Senate candidates

Left to right Chrystal Ruiz, Jeff Hewitt, Ameenah Fuller, and Ross Sevey, representative for Mike Morrell.

The Calimesa Chamber of Commerce held a Candidates forum for District 23 California State Senate hopefuls on March 5 at the Norton Younglove Senior Center in Calimesa.
Yucaipa City Councilman Dick Riddell moderated the event. Candidates in attendance included San Jacinto Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz, Calimesa Mayor Pro-tem Jeff Hewitt, Ross Sevey, campaign manager for Assemblyman Mike Morrell, and small business owner Ameenah Fuller. Ron O’Donnel did not reply to the invitation.
Each candidate gave opening and closing statements and then answered written questions from the audience.


Opening Statements were five minutes long:
Chrystal Ruiz
I am a mom of four small children, work a job and am the mayor pro tem of San Jacinto.  I work a job like most citizens and I drive two hours one way to work. I do it because we have to put food on the table and a roof over our head. I’ve been a business woman in the restaurant industry for 20 years. I was a top general manager in the company and learned how to do budgeting and numbers. 
During that time I had an accident at work. I fell in a grate under a sink that they had thrown a thin rubber mat over. The doctor screwed up the surgery and I ended up in a wheelchair and I was told I would never walk again. I’m not the kind of person that takes no for an answer. It took me five years to learn to walk again. I met my husband during that time and have four little kids.
We moved to San Jacinto and my husband couldn’t find a job.  He’s a master craftsman. If he can’t get a job, who can?  So I ran for city council to do something about it. I won and was blessed to be with a wonderful council and staff. We just debuted the film San Jacinto project, and you’ll see exactly why we’re doing things different out there. I don’t believe in following the herd I believe in finding experts in the field and having them help you. In order to bring jobs, my idea was to bring filming into the valley. 
I went to producers, directors, actors and technical personnel  and said “how can get filming here?” The government filming sites are just words, and creative people do not like to just read words. We did a film San Jacinto website that is very different. If we want to keep filming in this state, we have to entice them to come to our cities. This experience of running is absolutely amazing and I’m honored to be able to serve the people of San Jacinto and excited to bring my expertise and talent up to the State Senate.
Jeff Hewitt
I was raised in Oak Glen and went to school in a one-room school house. I had a great child hood. I moved to the Yucaipa schools after fourth grade and at that time I had friends that went to private schools, but I thought that I got a really good education in public school. When I went off to San Diego State I found that I could hang with everybody that supposedly had these real expensive  educations. And I stayed down there and was working on my degree on biology and started my own business. I got married and had to work my way through college. 
I took my bobcat down there and thought I could dig swimming pools. I went to 30 different pool companies and they laughed at me. They said you can’t dig a pool with that. Back then they dug them by hand. Finally the 30th company gave me a chance, and today 95 percent of all pools dug in Calif ornia are dug with bobcats. That tells you that you have to be tenacious to do anything.  In 2004 the economy was rolling along good and I was asked to be on the planning commission. I had never served my country in anyway so I said “Yeah I’ll do it.” For six years I was on that commission and worked my way up to chairman. Then I ran for city council and in 2004 the economy was really  great.
Then I was digging 400 to 500 pools a year. In 2010 I was doing about 60. I said “what does it pay?” They said it pays $300 a month. And I said “I’m in.” I spent that much to get elected, but it’s been one of the most satisfying experiences of my life. You get to meet a lot of people that you only read about in the newspaper. The more enjoyable part is that when you make decisions you make decisions that people put faith in you to make. You don’t always make the right decision, but the best thing you can do is always use your conscious, try to find out both sides and make the best decision you can.
Ameenah Fuller
I want to change politics on four issues. These are unemployment, education, healthcare and green technology. A key component of this success is economics. When it comes to economics, unemployment is crucial to reduce the unemployment rates to effective policies that promote small businesses. Retaining of displaced workers and supporting veterans. This new direction in healthcare will open up opportunities pertaining to retraining by earning certificates on the fast track in health care and tech fields and increasing the marketability of workers. For example, we have the city of San Bernardino that  is in crisis, they have 16 percent unemployment which is double the national average. According to MSN, it is only second to Detroit, Michigan. The city of San Bernardino filed bankruptcy and has high crime rates. These are the issues I want to address if elected for State Senate. This is the reason San Bernardino is in crisis is because of poor leadership. We must select good leaders that bring results and action for senate district 23. Without it we will also fall to the worst ranking in the nation. I have a plan to turn the city of San Bernardino and the district around. Remember we live in the best place in the U.S. for solar energy and San Bern ardino has the largest solar plant in the country. Supporting green technology is a good thing by promoting affordable green homes for business and home builders. We can give tax credits. We can make San Bernardino a green model city. Electing the right person to serve is a decision that you guys in this room must make. 
