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Our View: Put billboards on the ballot

Posted: June 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: June 15, 2014 2:00 a.m.

The brouhaha over billboards in the city of Santa Clarita — a controversy that divided residents in the spring and threatens to continue doing so through the rest of this year — is among the more unnecessary to face Santa Clarita Valley residents in the city’s 27 years of existence.

The issue is really quite simple: Should the city prevail in its quest to rid itself of as many unsightly billboards as possible — a goal sought since the city was founded — by trading 62 billboard structures (118 billboard faces) along the Metro railroad right-of-way in Newhall, Saugus and Canyon Country in exchange for three double-sided electronic billboards on SCV freeways and a new revenue stream?

Had the Santa Clarita City Council (with the exception of newly elected Councilman Dante Acosta) approached the issue in a transparent fashion, it would have presented this question to residents up front, which would have allowed public debate on the details (where, as they say, the devil can be found).

Instead, council members all but inked the deal with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority before they went public with it. Yes, public hearings were held, but it appeared the council members had already made up their minds.

Now they lie in the bed they made. On June 24, due to an overwhelming petition-signing backlash from city voters, the council is scheduled to decide whether to revoke the deal with Metro or put the issue on the ballot for public vote.

We at The Signal aren’t particularly fond of the initiative process. We live in a representative government, not a pure democracy; not every issue should be put to a public vote.

At the same time, we recognize the initiative process is the last resort of a frustrated people whose wishes are being disregarded by their elected representatives. That’s the situation here.

The city faces a disadvantage if it decides to make its case to voters now. Its credibility on the back side of the issue is tarnished by its handling on the front side.

But taking the issue off the table would be wrong. The people have called for a vote: the city needs to deliver on that request. What could be more transparent than a vote of the people for an issue on which they’ve demanded to be heard?

We hope the City Council will seize this opportunity and put the billboard deal on a ballot. Then let both sides prepare their arguments and let the debates begin — in an orderly and informative, and most of all transparent, fashion.

Such a move might help restore public trust in the council.

We at The Signal welcome the opportunity to host a debate on the billboard issue, as we did the first of many City Council election debates this year.

And let’s hope that some of our elected officials have learned a lesson about representing their constituents in a transparent fashion.



lars1: Posted: June 15, 2014 7:29 a.m.

...Now they lie in the bed they made...

How true. The city council has lied to the citizens, and continues to ignore the public by pushing this issue.

The public does not want electronic billboards on the freeway.

They say the public is misinformed, they say the public does not know what they are doing. The city pursued the billboard deal in private, bought off by money from companies that would have a chance to make hundreds of millions of dollars. The billboard issue was never discussed as a campaign issue, and it was approved in haste. Allvision, the dirty company that would make hundreds of millions, even hiring blockers to stop the legal referendum process. Our city council said NOTHING about this. Only TimBen objected. He is the only one who represents the citizens. Now Allvision wants to buy off the election just as they have bought off our city council members.
BIG MONEY wants to spend some money to get hundreds of millions of dollars

We also have a "private" impartial company who feels the same way.
They ignore the votes/voice of their readers, and do whatever the people who buy them off want.

Since money seems to drive all decisions in this valley, who comes up with the money to put this measure on a public ballot? A gracious donation from Allvision?

The people who signed the billboard referendum are mad, and disappointed with the people who seem to represent us and those who provide a public forum.

Maybe their should be another public poll that also will be ignored.
"Should the electronic billboard deal be put to a vote?"

Or how about another
"Do big companies have a right to come to Santa Clarita, buy off our City council members and buy off elections to make hundreds of millions of dollars?"

pjs: Posted: June 15, 2014 12:56 p.m.

