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'All politics is local'

Democratic Voices

Posted: March 11, 2008 3:12 a.m.
Updated: May 12, 2008 5:01 a.m.
We are currently in the midst of the most interesting and one of the most important presidential campaigns in my lifetime. Normally this column would be devoted to rehashing conventional wisdom, divining the meaning of polls, spinning the spin and turning it all into good news for the resurgent Democratic Party.

However, Santa Clarita has its own important election coming up on April 8, when we will elect two members to the City Council. Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill once said, "All politics is local." And he was correct. Members of the House of Representatives, senators and presidents paint the broad strokes of history, but it is city councils, school boards and local politicians who affect the quality of our daily lives.

I have lived in the Santa Clarita Valley for almost 24 years. My wife and I moved here because we could keep our horses in our backyard and there were miles of riding in every direction, right outside our front door. And in those days, the Santa Clarita Valley was a bucolic, rural haven from the giant metropolis on the other side of the mountains. The air was clean, the roads were two lanes, traffic was light and Valencia Country Club was a public golf course.

Moving here was one of the easiest and best decisions my wife and I had to make. I readily admit to being a "lock the gate" citizen. I hoped that no one would be allowed in after us and the pastoral and rural nirvana would be preserved for our enjoyment. Alas, that was not to be; realistically, growth had to happen. The best we could hope for was controlled and intelligent growth, and we all know how that turned out, don't we?

For years I used this, and any other forum I could, to rail against the ravages the unchecked growth of the valley was wreaking upon our simple way of life. We voted to become a city in order to gain some local control of growth, and all that accomplished was giving the developers, business interests and real estate professionals easier access to the politicians who would do their bidding. Still, I railed and wrote and tried to raise awareness of what we were losing forever.

However, in all the years we have been a city, we have had a majority on the City Council that represented those who profit from the ever-increasing population of suburbanites and their middle-class paychecks. The little people had to be content with lip service about roads and services. Just as King Canute had no power to stop the tides from coming in, my meager words did nothing to save the hills, open spaces or quiet country roads.

Years ago I stopped writing about city politics and sane growth policies, and tried to learn to live with the upside of having a $5 cup of coffee available every 200 feet. But today I am back for one more try: If the people of Santa Clarita can be convinced to vote for their own self interests, we stand to gain two voices for our side next month.

Eighty percent of our citizens will not bother to cast a ballot in this election, so those of us who will vote have even more power to elect someone who will represent us, and not the business and economic interests. If you don't think that is important, you need only look at the short but incisive and effective service of TimBen Boydston, who was appointed to serve out the term of Assemblyman Cameron Smyth.

Boydston was not encumbered with the need for re-election, so he did not need to raise the $60,000 it now takes to run a competitive campaign in this city. He was free to speak truth to power, to rummage through the apple cart looking for rotten apples and generally annoy the go-along-and-get-along council majority.

Jesse Unruh famously observed that money is the mother's milk of politics. Deep Throat told Woodward and Bernstein to follow the money. Before anybody votes in April, each candidate must be carefully scrutinized: Who is financing their campaign, and can we realistically believe that they will not be beholden to those contributors, especially if they have to go back to the money pit every four years to run again and again?

We have the opportunity this year to keep Mr. Boydston's seat in the hands of the people. He has endorsed Diane Trautman, and I feel she would be an excellent choice to carry on his campaign for more open government and making decisions based on quality of our daily lives, rather than the quality of the economic return. Diane Trautman is currently serving on the city's Planning Commission and is familiar with the issues of growth and its myriad effects on the city and citizens. We need to promote her to the City Council this year.

Maria Gutzeit is currently a director on the board of the Newhall County Water District. She was instrumental in keeping it independent and not allowing it to be swept up in the Castaic Lake Water Agency power grab. Maria is not "no growth," but she is for smart growth.

The needs of businesses and the citizens of Santa Clarita must be balanced, and Maria Gutzeit and Diane Trautman have public service records that prove they are up to that task.

Smart, controlled growth works. We need look no further than Thousand Oaks for an example of what good planning can do for a community. An upscale, modern suburb with rising property values and excellent city services and amenities is possible without unchecked development. On April 8, it is imperative that we vote for a change of priorities. A vote for Maria Gutzeit and Diane Trautman will help bring their experience and commitment to the City Council and the citizens of Santa Clarita.

Kevin Buck is a Santa Clarita resident. His column reflects his own views, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Democratic voices rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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