Of the nine candidates on the ballot this November, five people vying for three seats on the Santa Clarita City Council participated in the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce Candidate Forum on Monday.
The candidates, including three incumbents and two challengers, were asked questions that were not only pertinent to local residents, but also specific to the business community. Topics included the incumbents’ past accomplishments, new ideas to bolster the local economy and the relationship between public safety and a healthy, thriving local business community.
In a statement distributed before the event, chamber officials said the five candidates in attendance — Denise Lite, Councilwoman Marsha McLean, Councilman Bill Miranda, Selina Thomas and Mayor Laurene Weste — were selected based on a “minimum amount raised for candidate campaigns, submission of ballot statements, etc.”
During the forum, all five candidates seemed to show their support for the city continuing to help businesses continue their COVID-19 recovery.
Thomas said that in addition to supporting small businesses in their recovery, she would use her background in human relations to form partnerships with local companies and assist them in addressing the declining number of people in the workforce since the pandemic.
The incumbents emphasized their role in helping complete the new SCV Sheriff’s Station on Golden Valley Road, which opened its doors last year. Weste emphasized that business owners don’t want to be concerned about their employees or storefronts being harmed or worried about smash-and-grab crimes.
On the topic of a possible convention center, Miranda said he would vote to approve such a project to boost economic vitality, saying it could result in major hotels, new restaurants and entertainment opportunities being opened in the community.
While Lite agreed with the incumbents that a convention center similar to the Pasadena Convention Center would be a boon to local tax revenue, she criticized the council members for having long supported an idea without bringing it to fruition.
“Obviously your advocacy is not successful if you’ve been working for years and years to get something accomplished and it still doesn’t get accomplished,” said Lite.
The candidates nearly all seemed to agree on continuing to support the local film industry, which has over the years brought in millions of dollars to the city.
There was also near unanimous support regarding the council’s decision earlier this year to settle a lawsuit to shift future council elections, beginning in 2024, to by-district voting, as opposed to at-large voting. Weste and Miranda said they voted the way they did because, despite being opposed to the new system, it would have been financially and civilly irresponsible to continue the legal battle.
McLean, who was the sole vote against accepting the settlement earlier this year, said she did not approve of the by-district system because the lawsuit was “purely political.”
“If re-elected, we will continue to serve at large for the next four years,” said McLean. “We have, we do work together; we don’t always agree, but we know how to collaborate together.”