The following commentary is a planned submission to The Signal’s 2020 time capsule: signalscv.com/2020/05/santa-clarita-covid-19-digital-time-capsule-to-be-created/.
This is a personal account of my experience with COVID-19 and also what is being done in general to sustain the city of Santa Clarita.
It is 2020 and we are in an unprecedented time in our history. The COVID-19 pandemic has shut down our economy. Businesses large and small have been shuttered. People’s lives have been upended. We are told to stay in our homes. Toilet paper has become a commodity that in the early days of the pandemic was hoarded to the point of ridiculousness. Families who always get together for birthdays and holidays now see each other only via Zoom or social media. Drive-bys have become the norm where there are balloons and honking horns to celebrate a special day for those from young children to Grandma and Grandpa or to celebrate a milestone anniversary or to honor our veterans.
Yet, some aspects of life must go on. Those who contract the disease must be treated. Mail must be delivered. Groceries and personal products must be available. Those elected to public office must be available to their constituents. Government services must be continued. Public safety must be a priority. Homelessness must be recognized and dealt with.
In November 2019, while I was serving as mayor, we had a tragic shooting at Saugus High School. Two of our precious children were killed, several other students were injured before the shooter shot himself. My granddaughter was at the school and waiting to find out she was safe was an agonizing time. The outcome for the parents and families of those injured and the two lives lost forever is still with us in 2020. I have been asked, on behalf of the City Council, to work with the families of Gracie Muehlberger and Dominic Blackwell to provide a meaningful memorial in Central Park. As of the time of this writing we are awaiting design elements for the landscaping and memorial.
In Santa Clarita we always face each obstacle and never let it get us down or define us. As a city councilwoman, I take my obligation to my constituents very seriously and not only make sure that each item on our City Council agenda gets my full attention, but I am available 24/7 to answer each inquiry from residents and businesses about what we are doing to serve them.
Less traffic is always high on the list when we ask residents what they want for our city. I used to attend many regional meetings to make sure Santa Clarita always gets its fair share of transportation dollars to add and repair roads and enhance our public transportation. Since the pandemic and the order to not allow large gatherings, the meetings are held virtually. So, that means I attend just as many meetings, but don’t travel to them because they are held virtually via Zoom or other platforms.
For our businesses, we are limited somewhat by L.A. County’s stringent health orders – in some cases more restrictive than even the state’s orders. After diligent lobbying for our city, we have allowed restaurants, wineries, breweries and other businesses, such as nail salons, hair salons and barbers, to open outside in front of their establishments. We have barricaded some streets to allow more space for outdoor dining. We have advocated for our businesses at the state and county levels to allow them to reopen, adhering to guidelines for safety, of course, but they need to reopen before they disappear forever. It is devastating for those losing their livelihoods, but I am hopeful we can come back to some common sense sooner rather than later.
The pandemic has not stopped us from being dedicated to finding solutions: Homelessness is a huge issue that was a problem before the pandemic and I assume will be with us for some time to come as we tackle the issues that create homelessness and exactly how to solve those issues. We have a community task force on homelessness with more than 30 organizations as stakeholders to solve this dilemma. Cameron Smyth and I serve on the city’s Ad Hoc Committee on Homelessness. Currently, Cameron is chair of the task force and I am the chair of the Prevention and Coordination Subcommittee as the government representative portion of the task force. The task force meets monthly and the subcommittee also meets monthly or as often as necessary, in order to report our progress to the task force as a whole. The members of the task force and the subcommittees are volunteers and work diligently to make a difference for those who are unfortunately either homeless or are in danger of becoming so. By the time this time capsule is opened, I fervently hope there has been a solution reached.
Libraries are the backbone of our society and even though the facilities have been ordered to remain closed, we are not allowing our seniors, adults, teens and children to go without this vital service. I am a huge advocate for libraries and am proud that our library staff has come up with wonderful programs on a virtual platform. We have purchased outdoor “lockers” to enable patrons to order books to be picked up from these lockers. We are continuing to work with our schools to provide educational virtual opportunities. There are story times and games and activities that can be accessed virtually. It is not easy for anyone at this point in time, but as a city councilwoman, I am determined that these library services remain available until our buildings can once again welcome our patrons.
Before the pandemic hit, we were building capital improvement projects to provide the best for our community. A community center in Canyon Country; a new sheriff’s station; an all-inclusive playground in Canyon Country with plans for more in some of our 35 other parks; a brand-new BMX bike park, new trails; plans for another library in Saugus; I have personally advocated for a new cultural arts and possibly a veterans’ center/museum, hopefully as part of the cultural aspect of our newly revitalized Old Town Newhall. Advocating for these improvements has not ceased and by the time the capsule is opened, I believe all of these will be a reality.
I stated earlier that our city always faces challenges put before us and this is one more example of how we are providing the best possible quality of life for our residents before, during and after this COVID-19 disaster. I may not have mentioned all that our city is accomplishing, but hope that this letter gives a snapshot of what I am experiencing in 2020. I am proud to have served on the City Council for 18 years, so far, serving as mayor four times through good times and bad, and continue to play an active part in providing service to each and every one of our residents equally, with dignity and respect.
Marsha McLean is a member of the Santa Clarita City Council.