I’ve interviewed Mike before, so I knew a little bit about him. He was always willing to fill me in on things if I called with an issue. Very sociable but not the usual politician with all the answers before you asked a question. This interview took place in his realty offices on East Florida Avenue.
Q. What compels you to run for a second term on the city council?
A. To be able to continue doing the good things that I started out doing the first four years.
Q. What are those good things?
A. Bringing some more development to this community, raising the standards for the level of professionalism in our staff, getting more cops hired and keeping our fire department up to date.
Q. How do you plan to do that?
A. If you noticed the most recent budget recently passed, 3-2 vote, mind you, defunded the police department.
Q. Actually defunded?
Q. So where are they putting the Measure U money?
A. They are not putting it anywhere. Just keeping it in Measure U. Remember it is 3 against 2 on the council in many votes. You know I was a cop before I came on the council.
Q. Are you prejudice in regards to this situation?
A. No. The police are prejudice against ignorance. I say that because there is no reason why anybody should be ignorant, especially with the speed of modern technology.
Q. The cell phone will provide information in seconds that we used to spend hours searching for in the library.
A. Just like that, from multiple sources. I don’t get my information from one source. I get it from multiple sources. You may pick up information from one that you don’t get from another, back to the defunding issue. The police are expected to do a lot and they do. They go in and save a life one minute and the next, have to deal with gang members and then have to deal with someone who is involved in a car crash.
Q. Also, there are the social issues.
A. Correct, issues that are forced upon them.
Q. By whom?
A. Let me think. Forced upon them by politicians in Sacramento. Hemet has been under audit. I read the audit report for the State of California and the whole premise behind AB109 was to relieve the high-risk budget of the Department of Corrections. It is the game they are playing in Sacramento. Placing that burden on our local law enforcement and they are now having to deal with it. Homelessness, in and of itself, is not a crime. It is just that there is a lot of criminal activity associated with it.
Q. Shouldn’t that be a social issue?
A. It should be. These people out on the streets, they have families somewhere. Why aren’t their families stepping up? They put it on other people because they don’t want to deal with it.
Q. I’ve been told that some of the street people don’t want help. They’re glad to be on the streets because it relieves them of responsibilities.
A. Trust me, I get it. I’ve helped some people back into a normal life, given them counsel and they have completely turned their lives around and were grateful at the end of the day, but let me tell you, it took nine months to cultivate a relationship with those individuals. They don’t trust anybody because they are not to that place in their life where they needed help. They weren’t in their own mindset, ready to get the health they needed.
Q. Are you still battling the State over the median?
A. No. I’m not on the ad-hoc committee anymore. That’s between the Mayor and Linda Krupa now. When I was elected in 2016, there were years gone by when previous councils failed to address the issue.
Q. Did they drop the ball?
A. They certainly did, so I was left to pick up the pieces and fight for our residents. Cal-trans has a right to do with their property as they will. As a realtor, I believe in property rights. The reality, however, is it had a negative impact on our local businesses. The conversations I had with their representatives I had with their representatives fell on deaf ears. They really weren’t interested in our problems. Ultimately they did what they wanted. We were concerned about rear-end collisions. The guy from Cal-Trans said, “I would rather have rear-end collisions than head-on collisions.” Funny he should have said that because there was a rear-end collision at Florida Avenue and Warren Road where the driver of the car rear-ended and his passenger were killed. I’m sure the families of those two people were killed would disagree with his statement.
Q. We have a lot of crime in Hemet. I spoke to a Hemet Police Officer who told me that crime in Hemet was almost out of control. What can be done about our crime problem?
A. Ultimately, when it comes down to crime, a lot of it is opportunity. So when we see the Governor kicking people out of prison for COVID reasons, and they are not just kicking out a drug user, they are kicking violent people out. Look at a recent arrest of a homicide suspect. He was arrested in Los Angeles within hours of killing somebody – he was a parolee who had just been released from prison for assault with a deadly weapon.
Q. How do you address that?
A. We should use Measure U money to do what it was intended to do. We need more cops hired. When I was first elected, I discussed this with Chief Dave Brown and with Robb Webb and more recently, with our new Chief, Eddie Cruz. It is that we’re competing for a small pool of people that are in a hiring frenzy also. If I could go to work for Murrieta PD and get paid well and not have to work hard versus coming to Hemet, get paid a decent wage and have to work hard, what do you think I would do?
Q. I would assume you would choose Murrieta.
A. So it comes down to the question, why does Hemet have more crime than surrounding areas? Demographics plays a lot into that. We live in a lower-income area and I think income plays a big part in criminal activity.
Q. Something I rarely hear about and it is serious. We are no longer just a bedroom community. We have an influx of young people and they bring with them the problems that young people have.
A. Of course. And that’s where demographics play a big hand in the crime game. It is a broad spectrum that factor in. When I moved to Hemet 20 years ago the median age was 50.
Q. When I moved here 40 years ago, it was 65, now it is approximately 38.
A. Why do people come to Hemet? California has become very expensive. However, Hemet is more affordable. You can buy a 3 bedroom, 2 bath house in Hemet, a 1500 square foot house for $300,000. That same house today in Menifee will cost $50,000 more and that same house in Murrieta is $100,000 more. Go to San Francisco and the median price is $1,500,000. That’s why people come to Hemet. Affordability. We’ve got State Legislators passing laws to create mandates on cities, which makes it difficult for cities to do things that we can’t get out of, while more affluent cities get waivers. They don’t have to worry about affordable housing. Hemet is already affordable.
