About 40 people listened as council members Ed Scott and Deborah Robertson each gave their reasons why they should fill outgoing Mayor Grace Vargas' seat.
Topics ranged from the controversial utility-users tax to how elected leaders will govern a city facing 19 percent unemployment, scaled-back services and anemic economic growth.
There was a lot of talk among candidates about their love for the city, but not much in the way of specific policies that the candidates would pursue.
One thing for certain: Don't expect the candidates to oppose the utility-users tax. It sunsets in June, unless voters re-approve it.
According to City Administrator Mike Story, the General Fund will lose $11 million, or 22.8 percent, in revenue annually, if the tax goes away.
"We have to support the utility-users tax," said Shawn O'Connell, a council candidate who is a retired police sergeant.
O'Connell and incumbent Ed Palmer are among six candidates for the council. Voters this year will elect two council members.
The other candidates are Joe Britt, a businessman; June Hayes, a businesswoman; Sam Syed, a production supervisor; Rafael Trujillo, a congressional aide.
Scott and Robertson expressed respect for one another and their work on the council dais during a forum that was cordial and without the political and personal jabs that typically mark campaign seasons.
Continued belt-tightening is what is needed to move the city through difficult financial times, Robertson said.
"I think it's important that we as a city have to learn to live within our means," she said.
Scott cited his council experience, especially regarding his work with local, state and federal officials to clean up perchlorate contamination in the city's groundwater.
"In fact, yesterday I had the privilege of signing the very first settlement (with perchlorate polluters)," Scott said.
Britt said his experience as an entrepreneur and on the city Recreation and Parks Commission enables him to be a team player, and he will be an "advocate for small businesses.... I can help this team go forward."
Hayes, a veteran member of the city Utility Commission, has been active in the city since 1977.
"We need businesses in this city," she said. "We need restaurants in this city. We need retail in this city. And unfortunately, although none of us like it, we need some more big businesses, perhaps some of those messy warehouses, because we need jobs and we need tax revenue."
Palmer, an attorney who owns businesses in the city, said the best way for government to help is to get out of the way.
Syed, also a utility commissioner, supports Measure V, a proposed business license tax increase on petroleum companies that operate in the city. Proponents say it will raise roughly $5 million in annual revenue.
As a congressional aide to Rep. Joe Baca, D-San Bernardino, Rafael Trujillo, who also is on the Recreation and Parks Commission, said his experience will help him as a councilman.
Public safety and government transparency are top priorities, he said. Trujillo said the health-care industry will continue to grow in the region and the city should work with the school district and hospitals to train students for the medical field.