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Our View - Vote 'yes' for westside annexation

Posted: October 24, 2009 3:46 p.m.
Updated: October 25, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Voters in West Ranch, Castaic and Tesoro del Valle will make an important decision Nov. 3, perhaps the most important decision anyone in the Santa Clarita Valley has been asked to make since 1987, when local residents formed their own city.

They will be asked to vote "yes" or "no" on each of the following measures:

Measure A asks: Do you want to remain unincorporated communities of Los Angeles County?

Measure B asks: Do you want to form your own city?

Measure C asks: Do you want to annex into (join) the city of Santa Clarita?

The vote is advisory only. It won't set in motion any incorporation or annexation action.

Rather, it will tell county Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich, and leaders throughout the Santa Clarita Valley, the direction residents of those communities want to take in the future. It will decide the likely governmental landscape of the valley for years and probably decades to come.

This election is about one thing only. It's about self-determination.

Voters, do you want to decide for yourselves where and how developers should be allowed to build? Do you want to decide for yourselves how much money your government should spend on roads and parks and police?

Long march for home rule
At least since 1945, when SCV residents formed their own school district so their kids wouldn't have to shuttle to Los Angeles Unified School District schools, the Santa Clarita Valley has been on one long march for "home rule."

We've never liked outsiders dictating terms.

And while the SCV gets great representation from Antonovich - SCV voters appreciated him so much back in 1987 that they elected his field representative to the first Santa Clarita City Council - his is only one voice among five that set policy throughout the county.

Antononvich's Fifth District is huge. We and 2 million other people from Gorman to Glendora elect the Fifth District supervisor. By the numbers, we have little say.

And what happens after Antonovich calls it quits? He has been our supervisor for nearly 30 years. With 2 million other voters helping to choose his eventual successor, do you believe our next supervisor will be as attentive as Antonovich has been to our needs?

Do you seriously think Antonovich's successor will enjoy a trail ride through Vasquez Canyon like he does - or even be able to find Vasquez Canyon on a map?

Money flowing out of the SCV
Because we have a say in only one-fifth of the Board of Supervisors, the history of the Santa Clarita Valley has been the story of the county largely doing things "to" us, not "for" us.

By the 1970s we were already sending more money to the county in the form of taxes than we were getting back in the form of services. So in 1976, voters across the Santa Clarita Valley decided to secede from the county and go their own way.

Proving that vote was no fluke, Santa Clarita Valley residents again voted in 1978 to break off and form their own county.

Unfortunately, the rest of the county residents got to vote on whether to let us go - and they said "no." Labor union representatives convinced them they needed our money. And they were right. We were the county's cash cow.

Then in 1980, with no formal declaration of war, the city and county of Los Angeles thought the Santa Clara River bed in Sand Canyon would be an ideal place for a toxic waste dump. Local residents battled back - and won.

Cityhood in 1987
But that sort of mistreatment, coupled with the money that was pouring out of our valley, set the stage for cityhood in 1987.

Neighborhood by neighborhood, SCV residents wanted to form a 90-square-mile city that encompassed the entire valley.

The plan required the assent of the Local Agency Formation Commission, the board of which included powerful Supervisor Pete Shabarum - who did not represent the Santa Clarita Valley.

Along with other non-SCV interests, LAFCO carved Castaic out of the proposed city and also eliminated undeveloped land.

The developers didn't want an upstart, all-SCV city council telling them what to do when they were already getting whatever they wanted from the county Board of Supervisors.

But at that point, for the first time, residents of Newhall, Saugus, Canyon Country and Valencia got to make 100 percent of the decisions about roads, parks, police and planning within their 39.5-square-mile city. (In 1987, there was not yet a Stevenson Ranch, Westridge or Tesoro.)

For the first time, they got to elect all five of their local representatives, not just one - and hold those five representatives accountable for their actions.

Nation's largest dump
Meantime, the county plodded and plotted along, doing nasty things to our valley, often over the objections of Antonovich's one vote in five.

