By Ruth Cordova and Mark Gutglueck
The precipitate change in alliance on the Victorville City Council that took place in December continues to resonate in the High Desert’s most populous city, as the looming November election moves ever closer. Yet to play out is whether the two once-warring politicians who made an accommodation with each other six months ago will benefit from that shift enough to achieve reelection when they must again be evaluated by the voters in the fall. Whether one or both of them will pay the ultimate political price for having closed a deal with each other after they had been savaging one another for nearly three years won’t be known until the election results are in.
In the meantime, a fair number of those who had formerly grown to become solid Mayor Gloria Garcia supporters primarily because she represented the political bulwark against Councilwoman Blanca Gomez are disillusioned, convinced that Garcia sold her soul and credibility as a public persona in a crass deal to retain her title as mayor.
In 2016 Blanca Gomez burst onto the San Bernardino County and Victorville political stage with a come-from-behind victory over Lionel Dew in the Victorville City Council race. At the time, what seemed the most notable thing about Gomez capturing the third highest number of votes in the ten-person contest in which three positions on the council were up for selection was that both she and Dew had outpolled incumbent councilman Ryan McEachron. Two other incumbents, Garcia and Jim Cox, had captured the top two positions outright.
Not long after Gomez settled into her position on the council, she found herself crosswise of her colleagues. The most obvious distinction between her and Victorville’s other solons was that while they identified themselves as relatively staid supporters of socially and economically conservative policies who concerned themselves with the nuts and bolts of municipal governance, Gomez used her perch on the council as a bully pulpit to espouse her heartfelt beliefs, virtually all of which fell on the left side of the political spectrum, ones that went beyond city issues to matters that were better described as within the purview of state and national politics.
Less than a month after she was sworn in as a Victorville councilwoman, Gomez on December 30, 2016 showed up at Rialto City Hall for a rally put on by Rialto City Councilman Rafael Trujillo in support of Senate Bill 54 and the sanctuary city concept. While in attendance there, Gomez wore a shirt clearly identifying herself as a Victorville official. She enunciated on numerous occasions and in numerous venues her belief that U.S. immigration laws were a racist tool of a racist establishment, that enforcing such laws were racist acts, going so far on one occasion to wear while at Victorville City Hall a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase “Fuck ICE [U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement],” and on another occasion in the midst of a city council meeting draping herself in what appeared to be a Mexican flag, which she later said was in actuality a symbol of the Virgin of Guadalupe. She brought further attention to herself by her involvement in multiple contretemps in neighboring Hesperia, including what some suggested or insisted was her insensitive effort to video the body of the late Hesperia Mayor Russ Blewett during the viewing at a church prior to his funeral in May 2018 and another incident in August 2018 when she allegedly entered an area off limit to the public at Hesperia City Hall while she was accompanying Hesperia City Council District 2 candidates Gonzalo Gurrola and Robert Lucero while they were filing paperwork relating to their candidacies.
Within the context of the Victorville City Council, Gomez was out of step with all of her colleagues, but most particularly with Eric Negrete, who had been elected to the council two years before her. Negrete stood out from the majority of Latinos in California in general and most particularly among those vying for or holding office in the Golden State in that he was not a Democrat embracing what are commonly described as liberal or progressive ideals. Rather, Negrete identified as a conservative Republican.
Indeed many saw in Negrete the embodiment of the Republican Party’s Great Brown Hope. The Democrats have California locked up, with a Democratic governor, Democratic lieutenant governor, Democratic attorney general, Democratic secretary of state, Democratic insurance commissioner, Democratic controller, and Democratic supermajorities in the State Senate and Assembly. Nevertheless, a reversal of the Democrats’ fortunes could be no further down the road than the emergence of a single charismatic Latino politician affiliated with the GOP, many political strategists believe. Were such a politician to get a berth within California’s statehouse, either as a member of the Assembly or Senate or both, and then move into the Governor’s Mansion at 1526 H Street in Sacramento or into Congress and then the U.S. Senate and go on to make a mark on the national stage as an iconic member of the Party of Lincoln, he or she might trailblaze a path for California’s Latinos by the millions to make their exodus from the Democratic Party and into Republicanism. For some, at least, it was not too far-fetched to think that Negrete might prove to be that politician.
