City Council Candidates Forum

Interview by Leon Worden
Signal City Editor

Sunday, April 11, 2004
(Television interview conducted March 29, 2004)

Candidates Forum
From Left: Tim Whyte, Henry Schultz, Cameron Smyth, Bob Kellar.

    "Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast and premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
    This week's newsmakers are the three candidates for two open seats in Tuesday's Santa Clarita City Council election: Mayor Bob Kellar, Councilman Cameron Smyth and challenger Henry Schultz.
    The following is a transcript of a candidates forum held March 29, moderated by Signal Managing Editor Tim Whyte. Questions are paraphrased and answers may be abbreviated for length.

Signal: Tell us briefly about your candidacy.

Kellar: Four years ago I was fortunate enough to be elected to the City Council and there were three things that were made very clear at that time. They still remain that way today. (They are) what I call the Big 3: the cross-valley connector, the Whittaker-Bermite contamination issue we have in the middle of our town, and the Transit Mixed Concrete proposed mine in the eastern reaches of our community. These are three huge issues for this community.
    Addressing the cross-valley connector, this town has said many times — citizens from throughout, on every survey — roads, roads and more roads, to alleviate traffic congestion. With that in mind, the council four years ago unanimously approved the cross-valley connector as the highest-priority road to be completed. ... We are about three-fourths of the way complete with that road today.
    We have also made extremely important inroads on both the mining project and the Whittaker-Bermite cleanup. I know my time is limited; I have more to say on that if given the opportunity.

Cameron Smyth
Cameron Smyth
Smyth: Four years ago I promised to manage growth, build more roads, acquire more parks and open space, create local jobs, and help improve local schools. We did that. But I am most proud to have led the effort to put our trash contract out to bid, which resulted in a $30 million savings to the residents of Santa Clarita.
    Over the past four years we have slowed home construction within the city boundaries, we have acquired over 2,000 acres of open space — including the expansion of central park and the opening of the new Aquatic Center in Canyon Country — we have created upwards of 20,000 local job opportunities within the city, and we have built more and more roads and improved our road construction, along with seeing five new schools open in the city.
    While I am proud of our accomplishments over the past four years, I know a lot more work needs to be done, and that's why I'm asking for your vote on April 13, to send me back to City Hall so I can finish what I started and keep Santa Clarita the premier city it is today.

Schultz: I'm running on a platform that involves growth. What we're looking at here is a difference between what we call "smart growth" and stupid growth.
    Smart growth involves having each new project that comes out pay its own way in infrastructure — in other words, there will be a net gain of infrastructure after the projects, as opposed to a project where when you're done, things are more crowded than they were before, there's more cars on the street, and there are more schools that are overcrowded. Many of our schools are at twice their design capacity...
    As a person with management skills, I've previously been on the Parks and Recreation Commission, I served on the Transportation Committee for the city, (have) been on the Boy Scouts, and have lots of years of community service in the Sierra Club. I hope that you will give me your vote, and in fact I hope that you will bullet-vote for me in this election so that we can bounce one of the two — very nice gentlemen — but we'd like to replace one of them.

Signal: What is bullet voting?

Schultz: Bullet voting is, in (this) case, we have three candidates. If I am the candidate that wants to win, it would be better, if you have two votes, because there are two positions, just to vote for one of them — that's me. That means that the other two guys don't get any votes, and I have a better chance of winning.

Signal: What do you two think of bullet voting?

Smyth: I think that politically, it's a strategy, and I won't necessarily say it's a bad strategy, (but) I question the ethics of it when you're encouraging people to not exercise their right to vote for two candidates when you have that opportunity. But it is a strategy, and I understand Mr. Schultz's desire to follow that route.

Kellar: I think the voter has a right to vote once or vote twice. I personally will be voting (for two candidates).

Signal: Tell us about yourself.

Smyth: I (was) born and raised here in Santa Clarita. I'm the only candidate who is, and I'm the only member of this current City Council (who is). I've been married to my wife Lena for going on five years, and we just had our first son, Gavin, who is about five months old. That's what is really important to me. ... My family moved here for a better quality of life for my brother and (me), and I want to keep that going for my son and my family.
    I work in the public affairs department for Shell (Oil Co.).

Henry Schultz
Henry Schultz
Schultz: I was born and raised in L.A., went to L.A. City schools, ended up going to school at Berkeley, ended up finally teaching mathematics at the University of Michigan, worked at Lockheed Skunk Works. I've been with 3D Systems here in Valencia (and) CADAM Inc. I now work for Amgen Inc. as a research scientist. My experience has been mostly engineering-related, and I have a lot of management experience.

