Santa with 3 deer, fake poinsettias, and industrial scaffold structure supported by barrels. What a Merry Christmas it will be in Newhall.
Tonight, Councilmember Marsha McLean cemented her role as self-appointed Tsarina of Good Taste. In a rather acerbic spat with the company that will be installing holiday decorations in Newhall, she made it clear that their display wasn't up to her standards. The debate about spending $100K (almost) on twinkling lights was, perhaps, a welcome distraction for the City Council, which was keenly feeling its powerlessness in a discussion of the chloride issue earlier this evening. This was a meeting about just making do.
Mayor Bob Kellar opened: “I’d like to begin by welcoming everybody. Thank you for your attendance.” I’m sure his words were directed at the audience, but I couldn’t help but notice the slightest tilt of his head towards Councilmember Frank Ferry when he spoke. (Indeed, Ferry showed up.) Councilmember TimBen Boydston read a short prayer for the invocation. Next, two animals were recognized by the City. First came a yellow duck representing the Samuel Dixon Family Health Center Rubber Ducky Regata fundraiser, and second came an Elk—Skip Henke, the SCV man who is the President of The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks in Califonia, which is, well, something.
During public participation, Alan Ferdman expressed concerns about open space acquisitions that fall three or more miles beyond City boundaries; the assessment funds are supposed to be for purchases in the City or within 3 miles of its boundaries. TimBen Boydston would, soon after, ask City Manager Ken Striplin and City Attorney Joe Montes if parcels had been purchased that were indeed too far away. Rather than simply answer “yes”, Striplin first threw out an “it depends”, then said he’d need more time to have a fully prepared response to the question. Montes also said he’ll need to look into it further. Mayor Kellar tried to temper Boydston’s suggestion that an ordinance had been violated. Boydston responded rather saucily, saying that he would officially say he was concerned about a “possible violation”, but that he personally believed there had been a “definite violation.”
Ray Henry also spoke during public participation, expressing continued dissatisfaction with what the City has (or rather hasn’t) done for mobile home park residents who have sees their rents increase. When he responded to this comment, City Manager Ken Striplin’s weariness with this topic showed. He noted that there have been extensive meetings and resources spent on discussing these matters and communicating with stakeholders, but there doesn’t seem to be any kind of resolution.
Cam Noltemeyer and Allan Cameron made dismayed and optimistic remarks, respectively, about Santa Clarita and its attempt to find a happy ending to the on-going chloride saga. This began an informal discussion among the City Council about supporting one of the compliance options laid out in the EIR, which City Attorney Joe Montes said could be problematic before the Sanitation Board (two of three members of which are on the CC) has its say. There was a lot of back-and-forth, at least in part because of council members misunderstanding each other, but to summarize: Boydston is upset that everyone’s acting as if Option 4 is what will happen, Kellar hopes people know that the board has really listened to the public, and McLean and Ferry said they have faith that Kellar/Weste will do what’s best for the community in their Sanitation District capacity.
The unanimous approval of the Consent Calendar by the City Council means the invasive weed, Arundo, will be battled in the Santa Clara River, and Workforce Investment Act funds will continue to fund the Santa Clarita Workforce Center. TimBen Boydston had a few questions about the success of the center, and Jason Crawford explained that it has helped put 98 people to work, which is dozens more than was expected under past grants.
The final item of the evening was deciding whether $80,000 in contingency funds should be spent on a holiday lighting display in Newhall. Armine Charpayan presented the item. Staff chose to develop a plan with Mobile Illumination, a company which has done lighting displays for Beverley Hills, the Grove, Santa Monica, the Queen Mary, and a host of other big-name clients. The plan called for illuminating 97 trees on Main Street; adorning a 23-foot tall (fake) holiday tree in red, white, and silver; and erecting two festive “skylines” with holiday well-wishings and Santa with deer. Newhall Memorial decided to throw in $10,000, and the SCV Auto Dealers agreed to fork over $5,000, so the City would only need to allocate $65,000 for the display—at least by my math.
There was a hilarious dynamic between Marsha McLean, the Mobile Illumination guy, and City Manager Ken Striplin throughout the talk. She began her comments by saying “I really tried to like it, I really did.” But she did not. She found the metal-pipe trusses for overhead displays and the barrels they would be supported by to be ugly. She wondered why a tree budget in excess of $20,000 couldn’t be used to acquire a real tree. She fretted about the noise of trucks setting up lights all night for a week. Whenever anyone tried to answer her, she came off as combative, particularly when she tried to make the company agree to wrap the skyline supports in something festive (the company said it would need to see if it could fund that). It was actually a bit heated and intense, and City Manager Ken Striplin came off as almost apologetic, noting that “we’ve squeezed them a lot” on the budget and trying to cut McLean’s comments short by promising to work something out. It almost came off as if the company is doing Santa Clarita a favor by working on such stingy budget. My favorite part, however, was when McLean suggested local artists develop displays, because we all know how well it’s going for artists when it comes to the nearby roundabout.
The other members of Council were generally more excited. Mayor Kellar predicted families will say, “By golly, we’re going to go down to Newhall and see the beautiful lights!” Of the decorations, Mayor Pro Tem Laurene Weste said, “I think they’re great!”
When it came time to vote, everyone said yes except for McLean, who paused, sighed, and lamented “I’m afraid it has to be a ‘no’.” Immediately, Frank Ferry said “Bah humbug!”, which was pretty hilarious.
The meeting ended at 7:40