HESPERIA — Oasis of Faith Christian Center was in the political spotlight as it hosted a Hesperia City Council Candidates Forum where several candidates vying for two seats shared their views.
About 50 people attended the event at the church on Lemon Street in Hesperia on Tuesday night. Candidates Bob Stine, (incumbent) Eric Schmidt, James Blocker, Rebekah Swanson, Anthony Rhoades and Larry Bird took questions from the audience and moderator Pastor Darrell Harrelson.
Without a time limit for responses, the forum lasted nearly two-and-a-half hours, with candidates fielding questions relating to the approval of Tapestry, the legalization of marijuana, global warming, political affiliations, job creation, homelessness and more.
Most of the candidates echoed each other on a variety of subjects, but strongly disagreed on several including Tapestry, with Blocker and Rhoades opposing the master-planned community that was approved earlier this year.
Schmidt, Stine and Bird said they approved of the project, adding that actions should be taken on mitigating traffic and other issues that will come with the master-planned community in southeast Hesperia.
“It’s a privately owned place so I’m not sure my approval is required,” Swanson said. “People should be able to do what they want with their land.”
Because a majority of the attendees were not familiar with Tapestry and other city-related items, Harrellson invited Schmidt to the podium to explain.
Regarding the homeless situation, Swanson said people need to “balance compassion with the needs of the homeless,” adding that many homeless desire to get off the street and many want to be left alone.
Rhoades said the community should come together to help the homeless, while Bird remarked that faith-based organizations must be involved in the solution.
Bird said the homeless issue is multifaceted, with veterans and those suffering with mental disorder in the mix.
Harrellson chimed in by saying, “people always want to ask politicians” what they are going to do about the homeless issue.
“The way God set it up is for the church to reach out,” Harrellson said. “ But here’s the problem — a lot of times the churches don’t have the resources or the finances. But it’s always the people who don’t attend churches, and don’t give tithes and offerings, they want to complain about the homeless.”
The candidates all agreed the city should be cautious and consider federal law as it works to create ordinances and regulations for marijuana use, with Rhoades saying Hesperia should see the bigger financial picture as it faces the marijuana issue.
“It’s done a lot of good for the states that have approved marijuana use,” Rhoades said. “Hesperia could benefit from the revenue the marijuana industry may bring to the city.”
Blocker, Schmidt and Stine said they approve the use of medical marijuana, but oppose recreational use.
Schmidt said, “If you want to smoke pot in your house, go ahead,” but warned users that they will be prosecuted should they “step outside” and violate the law.
Asked their views on the at-large and by-district election system, Rhoades was the only candidate who said he approves by-district voting, saying it would “bring more accountability” to City Hall.
Swanson said the by-district system is “divisive,” with Bird remarking that by-district would “pit each district against each other.”
Schmidt, who gave an overview of both election systems, said the “by-district” system is an inevitability as the nearly 200 municipalities across California have made the switch to by-district systems, with some changing voluntarily before receiving legal challenges.
The Hesperia candidate forum can be viewed at www.facebook.com/vvdailypressnews.
Rene Ray De La Cruz may be reached at 760-951-6227, RDeLa Cruz@VVDailyPress.com or on Twitter @DP_ReneDeLaCruz.