Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Happenings: Grants for Art and Service, Indecision

Modest Mayor Ender does not approve of showy engagement rings.
At tonight's meeting[1], a very small arts grant received more discussion than a two-million dollar purchase for local libraries, a five-million dollar contract for new buses, and a new planning commission appointment combined. Mayor Pro Tem Frank Ferry announced that he is engaged, and we can all look forward to welcoming the quaint sounding Phantom Terrace Associates to the community. In short, the City Council was decisive about the big stuff and indecisive when it came to the details.

The meeting began at 6:11, with Councilmember Bob Kellar delivering the invocation. He spoke about a woman from Canyon Country with a rundown home. Its condition was brought to the attention of city inspectors, one of whom—John Robinson—was able to solicit help from the community to fix her electricity, windows, and other problem areas. “Because of this, this lady is going to be able to keep her home,” Kellar said, suggesting we all try to be good neighbors.

In keeping with the theme of improvement, Santa Clarita was recognized for reaching the silver level in the California Green Communities Challenge. Partners SoCal Edison, Green Seal, and the Environmental Media Association lauded the city for implementing improvements in ten areas relating to sustainability, like waste reduction, green building, and efficient transportation. The hype bordered on the excessive: a Green Seal official from D.C. came in just to give his blessing, a flag was proffered, a large glass plaque was bestowed on City Hall, and there were promises of much more media coverage for Santa Clarita as a model of green city living[2].

The next presentation to the city was decidedly leaner. Chris Fall, vice chair of the Parks Commission, read seven goals for 2012. They were rather generic—maintain parks, promote facility use and program involvement, support trail system, etc.

Next, council members provided updates. Councilmember Marsha McLean said that the SCV Senior Center grossed $115,000 with its celebrity waiter event, which McLean participated in. She was also quite excited about the first meeting of the SCV Transportation Coalition, which unites stakeholders and will give Santa Clarita a stronger voice in regional transportation issues. Councilmember Laurene Weste spoke about the “iron horse” bridge connection that has been in development and will be a critical juncture in our trails system. Mayor Pro Tem Frank Ferry announced that Mori Rouhani is (1)An excellent local dentist, and (2)His fiancĂ©, as of Valentine’s Day. Ferry’s revelation wasn’t delivered very smoothly and it took a second to realize what he was announcing, but it would have been nice if the audience had clapped more. Finally, Mayor Laurie Ender spoke about the Santa Clarita Emergency Expo[3] coming up in March, a chance to build emergency kits and meet first responders.

Discussion of the consent calendar followed.

Marilyn Hackett spoke on an item relating to support for the arts. The Arts Commission recommended that the City Council give five organizations funds with which to present ballets, concerts, dramatic performances and the like. Hackett asked that they also support the SCV Veterans’ plans for a Wartime Romance performance. The Arts Commission had ranked this group/performance lowest of all applicants with a score of 55.6/100 (all funded groups scored in the 80s or 90s).

Marsha McLean thought this was clearly a mistake and fretted for a long while about how to set things right. She thought that if groups had been given a maximum of $5000 instead of $7500, there would have been enough money to spread to all applicants. However, she was worried that groups counting on $7500 would be adversely affected if they lost some money in order to give money to the SCV Veterans. Making an exception might set a dangerous precedent too, she and others thought. And perhaps more time was needed to review the decision made by the commission. After a while, Ferry interrupted her and laid out the possible actions clearly: accept that not every group can be funded and move on; take money recommended for other groups and give it to Wartime Romance; or allocate contingency funds to support the project. But fretting continued until, at long last, Ferry and Kellar put forward a motion to simply go with the recommendations of the Arts Commission.

It passed with everyone’s vote—even McLean’s, who wanted to show she supported funding the arts even if one group wasn’t included. Apparently, City Manager Ken Pulskamp will look to see if the City can sponsor Wartime Romance in some other way.

Community services grants were awarded with far less discussion, though Laurie Ender and Laurene Weste had to sit out the vote since they sit on boards of some of the organizations in line to receive grants. A total of $72,000 was given out for everything from fencing for a horse therapy ranch to a Hart Park historical film series to dementia care intervention at the senior center.

Alan Ferdman was a little annoyed that one item relating to library upgrades was tucked away on the consent calendar rather than itemized as new business. $1,981,800 in contracts were proposed for library furniture, electronics, and design services. Highlights included 104 public access computers for the library-to-be in Newhall. Ferdman pointed out that Canyon Country and Valencia libraries serve larger communities than Newhall, yet they are receiving a smaller share of the upgrades. Ken Pulskamp would respond by saying that resources are going to go elsewhere, too, and this improvement project did not preclude future improvements from happening in Canyon Country or Valencia.
In all, the items on the consent calendar were approved without any dissent.

A public hearing involved a pre-annexation agreement between Santa Clarita and a group hoping to build out properties in Copperhill, Phantom Terrace Associates. Apart from building 29 single-family homes, Phantom will dedicate 67 acres as open space.

Under new business, Bob Kellar selected Charles “Chuck” Heffernan to serve on the Planning Commission, replacing Bill Kennedy. Heffernan emerged after a rather rigorous candidate selection process involving a community panel. The other members of the council consented to the choice, and Heffernan, a longtime community member and civic engineer, will now be a commissioner.

