Spotlight on the Candidate: Ridgecrest City Council
News Review Staff Writer
Tom Wiknich has launched his fifth campaign for Ridgecrest City Council — two of which saw him elected to council — with what he characterizes as a solid knowledge of city government and a community perspective gleaned from his two-year absence.
“I believe what we really need at City Hall is a council who listens to the people.” He cited for example the way meetings are run: for each agenda item the council hears a staff report, which is followed by council commentary, then public comment, then council discussion and vote.
“What has happened many times to me personally is that after you sit down, the council will rebut or challenge the things said at the podium without giving us a chance to clarify. It is extremely frustrating to have a councilman attack you for something that is taken out of context, and then have no right to come back and defend yourself.”
Wiknich said while that is a minor issue, the two initiatives that received popular voter approval — term limits and a directly elected mayor — only further demonstrate that “We the People, and I use that phrase appropriately, want more say in what happens at City Hall.”
He said one thing he learned in his time away from council was that many residents feel that the council does not listen. That is something he said he would like to change.
Wiknich said his qualifications include a degree in business management, one year of study at Ridgecrest School of Law and DOD certifications in program and contract management. He said his experience in government and private industry will give him a good perspective as someone who manages the business affairs of a city with close ties to the Navy.
He said one way to foster better communication is by bringing back Town Hall meetings — an idea he said he brought forward in his last term that was abandoned when he left. He has also historically conducted polls to get the pulse of the community. “You need public input, and that is one way to get it.”
Another important consideration is the selection of the next city manager — who Wiknich characterized as the hub of all information coming in and out of city hall. He said that he has heard complaints from others, and has some himself, about pubic information requests that take years to process, or in some cases are not honored at all.
Wiknich said that the city budget is extremely tight, “with no money for the ‘nice to haves.’” He said his spending priorities start with a fully staffed police department, then go to maintaining streets and other infrastructure — such as sewer lines, treatment facilities and flood-control channels.
He said he opposes the way parks and recreation money has been approved at the city — for example the $3.5 million in improvements and new facilities which was recently followed up by another $1 million expenditure list for ADA compliance. “I think that’s backwards. We should have addressed ADA compliance first, then looked at what else we could do. But if you look at that first list there are things like $500,000 for a concession stand — and no one said ‘let’s cut that,’ they left that in there.”
Wiknich said that one thing he thinks is working at the city is the dedicated volunteerism through organizations such as Police and Citizens Together — which donates thousands of man hours each year, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.
“I have learned a lot from the people since I left. They tell me they want someone who will listen to them and fight for them. That is what I will do.”Story First Published: 2012-10-10