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Out, brief candle of Cityhood

By Leon Worden
Wednesday, April 10, 2002

D
id America's biggest waste hauler buy our small-town election? The ballots haven't been counted as I write this, but whatever the outcome, Frank Ferry, Jan Heidt and Marsha McLean will forever be tainted by the stench of corporate welfare come home to roost.
    And that's a shame. Jan, in particular, could have exited the public stage gracefully, her name boldly affixed to one of the train stations she championed. And now this.
    When future historians and editorial writers look back at the Election Scandal of 2002, they'll remember the year Santa Clarita grew up, this infant now fully mature, 14 years of struggle culminating in the stuff big-city elections are made of, with Allan Cameron as the agent of its despair.
    And at what price? Peanuts, piled against the sky-scraping profits the garbage company reaped from our fair citizens these past several years. It's money enough to alter the electoral outcome in a city our size. Do our souls truly come so cheaply when our heads are cluttered with delusions of power?
    In retrospect it will matter little, indeed will be swiftly forgotten, that Frank, Jan and Marsha disavowed a priori knowledge of the 30 (thousand) shekels of silver spent on their behalf. But what of this plea of ignorance? Shall we believe that those who cannot keep their very campaigners under control can run a $150-million-a-year municipal corporation?
    We've yet to learn the total poured into this election from special interests. Several players evidently didn't follow state reporting laws. We do know a developer funneled thousands to support Marsha, while Marsha was espousing what we must now interpret as a phony anti-developer agenda. And we know a campaign committee ostensibly controlled by our good congressman's wife funneled more developer money into a mailer touting the congressman's favorite son, Frank.
    One wonders what convictions were forfeited when the head of the local Democratic Party added $5,000 to Frank's Republican coffers.
    I confess I've had bouts of obsolescence. Many of us who've been here 30-plus years have seen the changes, but we still have a myopic view of our town. We do see it as a town, not a city, insulated by ridgelines that create the false illusion we're immune from outside influences and political corruption.
    We are wrong. We are a city. We have become one. Oh, boy. We've got it all, from small-time bullies to multinational corporations that line the pockets of activists who've named their price to become politicians in every sense of the word.
    This is not the vision we birthed one heady November a decade and a half ago. We were full of hope and promise, obstinacy and naïveté perhaps, but dreams nonetheless of doing things differently and tilting at windmills to preserve not just the physical charm of our isolated burgh but the very fabric that binds us together as a community of people.
    It was inevitable, this arrival at the point we're at today. We knew it would come. It was the price we decided we were willing to pay for self-governance. A vain quest for freedom, denying to ourselves, but knowing, we were building our own prison.
    Few are those, anymore, who rage against the dying of the light, this brief candle of cityhood, its flame snuffed out beneath Golden Valley homes astride Santa Clarita's last Larry Rasmussen flattened peak.
    Will anyone remember?
    Leon Worden is The Signal's city editor.

    ©2002 LEON WORDEN — ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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