More than 65 Santa Clarita stakeholders boarded a bus for Sacramento to meet with key legislators and policy makers on Monday and Tuesday.
The trip was the second annual road trip organized by Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, KHTS AM-1220 Radio and Valencia Acura. This year, key representatives from the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce, the Valley Industrial Association (VIA), local school districts and the City of Santa Clarita participated. The group of local movers and shakers lobbied for transportation and education projects impacting the Santa Clarita Valley.
“I was impressed,” said Assemblyman Cameron Smyth. “I see these folks often in Santa Clarita, but they get an entirely different perspective when they travel up north and see us in action. They arrived at an exciting time, just as the budget was released, so they could witness the kind of debate that goes on in our Capitol. I believe they now have a much better understanding of many of our challenges. This was a valuable experience for them, as well as for me and a number of my colleagues who met with the group.”
“Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, Valencia Acura and KHTS designed this event so we could have an impact in Sacramento,” stated Carl Goldman, owner of KHTS radio. “It’s very different when 65 community leaders discuss policy affecting our schools and roads. The impact is so much stronger as a broad range of community leaders speak with one voice about a specific issue or project. When you have the head of the Chamber of Commerce, our Mayor, a strong mix of business leaders, educators and government officials all focusing on the same key issues, we become a powerful combination that is difficult to ignore.”
Valencia Acura owner, Don Fleming added, “Very few communities in the country do anything like this. We know that we made an impression that will have a significant impact on a number of key local issues. The fact that 65 very busy people took two days out of their lives, hopped on a bus to tackle local education and transportation issues at our State Capitol is a reflection of the community we live in. It’s the close-knit relationships in our Valley that allow us to put together an event like this and get this kind of support and turnout.”
This year’s issues included funding for the expansion of carpool and truck lanes for the portion of the Golden State Freeway that cuts through Santa Clarita. Education projects included a fairer system of reimbursements for Special Ed students for our public school districts, along with improvements on concurrent enrollment for our high school students who want to take classes at COC.
All four Santa Clarita Valley elementary school district Superintendents, Marc Winger, Judy Fish, Dr. Robert Nolet and Jim Gibson were on hand, as well as William S. Hart School District Superintendent, Jamie Castellanos. A number of Elementary School and Hart Board of Trustee members were part of the trip, including Paul Strickland, Gloria Mercado-Fortine, Rose Koscielny, and Steve Tannehill. The City of Santa Clarita was represented by Mayor Marsha McLean, Assistant City Manager, Ken Striplin and Mike Murphy Inter-Governmental relations officer for the City. Rosalind Wayman, Santa Clarita representative for Los Angeles County Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich participated, as well. Leaders from many of Santa Clarita’s more active large and small businesses also joined the trip, creating a perfect cross section of the Valley.
“One important issue for our high schools and community college is concurrent enrollment,” elaborated College of the Canyons Trustee, Joan MacGregor. “Right now, there’s a limitation of five percent on current summer school enrollment at COC for high school students. That means, only five percent of each grade from each of our six high schools can take summer classes at COC. We want that cap eliminated, so all high school students who want a college experience, can obtain it. We were also pleasantly surprised in our meetings when Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, Chair of the Higher Education Committee asked to visit College of the Canyons.”
The Sacramento group heard comments from the Governor’s Legislative Secretary, Chris Kahn at a dinner in Old Town Sacramento.
“It was very timely, because the Governor had released next year’s budget only hours earlier, allowing us to hear first hand the impact it will have throughout the state,” said Santa Clarita Mayor, Marsha McLean. “The City appreciates being part of this trip; it gives us a chance to talk about issues from an entirely different perspective than if it was only City officials having these discussions.”
State Senator George Runner, and Assemblywoman Sharon Runner, joined Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and the rest of the Santa Clarita group at the dinner.
The group also met with State Assemblyman John Benoit, Assemblyman Mike Feuer, Assemblyman Paul Krekorian, Assemblyman Anthony Portantino, State Senator George Runner, State Senator Tom McClintock, and representatives from Cal Trans and the State Department of Education.
“The Sacramento trip has evolved into the perfect complement for the Santa Clarita Chamber’s annual Washington DC lobbying trip,” reflected Chamber CEO & President, Larry Mankin. “It completes the circle of local funds, federal funds and state funds for our Valley’s most critical projects. We’re thrilled this has become an annual event and are delighted to be involved.”
“In addition to our meetings, we also had a unique tour of the State Library by the curator of the California State Library Director of Special Collections. Gary Kurutz pulled out some nuggets of Santa Clarita history, including a copy of an invitation to the hanging of local bandit Tiburcio Vasquez, along with a piece of the rope actually used at the hanging. He had a wealth of historical material on California,” reflected VIA chairman, Ernie Villegas.
“This has become an impressive annual event,” added Assemblyman Smyth. “We intend to do this again next year and improve even further on what has already become an outstanding trip.”