Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Hi, I am A Still Curious John Newhall and...

I watched our City Council on SCVTV.COM, last night, and found myself more confused than ever regarding the Landscape Maintenance Districts Modification.

There was a public hearing on the matter, but before the hearing could begin, Joe Montes, the City Attorney, had to clear a few things up. Apparently, three of our Council Members might have a conflict of interest in the matter and probably shouldn’t vote because they own properties are within or close to the areas that might be affected by their final decision. Those three are, Weste, McLean, and Ender.

Oddly enough, in order for City Staff to go forward with the balloting, our City Council had to vote for a few resolutions on the matter, and did so on June 28, 2011. (This year, for those without a calendar.)  This was done by agenda item 11 that day. One resolution read in part:

Resolution 11-65 to approve Engineer's Report, and declare its intention to order annexations into, detachments from, creation of new zones, dissolution of existing zones, and assessment rate adjustments in Landscape Maintenance District Nos. 1 and T1, and to levy an assessment thereon, taking certain other actions in connection therewith. (And Resolution 11-64.)

On June 28th the “conflict” was not serious enough to prevent them from voting unanimously for this item, except for Ender who wasn’t there. But last night, (also this year),after ballots had been sent out and returned, and it was time for a public hearing on the matter, there was concern that there might be enough of a conflict to cause some legal problems down the road.

Now if three of our five Council Members were to recuse themselves, the measure never could pass. But it started the process on June 28th when apparently none of the Council were “conflicted.” The City Attorney therefore, according to the law, held a kind of raffle, handing out envelopes randomly to the three conflicted Council Members. Those three Council Members giggled as they opened their envelopes. The lucky winner, who got to preside over the public hearing, and will get to vote on the matter in the future was Weste.

Is this any way to run a local government? You betcha!

So Kellar, Ferry, and Weste will ultimately decide this issue after the vote is counted.

Now on to the public hearing… Only four people spoke on the matter---all negative Nellies. Apparently everyone else in the Santa Clarita Valley didn’t care, didn’t know about it, thought it was a good idea because they would save a few bucks the first year in not-taxes, or were just too damned confused.
All of those who spoke explained several good reasons for their lack of support.  In a week or so they whole thing should be on SCVTV.COM,--- so look for it. But Jim Farley’s appeal was the simplest: He just didn’t think it right that he could vote YES and save himself about $15 the first year, and create a whole new not-tax of about $60 for several thousand neighbors. He was also concerned that the structure of the weighted balloting was such that it would be impossible for the NO vote to ever be successful, giving no voice to those who would have their not-taxes raised.

Despite the logic of his analysis, (See Jim Farley's Spreadsheet), both Ken Striplin  and Darren Hernandez, who dutifully did their duties per the June 28th agenda item, said you could never know how the public was going to vote, and the vote was not predictable.
But included in my correspondence with the City was this little gem from Dennis Luppens, Special Districts Administrator, City of Santa Clarita:
To this end, after considering the information contained in the ballot package, property owners want to make the decision that is best for them, and that usually comes down to "how much more or less will I pay if I vote YES or NO." I believe the customized ballots sent out on July 27, 2011 meet this goal.
Customized ballots? Now ain’t that an awesome concept?
Anyway, Kellar was overtly outraged by this and really did push the issue with both Hernandez and Striplin. Both of whom in my opinion, gave not so good answers. Better answers were provided by Luppens in the email Q&A below.
Kellar suggested that given the state of the economy it might be better to just hold off on some projects rather than raising anyone’s taxes. He was tired of seeing people losing their homes. I am one of those who will have a new not-tax. I live south of Lyons and there are at least five homes in the area that are empty and for sale. Not that anyone is going to forced out of their home by a new $60 not-tax, but the man has a point.
So where are we now with this? Well they are counting and weighting those ballots over at City Hall. And when it passes, I mean if it passes?, then the City Council will have to pass a final measure. On that measure only Kellar, Ferry, and Weste will be voting. Now I don’t know, since only three can vote does that mean two Members can pass this thing? Back to you Joe…
I am still trying to figure out that EMU, EBU thing.

Anyway please comment here, or over at and visit I Heart