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Thursday, October 30th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • Purge Case Handed to Probation: The cases of two local boys arrested on suspicion of distributing child porn in the "SCV Purge" have been handed over to the Probation Department, with The Signal reporting there's an expectation they won't be prosecuted. The Signal
  • Dedicating the Gateway: If there's a ribbon to be cut, SClaritans will find a way. Even if it means hiking into the hills. Yesterday, city officials dedicated the Gateway Ranch open space in the Newhall Pass, which at one time was slated for several thousand homes. KHTS The Signal
  • Also in Probation News: The boy who was arrested after allegedly texting a friend a threat about school violence has been given a year's probation. If he stays out of trouble for a year he could see the case dismissed. The Signal
  • Crash Report Still Underway: The CHP is still finalizing its report on a fatal August collision that left a 17-year-old Saugus High student dead. She was jogging across Golden Valley Road after she was reportedly struck by a car driven by an acquaintance from school. KHTS
  • Sheriff Candidate Gets the Nod: Sheriff candidate Jim McDonnell has received an endorsement from interim L.A. County Sheriff John Scott. Daily News
  • File Under 'Public Input': The city is working on a strategic plan to improve library services, and is holding a series of public input meetings starting this weekend. City Briefs
  • Council Wrapup: From presentations and consent calendar items to discussion and denial of Albert Einstein Academy, your anonymous council meeting wrapup. I Heart SCV
  • Plan Accordingly: The Santa Clarita Marathon is coming up this Sunday, which means road closures. SCVNews
  • From Surviving to Thriving: Good piece out of The Signal's community section, as a breast cancer survivor shares her story of overcoming cancer and becoming a personal trainer. The Signal

Posted by Josh Premako   |   Post a Reply »
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Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 - 12:49pm
Shoutout to all the No on S folks that were wavin' signs outside City Hall last night. I gave a toot o' the horn and up of the thumb while blasting "Sweet Home Alabama." I suppose "Fight the Power" may have been more appropriate.
  • Council Says No to Einstein: While city staff recommended an approval, the City Council rejected a proposal to ok an Albert Einstein Academy school location in the Castaic Union School District's boundaries, with Laurene Weste abstaining. KHTS The Signal
  • Slow Down on Copper Hill: The council did vote last night to reduce by 5mph the speed limit on a stretch of Copper Hill Drive where a local man was killed in a crash earlier this year. The Signal
  • Cowboys on the Move: Production conflicts mean that after 22 years, the annual Cowboy Festival will not be at Melody Ranch, and will instead take place on the generally tumbleweed-free streets of Old Town Newhall. The Signal
  • The Toll it Takes: Good piece by Jessica Boyer on how businesses are faring and responding to the drought. KHTS
  • Thumbs-Up for Quarantines: Outgoing Congressman "Buck" McKeon praised the decision to require a 21-day quarantine for troops returning from Ebola missions in Africa. The Hill
  • When Vacation Dreams Become Nightmares: “A time share is like herpes. You can’t get rid of it.” Of the four ways to get out of a time share contract, the first on the list is death. Daily News
  • Freeways That Never Were: In traffic-clogged Los Angeles, there are planned freeways that never saw the light of day. LA Times
  • Giving Them a Home: There's an info meeting coming up for those interested in adopting foster children. KHTS
  • We Have a Problem: "We buy our service for one reason: to get connected. When mobile carriers—a cozy cartel, in the United States, of just four major companies (and a bunch of smaller ones that typically buy connections from the big four)—impose themselves in the middle of our connections to data services we want to use, they are abusing their power, period." Dan Gillmor on how wireless providers are out of control. Slate
  • The S Stands for Socialism: Ethan Jewell opines on what Measure S and its #vegasboards schemes mean for the SCV. The Signal
  • Kids That Give You Hope: A 10-year-old picked up the torch to sponsor this weekend's food drive for the SCV Food Pantry. The Signal
  • Hitting the Slump: Home sales in the SCV have hit a post-summer slump, down 12.6 percent from August. The Signal
  • And Yes, Paywall: As I mentioned yesterday morning, The Signal has introduced a paywall system, apparently still in the early testing phases and similar to models such as the LA Times' that gives you X number of free stories per month. In general, I think paywalls are a good idea, as long as the content behind them is worth paying for. 