Negrete evinced very limited patience with Gomez’s histrionics. They clashed repeatedly on the council dais and not infrequently off the dais. The council quickly divided into two camps: the Victorville establishment of which Negrete was a member, along with his fellow councilmen Jim Cox and Jim Kennedy and Mayor Gloria Garcia on one side and Gomez on the other. Indeed, some of the glue that held the four-member coalition of the council together had been the unifying principle of maintaining the line against Gomez.
In July 2018, a recall effort against Gomez was initiated.
At its August 21, 2018 meeting, just over 20 months after Gomez had taken office, the council, on an item brought forth by Councilman Kennedy, officially rebuked Gomez for her behavior, a sanction less serious than a censure, but one which registered the council’s displeasure with Gomez nonetheless.
In the run-up to the November 2018 election, in which Kennedy did not seek reelection, Gomez campaigned energetically against Negrete, who was defeated. Replacing Negrete and Kennedy on the council in December 2018 were the two top vote-getters in the election, Debra Jones and Rita Ramirez-Dean.
In December 2018, the deadline for gathering sufficient signatures to force the recall against Gomez elapsed. The recall proponents were so far below gathering the required 9,880 valid signatures of registered voters in the city that they did not bother turning over the signatures that they had gathered to the city clerk. The failure to remove Gomez from office strengthened and emboldened her.
The elevation of Jones and Ramirez-Dean to the city council changed the city’s political complexion somewhat, but did not undo the tension that existed on the council. Jones, a Republican, represented a continuation of the partisan political divide that had grown out of Kennedy’s, Cox’s and Negrete’s GOP affiliation. Ramirez-Dean, however, was a Democrat, a member of the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee. To a certain extent, as a result of Ramirez-Dean’s presence on the council, Gomez found herself a bit less isolated at City Hall. Still the same, the poisonous relationship that had developed between Gomez and the mayor, and to a lesser extent Cox, persisted. In certain respects, the animosity between Garcia, whose duties as mayor required that she maintain the order and decorum of the council meetings, and Gomez, deepened. It was rare that a council meeting reached adjournment without there having first been a tart exchange involving the two women. More often, there would be a series of jabs or insults traded between them. Neither did Gomez refrain from occasionally hurling some form of invective at Cox, though he usually restrained himself from responding in kind. When the barbs were too personal, he sometimes returned fire. In relatively short order, Jones too found herself on the outs with Gomez. There were occasional catfights between the two, but those proved sufficiently rare, and most of the sparring between them did not escalate beyond a few sharp pokes back and forth. There was, however, no mistaking that the two had grown to loathe one another.
2019 was drawing toward a close, and with it nearly three years of accumulating bad blood between Gomez and Garcia. Then on December 3, the council meeting at which the council officers for the next year were to be chosen took place. When the meeting began, Gomez and Garcia were as antagonistic against one another as they had ever been. When the meeting ended, a new day had dawned, and the presumed alliance involving Garcia, Cox and Jones was finished, quite possibly forever. In its place was an uneasy and tenuous, yet discernible, political sorority in which Ramirez-Dean, Garcia and Gomez were the prevailing members.
When the Sentinel asked Cox for an explanation of what had occurred, he said, “I don’t know what happened. Gloria and Blanca had a make-up session or something. Suddenly there’s a coalition among the three [Garcia, Ramirez-Dean and Gomez] that’s probably due to I don’t know what, but it’s obvious to the people who attend the council meetings.”
With regard to Garcia and Gomez, Cox said, “People are asking, ‘How could they be so critical of one another and now they seem to be together?’”
According to Cox, it was a “custom and tradition” in Victorville that once a member of the council had sufficient experience in office to be able to master parliamentary procedure, he or she would be rotated into the mayor’s position. Generally, he said, a person who had been reelected with the most votes in the immediate aftermath of the election would be selected to serve as mayor for two years running. Another council member, usually the one who had been elected with the most votes two years hence would then become the mayoral replacement.
