Tim WhytePauline HartePatti RasmussenRichard RiouxLeon Worden

Black N Whyte

Klajic places vendetta over SCV motorists' well-being

Tim Whyte · March 16, 1997

A friend of mine recently accused me of being a little too rough on Jill Klajic, Santa Clarita's abrasive councilwoman with the forked tongue.

So, as I prepare today to criticize her, I have made a conscious effort to put this in the nicest terms possible. With that sensitivity in mind, here goes:

Jill Klajic is vindictive, so vindictive that she would rather let you sit in traffic than improve local roads, just so she can carry out her misdirected vendetta against The Newhall Land and Farming Company. She will sabotage road improvement efforts, to the extent that she'll misrepresent herself, and this community, in Washington, so she can kick the developer in the shins.

Jill Klajic should be booted from office for her attempt to sabotage local efforts to secure federal road funding, although I suppose a recall is not too likely because, hey, everyone has their supporters.

Here's what we've been able to piece together about her most recent stunt:

Jill didn't like it when she was on the losing end of a 3-2 City Council vote last month in which the council decided to seek federal highway funding to widen Magic Mountain Parkway, extend Newhall Ranch Road and improve three interchanges along Interstate 5. The council asked Howard "Buck" McKeon, our local congressman, to pursue approximately $71 million for the projects.

McKeon headed back to Washington with the City Council's endorsement in his pocket, and went about the business of securing for Santa Clarita a piece of the federal highway funding pie.

Klajic says Newhall Land alone should pay for the projects, because, she contends, Newhall Land will be the primary beneficiary of the road improvements.

She feels so strongly about this that, without mentioning it to the folks at City Hall, she tried to submarine the road proposal by sending a letter to Rep. Bud Shuster, chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, asking that Santa Clarita's request be denied.

Congressmen get a lot of mail. We can only hope he doesn't notice Klajic's letter.

"I am writing to ask that you deny this request from Congressman McKeon's office," her letter says. "These freeway and road improvements are directly connected to the landowner's approved and pending development projects and should be paid for by the one developer who will profit most from the improvements."

She ignores several pertinent facts, and even makes up a few. (Who has ever heard of Sierra Highway being known as "the east-west corridor"?) Most importantly, she wrongly asserts that the road improvement funding is no more than corporate welfare. In fact, it is in the best interest of every Santa Claritan.

Klajic instead suggests the feds fund five other roads -- three of which, city sources say, are not eligible for federal highway grants. Nice homework, Jill. That'll impress those guys in Washington.

By the way. I know the letter accurately expresses Jill's sentiments, but I'd bet you dollars to doughnuts she didn't write it herself. I know: I've seen her raw copy.

At the end of her letter, Klajic makes an obligatory mention of the fact that she was in the minority on the council vote.

"I want to stress that this is a minority opinion on the council; however, I believe it to be the opinion of the majority of residents in Santa Clarita," her letter says. Where did that come from? "I believe it to be the opinion of the majority of residents...." She made it up. That's where.

It also appears as if she made up the letterhead upon which her letter was sent. In her first council term, Klajic got into a bit of trouble for sending letters, inconsistent with city positions, on city letterhead.

At first glance, this letter appears to be on city letterhead, too. But it's unclear whether Klajic used city letterhead or fabricated her own, misusing the city seal. On the left side it says, "Jill Klajic, Member of the City Council." We're told council members don't have individualized letterhead, which would mean she made it up. That in itself seems like an impeachable offense. At the very least, she sent a letter that will appear to be on city letterhead, speaking for the city, when in fact it is in direct conflict with a council decision. It's an apparent violation of council policy, and one could easily argue that it's unethical.

Back to the substance: It's true that the highway improvements in question will benefit some of Newhall Land's developments. And Newhall Land, like every developer, should pay its far share for roads. Heck, Newhall Land should pay more that the government-mandated bridge and thoroughfare district fees, given the local infrastructure deficit that exists largely due to previous development excesses. (For the record, where is traffic worse: On the side of the valley developed by Newhall Land, or the side developed by a hodgepodge of developers? Newhall Land isn't perfect, but who do you think built the roads in Valencia?)

These road improvements will benefit anyone who has as stake in the Santa Clarita Valley. The traffic they'll serve isn't only from Newhall Land projects -- it's from all over this valley, and beyond. And sabotaging federal funding for these projects will neither line Newhall Land's pockets nor create a single extra dime of road funding. It will have the opposite effect. With or without the cash from Washington, Newhall Land will in all likelihood pay the same amount -- however many millions that may be -- in road fees associated with its planned developments, including the 25,000-home Newhall Ranch west of Interstate 5.

With the luxury of federal funding, local government can take Newhall Land's bridge and thoroughfare district fees, and any other funds that can be coaxed out of the developer, and spend them on additional road improvements.

Without the federal money, Newhall Land's fees will go to the projects that Klajic wants the feds to abandon. She is doing all she can to make sure we don't get any "gravy" road projects. She'd rather have a Newhall Land notch in her belt than smooth-flowing roads for you.

You know what will happen? Politicians in Washington will see Klajic's letter and tell McKeon he's not getting a penny until his community can get its act together. They won't haggle over which road here should get funds; they won't get into such details. They'll see a community in disarray -- and inaccurate portrait painted by Klajic -- and reject us out of hand. We're too much work. Klajic's failure to recognize this -- or the fact that she doesn't give a damn -- indicates the vindictive behavior of an ineffective politician.

The money will not be saved. It will be spent elsewhere. Santa Clarita loses.

If that happens, a couple of years from now, when you're sitting in traffic and you have less time with your kids because the commute is absolute hell, you'll have Jill Klajic to thank for it.

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