Not learning from the toxic dump debacle, in 1990 the county decided to dump the nation's largest landfill in a pristine Newhall canyon just outside Santa Clarita city limits.

Then-activist, now councilwoman, Marsha McLean rallied the troops and ultimately, Santa Clarita's home-grown congressman - Howard "Buck" McKeon, the new city's first mayor - put a stop to it.

Just this decade, Mike Antonovich's fellow supervisors outvoted him to allow Cemex, Mexico's national cement conglomerate, to mine millions of tons of gravel from eastern Canyon Country. The battle to keep that mine from operating rages on.

It couldn't have happened if the land were in the city of Santa Clarita. The decision would have gone to our own all-SCV City Council, which would have been tarred, feathered and replaced by all-SCV voters if it dared approve the mega-mine.

The Board of Supervisors has also approved a Valencia-sized development - Newhall Ranch - west of Interstate 5 that hasn't yet been built. Love it or hate it, you had virtually nothing to say about it.

It's about self-rule
The Nov. 3 election is about self-determination. Here's what it's not about:

n It's not about the number of seats on the Santa Clarita City Council. Santa Clarita residents can change the number to whatever they want, regardless of whether West Ranch, Castaic and Tesoro are part of the city.

n It's not about dividing up the council seats into districts. Santa Clarita residents can do that with or without the westside and

In 1987, SCV voters decided not to carve the city into districts because that would be just like the county. Each voter would get to elect only one council member, even though five would make the decisions. So they voted to make the seats "at large" and vote on all five.

n It's not about fees - although westside and Tesoro households would save roughly $90 per year in taxes if they join Santa Clarita.

n It's not about the preservation of Castaic's community standards district. Santa Clarita has community standards districts, too.

They're called special standards districts or "overlay" zones. Placerita Canyon has one. Old Town Newhall has one. Other parts of the city have them.

Can you imagine some city official coming along and revoking Placerita Canyon's special standards district? Residents of the sleepy canyon would burn down City Hall.

Castaic can keep its community just the way it is, if that is its choice. Then again, it could make improvements if it so chooses.

Taxes vs. services
Just as the SCV was sending $3 million to $4 million more to the county than it was getting in services in 1987, today the westside and Tesoro are sending millions more every year.

The county itself says the westside and Tesoro are generating $11 million more in taxes than they're getting back in services.

Where is it going? It's subsidizing services in East L.A. and other parts of Los Angeles County that have zero in common with the Santa Clarita Valley.

Imagine what level of service Antonovich could bring to the westside and Tesoro if the other four supervisors allowed him to spend that money here. If the county figure is correct, that's $100 million every nine years.

If you wonder why Santa Clarita has more parks and recreation programs than unincorporated parts of our valley, that's why. Cities get to keep that "excess" tax revenue and spend it on themselves.

Forming own city
So, should westside and Tesoro residents form their own city? No. That would be self-defeating.

We are one community.

We share a common history, a common high school district, we shop at the same stores, we go to the same churches and we enroll our kids in the same soccer clubs.

Do we want to be feuding like Palmdale and Lancaster? Do we want to be lobbing grenades at each other across Interstate 5? Two cities would constantly bicker and give away the store in the form of tax incentives to entice the next sales-tax-generating big-box store.

By joining the city of Santa Clarita, westside and Tesoro residents will share equally in our valley's long and colorful march toward self-determination.

Westside and Tesoro residents will cast equal votes for all five of their City Council representatives - and dump them out, or carve us into districts, or add seats, or stop development, or build roads or cut fees for recreation programs, if that is what they and the rest of the Santa Clarita Valley - and only the Santa Clarita Valley - decide they want to do.

Antonovich still will be their supervisor, as he has been for 30 years.

We are one valley with one vision. Our history has us standing side-by-side for decades, fighting to make our own decisions and shape our own future.

We must, one day, be one city. There are, indeed, issues to deal with before we get there. But on Nov. 3, voters need to state that our future lies with self-determination and controlling our own destiny.

Please vote No on Measure A, No on Measure B and Yes on Measure C.

Vote in favor of one city.


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