CALIF. CITY – Calif. City has a new mayor; meet Mr. Kelly Kulikoff. On Jan. 24th, we went to city hall to meet and talk to the newly elected mayor, and this is what he had to tell us during our sit down interview with him.
MDN - I'm inside the mayor's office in California City talking with Mayor Kulikoff. Mr. Mayor, would you like to tell us a little bit about yourself?
Mayor Kulikoff - A little bit about me; I'm a general contractor, insurance broker and real estate broker and I love California City.
MDN - What are your plans as far as Calif. City and being mayor goes?
Mayor Kulikoff - As far as being the mayor; my plans for California City are to try to fix the policy issues we have on Council; we have a lot of old policies that aren't even effective anymore. They don't work, but we're still using them.
Mayor Kulikoff gave us an example of what he wants to see changed.
Mayor Kulikoff - We're already at the beginning; the first meeting we've had that problem with the Mayor Pro Tem position where the position there was a different understanding of it because some people wanted it to be a certain way because they said that it was historically that way, but our rule said it was something different. So that's why we ended up approving the mayor Pro Tem as a newly elected mayor Pro Tem because there were two senior members. The code reads that if there's two senior members, the tiebreaker is the newly; it is the most recent election which ended up being the newly elected. As the mayor Pro Tem, (which a lot of people apparently for some people seeing that as not right) now there's not a senior member for the Pro Tem position, but in our code, it specifically said to follow that process. If we had taken a step back before the elections and made the decision to clean up that code that's been there forever, we wouldn't have had that issue. We would have known that, OK, there's got to be 2 senior members. So now, none of them are going to be at the most recent election, so we're going to end up going and appointing a new member as the Pro Tem, which usually would go to somebody with more understanding of council but that's just how our code is written. I was on the voting side to approve the new mayor Pro Tem.
The mayor continued as far as policies, resolutions and so forth.
Mayor Kulikoff - It's kind of to make a point to us on Council that we need to do a better job with policy decisions, and we can't just change it along the way so that it benefits us. We have to clean it up early on, which I mean there's a lot of policy that has been messed up for years in California City; we finally got the Streamlining Act. Resolution for that passed recently on this new Council that was having a hard time getting passed on the previous one because they wanted to break down this streamlining act from a resolution into an administrative policy also, which would have made it so future city managers potentially didn't have to follow the entire process which would have slowed down development in California City, if they decided not to follow the 30 day (or about 4 and a half weeks) requirements or any of the requirements set forth in the resolution. So, when I brought that back for reconsideration, it passed I believe three to two. It's policies like that that we need to develop and put in the books that can be followed by future city managers and future councils if they're still effective. But for us on the Council right now, we need to look at the policies like any future Council needs to. We need to look at our resolutions, our policies, wherever we're lacking and to start gaining the understanding and start to build on those policies for it to trickle down and be a more effective in California City. But when we don't do that like we haven't in the past (like it occurred with the mayor Pro Tem position) it creates those problems. So, I'm just expecting to be here as the mayor to try to help remove some of those impediments in the process and along the way, make good policy decisions that will help build a better California City.
MDN - The City Council meetings, are they open to the public?
Mayor Kulikoff - Yes, City Council meetings are open to the public, the second and fourth Tuesday of every month regular meeting at 6:00 PM. That might potentially change to regular meetings at 5:00 PM, though. I'm going to try to get consensus from the Council to move it to 5:00 PM because our meetings have been lasting fairly long. We had one that recently went past midnight. So, a lot of the early items on the calendar are already reported in the agenda and it's not really any new business. So, if people are getting off at 5:00 PM, they’re not really missing anything, so they'll be able to do their public business from the floor probably 5:30 or 6:00 PM; if we change it to 5:00 o'clock so that people aren't there till midnight.
MDN - I understand your newly elected, congratulations on the election. Can you tell us a little bit about how you decided to run for mayor?
Mayor Kulikoff – Back in I think early 2020, there was a vacancy on council and they had open interviews and I applied, went, did that open interview with a bunch of other people; the reason why I went into applying for that in the first place is I seen that there were things that were wrong happening on Council. I saw that I potentially had a way to fix those problems with my background compared to the background of the people that were on their council and it just seemed like, uh with my process improvement background, I saw a way to try to clean up some of those impediments. So I went to that interview, I didn't end up getting it, but then I ran for the election in November of 2020, and I got on council in the two-year Council Member seat and then. I was on council for those two years. I was edging to the end of the two years thinking about not coming back on council because I really wasn't anticipating running again. It's a lot of work to try to get four other people to do; to try to come to a consensus on something that I understand; everybody has their different perspectives on things, but when we’re trailing items instead of dealing with them when they were there, I felt that we were doing something wrong. Pretty much last moment, once the election came up, I decided I saw that the city wasn't running in the direction I wanted it to, so I felt that the only way to potentially make some change was to take the seat of the person controlling the meeting, which was the current mayor at the time. So, I ran against the current mayor and won the election for the 2022 mayor seat.
MDN - Have you gone to the area businesses since you've been elected and introduced yourself and letting the businesses know if they have any questions or anything and they can come to you, or have you invited them to any of the Council meetings?
Mayor Kulikoff - Not yet, I haven't went to every business and introduced myself or asked them if they had any questions or anything; there's a lot of businesses, not just the storefront one, so it's kind of difficult to get to all of the businesses; if they come to council meetings, then we could work with them as a body because in the end, it comes to consensus. We need at least three council members to make a decision; the administrative side, I don't deal with that, I deal with the policy side. So, if they're having any problems with certain things, I investigate it to see if there's a policy issue that's not in line with what the city potentially wants. That's where we went with the Streamline Permitting Act; to clean up that policy so that we didn't have developers saying that they're waiting six months or a year to get an easy home start permit for just a regular residential build.
