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Santa Clarita CA
Today in
S.C.V. History
December 3
1887 - Prohibitionist Henry Needham purchases land in Newhall, attempts to establish "dry" colony [story]
H.C. Needham

Now and Then in the SCV | Commentary by Darryl Manzer
| Wednesday, Oct 22, 2014

darrylmanzer_blacktieDoes everyone read the entire voter’s information guide that is mailed out each election? I didn’t think so. It might be something the drug companies want to use as a sleep aid. About halfway through the second page, I was starting to doze.

So I stood up and read through the vote-by-mail instructions. Not nearly as sleep-inducing as the guide.

I sort of nodded off as I read through the list of judicial candidates. Some 16 positions and only two of them have two candidates running. The other 14 are running unopposed. Either nobody else was qualified, or someone saw the job and decided not to run.

Sometimes I think England has a good way of saying a candidate is on the ballot. There someone “stands” for election. Here our politicians “run.”

For Los Angeles County Sheriff, we’ve two gentlemen on the ballot. I think one of them has at least 21 indictments. How does one get a grand jury so angry? It appears that Paul Tanaka knows how to do that. I mean really, folks. Do we want a sheriff with that many charges against him before he even starts? It might be some kind of record. They guy in charge of the jail could be sitting in it for an extended time. At least we’d know what he was doing.

My father was a deputy sheriff in the early 1950s. I don’t remember much about that time, but he stopped his law enforcement career before I was about 5 years old. I do remember going to the dairy at the Honor Farm. Its cows were the best and won many awards in various contests across the state. There were a couple of bulls that were considered mean. The inmates worked hard to make sure the cattle were well cared for.

Wayside Honor Farm, or Honor Rancho, is what became the jail we have in Castaic today. Things got a whole lot worse as the population of the place changed. It used to be almost all minimum-security. Inmates were on their “honor” not to run away, and they didn’t, especially in the rainy season. It was a place they could spend the winter in warmth before being returned to the streets of Los Angeles where most were homeless “winos” and “drunks.” They had a place to call home with three meals, a warm bed and at least 90 days to dry out. Some of those men carried on like that for years, it was said.

jimmcdonnell_scvtvToday things are a whole lot different. Most are repeat felons and state prisoners working their way through the court system for serious and violent crimes. They’re locked in cells most of the time and there isn’t a farm for them to work anymore. The land is leased out to be farmed by commercial interests.

I don’t think my dad would like the place today. He had a lot of pride in what those inmates did with the dairy herd. I think he looked on the men and the cattle as a special place that he could take his family to see. Many times there were other kids I saw with their “deputy dads” at the Honor Farm. No more.

Over the years as the inmate population got more violent and the place became less of a farm, the dairy herd was sold off and the “deputy dads” had to worry about attacks by the inmates. No more trips for kids to see the cows and horses and sheep and other animals and equipment.

We always knew the inmates were just that. They couldn’t leave, and we felt safe around them. It was a time when child molesters and other sex offenders had a short life expectancy on the “inside.” They tripped, fell, were trampled, kicked by a cow or horse and otherwise punished by the other inmates.

That was then. This is now. Over time, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department seemed to get more and more political. Our last sheriff was one of the most political men to hold that office. Lee Baca was so good at being political, he started to think he didn’t have to follow the law. At least it seemed that way.

And his good friend and undersheriff, Mr. Tanaka, is reaping what together they have sown.

So I’m reading the ballot and can only come to one conclusion: I want a sheriff who can come in and stop the political BS that runs through that department. I want a sheriff who isn’t going to end up jailed in Castaic.

I see that in the other guy standing for the office of sheriff. I actually got to meet him the other day. I must say I am impressed with the gentleman. For starters, he is not “in” the LASD. He is the city of Long Beach Police Chief. He knows Los Angeles County and wants to see it improve. To do that, he has to be elected so the LASD can be professional from the top down again. All of those great deputies need and deserve the leadership Jim McDonnell can provide.

Yes, Jim McDonnell. Not connected with the “good ol’ boys” of the LASD, most of whom are gone now. A man who can and will set the LASD on a course that will earn the respect of all of us again.

What a concept. Our sheriff isn’t going to have any indictments hanging over his head. It’s been a while since we’ve been able to say that.

Welcome to the LASD, Jim. We’re behind you 100 percent.

Well, the other guy can vote for himself, so how about 99.9999 percent?


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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