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Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Tuesday, Nov 18, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieThe following is an open letter to L.A. County 5th District Supervisor Michael D. Antonovich.

Dear Mr. Antonovich,

I’ve been watching the members of the Castaic Area Town Council conduct themselves without regard for anything but themselves. That is exactly what is happening. And you and your staff are doing nothing to stop it.

First, the members of the Town Council have been advised that they do not have to file financial disclosure statements as members of the Castaic Area Town Council. If that’s the case, then they should not have the ability or authority to enter into contracts with any company on behalf of the county. Financial dealings should be done at your level, at least those contracts that potentially have a value of $350,000 per year.

All of that money is to be controlled by 10 people in the Castaic area who, as of the election last Saturday, had less than 250 voters total in a population of 19,000 or so. That isn’t right and it isn’t fair, and it is very wrong.

Hundreds of people in Val Verde have signed a petition to block the expansion of Chiquita Canyon Landfill. The Town Council almost voted to accept the offer for funds from the landfill – but it was not passed because they failed to have a 2/3 majority vote on the Castaic Area Town Council. (A 6-4 vote is only 60 percent, not 66.7 percent.)

So now they want to change the rule and hold the vote again. They want to change the rule so that a simple majority can approve a contract. That doesn’t happen with any other town council or with the Board of Supervisors. They also want to increase the maximum term of office to 16 years.

This change in the bylaws of the Castaic Area Town Council is to be voted on Wednesday. This is before the newly elected officers take over. Lame ducks are positioned to decide to let Chiquita Canyon Landfill continue to poison Val Verde.

Yes, I said “poison.” Voluminous documentation exists to prove that Chiquita Canyon Landfill has received all kinds of material not allowed in the current permit. This includes sewer sludge, waste products from the “sodium burn pit” at the Santa Susana Test Lab, and other material that is causing high levels of methane, arsenic, and in general a toxic soup to show up in most of the test wells on the site.

There are no results from off-site wells near the Santa Clara River. Those wells are scheduled to be used as a water supply for the homes to be built on the south side of that river, west of Magic Mountain.

Chiquita Canyon Landfill is quick to say there have been no violations of its permit. In light of that, I implore them to explain the 2011 lawsuit over illegal dumping at Chiquita. There are hundreds more. The residents of Val Verde will gladly show them to you. I’m sure you could have your staff arrange a meeting so the Val Verde Civic Association folks could share that information.

I know you’re going to hear that the Val Verde Civic Association enters into contracts and votes on all manner of things. Well, that organization is private. It isn’t a government organization.

I understand why the town councils were created. Simple math tells us each of our five supervisors represents nearly 2.5 million people. You need folks to advise you in each area. The problem begins when those folks, as elected, de-facto members of the county staff, start negotiating contracts, without having to file any financial disclosure statements.

We probably wouldn’t be here if the town councils been given a small stipend, let’s say $10,000 a year to operate. That isn’t much of a budget, but it might be enough to keep any conflict-of-interest perceptions out of the picture.

They need to be advised that they must file financial disclosure forms (Form 700).

Sir, it is obvious by the results of the Castaic Area Town Council election that folks don’t want the landfill expansion to be approved. Two incumbents who approved of the expansion were defeated. Simple math tells us that when the new members take office, it will be impossible for the Castaic Area Town Council to vote in favor of the expansion.

You should also know that people watching the polls were paid by an individual on the Castaic Area Town Council. There were also a number of members of the Castaic Lions Club who identified themselves as such and went door-to-door for candidates they wanted elected.

It is starting to look like Chicago-style elections have moved to Castaic. It has to be stopped. So here is my request:

1. The town councils are your advisors. Stop them from making any contract or changing bylaws next Wednesday, especially since they are all lame ducks.

2. Require them to file financial disclosure statements. This includes things as simple as having a dinner or lunch paid for by folks from Chiquita Canyon Landfill. Other town councils and just about anyone getting public funds has to file such a disclosure – even you. Hold them to the same standard.

3. Pay for the town councils and prohibit them from taking money in excess of any amount necessary to pay for a community event. The Castaic Area Town Council could do quite well on, say, $10,000 per year, since it now gets around $8,000 a year from the landfill in so-called charitable giving.

4. Look at how valid the councils are, since out of 19,000 eligible voters in the Castaic area, only about 250 showed up to vote. That is a little over 1.3 percent. Not exactly a mandate for any government organization responsible to all the voters, even those who didn’t vote.

Only 20 percent of all of the trash that is dumped in the Chiquita Canyon Landfill comes from the Santa Clarita Valley. A lot of it comes from Orange County, San Bernardino County and Ventura County. Yes, fully 80 percent comes from outside the Santa Clarita Valley, and over half of that from outside our own Los Angeles County.

Most of all, the Chiquita Canyon Landfill needs to follow the agreement of 1997 and close when it reaches current capacity or by November 2019, whichever comes first. That is what you personally required the landfill to do.

I don’t think that is too much to insist on for the folks of Val Verde, the rest of Castaic area, and all residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. We don’t need to host the second largest dump in the whole United States in our valley.

Respectfully,

Darryl Manzer

 

Darryl Manzer grew up in the Pico Canyon oil town of Mentryville in the 1960s and attended Hart High School. After a career in the U.S. Navy he returned to live in the Santa Clarita Valley. He can be reached at dmanzer@scvhistory.com. His older commentaries are archived at DManzer.com; his newer commentaries can be accessed [here]. Watch his walking tour of Mentryville [here].

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7 Comments

  1. Greg Kimura says:

    – As far as I know, the 60/40 vote stands and the contract with Chiquita Canyon is approved by the CATC and I believe has been signed. The attorney who was hired by the CATC told us this at the last meeting. In so many words, he said that the section about contracts in the bylaws only pertains to contracts for purchases or services. Some agree and some don’t, but this is what he told the board.

    – The change in bylaws won’t have an effect on the contract with Chiquita, because the CATC has been advised by an attorney that they don’t have to follow the 2/3 majority on this type of contract.

    – The change in the bylaws which allows up to 16 continuous years for a board member is being voted on by the town council.

    – My only concern about being funded by the county is that they would be able to push their agenda on us, since they are funding us. I also think that the residents and athletes do enjoy our annual fun run. As long as the sponsorship doesn’t feel that their contribution has an effect on the town council decisions, then I’m okay with it.

    Thank you.

    Greg

  2. John Patel says:

    The blame should be directed to he Los Angeles Regional Water quality Control Board. They establish the criteria for waste acceptance at Chiquita. In recent years the water board has expanded the amount of contaminants that may be accepted into municipal landfills including Chiquita.

  3. This guy needs a new mug shot!

  4. Susie Evans says:

    John Patel, the agreement says no sludge. Just because they call sludge by a different name when it shows up at Chiquita doesn’t mean it is not sludge.

  5. Greg Kimura says:

    Susie,

    Chiquita Canyon Landfill was given a Notice of Violation for accepting SLUDGE – it says it on the Notice of Violation. Their permit does not allow them to accept sludge. They also have a contract with the community of Val Verde, which says NO SLUDGE. The invoice which was given to Chiquita Canyon Landfill says SLUDGE. The residents of Val Verde are deeply concerned about the SLUDGE and what’s in it, because it is still at the landfill and they refuse to remove it. The landfill also told the community that they have tested the SLUDGE, but they won’t release the results to us.

  6. Susie Evans says:

    Thank you Greg for the clarification and additional information I did not know.

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