SCV NEWSMAKER OF THE WEEK:
Frank Ferry
Councilman, City of Santa Clarita

Interview by Leon Worden
Signal Multimedia Editor

Sunday, January 22, 2006
(Television interview conducted January 11, 2006)

Frank Ferry     "Newsmaker of the Week" is presented by the SCV Press Club and Comcast, and hosted by Signal Multimedia Editor Leon Worden. The program premieres every Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, repeating Sundays at 8:30 a.m.
    This week's newsmaker is Santa Clarita City Councilman Frank Ferry. Questions are paraphrased.

Signal: You've been on the Santa Clarita City Council for two terms and you're running for a third term. Looking back to your last election, today you're half the man you used to be. What's up with that?

Ferry: Well, I'll tell you. I weighed almost 400 pounds last time I ran for office — right around 400 (to) 405 pounds — and I felt great. My energy was high. I'm very active. I was coaching soccer, (I was) on the City Council, soon activities director at Valencia High School, and just medically I didn't have things wrong with me — other than I had high blood pressure and diabetes and things that I thought would never catch up with me.
    So intellectually, I knew that if I didn't make some type of change, 15 to 20 years from now I was looking at a stroke or heart attack. And I wanted to see my own grandkids.
    When I look at Nick and Jake, my sons, I thought, I want to be around for their weddings and for their future. So I had gastric bypass surgery this past March of ¬05. I've lost about 150 pounds over that nine-month period. It's been an excellent decision. I'm off all my diabetes medication, I'm off all my high blood pressure medication, the doctor says I have probably extended my life by about 20 years. I have increased vigor and I'm excited. It just gives you another lease on life.

Signal: So you're going on a year now. Are you having any trouble keeping it off?

Ferry: No. Actually I'm still losing, gradually. It's tough, because you can gain it back. There are side effects. I've had kidney stones, I have had gout, I've had surgery on my foot as a result of the stomach surgery. But I am very positive about it, because of the long-term effects in positive ways. ... It was a great decision for myself and family.

Signal: You're a busy guy. Your day job is at Saugus High School, where you are assistant principal. Do you have time to be on the City Council?

Ferry: Oh, yeah. From day one, I have always prioritized my life. I tell people up front, every time I have run for office I say, look. My No. 1 priority is my family. You're always going to see me at my sons' events, I've never missed a soccer game. I have never missed one of their basketball games. I have never missed an open house (at their school).


Ferry in '98
Ferry in December 1998, answering The Signal's "20 Questions" (forerunner to the Newsmaker of the Week interview)
    My second priority is Saugus High School, my job. That's what I do to support my family, and I absolutely love being an administrator and educator. I love helping kids reach their potential. And then the City Council. So by balancing those three things and letting people at City Hall and people at work and my family know what the priorities are, I am able to say no; or they no longer ask because they already know what my priorities are. So I am able to do it, and hopefully effectively, as well.

Signal: What is your career goal? Back when you moved to Santa Clarita in 1990, it looked like you wanted to go on to the Assembly or Congress. But now you're moving up in the William S. Hart Union High School District. Do you see yourself focusing on that and wanting to be a principal, or higher, in the Hart District?

Ferry: Like I said, I like my job. In 1990, I didn't have Nick and Jake. Nick and Jake really are my focus. I love them. I can't see myself going to (Washington), D.C.; I can't see myself going to Sacramento, meaning I wouldn't see them in days or weeks at a time.
    I am one of those guys who enjoys each day. I love what I do. When opportunities come, I don't mind change. I'd love to be a principal someday, as well as I would love to be in the state Assembly or a congressman someday. I never preclude myself from saying I won't take an opportunity if it presents itself. But at the same time, I don't sit around and hope. I'm not like, every day hoping I would be a state assemblyman and waiting for that chance.
    I will live my life fully, 10-15 years, and if that time comes when I'm 50 years old, 55 years old, and I am prepared, I will go for it. If five years from now, or three years from now, I have a chance to be a principal, I'll make that decision and go for it. I don't really have those types of goals other than when it presents itself and I think I am ready, I will step into the role.

Signal: You got here in 1990; you're still a newcomer—

Ferry: Exactly. I will never be a old-timer in Santa Clarita.

