The Raincross Group, Charter Communications and The Press Enterprise presents Chris Mac Arthur (Ward 5) and Mike Soubirous (Ward 3) in the 2015 Riverside City Council debates. Since these two candidates are running unopposed, Brad Pomerance asks these two councilmen numerous questions about the current state of Riverside and their vision for their next term. Elections will be held on June 2, 2015.
More information about:
Mike Soubirous (Ward 3)
Chris Mac Arthur - Ward 5
Debate Show Notes
Please note that these are distillations and not verbatim answers.
Q: Why are you unopposed in your bid for re-election to the City Council?
Mac Arthur: We’ve done a good job communicating with constituents: returning calls and emails, outreach, barbecues, sending a Thanksgiving card every year.
Soubirous: We have a new city manager and city attorney. We have made a lot of changes – and people are happy with this progress and want it to keep going.
Q: Why are there so few candidates running for City Council overall?
Soubirous: I filled in the back end of Rusty Bailey’s term (after he was elected mayor), so people may have figured “we just put him in.” Also, look at the big picture: Last election cycle, there were many candidates.
Mac Arthur: I’ve served almost eight years. My constituents know me, and we have worked through several issues over time. That has discouraged people from running. I also knock on many doors.
Q: Serving on the City Council appears to be a full-time job without full-time compensation. Do you support full-time pay for council members?
Mac Arthur: No. That wouldn’t attract the best people but we would hire full-time politicians. We need businesspeople, teachers, and other individuals who want to serve. If you are concerned about pay, this position is not for you.
Soubirous: I served my first term without pay (the moderator noted here that Councilman Soubirous receives a generous government pension). The job is full-time, so drop the part-time label. This is a large city with complex issues, our own utility, legislative oversight and visionary policymaking. Council pay should rise, but I’m not sure how much.
Q: How do you define leadership?
Soubirous: Being able to motivate people to do things they wouldn’t do on their own. Getting a group to move in a common direction for the good of all. Building consensus. Talking about topics that are not necessarily easy to talk about.
Mac Arthur: Being a good listener. We built consensus in Arlington and for Grow Riverside after listening to the greenbelt. I’m a conduit for ideas; my job is to push projects over the finish line.
Q: What caused the loss of collegiality and bickering on the council last year?
Mac Arthur: Council members communicate well with each other. A lack of communication between staff and elected might have caused part of the tension. All of the council members recently came together to select the new city manager and city attorney, as well as for a strategic planning session in December.
Soubirous: I’ve never felt unwelcome. We have good, harmonious relationships among council members, the mayor and staff – everybody knows his place, the rules and his role. (Here, the moderator asked Councilman Soubirous about turmoil involving him.) If you step into the political arena, be ready for a boxing match.
Q: What do your constituents say about, and what is your position on, a $500 million streetcar system proposed for Riverside?
Soubirous: I’m skeptical of what it will do for Riverside. I’m keeping an open mind; we have to look at all the facts. I suggest we get buses, put them on the proposed streetcar route, and see if people ride those. The streetcar system in Portland cost $1 billion, given cost overruns. In Riverside we would need 2,250-2,280 rides per day to make this project cost-effective.
Mac Arthur: Let’s put the facts on the table and see the streetcar feasibility study. We will miss the boat if we look strictly at ridership. A streetcar system in Tucson has been wildly successful.
Q: What are you most proud of over your last term in office?
MacArthur: Grow Riverside. We lacked a plan to preserve the greenbelt. Now, we have a plan that we are implementing.
Soubirous: Livability issues. We reduced panhandling, allowed competition for ambulance service, and abolished red-light cameras at intersections.
Q: How is the city doing with “Seizing our Destiny”?
Soubirous: We created our recent strategic plan around it. It comes down to economic development and ultimately, customer care.
Mac Arthur: Some of the big issues when I arrived were parks, customer service, and the Arlington Village area, which has been left behind for 40 years.
Q: How are relations between Riverside police and the community in the context of economic inequality and the national spotlight on cities such as Baltimore?
Soubirous: One incident can instantly change the police-community dynamic. But good dialogue and voices of reason can head off a lot of problems. It is important to build trust and dialogue and operate the police transparently.
Mac Arthur: Police need to earn the trust they have daily. I am a product of integrated schools in the 1960s. Economic development depends on minority business owners. Everyone has come here from a different place, unlike on the East Coast.
Q: Please provide closing statements.
Soubirous: I enjoy the opportunity to serve. We may not always agree on the City Council because we represent different wards, but I look forward to implementing our strategic plan and accomplishing good things with my colleagues.
Mac Arthur: I do, too. Arlington Village is going to be a jewel. Grow Riverside and a youth opportunity center coming to Arlington Park are further examples of our efforts to make Riverside a better place.