"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 challenger Henry Schultz, one of 11 candidates for Santa Clarita City Council on April 11. Questions are paraphrased and some answers may be abbreviated for length.
Signal: You're hoping to unseat one of the incumbents on the Santa Clarita City Council Frank Ferry, Laurene Weste or Marsha McLean. Ferry already has $95,000 in the bank for his campaign. How much money do you think you need to unseat one of them, and how will you raise it between now and April 11?
Schultz: OK, that is a interesting question. Part of the assumption in the question is that money equals success in elections. As we learned in the previous election, (Bob) Kellar spent almost $80,000 to make sure that I didn't get in, and yet, at the end of the day, we spent $5,000 and we were within 600 votes. In fact, we probably would have won that election if we had known a little bit more about it at the time, about what to do. We got a late start. If we had started early, we would have probably been able to catch up in all the absentee votes.
It's not a matter money. Money helps; I am not going to say money doesn't help. Lord, you can see the city is running on money here. But particularly, my policy is not to be attached to money, big money. I accept donations, but I don't solicit donations from corporations, from people who have axes to grind.
I have raised about $2,000 this point. My goal is about $10,000, which would be double last time's. That can get you signs and some flyers and some mailings. But the main thing is to meet the people face to face. What we discovered last time is, walking door to door me knocking on the door, talking face to face with people, I was almost always able to get a vote, if I could talk to someone. I only walked about three precincts in detail last time, because I took a week off from work and went door to door, and in those precincts I won.
The policy that we are going to pushing this time is one-on-one. Get me and other volunteers out on the street with flyers in hand and talk to as many people as we can in the next two months. I will be walking every day for (two) months.
Signal: Who is running your campaign? How many people do you have out there on the streets?
Schultz: I am running my campaign. I am my campaign manager. I am also my campaign treasurer. That helps keep the money so I know where it is and I know what is happening. But we have, I'd say at this point, on the order of 30 to 50 volunteers. Most of the volunteerism is doing things like mailings and things like that.
But the main thrust, again, is people walking the streets. So we get as many people out with stuff in their hands to talk to people, to meet and greet, and the most coverage out there, that's going to tell the story about what we are going to do. If you have walked the city I walked it a lot last time, and I am going to be walking a lot this time is getting big. It's surprising how many places there are to walk. So it's a big task. We certainly won't cover the whole city, but we will make inroads in all the precincts.
Signal: Tell us about Henry Schultz. You were on the city Parks Commission for four years
Schultz: I was four years on the parks commission, 3-1/2 years on the Citizens Transportation (Advisory) Committee. I have five years of experience as a Boy Scout master. I was with the Scouts for many years, and we had Troop 57, did a lot of backpacking, things like that. I spent quite a bit of time with the Sierra Club. I was chair for nine years. I have been leading free public hikes ... for about 12 years. Hundreds of them. I've got ... a little experience in local politics with the local DAA organization.
Signal: "DAA" being the Democratic Alliance for Action. Professionally, you're retired; you had something to do with genetic research.
Schultz: I am a mathematician by training, actually. I am listed (on the ballot) as a retired scientist because everywhere I have gone, I have done something different. When I first came out after my degree, I taught (at the) University of Michigan, mathematics there, and then I went over and worked at Lockheed Skunk Works. I worked there for five years. I was a a manager for advanced design at CADAM Inc., which was a CAD (computer-aided design) company, and was at the time a leading CAD company in the world. Then I went to 3D Systems right here in Valencia; I was two years a software manager there. I did some consulting; I had a consulting business; I worked for various large companies doing CAD consulting, did a little work with TRW Technar in airbag algorithms, and then took some time out to write a book, which I did. Then after I came back, I ended up working for Amgen for the last 11 years before retiring.
Signal: Was it a technical book?
Schultz: I published technical books back in my academic career. This was a book on responsibility, of all things, and right now I am writing a book on freedom. It's called, "Are You Free?" I am hoping to be done somewhere later this year.
Signal: Is it a treatise on the Bush administration?
Schultz: No, no. Although it's relevant. The Bush administration is relevant. The theme is personal freedom and political freedom, how they interact with each other, why one is important to the other. And, of course, we have seen some erosion of freedoms in the last few years of our current Bush administration. So there are probably some lessons there.
