Pickets Planned : Opposition Seeks to Block Santa Clarita Cityhood Vote

Times Staff Writer

The first organized opposition to cityhood in the Santa Clarita Valley surfaced Tuesday with an announcement that a lawsuit seeking to block the Nov. 3 incorporation election will be filed this week.

Wendy Morey, a Valencia homemaker, said members of the group, Citizens Against Cityhood, believe incorporation opponents were not given adequate time to place an argument on the ballot.

"We feel there were violations of the state Elections Code," she said.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors on Aug. 6 scheduled the election, giving candidates only until 5 p.m. the next day to file their nominating papers with the registrar-recorders' office. Although an argument favoring cityhood was printed on the ballot, no opposing opinion appears.

Connie Worden, a spokeswoman for the City of Santa Clarita Formation Committee, said she was unaware of Elections Code violations. She said she is pleased that the opposition has made itself known.

Picket Planned

Morey said the anti-cityhood group will picket a fund-raising event planned Thursday by the formation committee, place ads opposing cityhood in a local newspaper and have an anti-cityhood entry in Canyon Country's Frontier Days' parade Oct. 3.

She said committee members fear tax increases if voters approve a city in November, despite promises by incorporation opponents that there will be none.

"Santa Clarita cannot progress as a city without a tax increase somewhere," Morey said. "There has to be a tax increase for the city to survive. It might be hidden, but there will be one."

Louis Garasi, a cityhood committee member, acknowledged that the public's biggest fear is that taxes will be raised.

He said that will not happen because, under state law, any property tax increase would have to be approved by two-thirds of the voters. Los Angeles County's seven newest cities--Lancaster, La Canada Flintridge, West Hollywood, Agoura Hills, Palmdale, Moorpark and Westlake Village--imposed no new taxes, Garasi said.

Taxes were the main topics on the minds of candidates appearing at a forum earlier Tuesday at the Newhall Senior Citizens Center. About 200 people heard three-minute speeches from 23 of the 25 candidates.

Tax Increase Not Seen

"I don't see any increase in taxes at all," candidate Dennis Koontz said. "There's going to be a budget surplus. That means our money's going someplace else and not being spent here."

Candidate Vernon Pera agreed, saying the projected $3.5-million budget surplus is being spent in other parts of the county.

"Year after year, the county has been robbing us blind," candidate Carl Boyer said.

In another development, the cityhood committee released a telephone survey conducted last week. Of almost 450 people responding, 93% were aware of the cityhood issue, poll coordinator Michael Kotch said.

"A strong majority of those who have made a decision are in favor of cityhood and plan to vote 'yes' on Nov. 3," he said. "However, a large percentage of undecided voters exists."

An effort must be made to reach the 33% of registered voters that the survey found were undecided, Kotch said.

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