Spotlight on the Candidates: Mayor of Ridgecrest
News Review Staff Writer
“I do not want to see a downgrade in our quality of life or the demise of our parks and other programs, but we’ve got to live within our means. And we are not currently doing that. We have not been doing that for many years,” said Jerry Taylor.
“What we are feeling now is the cumulative effect of spending more money than we have been bringing in. The city has been coasting through on borrowed or one-time monies, but we are now at the point where if we don’t get our financial house in order the future effects are going to be devastating to our ability to serve our community.”
Taylor said that although he has disagreed with some of this, and previous, council’s decisions in spending, “This is not completely an issue of fiscal discipline, we are simply facing a number of revenue challenges that we just have not been able to get ahead of.”
Among those are battling a state government that, for the last several budget cycles, has tried to solve its own financial crisis by raiding city coffers. A decrease in travel has reduced transient occupancy tax collected by the city. And shoppers — faced with fewer local options for retail services, as well as reduced disposable income in the downturning economy — are making more purchases out of town, thus eating into the sales tax normally collected by the city.
“Each of these challenges need to be addressed. And one of the ways we as a city can do that is by helping our local businesses and attracting new industry in order to grow our economy, and thus our tax base.
“But there has to be a concurrent effort to face the reality of our available resources, prioritize them and spend them accordingly.”
He said one of his primary concerns with the current council is that it has never come up with that prioritized plan for spending. “We have a $51-million backlog of street maintenance which has been virtually ignored. And yet when the Parks and Recreation Department director came forward with a plan to fund 100 percent of the needs of his department, it was approved.
“Add to that a majority of the council breaking the Measure L pledge to spend money promised on streets and police instead to pad parks and rec staff salaries and you start to see a trend,” said Taylor.
“I do not want to neglect anything — including our parks — but there is a balance here that is not being met.
“This is really no different than it is in our personal budget situations: you look at the money you have, you spend money on the most critical needs first — which for me starts with police and is followed by streets and infrastructure — then you spend what you can on improving quality of life. But if that spending model is turned upside down, you are buying yourself a world of debt in the future because you have not stayed on top of those infrastructure needs.”
One of the most commonly voiced frustrations he hears from citizens is about the lack of transparency. “And I have to agree with them,” he said.
“I think there are a couple of ways we can deal with that. First, we can eliminate committees. Right now that process uses staff time and resources we simply cannot afford, which is often wasted when the majority votes to change direction and renders the previous work of the committees obsolete.”
He said he would also like to make it mandatory for the council to make all background information a part of the initial packet provided to the public.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked to make a decision on something that I got information on only an hour before. It is unreasonable to ask councilmembers to make a decision when they don’t have adequate time to assess the information, and it is unfair to the public when they have had no access to that information.”
Taylor said that if information is unavailable when the packet must be published (a minimum of 72 hours in advance), it should wait until the next meeting.
He said he would also like to explore engaging the public through social media. “We see just a tiny percentage of our population at public meetings. One way we can make the process more inclusive is by using technology to notify the public about meetings, and maybe even allow for real-time participation.”
Before Taylor’s current term on the council he served as chair of the Planning Commission and of the General Plan Advisory Committee. He also launched the Ridgecrest Military Banner program, which honors men and women in active-duty military service. In his day job he the manager of range improvement and modernization for the Navy at China Lake, Pax River and Point Mugu.
“I love this community. I have been here for 40 years, and I will retire here. I don’t know where you are going to find citizens who are more caring and friendly and patriotic, and I want to ensure they are being well served by the government they pre-pay for services.
“I would be honored to serve you as your mayor.”Story First Published: 2012-10-17