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Our View: Moving on after the election

Posted: April 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: April 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

This year’s Santa Clarita City Council elections will give arm-chair experts lots to talk about after the voters returned both incumbents Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean to office and replaced Frank Ferry with Canyon Country businessman Dante Acosta.

The election is remarkable for the victory of both incumbents despite a vocal anti-incumbency movement; for the sheer number of qualified candidates who ran; for the emergence of one clear issue — seniors’ needs — amid campaigning marked by no single significant polarizing issue or media-grabbing mud-slinging; and perhaps most of all for the success of a come-from-behind candidate who raised awareness about his candidacy through a steady ground campaign and who refused to direct attacks at either the city establishment or his fellow candidates.
Sadly, it’s also remarkable by the level of voter apathy demonstrated by the low voter turnout of 14.2 percent, 3 percentage points lower than the turnout in the 2012 election.
Some believe Weste and McLean were re-elected because voters are generally happy with the quality of life in Santa Clarita, but others point to the collectively high number of votes cast for other candidates and say but for the huge field of challengers, the incumbents would have been voted out.

As for Acosta, his business experience and collegial style may have attracted voters. His campaign gained momentum as the race developed due to his strategy of being somewhere on everyone’s ballot rather than seeking to be the top vote-getter.

His focus was on the future, and he spoke directly about the issue of transparency without being confrontational.

Meanwhile, the bubbles next to incumbents’ names were filled in on far fewer than half of the nearly 16,000 ballots cast, not exactly a ringing endorsement.

This may be due to the degree of acrimony that has occurred on the council the past few years and the length of time the incumbents have been on the council.

It is apparent that the incumbents have work to do to shore up their reception and support in the community. We hope that they see that too.

Even though the voter turnout was disturbingly low, there were some encouraging signs in this election. First and foremost is the quality and diversity of candidates.

The overall civil tone of the campaign was also a plus. Lastly, most candidates behaved themselves when it came to signs, shenanigans and other political distractions.

Now that the often-divisive Frank Ferry is off the council and Acosta takes his place, we call on the new council member to carry the civility and strength he demonstrated in his campaign to the dais of the City Council.

We ask him to provide the moderating voice the council so needs now, and we call on the rest of the council to rethink issues of transparency and accountability and rededicate themselves to serving those who put them in office – their bosses.

As for those in the anti-incumbency camp, we commend them for pursuing the democratic process through their referendum drive on the billboard issue but also call on them to be mindful that civility cuts both ways.  

We hope this new era of Santa Clarita governance is marked by elected officials who listen to the people, and by constituents who are included in the process and provided the opportunity for feedback while accepting that they won’t always get their way. Such is the nature of majority-rule government.

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