Cox said there was some slight deviation from that practice, such as when a member of the council had professional commitments that might prevent him or her from participating in the ceremonial duties that fall to the mayor or such as when he was elected to the council for the first time in 2012, after which he was immediately elevated to the mayor’s spot. That exception, he said, was explicable in that he had substantial experience with parliamentary procedure and the ropes of government generally and specifically, having served as Victorville city manager for more than 32 years, including a 30-year stint between 1969 and his first retirement in 1999, and then two further years as city manager from 2009 until 2011.
Garcia represented a rather significant deviation from the city’s mayoral selection pattern, Cox noted.
Elected with Cox in 2012, Garcia was selected to serve as mayor in 2014, as Cox’s two-year tenure as mayor came to an end. In 2016, there was a push to bring Cox back as mayor, but he declined the honor. Consequently, Garcia saw her grip on the mayoral gavel extended.
In 2018, Charlene Robinson replaced Carolee Bates as Victorville City Clerk. That fall was thus Robinson’s first go-round as the city’s chief elections officer. As a result of that November’s election, two newcomers were on the council, Debra Jones and Rita Ramirez-Dean. At that point, Garcia had served four years as mayor, and the expectation was that she would step down from that post to make way for a successor. The logical choice, under the city’s custom, would be that Gomez assume the mayoralty. But the harsh feeling that she had engendered among her colleagues worked against her. The next logical selection would have been Cox, but he was reluctant to take the position. At the December 10, 2018 Council meeting, after Ramirez-Dean and Jones were sworn in and installed as council members, Robinson as city clerk called for nominations for mayor. Nominations were made, one by Ramirez-Dean for Garcia to be reappointed as mayor and then one by Cox to have Jones assume the post, but none were seconded. Instead of redoubling the effort to find a replacement for Garcia as Bates would have done were she still the city’s chief elections officer, City Clerk Robinson at that point permitted Mayor Garcia to resume her position as mayor.
“At this time, the mayor stays,” Robinson said. Immediately thereafter followed the selection of the mayor pro tem, the individual on the council who would be designated to serve as acting mayor in any meetings that Garcia did not attend. In what turned out to be a harbinger of things to come, Mayor Garcia made a motion, seconded by Councilwoman Ramirez-Dean, to nominate Ramirez-Dean for the position of mayor pro tempore. At that point, councilmembers Cox and Jones voted no, but Ramirez-Dean prevailed with her own vote and those of Garcia and Gomez in support.
Throughout most of 2019, Gomez and Garcia remained at odds. Indeed, the enmity between the two seemed to intensify, reaching fever pitch on July 16 when in the midst of that evening’s council meeting, Gomez was removed from the proceedings.
As what was Garcia’s fifth consecutive year in the role of mayor progressed, there was discussion about the mayoral succession issue and the city’s protocol and timetable for mayoral selection. A comparison was made to the other municipalities in the High Desert – Hesperia, Apple Valley, Adelanto and Barstow. In both Barstow and Adelanto, the mayor is elected directly by those cities’ residents, with the mayor’s slot being distinguished from each of those cities’ four council members. In Hesperia and Apple Valley, where like Victorville all five of the members of the council are elected by the residents co-equally, the councils observed a policy of selecting from among their members who is to serve as mayor. In an effort toward team building, those councils appoint their mayors on a yearly basis, often but not always having the mayor serve a single year or variously two years. This sharing of the honorary position is intended to bring the members of the council together in an atmosphere of trust and mutual confidence.
On December 3, 2019, with the council scheduled to take up the appointment of the mayor and mayor pro tem for the year going forward from that point, a memo dated December 2, 2019 encapsulated staff’s recommendation for the nomination and appointment process. At least partially to memorialize for Robinson a protocol of persisting with a selection effort even in the face of no quickly-emerging consensus so as to avoid defaulting to a continuation of the existing mayor’s tenure, the memo called for repeating the nomination phase for at least three rounds if a majority vote was not obtained after the first nomination. In the event that a majority vote in favor of one of the council members serving as mayor did not manifest, the memo called for the appointment vote being tabled to a later meeting pursuant to the council voting to do just that.
