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Tim Myers: No money, no county

Posted: February 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 23, 2013 2:00 a.m.

I love history. I plan to purchase the Blu-Ray of the recent film "Lincoln" and rewatch certain key scenes 100 times in a row, unapologetically.

I even, and perhaps most especially, love local history. Unfortunately, many folks who move into an area assume that history began on the day of their arrival.

Carl Boyer III, an educator and founding City Council member of Santa Clarita, attempted to remedy that shortcoming in his rather long-titled tome, "Santa Clarita, The Formation and Organization of the Largest Newly Incorporated City in the History of Humankind."

Now I actually read the book and found it quite enlightening, even though I am not without criticisms.

First, the book primarily focuses on the two unsuccessful attempts for the Santa Clarita area to separate from Los Angeles County and form a new "Canyon County" rather than the formation of the city itself, which the author seems to include almost like an afterthought.

Second, the text includes long listings of activists’ names with little or no backstory — like the casual reader would automatically know these folks.

That certainly would not happen if the reader moved here after 1995.

Finally, a good editor could have excised about 100 pages from the book and it would still retain its granularity and detail, but become much more readable.

But let us now focus on the good things in the book, which well outnumber the negatives.

In the first instance, Carl Boyer makes a compelling economic case for the break-up of large organs of local government like Los Angeles County, primarily regarding the technocratic cost of government, and it goes like this:

In Carl Boyer’s ideal world, cities, towns and counties would exist of various sizes and flavors, but none of a mega-nature.

In this ideal world, someone who studied the technocratic aspects of government in school would go to work for a small city or county.

After gaining some experience, if that person wanted to increase his or her personal income, he or she would find a "promotion" to a larger entity, thereby opening up an existing spot for another "entry level" manager.

Those who enjoyed the pace of the smaller city job would trade less income for a more predictable and perhaps easier job.

But in the real world, where mega-counties like Los Angeles exist, those institutions’ shear unwieldiness and inefficiency actually bid up technocratic salaries.

This is due to the fact that they manage somehow to creak forward, based solely on the skills of a handful of qualified folks, who can thus command large salaries and armies of deputies and human waves of staff to execute on a manager’s nearly, but not actually, impossible mission.

And while the individual’s specific work might indeed justify this recompense, it quickly acts to bid up the salaries of all those below, greatly increasing the cost and burden of local government.

Now biologists will state that any living organism will take great steps to preserve itself, and when assaulted by the Santa Clarita Valley activists and nascent county movements from Long Beach to the San Gabriel Valley that mushroomed during the 1970s, primarily in response to out-of-control property taxation, that big organism of Los Angeles County geared up to preserve itself and it actually did, warding off several attempts at county formation.

Yes, Santa Clarita itself did form in 1987, but effectively excluded nearly ALL of the undeveloped land in the area, which stayed under county control until developed, and all of the land west of the Interstate 5 freeway still finds itself under county dominion.

Carl Boyer never gave up the dream of a local county, and one of his last acts in his City Council office related to a proposed ordinance for the city to divorce itself from the five-digit address system imposed by the county, an almost quixotic act of rebellion.

Interestingly, the City would eventually engage in a quasi-rebellion, renaming San Ferndando Road Newhall Avenue and Railroad Avenue.

But recently Carl Boyer thought to make one last effort. Since those unsuccessful attempts in the 1970s, the big beasts just made it more difficult to kill large entities, so for any rebellion to coalesce it would require a substantial sum of money — say, from the third-largest city in L.A. County.

Alas, this dream did not occur. After a study session, while agreeing in principle with the concept of smaller government, the City Council voted to spend NO funds pursuing the dream.

Will it arise again?

Tim Myers is a Valencia resident. "Myers’ Musings" runs Saturdays in The Signal.


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