Kellar: I spent 25 years (with) the LAPD, retiring in 1993. I moved out here in 1979 and really have thoroughly enjoyed living in Santa Clarita. Having been raised in the San Fernando Valley, I've seen some things that obviously have caused me to want to do things a little differently out here in Santa Clarita. Presently I make my living (as) a Realtor. I'm co-owner of Kellar-Davis Real Estate in the Canyon Country area. ... I'm involved with several philanthropic organizations and various activities which I enjoy very much.

Signal: Henry, you said your chief issue is growth. What's the second most burning issue for you?

Schultz: There's a number of different issues that are burning. I think open space is my favorite. My vision for the city is that everything from Placerita through Whitney Canyon, through Elsmere Canyon, through all the ... Santa Susana canyons all the way up to (state Route) 126 should all be publicly owned open space. Things like Placerita Park, which is currently a county park, should be annexed by the city.

Signal: How would you go about acquiring the open space?

Schultz: Actually we're well on the way to it. We just acquired 400 more acres of Whitney Canyon, so most of that's in public ownership. There's only about 400 more acres of Elsmere Canyon that need to be acquired, and maybe 3,000 acres of Orcutt Ranch up in the High Country of the Santa Clarita Woodlands.

Signal: Bob, what is the most important issue to you?

Kellar: It's Whittaker-Bermite, because of the contamination — 1,000 acres up there that have tremendous contamination. We have been dealing with that problem unlike ever before. We have the multi-jurisdictional task force focusing on that. We have all the people seated at the table, coming together and addressing this in a very responsible, organized fashion, and we're making headway.

Signal: How does Whittaker-Bermite affect the voters?

Bob Kellar
Bob Kellar
Kellar: It affects us from a number of perspectives. One is, it's 1,000 acres in the middle of town that can't be utilized for any purpose. We need to get another road across that. The Via Princessa-Wiley Canyon linkage needs to go through that property. Additionally, it can produce some additional jobs to this community. It can open up great opportunities for our citizens. We have got to get that land cleaned up for the protection of this community, and we're going to do it.

Smyth: (The top issue) to me is growth. I was born and raised here. I've seen a lot of the changes that have gone on with the growth. Not all of it has been good, certainly. I think that's one of the reasons why we became a city, to have much greater control over the growth within our boundaries. ... I took (the) position when I ran four years ago that I would not approve any project that didn't have adequate infrastructure including roads, schools, parks and open space, economic opportunities, and I've held true to that, and have not supported any projects that did not bring that to the table. In fact, we have actually slowed the growth within the city boundaries much more than what you see in the county. I think that's the biggest issue — trying to manage that growth outside the city, and the impacts it has on us in the city.

Signal: We've been hearing the phrase, "smart growth." To the people who coined the term, it includes higher density clusters and leaving the open space alone, and mixed residential and commercial uses. What city-approved developments do you consider "smart" and which do you consider stupid? Cite examples.

Kellar: I'm having a little trouble (identifying stupid projects) inside the city. We have a shopping center over there in the Valencia area that I think is too congested, not sufficient parking. I know you're talking about housing —
    I'll give you (an example of a good project) that the city had coupled annexation with, that's the Golden Valley Ranch project. It started out with 1,300 homes (in) three pods (and a four-lane) road that went all the way from (SR) 14 over to Placerita Canyon. When we approved that project, there was only one pod left of three pods, 495 homes and a commercial element which the Canyon Country folks have repeatedly said that they wanted additional shopping opportunities in Canyon Country. That is an excellent project and we're proud of it.
    I'll tell you (one I didn't like) and I could not vote on it. I was not real comfortable with the Thompson Ranch project, due to the amount of grading and the density of that project in Canyon Country. It was one I had to recuse myself from due to some business matters. But I felt that there was just too much density with that project.

Smyth: I would agree that the Golden Valley Ranch project is a real solid example. I opposed that the first two times it came to the City Council because of the reasons I stated — until the developer came back and said, "We're going to put 900 acres in permanent open space, we're going to do a school site, we're going to do a potential hospital pad, we're going to put some affordable-income home for seniors." So I would agree that the Golden Valley Ranch is a real good example.
    One that I don't agree with would be the current development (agreement for) the Porta Bella or Whittaker-Bermite site. That site has been approved for roughly 2,900 homes, and I oppose that. Fortunately we have an opportunity to continue that opposition and hopefully get something better in there than something a previous council had approved.

