PALMDALE – Palmdale’s three mayoral candidates held their own at a debate Thursday night, fielding questions on a variety of topics that ran the gamut from the justice realignment act to whether or not they would march in a Palmdale gay parade.
The event was hosted by the League of Women’s Voters Antelope Valley at the Palmdale School District Offices and moderated by Ann Hill.
The 45 minute debate consisted of questions from the moderator as well as written questions from the audience of about 30.
After a brief introduction, challengers Maggie Campbell, Desmond Kester and incumbent Jim Ledford, were given one minute each to answer a series of questions.
For Kester, it was a faulty education system, a point he hammered home in several answers throughout the debate.
Ledford said multiple challenges were facing Palmdale, including public safety, economic development and quality of life.
“As a community, we need to climb out of this recession that I think has ravaged property values,” Ledfod said. “We’ve done it before and we are capable of doing it again.”
For Campbell, the biggest challenge facing the City was its current leadership.
“The biggest challenge that we have in Palmdale is to replace the current Mayor that we have now,” said Campbell. “He has been in office for 20 years and it’s time to cut him loose.”
Candidates were also questioned on how they would promote the Palmdale Power Plant. Campbell did not mince words in voicing her disapproval for the plant, which has been one of the cornerstones of her campaign.
“The power plant has not been approved, it has simply received a permit to build,” Campbell said. “There are so many hurdles that you have to cross to open this power plant and I plan to stand in the way of all of them. It will not open in this town.”
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ledford called the power plant an economic development tool that would yield cheaper power for residents.
“Yes, there are several more steps, but we are confident, we are on the right path,” said Ledford. “The need for more power generation is critical to the state’s success and our Antelope Valley.”
Kester’s view on the power plant was somewhere in the middle.
“I’m not going to promote it, but we do need power and it’s a source of power, so I’m neutral on it,” said Kester.
Candidates also sounded off on one of the most talked about issues in the community at present – the Criminal Justice Realignment Act (AB109).
Ledford said constant monitoring of parolees and those on probation was key to a smooth transition of former inmates into the community as “re-offense is well documented.”
“There’re lots of good people that are going to be released as well, and we need to also assist them,” Ledford said. “But we also need to keep an eye on the ones that are intending on reoffending.”
Like Ledford, Kester cited monitoring as key to dealing with the influx of new prison releases to county.
“It would be nice to have more police, and it’d be nice to have more social services.” Kester added.
Campbell had an alternative approach. She said starting a Palmdale police department was the answer.
“We could get more police on the street, as opposed to the Sheriff’s Department, and we could do more to protect our communities and our children and make sure that those that are being released are not put back in the area where they are exposed to children, such as schools,” Campbell said.
Asked how he would mend the rift between Lancaster and Palmdale, Kester simply said: “If I’m the Mayor, then the rift goes away, that easy.”
Campbell said she too could squash the rift between the cities if she was mayor. She said lawsuits involving the two cities could be settled if leadership worked together rather than fighting.
“Sit down and listen to what their views are, speak to them about your views, and see how you can actually work together rather than fighting,” Campbell said. “It’s all about personality… being able to get along with people, not dictate to people.”
Ledford countered, “I think you have to be naïve to believe that.”
Ledford said the City of Palmdale was an upcoming city simply trying to gets it’s share in the Antelope Valley.
“Our lawsuit with the City of Lancaster is because they illegally stole one of our auto dealers,” Ledford said. “That produces a hit to our sales tax receipts [so] we have less revenue to provide basic services for our residents.”
An audience member’s written question asked candidates whether they would support and march in a gay parade in the City of Palmdale.
All three candidates said yes.
“I like a party, why not,” Kester said.
Ledford said he had already supported a gay parade in Palmdale at Poncitlan Square.
“Our community is made up of a variety of individuals and I think that everybody has a right in America to live as Americans,” he said. “I may not agree with the lifestyle but they certainly have a right, and I’m not going to infringe upon their rights as Americans.”
Said Campbell: “I would stand tall with them and let them know that no one has a right to discriminate against you because of the alternative life you have chosen to take.”
In closing remarks Campbell again stressed her opposition for the Palmdale power plant, while Kester continued to rally for a better education system.
“As mayor I’ll do anything I can to raise the standards of education in the Antelope Valley and also in Palmdale,” said Kester. “That’s how you get a good future.”
Ledford emphasized his 20-year track record as the City’s leader.
“I will work harder than anybody else as your mayor,” Ledford said. “I’ve dedicated my time and energy in the past and I will continue that in the future.”