Passions flared at the Temecula Civic Center Tuesday night as candidates discussed the issues during the Temecula City Council Candidates Forum hosted by the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce.
The nearly two-hour televised event saw six candidates answer questions delivered by moderator Brian Connors, a Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce director and marketing director for Southwest Healthcare System.
There was some clear division during the forum, along with a few daggers from candidates Jamie White, Patrice Lynes and Paul Jacobs pointed at incumbents Mayor Chuck Washington and Mayor Pro Tem Mike Naggar, who are both running for reelection; candidate Walter Wilson was the calm during the storm.
Tuesday may have been politics as usual, but it all boiled down to a simple proposal: “If you like what you see in Temecula, vote for Washington and Naggar. If not, vote for change.”
For those who want to see change by means of ending sustainable development in Temecula, focus was on White and Lynes, who repeatedly pushed to do away with environmental restrictions.
White said that, if elected, she would get the city "out of the guise of Agenda 21."
Lynes said she has worked to get Agenda 21 language stripped from city plans, and promised to eliminate it altogether if voted into office.
Both women argued sustainable development is wrong for Temecula, with White saying it attempts to wipe out suburban communities in favor of mixed-use development that tends to build upward. She vowed, if elected, to refuse any state or federal grants that hinge on sustainable development.
“Who will stand up against the tyranny?” she asked.
Lynes and White said Agenda 21 is a property rights issue.
“It’s not what I want,” White said.
But Naggar argued that sustainability can mean different things to different people, saying to him it means building smart with the future in mind.
In addition to criticizing the incumbents for the city’s adoption of sustainable planning, White and Lynes jabbed at them on other issues. Lynes said Washington’s boasting of a $2.7 million budget surplus for the city was nothing more than “fuzzy math” (click here for the city’s current year annual operating budget), and White said the city’s current policy of working with regional bodies such as the Western Riverside Council of Governments was not in the city’s best interest because it gives too much control to outsiders.
Lynes also accused the incumbents of added “fuzzy math” because the city promotes itself as the second safest in America. In 2011, the online publication Business Insider gave Temecula the distinction based on FBI crime statistics.
Both Lynes and White also alleged the current council is too cozy with the real estate firm Rancon, arguing that conflict of interest was rampant on the dais in recent years.
But candidate Wilson, a real estate broker who has also served with the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors, piped up saying he only knew of one deal involving Rancon – the Old Town Temecula Community Theater.
“And I love the playhouse,” he quipped.
Indeed, Wilson was a more tranquil force in the otherwise just-below-boiling discussion Tuesday. The longtime resident who raised his family in Temecula said he was living in the area before incorporation – before there were any red lights in town.
He praised the city and its leaders for visionary progress, but said the reason he’s in the race is to bring his real estate expertise to the council, which he believes is lacking on the dais today. It concerns him, he said, because the Federal Housing Finance Agency continues its threats to bulk-sell foreclosed homes in Riverside County to institutional investors.
“Our past leaders have been tremendous,” he said, “[but a] serious problem is real estate.”
Wilson said investors are quickly scooping up Temecula real estate, making it nearly impossible for first-time buyers or military personnel to get their piece of the American Dream.
Wilson, along with Jacobs, also stressed bringing more higher education to Temecula. Currently, a California State University, San Marcos, “satellite” campus exists in the city, but the two said they would like to see more.
“The higher the education we have in our city,” the better the jobs, Wilson said.
“The region needs its own campus,” Jacobs said, noting that an education center will help build local jobs.
Jacobs also advocated for a teaching hospital in the area, to which Washington later hinted may become a reality with an announcement forthcoming.
Jacobs also pressed on an issue he has been fighting for: Turn the old City Hall on Commerce Center Drive into a police station. Jacobs has argued the city needs its own station for public safety reasons, and he contends the city’s plans to convert the Commerce Center Drive building into a business incubator is a waste of taxpayer money.
Jacobs was also critical Tuesday night of the city’s handling of the Liberty Quarry issue. While all the candidates, including the incumbents, expressed anti-quarry sentiments and denounced t Jacobs said the city’s current lawsuits against the county are “too little, too late,” noting that the quarry never should have made it through the LAFCO process.
The pokes from Jacobs, Lynes and White clearly irked Naggar, who at one point lashed out and accused the candidates of making claims they could not back up.
“It’s innuendo!” he said.
Washington remained generally calm alongside Naggar, as the two showed support for each other during the forum.
For example, Washington said he generally Naggar has served as a consultant for Calvary Chapel, the church that built its current house of worship on Rancho California Road in the heart of Wine Country back in 1999 and now wants to expand and build a school on its property.
The proposed Wine Country plan doesn’t allow for churches or schools, nor does the county allow them today. Wine Country is located in unincorporated area but does fall within Temecula’s sphere of influence.
During closing statements Tuesday night, candidates made the case as to why voters should elect -- or reelect -- them. However, with only about 75 people in attendance during the forum -- including family members, reporters and news photographers -- and an unknown number of television viewers watching live, political passions may still need some stirring in Temecula.