Elections 2016: Downtown Needles, CA: Meet the Candidates Forum 2016.


Elections 2016: Downtown Needles, CA: Meet the Candidates Forum 2016.

The community got to meeting the candidates running for Needles City Council, City of Needles Mayor, and the Needles Unified School District Board for the community of Needles, California during a candidates forum held on Wednesday, October 12th, 2016 inside the El Garces Train Depot in Downtown Needles, California.

The candidates forum, put on by the Needles Downtown Business Alliance and the Needles Chamber of Commerce, gave the opportunity for the community to get to the candidates they may be voting for in November 2006 elections.

Questions were submitted by the community of residents, businesses owners as well as the local news media, and were submitted to any or all of the candidates by the moderator of the candidates forum.


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The moderator of the candidates forum, George DeLeon who is a Commander with the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 404 and the Manager of the Society of St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store, allowed the candidates to have an opening remarks segment, a question and answers segment with a possible response if a candidate was mention by another candidate, and closing remarks segment.

ZachNews was there and recorded the candidates forum and captured their responses to questions.

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The candidates forum started with candidates running for Needles Unified School District Board.


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According to the San Bernardino County Elections Office of the Registrar of Voters, the candidates running are Chad Donald Zamora, Christina Cameron-Otero, Steven Thomas, and Marilyn H. Mathews.

Questions for candidates running for Needles Unified School District Board range from Common Core in our school, to what are their top 3 items on their agenda for the school district.


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After, Edward T. Paget (Incumbent) got to speak and is the only candidate running for City of Needles Mayor.


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Later, the candidates running for Needles City Council got to speak.

According to the San Bernardino County Elections Office of the Registrar of Voters, the candidates running are Tona Belt (Registered Nurse), Tom Darcy (Incumbent), Shawn Gudmundson (Appointed Incumbent), Clayton B. Hazlewood (Conductor), Linda J. Kidd (Retired Businesswoman), Ruth Musser-Lopez (Archaeologist and Businesswoman), Gerald “Jerry” Telles (Realtor and Engineer), Timothy Terral (Cable Maintenance Technician), and John H. Wagner (Retired).

Just as the question and answers segment was to begin, John H. Wagner was seen walking out of the candidates forum upset and frustrated, and never returned to answers any questions.

Questions for all candidates running for Needles City Council range from what’s your opinion on medical marijuana growing facilities, to how would you help grow our community.

**** Here is a summary from the candidate’s responses to the top important questions: ****

** What is your opinion of medical marijuana growing facilities?

Tona Belt: “I’m defiantly in support of the cultivating centers. I believe that we need to monitor them appropriately, make sure that they are run according to our ordinance and our laws. There’s a lot of things that are gonna come up with the new recreational marijuana ballot. We need to stay on top of these, make sure that run accordingly with our policies we set in place. I also believe that we need to make sure that we’re doing our taxes appropriately accordingly to our rules we set in place so that we will be allow to utilize this money for what we need.

Tom Darcy: “I’m in favor of medical marijuana cannabis – whatever you call them. We got to do this, there is nothing else that will save this city. I said it earlier and I’ll say it again with this tens of millions of dollars of tax money will come into this city, not the first year, not the second year, but over the next 10 years. What’s the first thing we want to do? We’re gonna fix these roads, fix the 50 year old sewers, make sure our water is corrected; we don’t need no back east water over here. All these businesses will come here, build it, and ready to go. This is our big moment.

Shawn Gudmundson: “I haven’t spoke much about medical marijuana. Back in 2012, I was on the first council that helped initial the first ordinances for medical marijuana, I’m a proponent of it. I believe that this is what’s right. We need to make sure that we collect our incoming revenue. We stick to our audits will do a lot of good for future for future generations. However, our town is being one-dimensional; medical marijuana, medical marijuana, medical marijuana. Let it play itself out. We need to stick to our guns. My key thing about medical marijuana is location; where you’re going to allow them to be, that is intermental in having a conditional-use permit for every location so our residents can have have a voice on where there going to be located. We’re not going to allow them near schools or residential neighborhoods. We need to take it one step at a time; hope for the best, for the future. I believe it will bring a lot of good for the city.

