Wednesday, April 16, 2014

2014 Election in a Nutshell

There were many firsts and lasts, highs and lows in 2014's council election. But the most important record is a disappointing one, as we saw the lowest voter turnout ever recorded in a Santa Clarita City Council election. The figure below depicts the rather troubling proportions. You might summarize it thus: Laurene Weste was able to finish in first place because about 1 in 20 eligible voters decided to give her a vote.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

The Woman's World that is SCV Politics

It’s election day, and in the grand tradition of making predictions that others will grumble about, I’m going to guess the top 4 finishers in order: Marsha McLean, Laurene Weste, Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Maria Gutzeit. Hardly a bold prediction, I know, but it’s based on more than just my gut: it’s the result of a model built from past election results. The data clearly show that the strongest predictors for success in council races are incumbency, funds raised, and sex. The power of incumbency and fundraising are obvious, but you may not know that women routinely fare better with the Claritan voter.

Female candidates averaged more votes than male candidates in 9 out of 11 elections.  2004 was excluded from this chart because no women ran that year.


Of the 30 worst election performances, only one was a woman. If you divide the number of votes which a candidate received by the total number of voters (i.e., share of vote), many have failed miserably. But nearly all of these failures have been male.


In terms of total number of “term years” on City Council, women have served 50.7% of them. Half seems right, but consider that only 35 women have run for council compared with 90 men. In other words, women run at just one-third the rate that men do, but they have served on council just as often as men have.[2]


Of course, weird things still happen. Mayor Laurie Ender was unseated in 2012, when two X chromosomes proved little defense against TimBen Boydston. And it's Cameron Smyth, not a woman, who is the all-time most successful candidate in Santa Clarita election history. But those events were exceptional. If the results of tonight's election are of the routine sort, then the guys who are running have their work cut out for them.
[1]You can find past election results here:
[2]SCVHistory has a helpful page documenting changeover on the City Council.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Everyone's Favorite Wildflower: Claspingleaf Wild Cabbage

It’s hard to walk more than a few feet into the wilds of Santa Clarita without stumbling across something special, especially at this time of year. After church this morning, I went to Elsmere Canyon to enjoy the spring show. I parked near the Elsmere Canyon Open Space sign off of Sierra Highway/Remsen Street. It's pleasantly isolated: just you, nature, the familiar roar of the 14, and a vague sense of dread over the electronic billboards that will soon be shining 50-feet overhead.
Among the more conspicuous wildflowers today were: (first-row) California Buckwheat, Prickly Phlox, Thick-leaved Yerba Santa; (second-row) Sticky Monkeyflower, California Suncup, Yellow Pincushion; (third-row) Coulter’s Lupine, Tansyleaf Phacelia, and Blue Witch. All of these plants are flowering within a half-mile of one another. Some grow in the sandy wash, some on the gravelly slopes, others in moister, oak-shaded margins. Our varied topography creates many unique niches, each exploited by different wildflowers.
Yeah, some are fuzzy--that's what you get for taking photos on a phone. Consider the unsatisfying clarity to be good incentive to go look at them for yourself; they're prettier that way.
The plant I was most excited to find, however, is called Claspingleaf Wild Cabbage (Caulanthus amplexicaulis var. amplexicaulis). It’s the first time I’ve ever seen it in the wild. Despite belonging to the genus Caulanthus, enticingly known as the jewelflowers, it’s very easy to miss. It grows on lean rocky slopes, its flowers are only about a quarter-inch across, and its leaves rise just a few inches above the ground.
So what’s special about it? It’s one of the oddly wonderful species (just look at the bizarre clasping leaves and the bulbous, deep maroon flower) found here and virtually nowhere else on earth. The entire population of this plant is confined to the Transverse Ranges of Southern California. We miss the little things like this far too often. For while the vegetation on our hills is viewed by firemen as fuel and by developers as brush, if you look closely enough, you’ll see that it’s really an amazing collection of plants The few Claspingleaf Wild Cabbages I saw blooming today will be dead in months; they're annuals. With any luck, however, they’ll have dropped their seeds, and after some nourishing rainfall, more Caulanthus will sprout and bloom next spring.