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.
Friday, March 7th, 2014 - 8:30am
- Be on the Lookout: Officials are urging caution after two women were attacked on or near the Valencia COC campus. The Signal
- Healthy Forecast for the SCV: At Thursday's Economic and Real Estate Outlook Conference, experts predicted increased stability in the SCV. The Signal
- Parole Sweep Weeds out Offenders: An early morning parole check resulted in nine arrests, including a couple running a marijuana grow house. The Signal
- Is Strength Only in Numbers?: US News responds to Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon's criticism of the cuts being proposed in the defense budget. US News & World Report
- Is It Dead Bat Season Already?: Dead rabid bat turns up in Agua Dulce, and Leon Worden notes that rabies is on the rise. SCVNews
- Everyone's Favorite, Art in Newhall: The 2014 season of the city's ArtSlam series kicked off last night, showcasing female artists. Cue comments. The Signal, SCVTV
- State of the Industry: Santa Clarita might be "Hollywood North" but according to a new FilmLA report, the industry is still suffering in California, particularly when it comes to visual effects. Daily News
- Here, There, Everywhere: Another great roundup of daily life photos from the Boston.com Big Picture blog. Big Picture
- As We Spring Forward: Don't forget to set your clocks ahead on Sunday. And while you're at it, the NY Times' panel weighs in on Daylight Saving Time. NY Times
Enjoy your weekend! Get off the couch, get out of the house, go for a walk, call a friend, soak up the sunshine...live your life.
Thursday, March 6th, 2014 - 8:30am
- Interview With SCV's Top Cop: Jim Holt profiles new SCV Sheriff's Station Capt. Roosevelt Johnson, a 23-year SCV resident. The Signal
- Digging Into Gifts: Luke "Follow the" Money looks at gifts received by area politicians, from nearly $16,000 for Assemblyman Scott Wilk to join a delegation to Armenia last year, to a $20 cowboy hat Sen. Steve Knight received. The Signal
- Really?: How low do you have to sink to steal someone's wheelchair? Investigators are seeking the public's help. SCVNews
- How Much Did They Know?: Celeste Fremon on the ongoing investigation into the Sheriff's Department and the hiding of a jail inmate who was an FBI informant from his handlers. "Perhaps the most important bit of news out of the new legal filing, is the direct and detailed allegation that the two men then running the LASD—Lee Baca and Paul Tanaka—were, not only cognisant of the hiding of Brown, but directed it." WitnessLA
- Acton is History: Way out on the edge of the Santa Clarita Valley, the Acton Historical Society is having its first meeting, as it sets out to document the former mining town. SCVNews
- Markets Targeting Youth: Study finds majority of Los Angeles County community markets' advertising promotes alcohol, tobacco and junk food. Daily News
- Trucker's Next Stop is Jail: A truck driver was sentenced to nearly a year in jail for a hit-and-run last year that left a woman dead. The Signal
- A Stabbing Gets you Nearly a Decade: A Canyon Country man was sentenced to 9 years in prison for last year's near-fatal stabbing. The Signal
- Will Civilian Oversight Help?: Sheriff's Department Inspector General Max Hunstman wants the public to have more chances to provide feedback and air grievances. Daily News
Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 - 8:30am
- No Green Light for Einstein: Predictably, the city Planning Commission denied Albert Einstein Academy's request for a conditional use permit, citing concerns over traffic and safety. The charter school can now either resubmit an application or appeal to the City Council. The Signal
- Taking it to the Seniors: Senior services have been a recurring topic, so the City Council candidates finally had a forum at the SCV Senior Center. The downside to most of these forum reports is that with so many candidates running, the story gets filled up with a list of candidate soundbites. The Signal
- Heroin in the SCV: Jim Holt talks with detectives who say heroin use and deaths in the SCV are way down, and point to education as a factor. The Signal
- On a Related Note: Worth reading is this piece on America's so-called white-collar heroin problem. "Twenty-seven years later and now a tenured professor at a distinguished American university, Walker shoots up almost daily—sometimes as many as six times." The Daily Beast
- The "12 Years a Slave Connection": Allison Pari writes about a Santa Clarita woman who is a direct descendant of Solomon Northup, the central character in the Oscar-winning "12 Years a Slave." (Random footnote: I'm scratching my head at the fact that the woman, who has an anti-bullying organization, was asked if there's a comparison between kids being bullied today and what Northup experienced as a slave.) KHTS
- Before the 5/14 Interchange: We take for granted the ease of getting in and out of the valley. On this day in 1864, the county Board of Supervisors announced that Beale's Cut was completed. SCVHistory
- 6 Billion Gallons isn't Quite Enough: Even after all that rain, the county is still far short of the 68 billion gallons it sees in a usual rainy season. LA Times
- On the Covered California Front: Nearly 200,000 Los Angeles County residents have signed up for the state's health care exchange, about 25,000 more than projected. Keep in mind that through February, of the eligible 5 million Californians, less than 730,000 have enrolled in health insurance. Daily News
Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 - 8:30am
- Castaic Schools Continue to be Vandalized: Both location and lack of surveillance cameras apparently play a role in repeated vandalism at Castaic district schools. The Signal
- Einstein is on Tonight's Agenda: Not only is the Albert Einstein Academy still seeking approval tonight from the Planning Commission for a location in the Rye Canyon business park, they also have their sights set on a K-6 school at the Pinecrest Schools location on Orchard Village Road. KHTS
- Fired up Over Newhall Ranch: The L.A. Times talks with Lynne Plambeck, who questions why Newhall Land gifted two vehicles to the Department of Fish and Wildlife as its scientists did environmental studies for the developer's Valencia-sized project. LA Times
- Will You Continue to Be On Camera?: The city's contract for red light cameras is up at the beginning of April. City officials say the cameras have had a positive effect. The City makes about $667,000 annually in revenue from the cameras, which cost $569,000 a year. KHTS
- SummerFest Gets New Stage: The LA SummerFest at Towsley Canyon is getting a new stage and seeking sponsors. The festival features everything from Shakespeare performances to folk and blues concerts. SCVNews
- Local Firm Continues to Grow: Jana Adkins talks with Valencia-based Scorpion Design, which has carved out a niche as a builder of lawyer websites and continues to grow. The Signal
- Workforce Roundtable: The SCV Business Journal's roundtable article asks business leaders about skills needed in the emerging workforce. (Note stories only viewable online in Flash version of journal.) SCVBJ
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I loved as much as you will receive carried out right here.
The sketch is attractive, your... full comment »
posted: ~ 5 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: ~ 8 hrs. ago.
Sempra owns SoCal Gas.... full comment »
posted: ~ 13 hrs. ago.
Lori Rivas writes:
Why is Sempra Energy, in San Diego, investing in the campaigns of Weste and McLean?
And did... full comment »
posted: ~ 23 hrs. ago.
Lori Rivas writes:
"Oriental Trading" items would be things ordered from Oriental Trading Company, right? Trinkets... full comment »
posted: ~ 23 hrs. ago.
Michael Oliveri writes:
It's not over yet, You still need to come to the meeting Tuesday,March 11, 2014 Thank You Council... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 0 hrs. ago.
Explain to me how Chowdhury can get away with a wholly incomplete filing.
Every single donor's... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 0 hrs. ago.
Coastal Sage writes:
It's entirely rational that the Santa Clarita's City Attorney's or City Manager's would suggest... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 4 hrs. ago.
Good question, especially given that if Metrolink retains liability the risk is spread over a much... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 10 hrs. ago.
It is pretty funny logic, as you point out. Digitial billboards mean no greater risk of accidents... full comment »
posted: ~ 1 day, 11 hrs. ago.
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