Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - 5:19pm
The super official list isn't out yet, but a nice scouring of the Ventura and Los Angeles County Registrar's sites give us a pretty good idea of who we'll see on the ballots in Assembly and Congressional races this June.
The Fightin' 25th
Buck McKeon is retiring. There are as many as eight people looking to take his place.
, a doctor from Simi Valley and Democratic nominee in 2012
Navraj Singh, a business owner from Porter Ranch
Troy Castagna, a "taxpayer advocate" from Valencia
Michael Mussack, who appears to be a realtor from Simi Valley
David Bruce, a business owner from Stevenson Ranch.
The 38th Assembly: who's the other guy?
For a while, it look like he'd have election year off. Maybe not, but it looks like he can skip the primaries. Just one person has filed to challenge Scott Wilk, Jorge Fuentes
of Valencia (pictured left).
The 36th Assembly: what's this other district?
Two years ago, some Saugus residents like myself were fenced out of the ever-fun 38th and fenced into the ever-odd 36th. Where two Republicans almost beat a Democrat in the primaries to force an all-GOP primary. Where that Democrat lost on election night in November, but gained over a point in the later counts to win what everyone assumed was a safe Republican seat.
Oh, and now one of his staffers is running against him. And the Republican that lost in 2012. Not the one in November, the one that lost to the guy who lost in November. And speaking of Republicans and staffers, not one but two former staffers of Buck McKeon are running – but Buck is backing the other guy. So is Wilk. Oh, and speaking of staffers again, Steve Fox is the target of a suit
with all kinds of accusations including an allegation that he made his Assembly office employees do work for his law firm.
So. Much. Fun.
Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 - 8:30am
- Deputies Searching for Missing Hiker: Brian Napoli, 24, went missing while hiking Towsley Canyon yesterday. KHTS
- Breaking the Law, in a Roundabout Way: A Signal reader noticed a mysterious "Who's Alan Ferdman?" sign in the Newhall roundabout, in violation of city sign ordinances. Ferdman said he doesn't know who put the sign up or if the public should expect a follow-up sign. (Could this be the start of Burma Shave-style political signs?) The Signal
- Castaic Prostitution Sting Nets Three: A 12-hour "john sting" resulted in three men being arrested for propositioning a Sheriff's deputy disguised as a prostitute. The Signal
- Thieves Go Through the Roof: And then the wall. Thieves made off with $300,000 in loot after literally breaking into a Saugus jewelry store. KHTS
- Next Stop, Trouble: The days of carefree murder mystery train rides could be in peril after the Fillmore and Western Railway was slapped with a lawsuit. KHTS
- Worth Your Two Minutes: SCVTV captured a touching moment from the weekend's Trinity/Desert Chapel playoff game. SCVTV
- Biking Across America: Two Saugus High graduates will cycle across the country to raise support for individuals with disabilities. The Signal
- This is Not an Endorsement for Moazzem Chowdhury: I just don't recall any other City Council candidates ever doing video advertising. (Have any others?) Will this help him? Hurt him? Doesn't matter? VIDEO
- On the Heels of Rain, Fire?: Potential wildfire conditions are forming today. Daily News
- L.A. News is Getting Interesting: The launch date for the L.A. Register is coming up, and Freedom Communications is also rolling out community newspapers across Los Angeles County. LA Observed
Monday, March 10th, 2014 - 10:17pm
Almost missed this one. On Friday afternoon, the agenda
for the City Council's Tuesday closed session was amended to add discussion about a potential agreement between the City and Edwards Outdoor Advertising. The closed session takes place tomorrow at 5pm, right before the regular Council meeting.
By law, the Council can use closed sessions to give direction to its negotiator (The City Manager, in this case) on the purchase or sale of real property.
The agenda says that the council will discuss "Price and Terms of Payment" of a deal that would involve "46 billboard structures and associated lease rights located along Newhall Avenue, Railroad Avenue, Bouquet Canyon Road, Soledad Canyon Road, Sand Canyon Road, and Sierra Highway."
Because it's a closed session, we don't know how far along this deal might be. Last week, the city acknowledged
that talks are ongoing with Edwards and for whatever reason, this item wasn't on the first published agenda for the closed session.
