Santa Clarita’s council chambers were nearly filled to capacity with civically-engaged citizens for Assemblyman Dante Acosta and state Senator Scott Wilk’s public forum Thursday evening.
Of the almost 200 in attendance, time was allotted for over a dozen Santa Clarita Valley locals to ask questions about Senate and Assembly bills, education, the environment, water usage and public safety.
Four of five councilmembers attended the event and Mayor Cameron Smyth opened the night and introduced both speakers.
Acosta thanked the audience, his wife, staff and public servants for their attendance.
“This is an evening where you could be doing a million things, but you’re here,” he said. “It’s been fun and engaging and everyone has been respectful. What a testament to the Santa Clarita Valley. I’m not surprised.”
Wilk echoed Acosta’s sentiments and said serving constituents has been an honor.
“Every time I walk on that senate floor, I get goosebumps,” he said. “If I ever lose that feeling, I’ll stop running.”
Multiple times throughout the night, Acosta encouraged constituents to be active on social media in order to spread information across their personal networks. He also said he valued transparency and wanted constituents to be informed on what is happening in government.
“We don’t want to have this black box government where no one knows what’s happening,” Acosta said.
Santa Clarita local David Geeting said he contributed to both Acosta and Wilk’s campaigns and said he was looking forward to the event, though he hoped it would be civil.
“I’m hoping those people, which I call ‘professional agitators,’ won’t appear so those of us with serious questions can speak,” he said.
Geeting asked the speakers if they thought they had a chance of convincing Democratic legislators to oppose Governor Jerry Brown’s gas tax, to which Acosta said there could be a chance.
“They are going to have to meet in the middle, which is an effective form of government,” Acosta said. “We’ve been paying for decades in California and not getting our money’s worth.”
Local Richard Stefani asked Acosta if he thought his time might be well spent trying gain more Republicans in the state.
“We can make this night as partisan as we want to, but I don’t think that is going to be effective,” he said. “The way we can be effective is as a team.”
In regard to Wilk’s Senate Bill 634 on the potential valley water merger, Wilk said the bill is subject to change but affirmed that he believes he should be open with constituents as it changes. He also said he understands Senator Stern’s choice to not vote on it because it would inevitably change.
“The bill is a long way away from being where I want it to be,”
Wilk said. “If I don’t like the bill, it’s not going anywhere.”
Acosta said he wanted to hear from constituents on their opinions on Wilk’s bill.
“I don’t work for the water districts, I represent all of you,” Acosta said. “I will always strive to represent you the best that I can in every single instance.”
When Steve Lee asked Wilk’s perspective on the Chiquita Canyon landfill, he said the vote was up to Supervisor Kathryn Barger.
Susann Rizzo said she attended the event in order to garner what the speakers believed regarding the environment.
“I want to hear Senator Wilk and Assemblyman Acosta’s positions on climate change and the environment,” she said. “I want to make sure they’re following Governor Jerry Brown’s authority.
Santa Clarita resident and mother Rachel Clark expressed concern with Senate Bill 18, which would intervene in decision making for parents regarding their children. Wilk encouraged her to reach out to friends and representatives in Democratic districts to share her concerns.
“If Governor Brown can’t manage a budget, he shouldn’t be interfering with my parental rights,” Clark said.
Both speakers addressed Governor Brown’s high speed rail and said they opposed it. Wilk said he wanted to “pull the plug on it” as soon as Brown leaves office.
Acosta addressed the country’s healthcare debate and said he is a proponent of getting healthcare to citizens, but does not want taxes to be raised.
“I would never suggest denying people basic medical care,” he said.
Regarding immigration, Acosta said he wanted to accept other people who come to the United States legally.
“We’re a land of opportunity, rules and freedom,” he said. “If they want to come here the right way, we’re all for them.”
The assemblyman closed the night by saying he hoped to do more public forums in the future. Both Acosta and Wilk stayed after the event to greet attendees and answer more questions.
On Twitter as @ginaender