Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Happenings: Economic Development Over-Hyped, Committee Changes

All of Mayor Kellar's City Council meetings have begun the same way: Boydston, Kellar, McLean, and Weste take their seats, and Ferry's chair waits: empty, alone, uncertain what's to come[1].  While Councilmember Ferry would arrive later in the evening, his fellow four council members were quite capable of navigating this less than crucuial chapter of Santa Clarita history on their own.  Apart from securing janitorial supplies, allocating money to build more athletic fields, and changing a few committee appointments, rather little happened.

Awards and presentations this evening were few in number but skillfully drawn out.   Some 900 volunteers were cheered for making Santa Claria'ta marathon a successful event.  The City hosted over 5,000 runners, including some who made a last-minute trip after New York's was cancelled. Mayor Kellar read a letter from a trio of Nebraskan runners who fell in love with SCV during their run. 

Representatives from the Santa Clarita Economic Development Corporation came forward to speak next.  It was a riot.  Don Fleming deadpanned promises to share stories of the EDC's "remarkable" acheivements and promised his colleagues would share "very specific, impressive results."  Then we heard about all these stellar accomplishments: they got the media to run stories about local businesses (wow!); they helped some businesses grow and hire new people (so specific!); they sponsored some events and produced some publications (powerful!); and they called 500 businesses to pitch the perks of relocating to Santa Clarita (oh yes they did!).  We weren't told exactly how many set up shop here after the calls, but I'm sure it was pretty much all of them.  Kellar went to such lengths praising the EDC's efforts that it almost seemed like he wasn't in on the joke...almost.

Hunt Braly spoke first during public participation.  He asked that the homeless shelter stay at its present location on Drayton Street location rather than move to Castaic, at least for the next three years.  Alan Ferdman offered sincere appreciation for the opening of the Canyon Country Community Center.  Ellen Blankenship asked for a new community room in the Saugus area, as demands on the current room prevent residents from having as many of the pre-school age programs that those living elsewhere in the City enjoy.  Bill Reynolds said that he looked into whether any Claritans had died during the Vietnam War, then read the name of the fourteen who had perished.  Reynolds asked that their names appear on a plaque at the Veterans Memorial Plaza.  Carl Boyer began his plea to consider splitting up LA County with a quotation from Martin Luther KKing, Jr.: "Faith is taking the first step, even when you can't see the whole staircase."  He said LA County has a larger population thatn most states and many nations and needs to be split up.  Boyer wants to move forward with changing LA County in a public process with Santa Clarita's support.  Ray Henry of the Sand Canyon Mobile Home Park came forward to speak on behalf of residents.  He conveyed thanks that the City was looking fully into the legality of recent rent increases. 

City Manager Ken Striplin responded to comments, noting that relocating the homeless shelter was a somewhat complicated process.  Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste emphasized that a permanent solution to the need to provide homeless shelter must be sought. 

Next, each of the councilmembers took to the microphone for updates and announcements.  Councilmember TimBen Boydston was heartened by the turnout to oppose LA County's proposed stormwater tax, which he and others have said amounts to double taxation.  The Board of Supes extended the protest period an additional 60 days.  Boydston thought Boyer's ideas about the future of LA County deserved consideration, and Mayor Kellar suggested a study session as a first step.  Councilmember Frank Ferry read a press release for an art-in-public-places exhibit soon to open.  Councilmember Marsha McLean attended a meeting about a new HOT lane prosposal that would let driver pay to drive in special lanes on the 5; participation in the program would require a transponder and monthly fee, and more details will be out soon.  Finally, Mayor Kellar talked about new legal protection for anyone who calls in emergency overdoses; they can't be prosecuted even if they've used drugs themselves.

The consent calendar passed with the recommended actions on all items and without any additional discussion.  If you're keeping track, this means that Royal Paper Corporation won a coveted janitorial supplies contract, $200K will secure more sports fields at Central Par, and City Hall will get a seismic retrofit.

With the consent calendar out of the way, there was a special presentation on an external audit of Santa Clarita.  The council and  audience sat riveted as an accounting firm partner gave the most intimate details of the audit.  After what seemed like an eternity--a thrilling eternity, but an eternity nonetheless--we got the verdict: there were no material misstatements made by the City over the past fiscal year.  While the audit was dull, it was heartening to have such an earnest accountant speak and not overdo it on praising Santa Clarita.  If I have to hear about how we're in the black while other cities are going banrupt, I'll just scream.  TimBen Boydston asked how thorough the check was and posed a couple of other questions about sufficient pension funds and other details.  His questions didn't lead to any shocking revelations. 

The last item tonight (an item concerning traffic stops was continued to a future meeting) involved changes to committee appointments.  Mayor Kellar suggested a few changes, nearly all of them proposed so that he, as mayor, would sit on some of the more crucial committees.  The cnages were as follows:

*League of California Cities Alternate: Weste replaced by Kellar
*School Trustee Association: McLean and Boydston serve, Ferry moves to alternate
*Budget Committee: Kellar and Weste serve, Boydston is alternate
*Community Services Grant: Kellar and Weste serve, McLean is alternate
*Downtown Newhall Specific Plan: Kellar and Weste serve, McLean is alternate
*Sanitation District: Kellar replaces Ferry

Councilmember Marsha McLean was not pleased to lose her spot with Downtown Newhall Specific Plan.  She explained that she has a special relationship with some businesses in Newhall which have grown "used to me."  Kellar listened, but was unswayed.  Everyone assented to the changes. 

There was no additional public participation, so the meeting ended at 7:40. 

[1]Here's your agenda.  Or the City's, rather.

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