People weren't getting along at tonight's City Council meeting. There were confrontations ranging from mundane to explosive, and none of the personalities involved came off as wholly sympathetic. It wasn't that any issues on tonight's agenda were particularly contentious, but they served as convenient enough ignition sources for long-accumulating fuel. By the end of the meeting, we had an updated housing plan, bought more time for waste disposal issues, and saw Councilmember Frank Ferry leave the meeting early, shortly after calling Cam Noltemeyer "toxic waste."
The meeting began with a long procession of recognitions and proclamations. The Traveling Vietnam Memorial Wall Committee, Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Domestic Violence Prevention Month, Soroptimist International, Circle of Hope, and Family Promise all received their due. Former Mayor Laurie Ender made an appearance in the capacity of President of Family Promise, and she was warmly received by the City Council.
Alan Ferdman was the first member of the public to speak, and his words about the handling of the chloride issue were harsh and condemning. Recall that there was a big chloride meeting the night before the City Council meeting and that it looks like the (risky, liability-laden) Alternative 4 is the preferred option for the Sanitation Board, which is 2/3 City Council members (Mayor Kellar, Mayor Pro Tem Weste). Ferdman was upset that hundreds of pages of public comments were "summarily dismissed", said that "it's hard to assume that a backdoor deal has not been made", and he identified a "gross lack of leadership." Because Ferdman's voice rarely reflects much passion, it can be easy to miss just how damning his words are.
Two residents of a senior complex spoke next, asking for help in securing rent control or some other assistance with rising rent.
To close out the comments, Allan Cameron requested that the next Sanitation District meeting be broadcast (or at least recorded on video) and Cam Noltemeyer accused the City of working to the benefit of Newhall Land and other interests.
Before Mayor Kellar asked the other members of the City Council to speak, he said that the chloride issue was extremely complicated and yet again asked for the public to put its faith in him and Laurene Weste in their capacity on the sanitation board. He was offended at the accusation of backdoor deals, saying, "Guys, there's not that many bogeymen out there." (i.e., drop the conspiracy theories).
Councilmember TimBen Boydston spent most of his turn for comments speaking about the chloride options. Like many others, he believes any alternative is better than option 4. Because option 4 involves sending billions of gallons of water downstream, he argued that it will immediately and permanently create an obligation to maintain those flows in the name of maintaining endangered fish populations (steelhead or stickleback). Boydston was long-winded, as usual, but Kellar was well out of bounds when he reprimanded Boydston for his comments, telling Boydston to be more brief next time. Because, you know, after half an hour of photo opps and back-patting, spending 5 minutes talking about a billion-dollar water issue is totally out of line and wasting the public's time. (During his turn for comments and updates, Mayor Kellar would speak about the much more important topic of holiday lights in Newhall.) This all helped build tension for the later, more spectacular challenge of personalities.
Tonight's was a very short consent calendar, but Item 2 drew some attention. It was basically two items in one. The first recommended action had to do with solid waste service franchise agreements in newly annexed parts of Santa Clarita. This was routine and passed--just a matter of shifting responsibilities after shifting city boundaries. The second part of the item was continued for further discussion and study. It would have allowed waste haulers to drop off trash at more landfill sites (right now, they're limited to Chiquita Landfill and two landfills in the Antelope Valley) that might be cheaper. However, Steve Cassulo of Chaquita wasn't so keen on the prospect of losing business as a result of this action. He cited relationships with Claritan businesses and had letters asking for careful consideration of the issue from business groups.
Kellar and Boydston again came into conflict on this issue, albeit indirectly. It was a matter of calling bluffs. If Kellar was so keen on saving taxpayers money, why not approve this measure and allow for more competition from various landfills for SCV's trash? Conversely, if Boydston was so keen on taking time to really dig into and understand issues, why pass the measure so quickly? It was Boydston who acquiesced (after a comment by Councilmember Marsha McLean), so waste disposal guidelines will be more thoroughly discussed in the future.
Somewhere in the thick of the discussion, Ferry took Boydston to task for what he perceived as unwarranted sympathy for the comments from Cam Noltemeyer. (Noltemeyer had spoken about this item earlier, asking about MRFs and sweetheart deals for Newhall Land and making her usual points about the City screwing over the taxpayer). Ferry argued that Cam Noltemeyer should not be seen as a hero for the cause of open, responsive government but rather as a community-destroying menace. He mentioned her service on the San Fernando City Council and said, "She was a total wreck down there...Cam Noltemeyer has no credibility in San Fernando and now she wants to poison our community...Cam Noltemeyer is a toxic waste...she's not a savior." All of this was said quite passionately and loudly--Ferry was really worked up. And in the midst of this storm, just imagine Boydston incessantly asking for a "point of order" in a calm, persistent tone. It was a mess, and you couldn't decided whether you wanted to side with Ferry the bully or Boydston the hall monitor. For while Ferry's outburst was obviously inappropriate, sometimes it's best to just stand out of the way; this was Mayor Kellar's philosophy as he (unsuccessfully) told Boydston to be quiet while Ferry spoke. In any case, Boydston reminded Ferry that it's policy not to denigrate public speakers, and this reminder went over as well as you might expect.
There was a brief recess before new business. When the meeting was about to resume, Ferry just opted to take his things and make a quiet exit. It didn't matter much as the general plan housing element update elicited little discussion and as more of a formality than anything else. Essentially, the City was complying with the requirement that its plans be updated from time to time to reflect new developments and data.
Here's the agenda.