Posted by Josh Premako   |   5 Comments »
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Tuesday, October 28th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • 26 to Life: A Saugus man was sentenced to 26 years to life in prison for the murder of Karla Brada, who died at 31 years old. KHTS 
  • They Went and Did It: Unless I wasn't paying attention, The Signal just went ahead and threw up a paywall on their site, and did it without giving anyone notice. I really don't have that big of an issue with a paywall, but if you're going to finally make that big of a change at least give people a heads up.
  • Sentence Prompts Outrage: A victim is beyond understandably upset after an SCV man was slapped with 213 days in prison and a $370 fine for molestation that went on when the girl was between 8 to 11. KHTS
  • Deputies Working on Their Night Moves: Sheriff's narcotics deputies arrested three people near Mabel's Roadhouse, one of them for trying to sell cocaine. It's reportedly part of ongoing efforts by the Sheriff's Station to crack down on drugs. KHTS
  • Not Just CalArts: Some 85 colleges and universities nationwide are under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault cases. HuffPo
  • Get an Inside Look: If you want to more about how the Sheriff's Department operates, this certainly seems like a good way. The Sheriff's Station is hosting a six-week "Community Academy" to give 30 people an inside look. The application deadline is coming up. KHTS
  • A Champion: “I used to beat up my little brother as a kid. My dad told me ‘You either stop beating up your little brother or you take Taekwondo.'" A local teen who was diagnosed with autism is a state Taekwondo champ. KHTS
  • Talkin' 'Bout Fraud: "Fraudulent voting activity is all over the place, including double voting, impersonation, vote buying and selling, ineligible voting, voter registration issues, and absentee voting issues." In the run-up to Election Day, Joe Messina reminds everyone that voter fraud is out there. SCVNews
  • Not a Tough Time for Turf: While some businesses are drying up in the midst of a drought, one that is starting to flourish is the artificial grass business. Daily News

Posted by Josh Premako   |   4 Comments »
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Monday, October 27th, 2014 - 10:08pm
At least $142,000 of donations to campaigns supporting Measure S can now be linked to Allvision, the Metro contractor that would stand to make millions of dollars if the measure passed. 
Instead of donations coming directly from Allvision, the two pro-Measure S committees (which share the same donors, address, and treasurer) have been funded by entities with no apparent connection to Santa Clarita. Of the $284,000 these committees have received, half has come from the family, and businesses controlled by the family of Allvision CEO Greg Smith. 
This comes despite the claim from the Yes on S campaign that their campaign is "funded by community leaders" while they specifically deny Allvision's involvement.

The Allvision Connection

Allvision CEO Greg Smith is a former theater producer who married fellow producer Amanda Lipitz in 2004. Amanda Lipitz is the daughter of Roger Lipitz, the wealthy philanthropist and businessman who was listed as the principal officer of the companies that provided half of the money for the signature blockers.
In all, the Lipitz family and their companies have donated $142,000 to Measure S. Husband and wife Robert Horwitz and Catherine Redlich of NY are also in for $142,000, but their connection to Allvision and/or Santa Clarita is unclear.  There are no donations from any other sources, much less anyone from Santa Clarita, as of this writing.
The Smith-Lipitz donations break down like so: Roger's companies combined to give $60,000 to the blockers, and the regular campaign PAC has received $49,000 from Commodore Management of Maryland (Eugene Lipitz, son of Roger), $11,000 from Home Grown Productions of Seattle (Sari Lipitz, Eugene's wife), $11,000 from Flora Lipitz (Roger's wife) and another $11,000 from Darlene Lipitz (Roger's daughter-in-law).
Interestingly, Eugene Lipitz posted this document outlining the family's wealth management approach that included this section on "Nepotistic Advantage" that may explain the family's collaborative effort. 
The other donations came from husband and wife Roger Horwitz ($109,000 across two committees) and Catherine Redlich ($33,000).
Under the law, the top donors to a ballot measure campaign must appear in campaign-sponsored communications if they've donated $50,000 or more. Somehow, if you give over $50,000 but spread it across two committees, even though those two committees exist for the same measure, have the same pool of donors, and share an address and treasurer, you can duck that requirement. 
The first committee, which paid for the blockers, was labeled as being "Sponsored by Allvision," and the current committee, which is essentially the same thing, no longer carries the Allvision designation.
In April, Metro's Inspector General investigated the signature blocking, and in their report, they ordered Allvision to cease the blocking activities on April 24. But as you may recall, blocking continued well past that date, and up until the end of the signature gathering period in early May. In fact, documents filed with the city clerk show that Granite Assets (Roger Lipitz's company)  and Robert Horwitz each gave $10,000 to the blockers (PCI Consultants) on April 25th and again on April 28th. 
In August, the treasurer for the Allvision-sponsored PAC started a new PAC, called "Yes on S: A Coalition of Community Leaders for Santa Clarita’s Public Safety, Fire Safety, Seniors, Transportation, and Local Businesses." But it's was a change in name only. The treasurer remains the same, as does the mailing address. On their official address, they claim a Canyon Country address, but it's just a mail box, despite the FPPC's prohibition against using PO Boxes for official campaign addresses. 

