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Bob Kellar: Live from City Hall

Posted: August 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 17, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Civic engagement is at the heart of the democratic process in Santa Clarita, and the public’s involvement is essential for a well-run city.

One of the biggest ways residents can get involved and positively influence critical issues affecting the city is by serving as a commissioner, advising the City Council in specific areas.

The city currently has three commissions, including the Arts Commission, Planning Commission, and Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission.

Each is comprised of five members who provide input to the City Council on matters relating to their respective areas. Commissioners are appointed by City Council members and serve four year terms.

When the city was first incorporated, the City Council and staff developed a philosophy statement that underscores the importance of public participation and an open, non-bureaucratic government.

This statement remains the foundation of our work today at City Hall. I am often asked what the role of a commissioner entails, and how residents can get involved. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of the goals of our three commissions, provide information about the men and women who serve our community in this capacity, and encourage residents to get involved.

The Arts Commission

The Arts Commission is responsible for advising on matters relating to arts programming and public art. The City Council established the commission in 2009 to provide leadership for the advancement and support of arts and culture, to promote economic development through the arts, and to enhance arts and cultural education.

The five commissioners who currently serve the community include: Chairman John Dow, Vice Chairwoman Susan Shapiro, and commissioners Gary Choppe, Dr. Michael Millar, and Patti Rasmussen.

Objectives for this year include:

Sharing results of the Americans for the Arts–Arts & Economic Prosperity IV Study, which provides valuable data about the impact of the arts in Santa Clarita;

Focusing on ways to increase communication between the arts and education communities; identifying funding sources for the city’s Art in Public Places program;

Engaging the community in the arts through exhibits and events; and supporting the continued development of the Newhall Arts and Entertainment District.

The Arts Commission meets on the second Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers and all meetings are open to the public.

The Parks, Recreation

The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission advises the City Council in matters pertaining to city park facilities, recreation offerings and programming, and services and programs available as part of Community Services. Some of the issues the Commission is addressing this year include:

Maintaining and expanding park facilities for current and future use;

Securing grants to assist with program and facility needs;

Development of trails and open space for public use;

Continue and expand creative programs for seniors;

Maintain the city’s pro-active graffiti program;

Provide programs that educate and empower youth to rise above drug use and abuse;

Provide funding and partnership opportunities with local non-profit organizations, and to promote and preserve the area’s historical areas.

The five Parks, Recreation and Community Services commissioners currently serving Santa Clarita include: Chairman Chris Fall, Vice Chairwoman Dianna Boone, and commissioners Michael Cruz, Duane R. Harte and Ruthann Levison.

The Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission meets on the first Thursday of the month at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chambers and all meetings are open to the public.

The Planning Commission

The Planning Commission makes recommendations to the City Council on a variety of planning-related issues; some include:

Proposals for major development projects in the city

Purchase of property for public purposes, and with respect to a specific plan, regulation, or amendment.

The Planning Commission holds public hearings on proposed zoning changes and designations, applications for conditional uses and other permits, as well as permit exceptions and variances.

The commission uses the city’s General Plan, or One Valley, One Vision, as a guide to ensure today’s decisions positively affect the health and quality of life for all in Santa Clarita.

The five residents currently serving on the Planning Commission include Chairwoman Lisa Eichman, Vice Chairman Charles Heffernan, and commissioners Tim Burkhart, Dr. Dennis Ostrom and Diane Trautman.

The Planning Commission meets on the first and third Tuesdays of each month at 6 p.m. in the Council Chambers, and all meetings are open to the public.

As commission terms expire, the City Clerk’s office oversees a call for applications from city-based residents who want to contribute in this way to their community.

Serving on a commission is a great way to get involved in your community, build relationships and have a positive impact on the plans and programs that will shape our city’s future. In 2014 several commission terms will expire, and I hope you’ll consider applying.

Bob Kellar is the mayor of Santa Clarita and can be reached at bkellar@santa-clarita.com.

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