First District Candidates Promote Themselves, Disparage Each Other

(November2)  The two candidates for First District supervisor this week summarized their opposing cases for election, saying why each felt he offers voters a superior choice, touting their own experience and orientation as more appropriate, assailing their rival on his weak points and defending themselves against criticisms each had sustained on the campaign trail.
Rick Roelle, a sheriff’s department lieutenant and town council member in Apple Valley for the last ten years, is facing Robert Lovingood, who since relocating to the High Desert in 1989 has owned and operated an employee placement service. In the June primary, they both outdistanced five other hopefuls who were looking to replace Brad Mitselfelt, the incumbent supervisor who also in June unsuccessfully sought to step up to the federal level by running for Congress.
Roelle boasts the backing of two high powered county public employee unions, the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, which represents some 12,000 county workers and the Safety Employees Benefit Association, which represents county sheriff’s officers and district attorney’s office investigators. The sheriff’s deputies union, known by its acronym SEBA, has infused his campaign with $50,000. The San Bernardino Public Employees Association has given him $50,000.
Lovingood, whose success with his company, ICR Search/Staffing, has left him well fixed, is defraying the cost of some of his campaign, along with modest donations from over 100 backers who see him as a voice that is independent from the public employee unions which many believe to be dominating local governments and preventing needed wage and benefit reform.
Roelle told the Sentinel that he is the best candidate in the race because, “What it comes down to is San Bernardino County needs a change. We need somebody in there with ethics and knowledge of how government operates who is there for the right reasons and not to make money for his friends, who will look after the basic needs of the people he is elected to serve.”
Lovingood said he offers a realistic alternative to Roelle, one who will prevent the public sector from wasting money and burdening the private sector.
“At the end of the day a million dollars is a million dollars, whether it is being spent by government or business,” Lovingood said. “It comes down to who will spend your money more efficiently. In government, money is treated as an endless stream. People are going to learn quickly within the next three to four years that there will not be enough to sustain government and its wasteful programs. People are afraid of government, but it is just like in the Wizard of Oz, in the end it is just a little man behind a curtain with a loudspeaker.”
Roelle said Lovingood is doing fine in the private sector and should remain there. He said Lovingood is inadequate to the task of being supervisor because “He has never been involved in any type of government at all. People can say we want to get away from people who have been in office for years and are continually involved in government but if you are going to be effective and accomplish anything, you have to have a knowledge of how the system works. That is what I offer, experience instead of saying I am a businessman who wants to use government to create jobs. My opponent is saying he is going to create a million jobs. How do you do that with government? You can’t do that with taxpayer money. Government should not be involved in trying to create businesses. The city of Victorville got involved in using taxpayer money to start projects that in the end cost the taxpayers going on $200 million. We should look to the free enterprise system to create jobs.”
Lovingood said his experience in the private sector has prepared him for the duties of being supervisor in a way that Roelle’s functioning as a government employee has not. He said he is not in favor of government creating jobs. He said he just wants government to stop strewing obstacles in the path of businesses that will offer employment opportunities.
“My opponent has never had the accountability of meeting a payroll or the responsibility of knowing that if he doesn’t perform, people are going to lose their jobs and people have to step away and head to the unemployment office,” Lovingood said. “I respect people such as my opponent who work in public safety. They do a job I do not want to do myself but that does not qualify them to be the head of the government and it doesn’t give them an understanding of what  is required to run and administrate a going concern.”
Lovingood said he presents a superior choice as supervisor because he possesses a degree of “understanding” Roelle does not.
“I started here in the High Desert in 1989 and have directly or indirectly influenced bringing in over 30,000 jobs,” he said. “I have contributed by employing people and convincing a number of companies that they should not relocate. I have understanding. Understanding of what employers are faced with. An understanding of what regulation is and what it means. An understanding of the ceilings and restrictions federal, state, county and municipal governments place on a business. Government is not going to create jobs. What we need to do is find a way to remove the government as an obstacle. We have development fees that are killing investment, killing business. We have too high of a price tag for people to develop. I was talking to a developer who wanted to build a housing tract. He had the money to start the project but the government wanted half of a million dollars up front to pay for road improvements. He did not have the money to start his project and construct all of the roads at the same time. This project would have represented economic development and jobs. I say what should have been done is, based on the financials, the government should take 20 percent the first year and 20 percent each year for the next four years thereafter to pay for those roads. We need to get our government out of the way. I have an understanding my opponent does not have. I have a general understanding of how government is in the way. I understand that in government we have a whole host of unsustainable programs and I understand that we have to make some hard decisions of what we have to do away with. I understand that there has to be accountability to go along with that whole process.”
Roelle retorted, “My opponent is somebody who owns an employment agency that provides businesses with temporary employees. That is his only experience. I think my superiority with regard to experience in government is pretty cut and dried.”
Roelle gave his estimation what he considered to be the major challenges facing the county and the First District.
“Basically, the biggest three issues are unemployment, crime and corruption,” he said. “We need to bring investment back into San Bernardino County. For that to occur we have to get rid of the county’s reputation as the most corrupt in the state if not in the nation. We need to reduce crime.  No one will invest in San Bernardino County if we do not make it business friendly, safe and a place where people want to move in and raise families. That is what I would look after if I am elected supervisor. Nothing fancy, just basics.”
Roelle said he has the requisite talents to deal with those problems “I know how crime affects not just individuals but communities as a whole,” he said. “In the time I have been in the High Desert, I have seen it go from one of the nicest communities to live in to bordering on anarchy and lawlessness. As a police officer and my involvement on the town council for two terms I have seen the good, bad and ugly of how the system works.”
Lovington had a different take on what is ailing the county.
