Santa Clarita real estate professionals got access to five of their elected officials at a legislative panel Wednesday afternoon.
The Women’s Council of Realtors Santa Clarita Valley, the Southland Regional Association of Realtors and the Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce hosted Congressman Steve Knight (R-Palmdale), Senator Scott Wilk (R-Santa Clarita), Assemblyman Dante Acosta (R-Santa Clarita), Los Angeles County Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger and Mayor Cameron Smyth to give updates and answer questions.
Each official emphasized the importance of local governments maintaining control instead of allowing all decisions to be made at the state or federal level.
“We’re seeing legislation after legislation trying to erode local control and put control back in Sacramento,” Mayor Cameron Smyth said.
As an example, Smyth cited a state mandate that made cities remove turf from street medians and forced cities to pay for it themselves.
“We feel that local cities and counties should have the right to make those decisions by ourselves,” Smyth said.
It is frustrating when former local officials are elected to a higher office and start passing bills they would have opposed as a city council member, Smyth said.
Supervisor Barger saw the importance of local control play out at the county level concerning legislation that would increase costs for taxpayers for sewers and storm drains, which she said is “absolutely a nightmare.”
Santa Clarita residents are too familiar with paying high taxes, Barger said, which seems to go unrecognized by the state when they continue to increase taxes.
On the federal level, Congressman Knight said he seeks to focus on local issues by introducing bills that are specific to the 25th congressional district, particularly regarding aerospace, veterans and small business.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” Knight said.
In order to pass motions she cares about, Barger said she has to be open to having a constructive dialogue with those she disagrees with and let go of smaller issues in order to have larger successes.
“I will not compromise my basic core beliefs, but I realize that if I don’t compromise it’ll be a 4-1 vote and I’ll become irrelevant and I won’t have a seat at the table,” Barger said.
The supervisor said it is important to know when it is okay for others to give their input compared to times when she should stand her ground and say “no.”
Creating strong relationships in the legislature has helped Wilk get bills passed and have input on other peoples’ bills, the senator said.
Sometimes all legislators can do is take a “God awful” bill and make it “just bad,” according to Assemblyman Acosta.
When he can improve someone else’s legislation, he said it is important for him to vote in favor of it because he had input.
“If we don’t, they will never work with us again,” Assemblyman Acosta said. “A lot more can get done if you don’t care about getting credit. It is important we are being pragmatic working with colleagues across the aisle.”
The assemblyman encouraged constituents to stay engaged and educate those around them about legislation and policy.
Smyth remembered times both as a council member and an assembly member where he had to make compromises, such as a time he and former Santa Clarita Councilman Frank Ferry were on opposite sides of an issue on one agenda item and banded together on the issue immediately after.
“Don’t take things so personally,” Smyth said. “It makes it easier to find that common ground.”
The officials encouraged attendees to get involved in the political process, especially on issues that mattered to them.
While the state legislature can be divisive, Senator Wilk said it is refreshing to return to Santa Clarita.
“I love coming home because we have common sense here,” Wilk said.
The mayor agreed, saying he came back to the city after serving in the state Assembly for a reason.
“There is a lot of negativity in our country, but Santa Clarita is a great place and that is not by accident,” Smyth said.