Clayton B. Hazlewood: “I guess just like everybody else; I am also for medical marijuana. I’m excited of what it could bring to our town and the benefits this town can reap from it. I’m more excited about once we do get the money coming in, what we can do with it to better our town; fix the infrastructure to the sewer system, to the roads and all that. I’m a firm believer that it takes money to make money and when the city is broke, I feel they give up on a lot of opportunities just because it broke or a bad deal might be made. I think having a little extra money in the general fund will help by making more money down the road and help people who want to invest in our town to be successful and not make it a longer loan process. I think we should have focused this a long while back instead of – I work on the railroad. I feel back in the past, this town has been a railroad town; that’s what’s always going to support this town. They put all their eggs in one basket; the railroad is a great thing for the town, but back then there was 400 people that worked, 350 them live here in the town and now I don’t think there’s 400. By putting all your eggs in one basket way back when is putting us in the situation to where other cities they might have 20 things on the table and medical marijuana might be one of them. So then they say we’re only to allow 3 come in and we got these other 19 things to roll with. In our case, I don’t think we shouldn’t be picky and I don’t think we should put a cap on it. I think we need to take what we can, give what we can. Right now it sounds kind of bad, but as long as we turn that money and revenue into good things for a town and come up with good ways our town can grow. Once we have money, we can start focusing on tourism and everything that a lot of the old timers didn’t wanted.

Linda J. Kidd: “Well back in 2012, both Shawn and I were on the council. I was appointed onto a ad-hoc committed for medical marijuana. It was one of those things we sat around for the first meeting and thought we couldn’t believe that we were here talking about medical marijuana. This was something I never encounter with – delt with, and I think we done a really good job citywide in being open minded to it. Seeing what real benefits it will have to the city and the uses that it gives to people that have medical issues. Now with the cultivation, you know that’s a real business and involves some real money. And I think that we – if we had choices on what to come to Needles, that would be wonderful; we’re not giving a lot of choices, this has fallen on us which has been wonderful, and I’m glad that they chose Needles and it was obviously for our utility rates is why they’re here. We need to work with anything that wants to come to Needles and to be open minded to any business, support the local businesses that are already here and make it a good environment for them and work with the current businesses. The school has been a great partner with the city and I see the things the school definitely improving over the last 4 years also. And so I will entertain anything that is willing to come into Needles. What we need is more people moving here and you’ll get larger corporations that want to build bigger better things. So we need to keep marketing Needles in any way we can, and we’ll work well with the medical marijuana places.

Ruth Musser-Lopez: “I actually believe Needles has been great all along, and for me – personally, it’s just find the way it is because I know what’s out there; I know the river, I know the desert; I love to go out and venture out into the wild. But there’s this situation that we need to earn money and we need to have industry, we need to have businesses, we need to have a way to support ourselves. I love Needles – I never want to leave Needles, I would love to have my children come back to Needles and have employment. I have to disagree with Miss Kidd because there has been industries who wanted to come here; we had many opportunities in the pass, but they were turned away because of this exclusionary attitude, and they are a couple of you in here who have felt it; my husband and I felt that. But I’m glad hear this openness tonight, and I hope we stick with that and prove it through allowing food vendors – for example – to come on Broadway; there’s no food vendors out here on Broadway, main Route 66 right now, since the roof blown off Burger Hut. I think the momentum that our former council people have…. existing council people have going on the cannabis industries is great. I think we can keep pushing it forward and develop that, but we need regulators to read laws and watch our city government, and know how to interpret it, and keep the attorneys from making too much money off of it.

Linda J. Kidd’s Rebuttal to Ruth Musser-Lopez: “In response to Miss Lopez’s discussion about pass council turning away businesses, I think that was true. Now I don’t believe that was true well I was on the council; we searched and searched for businesses, we gone to conferences, we’ve entice many places to come here. There wasn’t anything that was willing to come here – before the medical marijuana. We have been seeking for grocery stores. You know, pass council were subsidizing businesses that were here, that was bankrupting the City; our budget every year was almost $300,000 in the rear and that was due to Bashas subsidizes. We were never gonna get out of that. The City can not subsidize businesses, but we have to give them in incentives to come here, and I couldn’t imagine turning away something that is willing to come to Needles.

– Gerald “Jerry” Telles: “Needles is at a low – you know, we talked about it already tonight; we lost our grocery store, our car dealership, and a number of other businesses – the bank, and we don’t have the luxury in picking and choosing who we invite to set up camp and generate revenues and jobs in Needles. So we have to look carefully at everything, and the cannabis thing is very promising. I would like to say is that – you know the clock is running on us guys like me – we got so many years and then we’re gonna expired so if we’re gonna affect any change in this community, we got to get on it now. Nothing is gonna happen quickly in Needles; take one step at a time. I can speak to a lot of railroad workers; I work out there and we have an stigma here. We drive into town – like my folks did 50 years ago in a station wagon full of kids, and they might have a job on the railroad, they might have a job with the Sheriff’s Department, they may might a job with the C.H.P., they might have a job at the school or the city, and when you look around, Needles isn’t really a choice for housing. There’s a fix number of properties for sale at any given time and there’s not a big selection. Somebody with a fat wallet is not gonna buy a house in Needles because there’s not that many to choose from. So they look around at the schools, at the community, and they go somewhere else. So we have to start somewhere and it’s gonna start with the catalyst of money – that’s what it’s all about because it’s not because we don’t have a beautiful area for recreation, it’s not because we got this great air quality – a small town with a great school or wonderful youth sports program, it’s people choose not to live here because of the the stigma of what Needles may look like when you drive into town and jump on I-40; that’s all they see is a snapshot. So for some engine of generating money we can start buying and fixing these things – to make Needles great again.