“Sacramento has robbed local government point blank,” he said. “The state has taken away our redevelopment authority. We are losing professionals in the 25 to 40 age bracket to other states and other countries. Skilled people are seeing that they can go from a two income to one income family and afford to live in other states and have a high quality of life. There is a professional shortage that is occurring here in the county now and will occur in our nation in just a few years. We are suffering from a lack of professionals in the technical and medical arena. I had a doctor fly in from Kansas and he spent a weekend driving around the High Desert. He did that and said he was not interested in relocating here. Professionals are not interested because of the excessive regulation they encounter here. The atmosphere of overregulation is strangling us in California.”
Lovingood offered a potential solution.
“I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but first, once I am elected, I will work collaboratively with the other supervisors as a united voice and reach outside our community to unify other boards in other counties, convince Democrats to come together with Republicans and say to the governor that the only thing this state is doing effectively is working to eliminate industries and opportunity and innovation for citizens,” he said. “I would work collaboratively in trying to address in one voice what the heart of the problem is, which is excessive red tape and overregulation.”
Lovingood continued, “We need to level the field for the development of our natural resources. People out of our area beyond the board of supervisors are controlling the land use decisions on some of what are the county’s most valuable revenue and tax producing operations, our mines. Mining companies in the First District are some of our most powerful generators of property and sales tax. We need to streamline our land use decision processes. We need to facilitate renewable energy projects. Once the environmental certification is done, they should start turning dirt on those projects in a short period of time. Some have federal funding. Others have private investors. The private investors are confronted with a five-to-ten year window of uncertainty We need to give them that certainty, so they can go into production without hesitancy. If they have $50 million, they can invest it in gold and be pretty certain they will see a decent or even hefty return. If we want investment in our county, we need to give those contemplating putting their money down here that they can get a good return. We need to remove their uncertainty.”
Roelle responded to what is perhaps the major criticism leveled at him at him by both those opposing his candidacy and those who are undecided as to how they are going to vote. Roelle’s major shortcoming, some say, is that he is a dyed-in-the-wool government employee, one backed by the public employee unions, a future recipient of a public employee pension that will total nearly $130,000 per year, and that he is thus disinclined to undertake the public salary and pension reform measures that are the basis of local government’s financial crisis. As Lovingood stated with regard to Roelle’s public union support, “He is a product of the system. His support comes from three public employee groups. When 90 percent of the money you are using to run for office comes from that narrow of a constituency, you are beholden.”
Roelle said, “I have been a policeman for nearly thirty years. Pension reform is happening as we speak. It is being legislated as we speak. Pensions can no longer be spiked. Nothing can stop that reform from going forward. Nothing can stop that. The system will collapse if the reform is not carried out. It is very hypocritical of my opponent to be criticizing the unions that endorsed me when he begged them for the same damn money that they are giving me and now he is begging them to quit giving me that money. I paid into the system for thirty years. Others could go to work for the government and if they want to run it that long they can get a pension, too. I worked for thirty years. I deserve a pension. That is the way the system was. If you work for the government, you get a pension. I am guilty of being a government employee, I guess.”
That upon retiring he will be eligible to draw a pension that provides him with three percent of his highest salary times the number of years he was with the department is irrelevant to the concept of pension reform as it is being instituted now and will have no impact on those reforms being carried forward, he said. “New cops are already getting two percent at 55,” he said. “That was just voted in by the union. Those decisions were already made by law at the state level and the [deputies’ labor] association voted to reduce the pension. How would I get involved in changing that? It is already occurring. From now on, the new cops coming in won’t get three percent at fifty. It is a dead issue. It is not on the table for the board of supervisors to discuss.”
Lovingood similarly sought to face down the most poignant criticism he has sustained during the campaign, which is that he is being supported by current supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, who was elevated to the supervisor’s post largely on the strength of his ties to now-discredited former supervisor Bill Postmus, who was indicted on political corruption charges and has since pleaded guilty to 14 felony counts. Mitzelfelt was Postmus’ chief of staff and widely perceived to have been aware of or complicit in many of Postmus’s depredations.
Lovington said that in years past he had worked in conjunction with Postmus when he was the duly elected supervisor, and that he has been endorsed by Mitzelfelt in this race. But he said, “There is no quid pro quo. Brad has been supportive. I have not had any contact with Bill for years. If people look at my broad base of support and listen to what I am saying, it should be clear that I am my own person.”
He said coordinating on policy or undertakings with others in office is part of the public process and that he has reached out to those in office for support in achieving his goals.
“I have 110 donors,” he said. “I have the support of the chairman of the board of supervisors, who feels I have something new to offer. I have the support of two of my opponent’s colleagues on the Apple Valley Town Council. That speaks volumes. I have the support of four people on the Victorville City Council and three on the Hesperia City Council. I am willing to work with others.”
Roelle said he will work to improve the circumstances in the First District if he is elected.
“The board of supervisors needs to put an emphasis on quality of life issues rather than staying in office,” he said. “The first government priority has to be the safety of its citizens from domestic or foreign threats. Local government needs to concentrate on ensuring the safety of its citizens and letting the free enterprise system work. Everything will fall into place if we do that.”
Another issue facing the First District, Roelle said, is the “falling home prices. Up to 50 percent of the value of homes has decreased. I think of the High Desert as a blue collar community. We need more emphasis on education to have high technology job opportunities come in here. We need to have an educated and skilled work force. Thirty percent of the people who live in the High Desert have not attended a college class.”
Lovingood said the First District has some advantages it needs to exploit. “Our water rights have been adjudicated,” he said. “We are blessed with a separate air quality management district that is not tied into the regulation of other areas in Southern California. Right now we are exporting a talented work force down the hill we need to keep here and employ here. My goal would be in the next four years to take ten percent of the commuters off the roads. That would take the stress off our infrastructure and it would be better for our families and communities.”

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