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Thursday, April 24th, 2014 - 8:30am
  • A City Without Limits: Without enough votes, TimBen Boydston's effort to get a discussion about City Council term limits on a future agenda failed. “To me this is highly unfair because the city manager can put anything he wants on the agenda at any time,” said Boydston. The Signal
  • Strong on Defense: Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon might be retiring, but he's going to keep fighting for defense spending, because the U.S. just isn't spending enough on it, he tells The Signal. It's only, what? A measly 20 percent of the annual budget? The Signal
  • Romney Likes Strickland for Congress: Remember MItt Romney? Of course you do. Well, he's endorsing Tony Strickland. NewsMax
  • Men Looking Somber With Balloons: The COC University Center played host last night to a forum of the candidates for McKeon's 25th Congressional District seat. The Signal
  • Get Ready to Take a Hike: The Sanitation District introducded a rate hike proposal ($17 per year for six years) that could potentially go into effect this summer, helping foot the bill for chloride cleanup in the SCV. KHTS
  • The Principal Matter: New principals named for Valencia and West Ranch high schools, after Paul Priesz and Bob Vincent announced their retirement. The Signal
  • Allies in the Water War: The Cal State system is playing a crucial role in water conservation efforts. Daily News
  • Newspaper War Shaping Up: With the launch of the L.A. Register, the paper is also launching local editions, including one for the sprawling San Fernando Valley. Meanwhile, the L.A. Times has for years now had a single reporter covering that beat part-time. Until this week, when they announced one of their "most important beats" will be helmed by a veteran national reporter. (>wonders aloud if the Register needs to launch an SCV edition<) LAObserved
  • Vaping Free-for-All Going Up in Smoke: The FDA plans to start putting regulations on e-cigarettes, although not targeting restrictions on flavors like pumpkin spice, which e-cig opponents say target youth. LA Times
  • Still Creepy After All These Years: Ronald McDonald gets a makeover. LA Times

Posted by Josh Premako   |   1 Comment »
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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 - 8:29pm
"Y'all know me, still the same O.G., but I been low-key" -Dr. Dre

The most recent campaign finance reports in the 25th Congressional had an interesting side story. Buried in all that paperwork Buck McKeon's Q1 filing has some oddities that leave one wondering how such things are legal. His campaign took in a few donations, oddly enough, but it would later return those donations plus a bunch more, presumably made last year for his now-cancelled 2014 campaign. But what does a campaign committee do with hundreds of thousands of dollars in the bank when the candidate retires? 

Of course, it gets a Lexus.

In 1992, hot off his debut as the first mayor of the City of Santa Clarita, Buck McKeon became the first member of Congress to hail from the Santa Clarita Valley. He was a late bloomer in Congress, but over time he became one of its most powerful members. As time went on, he was bogged down in scandal after scandal after scandal that had a common thread of soft corruption in service of major donors for modest personal gain.

Now that he's exiting Congress, he can keep his campaign around for three years. He could simply offload that money to a national campaign committee, or better yet, just give it to charity. After all, what's left to do?

Instead, McKeon is keeping his campaign around, flush with a half million in donor cash. And of course, a campaign with no campaign to run, nor any funds to raise certainly needs a big staff. So it's no surprise to see that Buck's wife Patricia is still on staff earning at the same $60k/year. You might think if full-fleged campaigns get by with simply paying a part time treasurer far less, a $60k salaried employee ought to be sufficient to handle the finances of a retired campaign, but you'd be wrong. The campaign is also paying a former staffer, Cheryl Loucks, $1,260 per month for "accounting consulting," which seems like a more realistic, if inflated figure for doing the actual work of a treasurer. Could it be that Ms. Loucks has been doing Patricia McKeon's job all along?

To top it off, McKeon donors funded one last extravagance. It appears that the McKeon campaign, which ostensibly folded in December and was effectively dormant long before, got itself a Lexus in January, with a $2,000 payment to Lexus Financial, followed by two subsequent lease payments of $677.12. Merry Christmas?

