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Annexation discussed at City Council candidate forum

12 of 13 City Council candidates attended forum hosted by local media

Posted: February 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Should the city of Santa Clarita examine expanding its boundaries across Interstate 5? The consensus among City Council candidates is that it’s a possibility worth exploring.

At a Santa Clarita City Council candidate forum Saturday, 12 of the 13 candidates in the April 8 election discussed whether they would support annexing nearby unincorporated communities, such as Stevenson Ranch and Westridge.

The question at Saturday’s forum, hosted by The Signal, SCVTV, KHTS AM 1220 and College of the Canyons Cougar News at the SCVTV studio in Newhall, was posed via video by City Councilman Frank Ferry, whose decision not to run for re-election in April left his seat on the council open.

Dante Acosta, a council candidate, said he is open to the idea of annexation.

“I would welcome them into the city should they decide that’s something they would like to do,” he said.

Mayor Laurene Weste, one of two incumbents running for re-election in the April 8 election, also said such an effort needs to be supported by the communities proposed for annexation.

“I strongly believe that the beautiful communities of Stevenson Ranch and Westridge, should they want to annex, would be welcome,” she said. “But it is up to those communities to decide their future and what they want.”

Another candidate, Duane Harte, also said he would support such an effort if there was a popular sentiment behind it.

Moazzem Chowdhury, another candidate, said he supports the idea of annexation, as residents in nearby communities likely use city infrastructure, such as roads, on a regular basis already and the annexation could bring more tax revenue into the city.

Candidate Berta Gonzalez-Harper said she would support annexation if it does not mean additional costs for city residents.

“I wouldn’t support any annexation that was going to cost money for existing city residents,” she said.

It is typically the city’s practice to consider annexations that are either revenue neutral or revenue positive.

Another candidate, Alan Ferdman, said he thinks the city would benefit from uniting with nearby areas.

“I think it would be beneficial to us to act as one city,” he said. “I think it would be very discouraging to have two competing cities right next to each other.”

Candidate Dennis Conn said he thinks such an annexation decision should be put to a popular vote.

“Why should just only five people decide on that?” he asked, referring to the number of City Council members.

Possible annexations were one topic discussed at Saturday’s forum, which was held in two parts, each with six candidates.

Another major point of discussion was how the city could incentivize and aid business activity within its borders.

City Councilwoman Marsha McLean, who is running for re-election, said the city has an economic growth program in place.

“We have lots of incentives for business, and they do take advantage of it,” McLean said.

Candidate Sandra Bull said she thinks the city could do a better job promoting itself to businesses.

“We’ve done a pretty good job,” she said. “We just need to do better.”

Gloria Mercado-Fortine, another candidate, said she thinks the city could do more to streamline its permitting process to make it easier for businesses.

Candidate Maria Gutzeit said she thinks the city needs to examine ways to make it easier and cheaper for small businesses to operate or grow.

Stephen Daniels, another candidate, proposed creation of a business ambassador position in the city to communicate with local businesses and suggested examining whether the city could buy land or provide training for companies to entice them into relocating to Santa Clarita.

The only candidate who did not attend Saturday’s forum was Paul Wieczorek.

Lmoney@signalscv.com

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