Meet the Candidates: Solomon Rajaratnam

Ridgecrest City Council

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Meet the Candidates: Solomon RajaratnamSolomon Rajaratnam has been living, working and raising a family in Ridgecrest for more than 20 years. “And I have been involved in the community from Day One.”

His service includes membership in the China Lake Rotary Club, seats on the boards of Ridgecrest Chamber of Commerce and Cerro Coso Community College Foundation, and as a member of the Planning Commission and Measure V Oversight Committee for the city.

His service has given him insight into the needs and expectations of the public, “which is what drove me to seek a seat on the City Council.

“There are several critical issues coming up in the next few years. With twin earthquakes and now COVID, we need to come together as a community to make sure we can grow enough to meet the needs.”

Central to that focus, he said, is our city’s ability to support the needs of the base.

“It’s the backbone of our community. I think it’s important to support that mission in any way we can, in order to make it a sustainable anchor for our economy. But we also need to grow the community in order to be able to offer the quality of life that encourages people to live here.”

Rajaratnam said that he believes that, given his history in banking, he possesses an ability to understand business plans, financial statements and budgeting needs.

“We need to make sure we are spending our money properly. There should be fiscal responsibility and accountability. We have given away a lot of money without securing a return on that investment. We must have appropriate oversight.”

He noted that in recent history the city has invested millions in Front Porch Productions, Matrix Motors, Globe Protect, Pertexa, Cal UAS and the EH Group. “We gave money to all of these companies and didn’t get anything out of it. Basically, that public money was thrown away. We owe some accountability to the voters.”

Rajaratnam said that he supports more strategic economic growth. The same 25,000 people are eating in the same restaurants and shopping in the same stores. Bringing in more of those does not necessarily increase the tax base for the city. “What we need is some form of compatible light industry that creates additional jobs and revenue streams.”

He also agreed that water is an important issue for the community “We have to solve the problem, but I don’t know if we have looked at all the different avenues.” He said it is critical to evaluate the scope of the problem and potential solutions, but believes the problem has been exacerbated by inaction, or inappropriate actions, throughout the decades. “I hope that there is time to refine the solution.”

On the casino issue, “people think my criticism is religious. It’s not, though I am a Christian and morally I may be opposed to gambling. But I am looking at different factors.”

First, he said, the location is wrong. He noted that other military bases have moved operations elsewhere when incompatible industry, or those that pose security threats, encroach upon established geographical footprints.

“The truth is we don’t know the security risks of placing a casino next to the base. We never thought 9-11 would happen, but it did. I follow what happens in the world, including rising terrorist threats, and this remains a concern to me.”

Rajaratnam also pointed out that the casino is not bound by the same water restrictions as the rest of the users in the valley.

He also expressed doubt about the details of the business plan, including the expectation that 66 percent of the revenue will come from residents. If the casino expects to generate $30 million, and $20 million comes from residents, that is money that does not contribute to the local tax base and will not be spent at other businesses.

“Again, this is about accountability.” Businesses that benefit from public money, through grants or subsidies, should not jeopardize city resources. “We are gambling on gambling.”

On the council, Rajaratnam would like to be a peacemaker. “We can have different views, and still sit at the table and have a productive discussion.

“I always thoroughly research before voting. Once elected to the City Council, I will be ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ of this community. Together, with God’s help, we can do great things. I humbly request that you vote for me.”

Story First Published: 2020-10-02