It's unclear how many of these 46 billboard structures comprise the 62 structures that were slated for removal if the Metro billboard relocation deal went through. Of the streets listed, all but Sand Canyon show at least one billboard on the city's map
showing structures that would be removed under the Metro deal. It's also unclear how many billboard faces are on the 48 structures.
Edwards operates mostly smaller, shorter billboards – many of which aren't illuminated (see picture above). The typical Edwards billboard
is just 6' by 12'. The larger billboards along the railroad, which include some that are the same size as the proposed digital billboards, are owned by national billboard operators CBS and Clear Channel.
Edwards might not have the biggest boards, but it has plenty of them. It leases land from Metro and they own the actual billboard structures. But if the Edwards billboards were to ever to come down, neither Metro nor Edwards could build new structures in their place. That's because construction of new billboards in illegal today in the City of Santa Clarita. Edwards has made it this far because their leases predate the city by decades.
Conversely, under the terms of their lease, Metro can cut Edwards loose at any time. If the City/Metro deal went through, Edwards would have simply lost their lease without compensation.
But if the City is somehow able to acquire Edwards' leases and structures, the City could just take them down without Metro's say-so. Metro would lose some serious negotiating value and the city would be much further along the path towards billboard eradication.
When did this happen?
Closed session business rarely sees the light of day. Their agendas can look the same from month to month and we hardly notice until big decision is made. But in a way, this has been going on under our noses for a while. Here's a quick timeline:
In the minutes of November 22, 2011
there's mention some kind of negotiation going on between the city and Metro. The parcel numbers listed include segments of railroad, the Metrolink station and some ostensibly arbitrary parcels we know today as proposed locations for the digital billboards.
For a while, it looks like the city was negotiating some kind of swap with Metro (Laurie Ender even recused herself from discussion once for some financial conflict). But in the minutes of the September 10, 2013
meeting, Edwards Outdoor Advertising was named as a negotiating party along with Metro. Interesting.
They discussed it again on October 8
(no parties were named) and then on November 12
, still a Metro/Edwards deal. But then a few weeks later, December 4th or so, the city launched a website
to explain a potential deal with Metro, one that appeared to exclude Edwards. Metro would cancel its leases with the billboard companies and take the structures down. In exchange, Metro would to put six digital billboards on city owned land In Canyon Country, Valencia and Newhall. (but you knew this already)
The Council stayed out of the fray as the proposal got its (somewhat bizarre) PR push and approval by the Planning Commission. Then just a month ago on February 11
, the council has its first closed session item regarding a deal directly with Edwards, to possibly purchase their lease and billboards. The same item appears again on February 25th's
closed session agenda – right before the (open) meeting that culminated in the council's 3-1 OK of the Edwards-less Metro deal (which is now in doubt
Was this a last-minute swing at a deal with Edwards? What happened there that led the council to all but jump off the cliff into a 50-year digital deal with Metro just hours later? Edwards is now faced with the very real possibility of getting nothing for their billboards. The city might just be in a buyer's market for the moment.
Of course, if the City pulled this off, it wouldn't settle everything. There are still the remaining non-Edwards billboards, and the big companies don't like to set a lot of billboard-dismantling precedent. But it would be significant win, and one that would come without the baggage (and glare) of the Metro deal.
