The Signal editorial “Thinking bigger far into the future” celebrated the City of Santa Clarita’s 30th birthday, but also asked for further input on a “detailed 30-year plan…that most people can buy into.”
As a physician, the problems the City faces are analogous to a patient who is “smoking, drinking, under stress, and suffers from apathy”, and by the age of 60 could face dire consequences.
“Smoking” is from air pollution, considered some of the worse in the nation, as we are locked between two freeways. “Drinking” is our need for water to sustain industry, homes, and our man-made environment. “Stress” comes from road congestion we face daily, and “apathy” is the lack of input from a populace who don’t exercise their democratic right to vote.
In my profession, preventive care keeps health problems from evolving, so let me make suggestions from a physician viewpoint that might allow our City to grow and prosper.
The idea of a bullet train zigzagging through the state is ludicrous. The human spine is straight as curves cause problems suggesting a need for chiropractic adjustment. From a straightened spine, any city along its route (including Santa Clarita), can connect the high speed rail with a local light rail system.
Therefore, if the bullet train were to take a direct route up Interstate 5, a local rail system can extend out (like peripheral nerves along the ribs) linking for instance Stevenson Ranch to Canyon Country.
Government solutions to freeway congestion right now are to add more lanes. Please! There is only a limited amount of widening they can do, and it only intensifies “stress” from traffic and “smoking” air pollution problems.
Other suggestions to help ease traffic stress: Use autonomous (computer-driven) cars when they are safe and available; encourage use of on-demand shared rides like Uber or Lyft; make public transportation more efficient and lower fares to entice use; and enforce traffic speed limits to decrease accidents and tailgating stress.
Easing “smoking” from air pollution can be accomplished by giving financial incentives to use clean electric cars and trucks; increasing the use of solar power (while lowering coal-based electricity); and creating residential re-chargeable storage battery units with homes going off the grid and becoming energy self-sufficient.
The availability of water has become political, yet to rely on Mother Nature to have adequate Sierra snowpack is always a gamble. Consider the possibility the State Road 126 corridor invest in a coastal desalinization plant pumping water inland to farms and our city, all the way up to the Antelope Valley. It could be paid for by all communities served. This could mean unlimited and reliable hydration.
Public apathy is our biggest challenge. When barely 20 percent of those eligible to vote go to the polls, it is shameful other countries far exceed us in this show of democracy. What can be done? Pursue a national change in the voting day from Tuesday to a weekend day; encourage school kids to make sure their parents vote (instead of an “I Voted” sticker, have one that states “My Parent Voted”); and teach children early the value of democracy and voting power.
The first 30 years revealed a banner of “One Valley One Vision”, but maybe the next 30 years should coalesce our communities into “One Valley One City.” All unincorporated areas should be annexed into the city. Financially, this would increase our tax base, but ultimately allow for complete decision-making by everyone who lives here.
The City Council should then be increased from 5 members to 7 or 9, and each district would have their own representative. Plus, the mayor will be elected by the general population.
We’ve looked at “smoking, drinking, stress, and apathy” issues, but what about our personal depth of identity and humanity?
I would like to see the Santa Clarita Valley to be called “The Most Senior Friendly Community” in the nation. We need to assure no senior or veteran is homeless; build senior friendly homes; make sure we have 5-Star Medicare nursing homes; and a Transitional Care Unit allowing senior patients a step-down facility getting them back home after illness.
We know in the future, a new banner of “Behind every great woman, is a great man” will win accolades, but we will also say “Behind our great valley are the people that live here.”
In the next 30 years, we should listen, explore all ideas, be creative, and think outside the box.
Preventive care recognizing and anticipating problems helps in medicine, and can apply to the future of the Santa Clarita Valley.
Gene Uzawa Dorio, M.D., is a Saugus resident