Military veteran Chris Werthe kicks off Santa Clarita City Council campaignMai Nguyen Do June 30, 2019 0 COMMENTS
On Saturday June 29, U.S. Navy and Army veteran Chris Werthe joined friends, family and other supporters to kick off his campaign for Santa Clarita City Council.
Werthe, who has worked as Chief Safety Engineer for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power since 2014, ran unsuccessfully for William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board in 2018. He is now hoping to earn a seat on the Santa Clarita City Council in 2020.
“I’ve served in the Navy and in the Army, and I currently work for the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power,” Werthe said. “I think that record of service makes me qualified to serve you on the council.”
As he addressed the small crowd, Werthe highlighted his overarching campaign priorities — which include addressing traffic, housing affordability, homelessness, drug use and support for small businesses — and took questions from the audience as he explained his positions on the various issues.
“Santa Clarita isn’t a small town anymore,” Werthe said to the room of several dozen supporters. “We’re a larger city now, and we need to plan for the future.”
Werthe pointed to traffic and transportation as major issues he wants to address as a councilmember.
“I want to look into [public transit] alternatives, into smarter buses and more buses,” Werthe said. “If we can get more trains coming to encourage more commuters to use them, that can help with traffic.”
Werthe also discussed his ideas for expanding access to healthcare services. He proposed adding another hospital in Canyon Country to alleviate wait times at Henry Mayo Newhall Hospital and allow residents on the eastern side of Santa Clarita to access emergency medical services without having to drive across the city.
“I would love to see another hospital or at least an emergency medical center [in Canyon Country],” Werthe said. “It’s not okay to stress our current medical facilities. We should establish a commission or other body to research where a good place would be for a new facility.”
Former police officer Ulysses Taylor, who explained that he underwent several surgeries in recent months and did not use opioids to manage the resulting pain, asked Werthe how he would address the city council’s opposition to cannabis deliveries and sales within city limits.
“I just finished my fifth orthopedic operation,” Taylor said. “The city council has been opposed to legal cannabis dispensaries. Will you commit to stopping the prohibition against medicine that saves lives?”
Werthe immediately responded, stating that he would not oppose the operation of cannabis dispensaries within Santa Clarita.
“It’s a little absurd that you would have to drive to the [San Fernando Valley] to get your medicine,” Werthe said.
Werthe also touched on homelessness in Santa Clarita and emphasized compassionate strategies for aiding the local homeless population.
“Currently, [the city is] working on a permanent homeless shelter, and I’d like to fast-track that and expand it,” Werthe said. “We can’t demonize or criminalize homeless people, because it doesn’t help anything.”
While discussing how to help those experiencing homelessness, as a veteran himself, Werthe highlighted the need to assist homeless veterans.
“A disproportionate amount of homeless people are veterans,” Werthe said. “We build parks and hoist up flags, but we won’t help our homeless veterans. That’s not okay.”
Mai Nguyen Do is a Vietnamese American poet and researcher. She is a lifelong Santa Clarita resident and a College of the Canyons graduate. She is also the author of Ghosts Still Walking (2016) and Battlefield Blooming (2019). Find her on Twitter @DoNguyenMai.