Saturday, October 4, 2014

• Meet Mayor Pro-Tem Ben Benoit

Here is the last in the blog series Better Know a Candidate for the 2014 Wildomar City Council election. Ben was out campaigning and took a break to meet me at Teakwoods for some lunch and a chat.

Ben Benoit

 WR:  Everybody's got a story about how they got to Wildomar. Tell me yours.
 BB:  I met my ex-wife out in Palm Desert/La Quinta area, her family was all from this area. Her parents made us the offer once we got married that we should come live on the back forty of their property. I did get an opportunity to build a house on that property and go through the development process, it was a 2100sf modular home on it. 

Did all the county work, all the grading plans... all the plan checks through the county to get that done ten years ago. It was a neat opportunity to go through the development process and also see the development process in that area, Oak Circle Drive, which is right in the middle of our habitat areas. I got to hear about the kangaroo rat, and hear about all these other programs that now I'm on those boards.

 WR:  Tell me a little about your home life... the joys of being a dad.
 BB:  The joys of being a dad have been watching my little girl grow up in this community, where she's got a great loving environment. She loves being around Wildomar. I like to say, "She can work a room faster than I can."  She likes to go to events with me and likes to get out and talk to people. [She] Knows most of the people that I know in town... because she's out talking to everybody. 

And lately, family life has been really amazing, (looking to his right) since I've met my new love here —Jaimie. It can't get any better right now. 

 WR:  How about hobbies?
 BB:  I have the same hobby that Tim Walker has... I play video games occasionally. Besides that I like to go shooting. I have a little collection and like to go out and spend some ammo; some target practice.

 WR:  What does Ben Benoit do to put food on the table?
 BB:  I have my own computer networking business. I've had it going on fourteen years now. It's a good business that keeps me mobile, and allows me my own schedule. Allows me to get some work in, get some money in the bank and then be back to doing my civic duties. 

 WR:  Most people are aware that your father is a Riverside County Supervisor. Two Questions: 1) Do you use him as a mentor when it comes to being an elected representative, and 2) Do you have future aspirations to serve in higher office?
 BB:  I definitely use him as a mentor. A lot of people think I grew up with this (a father in political office). I was pretty much out of the house when he was on the school board, those were my high school years. When he ran for State Assembly I was already living on my own. I saw that experience from an arm's reach. 

I'd come home and visit mom and find out mom was sitting home by herself, and I get to hang out with mom while dad's up in Sacramento. I have a neat story about that. Dad got to buy my mom and me dinner every Wednesday night. I made a deal with dad, where I'd take out mom every Wednesday night, keep her company, and he'd get to pick up the check. So my mom and I know every nice desert restaurant that there is. (punctuated with some laughter)

As for higher office, people keep asking me that. My response, for as long as I've been doing this is —I have a daughter and I want to see her get out of high school before I do anything else. Having been as close as I was, through my dad's eyes —to see Sacramento, and what it means to be up there. The time commitments and everything else, I've got no ambition to be up there anytime soon. To get a flat forehead for the most part —probably. And not to be able to do as much as you can at a local level.

 WR:  You're trapped on the Palm Springs Tramway. For some inexplicable reason it has two working video game systems. You're going to be stranded for a couple of hours so which do you choose to pass the time: Old School Nintendo or a new release FPS/RPG?
 BB:  Is it a computer RPG or is it on X-Box?
 WR:  It's on a console.
 BB:  Nintendo. I don't do the controller. I'm a keyboard and mouse guy. Which is why Tim and I don't meet up online... he's an X-Box guy.

 WR:  There is a very vocal minority that appears to dislike everything that goes on in Wildomar. I've actually read repeated assertions from them that City Staff and the City Council are both INEPT and CORRUPT. When you get wind of such comments circulating around, what are your reactions and thoughts on it?
 BB:  That they are a very small minority. They're a very disingenuous group that's in it for the wrong reasons. If you had to pick out who's corrupt... I'm sorry, they're the ones getting the checks from the developers at the end of the day when they are extorting the money from them. That's probably the biggest part of CEQA I'd love to see changed is —where does the money go? We know in these lawsuits, when these attorneys get paid, six, ten, twelve times their normal hourly rate... they're not keeping it all. It's likely going other places. That's the toughest part, when they're calling us corrupt.

It's my belief, that they're doing it because they used to run this place. Sheryl [Ade] and Gary Andre would be down at the planning commission, if they were giving the thumbs up to the planning commissioner for this area, the project would go forward. If they gave it a thumbs down Dave Stahovich and Bob Buster would kill it... and they ran this area. I think it's unfortunate that they [seem to] think now they have to use CEQA to try and keep some of that control. I wish they would move on.

 WR:  About how much energy gets eaten up by discussion/defense of the various legal maneuvers faced by the city?
 BB:  It's very difficult to quantify that when it involves the city. Because a lot of times we're not billing a client, but what we can look at is when they're suing, for instance, Bill Lo (Sunbelt Properties). You can ask staff, they can give you the exact dollar figures of how much it cost Bill Lo to defend his lawsuit that Martha Bridges brought, and then the second lawsuit that Gary Andre and Sheryl Ade are continuing to bring forward. That's very countable money and it's easy to to look at.

 WR:  When it comes to the City Council closed sessions, how much time goes to lawsuit talk?
 BB:  I can tell you that in closed session probably 75% of the stuff we're talking about is related to some sort of a lawsuit, and it's usually from one of those three people.

