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Santa Clarita Posts Measure S Ballot Arguments On City Website

Scenic Florida
Photo: KHTS

"Arguments for and against the city of Santa Clarita's controversial billboard measure are online, giving residents plenty of time to decide whether they want three new electronic billboards next to local freeways or let more than 40 older billboard structures stay up throughout the SCV.

A ballot measure being presented to Santa Clarita voters in November will ask:

"Shall Ordinance No. 14-02 adopting a Development Agreement with the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (METRO) for the removal of 62 advertising structures, within the City, by METRO or any other means, and construction and operation of three digital billboards, adjacent to the Interstate 5 and State Route 14 freeways, and the dedication to the City of revenue received from digital billboards, which creates an ongoing revenue stream, be adopted?"

Santa Clarita City Council members voted 3-1, with TimBen Boydston objecting, to put the deal to voters, after a referendum effort seeking to stop the city's billboard deal between Metro and Allvision garnered more than 11,300 signatures.

Those in favor say Measure S will beautify the city, and add a 50-year revenue stream of up to $1 million per year to Santa Clarita coffers, in addition to other benefits.

Critics of the measure scorned the "backroom deal," calling Measure S a symbol for the abuse and arrogance of an insulated government."

City Councilman Bob Kellar said he took the referendum to mean voters want the measure on the ballot.

Opponents of the referendum effort, which was backed by a billboard lobbyist that funded the drive for signatures, flatly disagreed.

'Many people had different reasons for signing the referendum,' said Alan Ferdman, a Canyon Country resident and leader for an eastside advisory group, but the idea behind it was not to seek a ballot measure.

'The whole object of the petition was to stop the deal -- it wasn't that we wanted it on the ballot, it was that people felt the whole arrangement had been done behind closed doors, without giving all interested parties the opportunity to bid,' he said.

Kellar defended the city's process at the June meeting when the vote approving the measure took place. He said the referendum effort was responsible for putting out falsehoods about the deal, a claim made by both sides of the billboard debate in Council Chambers.

'I believe they ignored the concerns of the residents,' Ferdman said.

The cost of the election is $204,000, according to city officials.

The city of Santa Clarita put together a website with a frequently asked questions section about the billboard measure.

Los Angeles County officials received more than 16,000 signatures in opposition to the city's plan to put up three giant electronic billboards in Santa Clarita. Of those, 11,370 were deemed sufficient, which exceeded the 11,170-signature threshold.

Mayor Laurene Weste recused herself from the vote because she owns property with value that would be affected by the billboard deal..."

--Perry Smith, KHTS

Grand Jury Releases Findings On Billboard Company's Illegal Tree Cutting Permits

In June 2009, Citizens for a Scenic Florida received an anonymous letter reporting that acres of trees were being cut down along I-10 and other state roads in the Panhandle without approved vegetation management plans or associated mitigation fees.  As it turned out, more than 2000 trees were "illegally removed" from state right-of-way along I-10 and other roads in the Panhandle.  The letter indicated that the trees were removed by Bill Salter Advertising Co. in order to create view zones for the company's billboards.  The letter also suggested that Salter Advertising had used the influence of then State Representative Greg Evers to broker a deal with FDOT leadership and that an FDOT employee had been ordered by the FDOT District Director of Operations James Rodgers to let Salter Advertising "do whatever they want."  In response to public records requests by Citizens for a Scenic Florida and the St. Pete Times, no documents provided by FDOT confirmed any communications on the subject between then Representative Evers, then FDOT Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos, and then FDOT Deputy Secretary Kevin Thibault.  In response to a public records request made in 2010 (by a citizen in St. Petersburg) for all emails to and from Secretary Kopelousos for a given period, among the thousands of documents provided by FDOT were emails revealing such communication between Evers, Kopelousos and Thibault. Other emails turned up later when the original records requests were repeated verbatim in 2011. This information was forwarded to the State Attorney for the Second Judicial Circuit and subsequently reviewed by a Grand Jury. The Grand Jury called it a debacle.

* Grand Jury Presentment (report)

* Grand Jury Presentment Attachments

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida Press Release

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to Governor Scott

* Citizens for a Scenic Florida letter to FDOT Secretary

FDOT letter (dated 2-22-2012) to Bill Salter Advertising, Inc.