Signal: In the two years since you last ran for City Council, what has the city done right?
Schultz: They have been very good about graffiti abatement. We have a problem with gangs and graffiti, although a lot of people don't want to admit it, and there has been quite a lot of volunteer work. The city has been very active in helping to get this cleaned up. More has to be done. The law enforcement is very good here, and especially as compared to those folks in Stevenson Ranch who obviously are getting direct county support, so it's not nearly as much as we are fortunate to have here in Santa Clarita.
The city has done some other good things; they are a little slow in it. The problem is a lot of times, they only pick it up after they have been beaten on the head.
Signal: Other good things? Like what?
Schultz: Like the shelter.
Signal: Homeless shelter?
Schultz: Homeless shelter, which I advocate for. They unfortunately respond too much to the NIMBYs (Not In My Back Yard). This should have been a done deal a long time ago. We should already have some program to support the homeless here. People have these images: Homeless people are going to come and swim in your pools and trash your streets. But anybody who knows how that works, knows that is not the case.
The city has been good working with schools; they are very good with recreation. They are a little weak on parks, things like that; they put up a big effort. You know, you saw this open space (initiative), but that was a not real good effort on their part. The way they did it was to basically not go for what we really need, which is open space for more parks and open space. That should have been the focus, and they decided to focus on getting a little money pool in the city that could use a tax, basically a tax for what they wanted. That was not such a good idea.
Signal: The City Council candidates who are most often identified as being interested in the environment are you, Laurene Weste, Marsha McLean and Lynne Plambeck. Weste, McLean and the rest of the council put the open space initiative before the voters. Plambeck didn't seem to support it. You did. Why?
Schultz: Well, of course, I'm a known crazy person for open space. I have been involved in working with the Santa Clarita Woodlands, Placerita-Whitney Canyon, supporting any group that wants to get open space, buying the river land most of the Santa Clara River is in private ownership, about 99 percent.
The city does have a plan. There is an open space plan for the city. I am actively supporting efforts, any kind of effort, so I supported that effort, although I was against it. I happen to be a Howard Jarvis Taxpayer Association person. I have a lot of problems with taxes that aren't voted for. This would have been yet another tax that the people would have voted for, but we have a lot of them that don't. For assessment districts and things like that, you see a little thing come up on your bill, you were just assessed, and you didn't vote on it. So when they saw this, a lot of them reacted and said, well, here's a tax; why can't you do this with moneys that you have in your general fund? And the problem is, they were putting stuff in like maintenance and park infrastructure. That shouldn't have been in. This should be a district for acquiring open space. The city should be getting it before it's gone. Because once the land is gone, it's gone. And it's expensive.
Probably people didn't realize that even with the $25 a month that you paid, you'd only have gotten about $1 million a year. How much land does $1 million buy? You go out there and you'll see it doesn't buy a lot of money. So the trick is to leverage that money. Because it's a district that was one of the good parts about it as a district it is eligible for federal and state and other grant moneys. Then you can get $1, could be $3 or $4 or whatever. The city was a little lax on that, too. When I talked to the folks in the city they said we have grant writers in the city, but they made it sort of casual-like. Well, you need to assign someone whose job it is to get grants for this money. That should be part of the next effort, should it be made. And I would certainly advocate that.
(Editor's note: According to the city of Santa Clarita, approximately 30 percent of the Santa Clara River within city limits is in public ownership today, and the Riverpark project will bring the total to 45 or 50 percent, once the entitlement process is completed and the litigation is terminated.)
Signal: Another area where you distinguished yourself from Lynne Plambeck was the Gate-King Industrial Park project. Plambeck heads SCOPE, which sued over the Gate-King project. You came out in favor of Gate-King. How is that considering your affiliation with the Sierra Club, and the fact that the project would remove about 10 percent of the 11,000 oak trees on the property?
