Having received the proper note from his general internist, Councilman Frank Ferry returned to the dais after a two-month absence recovering from life-threatening complications following pancreatic surgery. The fourth-term public official and career educator entered the City Council’s regular meeting on Tuesday noticeably thinner, but no less sharp and engaged than his usual self.
Regarding his month’s stay at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center, Ferry said, “They made a rule that I had to have a person with me 24 hours a day in the ICU, so I’m stubborn even when I’m in a coma.”
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Before moving forward with the 16-item agenda, the Council honored Board of Equalization member George Runner for his previous work as Senator of California’s 17th District, which includes Santa Clarita.
Runner, whom championed legislation for Elsmere Canyon, funds for the Historical Veterans Plaza and the implementation of Amber Alert, Blue Alert, Megan’s Law and Jessica’s Law said he always focused on building relationships with colleagues to accomplish important tasks.
Another public protector, Sheriff’s Deputy Lucas Darland, succeeded Runner in receiving praise for his part in recovering a stolen truck which belonged to the Senior Center.
After recognizing Darland’s achievement, Santa Clarita Sheriff’s Station Captain Paul Becker pointed to the City’s dipping crime rate. Serious crimes, including homicide, assault, robbery and arson decreased 13 percent in 2010 from last year, Becker said.
Much of the meeting’s discussion dealt with the City’s desire to maintain its enterprise zone and redevelopment agency despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s plan to eliminate both programs outlined in his proposed state budget.
For several years, both programs have saved businesses in Santa Clarita millions of dollars and directly produced the noticeable renewal of the once economically-neglected downtown Newhall.
“In answer to the critics, we can find a prescription from our President: ‘The antidote for our growing deficit is a growing economy,’ ” said Bill Kennedy, a Planning Commissioner speaking on his own behalf. “We have revitalized the area. Enterprise zones serve as a counterweight to the many things that drive businesses out of Santa Clarita. “
Referencing research compiled by the California Budget Project, Carole Lutness questioned the City’s redevelopment spending, particularly regarding the required 20-percent allotment for low-income housing.
“We’re meeting that,” said City Manager Ken Pulskamp, who went on to cite the success stories spurred by redevelopment agencies in Pasadena, San Diego and Long Beach.
“A lot of the money goes back to the state of California,” said Pulskamp. “If we get rid of redevelopment as a state, that’s a classic example of Sacramento cutting off its nose to spite its face.”
Speakers also scrutinized the City’s desire to postpone consideration of calling a special election for voting on a different special library tax. After the council’s decision on August 24 to withdraw from the County of Los Angeles Public Library, it remains unclear whether or not the City can levy the same supplemental library tax issued by the County at $27.84 per parcel.
Instead, the City is proposing a different tax of $19 per parcel to help fund its new municipal system, the Santa Clarita Public Library, which will be operated by Library Systems and Services, LLC come July 1.
“We need to create a financial oversight committee,” said David Gauny. “It’s the only way to cure this issue.”
On Tuesday, Council voted to continue the item to May 10.
Other items approved included naming the Cross Valley Connector’s bridge “Fallen Warriors Memorial Bridge” in honor of local military men and woman killed serving in Iraq and Afghanistan; requesting $7.5 million in grants from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to improve local roads; establishing a Vehicle Sales Overlay Zone, which prohibits new car dealerships outside the area generally surrounding Creekside Road; and announcing Lewis and Shapell Operating Corporations, which focus on mixed-use development, as the prospective business partners for the cleanup and acquisition of the Whitaker Bermite property – the 996 acres of land located between Soledad Canyon and Golden Valley roads.
More than three hours into the meeting and now into the time set aside for public comment, former Mayor Carl Boyer noted the time.
“I’m here to ask that the matter of public participation be up front where it belongs,” he said.
Boyer suggested limiting the period to a half hour – split evenly among the speakers – at the beginning of City Council meetings.
“There certainly has been a discussion point in the past,” said Councilman Bob Kellar. I would ask that perhaps we could agendize this.”
The Council’s next meeting is scheduled for February 8.