If our laws made any more sense, this kind of self-enriching would be illegal. If McKeon's new Lexus were any more honest, it might look like this.

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   Post a Reply »
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Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 - 8:30am
  • City Council Takes a Stand: Well, maybe? The council voted last night to oppose an Assembly bill that would force districts on cities with population above 100,000. But a symbolic council vote is only one step in opposition. The Signal
  • Mayor Dude Has Left the Building: Dante Acosta was sworn in as the city's newest council member yesterday. The Signal
  • The Cost of Policing SCV: With the Sheriff's Department's contract up for renewal on the City Council agenda last night, Perry Smith posted a good piece late yesterday afternoon on the cost of providing law enforcement for the valley. And, he hits on that age-old question of whether we should have our own police department (trust me, not happening any time soon). KHTS
  • Crime on the Decline?: City news release states that Part I and Grand Theft Auto crimes are down in 2014. For those not fluent in copspeak, Part I crimes include: murder and nonnegligent homicide, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor vehicle theft, larceny-theft, and arson. The city sticks to percentages like 35 percent, but to see the breakdown by the actual numbers, check out the PDF. The Signal
  • Do Ya Feel Saugus-y, Punk?: Clint Eastwood is filming scenes at Blue Cloud Movie Ranch for the upcoming film "American Sniper". It's just one of several small- to mid-size budget projects filming in the L.A. area and taking advantage of state film tax credits. LA Times
  • On a Film Note: Good piece about the Anza Borrego desert as a fertile, if underused, filming location. I can attest to one thing: if you've never been there, it's worth making the trip a few hours southeast of SCV, especially in spring when the wildflowers are in bloom. (I may have written a piece on this a few years ago.) LA Times
  • Assault Charges Dropped: Charges were dismissed against a man arrested outside the Bar Formerly Known as Rendezvous (BaFKaR?) Saturday, when two people were stabbed and wound up in the hospital. KHTS
  • Mapping Pollution: A new map from the California EPA shows the concentration of pollution in California, with particular hotspots in Southern California. Interested in a sobering yet not altogether surprising look at how Santa Clarita Valley ranks? LA Times
  • Is SCV in Line to Court Them?: David Tran probably has serious regrets about moving the Sriracha plant to Irwindale. But while other states try to draw him away from the Golden State and San Fernando Valley makes its pitch, where is the SCV? #BIASALERT: I love Sriracha and think it would be teh awesome to have it made here. Daily News
  • All Around the World: Earth Day images spanning the globe. Big Picture Blog

Posted by Josh Premako   |   1 Comment »
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Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 - 1:10pm
Yesterday, a commenter noted that my reference to digital billboards as Vegas-style showed my bias. Except, no. Now, I try to run a pretty clean ship when it comes to these daily briefs. I generally adhere to AP style and keep my opionating to a minimum. That said, I think SCVTalk has a longstanding legacy of occasional snarkiness, and beyond that...this is a blog. And when it comes to billboards, I don't like the idea of digital ones, but I also (and I suspect I'm not alone in this common sense approach) don't expect SCV to look like Las Vegas (If, however, I wind up having a Neville Chamberlain moment, I will apologize) if we get three digi-boards. I don't particularly like our existing billboards, either, so really, it's a lose-lose. Why am I going on about this? I don't know. How about some briefs?
  • Council Members to Be Sworn In, Maybe At: Incumbents Laurene Weste and Marsha McLean and newcomer Dante Acosta will be sworn in before tonight's City Council meeting, which includes re-upping the Sheriff's Department contract with the city. KHTS
  • Man in the Middle: Dante Acosta hopes to be a mediating force on the City Council. The Signal
  • Where There's Wind There Might be Fire: High, gusty winds are expected through Wednesday. Daily News
  • Funeral Draws Thousands: “If you pause for a minute, you can feel the breaking of 13,000 hearts — the hearts of the members of the Los Angeles Police Department." The funeral for an LAPD officer killed by a suspectd drug-impaired driver drew thousands. Daily News LA Times
  • Finding the Mother Ditch: Excavators uncovered a part of L.A.'s first water system. LA Times
  • A Bit of History: Steven K. Peeples rounds up the history of the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival, which moseys into town this weekend. KHTS
  • Changing the System: "Furthermore, we should not forgive the policies and attitudes that place child rapists, serial burglars, on-line scammers, corrupt politicians, and murderers back among the innocent, only to harvest suffering once again." Jonathan Kraut opines on the failures of the justice system. The Signal

