The nine candidates for Santa Clarita City Council — three incumbents and six challengers — met all together for the first time on Thursday, participating in a forum and answering questions for the Valley Industry Association.
The forum, which took place for VIA members at College of the Canyons, asked candidates to answer questions on a variety of topics including housing, the local economy and infrastructure, as well as a number of other topics.
The forum allowed for candidates to have two minutes for each question, with each candidate being given an opportunity to speak. One of the central topics for conversation was homelessness, and how Santa Clarita should handle its local approach.
Utilizing a personal anecdote, candidate Kody Armour discussed his own present experience with homelessness. He suggested utilizing a “vacancy tax” to subsidize local efforts to address home-insecure individuals, suggesting that landlords with empty commercial space could be further taxed based on their unoccupied offices.
The incumbents at the dais largely talked about the successes the city has already had under their tutelage, with Councilwoman Marsha McLean highlighting the increased money the city has begun to receive from L.A. County.
Councilman Bill Miranda said that Santa Clarita does not have a money problem when it comes to addressing homelessness but that it has a problem in acquiring more money to help create more programs and services.
“It would be nice if you give us our fair share of money. Santa Clarita is sending out the money, it’s not coming back, and that’s going to be a battle we’re going to have to continue to fight,” said Mayor Laurene Weste. “So, we’re partnering with our (L.A. County) supervisor, we’re going to create good facilities and we’re going to help our people.”
Current Saugus Union School District board member and City Council candidate David Barlavi offered up a “dollar a year” program, saying that $1 a year could be given voluntarily by local residents, generating over $200,000 a year for local homelessness.
Jeffrey Malick, who championed one of the more left-leaning platforms during the forum, asserted that housing was a human right, and championed that City Council members should be held accountable for failing to address the local issue, and more mental health and housing services should be provided.
Then, segueing into the topic of substance abuse, Malick, as well as many of the other candidates, stated the importance of communication and educating parents, teachers and students about the dangers of fentanyl.
“This is the worst crisis we have ever seen with any substance in America,” said Weste. “We got to do it and we got to talk to each other.”
“Between 16 and 22 is the ages that are the highest at risk for this crisis,” said candidate Selina Thomas. “All three of my daughters are (in that age group) and it absolutely starts at home and have that conversation.”
Barlavi challenged the notion that had been brought up by some of the candidates of further utilizing law enforcement in the battle against fentanyl, saying those funds should be channeled instead to educating kids, funding rehabilitative programs and removing the “law and order” aspect from drug treatment.
On the topic of small business, as well as for Santa Clarita at large, candidate Denise Lite said she would draw on her experience as a lawyer to create strong advocacy for the residents of Santa Clarita.