Signal: Even in those 15 or 16 years, you have seen a lot of change. The city just celebrated its 18th birthday; things have changed since the days when council members were throwing things at each other at the dais.

Ferry: I was there for that.

Signal: What do you want to achieve in the next four years?

Ferry: There are things I have started that I want to see completed. The cross-valley connector was a driving force of mine in the beginning, with (Connie Worden Roberts) as co-chair. You have a $240 million road connecting the I-5 and I-14 freeways. We're almost there. We're not getting there because of money now; it's really an issue of environmental studies, design; we're going to get that road complete. I want to make sure we continue to see that done.
    Whittaker-Bermite for me is really is a passion now. After six years being on the committee — a lot of people don't know what it is, but you have had six wells go down. It's our future for water supply, Wiley-Princessa road, the infrastructure going through there; the possibility for having economic engines or some type of convention center-slash-golf course-slash-fill in the blanks — Minor League baseball park, fill in the blank — there is just so much potential for this 1,000 acres in the middle of the city that I really want to be part of developing that.
    Also, again, I am passionate about teenagers. I mean, every time I can use the Mayor's Blue Ribbon Task Force on alcohol and drugs, to do a DADS (Dads Against Drugs) program, to a Youth Memorial Grove at Central Park, to educate parents about how to talk to their kids — right now I'm real active with (Sheriff's) Capt. (Patti) Minutello, I'm active with the D.A. down in Sylmar, Judge Nash — what can we do to make sure that we are really looking to prevent graffiti and vandalism in our community? How can we take ownership of Santa Clarita kids and make them accountable to us Santa Claritans?
    So I want to see that through. I want a kid who graffitis in Santa Clarita to get the maximum punishment and serve it here in Santa Clarita. Not clean graffiti in the San Fernando Valley. But also I found that kids in the seventh, eighth grade who are tagging — if I can steer them in another direction, once I caught them, whether it's marijuana or graffiti — I have seen kids turn around 100 percent just by someone caring. That's why I want to make sure we take on that role.

Signal: A lot of people are in denial about their kids' use of drugs and alcohol, especially in high school but even earlier. What do you do to address that?

Ferry: The Blue Ribbon Task Force was implemented six years ago specifically to educate parents on how to talk to their kids. So at the Hyatt every year, we've (discussed) everything from a rave party to reckless driving, teen sex issues, just to get parents to understand: Here is what is out there; we want you to know.
    We have parent tool kits, which we have given to every elementary kid across the valley so parents have resources to go to. We have had the DADS program, where actually my son started out, where we now have over 60 kids in a program where we, as dads, voluntarily test seventh-eighth grade boys and girls for marijuana and alcohol. It's not to catch them, but really to give them the opportunity to say no when they are offered.
    Pretty much every kid in this valley, in my eyes, at one point in time, is going to be asked to do marijuana, or they are going to be offered a beer or wine. What are they going to do in that given moment when mom and dad aren't looking over their shoulder? Are they going to be able to say no? Or are they going to be peer-pressured into it? So I am always looking for those opportunities.
    How do I get a kid to wear a seat belt? How do I get a kid not to do 100 (mph) down Bouquet (Canyon Road) and hit a wall? That is what I am always looking for, those opportunities. The Every 15 Minutes program, the STTOP (Sheriff's Teen Traffic Offenders Program) program, the VIDA (Vital Intervention Directional Alternatives) program, we are bringing back. How do we get kids who have chosen the wrong fork in the road with bad consequences to turn back and go down the other road?

Signal: Knock on wood, but we haven't had a youth traffic fatality in the last year. Do you think kids are starting to get the message?

Ferry: I do. ... I think that Every 15 Minutes is very effective for kids to open up the discussion, but you have other things we have done proactively. The red-light cameras work. Those were (five) intersections where we had fatalities and had issues. I think we have given out about — what, some ridiculous number of tickets.

Signal: Thousands now.

