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Citizens push for elected mayor

Group syas longer terms would benefit city's approach to major issues

Posted: December 21, 2008 8:47 p.m.
Updated: December 22, 2008 4:55 a.m.
 

Four local residents who formed Citizens for Elected Mayor SCV think it's time for the people of Santa Clarita to elect its own mayor.

"We're just way too big to have an honorary mayor," said Linda Jones, chair of Citizens for Elected Mayor SCV.

But the idea of Santa Clarita citizens directly electing a mayor has City Council split, with three council members opposed to an elected mayor.

Santa Clarita has been a general law city since it incorporated in 1987. The five council members rotate the duty of mayor, who serves a one-year term and has an equal vote with council members.

Charter cities, which have elected mayors, can take on many forms and the role of a mayor and city manager depends on what voters draft in the city charter, according to City Attorney Carl Newton.

In a charter city like Los Angeles, the elected mayor has veto power over the council, he said.

Santa Clarita residents can vote to create a directly elected mayor without converting to a charter city, Newton said.

Members of Citizens for Elected Mayor SCV - Jones, Sharon Bronson, Candye Rucker and Stella Pilarski - began discussing the possibility of an elected mayor last year.

The group officially formed on Dec. 7.

The organization does not endorse anyone for mayor nor do they want to "slam" the city manager or city staff, Jones said.

Rather, having a mayor that serves more than a year would benefit the city's approach to handling major issues like the Whittaker-Bermite cleanup and controversy over a materials recovery facility on a long-term basis, Jones said.

"It would be a benefit to have a mayor closely involved with the city," she said. "We have a lot of issues that need to be addressed."

The group is researching the implications of a charter city, Jones said. They plan to host meetings in January.

"We don't have all the answers," she said. "That's the whole idea here. Nobody has all the answers."

They just want to initiate a conversation with the Santa Clarita residents.

"Our plan of action is to make the community aware of the types of cities and (create an) open dialogue," she said. "What we hope to do is go to the City Council and bring this topic up so that perhaps they, as the city of Santee did, might want to have staff research this."

Through its Web site, www.cfemscv.org, the group hopes to collect enough signatures to put the item on the 2010 election ballot, a requirement in order for the city to switch from a general law to a charter city.

The concept of an elected mayor comes with the support of two council members.

"I believe with a city the size of Santa Clarita, people should have a choice of who their mayor is and they should have the right to vote," Mayor Frank Ferry said.

Ferry brought the issue to vote twice, failing both times, he said.

Councilman Bob Kellar also sees an elected mayor as a positive for the Santa Clarita citizens.

"From having just wrapped up a year as mayor, this city I sincerely believe would benefit from having a full-time elected mayor," he said.

He sees a final benefit to the community.

At the same time, Kellar also recognizes the power of an elected mayor.

"If we get an unqualified person, it can be very problematic for the city," he said.

Three council members are opposed to having an elected mayor in Santa Clarita.

"With each council member being able to have a year as mayor, it gives the people that elected that person the best representation," said Councilwoman Marsha McLean. "In other words, we all have different interests and we are able to then represent the entire electorate."

Councilwoman Laurene Weste shared many of the same concerns.

"Santa Clarita has had the best of both worlds with everyone participating, which is a really good thing," she said.

Weste said she is always willing to listen to the community and look at new information.

Councilwoman Laurie Ender likes the current method of mayor selection.

"I like the system of having a rotating mayor," she said. "I think the way we have it now works very well.

"It changes everything if you only have one opinion and one point of view representing the city," she said.

"That's not to say we won't get there at some point, but right now, I like having the five of us working."

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