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City Council candidates make their cases

Top priorities include jobs, traffic, safety, say the eight Santa Clarita residents seeking seats

Posted: December 5, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 5, 2013 2:00 a.m.
 

Eight of the declared candidates for Santa Clarita’s next City Council election in April gathered Wednesday morning in Canyon Country for a review forum sponsored by the Santa Clarita Valley branch of the Southland Regional Association of Realtors.

In front of about 25 people Wednesday, each candidate gave an opening statement and answered two questions regarding what they have done to benefit both the community at large and the local real estate community in particular, and what they would make a priority if elected to the City Council.

Three seats are open in the April election. Below are some of the major points made Wednesday by each candidate.

Dante Acosta

“I believe I will bring a business mind. I am fully able to work hand-in-hand with our city staff to make Santa Clarita a much better place.”

Acosta, a former congressional candidate, said his professional experience as a financial adviser has enabled him to help small businesses grow and citizens invest, aiding the local economy.

To that end, Acosta pointed to jobs and the economy as his primary focus, saying economic development is “the lifeblood of any community.” He also said, if elected, that he would work to address traffic issues and advocate for the city in long-standing issues such as cleanup of the Whittaker-Bermite site and the effort to block development of the Cemex mine — a proposed operation to haul 56 million tons of sand and gravel out of Soledad Canyon.

Alan Ferdman

“It is now time that we should be looking forward and making every effort to ensure Santa Clarita’s future.”

Ferdman, chairman of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, cited his past advocacy involvement, including being involved in looking for a home for the Emergency Winter Shelter in the Santa Clarita Valley, recommending extended use of the shelter site on Drayton Street.

Ferdman said he would like to ensure every citizen of Santa Clarita has equal representation from the City Council. Establishing such a culture, Ferdman said, will help the city address some of the larger issues it faces.


Berta Gonzalez-Harper

“I believe that we live in a great city and I would like to be able to build on the successes we’ve had.”

A longtime resident and community activist from Canyon Country, Gonzalez-Harper said she was an early opponent of the Cemex mine and also pushed for putting utility poles underground along Soledad Canyon Road between Camp Plenty Road and Sierra Highway.

Gonzalez-Harper said, if elected, she would like to see the city study whether it would make sense to assume control of the Santa Clarita Valley Senior Center from the county, much as it did with libraries, and expand those services.

She also said she would work to defeat the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit facing the city, which she also cited as a reason she decided to run for City Council.

Maria Gutzeit

“No one has my business background and demonstrated commitment to the environment, and we need people in office who bring those together.”

Gutzeit, who was recently re-elected to another term on the board for the Newhall County Water District, pointed to her experience in environmental advocacy during Wednesday’s forum, saying she played a role in developing the bicycle master plan for Los Angeles County. She also discussed how, in her capacity as a board member in the water district, she helped secure water resources to support new projects, including Castaic High School.

If elected, Gutzeit said, one of her top priorities is creating well-paying jobs. She also said she would like to see the city give more incentives to businesses and homeowners to “go green” by constructing new homes or buildings in a sustainable way or giving incentives for the installation of solar panels.

Duane Harte

“I want to listen to you, what your concerns are, then I’ll work toward creating solutions for those problems.”

Harte, a current member of the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission, cited his time on the Newhall Redevelopment Committee, saying the efforts of that community helped lead to beautification and increased property values in the area.

Harte also said traffic in the city would be a point of emphasis for him, if elected. And he said it is important that the city responsibly develop the former site of the Whittaker-Bermite munitions plant in Saugus once the effort to clean up toxins on the site is complete.

Marsha McLean

“My experience, commitment and dedication are what allow me to do the job necessary to bring the business community and residents the amenities we deserve.”

First elected to the City Council in 2002, McLean said her advocacy in transportation matters has benefitted commuters to and from the Santa Clarita Valley. McLean also said she has been engaged in discussions with the agency that oversees the California High Speed Rail project and that those discussions may help reroute the train away or under Sand Canyon, whereas current plans call for the train to go above ground, impacting or displacing homes, schools and a church in its wake.

McLean said communication between the public and the city is important and, if re-elected, she would continue to personally answer and work to address questions and concerns from citizens. She also extolled the importance of a balanced budget and said the city should continue to have “zero tolerance” for graffiti.

Gloria Mercado-Fortine

“My focus has always been to really give back to the community that really gave me so much.”

Mercado-Fortine, who is a William S. Hart Union High School District board member, said her experience serving on a variety of boards for local nonprofit organizations has given her opportunities to work for the community’s benefit.

She said some of her major emphases, if elected, would be to invest in economic development to continue to grow the city’s tax base, work to address the issues with traffic congestion and continue to support efforts to reduce crime.

Laurene Weste

“We are very blessed to have this community ... We are unique and I intend to keep it that way.” 

Weste, who was first elected to the City Council in 1998, discussed her active leadership roles in developing the city’s Open Space Preservation District and mapping the local trail system.

Creating and keeping jobs were also among the top re-election priorities for Weste, who also said keeping a balanced city budget and working to maintain a high quality of life for residents should be emphasized.
The 2014 City Council election will be held April 8.

Lmoney@signalscv.com
661-287-5525
On Twitter
@LukeMMoney

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