Wednesday, November 25, 2015

The One With McRib Girl

Tonight's meeting of Santa Clarita City Council will forever be known as "The One With McRib Girl." As you have likely already learned via Twitter, Facebook, or even KFI (it's been mentioned all morning), a young woman named Xanthe Pajarillo came forward during public participation to ask for the council's assistance in bringing the McDonald's McRib sandwich back to Santa Clarita. The speech was well-conceived, hilarious, and perhaps a weird way to promote her new film, Robbie...or at least her brand. In any case, she picked the right night, as little else of note happened. Duane Harte was fondly remembered, some development code details were changed, and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Kellar defended himself for being named on a hit mailer against Lynne Plambeck. But mostly, it was McRib. Well, MuhKrib.

Unexpected Babies

"Here in America, we look with sadness across the waters," began Councilmember TimBen Boydston. His invocation was a mix of grief over the recent terror attacks in France and solemn thanksgiving as he read from, fittingly, Abraham Lincoln's Thanksgiving Proclamation.

The sole recognition at tonight's meeting went to a Sheriff's Deputy who helped with an emergency roadside birth. Both Mayor McLean and I were disappointed in the copy that she had been provided with to introduce Deputy Bertola. I was upset that it left out the best part--the delivery happened at a car wash. McLean quibbled after she read a description that it was "an unexpected baby." She broke script to disagree with the script, saying, "The baby, probably, was expected..." garnering laughs from the audience. Perhaps she's right, or perhaps she just needs to watch more of TLC's I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant. In any case, the deputy was applauded for his quick action and assistance with the delivery.

A Strip Club McRib Combo

Public participation usually involves the same few people week in and week out. When you hear a new name, odds are that they've only come to talk about some new traffic problem in their neighborhood. You can imagine my delight, then, when a man in dramatic makeup and a cowboy hat came forward to ask that strip clubs to be welcomed by Santa Clarita. He said the council could help end the stigma against this line of work while simultaneously boosting the economy.

Unfortunately, the man's performance couldn't hold a candle to the brilliance of Xanthe Pajarillo, who spoke after him. She began by asking, with considerable gravity, for an interpreter so as not to exclude the Spanish-speaking community from hearing her comments. Pajarillo then explained the plight of the McDonald's McRib, which she pronounced as MuhkDonald's MuhKrib. The seasonal sandwich is no longer offered nationwide, and she has been having no luck securing one in Santa Clarita. Pajarillo explained that the McRib not only feeds her body but also her soul; a family Thanksgiving tradition is sharing MuhKribs and MuhkNuggets. Without them, this year will be like "Christmas without snow." Xanthe Pajarillo means, roughly, "yellow bird" in Greek/Spanish. And rarely has their been a canary like Pajarillo in the council chambers, singing a song all her own so loud, so clear, so strong. Not once did she break character, and the piece was as well-written as it was well-delivered. Be certain you watch it here.

Other speakers included Elaine Ballace, who spoke with more reserve than usual about mobile home park rent increases. Since park renters escaped a big automatic rent hike because of a newly adopted policy, park owners have been trying to make up the difference by passing through capital improvement costs. Ballace said that this has been done in legally questionable ways, and she asked for the council's help in addressing mobile home rent concerns. She acknowledged that most of the council members (everyone but Kellar) had probably acted in good-faith when trying to lower automatic rent increases, but she said help was needed in countering unintended consequences.

Stacy Fortner used her time at the podium to address traffic issues at one of Einstein Academy's schools. She supported the school's use of a "valet line" policy for pick-ups, but  she pointed out that people who abruptly leave the line or try to force their way in can increase the risk of vehicular collisions. The sheer number of vehicles also causes backups and other problems near Wiley Canyon and Old Orchard. Fortner has had several close calls herself. She had asked for increased traffic enforcement but was told that the Sheriff's Department avoids patrolling the Einstein Academy crowd as a matter of policy. Fortner, who has not had the coziest of relationships with Einstein, its staff, or its parents, was very civil with most of her comments. However, she couldn't resist a subtle remark about the ill-fated school's inability to fix traffic (and other) problems: "I think that they are just very busy dealing with office issues." 