MDN – How are you as far as the “hand-on mayor” approach goes?
Mayor Kulikoff - I’m more of a back-end type mayor that's going to attempt to solve the problems that the businesses are trying to address. They can't seem to get anywhere because we haven’t had an effective policy so, I think my hands on experience would be through policy decisions through trying to make effective strides on council to move the city forward. But cutting a ribbon? I don't think that’s going to do much except allow me to be in the spotlight, which I don't care for. So, I'm not going to be that type of mayor, I'll never be that kind, it doesn't seem like a fit for me.
MDN - What are your long-term plans as far as, what would you like to see happen in the city during your term? Um,
Mayor Kulikoff - As mayor, I would like to move away from AVEK; those fees that we're paying for water standby; we're never going to use. We have enough water that we've been paying for; if you're building a big project and you want that pipe brought to your facility, your AVEK fees could cost an upwards of $600,000. It's just fees that we don't need that are causing impediments. Even on smaller projects like residential builds, you could be paying $5000 in fees just for the AVEK fees we really don't need. So, I would like to get rid of AVEK fees. I would like to address the SDI fund for the cities infrastructure problems; to use whatever we can for the first part of the city and clean up some of our roads, some of our water infrastructure, potentially upgrading our wells with some of those funds where we're able to since it's inside of a trust and it can't technically be used, but we have the ability to use some of that. We've never attempted, since 1998, to try to really use it for the city services or the second part of the city. It's supposed to be for the second part of the city for SDI tracks, but SDI is using some of the inner-city tracks that they're using like the water, it has to get there somehow, so it's using the pipeline to get there, it's using the roads to get there, so we should be able to use some of it. So I'd like to be able to use some of that funding to help clean up California City; then I'd like to see City Hall revitalize so California City presents itself a lot better.
The mayor also told us about his plans and what he would like to see in Calif. City during his term.
Mayor Kulikoff - Within the next two years, I would like to see California City Blvd. around Hacienda and California City Blvd. all the way to the bridge cleaned up and some sort of design element added so that California City can stand out. Some sort of signature in California City, so there were not just a town with houses and some commercial development; maybe we could build up on the small area around that commercial sector and develop some sort of image that will make people want to move to California City because we're more than just a stopping ground or somewhere to stay. And then let me see, in the next two years as things come along I'd like to effectively bring up some policy decisions and just hopefully make good decisions along the way.
MDN – Now, if residents of Calif. City have either a question, comment or complaint, can they come in and talk to you about them? During this part of the interview, the mayor also stressed the issue of youth programs and volunteerism for the community youth.
Mayor Kulikoff - Yeah, if um, any resident has a complaint, if they can't reach me on my city phone by calling me, they could just text me it. It might be a lot easier to get ahold of me, text me from my city phone, and I'd be able to give them a call back. So, I'm easy to get a hold of. It's just if I'm already on the phone, it's hard to answer the city phone, my phone number is available on the city's website. They could just reach out to me directly and either call me and or leave me a message and I'll get back to him. We also need more services for our youth. We need to think of some sort of plan to get them on the right track; potentially working with nonprofits to allow for more help from California City to develop some sort of plan to start putting our youth first because they're going to be the future of California City and if we don't might not get anywhere, they might just be stuck. So, I think we need to potentially give them something else to do other than just roaming the streets, maybe bringing a skate park or other programs similar sports that I know that some of these nonprofits already have like sports going on, but we're not really working with them and I think we need to work with them more in order to bring back the community we used to have in California City that's been sort of dying since the 1980s; it’s just slowly trickling away and I think we need to revitalize our community driven aspects in California City in order to better deliver what the community and what the city has been wanting. People are complaining that there's nothing for them here and our celebrations are getting smaller and smaller, so I think we need to just work on that and try to develop plans to work with those that have been wanting to help and wanting to collaborate with the city. I think we need to reach out more and develop those strategies to work effectively and also, we need to build a strategic plan, we haven't had a strategic plan in California City. We always talk about strategic plans. We really have never had a strategic plan or a capital improvements plan. We just keep pushing that down the line for the next Council and we're going to continue to do that for the next 20 years if we don't start now, so, that's pretty much it.
MDN - Do you have any concerns as to whether you're going to be able to get the things that you would like to see done during your term as mayor?
Mayor Kulikoff - I have these ideas; they might not always be the best ideas, but as long as we put out ideas to council and we're all representatives of the public, we were all voted in because the public liked our ideas. So, when we work together as a body and we come to a consensus, that ends up being the consensus of the people potentially. So, if my ideas don't always make it, I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about not bringing ideas forward because if we bring ideas forward, we're pushing the city in the right direction. They don't always have to make it, they don’t have to come to fruition, it’s just pushing and trying to better California City through our ideas. We think California City will be better in the future. But I mean, if all my ideas don't work out, that's fine with me. I'm not going to argue, I'm going to try to push my point as much as I can. I'm going to try to work with other ideas and collaborate on council and try to solve the problems. But I mean, it's not just me on council, it's five members of City Council. We're all equal, vote and everything. So, if it doesn't work out, I'm not worried about it. I just want to. make a better California City.
MDN - Thank you, Mr. Mayor; I really do appreciate you allowing me to come to City Hall and discussing things with you. I know there's some things in Cal City that need to be addressed that are on your agenda, I want to wish you the best of luck and on behalf of the Mojave Desert News; our entire staff wants to wish you the best of luck and we are looking forward to working with you during your term as mayor. So, thank you very much for your time.
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