By The Signal Editorial Board
When you ask local residents what their biggest complaint is about living in Santa Clarita, odds are the response will consist of one word:
In fact, when we listened to the City Council candidates speak at the forum we hosted a couple of weeks ago, it was evident that they hear it, too. Yes, there are other issues this campaign season: Affordable housing, the question of how to meet the needs of a growing homeless population, public safety, arts programs, the needs of seniors, community beautification — they’re all among the issues that have captured some of the candidates’ bandwidth.
But the one that keeps popping up, now as it has for the past quarter-century, is traffic.
That’s our worst problem. Think of other cities and the problems they deal with. Move to Chicago, and suddenly your fear of getting shot will rise tenfold. Move to Michigan and there’s a distinct chance your tap water will be brown. Move to downtown L.A., and you’ll see what a real homelessness crisis looks like.
If traffic is our worst problem, then that’s what you’d call a “First World” problem to have.
The point is, all in all, we’ve got it pretty darn good here in Santa Clarita. The credit for that belongs, in some part, to all of us who comprise the community — and it also goes to our local elected leaders. In short, the Santa Clarita City Council and the city staff have done a phenomenal job of addressing local needs and making Santa Clarita a highly desirable place to live, work, play and raise a family.
Each of the three City Council incumbents seeking re-election on Nov. 6 have played a role in that, and they each deserve our praise and thanks for a job well done. Mayor Laurene Weste, Mayor Pro Tem Marsha McLean and Councilman Bill Miranda have provided our city strong leadership and all three have served with passion for the job.
With that being said, as we head to the polls, we’ve also concluded that, as with all bodies of leadership, a time comes for transition and change. Santa Clarita, now and in the next few years, is at such a crossroads.
It’s time for some new blood, new ideas and fresh perspectives. But it also should be a smooth transition rather than a wholesale upheaval.
With that balance in mind, in the City Council election of 2018 we have chosen to endorse Mayor Laurene Weste for re-election, along with the relative newcomer, incumbent Bill Miranda, and one challenger: Jason Gibbs.
Weste, for her part, has earned one more term as she has helped lead Santa Clarita through a period of exciting change, with new trails and open space being added — a passion of hers — the revitalization of Old Town Newhall, and new sheriff’s and fire stations under construction. She remains committed to elevating the quality of life for Santa Clarita residents and brings a great deal of energy to the job of a City Council member. With that being said, she has been on the council for 20 years and, in four years when her next term expires, she may want to consider passing the torch.
Miranda was appointed to the council just last year, to fill the remainder of Dante Acosta’s council term after Acosta was elected to the state Assembly. So, even though he’s an incumbent, Miranda is still a relative newcomer to City Hall and has made a good impression in his first year and a half on the job. We believe he has earned a full four-year term. He’s an Air Force veteran and, as former CEO of the SCV Latino Chamber of Commerce, he brings a welcome pro-business attitude to his role on the council.
That brings us to the challenger, Jason Gibbs. He has drawn the endorsement of Councilman Bob Kellar, who isn’t up for re-election this year but has cast an eye toward the future in endorsing Gibbs in June rather than endorsing all three of his council colleagues.
Kellar said at the time: “I’m impressed with this man. We keep talking in this city about how we need to get new blood involved with our community. We need young people, and we’ve got a great opportunity in this young man.”
Of the need for transition in the city’s leadership, Kellar said: “I think we’ve been a good team, working together… But that doesn’t take away from the fact that — what are we gonna do? Die at 90 with the same people on City Council? That’s not a good plan. We need some young people to work with the community as we continue to move forward in this city.”
We agree. That’s not to take anything away from the veteran leadership, but it’s inevitable that the time comes for fresh perspectives and new leaders to build upon what their predecessors have created.
Gibbs, one of a dozen challengers seeking to unseat council incumbents, emerges from a large field of contenders, about a half-dozen of whom would be solid choices to assume local leadership roles. Gibbs stood out to us, though, for his level-headed approach to the issues and his balance of both maturity and relative youth.
At 37, Gibbs is a young professional who works as deputy director of West Coast operations for GP Strategies Corp., which is a global provider of technical training and other services for businesses. He’s a decade younger than anyone else on the City Council, and he and his wife are raising their family here in Santa Clarita.
He recognizes that Santa Clarita has done a great job of building a desirable community, so this isn’t a tear-down-and-rebuild project. As he put it in a recent letter to the editor: “The problems of tomorrow cannot be solved with the thinking of yesterday alone. My fresh perspective on the struggles of young families is what our community desires and deserves at City Hall, while ensuring that our founding principles are never sacrificed for political ideology.”
That’s a common-sense approach. With Gibbs joining Weste, Miranda, Kellar and Cameron Smyth on the council, we’re confident that Santa Clarita will have the right mix of experienced leadership and new blood. As our City Council moves through this period of transition, we can’t wait to see what’s next for Santa Clarita.