Victorville Councilman Links Hit Pieces To BIA

VICTORVILLE—( December 15) Victorville City Councilman Jim Cox has linked his recently installed council colleague, Eric Negrete, to political attack ads that targeted councilman Jim Kennedy during this year’s council race, which Cox characterized as false and which he said depicted the city and the remainder of the council in poor light.
The mailers took as their primary target Kennedy, an incumbent who was seeking reelection and who was ultimately successful in that bid. One of the mailers asserted that “Jim Kennedy is just wrong for Victorville.” Kennedy was represented as being in favor of a “water rate increase” for the city’s residents while favoring water subsidies for the Green Tree Golf Course, at which he was depicted golfing. “Taxpayers should bite the bullet and pay more,” he was quoted as saying. The mailer implied that the city, under Kennedy’s watch, had squandered, lost or otherwise misappropriated $250 million, resulting in an “F.B.I. Probe.”
While the mailers, on their flip sides, promoted both Negrete and another candidate, Michael Stevens, both Negrete and Stevens were able to plausibly deny that they had anything to do with them in that they were put out by an independent expenditure committee, the Quality of Life Coalition.
The Quality of Life Coalition, which is specific to Victorville, is a specially-created political arm of several developer-funded groups.
Since early last year, developmental and real estate interests have grown animated over proposals related to changes in the city’s residential density standards.  At issue is a move by city officials to raise from 7.200 square feet to 10,000 square feet the minimal lot size requirement. The city’s planning staff has pushed for that change. Staff members contend such a move would increase property values and reverse a trend that has saddled the city with a glut of smaller homes with small lots which some have cited as an attraction for blight and crime. Neighboring Apple Valley has a minimum lot size requirement of one half acre (21,800 square feet), which is three times the size of permissible lots in Victorville.
The development community has opposed staff’s effort, asserting that lot size does not have an impact on the quality of dwelling or the character of occupants. They and their lobbyists have stepped up attendance at city council and planning commission meetings when issues relating to development and density standards have been on the agenda, charging that the city will prolong economic stagnation by intensifying or toughening development criteria.
Cox, who was city manager in Victorville for more than thirty years beginning in 1969 and oversaw the transformation of the city into the county’s fifth most populous municipality, has become somewhat more cautious with regard to unbridled development and is now perceived to be supportive of staff’s plan to decrease the density in residential projects to be built in the future.  Last week, without taking Negrete to task specifically, Cox spelled out that it was a political faction aligned with Negrete that had tried to do a hatchet job on Kennedy, and by extension the remainder of the city council.
The Quality of Life Coalition, Cox said, had engaged in “dirty tactics” aimed not just at Kennedy but at city staff, the city council and the city itself.  The assertions in the mailers were false and misleading, Cox said. “The FBI is not investigating the city. Our budget is balanced,” he insisted.  Cox referenced campaign finance statements, known as California Form 460s, which show the Quality of Life Coalition contributed thousands of dollars to Negrete and Stevens’ campaigns in the form of mailers and public affairs.
The Quality of Life Coalition’s statement of organization, filed with the California Secretary of State on October 17,  just 18 days before the election, shows Carlos Rodriguez as its principal officer. Rodriguez is the president of the Baldy View Chapter of the Building Industry Association.  The Quality of Life Coalition was funded almost entirely by development trade groups and individual developers, including $2,500 from the Building Industry Association of Southern California’s political action committee. That donation came in on October 24.
The true originator of the attack ads, Cox said, was the Building Industry Association. And, he implied, Stevens and Negrete were in league with the Building Industry Association.
The Building Industry Association provided $2,000 each to Negrete and Stevens, on top of the independent mailings attacking Kennedy.
While Cox did not say so directly, he suggested that the Building Industry Association, by attacking Kennedy, may have made a strategic error. The focus group working on the density issue had formerly included councilman Ryan McEachron and councilwoman Angela Valles. Valles, who did not seek reelection this year, had been the strongest advocate of lowering density. She has now been replaced by Kennedy on the focus group. The vitriolic attack on Kennedy may leave him more disinclined than he would have been otherwise to reverse the course Valles had charted on the density issue.

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