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On April 8, recall voter apathy in SCV

Local Commentary

Posted: March 23, 2008 2:09 a.m.
Updated: May 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
Did you see the massive coverage of the five Santa Clarita City Council candidates splashed across The Signal's Sunday Opinion page last weekend? How could you miss it?

Good grief, enough is enough, already. I know The Signal wants to give candidates every opportunity to tell us who they are, but how many times do I have to hear that retired sheriff's Capt. Bob Spierer was the "Chief of Police" or Park Commissioner Laurie Ender wants a better "quality of life" for you in Santa Clarita.
I have to endure ad nauseam Diane Trautman telling me she is a fabulous city planner or hearing again that Maria Gutzeit dislikes Cemex and Las Lomas, or Bob Kellar wants to hire more deputies. Yikes.
Put the sound on mute. It's all much ado about nothing.

Why do I say this? I say this because Santa Clarita voter turnout is so abysmal, so paltry, so shamefully minuscule, one really needs to take a step back and examine what is the big deal concerning the city election. I am of the opinion the city really designs its elections for low voter turnout.

Election process
Let's take a look at the election process itself. The election is held the first Tuesday in April. That would make the election Tuesday, April 8, a stand-alone election. The City Charter calls for this separate election.

So here we are in arguably one of the hottest presidential elections in American history. The California Presidential Primary was staged in February. The City Council could change the Charter to amend election dates to be aligned with the mainstream June or November election cycle. That would consolidate costs and save the taxpayers money. But the stand-alone election results in low voter turnout. These off-scheduled elections inconvenience the voter.

Rarely does Santa Clarita voter turnout exceed 20 percent of registered voters. During the last city election, April 11, 2006, barely 16 percent of registered voters bothered to cast their ballots.

Barring a huge voter miracle, one can probably expect about 12,000 Santa Claritans to vote for the two open spots on the City Council this April. That's 24,000 total votes cast; I would expect 5,500 votes will elect a council member.

What's the fuss?
So what's all the fuss about? Santa Clarita is a city of about 180,000, and 5,500 votes will get you a seat on the City Council. With that kind of voter apathy, there's no wonder citizens are plain turned off by local politics.

I do not think you need to be hammered or shamed into casting your ballot. Either you are going to vote or not, and odds are you're probably not going to vote. But it would sure be refreshing to see that more than one in seven of you Santa Claritans would actually mail in your ballot or show up at your poll site.

In my various and sundry travels throughout the city, I asked many Santa Claritans three questions:

1). Are you going to vote in the upcoming city election?
2). If not, why not?
3). If you vote, who are you are going to vote for?

The results:
Question 1. "Yes, I plan to vote" was the overwhelming response by about a 75 percent of the voters I spoke with.

Question 2. The responses ranged from, "Voting for City Council is a beauty pageant" to "The City Council has no real power" to "My vote doesn't really matter, anyway."

My response to that is the election may or may not be a beauty contest, but it's the only beauty contest in town. Decisions are made that will affect your life. Indeed, your vote does matter, especially for the City Council race. I am suspecting among the five candidates, the vote count is going to run very tight.
Question 3. Profoundly, all candidates have support in the Santa Clarita Valley.

Issues notwithstanding, my mindset for voting April 8 is on one subject and one subject only: community preservation. I am going to vote for the two candidates who will roll up their sleeves, not be afraid to get dirty and get involved in issues that affect the quality of my life in this community.

I will vote for the candidate who vigorously enforces city housing codes. I will not vote for a candidate who tells me to call my U.S. Sens. Boxer or Feinstein, or my Congressman Buck McKeon, to fix the problem of illegals flowing into our community, standing on corners and waiting for unlawful employers to pick them up for a day's wages.

Any elected official who tells me to do that is lazy, uninvolved, and ought not to be in government. I certainly do not need a candidate telling me an issue is complicated and "There is no easy answer, Mr.
Gitlin." I know that!

That's why we have so many problems. Some political office holders simply cannot make clear, forthright decisions and stick to them without fear of offending some people. Those elected officials should not be in office.

Who I'm backing
I am going to vote for the candidate who spares me political correctness and speaks his/her mind. I can respect that. Certainly, no candidate can fill my menu completely; but, I'm going to vote for the candidate who leads from the front of the pack, not the middle or back.

Take a look at the candidates and vote for your two best choices. If you fail to exercise your right to vote next month, don't complain to anybody about the condition of your life in Santa Clarita.

Roger Gitlin is a Santa Clarita resident, teacher and Minuteman. He can be reached at ragitlin@aol.com. His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.

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