Our View: Dynasty stifles engagement in SCV

By Signal Editorial Board

Last update: Friday, April 21st, 2017

During the past year or so The Signal’s Editorial Department has made two causes our primary goals: To battle negative campaigning and to promote civic engagement.

Civic engagement means everyday people preserving democracy through its everyday use – by stepping up with one’s voice, one’s actions and one’s time to serve the public selflessly, to challenge elected leaders constructively, to self-inform and civilly debate with the goal of making our community the best it can be.

Standing contrary to vigorous civic engagement is any elected official who considers his or her selection by voters for a given office to be permission, or even encouragement, for meddling in other offices, usurping citizens’ rights to make decisions regarding those positions.

Sadly, the Santa Clarita Valley has a long history of elected representatives with such delusions. Most recently departed from the annals of SCV reigns is retired Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, who once fancied himself the Santa Clarita Valley’s “kingmaker” – and whose endorsements swung a lot of nonpartisan elections in favor of Republican candidates touched by his magic wand.

We at The Signal believe partisan politics have no place in local nonpartisan issues, particularly in this era of hyper-politicized politics that have turned Congress into a prize fight and the California Legislature into an insane asylum.

Sen. Scott Wilk disagrees with us on this issue. We have endorsed him more than once and generally agree he is representing us well in the Legislature, but in nonpartisan elections he is out-McKeoning McKeon as he meddles in issues as party-neutral as Santa Clarita city commissioner for Parks and Recreation.

Wilk’s fingerprints were all over the shoddy selection process displayed by City Council members in January when they turned their backs on the public and chose Wilk-ordained Bill Miranda for the City Council seat vacated by Assemblyman Dante Acosta.

In an unnecessarily rushed process that shut out even a citizens committee of advisers from making recommendations, the four council members effectively bypassed most of the 49 interested applicants with interviews of no more than three minutes each. City Councilman Bob Kellar favored another applicant.

We have nothing against Miranda, although he failed to join in any of our civic engagement events designed to introduce the applicants to the public. “It wasn’t part of the process,” he initially responded when The Signal asked him in January about his absence from those events.

‘Part of the process’

Indeed, the most important “part of the process” is apparently securing a reference letter from Scott Wilk.

More recently Miranda, having learned his lesson well, named Wilk-endorsed Victor Lindenheim to a seat on the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission. One commission position each is appointed by the five council members.

Miranda called Lindenheim and personally urged him to apply, although the longtime director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition and expert in transportation said he never considered the job before he received Miranda’s call.

Meanwhile, nine other people submitted applications for the commission position. At least one, a four-year resident of Newhall who responded to a city ad on Facebook, tried to contact Miranda several times and was finally told her application had been received and she would be called if Miranda wanted more information.

The call never came.

Undaunted by Lindenheim’s appointment, the Newhall mom said she wrote to Miranda asking for “some insight on what would make me a better candidate.”

The next day, April 13, she said she saw The Signal article “New parks commissioner recruited by councilman.”

“I do feel like I have a lot to offer,” said the resident, asking that her name be withheld because she “didn’t want to make enemies at City Hall.”

“I just wanted a chance for an interview,” she said. “I realized after I saw that (article) I didn’t have a chance. Why was (the ad) posted on Facebook if no one had a chance?”

Lindenheim will likely be a fine parks commissioner. But this woman wanted a fair opportunity for consideration, and Wilk’s dynasty-building shut her out of that chance.

Perfectly legal

There’s nothing illegal in the senator’s very successful effort to sway officials in local, nonpartisan positions, although city commissioner is the lowest we’ve seen an elected official stoop in the bid to make over local government in his or her image.

Recently his wife, Vanessa, a longtime Santa Clarita Valley activist for education and senior issues, was seated on the Santa Clarita Arts Commission.

But city government is only one of the places where the choices of elected or appointed officials bear Scott Wilk’s fingerprints. His influence has also been felt in selections for College of the Canyons and Hart District board members.

Please don’t think we’re making assumptions in this account. Wilk, who has recently abandoned his “R-Santa Clarita” partisan label on his press releases in favor of “R-Antelope Valley,” has told us flat-out that he will wield influence where he can and that he is free to do so.

After all, elections just get more and more expensive, and Wilk has accumulated power in his party and money in his campaign coffers.