Upon taking up the issue of making the appointment at the December 3 meeting, Ramirez-Dean nominated Garcia to remain as mayor. That motion died for lack of a second. Cox then nominated Jones to serve as mayor. That, too, failed because it did not get a second. Gomez, somewhat unrealistically since she clearly could not at that point reliably count on the support of Garcia, Cox or Jones, nominated herself. No second followed. Discussion then took place about the proper procedure for proceeding and the distinction between a nomination and an appointment. Ramirez-Dean again nominated Garcia, at which point Garcia seconded the motion. Cox again nominated Jones, which Jones seconded. Gomez then nominated Cox, which Cox seconded. Cox, somewhat redundantly, then nominated himself. No second to that motion followed immediately, but eventually Gomez seconded it. Prior to that second emerging, Councilwoman Ramirez-Dean took issue with the memo, stating that its contents were not consistent with the city’s policy manual and had not been approved by the council. She moved that the appointment process be tabled. Gomez seconded that motion. The council did not suspend, however, further nominations nor actions with regard to an appointment. Gomez nominated herself again, and Cox seconded it. Ramirez-Dean at that point nominated herself and Gomez seconded it.
What was clear from all of the nomination, self-nomination and seconding of the motions that were made was that to some degree or another, all five of the council members coveted the mayor’s gavel.
The council first considered the nomination of Ramirez-Dean, which Ramirez-Dean and Gomez voted in favor of. Garcia and Jones opposed it and Cox did not vote or his vote was not audible. That motion thereby failed, with the city clerk recording that Garcia, Jones and Cox were in opposition. The vote to designate Gomez as mayor ended with Gomez and Cox in favor being outvoted by the remaining three. The vote to appoint Cox was favored by Cox and Gomez, but opposed by Garcia, Jones and Ramirez-Dean. The vote to appoint Jones failed with Jones in favor and Garcia, Ramirez-Dean and Gomez in opposition. No vote from Cox was audible. The motion to appoint Garcia failed, with Garcia and Ramirez-Dean in support and Gomez and Jones opposed. Again, Cox’s vote was either not cast or not audible, although the city clerk recorded Cox as having voted against the motion.
After taking a 13-minute recess, the council returned at 9:29 p.m., and Councilwoman Jones made a motion to continue the nomination process to the next meeting. That was seconded by Cox. Gomez made a substitute motion to continue the nomination process that night, which was seconded by Garcia. That substitute motion carried, with Jones and Cox voting no.
Gomez then nominated Garcia to serve as mayor. Ramirez-Dean seconded the motion.
Jones interjected, “I’m going to speak out of order, and I don’t normally do, but this looks like there was some deal cut behind doors when we were on a recess. This meeting isn’t being facilitated very well.”
The motion carried with the ensuing vote, as Gomez, Ramirez-Dean and Garcia supported Garcia’s reappointment as mayor, with Cox and Jones dissenting.
Jones said, “We’re now going to see who is the mayor pro tem as a result of the deal that’s been cut.”
It was moved by Councilwoman Gomez and seconded by Councilwoman Ramirez-Dean to re-appoint Ramirez-Dean as Mayor Pro Tem. City Clerk Robinson called for further nominations. Councilwoman Jones nominated herself. The motion died for lack of a second. City Clerk Robinson called for further nominations. When none came forth, City Clerk Robinson reiterated that the lone motion under consideration was a nomination of Ramirez-Dean. It was moved by Councilmember Gomez and seconded by Councilwoman Ramirez to appoint Mayor Pro Tem Ramirez-Dean as mayor pro tem; the motion carried with Councilmembers Cox and Jones voting no.
“The deal was cut,” Jones said. “The deal was cut!”
