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Carl Boyer: What should be the real City Council campaign issues?

Posted: February 26, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 26, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

We are in the midst of another campaign for election to Santa Clarita City Council, and a number of candidates can be expected to talk about the usual: jobs, good schools, recreation for youth and beautification among them.

These are not real issues. Our great city staff has been hard at work on most of them for years, with City Council support.

The schools are not the responsibility of city government, but of independent school boards.

I believe there are three real issues that should be addressed during campaigning: doing something about the huge amounts of money spent on council campaigns; giving the people the right to elect our mayor directly; and leading the way to reform our county government.

I have been using my three minutes at council meetings to speak about these issues in the hopes that the 13 candidates in April’s election will do some serious thinking.

However, not all the candidates attend every council meeting. Nor are they always asked questions about these issues at candidates’ forums.

When the city was incorporated in 1987, I was elected on a campaign budget of $1,100, the average donation being $10.

At the first regular election in 1990, it cost $10,000 or so to be re-elected. By this time the special interests were getting involved in a big way.

Dividing the city into districts does not sit well with the candidates, particularly those of Hispanic or Latino heritage, who do not want to be marginalized by special treatment.

Numbered seats, such as we have in the Santa Clarita Community College District, might be a solution. A page in the election booklet, free to each candidate, might be another.

The point is that ideas about cutting campaign costs should be offered, and debated.

We are probably the largest city in the state with a mayor elected by the city council rather than by the people. I would suggest that instead of electing three council members in 2018, we elect two and a mayor.

To ensure majority support of those voting, there should be a runoff if necessary, or perhaps a ballot on which voters would be required to mark at least their first, second and third choices if there are three or more candidates.

As it stands now, the elections do not provide successful candidates with mandates. A winner in a 13-candidate race could be successful with the support of a small minority of those voting.

Winners often are the most popular, or have name recognition, thus ensuring nothing.

It is incredible that four of our council members have shown no willingness to address the problem of our being a big city but only a small part of the largest county in the world, a county with more than 10 million people, larger than the vast majority of sovereign nations on this earth.

When I last spoke about this to the council, the lame excuse offered was that I had brought it up before and they had held a study session.

True, I was the only speaker in favor (no one was opposed), but they only gave me three minutes to state my case. They gave no credence to previous local votes, in 1976 and 1978, overwhelmingly in favor of forming our own Canyon County.

Perhaps I made a mistake not pushing for a crowd with many speakers to attend; when I served on the council it only took one person presenting a real good idea to get action.

Staff told the council it was a state issue. Of course it was. When we pushed for local county government in the 1970s it only took four people — Ruth Newhall, Dan Hon, Ray Cooper and me — to give testimony resulting in a change in state law to make an election possible.

Then we were opposed by our county supervisor, Baxter Ward, and Los Angeles County got the law changed, making it almost impossible to try for county formation a third time until our population grew to what it is now.

I have been told we need not expect opposition from Supervisor Mike Antonovich for an effort in favor of county reform by the north county cities of Santa Clarita, Lancaster and Palmdale, but the council is apparently unwilling to even consider meeting with those two cities to test the waters.

If the public does not put a little pressure on the candidates, both incumbents and challengers, to talk about the real issues, we will get what we deserve.

Carl Boyer is a Santa Clarita resident.

 

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