It’s always sunny in Santa Clarita. And it’s almost always 100 degrees outside in October.
You couldn’t help but smile at the opening of the city’s annual State of the City luncheon video, which featured residents of all ages talking about the things they liked about living here.
Concerts in the Park. Good cops and firefighters. A business-friendly atmosphere. Hiking trails. The Cross-Valley Connector. Community events in Newhall. Kid sports programs.
Oh, and pretty flowers and nice stores, noted by two young shoppers at the mall.
In all seriousness, the yearly assessment is the City’s chance to remind people where their tax dollars are going and what’s on the horizon.
The packed ballroom at the Hyatt Regency stood at attention when Army Col. Joseph McDivitt, a 94-year old veteran honored for saving hundreds of lives by arranging the surrender of Nazi soldiers in Chiaso, Italy during World War II, led the flag salute. McDivitt is a long-time Santa Clarita resident.
City Manager Ken Pulskamp said that any success of the city is largely due to the teamwork and support of everyone in the room.
“I wish I could stand here and tell you that’s just because of the city, but I would not be telling you the whole story. Santa Clarita is a premier destination for business and for people to raise their families and it’s a collective effort of everyone in this room,” he said. Pulskamp and the rest of the council gave kudos to their auxiliary agencies, including the sheriff and fire departments, colleges, the Chamber of Commerce and various nonprofit organizations.
“Santa Clarita works well because of the efforts of us all,” he said.
One by one, council members outlined the accomplishments of their favorite areas. McLean, long a proponent of local libraries, started her presentation in front of the construction of the new Newhall Library, which is scheduled to open in spring 2012.
She also said that the local economy was looking good.
“We try to provide the programs our residents want and need as well as community project that enhance our quality of life. This year, the city has seen signs of improvement in the local economy with unemployment going down and retail sales going up. While this is a positive sign, we are cautiously optimistic and will continue to keep our expenditures below our revenues as well as to increase our reserve fund.”
She also expounded on the importance of communication, explaining every method of getting input to the city from stopping her at the grocery store to Tweeting and commenting on the city’s blog.
Mayor Pro Tem Laurie Ender took on the recreation issue, braving the skatepark and outlining programs at the Newhall Community Center, which involves an average of 400 people daily. She, too, emphasized the importance of community involvement.
“From the new libraries to dedicating the Fallen Heroes bridge, we did it together,” she said.
Although the council members all chided Communications Manager Gail Ortiz for warning them to stay on script, Councilman Frank Ferry took the liberty of thanking those gathered for their support when he was gravely ill last winter.
“I look a lot better alive,” he said, laughing, as the crowd applauded.
The area’s youth was Ferry’s focus and he hit the problem of heroin killing the youth in our community on the head, warning that it might only take one incident to hook or kill a young person.
“It’s being thrown out free,” he said. “If you’re a guy at a dance and a pretty girl says ‘try this,’ you’re gonna do it. And if you’re a girl and a senior guy offers, you’re going to say yes.”
He encouraged everyone to visit the heroinkills.com website for information.
Ferry highlighted the various youth programs sponsored by the City, including the Visions In Progress leadership group, the NOMAD art program and volunteer programs that teach life skills.
Following Ferry was Councilman Bob Kellar, who touted the fact that Santa Clarita currently has the lowest crime rate in its 24-year history.
“This is largely due to Captain Paul Becker and his no-nonsense approach,” Kellar said. “Crime is down 14 and a half percent, the lowest ever.”
Kellar led a brief tour of the sheriff’s station new Crime Prevention Unit, with its state-of-the-art information system and SmartBoard and talked about the success of the new zone program that breaks down the city and helps deputies share information.
He also lauded the eGraffiti reporting program, which has resulted in more than 200 convictions in the last year.
Councilwoman Laurene Weste chimed in on the “teamwork” credo, telling the crowd, ”Everything we do, we do together and that is why we do it better.”
Her video opened with the bountiful crops growing in the new Community Gardens at Central Park, where 80 residents have plots that they use to grow fruits, vegetables and flowers. The popularity of the program has resulted in 40 people on a waiting list.
Weste also pointed out that the Santa Clarita Valley Food Pantry benefits from the gardens, as extra produce gleaned is given to families in need in our community.
Known for her love of parks and trails, it was natural that Weste announced the addition of 4 miles to trails in Quigly Canyon; a half-mile in San Francisquito Canyon and another half-mile along the Santa Clara River trail. She also said that another mile of trails will be added to the local system when the trail project is completed near the railroad trestle at Edison Curve on Magic Mountain Parkway in 2012.
As always, the video ended with “outtakes” – McLean asking construction workers to move a library beam and paint it pink; Ferry attempting to skip down Valencia Boulevard, Ender riding a scooter for the shortest distance on video (a young skater tells her “Keep your day job”), Weste looking for her best angle on the porch of the garden shed and Kellar getting caught red-handed by CPU coordinator Sgt. Darren Harris with contraband sticking out of his back pocket.