Incumbent Carlton Jones is defending his District 3 seat against Phil Smith, a local commercial credit manager.
Carlton Jones’ first foray into politics came as working for the Tulare Fire Department. He was president of the firemen’s union and led labor negotiations. After he was hired by the Fresno Fire Department he missed working with the Tulare community and decided to run for city council. He won for the first time in 2004. He lost his seat in 2008, then won it again in 2012 when the city had converted to by-district elections. After that election he was selected as Vice-Mayor.
Even though Jones was raised on Tulare’s West side and graduated from Tulare Western, he now lives in District 3, representing southeast Tulare.
Jones likes the fact that with districts citizens have a point of contact. The residents can easily contact Carlton and can call district meetings. In that way Jones can hear and see what his constituents need.
Two such examples are when a park needed to be completed, and another was when a senior center needed more lighting and police coverage. For the park he was able to get an assessment district created that paid for the park. For the senior center he worked with the police department to beef up the security and got the city to make sure the street lights worked.
Jones’ father worked for the housing authority and he still uses those contacts. “I find out what the needs are, and I meet them.”
His goal, if re-elected for four more years, is to re-established the oversight committee for the original Measure I. During his first tenure on the city council in 2004, a Public Safety/Street maintenance bond called Measure I was passed as a general bond . That means the money was not earmarked and could be spent however the city saw fit. The city council negotiated amongst each other and Jones agreed to vote yes for the measure to be put on the ballot only if the money was spent on public safety and streets. He also demanded an oversight committee to ensure accountability.
In 2012, when Jones was no longer on the city council, it voted to get rid of the oversight committee. His goal is to get the oversight committee active and to have a full accounting of where that money was spent. Right now it just goes into the general fund.
Another goal of Jones’ is to jump start economic development in Tulare. According to Jones the city is not doing as well as it was in his first term on the council. He feels that Tulare has fallen behind Porterville and Hanford. He acknowledged that development is happening in other towns and said, “I want boom times for Tulare too.”
Jones was the only councilmember to vote against the water rate increase in August. He became skeptical about Tulare’s water crisis because the reasons for the rate increase kept changing. He said the rationale for the first increase was to get people to save water. Then another increase was needed because people were conserving too much water and the city was losing revenue. Now Jones says the city council justified the increase because the city needs to upgrade the infrastructure.
Jones pointed to a fire suppressions study required for each city that found the water pressure was great in Tulare. He added that the study was not included in the presentation when the city council voted to increase rates.
“We have been providing water to Matheny tract and everything is fine with the old system,” he said.
The issue of Jones’ missing a lot of city council meetings and special meetings was raised by a sitting city councilmember.
“That’s not true,” he said. “I haven’t missed any more meetings that the other councilmembers.”
It is in fact true that Jones misses the most meetings of the five councilmembers, with Mayor David Macedo a close second. In 2015, Jones missed seven meetings, Mayor Macedo six, council member Maritsa Castellanoz three, and council member Craig Vejvoda two. For 2016, Jones has already missed six, Macedo, four; Marista, two: and Vejvoda two.
It should be pointed out that Shea Gowin, running her own landscaping business and mother of four, has not missed one city council meeting or special meeting.
Jones’ profession of being a firefighter makes it unpredictable how many and when he will miss a meeting. But he added that he felt blessed to be able to serve his community and that he is able to “make decisions with his heart.” “I don’t have to worry about conflicts of interests with my personal business.”
Phil Smith, who has worked as a commercial credit manager for 20 years, has never run for public office. He was appointed to the Board of Public Utilities (BPU) in 2011 and serves as its vice-president. The BPU is in charge of regulating and managing the solid waste, water, sewer and wastewater system. The board is appointed by the city council.
What motivated Smith to run for city council was his desire to create a more welcoming atmosphere in Tulare for developers. “I want to ensure a good experience to those interested in investing in our community and for those interested in relocating to our community.” He said right now there is a disconnect between the city staff and developers. He wants to find out where that disconnect is and fix it.
The process in obtaining a building permit in Tulare has been inconsistent over the last 20 years. He wants a planning department that responds promptly to the developing community’s requests.
With more than 20 years of experience in the finance industry and being an advocate for small business, Smith wants to take a good look at Tulare’s General Fund before deciding whether to hire more personnel to improve the city’s planning department. In an email he stated that one of his goals for the next four years would be “to ensure fiscal responsibility and promote strategic economic development.”
In fact his finance background is what he feels separates him from Jones. “My profession has provided me with an opportunity to understand the challenges faced by family businesses and, in many cases, to assist them in achieving their goals.”
Another motivation for running was to “to bring a message of reconciliation and optimism to our community,” said Smith.
Smith said that the proposed 2008 Nascar-style Racetrack, and now the Measure I vote for the hospital, still effect relationships with the voting public. “I’d like to see our community get together and unify. We need to be on the same page on how we want Tulare to look and decide how we get there together.
Absentee voting begins October 10.