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October, 2012 - Issue #96
It's a red flag when someone claims Halloween as their favorite holiday - well, anyone over trick-or-treating age. There just isn't a lot of substance to it. The build-up to Halloween consists of putting together a costume, the ornate butchery of large orange squash and buying candy. When the night arrives, you either take children on a long walk or go to a party. Unless I've been doing it wrong all these years, that's about it. If I had to guess, though, the air of unpredictability is what Halloween lovers crave. The costumes, haunted houses and nighttime spectacle are open to twists and possibilities both thrilling and terrifying. It's the unknown we eagerly embrace on Halloween, a notable exception to how we feel about it the rest of the year.

"He will STEP DOWN at the end of 2012,
mere weeks after Santa Clarita celebrates its

glorious 25th anniversary of cityhood."

Young and Old
Those who run nonprofits have a lot of experience with the unknown, including such pertinent unknowns as how much funding and donations they'll attract. Take Santa Clarita's Boys & Girls Club. They raised less than half of what they would normally expect at their annual fundraising auction, with many items selling for less than their actual value. This was revealed during a meeting to decide whether City funds would go to support the struggling Boys & Girls Club and the SCV Senior Center. And indeed, each group received $100,000. That may sound like a lot, but what it can accomplish is humbling. The SCV Senior Center alone will exhaust the funds simply by delivering meals to about 60 seniors for a year, many of them alone and homebound.

In the grand human tradition, Santa Clarita nurtures the young, cherishes the elderly, and tells everyone in the middle to have their stuff in order so they can pay for it all. This time, funding went from taxpayers to City to seniors, but those who'd like to know homebound seniors are being fed can always donate directly. Kick over a few dollars to the Boys & Girls Club, too, while you're at it.

A Ken for a Ken
City Manager Ken Pulskamp's manner is usually calm, straightforward and staid, but his recently-announced retirement has brought out a flair for the dramatic. First, there's the timing. He will step down at the end of 2012, mere weeks after Santa Clarita celebrates its glorious 25th anniversary of cityhood. Then there's the rhetoric. He has already expressed pride over helping shape the very "destiny" of our fair valley. And finally, there's Assistant City Manager Ken Striplin, his successor (except I don't think that's his official title in our Western democracy).

People almost reflexively say that Striplin was groomed or mentored - or some other vaguely patronizing verb - for the job of city manager. He was the only person interviewed for the position and was hired literally days after the official notice of Pulskamp's impending retirement. Having worked at City Hall for so long, he is a known entity, more of the same steady management. While it may seem less risky to avoid an unknown manager, this move brought risks of its own:
Will Striplin manage as expected, and was such an expedited hiring process prudent?

Mind of Clarita
You can pay people to do the work of making the unknown known, and that's exactly what the City did when they commissioned a public opinion poll to probe the innermost thoughts of 400 Claritans. Most of the poll revealed great faith in the governance and trajectory of the City of Santa Clarita. This stood in contrast to misgivings about the direction in which California and the rest of the US are headed. Social media made much of the fact that Applebee's is the restaurant we most covet to return to the SCV, according to the poll. When asked how the local government handled important issues, Claritans thought the City excelled most at parks, landscaping and providing shopping options. Marks were lower for attracting new businesses and jobs, maintaining roads and controlling growth.

The survey, results of which are available online, was fascinating, but I wondered about all the questions with answers that remain unknown. Can the average resident name the mayor? Are we headed in the right direction? Applebee's: Really? And I'd be remiss in failing to note the most egregious missing question of all: How much do you heart 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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