Schultz: Well, OK, first of all, you can't just identify the organizations the Sierra Club is not SCOPE, and if you look a little closer, SCOPE is pretty much Lynne Plambeck, if you look at what happens and how it runs and what it works. Basically what Lynne does is what SCOPE does, and conversely. The Sierra Club has got a little bit more volunteer base, so we are a little bit more spread out in opinions. We've got Republicans, even. If you can believe it or not, half of our folks are Republicans.
Gate-King, for example, is a project which initially had problems. The developer addressed the problems not perfectly, and there will be some trees removed, but there will also be quite a bit that will come into public ownership as a park. A couple of hundred acres. There is also some damage to ridgelines, but it is not serious damage.
If you look at what the project does for the city, there's a real plus. That area if you go along Pine Street and you drive up in that area, you'll see that those old businesses and things back in there, that's a real disaster area. This project will make that a much nicer area.
Also, the real problem from an environmentalist point of view, of course, is animal corridors. The critical animal corridors run between the San Gabriels and the Santa Susanas, across the 5-14 gap there. This property, Gate-King, is right in the middle in that standard area. Now there has been allowance for an animal corridor in this, and I think the developer has done about as well as could be expected for this. So I think that this lawsuit, it's probably you could call it frivolous.
Signal: The developer is actually creating an animal corridor where there isn't one. Today the animals have to cross Sierra Highway.
Schultz: Well, yeah. They have been doing this all along. There's a bunch of land there that's open and the animals make their way. You saw what happened when the earthquake hit, on (Interstate) 5 and they put up those barriers and you saw those dead animals out there, they were blocked by the barriers. It was not pretty.
Signal: Two years ago you when were running for City Council, you had a problem with Newhall Land's Riverpark project in the middle of the city. Since then, the Sierra Club has filed a lawsuit against the city to block it. The question is, if you're elected to the City Council and you're on the losing end of a development decision, would you sue the city?
Schultz: First of all, as a city councilman, you can't file a lawsuit against your own city. You're already in conflict right there. No, I would never file a lawsuit on something like that once it has been decided by the council, as a council member.
Let's go back to the beginning, though. You made some statements here about the Riverpark project. First of all, it isn't the Sierra Club that is suing alone. It's suing with the Center for Biological Diversity, the California Water Impact Alliance and the Friends of the (Santa Clara) River. So there are four groups.
Now, why are we doing this? Why is this project particularly interesting? This project is being built and everybody tells you what the important part is it's the cross-valley connector. There's this road, of course, Golden Valley Road, and there's this bridge that, as you can see, is completed to a certain point over Soledad Canyon (Road). Supposedly, if they can get all the money, it will go over and run through this project and connect up to Newhall Ranch Road on the other side.
Why is this bad? Well, first of all, the assumption that everybody seems to make is that this road is going to make things better. Not. It ain't going to happen.
You can read the environmental impact report put out by Newhall Land. In there it says that every intersection that is impacted at all from this particular road is going to be busier than it was before. So you build this thing out, you've got worse traffic than you had before. So this is a lie.
The only reason this road is being built is so that the project can be built. There is no good reason for this project to be built. Because it's one of the best parklands. When they did the study a number of years back, the city did a study, and Cal Polytechnic guys in the summer came out and designed a river park system for us. Where were the good spots to get ahead and get this land and make beautiful river parks? Well, the North Valencia annexation killed off one of the best ones, and some of the best ones are being killed off by this Riverpark project.
Half of that Riverpark project should have been turned into a connection to the Central Park, which is on the other side of the hill, and that would have made beautiful parkland. Then you could have put some other housing in the other end of it, and then you wouldn't have to build this road. Because this road is making things worse.
People think, $245 million, because there is so much money involved, this project wasn't going to stop. We had (U.S. Rep.) Buck McKeon going out and getting money from the federal government. We had all this stuff lined up to build this bridge the bridge to nowhere. It's just a bridge for this project, so that people in this project will be able to make things more crowded when they are done.
Signal: So the cross-valley connector is the wrong road
Schultz: In the wrong place.
Signal: What do you do, then? Not build a road across the valley?
Schultz: At this point, who's going to stop the road? The lawsuit that's out there is going to be resolved at some point, right? And then, what always happens after these lawsuits are resolved? The project is built as planned.
