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Santa Clarita billboard issue to be settled by public vote

Posted: June 25, 2014 7:03 p.m.
Updated: June 25, 2014 7:03 p.m.

About 10 people demonstrated in front of City Hall on Tuesday, calling for council members to repeal their billboard ordinance. The council instead agreed to put the matter to a public vote. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

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Come November, Santa Clarita voters will take to the polls for the city’s first-ever public referendum — in this case to decide the future of a controversial billboard ordinance.

Faced with the decision to either repeal the ordinance outright or put it to a public vote, Santa Clarita City Council members voted 3-1 Tuesday night to seek to put the matter on the ballot for the upcoming general election in November.

“The people can speak through an election,” City Councilwoman Marsha McLean said.

The ordinance in question would give the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority the right to construct three, double-sided digital billboards on city-owned property off Highway 14 and Interstate 5 in exchange for removing 62 billboard structures along the Metro right-of-way inside city limits.

The City Council had approved the ordinance, but now it will be put on the ballot for the Nov. 4 election.

Los Angeles County staff has indicated it would support consolidation of the measure with the upcoming general election, the city’s agenda item said.

The cost of such an election was approximated at $208,000, according to the agenda.

But many of those at Tuesday’s council meeting said they believed the people had already spoken, citing more than 11,000 signatures collected and submitted on petitions to qualify for a referendum.

“If you take this to an election, you will be spending $200,000 to do what you can do tonight, and that is to repeal the deal,” said resident Patti Sulpizio.

Councilman TimBen Boydston was the lone vote against putting the matter to a public vote.

“This deal is a bad deal. It was a bad deal to begin with,” Boydston said. “And that’s why I’m opposed to it.”

Boydston, who also voted against the ordinance when it was before the City Council, said he would like to see work toward a deal that would take down all the billboards in the city, not just the ones in the Metro right-of-way.

“What we need to do is kill this deal tonight so that we can go get a global solution to all of the boards in Santa Clarita,” he said.

Mayor Laurene Weste recused herself on the matter, but other council members who participated in the discussion said they believed the matter is best put to a vote.

Councilman Bob Kellar said he heard from citizens who were apparently misled about the nature of the petition by some of those gathering signatures.

Kellar told the audience, “You know as well as I do there were a lot of people, who were the paid people, that were not doing it with the level of integrity that you were,” he said of paid petition-signature gatherers.

The hours-long meeting Tuesday was contentious at times, with some exchanges between members of the audience and council members on the dais.

Saugus resident Steve Petzold was temporarily escorted from Council Chambers by officials from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station after calling out to council members during the meeting.
On Twitter @LukeMMoney




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