Kennedy, Key Vestige Of Caldwell/Cox Machine That Ruled Victorville For 40 Years, To Leave

The second third of what has been a political institution in Victorville for 50 years gave indication this week he will retire from the position he holds within the public forum later this year.
Councilman Jim Kennedy will not seek what would have been his third term on the Victorville City Council come November.
In more ways than one, Kennedy is the embodiment, or at least represents a continuation, of the Caldwell/Cox dynasty that has proven out as the major shaper of what Victorville is today and has been over the last forty years.
When Victorville was founded in 1962, one of the prime movers toward cityhood had been Joseph Campbell, the scion of what was one of the community of Victorville’s elite families. Campbell’s father was Kemper Campbell, Sr. and his mother, Litta Belle Campbell, both of whom were attorneys. Joseph Campbell. was the younger brother of Kemper Campbell, Jr., an Army Air Corps flyer who lost his life in an aviation training mission early in World War II. Joseph Campbell was a charter member of the Victorville City Council, and remained on that panel for nearly a decade, serving during that time stints as mayor.
In 1967, when the city was five years along in its existence as an incorporated municipality and was being managed by Fred Baxter, it hired a young man not too long out of San Diego State University, Jim Cox, into an apprenticeship as an administrative assistant. By 1968, Cox had acceded to the position of treasurer and then finance director. In 1969, the council took a risk on promoting him to city manager.
In 1972, then-California Governor Ronald Reagan appointed Campbell, who was mayor, to the Superior Court. Because of state statutes pertaining to the incompatibility of public offices, Campbell was required to resign his elected municipal position to go on the bench. With Campbell’s assonance, the city council on March 7, 1972 appointed Terry Caldwell, who was then a member of the Victorville Planning Commission, to fill out the slightly more than two years left on Campbell’s unexpired term. Caldwell spent the next 38 years and nine months on the Victorville City Council, the longest tenure of any Victorville elected official before or since. Along the way, he formed a close alliance and friendship with Jim Cox. Over the years, a number of personages found their way onto the council, becoming members of what was essentially the Caldwell/Cox team that dominated the city and the Victor Valley for more than three decades. In the battle for what was termed “the Golden Triangle,” the property beginning at the tip of the nexus between the 15 Freeway and Highway 395 at the southern end and then between those two major arteries all the way to its northern boundary at Bear Valley Road, Caldwell and Cox outmaneuvered their political and administrative counterparts in Hesperia to put that property, with its rich sales tax-producing frontages, first within Victorville’s sphere of influence and then within its city limits. A few years later, after the Department of Defense in 1992 shuttered George Air Force Base, Victorville entered into a protracted competition with the City of Adelanto over which municipal entity would annex the base property and be allowed to guide its civilian use reconversion. Despite having cut Hesperia off at the pass in the battle for the Golden Triangle, Caldwell and Cox were somehow able to allay city officials there and get them to work cooperatively with them, the Town of Apple Valley and the County of San Bernardino, under the joint powers association of a cooperative entity, dubbed the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority, to put forth an annexation and land use proposal for George Air Force Base that ultimately overcame a competing proposal from Adelanto. Eventually, the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority was granted title to the base property. Thereafter, in a series of maneuvers, Victorville essentially sloughed off the mantle of the Victor Valley Economic Development Authority, taking de facto control of the base, which by that point had been rechristened as Southern California Logistics Airport.
In 1999, Cox retired as Victorville city manager. In December 2007, after more than seven years of comfortable retirement, oftentimes golfing with Caldwell at the Green Tree Golf Course that was proximate to their homes, Cox was sought out by the town of Apple Valley to serve as town manager there. He stayed in that role for ten months, before retiring for the second time as a municipal manager. And then in 2009, Victorville, staggering under the weight of the mismanagement of its electrical utility division as well as the downturn in the national and state economy, asked Cox to again come out of retirement and oversee city staff once more. Cox did so, staying in that assignment for two years.
Over the years, Caldwell would find himself closely affiliated with Jim Kennedy, the husband of his law partner. When Caldwell chose not to seek reelection in 2010, he and his longtime supporters threw their support behind Kennedy, who was elected. Kennedy was, and still is, perceived as a continuation of Caldwell’s guidance of the City of Victorville. In 2011, Cox retired for the second time as Victorville’s city manager. The next year, he successfully vied for the Victorville City Council.
Both Cox and Kennedy not only replicated, but embodied, much of Caldwell’s philosophy and approach.
Of note is that Caldwell, Cox and Kennedy are residents of what is considered by some to be Victorville’s premier neighborhood, that area surrounding the Green Tree Golf Course and Country Club, which was developed as Victorville’s first planned community beginning in 1963, just a year after the city’s founding. The golf course is now a city-owned entity, and as such it has been bundled with a number of other city assets such as City Hall, its city yard, fire stations and other real properties and structures as collateral used to secure bonds. The city, which formerly contracted with Billy Casper Golf to operate the golf course and the country club, has since contracted with Sierra Golf Management to run the links and clubhouse.
Because of the consideration that they each live within 500 feet of the golf course, neither Cox nor Kennedy is permitted to vote on any issues related to the golf course, including the contract with Sierra Golf Management, as this would violate the conflict of interest provisions of the Political Reform Act.
Last month, the city council took up the issue of the 2018-19 budget, including that element of the budget outlining a proposed $532,243 payment to Sierra Golf Management in the form of a taxpayer subsidy necessary to allow the golf course to attain its $1.1 million operating allotment and remain open to the public. That item was separated from the approval of the entire budget so that Cox and Kennedy would not vote upon it.
Under law, however, neither the entire budget nor any part thereof can be passed without the assent of a majority of the entire council, that is, three votes.
Previously, there had been discussion of creating a special taxpayer district within the immediate environs of the golf course that was inclusive of the Green Tree neighborhood. The assessment to be imposed on the district’s homeowners and property owners would defray the costs of operating the golf course, a major proportion of which consists of irrigating the course’s greens and landscaping the course and country club grounds, all of which are considered to be enhancements to the neighboring properties. Those discussions had not proceeded to the point of actuating the formation of that district, though the 2018-19 budget did earmark $25,000 to fund a study about initiating the tax district.
While Mayor Gloria Garcia and Councilman Eric Negrete were willing to support voting to utilize $532,243 in taxpayer money to subsidize the golf course operations, Councilwoman Blanca Gomez was not. This inability to get three votes to support the golf course subsidization raised the prospect of Sierra Golf Management shutting the course down and launching legal action against the city over a breach of contract, as well as potentially creating a default with regard to the credit arrangement on the city’s bonds.
Ultimately, Kennedy has come to the conclusion that his continued council incumbency will prevent the golf course operation contract issue from being resolved. As such, he is electing to leave the council as of December, and will not seek reelection in November.
His departure will have the outcome he seeks, however, only if he is not replaced by a candidate living in the Green Tree neighborhood and Negrete, who is also up for reelection this year, is able to regain election, such that three members of the newly composed council will be on board for offering the city subsidization to the golf course operations and maintenance.
-Mark Gutglueck

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