THE PRESS-ENTERPRISE

Published: 22 June 2012 04:50 PM

A planned park in Wildomar has become a political battlefield in the race for the First District Riverside County supervisor seat.

The field in question is adjacent to Ronald Reagan Elementary School. In making the case for why voters in the southern end of the district aren’t satisfied with incumbent Bob Buster, Wildomar Mayor Ben Benoit cited the playground as an example of an unkept promise by the supervisor.

Buster posed for a photo in front of the playground site, but to date, nothing’s been built, said Benoit, a supporter of Buster’s challenger, Assemblyman Kevin Jeffries.

Buster fired back that he only helped acquire land for the park. “Development and operation of the park … always depended on city and resident support for the funding to operate it, which Councilmember Benoit has been unable to gain, even though the county at my direction supported the city’s incorporation (in 2008) in every way I could,” Buster wrote in an email.

Wildomar has been unable to pay for upkeep of its current parks since a court ruling struck down a special park maintenance fee.

BACA’S REBUTTAL

Inland Rep. Joe Baca lashed back at his congressional opponent, state Sen. Gloria Negrete McLeod, after the Chino Democrat blamed Baca for the party’s failure to get a candidate on the ballot in a neighboring district.

Baca, D-Rialto, decided to run in the 35th Congressional District (Ontario, Chino, Pomona and parts of Rialto and Fontana) instead of the less heavily Democratic 31st, which stretches from Rancho Cucamonga to Redlands.

While Baca finished ahead of Negrete McLeod with the most votes in the 35th, two Republicans — Rep. Gary Miller and state Sen. Bob Dutton — won the top two slots in the 31st in this month’s primary, effectively cementing that seat for the GOP.

Negrete pinned the blame on Baca, saying he would have fared better in the 31st district race than the leading Democrat, Redlands Mayor Pete Aguilar, and the party would still have a chance to take the seat in November.

Baca did not take kindly to the suggestion.

“She is a very divisive and bitter person,” Baca countered. “It is easier for her to play the blame game than demonstrate actions that could have resulted in a different outcome.”

Baca noted that Negrete McLeod, “voted in favor of the budget relating to redistricting which created this new voting process for the primaries.”

And Baca argued that he was an active supporter of Aguilar’s campaign.

“I mentored him, gave him advice, and donated to his campaign,” Baca said. “What did she do to help elect Pete Aguilar to that seat?”

ENDORSEMENT WATCH

Apple Valley Councilman Rick Roelle picked up endorsements last week from two significant law enforcement officials in his race for 1st District San Bernardino County supervisor.

San Bernardino County Sheriff Rod Hoops and District Attorney Michael Ramos are backing Roelle in the November runoff against Apple Valley businessman Robert Lovingood for the High Desert seat, the Roelle campaign announced in a news release.

Roelle, a sheriff’s lieutenant who has been with the department for 30 years, has emphasized public safety issues in his campaign, which both Ramos and Hoops highlighted in voicing their support.

SANBAG’S BRIGHT IDEA

Twentynine Palms Councilman Jim Harris isn’t one to shy away from a fight. That’s why he has thrown down the biggest of floral-printed, boldly colored gauntlets to his fellow San Bernardino Associated Governments members.

After getting some good-natured ribbing from SANBAG Director Ray Wolfe and San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris over his penchant for picking a shirt more suited for a Tommy Bahama catalog than the boardroom, Harris challenged all members of the regional board to wear their best Hawaiian shirts to the August meeting.

“Do your best,” Harris told members in early June. “I am up to the challenge.”

The winner, if that’s what you want to call the person who triumphs in Hawaiian shirt contest, gets lunch courtesy Wolfe and Harris. No mention if mai tais are included.

But the board, in its normal deliberative spirit, did set some ground rules.

“No shorts,” Highland Councilman Larry McCallon said.

This week’s political notebook was compiled by Dug Begley, Imran Ghori, Ben Goad and Jeff Horseman.

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