Ferry: Thousands and thousands of tickets. But I know, as a citizen, that when I come to those cameras, I am slowing down, making sure I don't get a ticket.
    But we also, at the state level, have implemented laws which really have significantly impacted those types of accidents. One, now you have to have a permit for a full year before you can get your driver's license. Two, you can no longer drive, if you're under 18, between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m.
    Also, in your first year of driving, (you) cannot have passengers in your car, which is a lot of the reason why you have distractions all the time for kids who are speeding and racing other kids, radios too loud, cell phone goes off. A lot of laws have been implemented, a lot of heightened awareness has come down, where I think we have now proactively, hopefully, stopped an increasing problem.

Signal: The three incumbents in the April 11 election are you, Marsha McLean and Laurene Weste, who is this year's mayor. It looks like the only serious challenge is coming from the environmental community. Why do you suppose nobody from the business community has come forward to challenge you?

Ferry: I guess we are doing a good job; they're not running. I will reverse it on you. You mentioned my first couple years on the council, where the council had a lot of dissension, a lot of arguments, the city manager not knowing which direction to go because the council was either a 3-2 split or it was always fluctuating. You haven't seen that the past four to six years.
    In the past four to six years, you have had a council that although we disagree, it has been in a respectful manner. Although we have maybe sometimes polarized ideas, we have always been able to find some sort of middle ground and then, with the final vote, tell the city manager to wisely use city assets and city time and go out and complete a project.
    So I think in the last four to six years, the city, in its 18-year history, has been in its most prolific time, where you see the cross-valley connector really moving forward, you see bridges going up, you see a Community Center getting built, the Aquatic Center getting built, 10 new community parks, increased Sheriff services, the Canyon Country Library — we were just so focused on what we wanted as a council that we got more done and weren't spending a lot of time arguing and that minutia stuff.
    I think people see it and they say, hey, we have a lot of confidence right now in you, the five members. That's why I think you don't see some of these other mainstream, business-type candidates coming out. Because we have never had a business tax or a business license fee. We continue to have these great economic engines where we keep bringing businesses into town and corporations coming into town and the Centre Pointe (Business Park) bringing jobs, the (Gate-King Industrial Park) that's going to bring in jobs. We are always so productive with our local businesses and our corporate community that I don't think they see us as a threat to them, and therefore (they are) willing to support us again.

Signal: So why don't you like the environment?

Ferry: You know what? I do. (I) and Mayor Weste just unsuccessfully tried having an Open Space and Parkland Preservation District.
    I personally think, myself — and that's where we get a bad rap sometimes — I believe myself, Council Member Weste, Council Member McLean are ultimate environmentalists, just not to the extent that the environmentalist community thinks so. I mean, here I was, saying, let's go out and pass an open space and parkland district so we can preserve all the open space we can, including the riverbed. And they're saying, we don't want you spending money on the riverbed. I'm like, Woah! Wait a second. It's the last natural river; let's protect it. Let's protect what we have already.
    When I look a development, myself, Mayor Weste and Council Member McLean, I see us going after — if it's 1,000 acres of land, making sure that we're putting the lowest density we can on maybe 300 or 400 acres and then putting the other 600 acres into public ownership.
    When you look at Gate-King project, we're looking at bringing almost 10,000 jobs to our community, helping revitalize downtown Newhall, taking traffic off the 5 (and) 14 freeways — but the same time, bringing in (over 250) acres with 5,000 oak trees in permanent public ownership.
    You look at the Golden Valley project. There's a project that, in Canyon Country, (which) most desperately needs a Target, a Kohl's, upscale sporting good stores, great restaurants — we're also going to have almost 900 acres of open space in public ownership now that wouldn't have been that way if it had gone through the county (approval process). Plus another $1.5 million in sales tax revenue that (otherwise would have gone) to the county that went to us.
    I see us as environmentalists, but unfortunately most environmentalists, their bent is, don't develop ever. I just have a different feel, that people have property-owner rights, that people have the ability to do a smart project. Give our staff the ability to see what that is, and give people the ability to do something as long as it's responsibility done.

Signal: So will we see Frank Ferry run for City Council on his own, or will you be running together with Weste and McLean as a slate?

