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Your Participation is Required for True Representation

Posted: March 4, 2008 7:03 p.m.
Updated: May 5, 2008 5:01 a.m.
This year, the city of Santa Clarita is fortunate to have five qualified candidates seeking your vote for City Council member. On April 8, city residents will get an opportunity to elect two of these candidates to represent them on the City Council.

One seat is currently filled by Bob Kellar, who is seeking re-election. The other position was vacated by Cameron Smyth when he was elected to the state Assembly. TimBen Boydston was selected by the City Council to serve the remainder of Mr. Smyth's term but will not be seeking re-election.

How well this group functions will directly influence quality of life for those who live in the Santa Clarita Valley. As a result, it is important that residents use sound criteria to determine who will represent them, their families and their neighbors.

Santa Clarita's local government is composed of the City Council and one from its ranks who is appointed mayor. The City Council members serve one of the most important representative functions in local government.

The council is made up of five members who represent more than 175,000 citizens. Members are currently elected from the community at large. All the power is concentrated in the elected council.

Council members must be leaders who can represent various segments of the population while working on policy issues that are responsive to the community's needs.

The effectiveness of the City Council can "make" or "break" the entire community. Personal skills and attributes - including leadership and judgment abilities - are important because council members have the authority to set policy, choose the city manager and appoint members to serve on commissions such as Parks and Recreation and Planning.

When trying to assess future voting patterns and positions of prospective candidates for City Council, there is much to be said for reviewing their past performances and current allegiances, rather than just reading their PR statements on their Web sites.

Candidate Laurie Ender is a charming and personable advocate for anything the city does. Some folks characterize her as a city cheerleader, and while we certainly want someone who is pro-city on the council, Laurie was appointed to the Parks Commission by Frank Ferry - also her biggest supporter. Ferry tried to put her on the council when a vacancy was created due to Cameron Smyth's ascension to the state Assembly.

Ender is also endorsed by Councilwoman Marsha McLean.

If you like Frank Ferry and you support letting the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital expansion plans go ahead without many restrictions, vote for Ender.

Candidate Bob Kellar is currently serving as mayor and has been recently challenged on his Fair Political Practices Commission Form 700 filings. He is a fairly consistent voter on the council. He mostly votes with Laurene Weste, and many consider him an advocate for property rights over human rights. His position on the hospital expansion has baffled some observers. He was thought to be a big supporter of the hospital, but he has been quite vocal in his doubts about the current plan. His expressed distress about approving the plan in its entirety has earned him the support of SCV Smart Growth and its spokesman, David Gauny.
Candidate Bob Spierer has an impressive list of endorsers, but none of the current council members.

That's interesting because Bob Kellar had recommended him to fill Smyth's seat. Many people think he would vote mostly with Kellar, although he has distinguished himself by wholeheartedly supporting a city code of ethics and independent investigations of possible ethical violations.

A vote for Spierer is pretty much a vote for Kellar, but you probably won't see Kellar campaigning for the other Bob - Kellar's worried about his own seat and political future. Spierer wants to see the next Environmental Impact Report before taking an official stand on hospital expansion.

Candidate Diane Trautman is currently a planning commissioner appointed by Marsha McLean and is endorsed by both McLean and by council member TimBen Boydston. Although Trautman is McLean's appointee, McLean herself has been something of a swing vote on the council. Both McLean and Trautman feel environmental issues are also quality-of-life issues. This has put McLean at odds with any pro-growth-at-any-cost leanings of the other council members. It has also differentiated Trautman on the Planning Commission.

Trautman has been outspoken about the importance of having the hospital expansion done correctly, and that the quality of life for residents in the area always needs to be taken into account. She takes her job seriously and often brings up issues at the Planning Commission that end up being integrated into whatever project is before the commission.

As far as being a rubber stamp for a council member, Trautman has always taken her commitment to the public above anything else.

Candidate Maria Gutzeit doesn't have endorsements from current council members, but she has earned their endorsement in previous races. Not being politically tied to any seated council may be an advantage if she wins her own seat on the council.

Gutzeit has lots of experience bringing people together for the common good in spite of any competing interests. She was most influential in saving the Newhall County Water District as one of the last small independent water districts in the state.

Gutzeit's style has roots in her training as an engineer - she knows how important the details are - but she also knows that the big picture guides the vision of community planners. She seems to thrive when working on solving problems and honors each stakeholder's perspective.

It make a great deal of sense to elect candidates who understand (and are comfortable with) the fact that they are accountable to the citizens of Santa Clarita - not to lobbyists, business partners, family, friends or even other council members.

If you vote for someone on criteria other than qualifications and down the road it turns out that the candidate was indeed not qualified for the job, you have no one to blame but yourself for what follows.
Your ability to select the best candidates will determine the council's ability to make sound judgments and decisions that will directly impact the quality of your life. Choose wisely. Or better yet, why don't you consider running for office next time?

To vote for City Council members, you must be at least 18 years and had to have registered at least 15 days before the April 8 election.

Cal Planakis is a Santa Clarita Valley resident. Her column reflects her own views, not necessarily those of The Signal.


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