Hopefuls reflect on current council at forum

Council candidates take part in a forum held at College of the Canyons on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018 Tammy Murga/ The Signal

About 50 people gathered at College of the Canyons on Monday evening to hear from 13 of the 15 Santa Clarita City Council candidates running in the November election.

The Santa Clarita Valley League of Women Voters, the Canyon Country Advisory Committee and COC’s Civic Engagement Steering Committee hosted the forum, held a week after 13 candidates attended a forum hosted by KHTS radio, SCVTV and The Signal.

While candidates had the chance to answer multiple individual questions, one question asked to all was inspired by a query raised by current council member and candidate Bill Miranda during last week’s forum: If elected, what do you believe our City Council should do over and above what they are already doing?

Laurene Weste

“We need to keep what we have,” Weste said at the start of her answer. The current mayor listed public safety, project completions such as the homeless shelter, roads and more housing as part of her agenda if re-elected.

Weste also brought up mental health, saying there is a need for mental health centers to return as it is “killing our veterans, the elderly and a lot of people.”

Sean Weber

Weber centered his answer on the importance of sustainability, stating concern over what Santa Clarita would look like beyond five or 10 years. To build a better tomorrow, he would like to focus on reducing congestion on the roads and offer more resources to the Sheriff’s Department so they can focus “not just on murders but on petty crimes.”

“The last thing we want is for our town to become the San Fernando Valley,” he said.

Sankalp Varma

Varma said his top areas of focus are public safety and improving the relationship between members of the community and the City Council.

“There’s different cultures within Santa Clarita and it’s important to get to know them and work with them,” he said. “Everyone has different needs.”

Diane Trautman

Trautman brought up climate change, with a need to take care of air quality and water supply, and a dire need for more roadways. But her focus was on homelessness. She said the city could improve its current homeless plan.

“We need to actually take charge of the plan the city has come up with, rather than relegating it to the agencies and nonprofits that are listed as stakeholders,” she said. “We are the agency that should be pulling this all together…and working with the county to come up with a comprehensive plan.”

Logan Smith

Smith was another candidate to prioritize homelessness and housing.

“We need to tackle the homeless issue head-on. That means being proactive and not reactive,” he said.

On housing, he said the City Council should reduce red tape and regulations on homeowners who are trying to build, and roll back on legislation deemed unconstitutional.

Sandra Nichols

Nichols is pushing for more jobs and affordable housing to help future generations. Millennials, she said, have different lifestyle needs and the City Council needs to “be more creative” in building for its future residents.

“The world is moving too fast and the people that are here today may not be here in five years,” she said.

Bill Miranda

Miranda said the council is already looking into the concerns raised, such as public safety and economic development. If re-elected, he wants to continue working on the city’s plan for “more housing” and “more deputies.”
He said, however, that the people must understand that sitting on the council is not an easy task as “it takes three votes to get anything done. You could be for all these wonderful things but you have to persuade all these council members to your way of thinking. In order to do that, you have to build strong connections with council members.”

Marsha McLean

Like Miranda, Mayor Pro Tem McLean said strong connections are what pave the way for progress. She would like to continue her efforts with affordable housing and “tackling the issues of homelessness head-on” by being re-elected.

“Our city is one of the safest, most family-oriented cities in Southern California,” she said. “These things don’t come easy.”

She said she is confident her experience in all levels of government and connections will help the city achieve its goals.

Matthew Hargett

To address homelessness, crime and drug abuse in the SCV, Hargett said the City Council must start with tackling mental health.

“It all comes back to mental health,” he said. “What are we doing with the county to create better access to mental health services?”

Brett Haddock

Haddock said while traffic is the biggest concern, “it comes down to a lack of jobs in the Santa Clarita Valley. I want to see more jobs here so that we have less of an incentive to go over the hill and reduce some of our carbon emissions.”

On homelessness, he added that the city should have a designated staff member to coordinate the nonprofit organizations that provide services to the homeless as many “don’t talk to one another.”

Jason Gibbs

Gibbs has three items he already likes that the current City Council is addressing, but he would only “expand and make it even better.”

Those include more economic development, bulking up the city’s already “well-balanced budget” and the creation of a public safety commission to help the local Sheriff’s Station address crime and the opioid crisis.  

Ken Dean

Like many candidates running, Dean would like to see a reduction in “our tremendous traffic and congestion” by investing more money and synchronizing the city’s traffic lights.

He would also like to see more amenities for Canyon Country. “If we can take a 1940s downtown Newhall and turn in into an upscale community with upscale restaurants and trendy stores, then we can do the same on Canyon Country,” said Dean.  

TimBen Boydston

Road projects and the year-round homeless shelter should have already been built, Boydston said. He added that he would like to see a partnership with the county to make sure there is a robust water supply.

“We should not have to take tiny showers and have our lawns die here just because we don’t have enough water and they want to bring in more houses,” he said.

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