By Nikki Garrett Metzger
High Desert Daily
(Victorville) — Last week’s council meeting was the last for Councilman Mike Rothschild, whose leadership and dedication to public service made a real difference for the City of Victorville. In his 24 years as a councilmember, and 33 years as an elected official, Rothschild has been instrumental in helping build the infrastructure that will help the city of Victorville move forward with a strong revenue base to finance its future.
Rothschild was a member of the so-called “old guard”, the council that made crucial decisions about former George Air Force Base that helped it become the successful Southern California Logistics Airport (SCLA) that we know today. “We purchased the airport for $1.5 million, today that airport is valued at $1 billion,” Rothschild said. “It has 4 brand-new hangers, about 90% of all the space available to be leased is in use, the surrounding commercial buildings are also about 90% leased, and close to 4,000 people are employed, counting the federal prison. And the airport is making money.”
Rothschild is also proud of his involvement with the Mojave Air Quality District. When he joined the board they were an advisory component to the South Coast Air Quality District, which at that time had a politically divided board, according to Rothschild. He worked to separate the Mojave Air Quality District from the board in the L.A. basin in order to attract business away from the difficult rules down there. Rothschild said, “In that first three years my goal was to do two things: one to succeed from the South Coast Air Quality board and have an independent High Desert air quality board; 2nd was to have an air credit transfer bill passed.”
The bill would essentially allow businesses that moved from the L.A. area to the High Desert the ability to still use 75% of their air credits to operate in the State of California.
“We have numerous success stories from those two policies,” Rothschild said. “The biggest is Power Plant number one: that never would’ve been built if we had not separated ourselves from the Los Angeles air quality board. That plant that Buck Johns and Stirling produced generated in excess of $40 million over 10 years into the local economy.”
He continued, “Also the furniture factory that moved to the area last year. They came here in no small part because of the ease of working with our air regulations. If it hadn’t been for that they probably would not have come to California at all. Those are big components of revenue sources that we will get based on the fact that we separated ourselves from Los Angeles, and that was work that I did on the air quality district. So that, to me was a big plus, and it is a plus going forward.”
Rothschild was also involved in bringing Tanker 10, the firefighter air tanker to SCLA and also the Aviation Maintenance Technology Program. “That was a big program that creates careers out there at the airport not just jobs careers,” he said.
Another area that Rothschild is proud of is that the city has another source of revenue it will be able to count on going forward. “Victorville Municipal Utility Services, or VEMUS is our electrical utility. The revenue that it is generating is money that the state cannot take, because it is separate from both property tax and sales tax. VEMUS, the sewer plant and all of our infrastructure that we have at the airport, are components that will generate jobs in the future in spite of California.”
Rothschild’s thoughts on the Council now as compared to when he first was elected are mixed. “People used to accuse us of being a 5-0 vote but the fact is that we used to sit down and talk to each other, talk to staff, talk to industry. We didn’t just wall ourselves off from the private sector and today it seems to be, to some, a few, it seems to be a sin to reach out to the interest groups.”
“In our Council of 20 years ago and up to about 5 years ago, there were a few times we’d disagree but mostly we agreed because we hashed it out and we had a clear vision of where we wanted to go. Once we had that nailed down then we assigned different people to do the heavy lifting tasks and we would respect their leadership in a particular area – mine happened to be air quality; Terry Caldwell was the guy in charge of the airport, SCLA. A lot of what you see out there are from a lot of the policies that the 5 of us adopted on the leadership of Terry Caldwell. When we did disagree we didn’t go out and back bite each other in the news media.”
He continued, “I think the today Council has got a strong basis. (newly elected) Gloria Garcia is coming out of the Hispanic chamber and that is the pro-business mindset. Rudy Cabriales started the Hispanic chamber. So we have at least a block of four people who certainly have a pro-business mind. With the settlement of the lawsuit with Carter Burgess and our last vote to put that money in the bank, the city has a clear vision going forward. They have nothing in front of them except positive – their finances are solid and their opportunities are better than most cities in this Southern California region because of SCLA.”
Rothschild said he has plans to do some golfing, and to get more involved with the Victorville Chamber of Commerce. “I am a member of the chamber as an individual so I will probably get a little bit more active by joining a committee or two. With respect to my wife we are busy anyway, and we have been busy for years despite my seat on the City Council. So that will not change.”
And so Mike Rothschild walks away leaving a far better Victorville than he initially encountered, 24 years later.