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Jonathan Kraut: I hate it when competency loses to hype

Democratic Voices

Posted: November 16, 2009 10:16 p.m.
Updated: November 17, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Santa Clarita residents will have the opportunity to select three City Council members early next year. If our last election is any indication, we may be doomed to empower some of the wrong officials once again.

I characterize poor voter judgment as casting a ballot for those who have withdrawn from their races, electing those who are convicted of wrongdoing or empowering those who are not remotely qualified or experienced simply because they are designated by a political machine.

We experienced examples of recent poor voter judgment when earlier this month Newhall School District board candidate John Michael McGrath was elected although he withdrew from the race. Our voters were so clueless that we put a guy not even running first among five candidates.

Another example of voter misconduct pertains to the election of Kathryn Colley, who admitted to having absolutely no experience nor understanding regarding water issues.

Colley, inexperienced regarding government procedure or process, nevertheless defeated Mike Cruz, who not only is employed by a government agency and is engaged on a daily basis making political and community decisions, but holds local civic leadership positions.

But the Santa Clarita Valley Republican Machine, symbolized by a photo with Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon, was all she needed to put Colley ahead of one clearly more qualified.

I just hate it when competency and ability lose to hype.

While it appears that voter ignorance, gullibility, manipulation or indifference are some of the causes of our voter blunders, information, attentiveness and focus appear to be the cure.

There are big issues on the table to be decided upon by the City Council next year. Clearly, it does matter who makes the decisions that affect us all.

One valley one vision - whose vision? This program assumes the SCV is growing to 550,000 residents, doubling our current population.

This "vision" also could mean doubling cars on our roads, doubling students in our local schools and expanding lines at the super market. Approval of a master plan that is thoughtfully and carefully orchestrated is a necessity if we are to invite a population equal to the combined populations of Berkeley, Burbank and West Covina to move in with us and if we must therefore rezone for triple and quadruple density.

Other hot button issues to be decided by the City Council include annexation, several high-density apartment and mixed-use projects and taxpayer-funded development of downtown Newhall.

The three incumbents running for City Council early next year are Marsha McLean, Frank Ferry and Laurene Weste. They have voted to move the non-agendized public comment portion from the beginning to the end of their meetings. This move delays your chance to speak on various issues into the wee hours of the morning.

Another issue is the clouding of incumbent decisions by the secret hand of outside influence. It is pretty clear that developers, political action committees, car dealers, politicians and trash disposal services comprise but a thin sliver of our community's interests as a whole. But you would think these interests own the council.

Ferry received just 28 contributions amounting $9,920 from normal voting folk. According to Santa Clarita Clean Money for Better Government, Ferry accepted in his last bid for City Council 285 contributions totaling $103,158 from a consortium of special interests.

Ferry's temper while sitting on the council has been documented and is well-known. While he usually seems to be a great guy on a personal level, we should question his demeanor and approach in an official capacity.

Weste's special interest donors were similarly skewed, with 219 out of her 259 donors representing special interest groups. Also, Weste will make a substantial bundle, possibly in the millions of dollars, from the use of her personal property in association with the proposed Casden property development in Newhall. Regarding decisions on this development, she rarely recuses herself from votes that will ingratiate her personally.

Democratic principals include facilitating open and inclusive government proceedings, ensuring a detachment from making decisions that benefit a few at the expense of others, absolutely never offering a shadow of any conflict of interest, and always serving the public interest with compassion and civility.

If you desire a City Council free of self-righteousness and arrogance, if you want fairness and disclosure to rule the day, and if the value of your interests are to matter, the council needs a house cleaning.

Let's not be destined to repeat our ignorant and counterintuitive voting conduct.

Jonathan Kraut is a Fair Oaks Ranch resident and serves in the Democratic Party of the SCV and on the SCV Human Relations Forum and SCV Interfaith Council. His column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal or other organizations.


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