Schultz: They picked the only good one that's there, which is the Golden Valley (Ranch) — that's basically the only one I would think of that would have any chance of being a "smart" project. But there's lots of bad ones.
    North Valencia annexation, where Bridgeport is, and the lake, that was a bad project. ... The lake is not even self-servicing. The project didn't provide enough open space. It provided lots of congestion. When I wrote a response to that (environmental impact report), one of the things I pointed out is that they had not enough (traffic) lanes, and the response in the EIR (was), it's not a problem. That's the response you always get in the EIRs: It's not a problem.

Signal: How are your campaign signs faring? Are they disappearing?

Smyth: Unfortunately, some are. Unfortunately, that's part of the gamesmanship, I guess, in campaigns. I will say certainly some are victims to random acts of vandalism, but unfortunately I think some are being taken down intentionally.

Schultz: I have been putting up signs in Santa Clarita for about 12 years for campaigns, and this is the worst I've ever seen it. I've had literally dozens and dozens of signs go down. I've watched them being torn up by people, I've seen them pulled down —

Signal: Whose signs did you witness coming down?

Schultz: It was my sign. But I've also witnessed — I haven't witnessed, but I've seen where Cameron's and my signs were together, and the next day they're gone.

Kellar: I've not lost a one, but keep in mind, I have not put any of the yard signs up anywhere in the city. They don't need to be found in the yards. I only have the large 4x8's, and of course I have the permission of each and every property owner, and therefore I have had no problems whatsoever.

Signal: Henry, how much do you think it's going to cost to win a City Council seat in 2004?

Schultz: Well, it's exactly how much I'm spending, which is about $5,000. That should be sufficient. I know that my friends here have raised a lot more money than I have —

Kellar: I'll tell you that on the 14th. ... I will be spending somewhere in the proximity of $60,000.

Smyth: I'm going to spend what I think I need to, to win. I'd say probably in the $50,000 (to) $60,000 range.

Kellar: I have been in receipt of considerable funding for the election. And I will tell you, I am honored and flattered that so many people would have an attitude to keep me in office. I take the money and I accept it and I thank them for it and I'm going to put it to use.

Smyth: I think it's important to know that we have a donation limit of $360, so we're not getting $1,000 checks (or) $5,000 checks. I'm raising my money (at) no more than $360 per donation, and again, the fact that Bob and I have raised that money at that level is a show of the support, I think, that we have.

Signal: A couple of years ago, political action committees (PACs) came in and spent money on behalf of candidates at the last moment. Do you anticipate that happening this time?

Schultz: I haven't got a clue. When it happened in the last election, it came right out of nowhere. Someone just put up a bunch of money and sent out a bunch of mailers, and even the people who were on the mailers didn't know that they were going to be on the mailers.

Kellar: They always have. Are they (this time)? I don't know.

Smyth: The reason why PACs can spend more than the $360 is, they do it independently from the candidates and the candidates' campaign, thus precluding them from being part of that $360 rule.

Signal: How can the City Council exert more influence over growth outside city limits, and what can be done to relieve gridlock inside the city?

Kellar: We've been working on that (influencing growth outside city limits) as best we possibly can. We've been working with (the Los Angeles County Local Agency Formation Commission, or LAFCO), trying to get an approved sphere of influence. We've been hitting a stone wall on three occasions now with that endeavor.
    We have worked with citizens outside our borders to encourage them to annex into the city if they're so inclined. I believe a number of them are. That way, we can continue to work effectively for everybody, and we do not become split as they have in the Palmdale-Lancaster area in fighting one another. I'm very encouraged by the progress we've made, and we'll keep going and hopefully increase the size of the city through that means.
    "Roads" is a huge issue. ... The cross-valley connector has been a focal point of this council on a 5-0 (vote) four years ago. We're making tremendous progress on that road, and when that is opened up, we will be able to alleviate a tremendous amount of traffic from existing roads as we know them now.
    (The cross-valley connector runs 8 1/2 miles, connecting SR 14 with Interstate 5 at SR 126, by way of Newhall Ranch Road and Golden Valley Road, at a cost of $244 million.)

Smyth: When I ran four years ago, the sphere of influence was something that I really pushed. The city gave it another try for a third time, and again we were defeated at LAFCO. So I think we have to try a different strategy, and some of that (is) to get landowners to see the benefits of annexing into the city prior to any development. Again I point to the Golden Valley Ranch project. That was something that was land (outside city limits), and it came into the city (and) went through the development process in the city of Santa Clarita.
    Right now, landowners feel it's easier to get projects (approved by) the county. The county requires less mitigation than the city, they feel. So it's easier for them to do that. We have to try to bring them in and show the benefits of being part of the city.
    The road issue — just to repeat Bob's comments, the cross-valley connector needs to be a top priority. It is not a freeway, as some have asserted. It's going to be a road much like Newhall Ranch Road is now. It's going to be an extension of that, which will help alleviate a lot of the traffic. We also have to do some improvements regionally. We've done some bridges, as well...