Mike Morrell
Ross Sevey, representing  Mike Morrell read a letter from  Morrell. Thank you for taking time to research your elected officials and for being here tonight. As you know, Senator Bill Emmerson resigned this last December. After seeking counsel with my family and friends I announced my candidacy for state senate.
The Inland Empire has been my home for over 35 years. I have raised a family with my wife Joanie and owned and operated a small business here.  I incorporated two corporations in my time here as well.  In 2010 I was elected to the State Assembly on the promise to fight Sacramento’s regulation happy legislation and to fight for hard working families.  My constituents felt I kept that promise and they decided to re-elect me in 2012.  
Many politicians want to say what they will do if elected, but tonight, I want to tell you what my staff and I have done.  Among those accomplishments is the establishment of a hotline where businesses can call my staff for assistance with burdensome state government regulations. My staff and I have had success cutting through bureaucratic red tape, getting government out of the way so small businesses can create jobs.  Because of the hotline my office has worked with many government departments to get results for businesses in our community. 
In fact, due to my track record in office and my accomplishments in my district and in Sacramento, I am the only candidate in this race endorsed by small business groups like the California Small Business As sociation and the National Fed eration of Independent Busi ness.  Also, because of my track record in Sacramento fighting waste and fraud in government I am the only candidate endorsed by the National Tax Limitation Committee and the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, who want to keep our property taxes low. Let me finish by telling
you a little about my campaign. Since announcing my candidacy, my campaign has built significant momentum. I have received endorsements from most of the local elected officials in the 23rd State Senate district; among them are Republicans, Democrats and Independents, all due to my reputation of working for the people. 
But I think the thing I am most proud of is the significant support of young people. Both the Riverside and San Bern ardino County Young Republi cans have endorsed me because of my record of getting young people involved in the political process and their community. For example, my staff has traine d over 300 students through my office internship program which has exposed these students to various non-profits, community organizations and taught them the importance of civic duty. 
Many of those interns have gone on to work for community based organizations or in my office or for other elected officials in the Inland Empire, Sac ramento and Washington D.C.  No other candidate can say that. I’d be greatful for your vote on March 25, since I’m not at the ev- ent tonight if you’d like to speak with me, my cell is 938-1138.
Moderator Riddell then asked the candidates questions submitted by those in attendance.
Question: How do you feel abut the business climate in the state? If you don’t like it, how would you specifically make it better?
Ruiz: We have to get our people working and we have to be adamant about getting them the help they need. I would hold town meetings and find experts that can help. If that doesn’t work we take the issues to the senate floor.
Hewitt: We are dead last. We are in 50th place out of all the states. Specifically I would get in there and find out which senators work with fees, tax and regulations that would make us successful.
Fuller: We need to address a lot of issues. We need to give tax credits for affordable green homes and then encourage job creation and make it attractive. We need to find out the real issues.
Sevey: I cannot speak for the Assemblyman.
Question: Despite the recent downpour, our state is in the midst of a serious drought. Outline your solutions to the current situation and discuss how we can make changes so future needs are met.
Hewitt: The good news is that unlike some towns, we have some good reservoirs. But in the big picture we need to wean ourselves off of Sacramento’s re serves by planning to bring up water from the Sea of Cortez or the Salton Sea. Right now we spend more kilowatt hours pumping 500 miles of water than we would bringing it in for desalination.
Fuller: I’ve heard so much about the drought. It is impacting the whole state. We need to work on so many issues and deal with it before making decisions. We need more effective irrigation and planning and need to have discussions about it.
Ruiz: There is a desalination plant that is set to open the end of 2015 and thats a start. It’s expensive but solar started out expensive too and now anyone can afford it. I would look to the experts to see what we have to do and get help on all sides.
Sevey: I can’t put words in the Assemblyman’s mouth.
Question: How can we make public education better?
Fuller: By offering the districts learning programs and offer teachers better salaries. There are special needs teachers who do not get the salaries they deserve. They work so much after hours. We need to expand education and reduce costs.
