Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Happenings: Pulskamp's Last Sit

For his last city council meeting, City Manager Ken Pulskamp could have done worse[1].  It was a tour de force of all the things he’ll miss(?) when he moves to his new post in Burbank.  Apart from a heartfelt sendoff and cake, this meeting had the vocal Placeritans, fierce ambivalence over property rights, Ferry inappropriateness, TimBen over-the-topness,  and rah-rah outlook he’s become so familiar with over the years.  There was real business, too—a parcel in Placerita and historic structures are out of limbo—but really, the story tonight was the end of the Pulskamp era.  

Big End, Big Names

After Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar’s invocation (military/angel-themed holiday tree goes for $7,250 at Festival of Trees benefitting B&G Club), there was a series of presentations.  First, out-going State Assemblyman Cameron Smyth was cheered for his terms in office.  Frank called the Smyths the Kennedys of Santa Clarita, and pointed out accomplishments like protection of Elsmere Canyon, advocating for film industry tax breaks, and supporting enterprise zones.  Councilmembers Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste heaped additional praise on Smyth, and Councilmember TimBen Boydston applauded his willingness to reach across the aisle in the legislature.  Smyth was presented with a key to the city, his second (“I have the key to the front door and the back door,” he joked).  His affection for Santa Clarita was clear in the speech that followed, which he concluded with recognition of City Manager Ken Pulskamp.  Smyth recalled hiring Pulskamp to be city manger, and he called it his best decision on the council where once he served.   

A Santa Clarita Sister City presentation came next.  There was discussion of the exchange between Santa Clarita and its sister cities of Tena, Ecuador and Sariaya, Phillipines.  Plans for the future include the 8th medical mission to Tena, starting a student ambassador program, and looking for a third sister City.  There was a Powwerpoint presentation that ended with the speaker moving to a slide of Ken Pulskamp’s supposed passport.  She acted surprised and wondered what it could be doing there before jumping into a series of Pulskamp's accomplishments with the sister city group framed in a travelogue.  Points for commitment to the acting were deserved.  Former Mayor Carl Boyer presented Pulskamp with a small globe for his leadership.

To cap things off, new City Manager Ken Striplin gave a short speech in continuation of what he declared “All Pulskamp, All Night, All Love.”  The speech was short, and I couldn’t discern whether Striplin was a bit choked up or simply tongue-tied during one lapse in oration.  He was sincere, regardless.  As a parting gift, he presented an oil painting of Beale’s Cut.  (A gap in some rocks may sound dull, but it was actually quite a nice piece).  Striplin embraced the symbolism, praising Pulskamp for having “created a pathway for Santa Clarita’s continuing success,” and said, “We’re going to miss you so very much.”

Comments from the council focused more on the man than his accomplishments.  Weste talked about his ability to stay calm no matter what, but recalled a particularly excited call from Pulskamp one day when, while hiking, he saw a bear (“Can the bear see you?” asked Weste; “Naw he’s meandering,” replied the undefended Pulskamp).  Kellar called it an honor to work with Pulskamp, but said, “It’s more of an honor to be a friend of his.”  Boydston and McLean remembered selecting Pulskamp for the city manager position—Boydston on a citizen committee, McLean on council.  The most personal words came from Mayor Ferry.  Ferry began, “You become extremely guarded, and your circle grows smaller,” reflecting on how his circle of friends has shrunk since taking positions of power (i.e., principal and mayor).  He counted Pulskamp as part of this circle, and remember seeing his “ugly mug” when he woke up from his coma (proof, Ferry joked, he was not in Heaven).  Pulskamp helped Ferry through his divorce, and he was there as a confidant.  Ferry promised more jokes, less “Kumbaya” at Pulskamp’s upcoming roast.

After some commissioners thanked Pulskamp for his work, the man-of-honor said a few words himself.   “It stops being a job and just starts being your life,” he said of his role as city manager, and he thanked the council and citizens of Santa Clarita for being so active and supportive of their community.  A break for cake was a fitting end to the saccharine—or, perhaps, bittersweet—farewell to the man who has helped shape Santa Clarita for essentially all of its years as a city.

Consent Calendar in Under One Minute

Once the cake break ended at 7:15, the five-item consent calendar passed with the recommended actions on all items, and there were no comments from council or public.  The only big item was $5.3M for the purchase of eleven buses that run on compressed natural gas. 

