Benchmarking city council’s actions in their first three months

Members of the Santa Clarita city council, city staff, and local dignitaries break ceremonial ground on Monday, March 6, 2017, at the site of where a new 372-space parking structure will be built in downtown Newhall. Katharine Lotze/The Signal

Three months into the current city council’s regime, residents continue to express concerns at council meetings that include homelessness, transportation, crime and the environment.

With three months under city council’s belts, council members reviewed the agenda items they have approved thus far.

Both Mayor Smyth and Councilman Bob Kellar agree that finding a replacement for now-Assemblyman Dante Acosta in Bill Miranda, as well as other vacant seats, was crucial in starting the quarter.

“The biggest issue in the first several months was filling the council vacancy and filling seats on our parks, planning, arts and open space commissions,” Smyth said. “I think those are important because we need to have a full body in place as these issues begin to rise and decisions need to be made.”

Kellar, Smyth and Miranda all said they valued environmental actions, particularly in efforts concerning Cemex, as the council supported Senator Wilk’s Senate Bill 146 to keep the mining company out of Soledad Canyon.

“It is certainly in the home stretch on these issues, but we are not quite there yet,” Smyth said. “I’m looking forward to say that Cemex is finally no longer a threat.”

Approving the map for Vista Canyon Ranch in Canyon Country on January 24, which will include a new commercial area and Metro station, was notable for Kellar.

The city broke ground on the Old Town Newhall parking structure on March 6, the first step of the revitalization. Miranda said he was glad he stood his ground and did not accept anything but arts and entertainment shops on Main Street on February 28 when asked to vote on new language, which he opposed.

An anti-hate resolution was drafted at the beginning of the year, though Kellar said he has always believed Santa Clarita should be inclusive of all people, with or without a formal resolution.

Resolutions to provide rewards for information on the hit-and-run of Desiree Lawson on February 28 and missing case of William Cierzan on March 28 were both proposed by Kellar.

“As an old retired Los Angeles Police officer, I am very sensitive to issues of law and order and responsible behavior,” Kellar said. “If we can take an issue that can solve a situation of this kind and can be brought to justice, I absolutely, wholeheartedly support it. I want to use all the tools available to us to settle matters of this kind.”

The veteran councilmember also supported updating the Old Town Newhall Library code of conduct on February 15 to prevent homeless people from going into children’s reading rooms.

Councilmembers added a motor deputy on January 10 and approved widening the Newhall Ranch Road Bridge the same night.

“Adding another motor deputy to help with better traffic flow and safety is a very important addition that we’ve made,” Councilwoman Marsha McLean said.

They also extended a moratorium to prevent all ages from living in senior mobile home parks on January 24 and approved the Fallen Warriors Monument on February 28.

On January 24, the council extended the moratorium to prevent recreational marijuana stores from setting up shop in town. Smyth said this discussion will continue in the coming months after city staff does further research on how other cities have handled the issue.

“Staff will come back at the end of the year with a report on what other cities are doing,” Smyth said. “For us during that time, the council needs to make a decision on how we choose to proceed.”

In the coming months, Smyth and Kellar said they want to continue pursuing plans for Whittaker Bermite.

“We’re laying the foundation for a lot of bigger issues that will likely come back to the council later next year or early next year,” Smyth said.

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