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Edward Headington: Last call to release the Kraken!

Posted: March 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: March 11, 2013 2:00 a.m.

Apple pie, "Bye Bye Birdie" and Beverly Cleary are all things most Americans would admit to liking. You could also throw in DVRs, shorter commutes and the warm-and-fuzzy title of the proposed "Clean Water, Clean Beaches" measure before county property owners.

After all, who among us would be against an "an extensive effort to protect public health and increase drinking water supplies by cleaning up our rivers, lakes, bays, beaches and coastal waters"?

Questions remain, however, over who is going to pay for it, what is the sense of urgency, and how transparent has the process been to hit us with another fee.

Truth to tell, the county’s 2.2 million property owners are going to have to foot the bill, and in some cases like — as in the Santa Clarita Valley — face double taxation.

It is a last call to "Release the Kraken," to borrow a Reagan-era phrase from Clash of the Titans, and let our elected officials know how we feel at the L.A. County Board of Supervisors hearing Tuesday.

The storm water fee, aka Clean Water, Clean Beaches measure, would establish an annual fee to pay for clean water programs with the express purpose of improving water quality and reducing pollution from storm water and urban runoff.

It would be imposed on all property owners within the county Flood Control District, which includes the entire Santa Clarita Valley and portions of the Antelope Valley.

We are told the average cost for a single-family home (those with 5,000 or less square feet per lot) would equate roughly to the price of a ticket and parking at Magic Mountain. The actual amount, however, might be more, as it is based on how much runoff a home generates. Those in a condo would pay less, but school districts, churches, small businesses and community-based organizations would pay in the thousands.

In January, I joined community leaders, along with Supervisor Michael Antonovich, in opposing the fee. My concerns were over a lack of transparency in the process of notifying the public of the hearing (and their protest options), a lack of accountability on the specifics of the projects and the undue burden the measure placed on hardworking families and fixed-income seniors who are already struggling.

At the very least, it is hoped the following is addressed at the hearing Tuesday: 1 including a sunset clause; 2 considering schools, businesses, churches and other community-based organizations; 3 outlining project specifics; 4 allowing credits for property owners already capturing and treating storm water runoff; 5 thinking through options on new developments for on-site capture or contributing to a regional project in lieu of a fee.

Just as there is the butterfly effect in life, so it goes in politics and governance that the "gaffes in judgment" can be called out and stopped.

You can still protest the proposed storm water fee until the end of the public hearing. Here is the link:

The supervisors have yet to decide whether to move forward with an election, and you can still join other Santa Clarita residents at the Hahn Hall of Administration to voice your concerns.

Because of the torrent of opposition at the last one, the protest period was kept open for another 60 days. Perhaps your involvement could keep the measure from being placed on the ballot, get it revised or have it continued further.

Bottom line: Santa Clarita already charges a storm water fee, and folks should not be taxed twice for the same service. It is also problematic that all property owners will be charged a fee based on the size and type of parcel.

How much will two of Santa Clarita’s larger churches, Grace Baptist and Real Life, have to pay simply because of their size?

Just think of what the $460,000 the city would have to pay could be better spent.

And what about that third of a billion dollars in taxpayer money to be spent on things like "multi-benefit projects?" Simply put, there ought to be clear specifics and outlined plans for review before any of this is put before voters.

We all love having clean water to drink and a clean beach where we can spend the day with our family. And we need to pursue policies and elect leaders who keep things that way during our lifetimes and those of our children.

But the questions and concerns above will remain unanswered and unaddressed until we "Release the Kraken" of public opposition.

I commend Supervisor Antonovich and his staff for doing their part to engage us in a thoughtful and meaningful way — as well as Santa Clarita city leaders Bob Kellar, Marsha McLean, TimBen Boydston and Laurene Weste for leading the charge.

The storm waters are rising. The warning flags are posted. It’s last call to stop this fee.

Edward Headington, a Granada Hills resident, is the owner of Headington Media Group and a Signal contributor.


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