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Sentinel: Needles Vendor Sees Collusion & Conflicts Between City & Chamber

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San Bernardino Sentinel

Posted on by Venturi

Main Street on the historic downtown thoroughfare of Needles is nowadays devoid of food vendors.  The last remaining food “joint” on the downtown “Broadway,” section of RT66, the “Burger Hut,” closed down when a strong gust of wind blew its roof off last year.

“The reason for the lack of food vending businesses in the downtown section of Needles should definitely be food for thought at the political forum this next Wednesday,” said local businessman David Buckley, “What will the candidates do about the anti-competitive policy of the “Needles Downtown Business Alliance” run by West End business owners who are keeping competition and growth out of the once prosperous downtown area?”

Needles historically was a significant element of San Bernardino County and California, the spot where the Southern Pacific Railroad crossed the Colorado River. As a consequence, beginning in the late 1880s, it grew into what at one point was – with its population of slightly more than 10,000 – the fourth largest city in the county, one that became a full service municipality, with its own police department, fire department, water utility and electrical utility. In the 1920s it reached its heyday as a key way station for bootleggers and illicit alcohol purveyors and smugglers during Prohibition. Poised along Route 66, it was known as the Gateway To California to automobile travelers from the late 1920s to the 1960s.

But Needles has fallen on hard times, and both its police department and fire department have been subsumed by the county sheriff’s department and fire de-partment. Its population has attrited significantly, to the point that at 4,884 residents, it is the smallest of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities population-wise.

Buckley claims that “it is no coincidence that it is the Needles Downtown Business Alliance (NBDA) in con-junction with the Chamber of Commerce that will be in charge of moderating the one and only public debate that will take place here just as the absentee ballots are mailed out by the county next week.”

The public forum is to be held on October 12, 2016 at 5:30 p.m. in the “El Garces” historic train depot meeting room and will be moderated by George DeLeon, long-time member of the NBDA, who has the same surname as  former City of Needles Human Resources Director, Genevieve DeLeon.  Questions are to be accepted from the public as long as they do not tend to “pick on any one candidate” a chamber spokesperson said.

Among those to be interviewed are the local municipal and school board candidates. Dr. Edward T. Paget is un-challenged in his race for mayor of Needles. A hot debate should ensue between nine candidates vying for three seats on the city council.  Two of those seats are currently held by incumbents Tom Darcy and appointed incumbent Shawn Gudmundson.  A third incumbent, Tony Frazier, has bowed out this year after serving on the council since the mid-1990s.  The seven other can-didates in alphabetic order include Tona Belt, former incumbent Linda J. Kidd, Clayton B. Hazlewood, 1990s councilwoman Ruth Musser-Lopez, Gerald “Jerry” Telles, Timothy Terral and John H. Wagner.  Four candidates will compete for two seats on the school board.  Incumbents Marilyn H. Mathews and Christina Cameron-Otero are hoping to be reelected.  Long-time resident and former city councilman Steven Thomas along with Chad Donald Zamora also will be competing for the board seats.

“I’m not sure how a forum run by an illegal trust, featuring anti-competitive policies and practices will reflect well on any of these candidates” Buckley, who is a leading critic of the status quo in Needles, pondered.  “Just the word ‘business alliance’ in the organization’s name ‘Needles Downtown Business Alliance’ is enough to scare any business off,” he says,…

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