Category Archives: Debates

2015 Riverside City Council Debates – Ward 3 & 5

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.

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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.





2015 Riverside City Council Debates – Ward 1

The Raincross Group, Charter Communications, and The Press Enterprise presents Mike Gardner and Thomas Podgorski in the 2015 Riverside City Council Debates for Ward 1. Elections will be held on June 2, 2015.

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More Information:

Mike Gardner (incumbent)

Thomas Podgorski

Debate Show Notes

Please note that these are distillations and not verbatim answers.

Q: Why do you want the job of city councilman?

Gardner: This is a fun, challenging and rewarding job.  We’ve done a good job and accomplished many things.  We are poised to do truly amazing things with the economy improving.

Podgorski:  In the eight years my opponent has served on the council, the city’s challenges have changed, and my skill set is more appropriate to the challenges today.  Riverside has a vastly underdeveloped downtown – and I’m a person of action and a collaborator.

Q: Why has downtown’s potential not been fully met?  What does it need to become a destination?

Podgorski: A lack of entrepreneurial spirit.  I have a graduate degree in economics, while my opponent has a degree in anthropology.  We need written business plans as opposed to a “field of dreams” mind-set where we build it and hope everybody comes.  Current leaders didn’t plan well for complementary businesses and services near the Fox Theater.  People have been socialized to low-level performance, and that needs to change.

Gardner: I disagree.  We have opened half a dozen new restaurants in the downtown core and renovated the Fox, museum and convention center.  Now we need to build more parking because there’s not enough for visitors.  The Festival of Lights also draws crowds.  To say nothing has happened – despite the recession – is wrong.

Q: Discuss the proposed projects that would include downtown living spaces.

Gardner: There are three projects.  One, with apartments, is entirely private and scheduled to break ground this year.  The other two have some level of city involvement and involve the Imperial Hardware and Stalder buildings (near the Fox Theater).  These will bring about 400 high-end units downtown.

Podgorski: My opponent has taken credit for projects he had nothing to do with.  I don’t need credit.  We have a lot of empty office space, along with rules about fair housing.  We need mixed-use housing downtown, not just high-end.  Riverside is an example of bad government planning.  We need to bring in the private sector, be collaborative, and do marketing research to understand demand.

Q: What can the city do to top the recent Renaissance public works program?  What comes next?

Gardner: We can’t top it.  We can do Renaissance II.  We have done a little on the transportation side, borrowing against income streams.

Podgorski: I’ve been walking neighborhoods and I disagree.  There were both large cost overruns and waste in the Renaissance, and this money could have been used to fund the public library, as planned, or spent in other areas.

Q: Should we still move ahead with a new downtown library?

Gardner: We need to do it. The reason the library wasn’t funded as planned through the Renaissance was because a piece of the funding depended on the sale of city-owned land, including a parcel in Colton.  This parcel was owned by the city’s utility, though, and thus could not be used by the general fund for Renaissance purposes.  I believe the City Council is unanimous in moving forward on the library now.

Podgorski: There is a survey on my website.  Sixty people completed it, which is a good sample size.  The council needs to take responsibility, and not make excuses for why the library project didn’t happen.  The library has been sorely neglected.  An upgrade would not be a hard sell.

Q: How do you define leadership?

Podgorski: Get to know the people you’re working with.  Take no credit.  Don’t try to do it all yourself.  My style is collaborative.  If you are going to take credit, take responsibility as well.  Don’t blame the economy or the loss of redevelopment.  See problems – like the housing bubble – coming.

Gardner: Leadership is partly by example.  Show other council members the merits of the issues.  Get out of the way so staff members can do their jobs.

Q: How can you help revive collegiality on the City Council?

Podgorski: My opponent portrays himself as a nice guy, but he is different in private.  People I’ve been talking to are frustrated by the city’s low level of performance and low expectations.  My opponent has settled into a state of complacency, whereas I bring passion and collaboration.

Gardner: I was instrumental in helping pull the City Council back together.  I didn’t get involved in the arguments, but rather stayed focused on the facts, the issues and the public interest.

Q: Please provide brief closing statements. 

Podgorski: As my survey found, we have plenty of work to do.  Public safety is a priority, and transparency in city government is needed.

Gardner: The city budget is our biggest issue.  We have both more money and more demands for services, and must be very careful about how we allocate spending.



Live Run-Off Debate, Riverside Ward 3 Council Candidates Tackle Issues

Riverside is approaching an important run-off election for the Ward 3 Council seat this November 5. As the state’s 12th largest city and as we enter the phase of difficult budget decisions, there are questions of how our city will handle bringing economic stability, and strong leadership to our city.  There are many questions that need to be investigated and answered.  To help bring more...
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Raincross Group Debates with Ward 6 Candidates

Raincross Debates, Ward 6 city council candidates at California Baptist University on April 25, 2013. Video includes interviewer Brad Pomerance and candidates Suleko “Chuck” Mahatadse, Aurora Chavez, Scott Andrews, Larry Allen,  and Jim Perry.