Keeping the local economy afloat was the theme of this year's State of the City luncheon, held at the Valencia Hyatt Regency and attended by hundreds of local business leaders, activists and people interested in the progress and plans of city officials.
As in previous years, member of the City Council took turns sharing statistics and information on economic development, parks and open spaces, crime, traffic, the arts and community preservation, speaking briefly first, then showing a video of themselves in surroundings relevant to their topic.
Mayor Frank Ferry used humor to make his point, telling the audience that with recent hiring freezes, council members were pitching in to help staff with day-to-day duties - and as the camera pulled back, Ferry began sweeping a sidewalk. He also offered himself as the foil of a "blooper reel" at the end, with each of the council members looking quizzically at the mayor zipped along sidewalks, paseos and bridges on a Sheriff's Department Segway, finally getting a ticket from Santa Clarita Police Chief Anthony LaBerge in the parking lot at City Hall.
On a serious note, City Manager Ken Pulskamp reviewed the city's 21-Point Plan for survival, with business assistance emphasized.
"We're making sure the local economy is as good as it can be," Pulskamp said.
Ferry was quick to jump in and give credit to both city staff and the community for working together to help each other, whether it mean shopping local or pooling resources to do better business.
"We would not be where we are without the support of the staff and the community," he said. "Santa Clarita is a better place to live, work and play because of each and every one of you."
Highlights of the councilmembers' speeches included the news that the Cross Valley Connector bridges are under construction and due to open next spring; additional traffic lanes created on major thoroughfares in Canyon Country and Valencia have made a difference in traffic flow; bike lanes in Valencia, Newhall and the industrial center have helped make the city more pedal-friendly and new ordinances controlling neighborhood preservations and peddlers in the area are addressing specific citizen complaints.
In addition, Councilman Bob Kellar said that the crimes of theft and grand theft auto were down more than 25 percent; gang-related crime was down (robbery down 17 percent, assault down 37 percent and vandalism down 24 percent) and activities for teens were making a dent in juvenile crime.
In an open question and answer session, the council fielded queries from the crowd, including updates on the Cemex and Bermite environmental challenges. Kellar said that new legislation is expected to be introduced in Washington D.C. within two to three weeks to halt the Cemex project and that one of the six Bermite sites have been completely cleaned.
Following up on a statement made last year by Councilmember McLean that a Flyway service would be established from Santa Clarita, Pulskamp said that while the service is one frequently requested, a location and, more importantly, funding was still being sought.