Ferry: You know, honestly, I will always say positive things about Councilwomen McLean and Weste, and I will throughout the campaign. What I have done the past three campaigns, and I will probably do this time — I usually want to run as Frank Ferry. I want to stand on what I have done the past eight years, and what I want to do.
    And I also (know) it's political. When I run, there are people who want to vote for Council Member Weste, Council Member McLean and not Frank Ferry, or they will want Frank Ferry and not one of the other two. So you want to play to the people who support you without offending them because you are now a package deal.
    I encourage Mayor Weste and Mayor Pro Tem McLean to go out there, run vigorously, get your support base and win without maybe me dragging you down or visa-versa. So we all run on our own merits, but together we take center field because that's what our city is.

Signal: You've already raised $95,000 for this election.

Ferry: Correct.

Signal: You don't need to raise one more dime between now and election day.

Ferry: Nope.

Signal: It's by far the most money anybody has raised to run for City Council in Santa Clarita.

Ferry: Last time I thought I raised about $90,000 (or) $95,000, and I said basically I was going to raise the same; I stopped—

Signal: Do you need $95,000 to run for City Council?

Ferry: You do. People still think — this goes back to (the question), are we still the community we were 18 years ago? And the answer is no. We are the fourth largest city in the county. You have 170,000 residents; (there have been) 24 (or) 25 successful annexations come in. There are many new people who are now residents that weren't residents when I ran four years ago. You have to contact those individuals.
    People don't understand that putting out a mailer to 12,000 households costs you $7,000. To do a absentee program could cost you up to $30,000. To do your signs is 5,000. If you want to be a credible candidate — and that means one who plans on winning and representing this community — you have to raise money to be successful.
    Many people will run and raise no money. Well, they are not going to be successful. Because you just can't communicate what you want to everyone.

Signal: You know how to run a campaign; you walked into town and ran an absentee campaign that blew everybody away. What is your background in politics?

Ferry: Right. I went to Alemany High School. I was student body president there. When I was there, I won what was called an Eisenhower Internship. I went back to the Republican National Committee where I was a gopher, intern, for the director of communications. I just busted my heinie, where he then offered me to go to the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, where basically I was by his side in meetings where Lee Atwater was there, Lyn Nofziger — I mean, I really heard everything there was to hear about politics.
    Then for the next four years, I went back and interned every year in a different spot in the Republican National Committee. I went to the ¬88 convention in New Orleans, worked that for eight months in the New Orleans Convention Center; came back here, went to law school, passed the bar in 1992. I had planned on being a attorney (but) ended up being a teacher and loving it. So I went into education. I have been there since 1990 and had two sons, and your life just changes. I mean, things you planned on doing earlier change as you go along.
    The reason I initially ran is, I was driving to the San Fernando Valley —ūI worked at Nobel Middle School, and at the time (L.A. City) Councilman (Hal) Bernson had closed down Balboa (Boulevard) so people from the Santa Clarita Valley couldn't turn right onto Balboa from The Old Road. I was just infuriated. At the same time, it was I believe ¬92, there was a City Council up here that had turned down state money to build what we now call the cross-valley connector. Those two decisions are what provoked me to do it. Because I thought, my God. How do you turn down a road for $110 million that we're now paying $240 million for?
    Plus, down there, I was working with so many gang members — having sons that were just being born — Nick was a newborn — I never want ever the Santa Clarita Valley to be what I saw my home in the San Fernando Valley become. I don't want blight. I don't want vandalism. I don't want graffiti. That's why you see me vigilantly going out and really attacking it. Because it's a waste of community resources and assets when you see a brand-new, $40 million dollar bridge (over) Soledad (Canyon Road) has already been defaced with graffiti. It's wrong, and businesses notice, and all of a sudden—

Signal: Call 25-CLEAN to report graffiti—

Ferry: And you sit there and you're one of the top-10 safest cities in the United States, but it doesn't take much graffiti before people start questioning that. It doesn't take much vandalism before people start thinking it's not safe.
    I want people to proudly walk (in) downtown Newhall in the evening. I want them to go to a park at night with their families. I don't want there to be any of that perception of fear and not being able to go out. You've got to hit it hard, early.

Signal: There used to be a perception that downtown Newhall was unsafe; the city has just made a big investment in creating the Downtown Newhall Specific Plan to turn the area around. How certain are you that Newhall can be redeveloped without pushing out people who are currently there?

