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City's biggest issue: A better and safer Santa Clarita

Posted: March 16, 2008 12:06 a.m.
Updated: May 17, 2008 5:02 a.m.
Given a chance to write about a single issue of importance, what do I choose? Is there one single issue facing our city that transcends all others, or are we just faced with a number of important issues?

I suspect that as a retired law enforcement executive and former Chief of Police of our city, everyone expects me to write about law enforcement, so I struggle to identify a single different area that I think is more critical to our future.

The mega-mining operation proposed in Canyon Country by CEMEX has been, and remains, of primary concern to us all. The failure to see any recent movement toward the legislation needed to reverse the earlier approvals by the Bureau of Land Management means that this matter is not settled and the heroic efforts of our City Council are far from over.

The proposed Las Lomas development has mobilized our leaders and concerned citizens to protect our community by fighting alongside responsible leaders in Los Angeles City Hall. As evidenced by the public participation at the most recent City Council meeting, traffic and the location of a much-needed Material Recovery Facility are very timely and important issues.

Reduced commuting
We are focusing on creating jobs in Santa Clarita to reduce the need of our residents to commute to work outside of our valley. However, we are missing a key element in this plan. We need to attract the types of professions, businesses, and commerce that will create the types of high paying jobs that it will take to afford our soaring housing costs. Strategic planning and finding the right partners, like College of the Canyons, will help us to attract these high-end businesses that have training needs and continuing education requirements.

Or do I write about the ongoing debate over the proposed Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital/G&L Realty master plan? After all, while some other candidates were taking public positions I was working privately to bring both sides together in an effort to resolve the issues so we can have the hospital expansion that all parties agree we need. I believe we made substantial progress and the remaining issues have been clearly framed, but we are still waiting for additional traffic information, so this wouldn't be the topic to spend a column on.

The vulnerability of senior citizens and others on fixed incomes is a critically important issue. We need more affordable senior housing, and we need desperately to increase funding for the wonderful programs and services provided by our Senior Center. My commitment to both those goals has earned me the endorsements of Duane Harte and Brad Berens.

Will be solved
But no, as important as those issues are, they are single issues that we will solve. And as we solve them, new ones will develop to take their place.

I keep, however, coming back to public safety. The feedback I get from people I meet as I campaign for city council is that they have deep-seated concerns about crime, gangs, drugs, and associated neighborhood decline. They overwhelmingly tell me that they want a better and safer Santa Clarita.

As a city, we work to create master plans for parks, fire service, and even our hospital - but nowhere have I seen a law enforcement master plan. So it looks like I should have heeded my gut reaction and stuck with law enforcement.

We are a safe city, but we are not as safe as we once were. When I was the Chief of Police, we were the 4th safest city in the United States.

Now we are not even the safest city in Southern California. According to Congressional Quarterly, the company that annually reports on FBI crime statistics, that distinction goes to Mission Viejo. Thousand Oaks and Simi Valley consistently have rated as safer than Santa Clarita. In our own county, Chino Hills and Glendale were rated as safer than Santa Clarita. In fact, Santa Clarita is not listed in the "Safest 10" cities of 100,000 to 499,999 population nationally, but five other California cities are.

But I again repeat, we are a safe city. And we couldn't ask for better law enforcement on the budget they have than what is provided by the Sheriff's Department.. My purpose is not to scare anyone. My purpose is to point out that if we do not remain vigilant, we will have a problem. It is like the Mr. Goodwrench commercials we used to see where the mechanic says something to the effect of "pay me now, or pay me more later." We know the value of preventative maintenance.

Pointing to a potential problem is useless without suggested solutions. I believe that the first step is to do a law enforcement master plan. We need to determine what our overall law enforcement needs will be in the next twenty years. Will we need one or two additional stations? Will they be substations or full-service stations? How many deputies, detectives, and clerical support will be needed?

Next, we need to assess the model we currently use for deployment of deputies. It is a tried and true model, but is it the best model for Santa Clarita? Finally, we need to analyze our primary law enforcement problems and determine how to best deal with them. You don't deal with gangs by adding more patrol units.

As your next City Council member, I pledge to deal quickly and decisively to address these issues.


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