Look at the Westridge project. We were a part, a long time ago, of the suit against the original Westridge project. Sierra Club was one of the plaintiffs in that case. We won the case with the help of our friends in Stevenson Ranch, who tossed in. We were just worried about the ecological area. They said, well, what about infrastructure? What about schools? Libraries? And that's what the judge ruled on. In fact, because of that ruling, they have to pay money for each house; (it) has to go to libraries and things like that. So that was a result.
Signal: SCOPE took some of the credit for that, as well.
Schultz: Yeah, whatever. It doesn't matter. That was the right thing to do. And so now we skip ahead a little time: Westridge project is built. It came back almost identical to its original form. Now, people will tell you, we saved some land for oaks. Nonsense. That was (Significant) Ecological Area 64 in the county. It's gone. The last major valley oak savannah in Southern California. It's toasted.
Anyway. That was the original effort, was to protect that, and of course it was a failure because the project was built as designed.
Signal: OK, if the cross-valley connector is not going to improve things, then what do we do to improve traffic?
Schultz: Nothing is going to improve traffic.
Signal: So we don't need any more roads?
Schultz: You can build all the roads you want in this valley, and it isn't going to get any better.
It's simple. They have a traffic model. If you look at the way the valley is not like San Fernando Valley, where it's a big grid, and if you put some more streets in between, there's another grid you can sneak by on. That's not real pretty, but here we have pinch points because of the geography. You've got Bouquet Canyon, you've got Soledad Canyon, you've got San Francisquito, and all of these roads converge at certain points. No matter how you build the roads, everybody has to go through these points.
So as you dump more and more people into this finite area, constricted by finite geography, they're all going to be running through these pinch points. It's just going to get more and more crowded. The traffic model shows this quite clearly.
You don't hear Frank Ferry talking about he was the "road warrior," if you recall, a few (years) back when he ran for office. You don't hear him yelling about the roads anymore. He must have realized at this point that the roads aren't going to get any better.
Signal: Today we hear everybody including Frank Ferry saying how the cross-valley connector is going to improve the traffic situation. Are you saying
Schultz: I am saying they are all telling you a bunch of stories. It isn't gonna happen.
Signal: Are you opposed to building new roads in this town?
Schultz: You can build new roads. I'm just telling you that when you build the new roads, things aren't going to get any better.
Signal: Do you support the cross-valley connector?
Schultz: No. There is no point in building it.
Signal: Do you support spending public money on building new roads?
Schultz: It depends on what the road is for. Sure, I am in favor of road building.
Signal: Why? If new roads aren't going to make anything better?
Schultz: You are going to be building new projects. There are going to be more roads.
Here's the trick. What you want to do instead of making each project make everything worse, you'd like to design the projects that are built in such a way that you're not going to make them any better, but so at least they try to keep it even, so that you get a net zero gain from your additional project; somehow the roads aren't more crowded. They aren't less crowded, but they aren't more crowded.
So the trick is to design the project so that your overall infrastructure is able to maintain the new folks that go in. Right now, the new folks are more than the infrastructure can handle after you're done.
Signal: Don't you think that Newhall Land, by putting $25 million into a portion of the cross-valley connector, is providing the access needed for Riverpark so that if it doesn't make anything better, at least it won't make anything worse?
Schultz: But it does make stuff worse. I just explained that. That's what the EIR tells you. You can go read it. It's right there in black and white. It tells you at each intersection what the change in traffic is going to be, and it's going to be worse. This project is too dense for the area.
Now, you could have made it less dense, and you could have had different egress. You could have had egress out of one end of it and not the other end. Some people are going to like the new road because a person going from point A to point B (and) might have another nice way to go. But then there are all those other people that are trying to go from another point to another point that are going to be screwed.
Signal: Let's switch subjects. Annexation. Do you want one city in the Santa Clarita Valley?
Schultz: One Valley, One Vision. I am a strong advocate of that.
The problem that we have right now I don't know if you were at the meeting out at Castaic where everybody was talking; Castaic wanted to get all the input about what we are going to be doing. Our City Council people were there and our city manager and everybody was there. And they weakly weakly said, oh, well, if you want it you can have it, but if you don't want, you don't have (to). It's like the city doesn't care. The city ought to darned well care. That's what we're here for.