We do find local elected officials’ eagerness to comply with the senator’s wishes shameful and wonder if their weakness may backfire on Wilk’s efforts to retain power for his party during this time of Democratic dominance in California.

But our main concern is a self-appointed Wilk dynasty’s effect on civic engagement in the Santa Clarita Valley – on citizens’ belief and trust in the system and thus on their willingness to participate in it. Upon that willingness rides the future of democracy in the SCV.

Stifling

As Miranda demonstrated in his choice for commissioner, those loyal to the dynasty won’t – perhaps can’t – be loyal to the people. And an elected legislator’s goals all too often are self-protection and self-empowerment. Surely no one can dispute that point in this era of gross political polarization.

 

Dynasty building shuts out the people from the political process, resulting in alienation and lack of civic engagement. That, in turn, stifles diversity and kills democracy.

Surely we in the Santa Clarita Valley demand better than that.

Participation in The Signal’s public forum for City Council in January and in its Measure H debate in February demonstrated residents in this valley do want grassroots involvement in their government. Let’s stand up for that – and stand up against dynasty-building that would stifle such involvement.

We have school board elections this November, and the following November a City Council election, along with school board and state and national elections. Let’s throw off the power of those who would usurp our voices and exercise our democratic choices for the next two rounds of local elections.

 

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Our View: Dynasty stifles engagement in SCV

During the past year or so The Signal’s Editorial Department has made two causes our primary goals: To battle negative campaigning and to promote civic engagement.

Civic engagement means everyday people preserving democracy through its everyday use – by stepping up with one’s voice, one’s actions and one’s time to serve the public selflessly, to challenge elected leaders constructively, to self-inform and civilly debate with the goal of making our community the best it can be.

Standing contrary to vigorous civic engagement is any elected official who considers his or her selection by voters for a given office to be permission, or even encouragement, for meddling in other offices, usurping citizens’ rights to make decisions regarding those positions.

Sadly, the Santa Clarita Valley has a long history of elected representatives with such delusions. Most recently departed from the annals of SCV reigns is retired Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, who once fancied himself the Santa Clarita Valley’s “kingmaker” – and whose endorsements swung a lot of nonpartisan elections in favor of Republican candidates touched by his magic wand.

We at The Signal believe partisan politics have no place in local nonpartisan issues, particularly in this era of hyper-politicized politics that have turned Congress into a prize fight and the California Legislature into an insane asylum.

Sen. Scott Wilk disagrees with us on this issue. We have endorsed him more than once and generally agree he is representing us well in the Legislature, but in nonpartisan elections he is out-McKeoning McKeon as he meddles in issues as party-neutral as Santa Clarita city commissioner for Parks and Recreation.

Wilk’s fingerprints were all over the shoddy selection process displayed by City Council members in January when they turned their backs on the public and chose Wilk-ordained Bill Miranda for the City Council seat vacated by Assemblyman Dante Acosta.

In an unnecessarily rushed process that shut out even a citizens committee of advisers from making recommendations, the four council members effectively bypassed most of the 49 interested applicants with interviews of no more than three minutes each. City Councilman Bob Kellar favored another applicant.

We have nothing against Miranda, although he failed to join in any of our civic engagement events designed to introduce the applicants to the public. “It wasn’t part of the process,” he initially responded when The Signal asked him in January about his absence from those events.

‘Part of the process’

Indeed, the most important “part of the process” is apparently securing a reference letter from Scott Wilk.

More recently Miranda, having learned his lesson well, named Wilk-endorsed Victor Lindenheim to a seat on the city’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Commission. One commission position each is appointed by the five council members.

Miranda called Lindenheim and personally urged him to apply, although the longtime director of the Golden State Gateway Coalition and expert in transportation said he never considered the job before he received Miranda’s call.

Meanwhile, nine other people submitted applications for the commission position. At least one, a four-year resident of Newhall who responded to a city ad on Facebook, tried to contact Miranda several times and was finally told her application had been received and she would be called if Miranda wanted more information.

The call never came.

Undaunted by Lindenheim’s appointment, the Newhall mom said she wrote to Miranda asking for “some insight on what would make me a better candidate.”

The next day, April 13, she said she saw The Signal article “New parks commissioner recruited by councilman.”

