'Stooge of the City Council' Gives Up His Title
By DARRYL MANZER.
Published in The Signal, 6-11-2006.
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Los Angeles County is huge. In land area, it is larger than more than 60 percent of the independent nations in the world. No kidding! It is that big. It is little wonder that the county supervisors created a system of "town councils" to help them govern such a vast area.
For the most part, the folks on these town councils serve without pay. They have a deep, emotional sense of caring and service to the townships and communities they serve.
I can tell this from the e-mails I get from them. They work long hours in jobs and professions that pay them, and then after getting home, they have meetings of the town council, various committee meetings and hours of phone calls to answer. They also have e-mail, letters and research to do in order to assist the county in providing services to the unincorporated communities.
Being a town council member is, from what I see, a thankless job. Critics often tell them what a "rotten" job they are doing and how they are "pawns" of the county of Los Angeles. I have not been too nice to the local town councils, either, but I have to remember that they care as much as I do about the Santa Clarita Valley even if we have a different way of expressing how we care.
Serving long hours with no pay tells much of the individuals who serve on the town councils. So, imagine how they feel when the city of Santa Clarita comes to them and tells them that being annexed is a good idea. "By the way, we're going to eliminate your town councils and give you better services and you won't have to use so much of your time providing what we will provide." Sort of like a company telling you that your position has been eliminated and you're being "let go" without a severance package.
It has to hurt those town council members emotionally when they hear the annexation offers from Santa Clarita. "Won't we get a say in the future?" "How do we know the City Council will care as much about West Ranch, Castaic, Agua Dulce, Acton fill in the blank as we do?" I don't have an answer for that.
In the late 1950s there was a move to unify all of the local school districts in the SCV. The Castaic Union School Board was leading the fight against unification, while the Sulphur Springs Board led the fight for it. At meetings all over the SCV, emotions were charged, but in the end it came down to retaining local control of the schools. The votes for unification failed to overcome those against.
"How could one school board understand the problems all over the SCV?" The people decided it couldn't, and they retained the original system to this day.
Unification failed because those who wanted it couldn't see that the folks in Castaic and Saugus already serving on the school boards of those townships, and the citizens of same, didn't want to give up what they already had a local voice in how the schools were run.
They didn't want to retain "power." They didn't want to retain "social standing." They just wanted make sure their children had the best education possible. They felt that by eliminating local school boards, it might not be possible.
They, too, served with little or no pay in those days. It was the individual serving the community that was more important.
I know this for sure. My mother was a Castaic School Board member at the time.
If the city of Santa Clarita is ever going to annex the rest of the SCV, it is going to have to find a way to harness all of the emotions and energy of the current town councils. Santa Clarita would do well to learn from the county of Los Angeles right now. Where is the city going to get folks as dedicated and hard-working without paying for them as the folks now on the town councils? Unless they are included in some form, annexation and unification of the whole SCV into one city will never take place.
Creating a new "northern Los Angeles County" is impossible. Even if Antelope Valley were included, there wouldn't be enough votes to make it happen. No, the answer is to unify the whole SCV into one city but that can't be done by excluding those now outside the city of Santa Clarita who care the most. They want to join the city but will not be silenced and pushed aside.
It sounds like the late 1950s all over again to me. Clear everything on the table right now and start fresh, folks. This fight will not go away anytime soon unless you start fresh.
All y'all recognize the advantages of the "One Valley, One Vision" concept. Santa Clarita must recognize the value of the town councils. It won't work any other way.
There goes my title as "Stooge of the Santa Clarita City Council." If this be heresy, so be it. There should be some great live-oak firewood available from those 5,000 acres being developed in West Ranch for when I'm burned at the stake.
Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. He now lives in Virginia.