Monday, March 10th, 2014 - 8:30am
- Sad News: A Saugus teen was killed Saturday after surviving a crash on I-5 and then being struck while trying to get out of the roadway. Driver arrested on DUI charge. The Signal
- Friends, Family Hold Vigil: About 200 people gathered in Central Park to remember 18-year-old Blake Cook (see story above). KHTS
- Like Clockwork, Another Lawsuit: Environmental groups have filed yet another lawsuit over the planned 21,000-home Newhall Ranch development. The Signal
- Bermite Cleanup Plan Up for Review: The public will have a chance to review the cleanup plan for the ongoing work at the polluted Whittaker-Bermite property in the center of town. The Signal
- The Running Man: A Valencia man who ran in yesterday's 29th annual L.A. Marathon has run every year since its start. Of the 7,581 runners in the first L.A. Marathon, he's one of only 182 people to still hit the asphalt every year. KHTS
- 100 Years of Mining: Tireless CEMEX opponent Andrew Fried weighs in on the ever-present CEMEX sand and gravel mine issue. "The BLM, though, stands in the way – and its key motivating factor is not what’s best for the quarter-million American taxpayers who would be impacted by the mine, but rather how much money the mine can generate for Washington bureaucrats to spend." SCVNews
- Open Meeting on Open Space: The city may have spent open space preservation funds on property outside the district boundaries. An audit panel, open to the public, will meet this week for review. KHTS
- "There it is. Take it.": Despite the terrible drought conditions we're facing, more than a quarter-million homes and businesses throughout the state have no water meters and use as much as they want for a monthly flat fee. Daily News
- "Y'all don't see me, but I see you.": Great read from the Times, about a grandmother striving to keep the peace in one of L.A.'s most crime-ridden areas. L.A. Times
Friday, March 7th, 2014 - 9:45pm
The big surprise of the new fundraising reports
has been the big showing by the newcomer, Moazzem Chowdhury. He led all candidates with almost $14,000 raised, on top of a personal loan of over $20,000.
In the forums, Chowdhury comes across as sincere and non-ideological, yet he seems green like so many unknown first timers. You usually don't see rookies bring this kind of money into the game.
So how did this happen? His FPPC filing
tells the tale: one big, fancy fundraiser.
Mostly local donors, and a lot of big checks. In one night, he might have raised more money than any other candidate had in seven weeks.
Chowdhury reported 15 itemized donations, all but one dated 2/15, plus another $2,305 in unitemized contributions under $100. Of the 15 donations, nine were over $900 and one was actually above the legal limit of $1,000 – a donation of $1,024 from Nuran Khandeker. This donation wasn’t reported on within 24 hours, as required by law.
Where did the money come from? That’s hard to tell, because all but two donations do not identify the donor’s occupation or employer – also required by law.
If that isn’t strange enough, he also reports $1,375.82 in nonmonetary contributions: balloons, centerpieces, candies and “Oriental Trading items.” The source of these donations? The form says “Pending.” You get over $1,300 in free stuff and you don’t know who it came from? Okay.
Assuming that the nonitemized donations came from the fundraiser and the donation made four days later didn’t, the dinner raised $11,614.
The Hyatt doesn’t come cheap: they charged the campaign $9,083.07 for the honor. Invitations and posters cost another $2,113.51. That’s $11,196.58 in expenses, netting the campaign just $417.42. And that’s assuming that the nonmonetary contributions are a wash. If something is shady about the mystery balloon donor, the campaign might have to refund the value of those donations.
On top of that, his expenditures during this period include another $6,094.28 in fundraising expenses – $6,000 of which to Kelly’s Wedding Garden (down payment on a future fundraiser, I’m guessing). So all together, he raised almost $14,000 while racking up over $18,000 in fundraising expenses.
But after all is said and done, Mr. Chowdhury still has $13,000 to spend, plus access to some deep-pocketed donors. Is that enough to matter in April? Probably not. Nothing is more valuable in SCV than name ID, and that takes years to build. But the best way to improve your shot in 2016 is to lose in 2014. For Chowdhury this might be a more expensive lesson than it needs to be.
Friday, March 7th, 2014 - 9:18pm
Here are the full campaign finance disclosures (FPPC Form 460) for the 2014 City Council campaign, covering January 1 through February 22, 2014. Personal street addresses have been redacted.
Soon enough, I hope to have all this info up in plain text, but PDFs are their own special kind of fun. Forgive my somewhat botched scan job. Any missing pages were blank pages that were numbered by the candidate with a zero total at the bottom.
You can also view the last two set of docs (covering all of 2013) here.
Friday, March 7th, 2014 - 9:24am
The City Council's last-minute "ask" was too much for Metro, so the digital billboard plan takes a few steps back – just weeks before an election that might have a big impact on its chances.
Last Tuesday, the City Council voted 3-1 to approve an agreement that would result in large electronic billboards going up in Canyon Country, Valencia and Newhall in exchange for the removal of 63 billboard structures along the railroad. Boydston ruled the night as the lone voice of dissent and Laurene Weste abstained from the process because she lives close to a few billboards that would be removed under the plan.
