Paradoxes Emerge As Lovingood, Holland, Roelle, Valles & Russ Race For Supervisor

Paradoxes abound in this year’s race for First District Supervisor. The incumbent is looking to win. His challengers seem less fixated on winning and more focused on keeping the incumbent from claiming victory. Everyone in the race is a Republican. The incumbent, more than any of the others, is a creature of the private sector. Yet the company he owns, a temporary help employment agency, as often as not supplies personnel to work in public sector positions. He appears dead set on remaining in office, an enviable public employment position. The others, despite their Republican affiliations, come across as sympathetic to unions, public employee unions in particular. The incumbent, representing the lion’s share of the county’s desert residents, has put his strongest foot forward by championing aggressive construction and economic development in the desert. Yet he is the lone candidate on record supporting a controversial effort by out-of-county interests – ones based in Los Angeles and Orange counties – intent on drawing billions of gallons of precious water contained in the water table underlying San Bernardino County’s eastern Mojave desert. The loss of that water availability will, his opponents claim, limit the desert’s ability to achieve its development potential, now and well into the future.
Lovingood, who was first elected nearly four years ago, is seeking reelection. Four seasoned politicians hope to stop him: former Apple Valley Mayor/Councilman Rick Roelle, former Victorville City Councilwoman/Victor Valley College Board member Angela Valles, Hesperia Mayor Bill Holland and Hesperia Councilman Paul Russ.
A first obvious paradox is that Roelle, who ran for First District supervisor in 2012 and managed to get enough votes in a seven-candidate race to force a run-off with Lovingood which he narrowly lost, is married to Valles. That they are political antagonists – of a sort – does not seem to threaten the couple’s marriage. Rather, it seems to be bringing them together in a common goal, which is to deny Lovingood reelection. The theory here is that having an overflow of candidates in the June Primary will likely result in no one candidate capturing a majority, forcing, as in 2012, a November run-off. If the two top vote-getters turn out to be two of the challengers, which seems unlikely given Lovingood’s power of incumbency, all the better, figure Valles and Roelle. Roelle and Valles calculate that if one of them or Holland or Russ qualify for the run-off against Lovingood, then that will provide four more months in which the concerted attacks from as many quarters as possible can be vectored toward Lovingood, perhaps leading to what for them is the desired outcome of consigning Lovingood into political retirement.
Russ and Holland, colleagues on the city council in Hesperia, seem to get along and generally vote identically on issues that come before them in the City of Progress. Both celebrate themselves as populists from the right of the political spectrum, Holland having worked in law enforcement and Russ touting himself as a genuine Constitutional conservative who has garnered the endorsement of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee, the regional arm of the State GOP. Like the husband and wife pair of Valles and Roelle, the two Hesperia City Council blood brothers, political allies, have squared off against one another in the fight to displace Lovingood.
Russ and Holland’s dual populist stance and appeal to the voters of the district runs head-on with a vote they made in January to approve the 16,000-home Tapestry project partially located on the grounds of Las Flores Ranch in Summit Valley. That project, intensified from the 9,000-dwelling unit Las Flores Ranch development proposal of the late 1980s and early 1990s that fell apart after it was learned that former Hesperia City Manager Rob Rizzo had facilitated the delivery of monetary payoffs to the former council members who advocated for and promoted the proposal, leaving laege numbers of Hesperia residents angered and disillusioned. Both Russ and Holland have sought to defend the vote, but it opened up the one major difference existing between the anti-Lovingood candidates. Roelle, who made his political mark in Apple Valley by consistently voting to keep in place that town’s half-acre lot size standard on single family residences, found himself deviating from his game plan of continuously hammering on Lovingood when asked about the Tapestry project. He made clear he would never have voted to approve such an aggressive land use proposal, by extension calling the judgment of Holland and Russ into question.
Except for that squabble, what emerges is that the four challengers dislike Lovingood. The most intense of those attacks consists of Valles’ charge that Lovingood, as supervisor and as the owner of ICR Staffing Services, has entangled himself in a conflict of interest that puts him at odds with the district’s residents. In particular, Valles claims that ICR’s contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority has pushed Lovingood into the area of illegality, since one of the constituents of the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority is San Bernardino County and, by the terms of its charter, one of its board members is the First District Supervisor. Valles has documented that ICR has received at least $560,000 in fees from the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority.
