San Bernardino mayoral candidates express vision for city’s future
With the June 7 election right around the corner, last week the Verdemont Neighborhood Association hosted a forum for the seven individuals running for San Bernardino Mayor.
Five of the candidates were able to attend, with current San Bernardino Mayor John Valdivia notably absent. Throughout the forum, the candidates were asked several questions, including how they would plan to attract businesses to the city that aren't warehouses. Below is a transcript of KVCR's Jonathan Linden's feature piece on the debate.
Jonathan Linden: Dr. Treasure Ortiz is a part-time faculty member at Cal State San Bernardino and a frequent attendee of city council sessions. She says the city has to get rid of what she calls the pay-to-play aspect of San Bernardino.
Dr. Treasure Ortiz: That you have to pay to get into this city, that is the number one problem that we face. Additionally, we have little to no investment into the people that we want to work here. Right now, we have the lowest median income; 37% of our third graders are illiterate. Our high school graduation rate is not producing the type of people that will drive a strong industry. So, what do we do? We invest; we embrace trade programs. We bring apprenticeship programs; we make sure that our high schools are bringing back the ROP's. We have a beautiful community college that teaches mechanics and aeronautics, and water treatment. We have a water department. So, it's utilizing the amazing resources and tools that are already available in the city, and the people will come.
Jonathan Linden: Jim Penman served as the San Bernardino City Attorney for 26 years and was recalled from the position in 2013. He says if the city wants growth, it needs to focus on homelessness.
Jim Penmen: We have businesses and groups coming to San Bernardino all the time. They want to start a business here. But then they go around the town, they see the homeless, they see the begging, they see the trash on the streets, they hear that the police response time is way too long, and guess what, they don't want to come. So, the first thing we've got to do is address the homeless issue. I know what to do about that. I know what the law says, we need to enforce again our no camping and public ordinances. But to do that, we have to create homeless shelters, we have to provide mental health counseling, we have to provide anti-addiction programs, and we're going to do that. We're going to hire over 400 more cops in our city. We're going to take the Measure Z money, which is going to be $41 million, we're going to reprioritize it, we're going to get that money.
Jonathan Linden: Former city councilmember Henry Nickel is also running for mayor and had similar sentiments to Penmen. He says for the city to attract more business, it must be clean and safe.
Henry Nickle: I work in economic and workforce development. I see job numbers every day for this county, and guess what? San Bernardino is number two in the county in terms of overall employment jobs, second only to Ontario right now. Significantly exceeding other cities in this area. The problem is the folks that work here, the money that is made in San Bernardino, leaves at five o'clock every day, and that has to stop folks. And we have to make the investments in our police department? Yes, absolutely. According to the FBI, we need 18 to 19 Cops per 10,000 People, minimum to meet the basic FBI statistics in terms of law enforcement. We have to do that, invest in code enforcement and in blighted homelessness.
Jonathan Linden: Helen Tran is the former director of human resources for the city. She reiterated Nickle’s point of the city's need to be safe and clean and that the current city government is not working for the people.
Helen Tran: So, we have to make sure our government is set up to have the resources and tools and staffing levels to clean our city, to make it safe. Are we addressing that? That is the core foundation, is your household must be in order to address the issues. That is priority. Then you can have folks be attracted to the city to want to come here. And as mayor, we then move forward to make sure that we are marketing our city to bring those businesses in. You have to be engaged. You have to reach out to the right folks, business folks, developers, legislators; everyone has a come to say San Bernardino is a proud place to come and do business because of our location. We have the airport. We have major rails. We have freeways. We have land, the mountains, everything that is here. So, we have to wake up the sleeping giants.
Jonathan Linden: Mohammed Khan is a local business owner and says the city must be reaching out to the youth to attract businesses. Khan was the last of the five San Bernardino Mayor candidates to speak.
Mohammed Khan: And if they have a good future, and you know, think about it this way, Amazon, Amazon business is going online, it's going global. So, if we have people that are training for brick-and-mortar stores, that's difficult, then we have issues like you know what, let me solve this problem, let's solve the homeless problem, let's solve this problem. I'm going to skip all of that because we have business online in the trillions, global marketing, you name it. There's IT jobs; there's security, everything. So, my goal would be to reach out to the youth, and if we need to, I don't mind sponsoring funds.
Jonathan Linden: The next candidate forum will be taking place at the Woodward Leadership Academy on April 11 at 6 p.m.