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By the Numbers
March, 2015 - Issue #125
Visit the City of Santa Clarita's website, and you'll find a very prominent banner proclaiming "Santa Clarita Named Number Three Safest City in America." In this case, the ranking was bestowed by Parenting magazine, but the source doesn't matter much - Santa Clarita is happy to take an accolade from anyone. The trouble is, Santa Clarita didn't feel like one of the safest communities in the country as 2015 got underway. There was a heartbreaking murder, multiple on-going trials for violent crimes and attention from the LA Times in a story headlined "Homeless youth bring bold, confrontational approach to Santa Clarita."

Despite the news and events, it would take a lot more for Santa Clarita's statistics to change appreciably. A few high-profile crimes, horrific as they may be, don't appreciably change per capita crime rates in a community with a quarter-million people. That's the thing about numbers: they're often at odds with our intuition. And it can be tricky to decide if we're going to trust our gut or the data.

Roll Up your Sleeve
When it comes to vaccinations at SCV schools, Mike Devlin's forcing the conversation. As a father of school-age children, he has a vested interest, and as a local politico and commentator, he has a knack for breaking stories people talk about. The measles outbreak this year led him to dig into reports from the California Department of Public Health about school vaccination rates. There are fewer exemptions than in previous years, but schools like Santa Clarita Christian have exemptions around 20 percent for kindergarten. If the exemption rate accurately reflects how many kids are indeed unvaccinated, this puts those schools past a threshold many consider dangerous. Infections can take hold and spread far more easily than in a school where almost everyone is vaccinated.

Somehow, perfectly sincere, well-intentioned parents can be found on polar-opposite sides of the vaccine debate. The numbers are out there, but they don't get everyone to act alike - interpretation is the key.

Twice as Responsible
Not all actions can be quantified, even when they involve numbers. The Santa Clarita City Council, now under the mayorship of Marsha McLean, recently had to split up committees among the various council members. Relative newbie Dante Acosta pointed out that he sat on four committees while veteran Marsha McLean had 10. That seemed quite lopsided, but it also matters which committee you're on. Sitting on the CEMEX Committee likely means flights to Washington, D.C. to lobby and lots of high-stakes meetings. Sitting on the Film and Tourism Committee might just mean a couple briefings. Council members want lots of committees, but even more they want the right ones.

Councilman TimBen Boydston said he felt that everyone should get seven committees apart from the mayor, who would get eight. They're all equals, he argued, so they should all share the responsibility. Mayor McLean disagreed: "Not everyone can have everything they want." The exception, it seemed, was McLean, who kept all of hers. It's supposedly a council of equals, but seniority shifts the numbers.

Shane Vereen Wins
There are about 30,000 public high schools in the United States and decidedly fewer winners of a Super Bowl. Therefore, the odds that a Super Bowl champion went to your high school are one in thousands. Therefore, the 2015 victory by the New England Patriots, whose Shane Vereen went to Valencia High School, was a once in several lifetimes event for alumni. Therefore, I hope all of you took your chance to say, "Hey, Shane Vereen went to my/my kid's/my third cousin's ex-girlfriend's high school!" Or maybe now it's phrased as, "we went to Shane Vereen's high school," since he's the one with a Super Bowl ring.

The running back made 11 catches in the big game. Footballs deflated or not, the Patriots could count on Vereen. So too can the SCV. His Twitter profile (@ShaneVereen34) proudly says "Valencia Viking Fighting" and he always has a kind word for his alma mater. By the numbers, 100 percent of Super Bowl winning Valencia High alums heart the SCV, which means 100 percent of current Claritans should, too.
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