Please, Carl, drop the address-change thingTim Whyte · August 17, 1997
To: Councilman Carl Boyer
Santa Clarita City Hall
239201235628719½ Valencia Blvd.
Way North of Downtown L.A., CA
I like you. Not just for selfish journalist-type reasons, either. Sure, you can be a source of interesting copy. Who could forget the time when you suggested that, since we were having a problem with some of the day laborers urinating in the streets and alleys of Downtown Newhall, we ought to put Andy Gumps on the street corners?
You were serious, too. You said it in an open City Council meeting, if memory serves. I was covering the city at the time, and let me tell you, any guy who wants to put porta-potties along city streets to keep people from whizzing behind a dry cleaner's shop, well, he makes for interesting copy.
But my affection for you goes beyond that, Carl. You're a nice guy, and well-meaning. You care about the community. You were trying to bring self-governance to this community back when my biggest concern was finding a new set of wheels for my "banana" skateboard.
You have always said we should break up Los Angeles County to make county government more responsive to local needs, and I suspect you're right. Your wishes for a new county, so far, have been dashed, but in 1987, the dream you shared with many others for more local control came true: Voters formed the City of Santa Clarita, and you became a member of the first Santa Clarita City Council, a position you still hold a decade later.
But man, Carl, if you keep it up with the address-change thing, you can kiss your chances of another term good-bye.
Surely our readers have heard about it by now: At your urging, the City Council has authorized a study of the possibility of changing everyone's address in Santa Clarita, from five digits to three. Predictably, the proposal does not appear to be popular -- just look at the recent letters to the editor in The Mighty Signal.
You've had a change-the-addresses Jones for years now, Carl. Remember when you were nearly laughed out of City Hall when you brought it up a few years back? As usual, you heart's in the right place on this one. The county basically "stole" our three-digit addresses a few decades back, issuing five-digit addresses that indicated the distance -- in blocks -- between any location and downtown Los Angeles. For example, if your address is 27245, you're 272 blocks from downtown L.A., and the 45 represents your address on the block.
It's a big, impersonal system created by a big, impersonal county. And you're rankled by it.
I can't say I blame you too much, but the five-digit addresses are an irritant we ought to just live with. Sure, and address of 327 Spruce Street is a lot more appealing and homey than 24907 Metropolis Boulevard, but if you look at it from a cost-benefit perspective, the costs of changing -- monetary and public relations-wise -- far outweigh the benefits.
You have gone to ridiculous lengths to justify the change, Carl, even going so far as to put forth the ludicrous notion that the five-digit addresses are a threat to public safety. You contend, for example, that anyone who doesn't know the location of Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital may have trouble finding it under the current address system, since it indicates orientation to that distant beast, downtown Los Angeles, rather than some local reference point.
What contrived hogwash that is.
First of all, anyone traveling along McBean Parkway who misses the big "EMERGENCY" entrance sign or any of the other hospital signs and, as a result, CAN'T FIND THE HOSPITAL because they're looking for the street number should, frankly, be eliminated from the gene pool.
Second, most people don't realize how an address system is devised. For most motorists, especially those who are new in town and don't know where the hospital is, a local point of reference within a hospital's address is no more useful than the downtown Los Angeles reference.
And don't even get me started on what it would cost all of us to change our addresses. It's one thing if you move, but for the government to change tens of thousands of addresses in one fell swoop is to create a logistical nightmare of epic proportions for individuals, other government agencies and businesses alike. As numerous letter-writers have aptly pointed out, this would be an inconvenience and expense for every single resident of the city.
Bottom line: Should the county have changed our addresses 40-whatever years ago? No. I'd like it better if we had three-digit handles, thank you very much. But what's done is done, and the addresses we have aren't causing anyone any harm. Frankly, changing them isn't worth the pain in the hind quarters that it would be.
Here's another impact that hasn't been discussed publicly: The political one. Carl, this is just the sort of issue that, for many voters, can offset your years of dedication and hard work on the city's behalf. Lots of people would vote against you based on this issue alone.
We haven't talked about it, and you haven't announced for sure that you'll seek another term, but the speculation among community mucky-mucks is you will. If so, Carl, this whole address thing could come back to bite you on the heinie. Think of the political hit pieces that could be drummed up with ammunition like that. It could get ugly. They'd try to portray you as a quirky chowderhead.
There are times when you've got to stand up for what's right, even at the risk of losing a job, or an election. But in the picking-your-battles department, going to the mat over changing everyone's address is neither advisable nor worthwhile.
Please, Carl. Drop it. And if you want to send me a note or a guest column disagreeing with me, the address -- at least for now -- is 24000 Creekside Road, Valencia, CA 91355.
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Tim Whyte is the magaging editor of The Signal. His commentary appears on Sundays.
© 1997, THE SIGNAL -- ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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