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November 14
1935 - Voters approve $22,000 construction bond to build a bigger Saugus School. WPA kicked in another $17,181. [story]
Saugus School


By Martin Macias Jr.

LOS ANGELES – When Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva took office Monday, he didn’t address how he would fulfill promises to reform a scandal-ridden department and ensure his officers serve all residents, including immigrants, equitably.

Villanueva, a Chicago-born retired LA County sheriff’s lieutenant who first joined the force in 1986, is the first Democrat and first Latino to wear the sheriff’s badge in the county in more than 130 years. He was the first to unseat an incumbent LA County Sheriff in 104 years.

Villanueva’s come-from-behind underdog victory surely benefited from strong Democratic voter turnout in the Nov. 6 election, but also hinged on progressive campaign promises to increase diversity in the ranks and “reform, rebuild and restore” the department.

But the usual campaign rhetoric shifted toward unusually progressive positions for a sheriff candidate.

Villanueva, 55, said he would cut ties with federal immigration authorities, promote diversion programs to lower the county jail population and oppose a $3.5 billion jail expansion.

Esther Lim, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California’s jails accountability project, said in an interview the progressive promises “are points that advocates clung to” but they’ll be quick to drop their support if Villanueva doesn’t follow through.

“It doesn’t end with the election,” Lim said. “Accountability will be important.”

Frank Zerunyan, an attorney and public policy professor at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, agrees.

“It’s one thing to run a political campaign and another thing to govern.” Zerunyan said in an interview.

Villanueva began work immediately, removing or demoting the undersheriff, eight chiefs and other department leaders in his first action.

At the ceremony Monday in front of a packed East Los Angeles College auditorium, Villanueva pinned stars on the collars of his new department leaders who he said “reflected the values and diversity of the county.”

Villanueva was not available for an interview, but his spokesperson Danny Leserman told Courthouse News the staff changes are part of a promise to review things meticulously and make the department “more efficient and accountable.”

At his swearing-in – which had the air of a political rally – Villanueva told the crowd he would kick U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement out of the county jail system, the largest in the country. The promise earned him endorsements from labor unions and community organizations like the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles.

“[Voters] have decided to make real a new vision for what law enforcement in our community should look like,” Villanueva said Monday. “This office belongs to [the people].”

Leserman said “ICE has no business being in the jails,” but added those in jail who are considered dangerous would be handed over to federal agents.

Former Sheriff Jim McDonnell firmly defended county collaboration with federal immigration officials during his time in office and opposed Senate Bill 54, which limits local police collaboration with ICE. Some say that position led to his defeat.

McDonnell initially refused to concede until vote tallies three weeks after the election showed Villanueva with an insurmountable 52 percent lead. McDonnell, who outraised Villanueva 8 to 1, became the first incumbent sheriff in over a century to be ousted in an election.

In a Nov. 27 farewell speech, McDonnell called himself “as apolitical as a person can be” and said Villanueva’s partisan rhetoric during the campaign was unnecessary and a distraction.

“Partisan politics has no place in policing,” McDonnell said. “It would be naive to say our work is not political, but you can’t have an agenda tied to a political party.”

But the sheriff’s seat was already politicized according to Mark Gonzalez, chairman of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party, which endorsed Villanueva for sheriff in the race – a first for the party.

“When you had a former sheriff who allowed ICE into jails and who took a negative stance on the Sanctuary State bill, that’s when the office was politicized,” Gonzalez said in an interview.

The party backed Villanueva with robocalls and on-the-ground volunteers to knock on doors across the county.

“This was about reform and holding [McDonnell] accountable,” Gonzalez said, adding voters wanted a change from the McDonnell’s “Trump-esque” values.

Zerunyan, an Armenian immigrant who served three terms as mayor of the LA County town of Rolling Hills Estates, called the county’s collaboration with ICE a “political” issue that Villanueva will have to learn to navigate.

“Should law enforcement collaborate with the feds on issues of criminal conduct? Absolutely,” Zerunyan said. “But when the conversation goes into the political spectrum it quickly becomes immigrant versus nonimmigrant. [Villanueva] is in a predominant Democratic county that is sympathetic to that political message.”

Zerunyan said he followed the race closely and found the level of politicization “unprecedented.”

“I’ve never heard a sheriff’s candidate mention political affiliation, nor should it be important,” Zerunyan said. “There should be no such thing as Democrat or Republican in public safety.”

Still, an air of uncertainty looms over Villanueva’s agenda and how progressive it will actually be.

He backed out of a campaign promise to hold a first-day press conference with community activists to highlight transparency and building trust with communities.

As part of his leadership changes, Villanueva removed two constitutional policing advisers from the department whose consultation was critical for the department’s review of police shootings.

“Getting rid of that oversight is problematic,” said the ACLU’s Lim. “We believe that any oversight, especially internal, is incredibly important and we hope [Villanueva] will take misconduct seriously.”

Villanueva has said he opposes granting subpoena power to the Civilian Oversight Commission, an independent watchdog group overseeing the department.

In a campaign questionnaire, he said the commission is “a stakeholders committee, not an investigation committee.”

LA County voters will decide the issue in the 2020 election.

Lim said that while subpoena power “won’t be a fix-all” since the commission can only make recommendations and has limited access to department disciplinary documents, it would be a significant victory for police accountability activists who want stronger oversight.

In the coming months, the ACLU and other community organizations will present Villanueva with an “accountability document” listing his proposed reforms and questions about when they will be implemented. The document and Villanueva’s responses will be made public.