Steve Petzold appealed to the council to select TimBen Boydston to be Mayor Pro Tem when the time comes next month. There was an unofficial rotation in which Bob Kellar skipped over TimBen Boydston to become the current mayor pro tempore. Kellar has had mixed feelings about the rotation in the past. He was skipped over once and wasn't pleased by it, but now he's done the skipping and made no apologies for it. Petzold highlighted Boydston's long service at council, his qualifications, and the fact that the more senior members of council have all had multiple opportunities to be mayor. Petzold ended by wishing everyone a "Merry Thanksgiving." Before he walked away, he looked to the heavens and said, "Go Navy!" for the recently departed Duane Harte.

The Harte of Santa Clarita

Duane Harte's recent and sudden death was on the mind of all councilmembers during their comments. Kellar played a video in remembrance of Harte and said he couldn't do justice to Harte's extensive involvement in all aspects of SCV life: "Duane Harte was the heart of Santa Clarita." Councilmembers Laurene Weste and TimBen Boydston were audibly emotional as they discussed his passing. Weste summarized the man by saying, "Duane was kind of our Jimmy Stewart." Councilmember Dante Acosta mentioned that he had been speaking with Harte at the community tree-lighting event just before Harte's death, rendering the loss all the more immediate and difficult. Mayor McLean agreed, saying, "It seems impossible that he's not here."     

The mourning was tempered by promises of festive holiday events on the community calendar. Boydston apologized for his scruffy beard, explaining that he'll soon be playing the role of Ebeneezer Scrooge in a production of A Christmas Carol. Bob Kellar joked that Boydston was a natural for the role. A smiling Boydston asked "Which one?"--the miserly Scrooge at the start of the story or the generous, amiable Scrooge at the end. Kellar answered laughingly with, "I'm gonna let that one go." 

Lastly, Bob Kellar defended himself against remarks leveled at the previous council meeting. Recall that Lynne Plambeck came forward and held up a hit mailer that went out before the Newhall Water District elections. It was full of what Plambeck called lies and personal attacks. She was appalled that Kellar's name was on it. Kellar had responded by saying that he had "no knowledge" of the mailer. After the meeting, it seems Plambeck sent Kellar a copy of the mailer with his name on it. At tonight's meeting, Kellar responded. He said that "she [Plambeck] attacked me," noting that he had not generated the content about Plambeck himself. Kellar's attempt to play the victim was ineffectual, and not just because he seemed unusually sensitive and, for lack of a better term, butthurt. He implied that he should be able to put his name behind a group without being called out on the nature of that group's election materials. As Kellar ought to know from his years in government, that's not how things work. 

Consent Calendar

The consent calendar was short and mostly routine. One item recommended acquisition of two automatic license plate readers to be used by the Sheriff's Deparment. There was also a letter supporting LA's bid for the 2024 Olympics, and a 50 mph speed limit was set for a stretch of Golden Valley Road. Councilmember Boydston asked about an item relating to environmental impacts along the Santa Clara River watershed, but it didn't amount to much more than acknowledging environmental changes and remedies to affect the future of the river. The entire calendar was approved with the recommended actions and without further discussion.

The final item on the agenda was accepting some amendments to Santa Clarita's Unified Development Code. This helped keep Santa Clarita in line with policies set by the State of California. Co-location of utility towers and communications antennas will be easier, building restrictions on ridgelines will be slightly modified, and each home address will now be limited to a single business rather than many. Dennis Conn came up to speak on the item. His remarks were as wide-ranging and challenging to follow as usual. Earlier in the evening he had covered Romans, taxes on cruise ships, and the US economy. On this item, he talked about hotels, color coordination (I think he may have been saying co-location but it sounded like color coordination), and fishing. The meeting ended at 7:23. Happy Thanksgiving, y'all.