I Heart SCV
A Timely Lesson in Conflict Resolution
November, 2008 - Issue #49
It's natural to get defensive in November. Let your guard down for but an instant and this month will eat you alive. There are limitless opportunities for getting into fights over politics, the last remaining must-have toy at after-Thanksgiving sales, or the proper way to prepare cornbread stuffing. Then there are battles over whether to watch football or sitcoms, who's hosting Thanksgiving, whether Thanksgiving dinner is an appropriate time to tell your brother what the family really thinks about his trashy fiancee...

But fear not. Many lessons about effective conflict resolution can be learned by looking in our own backyard.

Stick with Your Side
Politics is rarely a safe topic of conversation. This year, it will be even less so. We have state ballot measures covering gay marriage (Prop. 8), abortion (Prop. 4) and, most controversially of all, farm animal cages (Prop. 2). Factor in a contentious presidential election, and you can see how discussing politics all but guarantees conflict and confrontation.

A sure-fire way to avoid a fight is by only talking to people who think like you. With the recent openings of new Democrat and Republican headquarters in Santa Clarita, this is easier than ever. The Democrat office is situated along labor-friendly Lyons Avenue (look for a long line of bicycles and Priuses sporting "coexist" stickers parked outside). The Republican office is located many miles away in the industrial center, that bastion of big business (follow the pickup with a gun rack blasting country music). These headquarters will doubtlessly serve as safe havens for watching the results roll in on election night. Politically-minded Claritans can boo or cheer about Ohio going to McCain and Pennsylvania to Obama without fear of retribution.

The lesson is clear: by keeping headquarters on opposite sides of town, it's easy to stick with your side and avoid conflict in the first place.

Hospitals and the Art of Agreeing
In terms of local goings-on, nothing has proved more contentious than the Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital Master Plan. The most recently-revised plan calls for non-profit Henry Mayo and for-profit G&L Realty to build four parking structures, three medical office buildings, two helipads, and one towering new inpatient building on the hospital campus over the course of 15 years. It's an important project, but one that far exceeds zoning allowances for its quiet patch of Valencia. Thus, we have conflict.

At City Council meetings, things have gotten especially juicy when co-workers, friends, and neighbors find themselves on opposite sides of the issue. It must be especially awkward at the hospital itself, where there are doctors in favor of the expansion and those who oppose it. How is the conflict resolved? Well, everyone starts their speeches by saying that no one in the community disagrees about the need for a bigger hospital. Santa Claritans just can't agree about how much other stuff to build and what shape a hospital expansion should take. If you think about it, the sentiment is kind of nice: We all want to be sure that there's enough hospital to take care of Claritans in need. Unfortunately, agreeing that we'd like to keep each other healthy does little to resolve the issue. There is no solution other than to have it out in front of the City Council and see what happens.

Welcome Back, Tony
Tony Alamo, the septuagenarian evangelical preacher, fled to Santa Clarita after the Feds raided his church in the Arkansas town of Fouke. (Have fun pronouncing that one). They were investigating on suspicion of child pornography and child abuse. All Alamo had done was say things like girls should be married upon going through puberty, claim polygamy as a man's moral right, and run a secretive, secluded congregation.

Despite being such a controversial figure, Alamo has two lessons to teach us about conflict resolution. First, there will be few conflicts with others if you inspire cult-like devotion from them. Second, some fights are best avoided by flying to the other side of the country and holing up.

I'm sure Thanksgiving with Tony Alamo in his Mint Canyon compound will be the most interesting dinner in all of Santa Clarita that night. How exactly does one go about seating all his wives around the dinner table? And which one gets to cook the pumpkin pie?

How can you put all of these lessons in conflict resolution to use at Thanksgiving dinner? I'd suggest chatting about how much everyone hearts SCV. It's a safe topic and will make everyone feel warm and fuzzy even if they're really cold, bitter, miserable human beings. If conflict starts to rear its ugly head, though, here are your directions: Only talk to like-minded relatives, fly to Arkansas if the dinner table gets too unfriendly, but be ready to fight if there's no other way.

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
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