Elected officials cite improving prospects

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Despite the resource constraints that have contributed to fiscal challenges over the last several years, Indian Wells Valley’s elected officials — via video message and personal addresses — pointed to opportunity for growth and prosperity in the coming year during last week’s IWV Economic Outlook Conference.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy pointed to landmark water policy and other reforms that he said would continue “an American agenda that focuses on renewed prosperity.”

He added that strengthening military readiness will be a priority, and that Ridgecrest and China Lake would play a critical role in meeting that goal.

“I understand there is uneasiness surrounding President Trump’s federal-agency hiring freeze and its impact on our community.” McCarthy said that he has requested Defense Secretary James Mattis exempt China Lake’s civilian workforce and has spoken to senior White House officials to make that happen.

“To achieve our national-security goals and to make sure our community remains at the forefront of the innovation that keeps our country safe, we must ensure the work of our men and women at China Lake can continue uninterrupted.”

He said that while a new BRAC round is just a rumor, he noted that China Lake gained 1,000 jobs in the last wave.

“That result is what I believe is self-evident about China Lake — the people, the resources and the community ensure that China Lake will stand strong and outperform any other base across the country.

“There is a lot of work to do and I am excited to work on your behalf for this opportunity.”

“It is imperative to recognize the outstanding work being done at the Naval Air Weapons Station at China Lake,” said State Sen. Republican Leader Jean Fuller.

“These brave men and women defend our nation — they keep us safe and make us proud.”

To that end, Fuller said she has supported legislation that supports career technical education programs to ensure the next generation is equipped with the skills needed to be future leaders, scientists and teachers.

“My other top priorities are to lift the economic burdens that make it difficult for jobs to grow and expand.”

She pointed to a recent study that showed our state is the fourth most expensive place to live, “proving there is much work to be done to provide financial relief for Californians.”

“I am proud to represent in the state legislation the Indian Wells Valley — an area known for its innovation, ingenuity and love of country,” said newly elected Assemblyman Vince Fong.

He acknowledged the challenges in the state, and the work ahead to provide the regulatory climate so that local small businesses can continue to grow, expand and hire.

Fong said the state legislature needs to get back to basics — fix our roads and bridges, invest in water storage and infrastructure, and support its military installations such as China Lake.

To that end — and thanks to input from the IWV community, Fong has started a military caucus to generate awareness and support in the state legislature for issues that military communities in California face.

“My takeaway message is this: today is a great time to work and live in Kern County — and tomorrow will be better,” said 1st District Supervisor Mick Gleason.

“I’m not saying there are no challenges — there are. But we are solving them. And they are defining challenges. We cannot limp along and continue to put bandages on the wound — we have to fix the wound.”

He described the county as a “bloated organization plodding along spending dollars the best it could” when oil prices plummeted, yielding lost revenues that drove the county into a budget crisis. Now, “we are retooling our organization to make it more effective.”

Gleason said that IWV has been in overdraft for years, but now state legislation to regulate groundwater basins gives the county a forcing function to “get us off the dime” and bring water use into balance with recharge.

“Running out of water is not the problem,” he said. “But we have to be good stewards of our resources.”

He said that IWV needs to grow, but it should be targeted growth.

Mayor Peggy Breeden pointed to development of a new Super Walmart, Harbor Freight, Tractor Supply Co., SCE administrative center, mental-health crisis stabilization center, and a 50-home tract as evidence that economic opportunity in the IWV is expanding.

She added that the Ridgecrest City Council has taken to heart the requests from the commercial sector to reduce impediments to growth. “We are going to make our city more business friendly, more accommodating.”

Story First Published: 2017-03-03