Ferry: That's my concern. I have expressed that publicly. Twenty-seven percent of our population is Hispanic. A large core of that Hispanic community lives in downtown Newhall. The downtown Newhall-San Fernando Road corridor is where they shop. It's their (equivalent of the) Granary Square (Shopping Center) where they get their groceries, their videos, that's where they go.
    My concern is, I want to be able to do a Third Street Promenade, an Old Pasadena feel in downtown Newhall, where the whole community comes into our Canyon Theater Guild or Repertory (East Playhouse) theater, a movie theater, nice restaurants, boutiques, arts — I want that, but at the same time I want to make sure we balance it so that the existing community feels like they have a local neighborhood feel.
    We have put in a lot of money — the Metrolink station, the Community Center the fa°ade improvements. We're going to continue putting that money into it until it's what we feel is best for Santa Clarita. The Gate(-King) Industrial Park was 8,000 new jobs. That's going to feed exactly what we're doing. And we're counting on all that in order for the Newhall revitalization to work. The Veterans (Historic) Plaza is another example of our commitment to that area. Everything is a piece of this total package.
    I think as long as Ken Pulskamp, our city manager, and as long as our council is cognizant of the Hispanic community and what the revitalization plan is, I think we can marry the two.

Signal: Looking beyond downtown Newhall, there are probably people who don't know that the City Council has no say as to what particular business goes into a particular location — such as whether the Vallarta Supermarket chain opens a store in the old Albertson's space on Lyons Avenue. However, as a council member, you have approved land uses that have included major retail, where it was understood that it was either going to be a Wal-Mart, as at Centre Pointe, or something comparable to a Wal-Mart store. In making those approvals, what do you think the impact is on the mom-and-pop business?

Ferry: I know that has always been a concern. I know when (the Valencia Marketplace) had its big "power center" where Wal-Mart and Toys R Us came in, we heard that the entire Lyons corridor was going to be completely wiped out. And it hasn't happened. I mean, even now—

Signal: Well, you have a big vacancy on Lyons Avenue where Albertson's used to be—

Ferry: Albertson's, correct, but you are going to find a new use or a new person coming in. But I think also, in fairness to that center, you don't see them putting the investment in that center that you saw former Mayor (Jan) Heidt do in her (shopping) center directly across the street, where there are no vacancies. Or in Granary Square, where they have redone the whole fa°ade and brought in new places. A good example is Haskell Canyon and Bouquet (Canyon Road), that center, how they expanded it (and redid the) fa°ade.
    The old Albertson's center where they'd like to put Vallarta market — they have not put any money into that center to bring it up to a standard that — I don't care if you're Hispanic, non-Hispanic; there's no pride in that center, in my eyes. I would push harder for the owner to come in and do something to (improve) the fa°ades, increase the retailers. Because right now, to me, it doesn't represent what we want for Santa Clarita.

Signal: Considering some of the major commercial-industrial growth that's happening, such as Larry Rasmussen's Center Point project and the Gate-King Industrial Park, some people must be wondering where that $95,000 is coming from.

Ferry: Which $95,000?

Signal: For your campaign.

Ferry: Oh, OK, yeah.

Signal: Is there some other $95,000? Maybe your $95,000 City Council salary?

Ferry: I wish. Far from that.
    When you run, you can ask people one time in one election cycle — so I can ask you for a maximum of $360 every four years.

Signal: Is that the city rule?

Ferry: That's the city ordinance. So, over a four-year period — I have been running for office, this is my fourth time. I lost the first time; I won the next two times. In those eight years, you just build relationships. I coach AYSO and club soccer, I coach Hart (PONY) Baseball, I am active in my church, I am on the YMCA committee where I have done everything from Indian Guides all the way up, I have been at Valencia High School as a student activities director, I am at Saugus (High School) as an assistant principal, I am on the City Council. I just know a ton of people, number one. I have support from people, but at the same time, I am always up front and blunt-honest with people. Whether it's a businessman, whether it's a corporation, whether it's a development company, I have always been very blunt up front what a (development) project should and should not be like.
    I am dead against apartments. That's just my thing. I think bad apartments, or high-density apartments, drag communities down. They don't have the amenities, they don't have the places for kids to play. So you build these relationships for eight years, and then you go out and aggressively look to raise money. I know I am an assistant principal; I can't take time away from my job that I am paid for between 7 a.m. and 4 p.m., to go out and raise money. So I planned — for a six-month period, I did two fund-raisers at the Hyatt, breakfasts. I went out and aggressively, from January through nine months, got people to buy tickets any way I could, for these two breakfasts. Because if I could do it in two days, then I could do the rest of my job, coach my sons' soccer and be done with it. I am not shy about it. I have always been the best at raising money probably in the last 10 years.

