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Signal hosts candidate forum for council race

Thirteen Santa Clarita City Council seat seekers outline their qualifications for office

Posted: February 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 7, 2014 2:00 a.m.

The thirteen candidates running for City Council meet for a forum at The Signal offices in Valencia on Thursday. (From left to right) Alan Ferdman, Sandra Bull, Laurene Weste, Berta Gonzalez-Harper, Paul Wieczorek, Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Moazzem Chowdhury, Stephen Daniels, Duane Harte, Maria Gutzeit, Marsha McLean, Dante Acosta and Dennis Co...

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Many of the candidates for Santa Clarita City Council have praised the past successes of the city over the course of the campaign. 

But where they differ is whether previous experience or a fresh pair of eyes would better serve the city moving forward.

All 13 candidates for the three seats up for grabs in the April 8 City Council election outlined their qualifications for office to an audience made up of around 45 Signal subscribers during a candidate forum Thursday night at The Signal offices.

The two incumbents running for re-election — Mayor Laurene Weste and Councilwoman Marsha McLean — said their years of council experience make them suited to continue serving.

“Our city is a great place to be,” Weste said. “And our city has stayed that way because we have fought together to preserve what makes it great.”

McLean said experience is necessary to address the city’s future challenges.

“Anyone can identify the issues,” she said. “But it takes someone with experience and expertise to get positive results.”

Other candidates pointed to their past business successes as a reason they would be effective.

Maria Gutzeit, a Newhall County Water District board member, said her background in politics and business gives her the necessary experience to serve on the City Council.

Gutzeit also said it is important to acknowledge future issues as well as past successes.

“We can’t move forward if we’re looking backward,” she said.

Dante Acosta, a local businessman and former Congressional candidate, also pointed to his business experience as a reason he would make a good councilman, saying it would help in his push to aid economic development in the city.

Another business owner, Moazzem Chowdhury, said he would work cooperatively with citizens to address the city’s issues.

“Together, let’s make the city of Santa Clarita the best city to live in,” Chowdhury said.

Another candidate, Dennis Conn, said he thinks the city would benefit from an increase in tourism activity.

Other candidates said their previous political experience and community involvement would serve them well, if elected.

Gloria Mercado-Fortine said serving as a board member in the William S. Hart Union High School District has given her the experience necessary to be on the council.

“I would bring that experience, leadership and energy to the City Council,” Mercado-Fortine said.

Berta Gonzalez-Harper, a longtime Canyon Country resident, pointed to her years of active community involvement and said her grassroots campaign effort shows she is putting her money where her mouth is.

“This community is where I want to serve,” she said.

Duane Harte, a member of the city Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission, also discussed his service throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

“Today we have a good city,” he said. “I want to keep working to make it a great city.”

Alan Ferdman, chairman of the Canyon Country Advisory Committee, said his years of community involvement have given him the expertise necessary to serve on the council.

“Together we will make a difference,” he told the crowd.

Other candidates touted their status as political outsiders.

Sandra Bull said she would bring a fresh pair of eyes to lead the city.

“I would like to bring that perspective to the City Council,” she said.

Two other candidates, Paul Wieczorek and Stephen Daniels, echoed the sentiment.

“Just like computers and phones, city councils need to be updated to keep with the times,” Wieczorek said.

Daniels said he thinks some new blood is necessary on the council.

“I believe the current City Council has lost touch with the average resident,” Daniels said. “I would like to restore that.”
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