Signal: How would you "sell" Castaic on the idea of joining Santa Clarita?
Schultz: I'd say we want to work with you. Let's sit down and make it happen. There's nothing illegal against sitting down and talking.
I will give you a reason why our elected officials aren't pressing for these things. It's because they have friends, and these friends have a vested interest in seeing that these annexations don't occur. Because they want to keep everything outside the boundary of the city going the way they want it. Newhall Land and Farming wants to build Newhall Ranch, and the folks over in Lennar want to build all these projects outside the city without having to worry about the city.
We don't even have a sphere of influence. One of the things I advocate quite strongly is that we try. And why haven't we been succeeding in the past? Well, there's politics, obviously. Well, we have to get some powerful people to support all of this. Maybe if Buck (McKeon) joined in and a lot of other folks got together, and (Supervisor) Mike Antonovich felt some pressure, maybe LAFCO would all of a sudden decide that maybe we are worthy of having a little bit of say over what goes on next to us.
Signal: Frank Ferry mentioned a few weeks ago how campaign contributions in Santa Clarita are limited by ordinance to $360 per person. How, then, are people's votes being bought if individual contributions are limited to $360?
Schultz: Woah, dude. Frank Ferry is a interesting case. Frank Ferry is the one who got this whole thing it used to be $100 per person. I was at the meeting where this all happened. And the proposal it was a $100, and people said let's raise it up to $1,000. And then there was this interesting politics went on, and eventually it was settled at $360. Oh, yeah, we will take $360. We tripled the amount of money that people are even if it's $250, it doesn't matter. We shouldn't be having large sums of money because it just makes it easier.
(Editor's note: The original limit was $250, not $100. The proposal was to raise it from $250 to $1,000.)
Where does Frank Ferry's money come from? Maybe its from car dealerships and other places like that. It makes it easier for them to collect large sums of money. When you have people that can give large sums of money and it's allowed, then you are going to have the kind of problem we have.
That's why big money is running the city right now. Because these things like annexation, these things like Riverpark, they are all influenced by money and what these developers want to do. The developers have (the Valencia) Marketplace over there. So when the Golden Valley Ranch project went in, well, who was opposing the Golden Valley Ranch project which was a good project? You know what happened over there: the 1,000 acres of open space, there's going to be a whole commercial center there. Who was fighting it? The folks over here in Newhall Land were fighting it because they didn't want these guys to take away from the money stream over here and the (Valencia) Marketplace.
And so it's a credit to the City Council that they did approve this, although there had to be some fighting to make sure that land was put into open space in perpetuity, because it's very tricky. The city can take eminent domain and do lots of other things. So legally, it's very tricky to protect that land in perpetuity.
Signal: Of the other three candidates who are generally recognized as being environmentally friendly Weste, McLean and Plambeck with whom are you most closely aligned?
Schultz: None of the above.
Signal: Three seats are open on the City Council. Who's going to get your other two votes?
Schultz: I don't want to say.
Signal: If you're elected on April 11, you would be serving with Bob Kellar and Cameron Smyth. Who would work best in the other two positions?
Schultz: You mean of the current folks on the (council)? ... It's hard to say, because I am really not familiar with most of the other candidates that we have right now.
Signal: Including the incumbents?
Schultz: Oh, no. For the incumbents, I think it would be I know both Laurene and Marsha. I supported Marsha in her campaign when she ran, so obviously I know she has a good feeling for the environment, as does Laurene. Laurene just came out and spoke at our Sierra Club meeting. Each year we have the mayor come out and speak, and she did a very nice job. She's quite knowledgeable with the environment. So I have comfort level, environmentally, with both of them.
Signal: So is it safe to presume that you are really going after Frank Ferry's seat?
Schultz: No. I am going after a seat. And whoever I beat, I'll beat. And whoever my own feeling is that because of the, how would you say, the money end of this, I would be happy if all three of the incumbents were voted out. But that's another story all together. That's because we have a little bit too much people have been there too long, too much history. We need some new folks in there, and that's why I am running. We need some new ideas and some honesty.
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.