Signal: Growing up in the GOP, you don't have a problem asking people for money.

Ferry: No. And that's the thing. I am more aggressive about asking other people.

Signal: In your wildest imagination, would you ever support a Democrat for City Council?

Ferry: Yeah. And that's the thing, too. I hope people understand, it is a nonpartisan office. When I run, you wont see "Republican" next to my name.
    As an educator, I can tell you, almost all my friends aren't Republican. Yet they will still vote for me. So when I am filling a pothole or (dealing with) sheriffs or blight, that is not a Republican or a Democrat issue. I've been fortunate where nonpartisanship is where I have always played as a council member.

Signal: We don't have a directly elected mayor in Santa Clarita; we have a "selected" mayor, where each of the five council members — who are elected — select one of their own to be mayor for a year. Do you want to take a turn as mayor again?

Ferry: Yes. The last four cycles (I didn't) because — assistant principal is a new job for myself, so I thought in fairness to the council and my job, I didn't want to cycle in, not knowing what my responsibilities were. I wanted to learn the job and do it well.
    Any job you go into (has) a learning curve. (During the Jan. 10 City Council meeting) I actually proposed something that I proposed over seven years ago, and that is for a directly elected mayor. I failed last time. I think it was one vote yes, four no.
    I really believe our community people want to directly elect the person they want as mayor. There is an expectation for it. So I'd like the council to put that before the citizens of our community and say, yes, we want to elect the mayor; if so, do you want two or four years, and then who?

Signal: As a ballot measure?

Ferry: As a ballot measure. The reason it's important is, right now, we have this rotation of mayors where the first six months, we're introducing ourselves to the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) and other mayors in other cities and the county, saying, "Hi, I am the mayor." The next six months, we are trying to get something (for the city). There are people who still think I am the mayor, four years later, or Cameron (Smyth).
    You need someone who is going to actively, aggressively go out (there). Because right now, to me, the largest issue is the quality of life between city and county residents. How do you make sure that the county, when they are building the homes around us, is going to have the sheriffs, the parks and rec and the infrastructure, versus the quality we do? Someone's got to aggressively be there. If it means the mayor is there for 10 years, and they know this person is pushing, it's not a reintroduction every year (with) the rotation of seats.

Signal: And the reality is, with our council-manager form of government, City Manager Ken Pulskamp is actually in charge on a day-to-day basis.

Ferry: Correct.

Signal: Don't you think the push for a directly elected mayor sends a message that you don't have confidence in Pulskamp's ability to run the city?

Ferry: No, not at all. Not at all. I just think that when you are the fourth largest city in the county that people know, when they elect the city mayor in L.A. or they elect the mayor in Burbank or they elect the mayor in Lancaster, Palmdale — they always want to know, why don't we get to vote for our mayor? It really matters to them, who is the spokesperson for your council. Because every town — and I will tell you right now, even though we rotate through, we pick who it is, each of the five members has their own agenda, their own bent. That agenda then takes on a life of its own for that year they are mayor.
    I think people need to say, no, this is the person we want as our spokesperson. Or, this is the person who will make sure the will of the five goes forward, and work with the city manager. But really for me, it's an issue about, who is going to aggressively advocate for the city and to the county that this is our expectation of the next 10 and 20 years? Right now, we need someone in that position, I think, who is elected by the people to aggressively go after all resources and assets for this community.

    See this interview in its entirety today at 8:30 a.m., and watch for another "Newsmaker of the Week" on Wednesday at 9:30 p.m. on SCVTV Channel 20, available to Comcast and Time Warner Cable subscribers throughout the Santa Clarita Valley.


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