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Laurene Weste: Tough times call for steady leadership

Posted: February 19, 2010 5:41 p.m.
Updated: February 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
Editor's note: This is one in a series of columns from candidates in the 2010 Santa Clarita City Council race.

It seems the world is imploding. When the financial markets had a meltdown, Washington's politicians bailed out Wall Street but ignored Main Street.

State government revenue is in a free fall. Sacramento is facing another $21 billion deficit after confronting a $26 billion deficit last fiscal year.

At almost every level of government, taxes are being raised, teachers being fired and services are being shuttered - and no one is willing to take responsibility for their actions.

Many of our friends and neighbors question whether government works, and I share this frustration.

However, under my leadership, along with other members of the present City Council, Santa Clarita has been able to sustain itself during these tough economic times. Despite serious funding cuts by the state Legislature, we at the city have honored our promises and accomplished many things.

Supporting public safety
Santa Clarita is one of America's safest cities. As your councilwoman, I supported retaining funding for our sheriff's and fire departments and have encouraged enhanced programs to assist our youth, fight gangs and graffiti.

If our children, neighborhoods and seniors are not safe nothing else matters. My work has been recognized with the endorsement by the Association of Los Angles Deputies and the Professional Peace Officers Association.

Balancing the budget
Last year your City Council produced a balanced budget and maintained a 15 percent budget reserve of almost $11 million. This year it is estimated we will have an $800,000 shortfall.

Unlike other governments we won't raise your taxes. Instead I will cut sufficient spending to continue balancing our budget. I pledge the city will continue to do more with less and maintain high-quality services without imposing taxes on residents or businesses.

Promoting jobs
The city can help the private sector in creating good paying local jobs. That is why I support the new public/private partnership of the Santa Clarita Valley Economic Development Corp., which is dedicated to assisting local businesses grow as well as attracting new employers to our community.

This will improve our city's jobs-to-housing ratio, reduce pollution and improve the lives of those residents who won't have to commute outside the valley.

Improving roads
This March we will celebrate the completion of the $245 million cross-valley connector. I first presented this idea to the City Council in 2001, and the city along with support from Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon and county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich - as well as private developers - has made this road a reality.

This eight-and-a-half-mile road provides a vital link between Interstate 5 and Highway 14, which frame our valley. First responders need this thoroughfare to react to emergencies caused by earthquake, flood, snow or wildfire. Commuters will enjoy a second east-to-west corridor through the valley.

Saving open space
Mark Twain once said, "Buy land, they're not making it anymore." As a leader for open space natural land preservation, I am proud the city has already acquired more than 4,000 acres within the Valley and will keep it as open space and natural parkland.

This land will be preserved forever from development. New families will not have to leave the valley to enjoy hiking, fishing and the great outdoors. And the green belt around the city will preclude the urban sprawl that has robbed the San Fernando Valley of its charm.

Experience and leadership are important qualities to be an effective City Council member. Just as important is a proven commitment to obtain accomplishments for the community.

Actions speak louder than words. I have lived in Santa Clarita for more than 40 years and was active in the city's 1987 incorporation. I also was honored to serve as founding Councilman Carl Boyer's appointee to the city's first Parks and Recreation Commission.

In 1998 the voters elected me to the City Council and I have received their vote of confidence by being re-elected in 2002 and 2006.

Santa Clarita is a uniquely special and historically rich place, and one reason is the people who live and work here. Our community has prospered as others have faltered and I believe it is because we all pull together to work for the greater good.

That is why it is so gratifying to have the endorsement of McKeon, state Sen. George Runner, state Sen. Tony Strickland, Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and Assemblywoman Audra Strickland.

While we may not always agree, our City Council works together effectively as a team to make Santa Clarita a better place to live. I thank my fellow council members Frank Ferry, Marsha McLean and Laurie Ender for their endorsement.

If re-elected, I will work hard to continue the progress the city has made and protect the unique quality of life in Santa Clarita. I would be honored to have your vote.

Mayor Laurene Weste is a Newhall resident and candidate in the 2010 City Council election. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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