Chris Mann in Daily Press: The Actual Truth About Development…and Angela Valles

In a piece titled “The Sobering Truth About Development,” written by Angela Valles (former Victorville Councilwoman and failed candidate for Congress and County Supervisor), published in the Review on May 9, the dejected politician lashes out at those who opposed her.

Ordinarily, such a tantrum would not warrant a response. However, her attacks on the Building Industry Association, home builders in general and organizations like ours which seek to support fiscally conservative, pro-economic growth candidates and policies, were so incredibly inaccurate and misleading that we feel compelled to set the record straight.

To begin with, after actively seeking support and donations from housing developers in her failed bid for county supervisor, it is disingenuous of Valles to now represent herself as someone who has “repeatedly opposed developers.”

Having accepted large sums of money from public employee unions, Valles loses all credibility in her attempt to paint herself as someone who stands up to special interests. Perhaps she only stands up to those who don’t contribute heavily to her campaigns.

What’s more concerning is Valles’ new-found contempt for an industry that is so critical for the economic survival of the region she wants to represent. The Inland Empire, and particularly the Victor Valley, relies heavily on home building and other development projects for a large share of its economy. In fact, the region’s long-time chronicler of all things economic, John Husing, has said in many public forums that the construction industry (led by home building) is among the most vital, if not the most vital, economic driver of our region outside of the logistics industry.

Valles complains that Apple Valley and surrounding communities do not have adequate infrastructure to support existing residents, let alone new development. However, development impact fees on new development are the best way to pay for the infrastructure that is so desperately needed. What’s more, the added rooftops attract restaurants and shops which generate additional sales tax revenue for local government services. The only other way is by taxing existing residents. Would Valles prefer the latter approach?

She goes on to argue that we should no longer allow development of higher density housing projects. We have concerns about any policy that would make it even less affordable for a family to attain home ownership during this housing crisis we are facing in California. Home builders and government officials around the state are frantically trying to find ways to address an alarming decrease in home ownership attributable to skyrocketing prices due to a lack of supply.

What Valles is suggesting would compound this problem, denying many in this region an opportunity to live the American dream. Her approach would also disproportionately harm minorities, as they are among those with the lowest home ownership rates.

Valles attacks developers for wanting to make a profit and claims that they do so without regard for protecting the interests of the community or heeding the wishes of residents. While this sort of populist rhetoric is designed to appeal to the masses who don’t understand how development projects are approved, it ignores the simple truth that it is the role of local elected officials and staff to set design standards, determine what densities will be allowed and require infrastructure improvements such as roads, sidewalks, streetlights and parks as conditions of approval. Nothing can be built without local government approvals. It is the responsibility of those we elect, not the developer, to ensure that development is consistent with the general plan and the future vision/goals of the community.

So while she points to the troubles with crime, crumbling roads and lack of water being experienced by the City of Victorville, and attempts to lay the blame at the feet of the building industry, she is really just diverting the blame away from herself.

As a former member of the Victorville City Council, it was her responsibility to establish policies that would lead the city into economic prosperity. If she wants to assign blame for the failures in Victorville, she need look no further than the closest mirror.

The Inland Empire Taxpayers Association opposed Angela Valles in her bid for county supervisor last year. We did so because of her voting record in Victorville, as well as her history of misrepresenting and sensationalizing issues for her own personal political gain and concerns surrounding her demotion at Victor Valley Wastewater Reclamation Authority after being accused by more than a half-dozen employees of being “ethically challenged and perpetuating a hostile work environment.”

The IETA actively campaigned against Valles, as we felt strongly that taxpayer interests would be better served by re-electing Supervisor Robert Lovingood. In turn, in her article, she attacks our organization, referring to us as a “fake group” that is “directly or indirectly controlled by the BIA.” In truth, the IETA has been in existence for 11 years, fighting for taxpayers in every election cycle since its founding in 2006. In 2016, the IETA raised and spent approximately $325,000 supporting/opposing candidates and ballot measures throughout the Inland Empire in the interests of taxpayers. Of that amount, only $15,000 (or 4.6 percent of our overall budget) came from the Building Industry Association. Once again, Valles is simply lashing out and attempting to minimalize and discredit those who did not support her.

Should she make the unfortunate decision to run for office again in the future, for all the reasons stated above, the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association (and I have to assume the entire development community, along with anyone interested in economic prosperity) will be standing ready to remind voters why Angela Valles should never again hold public office.

Chris Mann is the founder of the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association.