Members of the African-American community and faith based leaders held a Mayoral Forum at Ecclesia Fellowship Church in San Bernardino on February 24 to hear candidates speak about their political platforms and plans to improve the struggling city.
Candidates who attended the forum were current Mayor Carey Davis, Councilman John Valdivia, San Bernardino City Unified School District Board Member Mike Gallo, business owner Karmel Roe, and tow truck driver Richard Ruiz. Daniel Malmuth was not present due to illness.
The forum was held before the candidate filing period for elections, which is Friday, March 9 before the end of the day.
Candidates were asked a barrage of questions that touched on the subjects of economic development, homelessness, marijuana, crime, gun violence, and employment opportunities, to name a few.
Davis looks to build on his last four years by continuing to reduce crime and violence by another 25 percent. He said they have reduced the number by 14 percent in the last couple of years.
“We need to attract high paying jobs and make sure those are jobs people can build families on,” expressed Davis.
Until the city changed its charter, the city operated at a disadvantage, explained Davis. Changes to that document, along with the hiring of City Manager Andrea Miller, is helping streamline service to residents in the city, he asserted.
Valdivia claimed he believes in infrastructure improvements and economic development, citing his impact of bringing the Golden Corral restaurant and JCPenney to the Third Ward. The biggest cure to poverty, he said, is job creation.
“I’ll be a Mayor that gets people back to work,” said Valdivia to the dozens of people in attendance.
The Councilman presented a more aggressive approach to handling the homeless issue, opting to punish those who destroy and abuse public property.
Ruiz, who admitted he was the “underdog” of the bunch, said he’s going to try his best to attract high-end corporations to invest in the city. He also proposed turning the abandoned Carousel Mall into a homeless center to house displaced people.
Roe, who previously ran for Mayor in 2013, said her vision for San Bernardino is to see a clean and beautiful environment that is open to resident feedback.
She said in order to address the issue of panhandling, the city needs to address the bigger issue of homelessness. Most residents are “one paycheck away” from being on the streets, Roe believes.
“We are not using the funds properly,” said Roe. What we are doing is paying $150,000 to $250,000 salaries to the top people.”
If elected mayor, Gallo said he will move the city to a “higher” level with economic development at the core. The investment climate in San Bernardino needs to be addressed. That could only be done if risks to developers and investors are reduced, Gallo said.
“We have to figure out how we can ally ourselves under a common agenda,” said Gallo. “We really need to have a 7-0 Council on direction for these various projects. They’re not going to come here if they think it’s too high risk.”