The following is an editorial written by KHTS AM-1220 radio co-owner Carl Goldman
I lost one of my heroes on Friday evening. Former California State Assemblyman Keith Richman passed away peacefully with his family by his side. His battle with brain cancer finally ended.
Keith represented our district, the Santa Clarita Valley. His office is now held by his successor, Cameron Smyth. Keith was a visionary, one of the first to recognize the cliff our state was heading toward long before state worker’s pension reform, term limits, redistricting, and health care reform were on anyone’s radar screen.
Keith led the charge and he was the man to do it. He had the ear and respect of our Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger. He was one of the few Republicans who had the respect of the Democrats. He, along with Democratic State Assemblyman Joe Canciamilla tried to provide sanity to a very polarized and dysfunctional legislature. When both left the Assembly in frustration, a “centrist vacuum” was created that has yet to be filled.
Keith inspired me and he inspired my wife, Jeri. The two of them sat on the Providence/Holy Cross Hospital Foundation together for many years. They worked closely together to raise funds for the Providence/Holy Cross Expansion. Keith led the capital campaign for the expansion and lived long enough to watch the hospital’s new tower rise. Sadly, he won’t be around for its opening in December.
My deep connection with Keith was triggered while we were hanging around one morning at an Arthritis Walk at Bridgeport Park in Valencia. It was spring of 2005. The two of us had recently spent time together in Sacramento for Capitol Clear Speak, an annual event featuring dozens of California radio stations interviewing our legislators. Keith had graciously arranged for Schwarzenegger to be interviewed by us and join all of us for dinner. That trip was an eye opener for me, giving me a clearer understanding of how the political process worked in Sacramento, the challenges we faced and the disconnects that were taking place in our state Capitol.
Now, it was a sunny day in April. Hundreds of arthritis walkers had taken off from the park. I was hosting a live broadcast on KHTS and Keith used it as an excuse to hang with me instead of getting a little exercise. I kidded him and said we should have put up signs like the old Burma Shave Highway ads and list all the towns between Santa Clarita and Sacramento to create an illusion the walkers were traveling all the way to our state Capitol. Keith said he would give anything for them to all come up to Sacramento to see how dysfunctional things were up there. He said he would even pay for a bus to bring them up. I said, great, we could broadcast along the way. Our Sacramento Road trip was born.
Since then, we have brought hundreds of Santa Clarita community leaders to Sacramento. Our annual KHTS Sacramento Road trip, now partnered with State Assemblyman Cameron Smyth, has become an eye-opening event for many leaders in our valley. This year, 75 of them traveled to our state Capitol, lobbying for education, transportation, water and funding for our domestic violence center. Each year, the trip is made up of many of our Santa Clarita Valley community leaders. We make it a point to invite newcomers each year, so more learn and share from the experience. Joining us this year were many school and water district trustees; board members from the Santa Clarita Chamber of Commerce; our former Mayor and City Councilwoman, Marsha McLean; College of the Canyons Chancellor Dianne Van Hook and board members of our leading non-profit and for profit organizations.
It was our fifth annual road trip. Over the years this effort has had a significant impact on funding for our schools. It has assisted in moving legislation along and what’s most important, it has accomplished what Keith initially envisioned, it has given our Santa Clarita leaders a chance to learn first-hand, how things work and often don’t work in our state Capitol.
It stands out from normal lobbying trips because instead of an organization bringing in their specific lobbyists to advocate, our legislators are hearing about the challenges of our schools from not just school board presidents, but from our mayor, our chamber president, the owner of our local radio station, and the head of our auto dealer’s association. We stand out because no one else is doing anything like this.
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The first year our bus arrived, in the spring of 2006, Keith was at the apex of his political career. Back then, we still believed our Governor could work his magic and Keith still had a close relationship with him. Keith spent his entire time with our group, introducing us to a variety of representatives from both sides of the aisle. We learned about the raw side of Sacramento. We heard the problems. We witnessed the dysfunction. And we heard ideas for solutions. Keith’s legislative peers were envious, asking him how he was able to get all of us up there. We soon realized no other community was doing anything like this. Cameron has now inherited Keith’s idea. He too, is asked the same question over and over again by his peers. How did he get all of us to take two days out of our busy lives, board a bus and go all the way up to Sacramento to learn about the problems with our government? Over the years, Cameron and his staff have added powerful elements to our two-day experience.
Keith’s legacy lives on. It will live on as I join my wife for the ribbon cutting in December of the new State of the Art Tower at Providence/Holy Cross. It lives on as we begin plans for our 6th Annual Sacramento Road trip, one we will dedicate to Keith’s memory. It lives on in the hundreds of thousands of people Keith touched. I could write volumes about all the different legacies Keith has left behind. I am flooded with e-mails from others he touched in ways I wasn’t aware. My service is in sharing the one he sparked in me. The one I anticipate will remain as a legacy in our Valley even after I am no longer around to coordinate.
Santa Clarita is a better community because of Keith Richman. Keith touched so many people throughout California. If we could clone our politicians to have the qualities of Keith Richman, with his sense of humor, finesse, understanding, sensitivity and ability to cross the aisle, our state and our nation would be so much better off. Keith defined what our politicians should be, bright, articulate and most important, caring.
Keith named KHTS radio as Business of the Year while he was still in office. It is the one award Jeri and I treasure above all others and is extra special because he presented it to us at a special award ceremony in Sacramento.
My hero is no longer around. But our Santa Clarita Valley leaders, the hundreds whom he has inspired, are even more determined than ever to keep his legacy charging in the right direction.
I will miss you, my friend.
KHTS AM-1220 has permanently documented a history of our Sacramento trips, including participants, policy issues and pictures in a special portal on our website. To view it, click here.