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Why does city have so much on its plate?

Local Commentary

Posted: April 13, 2008 12:59 a.m.
Updated: June 14, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Some weeks ago, while I was moderating a forum for the finest field of City Council candidates who have ever offered themselves for election, I asked the question that the sponsors had told the candidates I was bound to ask: "How do you feel about major county reform, which might mean splitting up the county?"

Four of the candidates came out strongly in favor of doing something about the county, referring to it as a "mess" and the "source of our problems."

These four included a planning commissioner, a parks and recreation commissioner, a retired county sheriff's chief, and a water board director, all of whom have had major experience in dealing with both our city and the county.

The fifth candidate, our incumbent mayor, said, "We have enough on our plate."

I had no desire to make this issue part of our election campaign.

County reform is an issue that stands on its own and should not be brought forward by political pressure.

Reform should be accomplished because it is the right thing to do, just as incorporating Santa Clarita 20 years ago was the right thing to do, and just as bringing local self-government to the west side of I-5, one way or another, is the right thing to do.

Thus I have submitted this piece for publication after the council election.

However, Bob Kellar's answer, "We have enough on our plate," does pose two questions.

First, why do we have so much on our plate?

Second, does the council necessarily put another big helping on its plate by favoring county reform?

The answer to the first question is simple.

We have so much on our plate in part because the county (as well as the developers) put the arm on LAFCO to cut our requested boundaries from 150 square miles to 39 square miles.

We have so much on our plate because the county and LAFCO kept plans for the world's largest dump in Elsmere Canyon a secret as long as they could.

We have so much on our plate because the county's severely understaffed Regional Planning Department has been unable to respond to major needs for cooperative planning in our valley.

We have so much on our plate because the county buckled under to Cemex and the federal government in spite of our supervisor's entreaties.

We have so much on our plate because our city has had to spend millions of dollars on lawsuits and lobbying to fight dumps and megamines. This is money we could have spent on parks and roads.

We must do something about this monstrous county, larger than 59 percent of the sovereign nations of the world, dumping things on our plate.

Los Angeles County's structure filters, if not downright discourages, public input.

What do our council members need to do?

Not a lot. They need to talk with other mayors and council members at the monthly meetings of the Los Angeles Division of the League of California Cities, the California Contract Cities Association and the Independent Cities Association.

They need to bring it up before the League of California Cities and the Local Government Commission.

Once they have made their case, the rest should follow naturally.

Now is the time for the council to act.

Carl Boyer was chairman of the Santa Clarita City Formation Committee in 1987; he served three terms as a Santa Clarita City Council member and two terms as mayor. He is the author of "Santa Clarita: the Formation and Organization of the Largest Newly Incorporated City in the History of Humankind." His column reflects his own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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