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Family Dynamics
November, 2011 - Issue #85
The unusual thing about Thanksgiving is that it's unusual. Sitting down with respectably-dressed family members at a well-furnished table and expressing gratitude for our blessings might just be a once- or twice-a-year event these days. I don't think the problem is that we've grown apart as families but that we've grown too close. Everyone's so comfortable and chummy around each other that our expectations are pretty minimal. We could eat together all the time, but we know what everyone else is doing anyways. We could dress for dinner like we would if we were heading out to dine with friends, but sweatpants are so much easier. It's not until extended family comes around at Thanksgiving that we bother putting out much effort.

The institution we call the American Family may be under threat elsewhere, but not in Santa Clarita, where the family is reassuringly common and comfortable. Part of the reason is that families here know how to look out for themselves.

Family Power
The House of McKeon is looking to spread its influence. Santa Clarita may be a little young for political dynasties, but astute local blogger Jeff Wilson has proclaimed that the McKeon Dynasty is beginning its ascendance. US Congressman Buck McKeon moved from the ranks of local government to his current title as Chairman of the Armed Services Committee - and now it's his wife's turn. Patricia McKeon wants to succeed a termed-out Cameron Smyth in representing the 38th State Assembly District. Factor in six children, enough grandchildren for a reality show on TLC and political ambition in the blood, and McKeon is a name you'll likely be seeing for a while.

Of course, she has to win political office first. And this is where a second, bigger, somewhat-less-harmonious family comes into play - SCV Republicans. Most prominent local Republicans have come out in support of Scott Wilk (who used to work for Buck McKeon) as Cameron Smyth's successor. Mrs. McKeon does have a couple key endorsements, though. Congressman McKeon chose to back his wife over Wilk, and County Supervisor Mike Antonovitch has also endorsed Mrs. McKeon. Mixing family with politics is nothing new, but it always complicates things, drawing questions about motivation and qualification. We'll find out the answers to these questions soon enough.

Family Business
Just as common as mixing family with politics is mixing family with business. And it also complicates things. Take the case of trash-hauling in Santa Clarita. There is a temporary-bins and roll-offs franchise with a membership comprising six enterprises. Many of those who run these enterprises live in Santa Clarita and raise their family here, making their living off the needs of the construction and entertainment industries. They have exclusive access to providing these waste hauling services in Santa Clarita.

Recently, through a complicated series of misunderstandings or misstatements, the city put out a request for proposals to join the franchise. They received applications from people like Tom Ybarra, who runs his own trash hauling service with his wife. But he didn't have much luck. Apparently, there just isn't enough trash to go around. People only throw stuff away when they're constructing lots of buildings or working on lots of projects, neither of which are happening in present economic circumstances. This worried existing temporary-bin providers, and they came before the city council to lobby for continued protection from new competitors until 2015. The city council may be conservative, but they were willing to ditch free market ideals and will allow the six current haulers to compete only amongst themselves for at least another several years. So while they continue their family businesses, people like Ybarra may be forced to start new ones.

Family Promise
There are only so many ways to run a charity event. The theme may be different, the catering better or worse, the donations with more or fewer zeroes, but it's always a night spent schmoozing with other society folks while applauding some noble cause or group. This is what makes the fundraising events of Family Promise of Santa Clarita Valley so refreshingly brilliant. To raise money to serve homeless families, Family Promise enticed donors with a simple, homeless-shelter-style meal and a night spent sleeping in a cardboard box (there were activities and entertainment as well, to be fair). In an effort to show the more fortunate what it's like living on the streets, they created a whole Box City on October 1. Anyone raising $100 and willing to walk a mile in another man's shoes - or sleep a night in his box - became the citizenry of Box City.

During this giving time of year, maybe we all ought to consider how our family can help support others who might be faced with homelessness, domestic violence, medical needs or special circumstances - what better way to show we heart the foundation of this place called SCV?
This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor. Suggestions, catty comments and veiled threats intended for the author can be e-mailed to iheartscv@insidescv.com.
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