The Lawnmower Show
The meeting began 20 minutes late, but none of the matters from closed session were discussed. Councilmember TimBen Boydston was charged with delivering the invocation, and he read excerpts from a lengthy prayer by John Quincy Adams. It was full of arcane language and rhymed.Next, May was proclaimed “Bicycle Month". Mayor McLean spoke about the frenzy of bicycle-mania typical of Claritan Mays—there's the bike-to-work event, the Amgen Tour... She hoped Santa Clarita would remain bike friendly and foster "synergistic" sharing of the road by different types of commuters. Whoever wrote the bike spiel for McLean was clearly deluded about how our roads work.
Some people overstay their welcome during presentations to the council. Tonight, that person was Michael Cacciotti, representative for the South Coast Air Quality Management District (among other titles). He gave a Powerpoint presentation on the dangers of various air pollutants, the sources of these pollutants, and actions to address air quality issues. He delved into such details as the particular dangers of different size classes of airborne particulates. After suggesting clean-air grants for which Santa Clarita could apply, his grand finale was a lengthy pitch for electronic lawn maintenance equipment. There was even a demonstration on an air-blower and electric lawnmower. The whole thing was a bit ridiculous, but Councilmember Dante Acosta was rather enamored of the show, standing up for a better view of the demo and asking for details on equipment exchange/rebate programs.
The first speaker tonight was Bill Reynolds, who fondly remembered the recently passed George Pederson and asked that Central Park be renamed to honor Santa Clarita's former mayor. Gene Dorio echoed the sentiment, and he read a sample text that could appear on a plaque in "Pederson Park." Robin Clough was the third to call for renaming the park after Pederson, calling him “a full-spectrum philanthropist.”Per usual, there were speakers asking the City Council to remember mobile home park residents and their issues. Elaine Ballace challenged the idea that mobile home park owners must be allowed to significantly increase rents in order to realize a fair rate of return. Citing the sluggish increase in CPI, she asked, “What is the definition of fair return?” Doug Fraser would make a similar point during his remarks.
After an older man made some suggestions about recapturing treated water bound for the Santa Clara River, two women came forward to make an appeal for ducks. They said that the two ponds at the corners of McBean and Newhall Ranch are a death-trap for waterfowl. Many are "slaughtered" by motorists, and accidents are likely when ducks are crossing the road from one pond to the other. They had some solutions in mind that ranged from fencing to lowering the speed limit, and they even consulted experts from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Cam Noltemeyer expressed her dismay with the handling of the Shangri La chloride water fine that has been brought up (and addressed by City Manager Ken Striplin) many times in past months. Steve Petzold is still keeping his eye on billboard issues, and his recent review of documents revealed improper behavior by Allvision LLC, the company which stood to profit from a billboard deal. Petzold said they didn't fully disclose all their funding efforts on time and improperly meddled with referendum efforts. Petzold said, "I have no trust at all in Metro or Allvision," and he asked if Santa Clarita was currently involved in any negotiations about billboard reduction.
San Meetings: Where?
Petzold didn't have to wait long for an answer about whether City Hall was formulating a new billboard deal. City Manager Ken Striplin said, "The answer is no." Striplin then stated that the mobile home park ordinance is still being hammered out and will return for consideration at some future date. He was sympathetic to the duck ladies, and lamented the fact that they haven't been able to find a solid solution to this on-going problem.
Committee reports followed. Councilmember Laurene Weste gave some updates on chloride issues. She spoke about technology that would allow Santa Clarita to generate just 5 to 10 truckloads worth of ultra-concentrated chloride waste each day. She said that the plan to treat chloride in wastewater has gone from about a half-billion dollars down to slightly over $100M. Her comments prompted remarks from Councilmember TimBen Boydston about the location of sanitation district meetings. He mentioned that Assemblyman Scott Wilk is trying to pass legislation to get all meeting which affect Santa Clarita to be held in town, an idea he firmly supported. Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar did not agree. He said that it's very costly to have the LA-based sanitation personnel come up to Santa Clarita. Kellar said that meetings which directly affect Claritans are and should be held here, while meetings of routine business make more sense in LA. Boydston still disagreed, wondering who makes the call about whether an issue is important to local ratepayers, but the matter was put to rest for the time being. Weste would also express her sympathy for the ducks.
During their remarks, the other councilmembers touched on a number of issues. Councilmember Dante Acosta offered Memorial Day reflections. Kellar played a presentation of himself talking about George Pederson’s journey from Madagascar to serving in WWII to working as a milkman to becoming an LA Sheriff's Captain to being Santa Clarita's mayor during the Northridge earthquake. While Pederson was honored, Kellar gave no indication of support for naming a park after him. Boydston expressed hopes that Santa Clarita could reclaim more of its wastewater, wondering how much of the water set aside for endangered species really ought to go to their habitats. Mayor McLean asked that residents remain involved on the issue of high-speed rail.
We finally reached the consent calendar portion of the meeting at 7:45, and there were speakers for several items.
Item 6 was the annual, contractually allowed rate adjustment for waste service providers. Cam Noltemeyer used the item as an opportunity to ask the council about the proposal to expand Chiquita Canyon Landfill. She reminded them that "we fought Elsmere!" Item 7 was, as developer Jim Backer described it, a funding instrument for a parking structure that's part of the transit development at Vista Canyon. He was clearly in favor. And Items 8 and 9 brought Al Ferdman forward. They pertained to special assessments, and Ferdman asked where funding for some under-budgeted landscape maintenance districts was coming from and wondered about the need to increase the assessment for open space acquisition. He pointed out that there are millions in reserves and comparatively modest purchases planned for the year.
City Manager Striplin said that the proposed $1.50 increase for the open space assessment was legal and would help cover rising bond debt payments and the increased cost of land acquisition. After his remarks, Councilmember Boydston had a long conversation with a representative from Waste Management about issues with their residential service. He said there were delays in receiving new bins/carts (Boydston said he had to call three times before he got his) and that Christmas tree pick-up had been a real issue. The rep apologized profusely. He said his company was sorry several times and promised responsive treatment was a priority.
The meeting ended shortly after 8.