Ruiz: The real answers lie with the teachers in the classrooms. I would meet monthly with teachers and find out what the real issues are. Find experts to help or make legislation to fix it.
Hewitt: We don’t discipline our children and then send them to school and the school can’t discipline them either. We need to break the stranglehold on tenure and seniority. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Question: How do you feel about the high speed rail? Is it a good or bad idea at this time?
Hewitt: If I want a high speed thrill I’ll go to Magic Mountain. There is no reason for this. The governor actually compared this to the transcontinental railroad and I’d like to call him out on this. It will cost $68 billion and that’s ridiculous. Put that money back to the people and use the money on things like airports, highways and light rails.
Fuller: The project is ex tremely costly, but will benefit some tourism. It could help people in the tourism industry who needs help. Right now the cost is too high but in the future it could possibly be a good thing.
Ruiz: I don’t know what they are thinking on this thing. It’s absolutely ridiculous at this time. It is no use to us and makes me furious to think of using our tax dollars for something like this.
Sevey: I know the assemblyman voted against it.
Question: How do you feel we can stop the false and misleading information that is sent out in voter pamphlets. 
Hewitt: Should we make a law? We have plenty of those. We need an educated society where people aren’t misled so easily. People should know that things that sound too good to be true, aren’t. It starts with education and it takes a lot of courage to stick your neck out to try to make a change in education.
Fuller: There should be transparency on flyers. Transparency on how money is spent. I would make sure there was transparency everywhere so everyone could see exactly what our tax payers are paying for.
Ruiz: They are all like that. I’ve e had enough of it. There really should be a reporting on this. We don’t need a lot of words, just the facts.
Sevey: I can’t speak for the assemblyman.
Question: Is a one party mon opoly good for the state? Re gardless of which party is in power?
Hewitt: No. It takes us back to the times of a king. The more diversified we are the better decisions that are going to come out of it.
Fuller: As we all know we have a two party system. The main concern is that we learn as a group. We need to cross party lines to get things done and learn to respect each other.
Ruiz: A one party system is not good. We need to start working across the aisles in our own streets. It doesn’t matter what party you are in, we are all Americans.
Question: What is your stance on Fracking?
Fuller: We need to look at what environmentalists are saying and pay attention to change and get advice on this issue. We should have town hall meetings on it and listen to everyone.
Ruiz: Nine months ago I was able to speak with past President Bush. He talked about how far technology has come over the last few years and that things look very different now. We shouldn’t make decisions on stuff that happened years ago. It has to be current and we go forward from there.
Hewitt: I don’t want the water contaminated, but there is no free cup of coffee. We can’t come up with the perfect situation, something will have to give. I would be for more fracking.
Question: What can be done to stop early prison release?
Ruiz: I would sit down with the sheriff and police to find a solution. There are 18,000 prisoners in and out of prison because they just get slapped on the wrist repeatedly because there is no punishment and its ridiculous.
Hewitt: I recently went to a seminar on this. A county jail prison guard makes $150,000 a year. Prisons are expensive to run. We need to look for the best and the worst and see who to let go. You have to do that every time you vote.
Fuller: Overcrowding has been going on for several years. I talked to a sheriff and his concern was cost. We need to look at ways to fund the housing and look at people who are lesser of fenders, they may not need to take a spot in prison.
Sevey: I can’t speak for the assemblyman.
Question: What would you do to change legislation that allows water companies to state on paper they can supply water for X amount of years, when un known environmental factors come into play?
Hewitt: With water you don’t know whats going to happen. Aquifers can get leaky. We need to go ahead and keep it at 20 years, that’s good enough.
Fuller: We need to rely on experts in environmental fields and look at how to propose a number of years that experts recommend.
Ruiz: The reality is we have to look long term. We are not 100 percent perfect. Water is our biggest issue. Twenty years is typical, just use common sense.
Sevey: I can’t speak for the assemblyman.
Question: I’m worried about our food source years from now. Dairies and chicken ranches are being pushed out by housing developments. Farmers are paying 100 percent for water when they get to use 50 percent. This year they get 15 percent of 50 percent but are still paying 100 percent. Then the government is paying or subsidizing not to plant half of their field.
Fuller: This brings us back to the water situation. We need to resolve it because it affects farmers and food.
Ruiz: I grew up on a farm. It breaks my heart to see them leave. A good working community doesn’t shove a lot of paper. We need to find out to truly and honestly help farmers by getting information from Farmers.
