The Santa Clarita City Council is whole again … though not wholly without critics of how it got that way.
Before a nearly full house in the Council Chambers of City Hall, Bill Miranda – appointed by the four other members last week — took the oath of office as the newest Council member at just past 6 p.m. on Tuesday night, filling the seat that became vacant in December when Dante Acosta resigned to join the state Assembly.
“I will do my best to serve the City of Santa Clarita, one of my first loves,” Miranda said after he was sworn in by City Clerk Mary Cusick, pledging to “bear true faith and allegiance to the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of California.”
Miranda’s swearing-in brought the Council to its full roster of five, though in the six weeks the body worked with four members, there were no instances in which a 2-2 vote stalled any pieces of business.
His term has two years remaining.
His swearing-in also capped a lengthy and sometimes controversial process in which the Council opted to fill the Acosta vacancy by appointment rather than hold a special election – as many residents had called for, right up to the night Miranda was appointed.
After the Council sought applications for the vacancy, 50 area residents applied – prompting a long special session last Tuesday at which 40 of them (10 were no-shows) made three-minute pitches before the four sitting members.
From that two-hour-plus marathon session, Miranda’s appointment emerged with surprising speed, passing 3-1, with only Councilman Bob Kellar casting a “no” vote.
While there was public comment before those 40 applicants spoke last week, there was none following the Miranda appointment – nor was there any public comment before his swearing-in on Tuesday night, as his oath was the first order of business.
Miranda is managing partner of Valley Group, which publishes Our Valley Santa Clarita magazine. He also runs a small-business consulting firm, Bill Miranda Consulting.
He also had been an adviser to the Latino Business Alliance, an arm of the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, until he resigned on Friday, per rules of that organization that preclude Chamber officials from holding public office.
Once Miranda was sworn in, the Council got down to business on a wide variety of fronts, including passing a pair of moratorium extensions — one on non-medical marijuana activities in the city in the wake of Proposition 64 passing in November, the other on permitting senior-citizen mobile-home parks to allow residents of all ages.
The recreational marijuana moratorium, which passed 5-0, extends one put into place by the Council on Dec. 13 — even though pot shops and other such emporia don’t figure to be opening anywhere in the state for at least a full year following the passage of Prop 64.
City Attorney Joseph Montes said the additional time is needed to assess how the state will impose taxation and other regulations on the newly state-legalized non-medical pot, and how those new rules will affect the city.
Mayor Cameron Smyth advised the Council that, during the extended moratorium period, the city study the issue further and monitor “nuances’’ that other cities might enact down the road that might loosen at least some local recreational marijuana restrictions.
The original moratorium was for 45 days, but allowed the Council, upon four-fifths votes, to extend it one time for 10 months and 15 days – and that’s what happened Tuesday night. In a subsequent vote, the Council could further extend the moratorium by an additional year.
While Prop 64 allows for recreational pot use, it does not strip individual municipalities or law-enforcement authorities from imposing specific restrictions, including the right to ban commercial pot shops altogether.
Meanwhile, the extension of the moratorium regarding senior mobile-home parks – which also passed 5-0 — put the brakes, at least temporarily, on park owners lifting age rules and opening their parks to residents of any age.
Speakers Tuesday night said that lifting those rules could drive up rent prices — and drive out seniors who might not have anywhere else to go when their leases come up for renewal.