Santa Clarita City Councilwoman Marsha McLean is letting her feet do the talking.
She’s made a tap dancing video to protest state proposals to borrow city tax revenues. Watch her performance at http://www.saveyourcity.net/index.cfm?setid=B135186F-1851-66EF-E28D28674777BA7E&page_var=/player/vid_prime.cfm&prekey=McLean.
The video, shot in front of City Hall, is one of more than 300 videos posted on Save Your City, a website sponsored by the League of California Cities.
The League started the website in response to Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to borrow a percentage of property tax revenues from cities (about $2 billion) to help close the state’s budget deficit.
“The cities are banding together, just like we do in any emergency,” explained Santa Clarita spokeswoman Gail Ortiz. “We’re telling Sacramento not to raise funds by raiding the cities.”
Although the video has attracted some criticism, it’s not that out of line with other gimmicks used to get attention, such as the current “Mayor Dude” campaign or the storied “Hairdresser Forum” that welcomed stylists to City Hall to share the real concerns of Santa Clarita citizens.
“The City is opposed to any proposal by the state of California that seeks to borrow local property taxes, transportation funds or other revenue to balanced the bloated state budget,” McLean says in the video, without skipping a step – or breathing hard.
“The latest thing lobbyists came up with were fact sheets,” said Mike Madrid, Public Affairs Director for the League. “Legislators get reams of paper every day and don’t have time to read them. But they will give us 15 to 30 seconds to watch a video. The impact has been profound; the videos are changing the debate over the budget.”
Madrid said that legislators are seeing the value of standing with mayors and councilmembers from their districts and have requested videos of their own be posted. He expected several more by the end of the day.
McLean, who serves on the League’s board of directors, stepped into the spotlight Friday morning, when the dance video because the subject of e-mails, Facebook postings and Tweets.
“We’re the city of Santa Clarita, right?” she said. “The city does things a cut above and a little more innovative and we decided to do something a little different than just the talking.”
The Save Your City campaign really got off the ground when Compton Mayor Pro Tem Lillie Dobson and Councilwoman Barbara Calhoun shot a video telling the state to act more responsibly.
The website ranks the videos on popularity and by Friday morning, the Compton ladies had well over 500 views. McLean’s status is rising quickly.
“Keep your hands off our money,” Calhoun warns. “We will have to cut our fire and our sheriff and that’s our public safety. We’re sick and tired of the state balancing their budget on the backs of the cities. If we can cut our budgets, why can’t you?”
While her approach is performance-based, McLean made it clear that the city would do whatever it took to get attention.
“Citizens need to know how we’re fighting these types of raids on our budget because if affects all of us,” she said. “If we lose $3 million because they’re going to ‘borrow’ our money, it’s going to be devastating and we’re going to have to cut more programs and we don’t want to do that.”
McLean said the council will not cut public safety in the city.
“I resent when they say in Sacramento that they have to cut fire and police and programs to help the poor and the elderly. There are plenty of programs that are redundant and have grown out of sight,” she said.
While they haven’t made their own videos, McLean said that local legislators Assemblyman Cameron Smyth and Senators George Runner and Tony Strickland have all told the League they are opposed to borrowing money from city coffers.
McLean added that State Controller John Chaing told the Los Angeles County Division of the League yesterday that he is advising against borrowing from cities to avoid creating even more debt.
You don’t have to be a politician to make a video, either. The League is soliciting support videos from community and business groups, activists and taxpayers alike to send the message to Sacramento.
“Any business or group can go ahead and sign up,” McLean said. “The League would welcome that.”