“Campaign promises don’t always mean reality when someone steps into office,” Lim said. “It’s hard because there is a lot of hope about what (Villanueva) has promised.”

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SCV NewsBreak
LOCAL NEWS HEADLINES
Thursday, Nov 14, 2019
2 Dead, 4 Wounded in Saugus High School Shooting
Two people were killed and four others, all students, were wounded when they were shot at Saugus High School Thursday morning.
Thursday, Nov 14, 2019
Saugus High Shooting Survivors Share Their Stories
“Shooter, Shooter! There’s a shooter!” That was the first thing Saugus High School 10th-grader Nathan Ephren remembers hearing while he walked onto campus Thursday morning.
Thursday, Nov 14, 2019
Officials Weigh in on Saugus High School Shooting
Public officials released statements and posted social media comments Thursday in the wake of the Saugus High School shooting Thursday morning.
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Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
Two people were killed and four others, all students, were wounded when they were shot at Saugus High School Thursday morning.
2 Dead, 4 Wounded in Saugus High School Shooting
“Shooter, Shooter! There’s a shooter!” That was the first thing Saugus High School 10th-grader Nathan Ephren remembers hearing while he walked onto campus Thursday morning.
Saugus High Shooting Survivors Share Their Stories
Public officials released statements and posted social media comments Thursday in the wake of the Saugus High School shooting Thursday morning.
Officials Weigh in on Saugus High School Shooting
The Santa Clarita community responded quickly to come to the aid of those affected by the shootings at Saugus High School Thursday morning.
Community Reaches Out to Those Affected by Saugus High Shooting
It was like any other day of the week for the Branch and Beltran families — making breakfast, getting ready for the day’s routine — until they heard a swarm of police surround Saugus High School on Thursday morning as an active shooter incident developed.
Centurion Way Residents React to Saugus High Shooting
1935 - Voters approve $22,000 construction bond to build a bigger Saugus School. WPA kicked in another $17,181. [story]
Saugus School
Today in SCV History (Nov. 14)
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve the transfer of the operation of the John Anson Ford Theatres to the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association.
County Names LA Phil New Operator of Ford Theatres
The candidate filing period for the March 3, 2020, Presidential Primary Election is now open, Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan announced Tuesday.
Filing Period Now Open for 2020 Primary Candidates
The Greater Los Angeles County Vector Control District will hold its regular meeting, Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7:00 p.m.
Nov. 14: Greater LA County Vector Control Regular Meeting
Five College of the Canyons students won the People’s Choice Award at the International Interior Design Association's LA Haunt Couture show on Thursday, Oct. 24.
Five COC Students Win Interior Design Award
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors passed a motion authored by Supervisor Janice Hahn and co-authored by Supervisor Sheila Kuehl Tuesday to address the Board and Care crisis throughout the county.
LA County to Intervene to Prevent Board and Care Closures
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station deputies detained a man Wednesday who reportedly threatened to jump from a freeway overpass, after a reported disturbance on an out-of-town bus trip.
One Detained in Bizarre I-5 Freeway Disturbance
With the holiday season just around the corner, the College of the Canyons School of Visual and Performing Arts, or VAPA, has an exciting lineup of shows that are sure to delight family and friends of all ages well into the next year.
COC Visual, Performing Arts Sets Holiday Concerts at PAC
The Women’s Council of Realtors of Santa Clarita Valley invites local residents to help celebrate the installation of its 2020 Board members at the Sand Canyon Country club on Friday, November 22, at 6 p.m.
Nov. 22: Women’s Council of Realtors to Install 2020 Board
Santa Clarita veterans and residents are invited to board a Santa Clarita Transit coach for a patriotic ride to Knott’s Berry Farm for on Sunday, November 17.
Nov. 17: City Bus Service to Knott’s for ‘Military Tribute Days’
The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a motion by Supervisors Kathryn Barger and Hilda Solis that adopts a framework and associated funding to help the county's cities address their individual homelessness challenges.
County Adopts Initiative for City Homelessness Funding
The Sulphur Springs Union School District board of trustees was scheduled Tuesday to consider the authorization of a $78 million bond measure to be placed on the March 2020 ballot.
Sulphur Springs Considers $78M School Bond Measure
The Santa Clarita Valley’s top cop, Capt. Robert Lewis, took a moment Tuesday to reflect on a county report showing the SCV Sheriff’s Station received the second-highest number of commendations from the public and tied for third place for receiving the most complaints among Los Angeles County sheriff’s stations, bureaus and divisions.
Capt. Lewis Reflects on Latest OIG Findings
The Santa Clarita City Council voted Tuesday night to extend a temporary ban on new sales of flavored tobacco products through October 2020.
City Council Extends Moratorium on Flavored Tobacco Products
Governor Gavin Newsom and First Partner Jennifer Siebel Newsom joined the California Museum, the state's official history museum, in announcing the 13th class of inductees into the California Hall of Fame.
Dec. 13: Induction of California Hall of Fame 13th Class
Detectives from the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station would like to hear from Castaic residents who might help solve a series of property thefts from vehicles late Monday night.
Detectives Seek Info on Vehicle Property Thefts in Castaic
Department of Water Resources officials lifted a caution advisory Friday about the threat of algae for both Pyramid Lake and Castaic Lake.
Algae Threat Removed for Pyramid Lake, Castaic Lake
A man identified by deputies as a transient was arrested in Newhall on the weekend on suspicion of attempted arson after allegedly setting magazines and papers on fire and then throwing them in planters.
Detectives Arrest Transient on Suspicion of Attempted Arson
1966 - Pico No. 4 oil well listed as a National Historic Landmark [story]
Pico No. 4
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