LANCASTER – If you have attended, or watched on television, any Lancaster city council meetings in the past year, then you may recognize Michael Rives as the man who addresses the city council multiple times at each meeting.
“I’ve attended every meeting and I’ve spoken at every meeting for the last year or year and a half,” says Rives. “Every meeting I get up at least four or five times to speak.”
Rives is now looking to be on the other side of the podium come April by vying for one of the two available seats on the Lancaster city council.
“If people want a healing voice in our city government, if they want somebody that is looking after their interests… somebody that wants to do what’s best for Lancaster, not for any special people, then they should consider voting for me,” Rives said.
Rives, who relocated to Lancaster in 2007, was born in Long Beach and has lived in Los Angeles County for all of his life. He says his interest in politics traces back to a very early age.
“My uncle ran for city council when I was nine years old, and I went around the neighborhood asking people to vote for my uncle,” Rives said. “But my first big campaign was the 1960 campaign for President Kennedy.”
At 12 years old, Rives says he took it upon himself to hit the campaign trail hard for John F. Kennedy, putting materials on people’s doors, waving signs at cars on the street, and even making speeches for the man who would later be president. Rives said his interest in government continued into his teen and young adult years where he held student body offices in junior high school, high school and college.
Rives said he launched a bid for Congress in 1976. Though unsuccessful, he said he still managed to affect change with his campaign.
“I was able to get a branch social security office for my [25th] District area as a result of that campaign,” Rives said. “It was important because the people in Northeast LA used to have to go to Glendale or Pasadena for social security and if you were an old person or a person with children, that was a very hard thing to do.
Rives moved to the Antelope Valley, specifically Lancaster, in Dec. 2007 and became involved in local politics when he ran for city council in 2010.
“I was not well known, and I didn’t have a lot of money, those were the two main reasons,” Rives said of why he lost the election. “I still don’t have a lot of money, but I’m better known now.”
Since the 2010 election, Rives has retired and immersed himself in city council business. He says on the Friday before every council meeting, he picks up the agenda from City Hall, and thoroughly dissects the document to ensure he is prepared to speak at the council meeting.
“I go through the agenda and I pick out issues that I think need to be discussed, I read the attachments to the agenda, I go online to research, I call the City Manager or Deputy City Manager and talk to them if I don’t understand something, and then sometimes I’ll go up to the council members before the meeting and tell them, ‘I’m going up to talk about this’ so they will know what I’m talking about,” Rives said.
Rives said he doesn’t mind the scrutiny of being “that guy” who gets up at every council meeting, because he’s bringing up issues that warrant discussion in the community.
“Issues like spending large amounts of money for a roundabout, or the Eye in the Sky, those issues need to be talked about because they involve millions of dollars and affect the whole community,” says Rives. “Also, issues like Section 8, the Sheriff’s deputies and a civilian review board, those are things that need to be talked about.”
For Rives, the three biggest issues facing Lancaster right now are division, openness in government, and low economic conditions.
“We have divisions in the city between race, economic groups, social groups, political groups, and religious groups, and it does not help that members on the city council make comments to further divide us,” Rives said of what he believes is the biggest threat to the city. “We’re in very difficult times and we need to realize that we’re in the same boat, and we don’t need to be divided because of our political affiliation or our race or our religion.”
Rives said the council needs a moderate voice that can listen to both sides and bring everyone together, and he believes he is that person. He said openness in government is another issue that is detrimental to the city’s success.
“We need the council to discuss things so people know what they are doing,” he says. “Right now all they do is vote and no one knows what they’re talking about, unless I bring it up.”
He says if elected, he would push for council meetings to be held at 7 p.m. rather than 5 p.m. to allow residents to attend meetings when they get off work, and he would create an atmosphere that encouraged community discussion on items before the council.
“We need to have an old-fashioned town hall where people can debate as a community, not an exclusive club like it is now,” Rives said, adding that council members shouldn’t mind if meetings stretch on. “That’s part of the drill, if you have to stay there until 10 o’clock, that’s the way it goes. We can’t put a time limit on talking about people’s lives.”
And finally, Rives said if elected, he would work to improve the economic condition of the city, which he feels is the third biggest issue facing the city.
“We’ve lost property tax money, we’ve lost sales tax money, we’ve had to offer early retirements to city workers and our city is now in grave financial condition because of it,” Rives said, adding that he would like to see City Hall working harder to keep local businesses afloat.
“They do that for the BLVD but there are other businesses in town,” he said.
Rives said he would like the city’s economics department to work with the local Chamber of Commerce to conduct a survey of local businesses and use the results of the survey to create initiatives to help local businesses stay in business.
Rives said he is financing his campaign himself with a budget of under $1,000, but does not object to campaign contributions, so long as contributors do not try to influence his position.
He says whether elected or not, he will continue to speak at every city council meeting and bring up the issues that he feels are relevant to the residents of Lancaster.
“It’s worth it to stand up for the people and have a different voice and discuss our issues,” Rives says. ‘It’s our money and our community, and that’s why I do it… I’ll continue to do it.”
* Rives has agreed to answer any questions posted in the comments section under this article.
** This is the second of a series of profiles The AV Times will be publishing featuring Lancaster city council candidates, as well as mayoral candidates. The first profile featured council candidate John Kiramis. Profiles will be published in random order.