 WR:  With Governor Brown's recent veto of SB69, does that signal an end of the fight to restore the VLF funds to Wildomar?
 BB:  I'm still in communications with our lobbyist, I'm still in communications with Jurupa [Valley]. We're game planning, we're talking about various avenues, what would be successful, what wouldn't be. I don't know that our city will be able to carry on our fiscal connection with our lobbyist, because it is expensive. At some point we have to come to the realization that this isn't really going to happen. I think our only next opportunity, in any foreseeable future, would be to get the governor to tell us what he wants and put it in his own budget in February.

Beyond that, going through another legislative cycle, I've got no reason to do that in my mind unless we can get some word from the governor of exactly what he would want. To that end, I'm continuing to press my contacts to try and get that question asked to the governor. Either way, if our city isn't going to continue to pursue that, I'm personally going to continue to pursue that in every channel I can.

 WR:  I know that city services, such as police protection are important to you. What are some realistic options to increase the level of patrols in Wildomar?
 BB:  Open a Walmart. The tax revenue from Walmart can support one more officer on another shift. We'll slowly move forward on that. It's very upsetting how long it can potentially take to get back to where we even were... let alone more. Because even when we had what we had it was not enough.





 WR:  You're at the dentist office with ten minutes to kill, and your smart phone is NOT getting a signal (gasp!). Which magazine do you reach for: The New Yorker, Sports Illustrated, Mad Magazine, Highlights or Vogue?
 BB:  New Yorker.
I let Ben know that I'd choose Highlights. The Hidden Pictures page is cool no matter what your age is.

 WR:  Can you name some projects that are in the works, even just the early stages, that you're excited about seeing come to fruition in Wildomar?
 BB:  Besides Walmart? I think one of the ones I'm most excited about is our potential development of the park near Ronald Reagan Elementary School. Of all the things that could come forward on this side of the city, in the near future, that's the one I'd love to see happen. The next one would be the college. I'm really hopeful that the college can move forward, we'll have to see how their bond measure does.

 WR:  Assuming you had to choose... If a dear relative had their heart set on buying you a replica of a famous painting, which one would you opt for: A Rembrandt Selfie, Edvard Munch's The Scream, Whistler's Mother, a Norman Rockwell classic or a Jackson Pollack?
 BB:  Rockwell... definitely Rockwell.



 WR:  If you had the attention of the Wildomar voters, what would you tell them are some key things they should be looking for in a city council member? Conversely, what are some factors that a voter should be concerned about when it comes to the list of 2104 candidates?
 BB:  I think everyone should be looking at their candidate(s) —someone that's willing to not just be there for the monthly meeting. Someone that's willing to put in the time to give this community what it needs, and respect that this is not just a monthly meeting type of job where you've got to actually be involved way beyond that. Through your civic duty, chamber of commerce, through interaction with other outside agencies, and not just get the title and pretend you're doing it.

As far as the current candidates, I think you've got one... that staff would have difficult time interacting with, and congealing with —Gary Andre, to put it frankly. He would go in there and want to butt heads with everybody. Other cities have seen this happen and it's cost them a lot of money. We can't afford to lose anymore money at this point. On top of that, he's been so anti THE CITY, he's sued in every which way that would cause legal issues. We'd probably have city attorneys spending lots of money on how do we get through a lot of these problems when you can't have one of your council members involved because there is a potential conflict —and would Gary listen to that?

Our two other incumbents do a great job, they really support our city, they're always out there doing stuff in the community. I would have liked to have seen Israel [Leija] get a little more involved before he decided to run.

That's my biggest concern with those two candidates. One, over involvement, the other, a lack of involvement. In that, we've seen a lack of understanding of what the job is.


•     •     •

There's not a lot for me to add here, other than this. I first met Ben Benoit (and Tim Walker) quite by mistake about a year ago. I'd just started doing Wildomar Rap and it was at Heritage Regency Park the week of The Great Day of Service. As it turned out, I bumped into both of them as we were lugging bottled water for the next day's work crews.

It never dawned on me who they were until Ben reached over, threw out his hand and introduced himself, followed by Tim Walker doing the same. I'd seen their pictures on the city's website, but that had been all. For about five minutes before the introductions, we were chatting about a forklift that had run out of gas, blocking the lane. 

When they told me who they were, having been so thoroughly negatively infected about them, from some recent meetings I'd had with Martha Bridges, Gil Rasmussen and Sheryl Ade, I thought "uh oh, now I'm hanging out with those evil, corrupt city council people I'd been warned about."

What a joke. It wasn't simply a case of the pot calling the kettle black, it was more like the discarded ashes from the fireplace calling the white linen table cloth black. So far off the mark that they couldn't have been more wrong in their assessments, even if they'd applied maximum effort. 

I've never had a bad/negative conversation/interaction with Ben Benoit... and a few months ago, in a blog, I even alluded to how I thought his "Opening Pitch" at a Storm Game resembled that of a XX chromosone holder (you know... like a girl) and I constantly harp on how I'm not a fan of WRCOG. Point being, the guy possesses plenty of self confidence and isn't bothered by such silliness... off a duck's back.

He knows me today, but the first six months or so I was just Joe Windsong Valley as far as he knew... but he still made time to chat if I approached him. If you haven't made time to speak to him about the issues that Wildomar is facing, I'm confident that he'll make time for you. 
You can only vote once per IP address, so don't try and cheat.





Even when my arm was hanging from overuse, and I had to throw sidearm just to get the ball back to the infield... I delivered it with a very distinct XY arc.

Pinky,  are you pondering what I'm pondering? 
I think so, Brain, but if they called them 'Sad Meals', kids wouldn't buy them!

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