Garcia and Ramirez-Dean ignored her. Ramirez-Dean said, “I am so pleased and honored. It has taken a little too much time, but you know what? It is a wonderful position to be in, to be here for you.”
Garcia said, “It is an honor and a privilege to serve my city, and not only just the city, but our people. I had some backing tonight, so thank you very much.”
At the end of the meeting, Jones said, “I’m gravely concerned about what happened here tonight. It was disgraceful. It is an embarrassment to me that a process that should be solemn in electing its officers was treated so flippantly. This does not reflect well on our community. It does not reflect well on our leaders.”
Jones said there had been a “repeated” rumor “by different people that don’t walk in the same circles about backroom deals being cut” and that she had the experience that evening of “then watching it play out.” It was, Jones said “a corrupt practice. We are to elevate the will of the people and public service to our neighbors, not selfish ambition, not vainglory.”
Two weeks later, Gomez at the December 17, 2019 council meeting said, “The decision to have a mayor and mayor pro tem was decided in this council. Our leadership is required and for whatever reason whatever may have thought through the heads of these individuals, there is no backroom deals. There is no corruption. That’s not what happens here. It’s just someone requires justice to be required, and when we see justice in a certain particular perspective, we’re going to be deciding on those certain moral values of what’s good and what’s bad, and what’s accessible and what’s fair in terms of opportunity and what qualifies for equanimity. I congratulate these ladies for having that position and being strong.”
This week, Garcia told the Sentinel that the story of there having been a secret agreement between her and Gomez is being oversold in certain sectors of the community.
“The only thing is I have decided to work with everyone a little more amicably, not just with her but the whole council,” Garcia said. “As far as she is concerned, she had a change of heart, evidently, and has been a little more congenial than previously, not just to me but to the other members of the council.”
Those who accused her, Ramirez-Dean and Gomez of choreographing the mayoral and mayor pro tem votes are plain wrong, Garcia said. “I almost fainted,” she said in describing her surprise, which she said verged on shock, when Gomez eventually got around to supporting keeping her as mayor on December 3. “I almost fell out of my seat. I didn’t think she would even vote for me. I thought she would abstain or recuse herself. When she actually voted for me, I thanked her for it.”
At this point, Garcia was measured in making her assessment of Gomez, and her characterizations of the councilwoman did not indicate an affection or alliance between them.
“I don’t really know how to describe her,” the mayor said. “She has a difficult personality that is very hard to deal with. It was tremendously difficult for me in the first days when she was on the council. When she started running for the Assembly, I am not sure what was going on, but it seemed that all of a sudden she has changed her demeanor so that she is a little more pleasant, which from my perspective as mayor has made it easier to conduct the meetings.”
Gomez in the March 3 Primary election this year vied for the California Assembly in the 33rd District. She finished fourth in a field of seven, and did not qualify for the November runoff.
Those that claim there is a newfound camaraderie between her and Gomez are misperceiving things, Garcia said.
“I would not say I am doing anything much different,” the mayor said, but acknowledged that on Gomez’s end things have changed. “She is not so verbal against me,” Garcia said. “She came in with an attitude and would be inciting all of this, and everyone on the council got caught up in that, so to the public it must have seemed that we had a conflict with her on one side and the rest of us on the other. I was just trying to maintain order.”
Asked if Ramirez-Dean had in some fashion served as an emollient in her relationship with Gomez, Garcia said, “I really couldn’t say. Rita has been with us only a very short time. I don’t know whether they communicate.” The theory that the reduction in tension between her and Gomez could be credited to Ramirez-Dean’s diplomatic ability, Garcia said, breaks down because Ramirez-Dean’s recent health challenges have prevented her from being a consistent presence at city council meetings over the last several months.
Previously, Garcia said, the entire council’s relationship with Gomez had reached rock bottom.