Timothy Terral: “I am also in favor of medical marijuana initiative. However,  I think it’s a great stepping stone for this City. I don’t want to be Needles to be known for the best weed in the state of California. 12 years ago, I’ve heard on many occasions that Walmart Distribution Center tried to come here and the council at that point told them “No” because they like the small town mentality and they didn’t want what they had to grow from that. There’s been other businesses that I’ve heard of that have also been turned down over the years. But that’s neither here nor there at this point. I believe in the medical marijuana initiative and the research they’re doing in cancer and I believe that with facilities like this, that their able to hopefully at some point either prolong life from cancer or even cure it perhaps, and the money that comes, I also believe that we can fix the roads and the schools and all of the things this town to raise the property value up so we can move into bigger homes or bring new families in. Same with Bashas leaving, that was their choice as a business. However we don’t have the demographics at this point to bring in another grocery store. With the marijuana initiative and the job they are bringing, we will change our demographics and we will be more appealing to more businesses. So with that being said, I am definitely in support of them coming into our community.

** How will you help the growth of Needles – please don’t say other tourism, golf, boat events?

Timothy Terral: “Mainly, it’s getting jobs and people here, and yes the other things are important because those are a fact of life here. We do have the river, we do have the desert; we’re very appealing to certain groups as far as recreational, but that shouldn’t be the only thing. We should be having people coming here because we have the better schools, we can provide the better education; the next stepping stone to college. As far as other ways in growth, inviting businesses in here; going out to different workshops and soliciting in person saying this is what we have going for us and we think this would be the right fit for you to come here. In that aspect – there can be a lot of opportunity here if the city council is open minded enough – not looking here, but looking there – to our grandchildren; my grandchildren’s future of this town.

Gerald “Jerry” Telles: “I think we can get more people to come to Needles by taking a structural approach. We’re not gonna be able to spend a million dollars on marketing and saying ‘come to Needles, it’s the best place in the world to live’; nobody isn’t gonna buy into it. So what we have to do is that we have to get real about this. We have to – because perceptions are so important – that’s the big reason people don’t relocate here. We need kind of clean up those access areas where people pass through Needles or get a snapshot of Needles. I run into a lot of people in Bullhead and Laughlin, and that’s all they see of Needles is this little snapshot of – sort of part of town where – it’s in-decline. So I think in order to attract more residents, we have to clean up those access points first. Whatever funds we have, we should focus on that. The next step is to try to attract a developer to come and put in some housing units. We’re horribly short of housing units. I’m a real estate broker and I’ve seen a lot of people here lately that have talked to me and tried like heck to locate to Needles; there involved with these cannabis companies, they want to support Needles and be a good citizen. You honestly can’t find them a place to live you know; either the units are too old or too small. There’s not enough selection; that would be the next step. You know, clean up the access points, may be some of the neighborhoods clean up, apply the code enforcement, and one of my big things is  the number of cars parked out front of people’s yards – maybe we can start there; clean up the perceptions and then with the money and the interest on Needles, low electricity rates and everything else, we can attract a developer; build some housing units, and maybe some apartment units here. That would be a structural approach in where we wanna be; it’s not gonna happen overnight and we have to be very careful how we spend the money.

Ruth Musser-Lopez: “I agree with Jerry so much; the gateway and signage at the entrance of our community is so important. But you know another thing is really important is an attitude regenerate, the friendliness we have in this community, and I am sorry, but I have to address this situation of Miss Kidd…. because what we have going on here at least…. o.k., I didn’t get to tell you – I had in e-mission from breast cancer. I was put out of mission for a while but when I came back to Needles – after taking acre of my mother and doing the hospitalization at U.S.C. and all that – I came back here in 2014, I was bomb – this eminent domain thing. This is enough to turn away any business person. I got people sitting out here who are threaten eminent domain. We don’t know if our property once we develop it…. there’s a museum I would like to put in and i’m concern that if I put it in, the City will take it over by eminent domain. We have an attitude generated by the current council and I went to them, I told them that you already have you handicap ramp – he disagreed with me and argued with me; basically called me a liar, and what kind of attitude is that for a business women in this town when your council treats you that way, and takes your property – more then what you need. The judge decided with me, and I excuses them that i take things to court, but who wouldn’t if their taking twice as much of your property as they needed for a traffic signal. So the other thing is to do is Route 66, it is dynamite. We have a golden triangle from L.A. Airport, up to Las Vegas, over the Grand Canyon and back through Needles. We got to protect our historic properties.

