Ken Dean: Pathways to new visions of Santa Clarita

On Dec. 15 Santa Clarita celebrates our 30th year anniversary of cityhood. It was a vision that took many years and hard work to accomplish. We still have the vision, but will it lead us into the future? What do the next 30 years hold? Over the past 30 years, we have enjoyed great visions that came to fruition. But we’ve also discovered what doesn’t work for Santa Clarita. What worked was that, as a city, we grew with annexations, we added nice new parks like Central Park with its Concerts in the Park series, we saw new modern libraries erected in Canyon Country and Newhall; the Aquatic Center and Sports Complex Gymnasium opened in Centre Pointe. Proudly, the city opened the Veterans Historical Plaza. For our youth, the Skateboard Park, for all ages the Canyon Country and Newhall Community Centers. Soledad underground utilities improved Canyon Country and new and upgraded restaurants improved the entire Santa Clarita Valley. What did not work – and cost taxpayers needlessly spent money – was the back-in angled parking in Newhall, which was reversed, and taking one lane of traffic away on Decoro Drive for a bike lane – and two weeks later restriping it. Also, installing traffic diverters on Benz Road, only to remove them and install speed bumps. Truly the positive outweighs the negative. And the task of planning for the future is having leaders with that new future-type of vision and knowledge. History has shown us that without leaders with new visions, cities have fallen into decline. Hopefully, there will always be diverse points of view, with agreements and disagreements, as we move forward for the betterment of Santa Clarita. How will we define ourselves for our future generations? Proudly we have accomplished much during the past 30 years. Yet we still have much to do to modernize our city. For instance, our current or recent city leaders transformed the old 1940s downtown Newhall into a new community with its new architecturally designed buildings, new trendy restaurants and nicely designed landscaping. Term limits and districts offer one path to the future. This is not a new concept. We have term limits for the president of the United States, along with California senators and state Assembly members – limits that were approved by voters. Why do you suppose the people approved term limits and made them law? Many argue politicians are more valuable when experienced, yet were they not inexperienced when they first took office? There is a term used in the context of politics, “Good Old Boys,” meaning that after too many years in office there are some who become too set in their ways and stagnant in office. The issue is not a matter of why any current City Council member should go, but more a matter of the problem of continuing to rely on the same bank of knowledge without fresh insight and new visions from new blood. Our city is not a stagnant city; it is alive and needs new leadership, not because the current leadership is necessarily bad, but because it is never a good idea to be complacent with the same leader or group of leaders. Former City Council members are always welcome and encouraged to continue to participate in civic affairs; we just need term limits and districts to have fresh and varied insight and move into the future. Did they not call for change when they first ran? Santa Clarita’s third mayor, Carl Boyer, in his 2005 book “Santa Clarita,” mentions term limits and districts a number of times. “When we formed Santa Clarita I supported at-large voting for council members,” he wrote in the book about the formation and organization of the city. “I believed that each member of the council should be beholding to every voter for election to office. Now I wonder if members ought to be elected by district.” The fact is, each council member, regardless of district, should represent all voters. Past Mayor Jill Klajic raised the issue of term limits, which she supported. Second Mayor Jan Heidt also supported term limits, Boyer said in his book. He quoted her saying: “There’s a certain arrogance about people who have been in office too long.” Past Mayor George Pederson’s commitment was for one four-year term, and he stood by that, as did former Mayor Clyde Smyth. Term limits and districts are part of our future. Let’s get started. Another path for our future is that we need to continue to create green belts around the city, create and develop more parks, both small and large, synchronize all traffic lights throughout the city as traffic is just as bad today as it was 30 years ago. City Hall has an up-to-date traffic monitoring system that cost millions of dollars in grant money – a great system. The only problem is no one sits in that room observing our massive traffic movements. We need bus turn-ins to eliminate traffic back-up. We need to continue to protect our hillsides and ridgelines, and lastly but not least, like the revitalization of downtown Newhall, the future focus should be Canyon Country. The potential is there. We just need the vision to create a downtown Canyon Country like a downtown Newhall. I conclude this column with a pause to honor former Mayor Jo Anne Darcy, who passed away Oct. 29. A tribute to her is scheduled at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Newhall Family Theater for the Performing Arts. Ken Dean is a Canyon Country resident and a member of Advocates of Santa Clarita, a group whose goa is to bring together civic-minded individuals who will advocate on issues important to the Santa Clarita Valley and to expand community awareness and citizen involvement. Credit goes to Tyger White and Alan Ferdman, who contributed to the column.

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