Hewitt: They pay 100 percent because of bonds that have to be renewed. In my perfect world there are priorities. Fruit, nuts and dairy should be our number one priority.
Sevey: I can’t speak for the assemblyman.
Question: What type of programs or plans to you propose to bring new business into our district?
Ruiz: I would bring filming like I’ve been doing in San Jacinto. You have to talk to people in the industry and ask what it takes to bring them here. We need to get film people in the 23rd district and maybe a studio will follow. Studios bring thousands of jobs.
Hewitt: There is a new filtration system in Yucaipa that is producing water clean enough for microchips. We need to get high tech folks in the area.
Fuller: We need to make the Inland Empire more attractive so it doesn’t get overlooked. We need to find ways to get funding to bring jobs to Yucaipa, Cali mesa, Banning and Beaumont.
Sevey: I can’t speak for the assemblyman.
Question: What will you do for small business in your district?
Hewitt: They need to be left alone. I shudder to think what our kids or grandkids will have to do to open their own business. Its so expensive for a mom and pop to run a company. There are too many regulations and fees put upon them.
Fuller: We need to promote them and help with networking and marketing. It takes a lot of work to get a businesses known out there. 
Ruiz: I would like to sit down monthly with the best reps in the area and find out what problems there are and fix them. As Mayor Pro Tem I know we have access to grants and we can help provide those to business owners.
Sevey: I can’t speak for the assemblyman.
Question: Do you support a land zoning change from residential to industrial for a two million square foot warehouse in Cherry Valley?
Fuller: I just learned of the issue. We need a town hall meeting to discuss both sides of the issue and really discuss the pros and cons. It’s a shame it hasn’t been discussed until now.
Ruiz: As a senator I hope people in the city can talk to me about it. The city council works for you. If hundreds of people show up they can table it. We need to find out what’s happening.
Hewitt: This is a county issue. The county government will make that decision. We at the state level should have no control. I am for local control. It would be nice to have more town hall meetings. 
Sevey: I can’t speak for the assemblyman.
Question: What is your opinion on the election process you are now running under and does it help to finish in the top two positions?
Hewitt: It’s a great process for a ditch digger like me. It shows that anything can happen. The top two? Heck yes! Of course I love this.
Fuller: In an open primary system a top two vote system does work. It allows everyone to vote on candidates that are the most qualified.
Ruiz: It eliminates lots of hurdles. A lot of regular folks didn’t know you could run for senate.
Sevey: I can’t speak on it.
Question: (addressed specifically to Ameenah Fuller) What is your background in healthcare?  Will Obamacare help California’s economy? How?
Fuller: I have been in health care for 30 years and have the knowledge and expertise to find abuse in medicare. I found 140 million to give back to the Med icare fund in 2012-13. Obama- care is the law and what I know is that it is going to make more jobs for people in the healthcare industry. There are people on wait lists to get into certificated schools.
Ruiz and Hewitt also an swered the question.
Ruiz: I work for Kaiser and what I see happening is people ing losing their insurance and people dropped down from full time to part time. Do I believe it’s going to help California? No! We are going to have to fix this mess.
Hewitt: Gov. Brown’s legacy is the high speed rail, Obama’s legacy is Obamacare, neither of these work. 
Moderator Dick Riddell asked each candidate to state if they were for or against the Afford able Health Care Act.
Ruiz: Not for it. It should be repealed.
Hewitt: I am totally against it.
Fuller: It’s going to remain and it’s going to be law.
Sevey: No comment.
Closing remarks were then made.
Sevey: The assemblyman is sorry he couldn’t be here. He did make a promise in 2010. He promised to be your voice. He has reached out to his constituents and kept that promise.
Fuller: I will show up. I will show up to every event I’m invited to. There are great candidates here. I am a results oriented person and have demonstrated that by curbing waste and looking at a way to make programs efficient. I want to be your one voice in Sacramento. I will answer my phone and emails and be there for you.
Hewitt: Unfortunately we pass laws with good intentions, that keep people from failing. How ever in doing so, we also keep them from succeeding. AB32 keeps business from coming to California by raising energy costs.
Ruiz: All the candidates have made good comments. If you want politics as usual you know who to vote for. You have a chance to elect someone who will take your voice to the senate. Its about who represents you best. The candidate has to be someone who represents you. I would ap preciate your vote on March 25.

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