Riverside is facing its most important mayoral election in nearly a generation, and it is essential that city voters make an informed decision on June 5. The Raincross Group partnered with The Press-Enterprise and Charter Communications to produce a debate for candidates on April 26, and I encourage anyone with an interest in local affairs to watch the debate before casting your ballot.
Mayor Ron Loveridge, who has been mayor since 1994 and an elected city official since 1979, is not running for re-election, leaving the seat open for the taking. Seven candidates will be on the June 5 ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote-getters will square off in a Nov. 6 runoff election.
With 33 years in local office, Loveridge has more experience at City Hall than most of the seven sitting council members combined. Yet, as the mayor completes his final year in office, the city he has helped lead for parts of five decades is facing big questions about how it is going to move forward from the worst economic times since the Great Depression.
Although there have been encouraging signs in the national economy, California in general, and the Inland area in particular, have been slow to rebound. Riverside also faces questions about leadership, direction and accountability that have troubled some residents for years. Not all city residents have felt that City Hall has listened to their concerns, and a prior city administration was sometimes hostile to efforts by some to get answers to important
The bills for the much-lauded Riverside Renaissance still are coming due and, with property values stagnant and sales tax revenues suffering as a result of the recent economic malaise, city officials already are looking at a multimillion-dollar hole in the 2012-13 city budget.
Riverside’s mayor does not have a lot of power in the traditional sense. The mayor does not vote and can only veto objectionable actions by the City Council, a step Loveridge has never taken. But the mayor has much influence in setting the city’s agenda, and Loveridge made education, historic preservation, environmentalism and inclusiveness the hallmarks of his tenure. He has been an active voice across Southern California for improving the region’s air quality and has routinely sought out representatives from other city and county governments across the Inland area to form coalitions. With less money in government coffers, this kind of cooperation will remain an important part of the next mayor’s job.
Change is coming to Riverside this year and, with that change, a new set of priorities for the city’s top elected official. Voters have more choices for mayor than at any point in recent city history, meaning that making such a crucial decision is tougher than ever. The city’s next mayor will help set the tone for how City Hall operates and, as the facilitator of weekly council meetings and other events, will be the city’s public face to the rest of the world.
Please join me in reviewing the candidates’ performances in our debate. The debate is available on Charter Communications Community Access Channel 101 and on PE.com, at www.pe.com/local-news/politics
And don’t forget to vote on June 5.
Wendel W. Tucker
President | The Raincross Group