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Richard Hood: Funding prevents self-determination

Posted: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 12, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

After four years of serving on the Castaic Area Town Council, one overriding, disturbing image reigns supreme: In our otherwise near vacant council auditorium are nevertheless always found a triumvirate of representatives from vested interest groups. These groups are the county supervisor’s office, Newhall Land Development and the Chiquita Canyon Landfill.

The county supervisors each have millions of taxpayer dollars in their discretionary funds. Our council serves at no pay and at the request of our supervisor’s office, ostensibly to help advise him on local matters.

While we need only $8,000 annually for council operating costs, the supervisor’s office refuses to fund our council with any of our own taxpayer money, so our council is forced to spend council time and energy organizing fundraisers that are then supported financially (lo and behold) by Newhall Land and Chiquita Canyon Landfill — to the tune of ... yep, almost $8,000 this year.

Any child can understand the unnecessary burden this places on the council of having to vote against its patron sponsors. Public representatives are supposed to be held to a higher standard, avoiding even the possible appearance of impropriety.

The taker, after all, serves the giver. Shouldn’t the giver be the public we are chartered to serve, via the county for whom we supposedly exist to advise, and not interest groups standing to lose or gain by our votes?

At present, the community of Val Verde receives compensation from the Chiquita Canyon Landfill, but the Castaic Area Town Council desires and expects to divert these funds to their own administration.

Both the county and landfill will also receive even more money if the landfill is allowed to expand. Some of the council are even breaking with the tradition of backing the community region most affected by an issue, and instead are not voting against the expansion, even though the landfill is in Val Verde’s own backyard. If they sell out Val Verde, could your region be next?

This potential conflict of interest is not only outrageous on its face, it is easily avoidable. So why isn’t it being avoided?

Upton Sinclair said that it is a difficult task to make a man understand something when his paycheck depends on his not understanding it. If we can’t get our house in order at a town council level, is there hope for American values prevailing at higher levels?

I suggest to those interested in righting such potential wrongs to campaign on the need of dismantling such false facades back to the foundational values of America.

Those who run should know what they believe in, why they believe in it, and be able to defend it. Otherwise, we will elect those who are on some kind of hapless, mapless road trip to nowhere.

If other types succeed in getting elected, I suggest that Castaic citizens maintain their rights by seeking solutions through new, alternative community associations or the courts, rather than expecting redress or representation from this current environment that has such potential of becoming a cronyistic cabal.

In our country, the citizenry is not empowered by the government; rather, it is the government that derives all its power from the people.

When any level of government can be perceived as being a roadblock to its own citizens’ self-determination, it can be perceived as ignorant of or hostile to American principles.

There are some who tell me that the county government should and will decide all matters, a view I find not only un-American, but also morally and intellectually unworthy of respect.

Richard Hood represents the Val Verde area on the Castaic Area Town Council.

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