CALIFORNIA CITY — Ron Smith took the oath of office Saturday to join the City Council in California City, after being appointed to fill the seat vacated last month by Tami Johnson.
Johnson resigned from her seat on the Council on June 25 due to medical reasons, according to Mayor Chuck McGuire.
The Council decided to appoint someone to fill the seat until the next general election in November 2020, to avoid the thousands of dollars it would cost to hold a special election.
Smith, pastor and founder of Victory Baptist Church, was appointed during a lengthy special meeting Saturday, on a 3-1 vote, with McGuire dissenting.
A resident of Cal City with his family since 1991, Smith regularly attends Council meetings and comments on the topics under discussion. He has also been an outspoken critic of the city’s decision to allow the commercial marijuana industry within Cal City.
However, Smith said he would not make decisions as a Council member based on his personal beliefs in the matter.
“My personal opinion is not important. The position of the city has been established,” he said.
With that, he does think things need to be done fairly so everyone has an equal chance, and that the city needs to look to other economic development, as well.
Smith described himself as a small-government fiscal conservative, meaning he believed the city needed to live below its means, establishing an emergency fund and safeguarding it.
“If you don’t have the money, you don’t spend it,” he said of his fiscal philosophy.
The city’s financial situation is the most important issue facing the city today, he said.
Smith was questioned by Councilman Gene Stump about the possibility the city’s economy, pegged to hopes that the marijuana industry would relieve its dependence on a voter-approved special parcel tax, does not grow as necessary and another unpopular tax is sought.
Smith said the city needs to begin preparing now for the eventuality the tax will expire in 2024 and not be replaced.
“This is the time for belt-tightening, for an austerity budget,” he said. “It is very difficult for me to spend money. At the current time in our city, I think that would be an asset.”
Smith also advocated making cuts in departments other than public safety.
“Public safety has to be the priority,” he said. “We have to protect our essential services.”
“If we believe (the special tax) is not going to pass, we need to start the weaning now,” Smith said, using attrition in the hopes of avoiding layoffs.
Smith was among six applicants for the seat. Others included Planning Commission Chairman Jim Creighton, writer and web designer Carolinda Fleming, real estate broker and minister Kathryn Efford-Floyd, communications electrician and teacher Al Mendoza and dental office assistant and college student LaMiya Patrick. Mendoza was not at Saturday’s meeting.
“I publicly want to thank all of you who put your hat in the ring,” McGuire said.
The applicants were each given opportunity to present their case to the four seated Council members, who then interviewed each.
An approach to the city’s financial constraints was a popular query.
Members of the public were also given the opportunity to question applicants.