Announcements and updates from the council members were in the holiday spirit, encouraging support for the organizations that feed and house Santa Clarita’s hungry and homeless.  Mayor Ferry cheered Santa Clarita’s fortune in being selected as the finish and start of stages 3 and 4, respectively, of the Amgen Tour—that’s the one where people ride bicycles on streets, except somewhat faster than usual and with considerably more cheering.  Ferry said everyone is “thoroughly” invited.  He also asked for an investigation of unlicensed car washes.  These compete with the more expensive, legitimate washed that have the required licenses for water treatment, etc., He also asked for a study session on the role of city and county in providing senior services. 

Placeritans Pontificate

I’m beginning to doubt whether it’s really as nice to live in Placerita as everybody says.  The Hairell family has long wanted to divide its two-acres of Placeritan real estate into two parcels, but their request was denied by the Planning Commission.  The denial came despite staff recommendation of allowing the division, which is consistent with the city-wide general plan.  Curtis Hairell killed himself after the decision (he was already depressed and this setback may have been the “last straw”), and his father was present before the council in an appeal of the planning commission’s denial of the project.

Comments from the public were about evenly divided.  Glo Donnelly said the owners had the right to subdivide their property, and she called on her fellow licensed realtors to defend said right.  Most speakers in favor echoed the property rights argument, noting that there was nothing illegal about the division and that it was consistent with the master plan.  Speakers against the subdivision argued that cutting down two oak trees and building a new, big structure would ruin the character of the community.  Sandra Cattell was particularly tasteless in her remarks.  She talked about “mourning” the horse breeding and training facility once on the property, calling it “part of the demise of the rural equestrian community”—all this morbid language in front of a father still grieving the death of his son.  What a charmer.  The neighbors spoke about the late Curtis’s dream home conflicting with the realization of their dream home.  Threats of flooding, access issues, and odd lot boundaires were also offered as reasons to deny the appeal. 
Ultimately, the city council took the stance that they oughtn’t stand in the way of a private property owner doing a legal sub-division of his property.  Mitigation oaks are being planted (the city arborist actually discussed the health and prospects of the oaks to be cut down), and it seems that the neighbors will be consulted about including some kind of screening to prevent them from having to stare at the big new home that’s about to mar their view.


Finally, a Historic Preservation Ordinance

It’s getting late so I’ll be brief: the new historic preservation ordinance included a list of eleven historic structures in Santa Clarita (new structures can be added via an opt-in process).  Property-owners on the list can do routine maintenance as usual, but if they want to make major modifications to their structure, they must get a permit approved.  If the owner wishes to demolish a structure, they must appear before the city council first, and the council may offer to buy and move the structure, etc.  Unlike previous realizations of the historic preservation ordinance, this one had more incentives, including grants for improvements to listed structures.  Furthermore, there was a greater emphasis on the purchase and moving of historic structures as a means of saving them without infringing so directly on property rights.  Mayor Ferry noted that this left a possibility for destruction of a historic place if the city is unable to afford moving costs (usually $15-$30 per square foot), but it was generally agreed that this was an unlikely scenario. 

Comments were a mixed bag.  TimBen Boydston—who had to recuse himself on this item because the theater property would be listed—called the proposal “immoral taking.”  After her rousing speech in defense of private property rights, Glo Donnelly suggested they weren’t quite so untouchable when it came to preserving historic structures.  Alan Ferdman questioned whether Laurene Weste’s list of key structures could be included in the proposed ordinance.  He said the official minutes from the last meeting on historic preservation showed she did not clearly include the list in directions to staff for revising the ordinance.  Leon Worden made an unconvincing argument (the word "argument" used loosely) about how property values are unaffected by historic designation.  Manny Santana, owner of the old jailhouse, told the City, “You’ve done everything wrong,” when it came to construction of the library immediately next to his jailhouse, another listed structure. 

Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar was opposed to the ordinance because those on the list had not “opted-in” to being on the list.  However, his fellow councilmembers disagreed, and with some slight modifications and addendums, the ordinance was approved. 

Public participation followed, and consisted of Berta Gonzalez-Harper thanking Ken Pulskamp for his dedication to the City of Santa Clarita.  Ferry wanted a slow clap as the meeting ended and Pulskamp walked out the door.  Instead, Laurene Weste adjourned the meeting in his honor.  The Pulskamp era ended.   
[1]The agenda.


Carrie said...

Thank goodness it's the end of the Pulskamp era. He, along with Caravallo, are two of the slimiest people ever to be paid out of city coffers. Good riddance!

Anonymous said...

Carrie...can you elaborate on the sliminess?