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Santa Clarita's 25th: Five local leaders look to future

Posted: December 15, 2012 4:00 a.m.
Updated: December 15, 2012 4:00 a.m.

Marc Winger, superintendent of Newhall School District

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This special section looks at how Santa Clarita has evolved in its 25 years of cityhood. But you can’t look at the past without contemplating the future. So The Signal invited five of the city’s leaders – past and present – to share their vision for the next 25 years of Santa Clarita and beyond.

 

Sitting down with The Signal were Carl Boyer, former mayor of Santa Clarita and one of the founding City Council members; Bob Kellar, 2013 mayor of Santa Clarita; Ken Striplin, city manager of Santa Clarita; Dianne Van Hook, chancellor of College of the Canyons since 1988; Marc Winger, superintendent of Newhall School District and longtime Santa Clarita resident.

 

What is Santa Clarita going to look like in 25 years and what do you want it to look like?

KELLAR: We’ve got to continue to pay attention and recognize that it’s an ever-changing and evolving target. But if we decide, “Oh we’ve accomplished so much,” it will start to do the reverse. Society has dictated that over the years. You’re doing great and blooming and next you’re on that downward track.

We have to make sure we continue to keep this city clean. One of the things is so simple but so important to Santa Clarita is the anti-graffiti program. We spend somewhere over $800,000 a year just to keep the graffiti in control in the city. Thank goodness we do that. Otherwise you start losing pride in your community. We have great people in Santa Clarita and we want to keep using that high standard when it comes to hiring staff members and continuing to work with all of the stakeholders. If we do this, the future is exciting and good.

BOYER: One, we need to build the cultural level more. We need to bring back the symphony. We need to start work with organizations to bring back the opera. We need a museum that would be geared toward kids to learn about the history and culture of the SCV.

I think more than that we need to sit down with Lancaster and Palmdale and talk to them about why we don’t need to be part of LA County. Even deeper than that – why LA County needs to be reformed. I’d like to see Canyon County. The county formation is something that ought to be discussed. And we can go to the communities in the San Gabriel Valley and in the South Bay and the cities in Calabasas and Agoura Hills to get rid of this behemoth of a county. We’re larger than 42 states and half of the sovereign nations in the entire world. There’s no reason for a county this large to exist.

 

VAN HOOK: The other thing that happens is the county has to respond to competing requests from all the different cities it serves. If we had five high school districts, we wouldn’t have an Academy of the Canyons because the state rule is you can only have one and if we give one to a Hart District, we would be irritating other districts and all of the sudden, things that make very good logic become political. I served on the Private Industry Council and the PIC wasn’t interested in channeling any training dollars in the SCV or Antelope Valley because we weren’t’ as “needy” compared to the rest of the cities they represented.

 

STRIPLIN: I think over the last 25 years we’ve seen 28 annexations come and help build the city of Santa Clarita. I think we’ll see the same pattern. Santa Clarita will be much bigger and still inclusive. I think conceptually there has been one idea, one valley, one city, and we’ll be closer to achieving that concept. I think we’ll see the completion of the open space goals, which is to have a buffer around Santa Clarita so it maintains the unique dynamic that is our valley. I think because of the sheer size of our valley it’ll be a much bigger draw by tourists. We’ll have things like the convention center and more arts.

 

WINGER: I think we’re going to be a lot more diverse as we grow. Schools tend to lead on that. In 1987 Newhall School District was 81 percent Anglo and today we’re 36 percent Anglo. In the mid-80s we had 400 English language learners. Today we have 2,100. We’re a predominantly Hispanic school district. We’re going to be a whole lot more diverse. Our identity has been middle class white and yet the identity in our schools is almost 100 percent Hispanic on our East Newhall schools. No majority culture at all.

 

Should the makeup of K-12 schools and districts evolve in the future?

WINGER: The idea of unification has been around for a while and each time it came up it went to ballot and was unsuccessful. Because people like to talk to the administrators of their own school district. I don’t see it coming up unless it’s in a format of dissolving the William S. Hart Union High School District so there’s four K-12 that serve four distinct geographic areas. Every time it’s been tested, people have said they like it this way. And you’ll be creating a single school district of 45-50,000 students. People like to pick up the phone and call in Newhall School District and they get me. You get big enough people aren’t going to have that connection with their school district.

 

How does the Santa Clarita Valley avoid becoming like another San Fernando Valley with all its congestion and problems?

VAN HOOK: I don’t think our structure is anything the same. Form follows function and I think the way we built in function between the entities of Santa Clarita and the philosophies and values and shared vision is the functioning that develops our structure and how we will work. While we have common structures and common entities they’re not all defined and functioning in the same way. We had an opportunity to invent how ours function in a relatively recent past.

 

KELLAR: The day will come that Dr. Van Hook is going to submit her resignation and then it comes to be so incredibly important – who comes behind her and Striplin and Winger? The wrong decision of a city manager can do more damage to this city than anything. We’re so fortunate that we had Ken Striplin waiting in the wings when Ken Pulskamp walked in and turned in his resignation letter.

 

What problems need to be addressed in the SCV?

KELLAR: We have three issues on the table: Cemex, Whittaker-Bermite and the chloride issue. Each of them is very significant and handled the wrong way can be very problematic for this valley. The city has been working extensively for years on these and I applaud the city and everything they have done to win these battles.

 

BOYER: I think we have to look at the long-range structure of the county. I don’t think that it necessarily will take a huge effort. We need to take a serious look at how things are going. Depending on how involved the city council members are, we have a huge impact on the League of California Cities, etc, the local government commission. We have no impact on the statewide county association because we have no representation.. If we start talking about these things, something could happen.

 

WINGER: Growth and resources, scaling them so we can grow amenities and resources. One of the things I was thinking about is the growth in school districts is all on the peripheral outside the city boundaries. Our concern is more what is going outside the city than inside the city. It’s just scaling up, keeping up with growth.

 

STRIPLIN: I think quality of life. I think not taking advantage of how we got to that quality of life. There’s no one entity that got us this quality of life. We have to realize that’s how we got here and how we’re going to be able to continue in 25 years.

 

Photos by Dan Watson.

 

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