“Over time, the whole council just came to the point where they wouldn’t go out of their way to try to communicate with Blanca,” Garcia said. “She has changed her attitude. It’s wonderful, but I don’t know what caused it. The only thing that has been pointed out to me, or which I can attribute that to, is when she started to run for Assembly she started to change the way she spoke to people and dealt with them. She tried to be a little more professional and congenial. I think she is still planning on continually running for higher office. Someone along the line has told her or let her know that she is not going to get anywhere fighting everyone. I don’t deal with that. I don’t have time. I work outside of the city. I have a business to run, and I’m always busy.”
Those who suggest that she has adopted Gomez’s philosophies or orientation with regard to public issues of that she has jumped on the liberal bandwagon, Garcia said, are so out of sync with reality as to be delusional. “It saddens me if anyone who knows me thinks I am trying to be a part of what Blanca is doing because, truthfully, I don’t want to be a part of what she is doing,” Garcia said. “She is involved with the Mexican something or other and the Latin Coalition and La Raza and CHIRLA [the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights Los Angeles]. I was not brought up that way. I was brought up in Victorville. My family has been here, in Victorville, for 120 years, so if you want someone who knows the city, I’m it. I was born here. My family has now had seven generations here, so I don’t have any time to deal with nonsense and ignorance when it comes to the community that is my home that I care so much about. I have been running a business [Garcia Bookkeeping and Income Tax Service] here for 45 years. I don’t want our community to look bad. I don’t want a city that looks like a ghetto. I have poured my heart out in trying to make Victorville better. When I see people who don’t know or care about this town as deeply as I do or see them using their position as a stepping stone to get ahead, I’m just disappointed. I am totally local. I am not going anywhere. I’m not running for higher office.”
She would not be dealing with Gomez at all if it weren’t for Gomez having won a position on the city council in 2016, Garcia said.
“I didn’t know her,” the mayor said. “I don’t know her. I don’t know where she came from. I don’t know anything about her background. I have no information at all about her. I don’t know where she lives. We tried to find out. To this day it is a mystery. Somebody has that information. At this point I don’t really care. Why should I be concerned?”
Asked point blank if she and Gomez had sidled up to each other out of political considerations because this is an election year and it is now in their mutual interest to get along, Garcia said, “I would certainly dismiss that. There is no alliance. I study the agenda and I vote according to what I feel is best by the community. I am not influenced by anyone. Number one, I don’t talk to anyone on the council, so I don’t know what the others are thinking. There is no alliance between me and anyone. It is true that Jim [Cox] and I connected very well from the beginning. I have known him for a long time, going back to those years when we were both young, and now we’re old, and we’re still here. I have always respected him and given him praise for his experience and the things he did for this city as city manager. He did a wonderful job in government. He has guided me when I needed information or assistance in understanding things. He has always been there for me when I have sought him out. Debra [Jones] I don’t know as well. I know she was disappointed when she didn’t get to be mayor this last time. That is just the way it worked out. Rita has not been around very much lately. She has been ill since January. We all thought she would be back by now. She has been participating by teleconferencing.”
She is neither in cahoots with nor at war with Gomez, Garcia insisted.
“Technically speaking, I don’t have anything against her,” Garcia said. “I don’t have any animosity against her, even though she has tried everything she could to ruin me. If you know me, I am not aggressive or loud. I am not an instigator. I would rather handle things calmly, or just avoid it if it is going to be unpleasant. If something is going that way, I just try to avoid it. People who know my character know there is no alliance between me and Blanca and Rita. Anyone who knows me knows that is not true.”
She and Gomez won’t be campaigning together, she said.
“I’m not going to put my name out there with her,” Garcia said. “I’m on the council with her. That’s it. I’m not going to get involved with her or what she’s involved in. I’m not going to allow anyone to smear me at this point in my life. I’m trying to do the best I can for the people of Victorville. If there is anyone who cares about his city, it’s me. I don’t know what people are saying or speculating. I’m just trying to work with everyone to do the best for the city. That is where I’m at, and I’m not in an alliance with anyone. I don’t know what that woman does and, truthfully, I don’t want to know.”
It is his perception, Cox said, that if there is a ruling coalition on the council at this point, it involves Garcia, Ramirez-Dean and Gomez. “They are in charge now, and you can’t really do anything about it,” he said.
