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Friday, Jan 27, 2023
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The Number

Maybe the old adage that all politics is local needs to be turned on its head. That was certainly the conclusion from the Nov. 4 election. Roughly 25 percent of all county registered voters bothered to show up at the polls despite an important state water bond, congressional seats up for grabs and other issues. The pundits’ verdict: without a presidential election voters’ weren’t paying attention. Which, of course, means that elections these days are top-down, the very opposite of local. And that was evident in Santa Clarita, where the turnout was a bit better, but only hit 33 percent despite a divisive issue that appeared to catch the community’s attention. As the Business Journal has previously reported, voters there were asked to approve a deal between the city and the L.A. County Metropolitan Transportation Authority to remove 96 old billboards along local Metrolink tracks and replace them with three freeway digital billboards. The city said it was all part of a plan to beautify Santa Clarita, but outdoor advertising companies mounted a successful signature-gathering campaign to qualify a referendum for the ballot. It got so heated that deputies were called to the scene of one location where signature gatherers and opponents squared off. Measure S asked voters if the Metro deal should be approved. In the end, residents decided to keep their print billboards, with 19,383 turning down the agreement and 15,401 voting for it – meaning only 34,784 residents cast ballots out of 105,372 voters. Pat Aidem, a Santa Clarita resident and former newspaper editor, has her theories. She said many residents now work outside the city and may be losing track of what is going on. She also believes voters weren’t given much of a choice. “Nobody really likes those red blinking signs on the freeway either,” she pointed out. – Laurence Darmiento

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