  • No Name? No Problem!: It's fine for law enforcement officers to stop vehicles based on anonymous 911 tips, says the Supreme Court. LA Times
  • Bracing for El Nino: What does the expected weather system next winter mean for us? Slate

Posted by Josh Premako   |   10 Comments »
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Monday, April 21st, 2014 - 8:30am
  • Ferry Reflects: "City government is awesome because I can have any idea and all I need is two votes and it happens.” Luke Money goes on a Santa Clarita ride-along with soon-to-be-former Councilman Frank Ferry. The Signal
  • Pushing for Change?: A woman gathering signatures for the referendum to undo the city's #Vegasboard deal was arrested on an assault charge outside an SCV Walmart over the weekend. Sheriff's deputy: “My understanding is that this incident escalated and there was an assault, a pushing kind of assault." The Signal KHTS
  • After the Dust Has Settled: The Signal's editorial board opines on the City Council's job now that the election is over. The Signal
  • Not Only the Young: It's not just much-maligned Millennials moving back in with their parents. LA Times
  • Fire Destroys Newhall School, Students Rejoice: From the annals of SCV history, with this choice quote: "I always said I wished the school would burn down and now it's happened," wept Ethel Haws, 12. SCV History
  • If You Missed it the First Time: “It really was the most terrifying thing I have ever had to experience." SCV teen describes the deadly Northern California bus crash he survived. The Signal
  • The Trails Need You: Dianne Erskine-Hellrigel writes on the upcoming National Trails Day and what you can do locally for our wonderful local trail system. SCVNews
  • Candidates Talk Immigration: “But we don’t need deputies, down in the weeds, putting immigration holds on people.” SCV resident Lou Vince and other candidates for L.A. County Sheriff discussed how the department should handle immigration issues. Daily News
  • Newhall Rendezvous Turns Angry: Two people went to the hospital in the wee hours of Saturday morning after a stabbing outside the VU bar in downtown Newhall. KHTS
  • 50 Years Into the War: “It’s important we care about places like this,” she said. “There are kids and families who want to succeed. They want life to be better, but they don’t know how.” A half-century after LBJ declared war on poverty, rural areas are still among the hardest hit. NY Times
  • Then and Now: Downtown LA from above, now and in the 1940s. Gizmodo

Posted by Josh Premako   |   10 Comments »
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Friday, April 18th, 2014 - 1:17pm
And we're back, with some piping hot afternoon briefs. (Apologies to all for this week's sporadic nature. Stuff happens.)
  • From One Taxing Job to Another: A local tax adviser is throwing his hat in the ring and running for Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon's job. KHTS
  • First-Person Perspective: The Signal interviewed the West Ranch student who was involved in the deadly NorCal bus crash (unrelated side note: It's depressing every time I see a video The Signal films in that big, empty pressroom.) The Signal
  • Not So Fast With the Billboards: It would appear the anti-Vegasboard crowd is gaining some traction. The county has delayed voting on the city's recent deal with Metro to get rid of the city's existing billboards and replace them with digital signs. KHTS
  • In a Nutshell: I Heart SCV sums up the 2014 City Council election. I Heart SCV
  • Robber Gets 70 Years: A 24-year-old Palmdale man was sentenced to 70 years to life for a Newhall bank robbery. His brother testified that their harsh upbringing played a role in his brother's choices. SCV News
  • Talking About the Walk: Kicking off Cowboy Festival weekend early, the city unveiled two new plaques on the Newhall Walk of Western Stars. The Signal
  • Speaking of...: Cowboy Festival is coming up next weekend
  • Unemployment Holding: About a half-million people in Los Angeles County remained unemployed in March, with the employment rate holding at 8.7 percent. Daily News
  • BOLO: A fugitive dubbed the "Family Annihilator" who's been on the run for 38 years could be living in SoCal, officials say. LA Times
  • In Case You Weren't Aware: LTE writer notes the apathy demonstrated by low voter turnout, and a message for non-voters to hush up. The Signal
  • Drug Talk: Sheriff's officials gave parents a rundown on SCV youth drug problems. The Signal
  • Boston, One Year Later: Strong images from the Boston Marathon, a year after tragedy. Big Picture Blog
  • Behind the Torture: "I served my country and now I'm done. I did what I did for whoever I did it for, and now I'm done with that stuff." The Guardian interviews one of the architects of the post-9/11 "harsh interrogation techniques." The Guardian