Lovingood, however, refutes Valles’ claim, pointing out that ICR’s contract with the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority predated his election as supervisor and that he prudently avoided being seated as the authority’s board member, conscientiously and fastidiously remaining above such a conflict. Instead, Lovingood pointed out, his fellow board of supervisors colleague, James Ramos, has served in his stead on the Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Board. Valles has retorted that this arrangement, in which the First District supervisor has not represented the Victor Valley’s residents but rather left them to be represented by someone who neither lives in the area nor was elected by them, violates the Victor Valley Wastewater Authority’s charter.
Lovingood’s strongest suit is that he more than any of the other candidates embodies the ethos of the private sector. Unlike Valles and Roelle and Holland, Lovingood has made his way in the world as a businessman, one who must meet a payroll every week, one who has provided gainful employment for his employees, one who pays taxes and feels the lash and burden of governmental regulation and taxation on his daily function. Roelle is a retired sheriff’s lieutenant who was a public employee all or nearly all of his career and who is now drawing a hefty pension that is close to his highest salary when he was working. Valles, too, has worked much of her life in the public sector. Holland was a law enforcement officer now drawing a pension. Lovingood, as a taxpayer, can assert that he represents the common man in a way that three of the others, who are supported by the taxpayers, simply cannot.
Moreover, Lovingood’s business credentials provide him not only with entrée to monetary donors, they give him a legitimate claim to being in a position to “run the county like a business.”
For many of the First District’s residents fed up with government intrusion through overregulation and taxation into their lives who have come to resent county employees represented by a powerful public employees union that has extorted from the county’s political leadership salaries and wages two to three times the rate of what is paid in the private sector for comparable work augmented by pensions that dwarf their own, they are putting their faith in Lovingood, hoping he will carry forth proposals to take the public unions down a notch or two, resist demands that overpaid county workers be paid ever more, terminate unproductive members of county staff and reduce the burden on taxpayers generally.
Still others are concerned that Lovingood is too close to and too indulgent of the corporate world.
A case in point consists of his support of Los Angeles-based Cadiz, Inc.’s project to extract billions of gallons of ancient and pristine water lying in the aquifers of the East Mojave Desert, which it could then sell for use in urban Orange County, Los Angeles County and Riverside counties.
Cadiz, Inc. achieved permission to proceed with what it refers to as Cadiz Valley Conservation, Recovery and Storage Project, which would sink 34 wells into the desert on property owned by the company to tap into water from the aquifers beneath both the Cadiz and Fenner valleys and then convey that water into a 44-mile long pipeline to be constructed along a railroad right-of-way until it meets up with the aqueduct that carries Colorado River water to the Los Angeles and Orange County metropolitan areas, by arranging for the Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County as the lead public agency overseeing the environmental assessment of and permitting of the project. The Santa Margarita Water District, the second-largest water agency in Orange County which is located more than 200 miles from where the 50,000 acre-feet of water is to be drawn on an annual basis, is one of the scheduled purchasers of the water, along with Three Valleys Water District, which provides water to the Pomona Valley, Walnut Valley, and Eastern San Gabriel Valley; the Golden State Water Company, which serves several communities in Southern California, including Claremont; Suburban Water Systems, which serves Covina, West Covina and La Mirada; and the Jurupa Community Services District, which serves Mira Loma in Riverside County.
There are significant numbers of desert residents who believe it was absolutely inappropriate for the a water agency from Orange County, in particular one who stood to benefit from the outcome, to have been allowed to oversee the California Environmental Quality Act review process for the project, given that the members of the Santa Margarita Water District Board do not represent the Mojave Desert and are not answerable to the Mojave Desert’s voters.
Moreover, the removal of that water from the region severely complicates, limits or obliterates the prospect that development will be able to take place in the region, as water availability is a requisite to such activity.
Four years ago, during Lovingood’s initial run for the board, the Cadiz Water Project was a roiling topic. Since then it has been delayed by legal, procedural and environmental challenges. Lovingood said at that time,
“There is a storied history to the use of water in California and we wouldn’t have some of the urban areas we have if water was not taken from one place to be used in another,” Lovingood said. “Inherently, water rights come with property. I am in favor of property rights. If you own property, then there is ownership of the water. Much of this issue would be controlled by the environmental impact report.”

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