Our View: Welcoming the newly elected

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As the newly elected begin to take office next week, a changing of the guard will commence that will bring fresh faces to nearly every level of Santa Clarita Valley’s state and local public offices.

Kathryn Barger is sworn into Los Angeles County’s Fifth District Supervisorial seat at 3:30 p.m. Monday. She will be only the second county supervisor since Santa Clarita was founded in 1987. Michael Antonovich took office in 1980 – when people were still carrying pagers instead of cellphones, and nobody had ever heard of Facebook or social media.

Three out of four Santa Clarita Valley state legislators will also take office for the first time next week. They are: Scott Wilk, a Republican who moves from the state Assembly to the state Senate; Henry Stern, a Democrat who worked for his predecessor in the Senate; and Dante Acosta, Republican and soon-to-be-former Santa Clarita City Council member who takes Wilk’s former seat in the Assembly.

Wilk replaces Sharon Runner in the Senate; the long-serving senator and assemblywoman died while in office. Stern takes the former seat of Fran Pavley, who was termed out of office.

Only Assemblyman Tom Lackey, R-Lancaster, who represents a slice of Saugus and Canyon Country, continues serving SCV residents uninterrupted.

Change is in the wings for the Santa Clarita City Council, as well. Cameron Smyth will be sworn into office Dec. 13, returning to a position he held 10 years ago. And not long after, a second of the five council members will be replaced as a successor is named or elected for Acosta.

One new representative each will take a seat on both the College of the Canyons Board of Trustees and the Saugus Union School District board.

Edel Alonso replaces Bruce Fortine for COC and Julie Olsen will take the Saugus Union seat vacated by Rose Koscielny.

The Legislature, which has been dominated by Democrats since the 1960s except during two periods of a few years each – finds itself in a supermajority situation this year. That means Democrats are not required to ally themselves with Republicans to win legislative victories.

The situation is particularly dismaying when one considers the state budget, recovered now from the abyss of the Great Recession. Handing Democrats a supermajority in the Legislature with a budget surplus is like putting a teenager in a new car with a platinum credit card and saying, “Go have fun! It’s on me.”

As our new representatives take office this holiday season, be it in the Legislature, a school board or anywhere between, we urge them to embrace three practices:

▪ Throw off political polarization: Whether you like ‘em or not, whether they belong to the other party or your own, keep your eye on the ball and negotiate, don’t agitate. Your party didn’t get you elected; the voters did.

Whether you’re Democrat, Republican or nonpartisan, remember that SCV voters cast ballots for results.

▪ Embrace transparency: Many fellow elected officials have gone over to the dark side – the side that thinks voters can be kept in the dark. We’ve seen it in Nancy Pelosi’s “But we have to pass the (health care) bill so that you can find out what’s in it,” and we’ve seen it in the state Legislature’s practice of voting for bills that are blank documents and then filling them in later.

Neither is acceptable under any circumstance. Don’t employ duplicitous behaviors. Be honest with your constituents.

▪ Practice constructive governing: If the frontal assault doesn’t work on an issue, find another way. When freshman Congressman Steve Knight headed to Washington two years ago, he promised Santa Clarita Valley residents that blocking the Cemex mine would be a priority.

He introduced legislation – as did his predecessor over and over again – but he wasn’t satisfied with that. He worked with Democratic congressional members and at least one Democratic senator to find solutions and form alliances.

Suddenly, the Bureau of Land Management rescinded Cemex’s mining contracts. Cemex appealed and the issue is now in the hands of judges delegated by the secretary of the interior to make final decisions for the Department of the Interior.

We wish every one of Santa Clarita’s representatives – from our returning congressman to our new school board members – good luck on their careers, along with this bit of wisdom from Margaret Chase Smith, the first woman to serve in both houses of Congress:

“Public service must be more than doing a job efficiently and honestly. It must be a complete dedication to the people and to the nation.”

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