More time was devoted to the art, specifically a blueprint for future growth and activities produced by the Arts Commission. Everyone was impressed except Councilmember McLean, who wondered about funding and a foundation to secure donations that could support plans for a scholarship program and other capital-intensive activities. McLean also asked why she didn’t get to see any Oscar-winning movies in Santa Clarita, echoing sentiments that have been appearing in The Signal’s letters to the editor.

Finally, the City Council agreed to send letters to Lee Baca, LA County supervisors and others to ask for a place at the table in discussions of Santa Clarita’s present and future sheriff station(s). Marsha McLean also asked that staff keep an eye on agendas so the City isn’t caught off guard the next time its fate is decided by the County.

Comments during public participation were two. A man who takes the bus to UCLA said a three-minute change in pick-up times makes it difficult to arrive to the university on time, and asked that the time be changed back. Finally, Alan Ferdman announced that the Santa Clarita Community Council (another group, yes) will help sponsor a candidate debate on March 7th.

[1]Here is the agenda for you.

[2]California, how
green thou art.

Emergency Expo info

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happenings: No Love for County Sheriff Station Plans

Tonight, the City of Santa Clarita felt some combination of ignored, wronged, and cheated by the County of Los Angeles. The supes moved forward with a plan to have Santa Clarita's Sheriff's station located outside of the City of Santa Clarita, near the site of the new courthouse planned in Castaic. This was the main topic of conversation at a meeting that, despite falling on Valentine's Day, was a lot like any other. Notable exceptions: City Attorney Joe Montes wore a tie with hearts, Mayor Laurie Ender donned a pink jacket, and Mayor Pro Tem Frank Ferry dispensed love advice to the men of Santa Clarita.

During his invocation, Ferry thanked the spouses and significant others of council members for putting up with the demands of the job. He then advised all the men of Santa Clarita to read a book called The Five Love Languages. Apparently, it helps people identify how to best make their partner feel loved. “It’s almost like Cosmo where it’s the secret of all women,” he enthused. “I should have read it years ago,” joked Councilmember Bob Kellar.

I felt a profound sense of betrayal when Mayor Ender announced that students from Santa Clarita Elementary would be making a presentation; the agenda had promised a presentation-free evening. My despair deepened as children marched forward to hold up a hand-made card and thank various persons from the City for explaining issues related to stormwater runoff. The students described how they worked on a rainwater garden to remove pollutants before the water entered the Santa Clara River. Predictably, Ender found the little ones adorable and said, “Not only are you the cutest kids, I think you are the smartest kids.” After the cutest (and smartest?) of photos, the children dispersed to their various corners of the valley.

Comments from the council members came next. Mayor Pro Tem Ferry said that City Hall was caught off guard by news that the LA County Board of Supervisors is planning to have the Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station located in Castaic rather than within city limits. He said that being out of the loop on plans for the sale of the existing station property, relocation, and so on was “very disheartening…when we are their [LACO Sheriff’s] largest city contract.” Ferry called for immediate discussions and wants the station inside the City of Santa Clarita’s boundaries, saying that $20M a year on law enforcement services ought to count for something. “We were taken aback that we weren’t consulted,” addedd City Manager Ken Pulskamp. He said he only found out about the plan when The Signal called to ask him for a reaction. Pulskamp held up a map of the new site, showing that it’s not at all centrally located, and responses to Canyon Country--Santa Clarita’s most heavily populated area--might not be very timely.

City Manager Ken Pulskamp's left hand points to the proposed location of the Sheriff's Station. He questioned how well such a distant location would serve Canyon Country in particular.

There were a few other comments once the station relocation had been discussed. Councilmember Laurene Weste was pleased that 500 solar permits were given in the past year, up from 257 the year before. Finally, Mayor Ender said that there has been far too much reckless driving of late. To combat the problem, there will increased law enforcement presence in problem areas as well as outreach focused on “males between 17 and 25”, as this demographic is the most at risk.

The Consent Calendar was approved without comment, simply accepting a community safety grant and allocating funds for a transportation plan update.

The meeting ended, as always, with public participation. Alan Ferdman invited Claritans to the CCAC’s meet and greet with candidates for City Council R.J. Kelly announced hopes for a Veteran’s Day Parade this November. He said he has discussed it with numerous groups already and would like to follow the Fourth of July route, but in reverse. More discussion will follow, but the Council seemed generally supportive. Bob Kellar revealed that Kelly received four purple hearts.

Two speakers mentioned chloride treatment issues, wondering why no council members had made an appearance at recent sanitation district meetings. Concerns over a hugely expensive salt treatment plant appear to be growing. Councilmember Weste responded with a mini-dissertation on the history of salt, water treatment, legislation, and water-related agencies in Santa Clarita. She had to half-jokingly tell Ferry to not fall asleep. Weste seemed authoritative on the topic, conversant in the relevant statistics and political structures, so it’s clearly not a neglected topic--just one that the CC can't do a lot to change.

The meeting ended at 7:10. Happy VDay.