Cox said he believed it would have been best for the city to have lived up to its tradition of changing mayors every two years. He said the first extension of Garcia’s term in 2016 came because neither he nor anyone else wanted to take the responsibility because of the time demands the ceremonial aspect of the post imposed. Now that the council has extended Garcia to what is essentially a six-year term, Cox said he is bound to accept that arrangement.
“My concern is what is best for the community, but we are required to abide by certain ethical rules as elected officials,” he said. “You swear to uphold the Constitution. Under those ethical rules, you are to represent all of the people and adopt the official policy, even if it is contrary to your own wishes or philosophy. You are not supposed to vote in your own best interest. I subscribe to the belief that once the council votes, that is the official position of the city, and I feel compelled, whether I agree or not, to carry out that policy. I don’t think you bring things back over and over again and try to change the rules.”
As far as the epoch shift that occurred on December 3, Cox said, ‘No one knows what happened. It was as if they were enemies one day and friends the next or allies or whatever you want to call it.”
In the final analysis, it is not that important, Cox said.
“I don’t think there is any perceptible difference in the way the city is being run,” he said. “I think to someone sitting in the audience, they see what we are voting on and how we are voting. We are getting things handled. Overall, we are getting things done. There used to be a lot of argument. Blanca said she was rooting out corruption she was able to find, and she would reveal it when she found it. I said, ‘If there is corruption, where is it? If there is, let’s take it to the grand jury.’ She always hinted that there was a problem, but I don’t remember much in the way of facts or proof. I think maybe she decided that since she is running for reelection, and because Gloria is running too, they thought they should put their best foot forward. If they kept at each other’s throats they both realized they might not get reelected, that the public was upset. So, they made amends, which is good because it makes it better for the city.”
Countering Gomez’s detractors are her defenders.
At the August 21, 2018 meeting at which the council voted to rebuke Gomez, Alejandra Diaz said, “Maybe you bother so much with Blanca Gomez because she asks questions that nobody wanted to ask. The questions bother all of you. Why? Because you don’t want to provide us with the truth.”
The persisting perception among at least some Victorville and High Desert residents is that the December 3 vote by Garcia, Gomez and Ramirez-Dean was premeditated and deliberate, as well as staged to appear impromptu. This has led to a public outcry among some High Desert residents charging Garcia, Gomez and Ramirez-Dean with collusion. Some High Desert residents have alleged that Ramirez-Dean does not live in Victorville, and that Garcia and Gomez are ignoring that reality to preserve their recently-forged coalition. Garcia’s rapprochement with Gomez is inexplicable they say, considering that on February 6, 2018 Garcia suggested that Gomez was a “criminal on welfare” and that the mayor on March 22, 2018 stated that she “felt physically threatened” by Gomez. Part of the current arrangement, they claim, consists of Garcia having handed over power to Gomez, whereas previously Gomez had no influence whatsoever at Victorville City Hall. They are advocating that the California Attorney General initiate an investigation.
Ramirez-Dean could not be reached.
Multiple phone, text and email messages to Gomez seeking her direct input garnered no response.
Sue Jones, Victorville’s official spokeswoman, told the Sentinel, “I don’t have anything to say on the matter.”
Sue Jones, who is no blood relation to Councilwoman Jones, said, “There is a lot of history there,” but would not acknowledge that there had been any difficulty in the past relationship between Garcia and Gomez. Sue Jones claimed to have no knowledge of the August 21, 2018 council vote to confirm then-Councilman Kennedy’s motion to rebuke Gomez, nor of the July 16, 2019 council meeting from which Gomez was removed from the proceedings. She said she was not in a position to verify whether those events had actually occurred. “I cannot speak to that,” Sue Jones said. “That would be better addressed from the councilmembers’ perspective. I’ll pass your questions on to them. That’s the best way to go. Mayor Garcia was reappointed and so was Mayor Pro Tem Ramirez. That’s what we have. That’s all I can say.”
By Ruth Cordova and Mark Gutglueck