The Signal editorial board has got this all wrong. The petition is not an initiative. It is a Referendum. By law, an initiative and a referendum are two very different things. An initiative is strictly to put something, usually a new law, on a ballot. A referendum REFERS to a single law that has already been passed. This Referendum called on the City Council to either put it on a ballot or Repeal the Deal. The City must Repeal the Deal. If there's an election Allvision will fund the campaign to swing the voters to their side. Allvision and Metro are the parties who filed an application with false information. Allvision sent the blockers and disrupted the peace and order in our city. They are crooks and liars. Allvision already formed a PAC to fund a campaign. They will fill our mailboxes with slick mailers, tie up our private phones with robocalls. There will be ads In The Signal, KHTS, SCV TV, the Gazette and our personal FB pages. Campaign signs will litter our landscape AGAIN. We just finished two elections that were required to elect City Council members and Statewide officers. A Metro billboard Deal election is unnecessary, a waste our of time and our taxpayer money because the City will have to pay to print ballots and open the polls again. This has to stop. City Council and City Staff, go back to the boardroom and make a better plan to reduce billboard blight. Have an open competitive bidding process. Hold public hearings. Repeal the Deal!

SCVoter2: Posted: June 15, 2014 3:34 p.m.

Excuse Signal Editorial Board
I need to make it clear that Councilman Boydston did not vote for this atrocity !

PinkSister: Posted: June 15, 2014 6:39 p.m.

Now that we've seen the special interests involved pour thousands into dirty tricks (remember the blockers), what do you think will happen with a ballot measure? Instead of opening up the community to the bloody divisive and costly slinging of misinformation from the media conglomerates that would benefit most from this deal, I'd prefer to see the city council rescind the deal and form a commission that includes community representatives to look at all sides of blight removal and research other deals in other cities to ensure that what we get next time around is a great deal that doesn't harm open space or neighboring residential areas with light pollution. It's time to work together instead of pitting groups against each other.

cj64: Posted: June 16, 2014 7:58 a.m.

Here is a copy of a letter sent to Santa Clarita City Council Members. Although it is from the CABB Facebook page, it represents a majority of the citizens of Santa Clarita. The citizens can no longer count on the old boys,
(Weste, Mclean and Kellar). It will be up to Mr. Acosta to determine if a wasteful public election is necessary. The billboard referendum was signed by more people than typically vote in any election. Polls in the Signal newspaper show 90% of the people are against huge electronic digital billboards on the Freeway, including "open space" areas.

The City Council is still not aware of the message of the referendum. Kellar's statements that the citizens are misinformed and they didn't know what they were signing, are more of continued efforts to degrade the citizens. Since they City works in a non-transparent environment, ignoring and downgrading the public, resulting in a total lack of trust.

Dear Council Members:
I hope now that you will soon come to your senses now that the signatures on the petition for referendum on the measure relating to Santa Clarita City Council Ordinance 14-02 have been validated. Given Councilman Kellar's most recent public comments on the subject at the June 10 meeting of the City Council, it's pretty obvious that he has somehow been lured into a state of denial to the fact that a vast majority of the public feels this was a bad deal. I hope that Mr. Kellar and the rest of you will soon realize that your current strategy for removing any more existing billboards and replacing them with digital ones is flawed.
I attended two of the three city council meetings where this matter was discussed and voted on. I still can't believe the level of disregard that was shown by the majority of you towards the citizens who spoke about their concerns as well as your fellow council member Tim Boydston. After what I saw, I firmly believe that you could have held these meetings at the College of the Canyons outdoor stadium with the bleacher seats filled to capacity with residents and listened to testimony from 10 times the number of citizens concerned about this while still voting in favor or the deal.
The lack of regard that you showed regarding the so-called "blockers" who attempted to thwart the efforts of signature gatherers who were circulating petitions is also duly noted. This was any obvious violation of law and you chose to remain mum one the subject when it was brought before you. Although Mr. Boydston may be the one dissenting voice among you on the council, my experience speaking to friends and neighbors while gathering signatures as an unpaid volunteer lead me to believe that he speaks for the vast majority of residents in Santa Clarita.
David Putnam

EgbertSouse4U: Posted: June 18, 2014 12:02 p.m.

How depressing that our own city council can be bought off like this. I have ZERO faith in their honesty now. They have lost any credibility they once had, TimBen aside. Let's hope that Mr. Acosta does not join the ranks of the disgraced "good ol' boy's club" and truly listens to the citizens of the SCV. If I were him, I would be careful not to align myself with criminals.

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