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2 Anti-Cityhood Groups Surface in Santa Clarita

October 20, 1987|MAYERENE BARKER | Times Staff Writer

Two more organizations opposed to cityhood in the Santa Clarita Valley have surfaced, as voters continued Monday to receive anti-incorporation mailers from one of the groups.

It was unclear, however, who is behind either group.

Marilyn A. Wenburg, a Newhall resident, signed an anti-cityhood letter mailed to residents from the Santa Clarita Caution Committee. She said her group is made up of "concerned business people," but declined to name any of the people involved.

"Once the momentum against cityhood gets going, some more people will feel more comfortable with coming out against it," Wenburg said. "I just want the people to see both sides of the issue."

Dana W. Reed, treasurer for the second organization, the Coalition for the Right City, said the group's backers will be on public record after Thursday--the next deadline at the Los Angeles County registrar-recorder's office for campaign spending reports in the Nov. 3 election.

Registered with County

"We just don't normally release that information until it is filed with the county," said Reed, a Costa Mesa attorney who has a political consulting firm. Reed, former undersecretary of the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency in the Deukmejian Administration, said he has been treasurer for 200 or 300 ballot-measure committees.

"I fill out the forms and make sure everything is done correctly," he said. "That's what I'm paid to do."

The Coalition for the Right City has registered a statement of organization with the county, as required by law, while the Santa Clarita Caution Committee has not, said registrar-recorder spokeswoman Stella Matthews. She said organizations that have spent more than $500 must file the statement.

Wenburg said the Santa Clarita Caution Committee is now filing the proper papers.

The two latest anti-cityhood organizations apparently have no connection to Citizens Against Cityhood, a group that earlier this month persuaded a Los Angeles Superior Court judge to order that ballot arguments against Santa Clarita cityhood be mailed to all registered voters within the boundaries of the proposed city. The sample ballot received previously by voters included a statement in favor of cityhood but did not contain an argument against it.

Speculation ran high that developers were behind the two new anti-cityhood organizations, although several builders denied their involvement.

Big Money

"I would not be surprised if these groups don't form a single unit under the coalition," said Rita Garasi, a Canyon Country resident who headed a successful election campaign to impose taxes of up to $6,300 on developers to build schools.

Richard Wirth, spokesman for the Building Industry Assn. of Southern California, said the developers' organization is not openly opposing cityhood as it did the school tax measure. "But what developers do either independently or together is their own business," he said.

Statistics used by Wirth to challenge the proposed city's budget were almost identical to those contained in the letter signed by Wenburg. Both said that California cities with populations of 100,000 average about 787 employees, while the proposed city's budget of $16 million includes salaries for only seven or eight employees. Wirth added that the average budget for cities the size of Santa Clarita is $71 million.

Connie Worden, spokeswoman for the City of Santa Clarita Formation Commission, said cityhood backers expected the last-minute anti-cityhood drives. She called the opposing forces' charges "alarmist" and said she believes developers are behind both groups.

"They have some big money behind them," Worden said of the Santa Clarita Caution Committee, noting that it costs between $8,000 and $10,000 for one bulk mailing to all registered voters.

Wenburg said her group plans a second mass mailing before the election.

Anthony J. Skirlick Jr., a Valencia resident who filed the lawsuit against the county, said Citizens Against Cityhood members were approached by representatives of the Santa Clarita Caution Committee, but declined to associate themselves with them.

"We're a true grass-roots organization with all of about $350 in our coffers," he said. "This other thing is very, very much a political action committee."

Skirlick said he has forgotten the names of the man and woman who met with his group.

In a related development, a poll conducted for the Daily News found that 45% of the registered voters in the proposed city of Santa Clarita favor incorporation, while 31% oppose it. The poll of 401 voters, conducted Oct. 8-11 by Interviewing Service of America of Van Nuys, also found that 24% were undecided on the issue. It was published Sunday.

Art Donnelly, chairman of the city formation committee, said the poll shows that the number of undecided voters is decreasing. A poll of 450 people conducted by the formation committee in September found that 33% were undecided, he said.

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