I Heart SCV
How we do News
May, 2015 - Issue #127
A church fish fry recently made the front page of The Signal. Yes, Lenten dinner was one of the top stories in a valley of a quarter-million people. It's all too easy to assume that the rest of our local news is just as quaint, but this is certainly not the case. In addition to battered cod, 2015 has seen murder, school scandals and unprecedented citizen-driven movements in the SCV. These stories are few and far between, but they happen. And that's the problem with the news in Santa Clarita: it's boring until it's not. The only solution is to suck it up, scan all the news sites and repeat daily. That plan might not be entirely realistic, but it's clear that the current state of news consumption leaves much to be desired.

The Last to Know
You might recall that last month, I covered the uproar from Stevenson Ranchers over plans to dispose of salty brine in wells dug near their homes. Well, they triumphed. Santa Clarita's sanitation board decided to look for brine disposal well sites elsewhere in the valley. The problem is that the regional water quality control board has threatened Santa Clarita with fines if it doesn't move quickly (We've already been fined a couple hundred thousand dollars in the past.) and the environmental impact report for new sites is going to cost quite a bit of money. The whole affair could cost millions, which is unfortunate considering that people could have made their voices heard earlier to avoid futile planning efforts.

Whether we blame news-ignorant residents or insufficient outreach from the sanitation board is up for debate, but it's going to cost ratepayers regardless. This story is far from dead. Questions about earthquakes triggered by deep well brine disposal remain open, and a solution must be determined in a matter of months to avoid fines. Let's hope all those who stumbled across the story recently stay engaged, because uncertainties lie ahead.

Slave or Disgruntled Employee?
In late March, diners at a local restaurant learned that their food might have been prepared by an Indian slave. That was the accusation made based on information from a chef at Tandoori Grill. In conversations with another worker, he claimed that he was kept in captivity by the restaurant's owner, regularly beaten and made to cook for scarcely any pay. This news spread like wildfire. Within minutes of the story going live, people were talking about how they'd never eat at the restaurant again. Others wondered how they had missed the clues at their last dinner there.

The trouble is, as with so many news stories that spread quickly online, few people read past the headline. Even fewer shared the follow-up story, in which the LA County District Attorney Office did not file charges against the man accused of human trafficking due to insufficient evidence. Who dropped the ball here? Did authorities arrest a man on unreliable reports? Did the DA let a case of human trafficking go unprosecuted? It's unclear, but the story is certainly more complex than you'd get the impression of by reading headlines and banter online.

Perks of Being Informed
There are a few bright spots in today's news culture, though. Take #SCCouncil. Tweets with that hashtag begin popping up two Tuesdays a month - whenever the Santa Clarita City Council meets. I use it, but so too do legitimate reporters like Luke Money and Perry Smith. It lets you follow along with meetings in real time, getting news and commentary as they happen even if you aren't able to watch because of the soccer game/dinner meeting/commuting you're preoccupied with.

And there are definite perks to staying apprised of all the local goings-on. At the last meeting, the City Council voted to end its contract with Redflex, the company which operated the red-light turn cameras at local intersections. As of April 1, even if you ran a light, you'll no longer get a $490 ticket - no April fooling, at least as long as a Sheriff's deputy didn't catch you. This news shouldn't lead you to drive illegally, but on the off chance that you goofed and ran a red, now you've been saved weeks of stressing in anticipation of getting a ticket in the mail. Hearting SCV enough to follow the news is reward in itself.
This column is intended as satire and a (sometimes successful) attempt at humor.
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