Linda J. Kidd: “I agree with everything that has been said – except for Ruth; that’s a matter that has been in discussion with the City and at many council meetings for 15 years and I don’t we gonna see or solve that tonight; nobody is here to take anybody’s property, and that’s a case by case process. At the same time, I’m pretty budget-minded; I’m certainly not for any kind of wasteful spending, I think the biggest savings that the city manager and the council – our current council has been working on is refinancing the bonds and at a lower interest rate, in order – to determent those bonds, we can be saving probably $6 million in refinancing bonds. So I think that everything has to be looked at from the Budget Committee. When I was there, we looked at every department within the City, we were very conservative as to where the money went and collecting what was do to the City. And so, now hopefully, there’s more money to do that and then there’s the decision on to how to spend it wisely and spending it in a way where it will benefit the most people.  Our streets are nearly – you know citywide, in bad-a-ray, and the sewer system; we got a lot of things that could be improvement. Current businesses – incoming businesses; there has been discussions with developers when we were at the International Council of Shopping Centers; we met with developers there. I think as there becomes a higher-income based and these facilities, the developers will start looking at building bigger houses and houses to fit the needs of people coming here. So those are things we can continue and like I said, we don’t want to turn anyone away.

Clayton B. Hazlewood: “I’ll keep this one to the point, I work for the railroad and we’re dealing with a lot of people who are coming out here from the coal mines – because there out of work and they come out here on this side of the transcontinental. For people who come out here and wanna have homes and families like I have out here, it may take some time; it’s gonna take cleaning this place up, getting…. obviously using the money the right way in getting more attractions out here. A lot of these people, they don’t know what I know, what you guys know; is what draws me into this town, and what wants me to stay here and not leave here; the community backing – you know everybody sticks together, they don’t know all theses hidden secrets that I know and everything else. The’re just looking at the appearance and to be and to be quite frank, if I was coming from out of town, I didn’t have no family ties here, I didn’t have friends here, or born or raise here, I might have picked a nicer place like Lake Havasu and be stuck with the community. So I think that’s up to us and I think we need to work hard in making this place look more attracted and cleaning it up, and everything the candidates have said I agree with.

Shawn Gudmundson: “Rooftops aren’t gonna come to use unless we have jobs – industry. I believe we were to focus on retail, that we may have forgotten industry – so badly needed in Needles. High energy using jobs that we can recruit due to the fact of our low energy cost, land prices, and the cost of living compare to Southern California – we need to be heading and recruiting those developers to come to Needles.

Tom Darcy: “Every day in the United States, 10,000 boomers retire; about 70,000 a week. This is where we should be moving to – this should be a retirement community also. Like the rest of us said, if you’re selling electricity at 10 cents or 8 cents a kilowatt, that’s kinda nice when you’re retired. You’re water is clean, that’s important. This is where we need to be. We need to be cleaning up North K; houses that haven’t been lived in for years. When we get this money from the cannabis – that we’re hoping to get, lets go focus on tearing down these houses, pay the going rate for it; not tossing anybody out, we’re buying their property if and when they want to sell. A lot of them, grandma passed away, the kids let it out or let it just degrade – I don’t know, you guys have done it; you’ve gone down North K, you’ve gone down the alphabet streets; A, B, C, D, Acoma, Bazoobuth; they’re all the same, those houses are 80 to 90 years old. They need to be either refurbish or removed. That’s where it’s gonna happen. 10,000 a day are looking for a place to retire.

Tona Belt: “We need to focus on our power. The marijuana plants are coming out. There’s multiple parts to it; growing, manufacturing, and distributing; all these could be potential jobs for people in town. Knowing that there gonna be making above minimum wage, that they can afford to buy; our land is cheap, we can actually…. again, rooftops aren’t gonna come unless jobs are here. So we got to utilize this cultivating to the maximum frequency; cultivating, manufacturing, and distributing; not just selling, but transporting out. So at this point of the game, all we got to sell is power; power is our key, we have to be able to sell it. We need to go out there and keeping in contact with San Bernardino County, attempting to utilize our resources so to actually go other businesses, hopefully more of that cultivation is here. in the positive and actually attract other businesses here; utilize our power.

Candidates were later asked questions that were directed to each of the candidates individually who are running for Needles City Council.

 Thank you to Candidates for responding to the people and good luck.

**** You heard from the candidate, now you decide. Just remember to please go out and vote. ****

** More Information: Voting in San Bernardino County, California: **


**** ZachNews will have continuing news coverage on Elections 2016 shortly after the Needles City Council Meeting on Tuesday, November 8th, 2016 from the Wagon Wheel Restaurant in Needles, California. ****

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