Candidates Vie For Victorville City Council
By Dianne Anderson
As long as voters just put a stamp on it and mail their ballots back early, or put a mask on and drop the ballot off in front of the county Registrar of Voters office starting on October 5, then voting should not be a problem this election.
In the meantime, nothing is stopping local hard-working contenders for three council seats in the fight for the good of their city.
For Leslie Irving, staying fiscally accountable to taxpayers is a major issue.
Irving looks to the increased cost of law enforcement, and salary increases for personnel. She said public safety is always necessary to protect business property and provide protection for citizens, but the city must remain fiscally solvent.
“We need social services, you need to analyze the budget, it’s one big pie. How do you balance the budget and provide for the citizens?” she said.
Under the current trajectory, she worries that if the city does not get its funds from somewhere else, such as imposing a new tax, then it will outspend the General Fund.
“That’s a challenge for all communities. At the end of the day, the cost of law enforcement for many municipalities takes up most of the General Fund,” she said.
Building up the city’s infrastructure is another priority. As the population becomes increasingly diverse, she said that diversity should be reflected in local government, and how jobs and services are deployed.
Irving, a special education teacher employed at San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools, has served on several boards, including Compton Unified School District Board of Trustees, and later Compton College Board of Trustees. She is also a member of the Victor Valley NAACP, the Victor Valley Chamber of Commerce and the National Women’s Political Caucus. Irving earned her bachelor’s degree in Interdisciplinary Studies from California State University Dominguez Hills and her Master of Science in Education Administration from National University.
The proposed high-speed rail offers a wealth of indirect opportunities. To build up the local economy, she wants to see more job creation, building a career pipeline for public safety, aerospace, manufacturing, and building trades.
“We have tradesman, people here who have skills and they go far away to work. How do we bring those people home? That has a direct impact on the local economy. It’s [about] partnering with agencies,” she said.
Above all, she stressed that everything hinges on the city staying fiscally solvent.
“Programs for youth, for senior, the disabled, ample amount of transportation here for people up the hill, those are the challenges and it all begins with our budget,” she said.
Terrance Stone is concerned with the growing homelessness in the city, followed by mostly nonviolent crime.
But, he said that wherever low level or property crime exists, poverty is close by. While public safety is important, Stone said that economic development and good-paying jobs are the solutions to crime.
“The main source of crime in almost every community is poverty. If you’re rich, you’re not breaking in houses, or doing white-collar crime. People do crimes when they are in a poverty type situation,” said Stone, CEO of Young Visionaries Youth Leadership Academy.
Different degrees of homelessness require different approaches to address the problem, he added. Some are chronically homeless or those with mental health issues, but others are situationally or economically-based homeless due to unemployment or temporary hardship requiring immediate shelter.
“The city needs to partner and find [agencies and nonprofits] that specialize and work with people that are homeless and get them out of that situation so the city doesn’t have to deal with the whole burden,” he said.
The freeways are packed every morning to get down the hill to San Bernardino or Los Angeles County jobs, but he sees ample Victorville land space offering untapped opportunities.
“We need to figure out our niche, and if we don’t have a real economic niche let’s develop one,” he said.
Stone has been recognized by top civic leaders for his work in the community and training hundreds of workers through his job readiness free forklift training certificate program. He is also state certified in gang intervention and has served on numerous boards and committees.
In the past, he was awarded a $1 million CalVIP grant funding to focus on violence reduction, employment readiness, youth mentoring and counseling services. He continues to host numerous outreach events providing food, COVID-19 resources, school supplies and services for families in several cities.
Local high paying jobs and jobs that lead to a career are needed, but more felony- friendly jobs are needed in the city, he said. If the proposed high rail system connects with surrounding opportunities, such as support for retail sales, it could offer good economic development.
However, he stressed that if the rail plans neglect local potential cash flow, the city could be limited to scraping by at $20-30 in parking fees from travelers heading out to Las Vegas.
More attention is needed to capitalize and build an economic base, such as support for small businesses, retail, hair, clothes, nail salons, he said.
“Don’t let them turn us into a park and ride,” he said. The goal is to make it so they can stay for a while and spend some money on the way to Vegas,” he said.
The city is growing, but for Lionel Dew, the big question is how the city will continue to grow.
During the COVID crisis, he feels it’s time to bring the best thinkers in local government and city positions to the table.
He said that his long history with the local business sector provides a door to help facilitate more collaborations into the future.
“Unless you’re 102 years old, no one has experienced a pandemic like this before. Today is the time when we must have the best intentions and most capable individuals to bring us through this pandemic,” said Dew, president of the Victor Valley African American Chamber of Commerce.
Safety, security and economics are also key, he said. The majority of the city is working class, and he’d like to see growth in a way that benefits everyone.
Dew said that more opportunities must be in the mix for younger workers. He looks to his college-goer son as a marker for how a lot of youth feel about the city. Upon high school graduation, the first thing his son wanted to do was move out of the area because he felt it was the only way to achieve his full potential.
“It hit me like ton of bricks, and he’s right. He takes college courses in Los Angeles, but I’m not the only [parent] that has experienced that,” he said.
When Dew was a youth, his options were clear. He’s a Vietnam veteran, and he received a Certificate of Appreciation from President H.W. Bush in service of Desert Storm. Locally, he hopes to create an environment where younger and older workers can thrive with options.
“There was a time when government and corporations created summer jobs for students. We don’t have that today. I would like to bring that back,” he said.
To get there, he feels that strengthening relationships with corporations, utilities and small business owners to expand the economics for the community is a high priority.
With his extensive business background, he hopes to bring that knowledge base to implement change in the city.
“I have a relationship with business owners, with corporations with utilities, and we are of like mind. I don’t think it would take a great deal to establish something like that, it just takes the desire,” he said.
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