’s the come-get-yer-photo-taken-with-the-mayor! Section), the College of the Canyons Ice Hockey Team was recognized first. They won the Division 3 National Championship, apparently the only team of more than 400 to go undefeated. Next, Sandy Fischer received an award for her work on and initiating the Arts Commission, a post she had to leave unexpectedly soon due to medical reasons. Fischer took her acceptance speech as an opportunity to express not only gratitude, but also specific recommendations for providing continued funding to the commission. It was a bit long, and McLean seemed a bit less than enthused that this was the direction she took. Finally, Gail Ortiz, officially Communications Manager, unofficially High Priestess of Propaganda, was recognized for receiving the CAPIO Lifetime Achievement Award. (That’s California Association of Public Information Officials). Mayor McLean noted her focus on civic engagement and building relationships for the past 21 years in Santa Clarita. Ironically, Ortiz chose to remain uncommunicative following the award, taking a photo and walking quietly back to her usual post, sans speech. The City Council expressed their admiration of Gail. Mayor McLean said she admired her for being able to “take what we each wish to say and make sure we say it correctly!” Something tells me that statement wasn’t passed by Gail.
Next were councilmember updates and reports. Mayor Pro-tem Laurie Ender talked about Santa Clarita’s upcoming cupcake wars, today’s rather depressing version of panem et circenses. People will wander the streets with other people who, shockingly, also enjoy individually-sized portions of dessert items. More interestingly, Ender gave an update on redistricting and decided that another letter was needed to strongly encourage the preservation of Santa Clarita in one voting district. It’s become more apparent that no other cities want to join Santa Clarita, so it’s hard to decide where district lines should be drawn in this area of Southern California. Ender warbled a rather horrific metaphor: “Cut the baby here, cut the baby there.” Councilmember Bob Kellar congratulated man and woman of the year Harry Bell (Elks, Rotary). He made a reminder about the Memorial Day program at Eternal Valley.
On the Agenda, the City voted to support and oppose various pieces of State and Federal legislation. Support went to Senator Barbara Boxer’s bill to resolve Santa Clarita’s twelve-year old battle with CEMEX over mining in eastern Santa Clarita. Congressman Buck McKeon has failed every year he introduced a bill to similar effect, but Michael Murphy laid out a plan for this bill (hearing in July, after which it is incorporated into an omnibus natural resources bill) that gave an illusory sense that it might just work this time around. Or it could just become another of Boxer’s long string of accomplishing nothing on the Senate. The City Council chose to oppose a State bill that would let citizens vote before their libraries changed from public to private operation. This came at least partly response to the debate over library management that has played out so gracelessly in Santa Clarita. The usual public library supporters said it was only fair that the people express their views on such an important matter, throwing around the phrase “right to vote” rather a lot, while Berta Gonzalez-Harper said that the bill would protect unions, not the public. There was also support lent to extending the California Film and Television Tax Credit Program, which obviously benefits Santa Clarita. In all cases, no one beyond Santa Clarita will take notice of Santa Clarita’s positions on these matters.
In terms of taking money in, the City Council approved an increase in the Open Space Assessment of $1.50, bringing the total to $29 per parcel. Various other assessments were also levied and adjusted.
And in terms of spending money, the City Council could not resist throwing another $200,000 at the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corporation. This group performs services that are, at best, redundant—Santa Clarita has no shortage of support for local business. Bill Kennedy could offer very few examples of what the SCVEDC has actually done apart from expanding the enterprise zone, an action that may well prove meaningless given Governor Brown’s push to eliminate these zones. Otherwise, the SCVEDC has held meetings, the odd conference, and made a website. It’s an immensely worthwhile cause for public support.
Finally, in terms of concrete actions (literally), there were some road adjustment plans. The ever unwelcome lobbyist Hunt Braly said that one of his clients would be adversely affected by a traffic change in Newhall that would affect the Burger King business there. He said he wanted the City Council to continue the item, as his client was vacationing in Alaska and hadn’t been reached. Yes, I’m totally serious. Braly said that he had spoken with staff on the issue earlier. Refreshingly, Braly got no special treatment, as City Manager Ken Pulskamp had said that the City had extended three letters and two phone calls to the client since June 2010 regarding changes that might affect his business.
Finally, there was a bit of streamlining in terms of Santa Clarita’s committees, some of which are out-dated or unnecessary.
The meeting ended at 7:55 with just one comment under public participation, TimBen Boydston’s praise for Newhall having turned a corner and being on the road to full realization.