“I do feel like I have a lot to offer,” said the resident, asking that her name be withheld because she “didn’t want to make enemies at City Hall.”

“I just wanted a chance for an interview,” she said. “I realized after I saw that (article) I didn’t have a chance. Why was (the ad) posted on Facebook if no one had a chance?”

Lindenheim will likely be a fine parks commissioner. But this woman wanted a fair opportunity for consideration, and Wilk’s dynasty-building shut her out of that chance.

Perfectly legal

There’s nothing illegal in the senator’s very successful effort to sway officials in local, nonpartisan positions, although city commissioner is the lowest we’ve seen an elected official stoop in the bid to make over local government in his or her image.

Recently his wife, Vanessa, a longtime Santa Clarita Valley activist for education and senior issues, was seated on the Santa Clarita Arts Commission.

But city government is only one of the places where the choices of elected or appointed officials bear Scott Wilk’s fingerprints. His influence has also been felt in selections for College of the Canyons and Hart District board members.

Please don’t think we’re making assumptions in this account. Wilk, who has recently abandoned his “R-Santa Clarita” partisan label on his press releases in favor of “R-Antelope Valley,” has told us flat-out that he will wield influence where he can and that he is free to do so.

After all, elections just get more and more expensive, and Wilk has accumulated power in his party and money in his campaign coffers.

We do find local elected officials’ eagerness to comply with the senator’s wishes shameful and wonder if their weakness may backfire on Wilk’s efforts to retain power for his party during this time of Democratic dominance in California.

But our main concern is a self-appointed Wilk dynasty’s effect on civic engagement in the Santa Clarita Valley – on citizens’ belief and trust in the system and thus on their willingness to participate in it. Upon that willingness rides the future of democracy in the SCV.

Stifling

As Miranda demonstrated in his choice for commissioner, those loyal to the dynasty won’t – perhaps can’t – be loyal to the people. And an elected legislator’s goals all too often are self-protection and self-empowerment. Surely no one can dispute that point in this era of gross political polarization.

 

Dynasty building shuts out the people from the political process, resulting in alienation and lack of civic engagement. That, in turn, stifles diversity and kills democracy.

Surely we in the Santa Clarita Valley demand better than that.

Participation in The Signal’s public forum for City Council in January and in its Measure H debate in February demonstrated residents in this valley do want grassroots involvement in their government. Let’s stand up for that – and stand up against dynasty-building that would stifle such involvement.

We have school board elections this November, and the following November a City Council election, along with school board and state and national elections. Let’s throw off the power of those who would usurp our voices and exercise our democratic choices for the next two rounds of local elections.

 

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Signal Editorial Board

Signal Editorial Board

  • John Zaring

    Wow! Just WOW! To say the perspective offered in this editorial is shockingly unexpected, would be an epic understatement. The Signal just regained a modicum of respect from this former columnist who was never thanked for the hundreds upon hundreds of unpaid hours logged over many months and years in writing countless thousands of words for a weekly opinion column in The Signal called ‘The Rational Center’. Truth be told, I was unceremoniously dumped by the then-new, out-of-town-living owner because I had the temerity to complain just a bit too often and loudly about the indisputable right-leaning bias found in these pages. Perhaps this is just a one-off aberration, but be careful Chuck Champion and Company, if you keep up this kind of independent thought, you just might manage to save yourself.

    • Ron Bischof

      LOL! Risibly self-referential and biased. Obviously, you’re right in the middle of “The Rational Center”, Mr. Zaring!

      • John Zaring

        And you, Mr. Bischof, find yourself in the middle of nothing …

        • Ron Bischof

          No doubt out of your erratic orbit and in the calm of rational reality, writing columns. 🙂

          • John Zaring

            Yes, I’ve noticed an occasional byline and a letter or three … let’s see how you feel after a few years of filing weekly columns … meanwhile, I’ll thank you for your contributions, because it is unlikely anyone else has …

          • Ron Bischof

            You can bet I don’t need “hundreds of hours” to write a thought provoking column.

            If you were a reader, you would have noted the thanks. But hey, facts aren’t your forte. Ideology and score settling are your obsessions. 🙂

          • John Zaring

            First of all Ron, when you write weekly columns over many years, the hours add up. In the business, we call that a fact check.

            Second, I am not a reader of yours.

            Third, have a nice weekend!