The public opposition was nearly unanimous, save for Berta González-Harper, some guy from the Chamber of Commerce (which is still a thing, apparently) and Joe Messina who phoned it in like he was doing someone a favor. The room was packed with naysayers, and the fires have been raging online ever since.
Anyway, the council's approval came with a few conditions, one of which was for Metro to indemnify the city against more types of potential lawsuits. So assuming Metro was OK with the (modest) changes, it was set to go to a second reading next Tuesday. That just means the council would take a vote on the final language. This is usually a formality, but it's attracted a lot of attention because a lot of opponents have seen Marsha McLean's hesitancy in the first meeting as an opportunity to have a second chance at defeating the deal.
It turns out that Metro wasn't willing to also indemnify the city against legal action from people claiming an accident was caused by a driver being distracted by the billboards.
So now that Metro won't sign, the staff is recommending that on Tuesday the City Council officially vote down the second reading
. A second reading can happen if Metro has a change of heart. If the city and Metro were to hammer out a new deal, it would go back to first reading, then a second reading (though I don't know if a second reading is necessary if the council approves unconditionally – somebody check me on this).
In case you're curious, this deal is not on the agenda
of Tuesday's closed session. Since it's a real estate deal, the council has been giving direction to the city's negotiator in closed session, as California open meeting law allows. But since the proposal before the council came baked in with so many details that wouldn't be appropriate for closed session, such as design and content restrictions, there's considerable suspicion that the council may have gone too far behind closed doors.
The election - why it matters
Because Laurene Weste won't be voting, it takes just two votes to stop a deal. Bob Kellar and Frank Ferry are unapologetically in favor of the swap. Marsha McLean seems like an almost-solid yes as well. With McLean up for re-election and Ferry leaving the council after April's election, there's a good chance that this deal as it's imagined now won't survive the election.
I looked into the public statements of nearly all of those running for council to determine just where they stood on the issue. I then contacted a few candidates where it wasn't completely clear where they stood on the deal as it was proposed.
Among the candidates, Alan Ferdman has been the most vocal critic of the deal (as is his style). At the meeting, Ferdman, Stephen Daniels and Sandra Bull spoke against. On Facebook, Maria Gutzeit has has come out against the deal as well. At the KHTS forum
, Mozzem Chowdhury weighed in against it.
Yesterday, I contacted Gloria Mercado-Fortine and asked how she would have voted if she were on the council last Tuesday. She said that she would have voted no, most concerned about the city's consultant saying that other cities have received better deals than Metro was offering, and that the proposed billboards are too big.
Laurene Weste won't be voting on this matter before or after the election, but has voiced support. Marsha McLean already voted yes, and Berta González-Harper spoke in favor of the deal at the council meeting.
From the available material, it's not quite clear how Dante Acosta or Duane Harte would have voted. Asking them directly doesn't seem to help, since neither have responded to my question since yesterday.
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I wasn't complaining, its just made me question my state of mind LOL... full comment »
posted: ~ 2 hrs., 45 mins. ago.
I live in the future, lady. Also, I may have not had coffee before I prepped these briefs.... full comment »
posted: ~ 9 hrs. ago.
Daylight savings time.... full comment »
posted: ~ 9 hrs. ago.
Why have the last two days of this brief dated a day ahead of the actual date? Very confusing.... full comment »
posted: ~ 9 hrs. ago.
With havin so much written content do you ever run into any problems of plagorism or copyright... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 2 hrs. ago.
Sunday. What prompts the question, Tim?... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 2 hrs. ago.
Was it daylight savings day?... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 3 hrs. ago.
Having lived in Hollywood where there are many digital billboards, I am not a supporter of them at... full comment »
posted: ~ 2 days, 10 hrs. ago.
Coastal Sage writes:
Reaching way back to 2001- 2002 or so, the William S. Hart High School District had a bond measure... full comment »
posted: ~ 3 days, 3 hrs. ago.
Sempra owns SoCal Gas.... full comment »
posted: ~ 3 days, 8 hrs. ago.
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