Schultz: The sphere of influence is very important, and the fact that we've been stonewalled a few times doesn't mean that we aren't going to go out and kick some more butt. I think we have to bring down the heavy hitters, maybe somebody like (U.S. Rep.) Buck McKeon, put some pressure on the county and LAFCO. That's really important.
    The city, if it wants to have a little bit of say in what's going on outside, should make resolutions. When you have projects like Newhall Ranch, the city should come out and say, "We oppose that project for the following reasons, and can you do something to alleviate that and make it better?" So that's a real important issue and I agree entirely with (the) two other candidates.
    On roads, unfortunately, the Santa Clarita Valley is ... geographically constricted. Roads go through pinch points. So whether you have a cross-valley connector or not — and the cross-valley connector is really not a straight-through connector; it's going to twist around along the edge of the river, it's going to have a flyover bridge — my view is that that $120 million or whatever it's going to cost should be put into making that an extension of Central Park, and somehow get the developer to either not build there or to build a reduced-density, maybe high-value project toward one end of the project (area) and save the other (end). Because that road is going to obliterate that area. It's not just that single road, there's going to be another road that cuts across it. There (are) going to be two bridges, eventually, going over the river, and that's a disaster for that area.

Signal: Is there anything you want to ask each other?

Smyth: Henry, you recently sent out a mailer with the header, "Are you tired of overcrowding?" It had a picture of a development. That development is not in the city of Santa Clarita. Do you not think it's misleading to the voters when you're putting out a picture of a development that is not a part of the city, that was not approved by this council?

Schultz: I have no problem at all there. That was at San Francisquito, which is just slightly outside the city. If you look at the picture, and you look around the city, you'll see that the picture looks pretty much like a picture you would take anywhere else. It's solid sprawl. So the fact that it's just slightly outside the boundaries, it's another project that is adjacent to the city.
    (Question): Bob, where do your corporate donations come from?

Kellar: Across the board. Small, medium and large businesses, from literally — I can't tell you how many — 75, 100, 200 companies.

Signal: The reports are on file at City Hall?

Kellar: Absolutely.
    (Question): Henry, I was checking some statistical information. The city, over the last three years, has spent somewhere approaching $340,000 (to) $350,000 (fighting) lawsuits from environmentalists that have cost the taxpayers that much money. How do we stop that from happening in the future?

Schultz: That's easy. The reason you get lots of lawsuits is because they're bad projects. The thing you need to do, if you don't want to get people suing you, is to do things right. And the reason that people sue — I'm not a real advocate of suits, I hate lawsuits. I found that out when working with Newhall Land: that the only way you could get Newhall Land to do something is sue them. Because they're a 500-pound gorilla. They don't have to listen to anybody except lawyers.

Smyth: I want to respond to that really quickly — when you say "do things right," those lawsuits have been tossed. The most recent one, on the Gate-King project, was just tossed, and was, quote, "without merit," from the judge. So I think the city is doing things right, and I would challenge the veracity of that statement.

Signal: Closing statements?

Schultz: I hope that everybody out there wants to get out of the mode of big business, big money, in the city government. I want you to have a place in the city government, want your voice to be heard, want to have your concerns about overcrowding, smog, schools. We need someone on the council that's going to stand for these issues, and I'm that person. I hope you bullet-vote for me on (April 13).

Smyth: Four years ago, I made several promises on my campaign. I kept those promises. I ask you to send me back again to City Hall on April 13 so I can continue the progress. Santa Clarita is my hometown. I was born and raised here. I'm raising my own family here. It's truly important to me that the decisions that are made for this city have a positive impact on ... our quality of life, because this is my community as well. So again, I ask for your vote on April 13.

Kellar: I also have been committed to this city from day one, and I will continue that commitment if I'm reelected. I have been involved with every aspect of this community having to do with the roads, Transit Mixed Concrete, the sphere of influence. Across the board I have committed to this city. And I will continue that fight on each and every issue as necessary. I also ask for your vote. I need your support. I think together, we will continue to make this city better and better for our families, with a high quality of life in a city that we can be very proud of.

    See the Santa Clarita City Council candidates forum in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.

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