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Top 10 Santa Clarita News Stories Of 2008

2008 was a busy year in the news department, much as it was worldwide, with reporters covering elections, disasters, ethical issues, international sports and a recession that threatens to push America into another depression.


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The news was hopping in the Santa Clarita Valley as well, where voters turned out in record numbers to participate in a historic election, residents got vocal about development and change, deputies were busy chasing crooks and trying to solve a list of mysteries that ranged from murders to random vandalism and people got through their daily lives with courage, determination and, maybe most importantly, a sense of humor.

From all those stories - and KHTS posted more than 2,000 to their website this year - we culled what we consider the Top Ten Stories of 2008. If your favorite story isn't on here, never fear. There's a series of other stories on hometownstation.com that focus on the "also rans" in crime, legislation and other issues, including a list of "what were they thinking?" items that grabbed our attention.

The Top Ten:

10. Newhall Hardware closing - An institution for 60 years, the neighborhood hardware store that everyone went to when they couldn't find it at a big box store closed because it couldn't keep up with the competition. Critics blamed the city because of downtown Newhall redevelopment projects that changed parking and traffic patterns, but owner Victor Feany and former City Council member Tim Ben Boydston pointed out that the lack of shoppers was what drove them under. The loss of the business leaves a big hole in the historic district, changing the look - and feel - of  Main Street Newhall. For stories, click here.

9. Gold Feather Investments - One of the biggest real estate scams came to light when the offices of Gold Feather Investments and the home of owner Celia Galardo were raided by detectives and deputies of the sheriff's Commercial Crimes Bureau. Galardo is accused of bilking millions of dollars from local residents who allegedly bought properties in Florida and Tennessee that they quickly discovered were valueless. Many victims face foreclosure and ruined credit, including several senior citizens. Investigation into the case continues and sources say that Gallardo has not stopped doing business. For stories, click here.

8. Economy - "Foreclosure" became the watchword of 2008 and several homeowners found themselves dealing with mortgage problems brought about by job losses or lack of business. Unemployment rose to 5.3 percent in Santa Clarita, compared to a countywide rate of 8.7 percent. Contributing to the economic crunch was the four-month Writers' Guild strike, which crippled production in Southern California. Another strike quickly settled was a three-day walkout by ambulance drivers and EMTs from American Medical Response. The entertainment industry, which employs hundreds of locals both before and behind the cameras, is poised for another walkout with a strike vote expected from the Screen Actors Guild sometime in January.

7. Olympic competitors - Five athletes who either live or train in the Santa Clarita Valley represented in the Beijing Olympics and made us proud. Bringing home gold medals were Allyson Felix in the women's 400-meter relay and David Neville in the men's 400-meter relay. Silver medals went to Kim Rhodes in skeet shooting, Crystl Bustos in softball, Felix in the women's 200-meter run and Mike Day in motocross. Neville also won a bronze medal in the men's 400-meter run. Our Olympians were also part of first and lasts - Day's event was a new sport and Bustos played in the last Olympic softball game. For stories, and to hear Michael Dowler's interview with four of the five medal-winners, click here.

6. Fires - The Sayre Fire, which started November 14 in Sylmar, destroyed more than 600 mobile homes in that city and burned both sides of the southbound I-5, the northbound 14 and the 210 freeways, cutting off all southbound traffic from the SCV. Along with the traffic nightmare, the blaze alarmed Placerita and Sand Canyon residents as flames burned in remote parts of the canyons.  The Marek and Sesnon Fires in October burned the northern regions of the San Fernando Valley, but never came into the Santa Clarita because of vigilant work by firefighters who came from all regions. For stories, click here.

5. Cemex - Congressman Buck McKeon announced a compromise agreement between the Bureau of Land Management and Cemex that included a land trade with the City of Victorville that would preserve the Soledad Canyon land as open space forever and help Victorville with an economic development project. The project, initially proposed in 1991, would have removed 73 million tons of minerals from the site and was opposed by the city and county from the beginning. A truce called in 2007 allowed all sides to sit down and negotiate and the proposed compromise came from those meetings. McKeon introduced enabling legislation, HR 5887, on April 26, and garnered support from both sides of the aisles, but it died in committee. He plans to re-introduce the legislation in the 111th Congress in January. For stories, click here.

4. Presidential Election - Voter turnout for both the Super Tuesday February primary and the April City Council election averaged about 17 percent, but the country's desire for change was mirrored in Santa Clarita, where nearly 80 percent of those who could vote did vote. Local voters also supported Barack Obama, the nation's first African-American President-Elect, by a 2-to1 margin, despite a large Republican population. Also of note were the narrow margins of victory - less than 10 percent - in the state senate and assembly races, where incumbents were challenged by community activists. For stories, click here .

3. City Council Election - The Santa Clarita City Council election in April was a lesson on disclosure, ethics and special interests, when it was proven that the majority of winner Laurie Ender's campaign chest came from backers of the hospital's expansion project and the re-election fund of fellow Councilperson Frank Ferry. A complaint was filed with the state's Fair Political Practices Committee alleging Ferry was unethical when he financed a campaign mailer. Former Mayor Bob Kellar had his own share of problems when activists demanded full disclosure of the money he made from the sale of land used to complete the Canyon Country campus of College of the Canyons. For stories, click here.

2. Las Lomas - A massive 555-acre project that would create a mini-city on the north side of I-5 between Santa Clarita and Los Angeles was proposed by Dan Palmer, who promised to bring jobs and business to the area. The plan seemed a little short on mitigation for the impact it would have on traffic and public services, which caused the city councils of both Santa Clarita and Los Angeles to oppose it. At the March 19 L.A. City Council meeting, an overwhelming number of council members voted to stop the project, citing an inadequate EIR. Palmer filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles in June, which was thrown out by a judge on Dec. 12, the same day that Dan Palmer resigned from the company for "personal reasons." For stories, click here.


And the number one story of 2008 -

1. - HMNMH - The expansion plan for Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital was a hot button for the City Council and local activists, prompting the formation of Smart Growth and a very vocal opposition. After election funding for City Council candidate Laurie Ender was traced to hospital developer G&L, passage of the proposal seemed a slam dunk. A last-minute compromise was allegedly in the works, but was withdrawn just before the Council voted its approval Nov. 19. Although Smart Growth promised not to sue, SCOPE and Community Advocates for Healthcare SCV filed suit on Dec. 22, challenging the project's environmental impact report and threatens to send the whole process back to the drawing board. For stories, click below:

Full Henry Mayo Expansion Approved, Compromise Plan Slips Through The Cracks

Hospital Compromise Not Given A Fair Chance

Lawsuit Emerges Regarding Henry Mayo Expansion Approval

Click Here To Read Our 2008 Stories That Didn't Quite Make The Top 10: http://www.hometownstation.com/local-news/honorable-mention-clarita-2008-12-30-17-24.html

Click Here For 2008 Stories that made us say, "What the **?*: http://www.hometownstation.com/local-news/hey-martha-clarita-2008-12-30-15-42-4.html