Q. Rent Control is on the ballot this year. Any thoughts?
A. I dislike it. I’m a realtor. It is all about real property rights. You look at cities with rent controls. Rent prices are higher because the market is not dictating what the rent should be. They are artificially inflated. Here’s where the problem lies. If the government mandates lower rents, it lessons the property owner’s ability to be able to make improvements, so the government mandates earthquake retrofits for big apartment buildings. The rents have been artificially lower, so the owners are not able to come up with the money to do those improvements. So, they have to sell out by creating lower standards of property quality. I look at property as a progression and then a regression. Say you have a young family moving into a lower rent. As they move up in education or a higher income, they progress into something bigger that is more expensive. If you have the “bigger” that is artificially deflated in price, the person living in that deflated rental doesn’t move up because the rent is cheaper where he is and satisfies his needs, blocking the person moving up from doing so. So he is stuck in place. So it creates more of a housing problem than it fixes.
Q. It is no secret that sex trafficking occurs in this town. What can be done about it?
A. The people that I know and those that I associate with know that there is a problem and they’re doing what they can to address the problem. I’m a believer and I do a lot of praying for our community. I pray for the people involved in that sordid trade, or get caught up in it. Our police department needs the support and the resources to do something about it. We have special teams in our police department that are part of a regional task force; they are able to utilize not just local resources, but regional and some federal task forces to be able to go after that. I have great respect for our police department. I see the good job they do. They would do even better if we were able to hire more police officers. Another thing, our police department has cameras now that identify stolen cars, so if you come to Hemet in a stolen car, you’re going to jail.
Q. What is wrong with the current majority on the council?
A. I can only speak for myself. As far as when the agenda comes out and I know some of these agendas are stacked. Not our current one, but the last one was some 800 pages of information, and I go through it line by line because I know the devil is always in the details, so it is important what the details of these things are to be able to make an informed decision. The betterment of Hemet is important to me because it benefits all of us in the community. It is important we do the right thing for the right reasons.
Q. If we get a new majority on the council, what do you think will change?
A. There will be more accountability from staff. Understand that the council as a whole doesn’t disagree on everything. There are a lot of things that get passed 5-0. Everybody has a reason why they vote yes or no on an issue. There have been a lot of things I voted no on. I know there are some other council members who never vote no. The whole Measure U situation came up when I first ran for the council. I talked to the powers to be that put together the whole Measure U. Their concerns were accountability and transparency. Karlee and I have tried to provide that. Now we’re being demonized for it. Unfortunately, Karlee has taken the brunt of the criticism.
Q. What other changes do you see down the road with a different majority?
A. Community development and economic development is important to me, so I have been trying to get our City Manager, not just Chris Lopez, but also the two previous City Managers, to make it easier for new businesses to come to Hemet. I want the City of Hemet to have arms wide open and say, “Come to Hemet and get open.” Time is money and if we drag our feet, they are going to go someplace else. Every city is a business and they compete with one another for new business and if you have a consumer who wants to purchase business services, they’re going to choose the one that is the easiest. Why do you think Walmart and Amazon do so well?
Q. We have three governments in this valley; San Jacinto, Hemet and Riverside County. Why don’t they unite or have a joint community agreement?
A. San Jacinto wants to be in control.
Q. And Hemet wants to be in control. I know Andrew Kotyuk very well and he seems to have done a lot of good on the council in San Jacinto. They seem to be moving forward faster than Hemet. Why is that?
A. They are half the size of Hemet.
Q. San Jacinto has the third-largest growth in Riverside County today.
A. They are growing faster. Our current staff at city hall are the gatekeepers to new businesses coming to Hemet. I want to be able to make it so developers want to develop here.
Q. Going back to my earlier question, why aren’t we attracting manufacturing to Hemet?
A. It is 15 miles from Hemet to the 215 freeway. It is 12 miles to the 10 freeway and it is stop and go. To answer your question. We are not a transportation hub as far as efficiently move traffic. The Highway 79 re-alignment was a priority and we didn’t get it as a priority.
Q. Now we have the mid-county highway coming.
A. That’s in San Jacinto.
Q. It is coming to this area?
A. Hey, Hemet’s open for business. We’ve got plenty of land.
Q. We used to have a guy that went to all the business expos and he brought new business to Hemet. It is good investment money. Why do we not have someone doing that today?
A. The same as why wouldn’t we have a good grant writer on staff because the benefit outweighs the cost. So, what we need is a distribution program going; I mean to get the products in and out. We’ve got to be able to entice to get new business here but we don’t need to give away the farm. Affordable housing is a great thing we have to offer. That solves the problem of having to commute. There are plenty of opportunities here in Hemet and we just have to inform manufacturing that we are a family community with more to offer than other cities.
During this interview, I found Mike to be pleasant, sociable and ready to go at it with me. I found him knowledgeable and dedicated to the city of Hemet, which he has adopted as his hometown. I spoke to some other Realtors before having this get-together with Mike and discovered that he is well-liked in the real estate community. He is not a yes or no interviewee. He took the time to include all the details and then some. I make no judgments. That’s up to you, the voters.
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