          • Ron Bischof

            “Hi Ron: I hope this reaches you. Thank you for your kind and clarifying words in the Signal. I strongly agree we should not politicize science.” – Maria Gutzeit

            “Great clarification.” – Jim de Bree

            “I’ll thank you for your contributions, because it is unlikely anyone else has …”

            “Second, I am not a reader of yours.”

            “In the business, we call that a fact check.”

            Res ipsa loquitur.

          • John Zaring

            The Tina Turner song ‘Simply The Best’ comes to mind. People like you!

          • Ron Bischof

            My dedication to you. 😀

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZmCJUSC6g

            We’re done here, so I bid you a pleasant evening.

          • Gary Bierend

            That’s all well and good Ron, but how many times did you get a “BINGO!”? That’s like a Pulitzer to some people.

          • Bill Reynolds

            Let’s face it… you knew going in that it was play for no pay and your mission was simply self serving. Happy Sunday!

          • John Zaring

            True, Bill. I willingly did it as a public service. But that doesn’t justify their general lack of appreciation …

          • Bill Reynolds

            Public service? Sharing your opinionated propaganda is more accurate, me thinks.

          • John Zaring

            You do grasp the concept of an ‘opinion’ column, eh Bill?! Just because you don’t agree doesn’t make it wrong …

          • Bill Reynolds

            Opinion, yes. Public service, no. It’s not like your were crossing kids in a crosswalk or picking up trash in our Santa Clara River.

          • John Zaring

            Don’t you have better things to do on a Sunday? Oh wait, never mind.

          • Bill Reynolds

            LOL. I’m busy watching the Dodgers while writing another Veteran’s story (AKA: public service). What’s your excuse. 🙂

    • lois eisenberg

      “Wow! Just WOW” Mr . Zaring. BRAVO !!

      • John Zaring

        Thanks Lois! Despite the attacks you would always suffer, I could count on you for some praise. Have a nice Sunday!

        • lois eisenberg

          John, I would love for you to contribute to the SCV Signal
          in the form of letters to the editor !
          Your opinions are too valuable to be wasted !

  • Bill Reynolds

    “The Rational Center”. #ohboy

    • Brian Baker

      Whining, as usual.

  • Linda Hovis Storli-Koontz

    Interesting. The college board member supported by me was Dr Alonso. If the Wilks only support those who follow their political party well… then I couldn’t have supported Democrat Alonso. I also strongly supported the appointment of Dr. Moore. Your assumptions just don’t make it true. I guess I should remind you of the Mercado rant that I was endorsed by Senator Wilk. BTW she was in his office asking for his endorsement the same day I did. She only shouted foul and accused the Wilks of getting involved in non-partisan offices when she didn’t get the then Assemblyman’s endorsement that she ask him for.

    • Stephen Petzold

      That certainly raises the question why did you support Democrat Edel Alonso? When did you register GOP ?

      • Linda Hovis Storli-Koontz

        Ummm any of this information you are asking for can be found in many places. I registered as a Republican on my 21st birthday. Remained a loyal party member until around ten years ago when I felt like “my party left me I didn’t leave the party” R Reagan. I joined the Libertarian party (also not my cup of tea. I became a Decline to State and then re-joined the party in 2015,

        Reasons for supporting DEMOCRATs Dr. Alonso and Dr. Moore… most qualified for the position. Honest and caring about kids was more important than party.

        No one can say nor has anyone ever said that students were not my MAIN interest in all of this. The bigger original question of this post is the Wilk control of his minions. I sat in the exact same room as G. Mercado (though when she didn’t get the endorsement of Scott Wilk – she cried foul) waiting to see Scott to gain his endorsement. I did have lots of support from the Republicans who had been my friends for years. ALSO many students who grew up in a Government class where all sides were heard.

        Scott Wilk is an honorable man. He supported me because he thought I was the best person for the job… then I worked my tail off winning the election. I supported two Democrats for positions in education because they were the best persons for the job. Easy decision… No Wilk strings on me.

        Now a question for you Steve… what are you so angry about? What is your purpose, EXCEPT to stir the pot. There is no fire. You are making up the smoke.

  • Gary Bierend

    John Zaring: “I willingly did it as a public service.”

    “Wow! Just WOW!”

Signal Editorial Board

Signal Editorial Board