On Nov. 3, Santa Clarita Valley voters will decide whether to create a separate city. At the same time, voters will chose among 25 candidates for a five-member city council. To shed light on the issue, The Times asked representatives for and against the proposed city of Santa Clarita to write guest columns. Anthony J. Skirlick Jr. of Valencia is a founder of the Citizens Against Cityhood, which opposes incorporation. He is an air traffic controller. Connie Worden of Newhall is spokeswoman for the City of Santa Clarita Formation Commission. She is a planning consultant.
The primary impetus for forming a city in the Santa Clarita Valley is to give residents an opportunity to control their own destiny and to protect the quality of life and life styles they came here to enjoy. Santa Clarita Valley is geographically separated from the San Fernando Valley and is a lovely area of populous canyons, steep mountain ridges, and flood plains, all of which are being impacted by rampant, ill-thought-out development.
An integral part of our heritage is the belief that government is best that is closest to the people. Cityhood has been accomplished 84 times already in Los Angeles County alone, so the change is hardly revolutionary. Without the creation of municipal government, the area will simply become another San Fernando Valley, which the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley view as a series of overbuilt developments, clogged arterials, mini-malls and garish billboards.
Let's examine life in the Santa Clarita Valley today. The rapid growth has brought more than a few bottlenecks. There are congested streets, overcrowded schools, threats to the water supply and a disappearing quality of life. Let us see:
SCHOOLS--Rapid growth has created overcrowding of the schools and a pent-up demand for more classrooms. There is currently no mechanism for building schools. In June, 1987, out of frustration and the need to protect the present quality of education, the public by an 85% majority voted to assess developer fees for new construction.
ROADS--Because of rapid development and an inadequate funding base, road assessment districts have been formed to build needed routes. Even if all the roads projected as needed by the Los Angeles County Public Works Department are built, "six major intersections will be at failure" said Lou Muto, department assistant director, in 1986. It means that a type of gridlock will occur. The City of Santa Clarita must find a solution for roads; the county doesn't have one.
WATER--Water experts say at the rate growth is occurring, we will run out of water in 1991 unless a guaranteed source of water is found. While a new city will not take over the water districts, certainly the attitude toward growth will impact decisions on water needs. Growth won't occur without an adequate water supply.
EMERGENCY SERVICES--The new city would contract for fire, paramedic and sheriff services from L.A. County just as 37 cities already do. There can be, by law, no diminution of services and the city can tailor these necessary services to meet their individual needs.
A five-person city council, elected at large, is not a huge legislative body. These people would be responsible to the Santa Clarita Valley voters and would easily be held accountable. Yes, developers could "buy off" city council persons if we were to elect some culpable ones. But, through the recall method, we could easily throw the rascals out of office! If everyone in the Santa Clarita Valley believed our supervisor was in the hands of any special-interest group and tried to vote his ouster, it would still only be 5% of the 5th District voting public, and would matter very little.