Leon Worden

Schools, cops rule, cable TV drools

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, April 29, 1998

f it sounded like a bunch of candidates in the recent City Council election were reading from the same page when it came to roads, schools and crime, it's because they were.

Each year the folks at City Hall hire professional researchers to check the pulse of the community. Usually y'all tell the pollsters that you like your schools and police service, and that your cable TV sucks. This year was no different, except that you like your schools and police service a little bit more than before, and your cable TV a little bit less.

The latest poll results came out shortly before the start of the campaign season. That's why you saw quotes from school people and pictures of cop cars in the various campaign flyers that arrived in your mailbox earlier this month.

If any candidate had championed cable TV reform, he might be a council member today. I mean, what affects the lives of more Santa Claritans than cable TV?

An interesting corollary to the things you care about are the things you don't care about. The survey says you care less and less all the time about the proposed Elsmere Canyon Dump. That certainly didn't bode well for the candidacy of Elsmere fighter Marsha McLean.

The poll puts hard numbers to some local stereotypes. We often joke about the differences among our four communities, and invariably, some "Tell It to the Signal" whiner reacts by chanting the "We are one city" mantra.

We might be one city, but the differences are real. More baby-booming 45 to 54-year-old yuppies have "Come home to Valencia" than anywhere else, and more Valencians — 29 percent — have household incomes over $100,000. Canyon Country has a disproportionate share of lower-income families, although Canyon Country has potential for economic improvement when its above-average numbers of 25 to 44-year-olds move up the ladder.

More young adults, 18 to 24 years old, live in Valencia and Canyon Country than Newhall or Saugus. Older working adults, 55 to 64 years old, are evenly distributed throughout the city, while those 65 and older are concentrated in Canyon Country and Newhall.

As you might expect, senior citizens comprise the majority of those earning under $20,000, while none of the 18 to 24-year-olds surveyed reported an income over $100,000. One-quarter of those aged 25-34 are earning over $100,000. I'm definitely in the wrong line of work.

While Elsmere was slipping over the last three years, schools, police and fire services were capturing the public's attention. Even so, there are differences across communities. Saugus tends to think taxes should be used to fight crime. Canyon Country wants more youth programs. Valencia wants to concentrate tax dollars on schools, and Newhall wants to improve traffic.

If a bond were proposed today to build a new police station, parks facility or library, it might pass. A new performing arts center would be a toss-up. If the Council tried to build a new City Hall, they'd find that 80 percent oppose the idea. City staffers throw that last question in there every year, apparently in hopes the results will change.

Completing an east-west roadway is more important to people earning under $60,000 a year than it is to people earning over $60,000, even though people earning over $60,000 are more likely to commute. Forty-five percent of respondents say they work out of town, and of those, 45 percent would take a 10 percent pay cut to work here.

That's probably because Santa Claritans are planting deeper roots. People who have been here 10 or more years rose from 27 percent in 1996 to 32 percent in 1997.

Curious are the statistics that deal with the public's perception of city personnel. Eighty-nine percent of those who have contacted city personnel in the last year report a positive experience. This is way up from 57 percent a year ago. However, far fewer people — 20 percent in 1997 versus 29 percent in 1996 — came into contact with city personnel six or more times a year.

At least folks are figuring out where they live. This year only one in 50 city residents doesn't know whether he lives in Newhall, Saugus, Canyon Country or Valencia.

    Leon Worden is a Santa Clarita resident.

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