  • The Jury is Still Out for Scalia: On the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court's freedom of the press ruling on The New York Tmes v. Sullivan, Justice Antonin Scalia says the Founding Fathers would have been "appalled." LA Times
  • Changing Prop 13: A new poll shows 49 percent of Californians would be open to making changes to Proposition 13, which placed restrictions on property tax growth. Daily News

Posted by Josh Premako   |   1 Comment »
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Wednesday, April 16th, 2014 - 4:48pm
Strickland stuns, Rogers rolls along, Knight comes up short, new guy makes a big bet, and Buck gets a Lexus. But first, the numbers:

Reports were due yesterday, and as far as I can tell, the other four candidates haven't filed. Click on each candidate's name for the link to their report.

Tony Strickland: raised $410,889.88, spent $172,973.43, $656,188.00 cash on hand
The big story is that Tony Strickland's fundraising has picked up right where he left off as a candidate for his home district in Ventura County. He's fully rebounded from a disappointing Q4, cashing checks from a coalition of the insurance industry (60 separate donations from Farmer's Insurance PAC and employes alone), mortgage/real estate interests, and what appears to be every other wealthy Republican in Southern California. Noticeably scarce are the defense industry donors that have funded McKeon's campaign. There's the obligatory $10,000 from the Koch Brothers, too.

Steve Knight: raised $89,897.00, spent $13,851.65, $77,328.74 cash on hand (minus unpaid bills)
In contrast, Steve Knight came short of his already modest goal of $100k by about $10,000. For better or worse, almost all of his money has come from in-district sources. It's a good sign of local support, but it adds up to a lot less than Strickland's bank roll, and you wonder if it's enough to run a visible campaign in a district this big. Of course, you can't exactly compare dollars for dollars when Knight already represents over half of the district, but these filings do paint a picture of two very different campaigns.

Lee Rogers: raised $202,752.17, spent $129,651.53, $261,297.25 cash on hand.
Rogers broke 200k this quarter and he's working with a lot more money than he had in 2012, though it's hard to read into his totals at this point. He's still attracting a lot of money from his usual mix of district supporters and fellow doctors, but the heavy national money that seems all but inevitable for an open seat like this probably won't show up until after the primary.

Troy Castagna: raised $41,265.00, loaned his campaign about $91k, spent $6,429, and has $110,335.21 cash on hand.
Then there's the new guy: Troy Castagna from right here in SCV is running as a Republican and has already put nearly $100,000 of his own money into the campaign. On top of that, he's raised over $40k, mostly in max donations from family. Right away, it looks like he'll have to return a few donations, as federal law only allows donations from individuals and committees. He has a few donations from businesses, included a max donation from (I'm assuming) his parents' business, even though each of them have also maxed out. Even so, it's quite a stunner. $100k is a lot to spend, but it's far less than an unknown candidate needs to win a contested Congressional primary that begins in a few weeks. You wonder though, will Castagna's SCV and LDS roots have the potential of complicating things for Strickland in the SCV, where Buck McKeon's influence, though waning, is still worth something?

Buck McKeon: Raised some money, gave it back, plenty left over, got a Lexus with the leftovers. More on that tomorrow...

Posted by Mike Devlin   |   4 Comments »
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