Full disclosure: in recent weeks, I've volunteered a few hours for the No on Measure S campaign. I've all but sworn off campaigns, so this is unusual for me.  My writing here is not an extension of that volunteer work, but the conclusion of research I started a few months ago.

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   7 Comments »
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Monday, October 27th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • Facing the Beast: The Signal's Kirsten Quinn really puts together some great features. Four good pieces from this weekend on a local cancer survivor, a nurse navigator, how businesses are helping and new technology. The Signal
  • On to the Next Phase: The public review period has ended for the proposed expansion of the Chiquita Canyon Landfill (Primer: Massive/next to Val Verde/gets most of its trash from outside SCV/Planned to be more massive) and now county officials will go through the comments that have been submitted. The Signal
  • Trouble on the Hill: Students at CalArts staged a walkout on Friday afternoon and the Department of Education is now investigating a student's charges that the school mishandled a sexual assault claim she filed earlier in the year. KHTS The Signal
  • The Bash Makes a Comeback: The Valley Industry Association's formal Bash event is back on Nov. 8. Cocktails, dinner, live music, plus it's a fundraiser to help support Connecting to Success, a cool program VIA's Education Foundation puts on every year to train juniors and seniors from all SCV high schools in the skills they'll need as they enter the workforce. Tickets still available. The Signal
  • A Breath of Fresh Air: "(W)hy am I rambling on about all this? Because I needed to remind myself that life is good, that joy still exists, and that we simply can’t allow the violence and tragedy and uncertainty of this tainted world to rent any more space in our heads." Some good perspective from David Hegg and worth a few minutes of your day. The Signal
  • Bats on the Rise: SCV's rabid bat count is continuing to rise, with three new cases reported in September. KHTS
  • A Fiery Disposition: Oh nothing, just a local man attempting a record-breaking firewalk. The Signal
  • Remembering a Legend: Yesterday marked 22 years since legendary SCV newspaperman Scott Newhall passed away. So many people have their stories about Scott and Ruth, and I wish I could've worked at The Signal during that era. SCV History

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Monday, October 27th, 2014 - 6:54am
Rules to live by:
1) If you're going to accuse someone of breaking the law, make sure you aren't doing the same exact thing at that exact moment.
2) If someone says you did something as foolish as breaking rule #1, and they say they have video, don't call them a liar. It just won't end well.
Watch this video. Yes, all of it.

