Long Beach-based Adler Public Affairs was hired by a private citizen group to advocate for the measure. Telemarketers hired by the firm called thousands of potential voters to confirm they received the ballots, to answer questions and to urge people to vote, Adler said. “There have been cities in other places in California that have crossed the line and gotten themselves in trouble,” Adler said. “We were hired to prevent the entity from crossing line from education to advocacy.” Santa Clarita City Council members Laurene Weste and Frank Ferry were appointed by the council to head a subcommittee that conveys the city’s support for the measure, but the two also acted as private citizens to advocate for it. Councilman Bob Kellar wrote a personal check to KHTS AM-1220 radio to cut his own ad supporting the measure. The measure was made possible by Proposition 218, which allows cities to tally voter support for such assessments through the mail ballot process. Ballots were mailed out Oct. 7 to about 18,000 addresses. The deadline for returning ballots to the city clerk is 5 p.m. Nov. 22. Single-family homeowners would pay $25 the first year, with increases based on the Consumer Price Index. Condominium and mobile home owners would pay less. If the measure passes, it could generate about $1.46 million a year to buy, maintain and develop parkland and open space around the city for active and passive uses. A simple majority is needed to approve the measure. Hernandez has long said the measure is a special assessment, not a tax. Farley said an assessment that lands on his tax bill sounds like a tax to him. Canyon Country resident Peter Kurt, who said he is a 25-year employee of the city of Los Angeles, sees bureaucratic maneuvering at play. He is concerned that funding earmarked for park maintenance will be diverted to other uses if the measure is passed and said audits do not always “cut close enough.” “Stewardship is another word for maintenance,” he said. “Now, they would have an open-ended source of money.” He bemoaned special assessments and said people often lose track of how they add up. “It the way they get around Proposition 13, with assessments and fees,” he said. Hernandez countered with the caveat that under Proposition 13, the fee paid to an Open Space and Park Preservation district is considered to be a benefit assessment, directly tied to the benefit property owners will receive. “We will use these funds to purchase and preserve open space and parkland,” he said. “We need to purchase that land today before it is developed.” The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, which has teamed with the city to preserve natural areas in and around Santa Clarita, supports the measure. “There is not enough money in the city’s funds and whatever state funds are available,” said Paul Edelman, the agency’s deputy director for natural planning and resources. “Taking the measure to fill in that slack is essential.” A few years ago, Palmdale property owners approved a similar measure that provided amenities for the community. A $36-a-year special assessment is funding new recreational facilities, a family oriented aquatic park, a swimming pool, a soccer complex, a public amphitheater and other park improvements. “The measures tend to fail or succeed based on their individual merits and the support in the community,” said Gerard Vansteyn, president of Fairfield, Calif.-based Shilts Consultants. The hotline may be reached by calling (866) 763-5288, Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The city is taking calls at 259-2489. For information online, visit www.moreopenspaceandparkland.com 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! SANTA CLARITA – By late Friday afternoon, 10,000 Santa Clarita property owners had cast their mail-in ballots for the city’s special parks assessment measure. The ballots had been sent to about 18,000 addresses. Fewer than 100 people have called a hotline and about 20 folks have e-mailed questions to a site established two weeks ago to field questions about the measure, which would cost most homeowners $25 a year to buy parkland. Amid a flurry of mailers and calls from telemarketers, voters may have trouble distinguishing which information comes from whom. Laws allow the city to educate voters but prohibit it from promoting the plan, so a public relations firm has been hired to rally the troops. While environmentalists, business leaders, safety officials and building interests support the measure, some residents are scratching their heads over the media blitz. AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREWalnut’s Malik Khouzam voted Southern California Boys Athlete of the Week “My main concern is the way the city is promoting it,” said Valencia resident Jim Farley. “I’m getting nothing but positive information.” He said the deluge included a slick promotional flier, a letter from the city manager and then the ballot and another slick mailer. A telemarketer hung up on him last weekend when he voiced concerns, he said. “The way they’re pushing it through, it’s almost guaranteed to pass,” Farley said. “There is no voice for the opposition.” He wishes the materials included a booklet similar to election handouts that contrast the pros and cons. City Treasurer Darren Hernandez countered that attempts have been made to educate voters without trying to influence them. “We believe it is very important to provide our property owners with sufficient information so they can make an informed decision,” he said. “Our goal has been to make our information factual, but neutral.” Information from several sources is hitting voters’ ears and mailboxes.
Parks balloting under way