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Wobbling
January, 2019 - Issue #172
The annoying forward-march of time continues: Santa Clarita, meet 2019. If I've learned one thing about this time of year, it's that we're supposed to pause, take stock and reflect. Subjecting yourself to such an examination sounds terrible. Instead, let's focus Santa Clarita. The City turned 31 on December 15. True to form, the lines are beginning to show and life decisions are starting to be questioned. A lot has changed over the last year, but it's not clear if we're seeing the "new normal" or merely normal wobbles from the status quo.

Politically Blue
Coastal California is liberal and inland is conservative. And Santa Clarita is in-between in both regards, especially after November's elections. The City Council kept the same conservative-ish incumbents and Claritans showed relatively conservative leanings on some propositions. However, the once red 38th State Assembly District and 25th Congressional District wobbled blue as voters chose Christy Smith and Katie Hill over incumbents Dante Acosta and Steve Knight.

Hill became something of a media darling during the campaign. The New Yorker wrote a puff piece, she was featured in the Vice documentary series "She's Running" and she garnered celebrity endorsements. Hill captured attention with her candid take on topics as diverse as fundraising ethics, her bisexuality and even having, allegedly, "resting 'b' face." Knight was all but invisible by comparison. Some criticized Hill for not knowing about the Cemex mining issue during a debate, and KHTS owner Carl Goldman asked, "Is she lacking Santa Clarita 101?" Hill spoke more to broader issues, a strategy that apparently worked. Whether Congress rep Hill represents the new normal in Claritan politics or an anomalous Democratic wobble can't be answered for two more years.

A Fiery Future
The Camp Fire that roared through Butte County became California's deadliest, but the effects of the Woolsey Fire were felt much more palpably in Santa Clarita. Smoke drifted ominously overhead. Many Claritans opened their homes to friends and family who were among the tens of thousands forced to evacuate Los Angeles and Ventura Counties. Two full crews of Santa Clarita firefighters went to help control the blaze.

After the deaths and devastation, blame wobbled all over the place: land management practices, global warming, construction in high-risk areas, chance... Right now, there is a growing focus on ignition sources. Eerily, just one day before the Camp and Woolsey Fires began, The International Journal of Wildland Fire published a study that highlighted the role of human activity in igniting most of California wildfires. Powerlines were identified as particularly-problematic ignition sources. Southern California Edison recently announced that it wants to implement over a half-billion dollars in risk-reducing improvements to the electricity grid, courtesy of ratepayers. Edison is facing a number of lawsuits that blame it for starting the blaze. If it really is at fault, improvements are coming much too late.

2020 Vision
Near the end of the year, City Manager Ken Striplin wrote about the "Santa Clarita 2020" strategic plan. Progress towards long-term goals has included widening the Golden Valley Bridge and increased support for the arts. The future seems clear and the path to it is straight. But what about wobbles along the path? Whether Cemex mining happens is now in the hands of the Interior Board of Land Appeals, chapter 238 (at least) of Santa Clarita's most boring saga. Traffic seems worse, doesn't it? What happens to Newhall if next year's planned opening of the Laemmle Theatre fizzles in popularity? Is the homeless plan actually working?
The truth is that Santa Clarita is inherently a wobbly sort of place. Just think about out incoherent politics. In 2018, we became the first city in Los Angeles County to oppose California's sanctuary status for illegal immigration - but we also voted Republican incumbents out of office. Things change and other things change back. We don't all heart the same things about the SCV in 2019 - and that's what makes for an interesting year ahead.
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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