Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Looking For a Few Good Leaders
Published in The Signal, 9-11-2005.

Darryl Manzer, 2005     It sure is good to know that public agencies in the Santa Clarita Valley — in this case, College of the Canyons — has the same insane "rules" to buy land that prevail in most other states.
    Let me see here: An initial offer or appraisal of $2 million has ballooned to $6.25 million. What really seems at fault is that the board moved too slowly. Land prices all over are inflating at a fantastic rate. Isn't it "buy low, sell high"? The party selling the parcel made true the adage, "There is a sucker born every minute." Just how did y'all get that many suckers on a college board? Import them from Virginia?
    Here's an idea that has done much to revitalize downtown Norfolk, Va.: Tidewater Community College located a campus in the downtown. Now, that would do much, if COC could locate a campus in downtown Newhall. I'll bet they wouldn't have too pay much for the property, either. For $6.25 million, they might be able to buy four or five blocks. It could mean English would once again return to downtown Newhall as the language most in use. (If COC has any classes in English; they sure could use some in real estate).
    Whilst I'm thinking of educational institutions, can y'all believe that Hart High is 60 years old? Happy birthday, Hart High! I just read an article where an alumnus was quoted as saying how beautiful the campus looks since the Army barracks are gone. How could he tell? With all the "portable" classrooms out front the campus, it looks part refuge camp — and all ugly. Maybe if they painted the "portables" in school colors or had murals painted on them or, better yet, removed them, the campus would look better. In the "curb appeal" department, Hart scores a big zero. Will West Ranch High School take the overload of Hart and enable those eyesores to be removed? We can only hope.
    And just where did the new junior high school get the name, "Rancho Pico"? My reading of history tells me that no "Rancho Pico" ever existed. I think the schools near Pico Canyon should be named "Felton." The original Felton School still exists in Mentryville. It makes sense to me.
    Of course, the elementary schools near Pico Canyon are on Stevenson Ranch. I don't understand that, either. The only thing I've ever seen raised on that "ranch" is houses. Long before that, some folks had some cows and a small hay field. Most of it was owned by The Newhall Land and Farming Co. I'm sure there is a logical explanation for the names. One that, I'll bet, is a lot more logical than how the COC board explained buying land in Canyon Country at more than three times the original appraisal.
    Public trust is earned through leadership. We seem to have a deficit in leadership at the elected and appointed positions in all levels of government. We do have plenty of managers. Somehow they "manage" to get re-elected and re-appointed without much effort. Given time, and enough money, anyone can manage to do anything. A real leader can convince folks to do just about anything with little or nothing to start with at all.
    These past couple of weeks have been great testament to the managers of our government. One need only look at the Gulf Coast region to see how the managers have botched efforts to protect and serve the public before, during, and after Hurricane Katrina. Sure, they are managing to get the recovery started. They managed to move people out of New Orleans. They are managing to get the water out, too. Barely.
    Mangers risk nothing. They follow established rules and regulations to do the job. They seldom challenge those rules and regulations. I saw the video of those 200 or so school busses sitting in a flooded New Orleans parking lot. I imagine the school superintendent said that all the qualified bus drivers had evacuated the city and nobody was available to drive the buses. The managers said "OK" and forgot about it. A real leader would have said, "Surely in a city this size we can find enough folks to drive those buses, with or without the proper credentials, and get folks moved out of the city." If each bus could have each carried 50 folks to higher ground, another 10,000 folks could have escaped Katrina.
    A leader can find a snowball in the Sahara Desert and convince a passing camel caravan to take that snowball anyplace in the world — and convince the caravan to pay for the privilege of doing it. A manager would maybe find the snowball and then take bids on how much to pay for getting it transported.
    Leadership on the COC board would have said, "Take our offer on the $2 million appraisal or we'll look someplace else." Somehow they "managed" to pay more than three times that.
    Leadership isn't easy and often isn't popular. Gen. Patton wasn't popular with his troops or at home, but he was a leader. Much of the same can be said for Presidents Truman, Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan. In 1861, half of the country tried to secede from the Union because a leader, not a manager, was elected. Thank God for the results of that election. (I hope my Virginia neighbors don't read this!)
    Above all, a leader is trusted. How many elected or appointed officials in government today can you say you really trust? If the news of the last two weeks is any indication, your list of trusted leaders just got a lot shorter.
    Be it a catastrophic disaster like Hurricane Katrina or the purchase of land for another campus for COC, we must have leaders who hold the public trust. Where are they when we need them?

    Darryl Manzer lived in the Santa Clarita Valley oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s as a teenager. He now lives in Virginia.

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