The man at the podium (wearing the shirt that everyone's talking about) is Larry McClements. On Facebook they call him "Larry from Yelp" and on Yelp they call him "Larry M.", but I usually call him "Larry."
Larry was driving around Santa Clarita on election day with a truck displaying a Maria Gutzeit for City Council sign (he was everywhere, I saw him twice without trying). He tells the story like this:
"So we were driving towards Newhall and saw someone we knew with a sign supporting a different effort. We waved and were chatting car-to-car and decided to pull over and chat. A lot of us who follow local politics know each other, so we respect each other and their positions."
OK, innocent enough. Then what?
“We pulled into the library parking lot and stopped on the outskirts. We were talking to each other when we saw a lady taking our picture repeatedly. I said, 'hey that looks like Marsha McLean.' Then we saw the city name tag and realized it was her. We told her to come over and talk to us. She started yelling at us that we were breaking the law. That’s when I turned on the video."
Larry shared the video on Facebook and it was big news for a few hours. But it was also election day, and fires burn hot – and quickly. As hopes faded for all but a few candidates, the story soon shifted. Before you knew it, we had a new council and a month-long über-drama of billboard petitioners and blockers. The video was forgotten before we really had the chance to ponder just how bizarre (and out of line) the once-and-former mayor's behavior was.
Some months passed, and Larry thought it was a good time to air his grievance about (attempted) intimidation by a councilmember on election day. Think of it: the most senior member of the city council, in official dress, trying to shut up a regular citizen. If you know Larry, you'd know that's an awful idea.
But Marsha McLean didn't know Larry.
As Marsha and her husband were documenting Larry's Freedom Truck, Larry was documenting them, and returning their snark tenfold. The tables now completely turned, and the McLeans scoot away, defeated, end of scene.
On the video, McLean was complaining that Larry was on public property (a free speech zone if there ever was one) but let's allow that she meant to complain about having a campaign sign so close to a polling place. Larry didn't realize at the time, but there was a polling place inside the library.
But while Larry was reviewing the footage recently, he realized that Marsha McLean had been doing the same thing. She was parked in the same lot, and her car (an Acura, ever the sign of a turn-of-the-millennium SCV VIP) had a Marsha McLean for City Council campaign sign emblazoned on the side. And to top it off, she was wearing her official City name tag—on election day, engaged in election hijkinks.
This fits well with McLean's sometimes desperate campaign strategy in the waning days of the election. In the previous council meeting, she actually campaigned from the council dais, which is a major no-no. You might also recall how she used the official city seal in a campaign mailer.
(She was also cited by the FPPC in April for not including her sender information on a campaign mailer.)
Of course there's a certain silliness and theater to all of this, but a candidate for office shouldn't pose as a city official and try to intimidate another campaign on election day. That's really inexcusable. And it's even worse to use your position (not to mention the last word) to call that citizen a liar when he shares that incident with the council.
But even if Larry never gets and apology, at least he has the pleasure of sharing this with us, right?

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   9 Comments »
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Friday, October 24th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • VHS Investigation Continues: The investigation into what happened at Valencia High School last Friday continues, with one student cited and seven disciplined. The VHS principal sent a letter to parents yesterday, assuring them action is being taken, though due to privacy laws they can't talk about details. The Signal
  • There Are Other Ways to Get Xanax: A 22-year-old man was arrested on robbery charges after he allegedly held up a Newhall Walgreens with a shotgun, demanding Xanax. The Signal
  • Guess Who's Back?: After being continued at the last City Council meeting, the Rye Canyon property where Albert Einstein Academy wants to put a school is back on the agenda, with the recommended action being for the council to OK the site for the school's use. The industrial park location was the spot slated for a charter school when AEA received its approval from the Acton Agua Dulce Unified School District, for a school that's now operating at Wiley Canyon and Orchard Village roads. AEA's attorney sent a letter to city staff explaining that they now plan to use the Rye Canyon location for a separate charter school approved by the Acton Agua Dulce district. Essentially, that seems to be a do-over of how AEA wound in a lawsuit with the Newhall School District, except the Rye Canyon property is within the Castaic Union School District boundaries. This makes my head hurt. Council Agenda
  • A Warm Send-Off: Fair Oaks Ranch Community School held a celebration for outgoing Superintendent Robert Nolet, who's retiring after 32 years with the Sulphur Springs School District. The Signal
  • Talkin' Bout Ebola: "Again, since we don't really make a habit of touching other people's blood and poop, the chances of spreading far are very small." How much of a threat to you is Ebola, really? Gizmodo
  • It's on Buck's Radar: In a statement put out yesterday, Congressman "Buck" McKeon said he is keeping an eye on the Ebola situation in his final days in Congress. SCVNews
  • The Waning Days of Oaktober: Fancy a free oak tree for your property? The city's "Oaktober" oak tree giveaway lasts until Nov. 7. SCVNews
  • Tips for the Commuter: "If you want to leave your work for the office, your commute can also be a surprisingly great time to complete time-wasting chores." Some of us thankfully get to work here in the SCV, which means practically no commute. For those of you who hit the freeway or the rails every day, here's a few productivity tips that may be helpful. Slate

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