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Tim Myers: City Council’s proposed rule goes too far

Posted: October 13, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 13, 2012 2:00 a.m.

In the People’s Republic of China, the National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party will meet this year to “elect” new party leaders and a president and prime minister of the nation.

All China scholars agree the “Congress” acts solely in the capacity of rubber stamp for the small politburo, or ruling committee, of the Communist Party, with any jogging for position occurring in the shadows and behind the scenes.

Take relatively recent events, when a putative favorite for the Central Committee suddenly found himself in party custody and his wife sentenced to death for murder in a one-day trial. I predict he will not do well in the election.

In the case of Santa Clarita, a constant trope of local politics related to the elected council members acts in the capacity of Party Congress, i.e. rubber stamp for the real power behind the throne, the city manager and city staff.

I generally pooh-poohed this allegation, but recent actions regarding the “conduct” of council meetings and city business leads me to rethink my position.

If one wants to trace historically the supposed apex of the power of incumbency in Santa Clarita politics, one needs only examine the 2010 election.

With two incumbents achieving comfortable re-election, and the third narrowly achieving the same while barely campaigning, the Party Congress felt that nothing could stop them.

First, they altered local campaign finance laws to give favor to incumbents.

Second, after a mere mention in a pre-summer council meeting of library privatization, three months later the City Council voted 4-1 to approve a fully hatched privatization plan in front of a council chamber packed with naysayers.

Could anything stop the Central Committee?

The election of 2012 put things upside down. An incumbent assumed insurgent status when powerful forces in the camp of Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, sought to unseat Bob Kellar.

Insurgent TimBen Boydston actually unseated sitting Mayor Laurie Ender to make city electoral history. Would this change the operating process of the City Council?

Initial indications seemed hopeful. The council adopted more citizen-friendly public participation policies. It appeared that Bob Kellar might join a coalition with Boydston.

But that quickly turned to ash.

When, exactly, did the flame out occur? Perhaps when four council members refused to even second Boydston’s nomination of probable 2014 City Council candidate Alan Ferdman to a seat on the Parks Commission, resulting in the appointment of a Democratic activist, Michael Cruz, in this most Republican of enclaves.

But I will link the breakdown of any possible Kellar/Boydston coalition to Kellar’s declamation of a “long four years” after Boydston opposed the fast hiring of Ken Striplin to replace the retiring Ken Pulskamp.

Perhaps Boydston could still make his constituents happy turning the screws on city staff in public meetings and talking like an opposition party in the local social, Internet and print media.

New rules that were proposed as part of the council norms and procedures could change even that, however.

In the name of “meeting efficiency,” the new rules — which were tabled at Tuesday’s council meeting but could reappear on the agenda — would require elected officials to submit questions and communications to the city manager and not city staff directly.

In the case of staff presentations at council meetings, elected members would have to submit the questions in writing prior to the meetings.

But most disturbing, the policy would ask elected council members to “notify” the Propaganda Ministry, er, communications manager, when they speak to the press.

This policy should really carry the title “The TimBen Boydston Whining Prevention Act of 2012.”

I guess since the other council members intended to defeat anything TimBen sponsors and pass everything he opposes, they needed to also just shut him up to shorten the meetings to the foregone conclusion.

One also sees the hand of the power behind the throne, since city staff must feel embarrassed or uncomfortable at any sharp questioning.

But at least I guess the Central Committee cannot convict Ingrid Boydston, wife of TimBen, with poisoning a visiting businessman in a one-day trial. But I would not necessarily count that out.

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident.

Myers’ Musings appears weekly in The Signal.


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