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Candidates Tussle Over Roads, Hospital Growth

Posted: February 16, 2008 3:05 a.m.
Updated: April 18, 2008 5:02 a.m.

Santa Clarita City Council candidates Laurie Ender, Maria Gutzeit, Bob Kellar, Bob Spierer and Diane Trautman participate in Friday's candidates forum, co-sponsored by The Signal and KHTS-AM, at City Hall. Two seats, held by Kellar and TimBen Boydston, are up for election on April 8.

The five Santa Clarita City Council candidates faced a packed audience at City Hall Friday night and dug right in to the biggest problems facing the city, from traffic on city streets to the expansion of the valley's only hospital.

The Signal and KHTS-AM sponsored the debate to quiz candidates Parks and Recreation Commissioner Laurie Ender, Newhall County Water District Board Director Maria Gutzeit, Mayor Bob Kellar, Former Sheriff's Station Captain Bob Spierer and Planning Commissioner Diane Trautman on the hot topics as the April 8 election nears.

The candidates are looking to fill the two expiring seats belonging to Kellar and Councilman TimBen Boydston.

Candidates were questioned on their proposed solutions to the city's traffic problems, Laurie Ender said, "It's about roads, roads, roads."

"It's probably the No. 1 complaint," she said. "It shouldn't take a half an hour to get from Valencia to Newhall or from Canyon Country into Saugus and it often does."

Gutzeit said the solution lies in the Whittaker-Bermite property, a 996-acre contaminated property in the middle of the city.

She said that once cleanup of the site is completed, "it will allow several key roads to run through the middle of our valley." She also said that bringing in higher-paying jobs would help keep residents off of the crowded freeways during the rush hour.

Kellar said that completing the cross-valley connector, a roadway that will connect Canyon Country to Saugus, it will "have more impact than any single thing we do."

Trautman said, "It has to be a balanced approach" and suggested more bike paths and encouraging greater use of public transit and Spierer suggested working on improving the synchronization of traffic lights.

Questions regarding the expansion plans of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital came front and center and three of the candidates - Gutzeit, Kellar and Spierer - refused to state their positions on the matter, saying they must first wait for the latest environmental impact report to be circulated.

Gutzeit said it would be irresponsible to take a position on the controversial issue before seeing all the documents.

Kellar said, "There's no question that hospital expansion needs to occur, but there's a lot of other aspects with this expansion that has a lot of people concerned."

Spierer also said he wanted to wait for the EIR to be circulated before taking a position, but added "there needs to be a comprehensive look at the healthcare needs of the valley and if another hospital is needed."

Trautman said that as a Planning Commissioner, she voted against the original proposal as well as the hospital's development agreement that was the subject of contentious debate in 2007.

"I agree that we have to improve it now, but we have to do it responsibly," she said.

Trautman said the development agreement must include a guarantee for the inpatient building, a lowering in height of the inpatient building, construction in a reasonable time frame, parking that is up to code and a transitional care unit.

Ender said she would "love to see the hospital raise in status." She said that an improvement to the hospital includes adding the medical offices, buildings that Trautman and others have called unnecessary.

The candidates also weighed in on what they would like to see in the new civic center the city and county are beginning to plan. Spierer said a top priority should be given to expanding the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station because it was "woefully inadequate" when he was captain of the station back in the 1980s.

Gutzeit added that there is a growing need for a sheriff's substation in the Canyon Country area.

Candidates were also quizzed on what they thought the biggest issues facing the east side of the city.

Ender said the Canyon Country area is in need of a community center and a sheriff's substation. Gutzeit said graffiti is a growing concern. Kellar said public safety is a issue of Canyon Country particularly because it is the largest community in the city. Spierer said the massive sand and gravel mine proposed by Cemex, Inc. is "the No. 1 issue" for the east side. Trautman added that code enforcement is also a significant issue for neighborhoods on the east side.


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