The City of Santa Clarita is a well-run and financially sound city. It upgraded its Standard and Poors credit rating to the highest possible – AAA– during the Great Recession. Its current budget has operating reserves of $17.4 million.
It is a well-planned city. It promotes and has adopted green technology. It promotes alternative transportation and runs its bus service on compressed natural gas and continues to encourage healthful living with bike paths, paseos, walkable areas of the city and preserved open space.
Yet at times, watching its governing body at work might lead visitors to believe leaders lack vision or problem-solving skills. Members appear reluctant to give some issues a full hearing and seem at times resentful of their own constituency, prone to squabble over small issues and too willing to close ranks.
When TimBen Boydston was elected to the council in 2012, we hoped for an improvement. We appreciate Boydston’s willingness to ask the questions many residents have when topics or votes of critical importance arise.
He stood up in opposition to the council’s vote on billboards and led the charge that in the end proved through popular vote that electronic billboards are unacceptable to residents. The achievement is much-cited by those backing his re-election.
But he did so by taking off his councilman hat and setting it aside to lobby for the people. We don’t fault him for that, but we believe it illustrates an important point about Boydston.
Raising questions and rallying a crowd are Boydston’s strengths; building a consensus and negotiating agreements with elected colleagues have not proven to be. That point was illustrated earlier this year when he was unable to convince his colleagues to consider the county’s homeless initiative.
Boydston has served an important role since his election, but we believe it’s a role he could, and has, filled better as a citizen.
A candidate who would excel at problem-solving and advancing a vision is Cameron Smyth. He has fresh ideas, a proven skill for diplomacy and a track record of successful consensus building.
The locally raised son of a William S. Hart Union High School District superintendent, Smyth served six years on the council starting in 2000 and was elected on the Republican ticket to state Assembly, retaining that seat until he was termed out of office.
Smyth represented the minority party in Sacramento, but that didn’t prevent him from many successes there, perhaps most remarkably being appointed a Republican chairman of the Assembly Local Government Committee.
Smyth has a proven record of reaching across the aisle in the state legislature and was praised by Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown for that ability.
He also represents an important demographic in Santa Clarita – age 45 and a commuting parent with children in elementary school. It is a demographic he says makes up 60 percent of the city.
We believe Smyth is a solid choice for City Council to move the city in the direction it needs to go.
Voters have nine other choices for the council’s two open seats. One of them, Alan Ferdman, would encounter the same consensus-building challenges as Boydston. The rest have varying degrees of experience but little or none of it involving city governance.
Sixteen-year council veteran Bob Kellar — who comes off his year-long term of mayor at the end of the year — has a solid grasp of a wide range of Santa Clarita issues from the Cemex mine to chloride levels in the river and the Whittaker-Bermite cleanup. He also touts the importance of community values from family-centric events to supporting the arts and veterans. He also understands the importance of city financial stability learned during years of contributing to spending plans during recessionary times.
We endorse Bob Kellar with the request that he, like some senior members of the COC board, will commit to transitioning institutional knowledge and understanding to potential new leadership and to mentoring those new leaders.
We find he has always wanted only the best for Santa Clarita and charge him to help lay a foundation from the past upon which the visionaries of 2050 can build.