In Hesperia, every city council candidate has to talk about the roads.


"I really think the roads should be a priority over anything else," said candidate Dennis Arquette in September. "If not paving them, at least maintaining the ones we've got."


Even in the wake of years of paving more miles of city streets than ever before, paving remains a top issue with voters, and all seven of the candidates in this year's race for two open seats say they'd vote to pave as much as the city can afford.


Likewise, the candidates would all like to see more law enforcement on the streets.


"We know we have a crime problem. That we have the lowest number of police officers per one thousand residents [among Victor Valley communites] is unacceptable," candidate Russ Blewett said in October.


Arquette and Blewett are joined on the ballot by Scott Bennett, Paul Bosacki, Rochelle Garner, Mark Kirk and Mayor Mike Leonard. Councilman Tad Honeycutt did not run for reelection.


Jobs, commercial development and tax revenue


Where the candidates differ is on monetary issues.


Lab technician Arquette would like to see the city pay some of its economic development attention to the east side of town, rather than just along the Interstate 15 freeway corridor.


"There's been a lot of focus on the other side of the railroad tracks," he said.


IT manager Bennett wants to see the city pursue manufacturing and distribution center businesses to provide jobs for residents.


Retired businessman Blewett believes that the city's economic woes won't turn around until the foreclosure crisis is solved, and that the city should offer second mortgages to residents to help them purchase now-empty houses. If the residents live in the homes for 11 years, the second mortgage would be waived.


"Just think about how nice it would be to have 1,500 [renovation projects' worth of] flooring and window coverings and get some money to local businessmen," he said.


Postal carrier Bosacki wants the city to renegotiate the amount of property tax revenue San Bernardino County returns to the city. Currently, Hesperia only gets back 1.5 cents of every dollar paid in property taxes.


"There's a lot of politics involved in why people on the city council would not raise this with the county," he said. "I am not burdened by political connections. ... We've got to provide services for 100,000 people. How are we going to be doing that for a penny on the dollar?"


Realtor Garner wants to see the city become more business-friendly.


"If the city actually wanted business, they could streamline the process," she said. "One of my clients the other day was going to open a business here, but it was too hard, so he opened in Apple Valley instead."


Kirk, who works as the chief of staff for Supervisor Gary Ovitt, wants to see more growth and more businesses coming to the city.


"It doesn't have to be helter-skelter, it doesn't have to drive itself," he said. "You can't plan for today. You have to plan five years down the line."


Retired firefighter Leonard said the city's slower pace in businesses development has been a deliberate choice and, he said, a smart one.


"We do complete [Environmental Impact Reviews on a proposed project's impact], and that slows a lot of it down," he said. Apple Valley in particular does not do a complete EIR, but simply stipulates a project's environmental impact in order to speed development along. "I think we're just more cautious, I guess, than the surrounding cities. We want to make sure that when it goes, it won't get wrapped up in court for months."


Counting to three


Voters this year have the ability to change the direction of the Hesperia City Council, should they so choose. Politicians like to say that on the five-person city council (as well as the school board and park board), the most important thing is the ability to count to three -- in other words, get a controlling three-member majority on the council.


Over the last four years, the pendulum has swung from one controlling bloc to the other.


Leonard is one-third of a controlling bloc that also includes Councilwoman Rita Vogler and Mayor Pro Tem Thurston "Smitty" Smith. Their critics accuse them of being anti-business and anti-growth, and they typically favor lower-density development and a slower pace of development.


Bosacki has views similar to Leonard and the current controlling bloc, and has received campaign support from Smith and Vogler's husband Al.


Prior to the current bloc taking power with the election of Smith in 2006, Councilman Ed Pack and other allies, who are generally associated with the High Desert Young Republicans organization, which includes Brad Mitzelfelt, Bill Postmus and other prominent Victor Valley politicians, held sway. (Nearly all elected officials in Hesperia are Republicans, whether or not they are members of the HDYR.) Their critics accuse them of catering to the interests of big developers and putting development ahead of all other concerns. They typically pursue a pro-business agenda.


Kirk and Blewett have made it clear that their beliefs line up Pack's and, should both be elected, would likely constitute a new ruling bloc.


Arquette, Bennett and Garner have spent little or no money on their campaigns, have done no advertising to date and have not purchased candidate statements on the ballot. How these three would line up with the existing power blocs -- if they would at all -- is harder to say.


Beau Yarbrough can be reached at 956-7108 or at beau@hesperiastar.com.