An Interview With City Councilman John Valdivia

San Bernardino City Bankruptcy recently had the opportunity to have an online interview with John Valdivia, City Councilman representing San Bernardino’s 3rd Ward.

San Bernardino Ward 3 City Councilman John Valdivia.

San Bernardino Ward 3 City Councilman John Valdivia.

Councilman Valdivia is unfortunately a target of a questionable recall this November.

Valdivia was sworn into office mere months before the City of San Bernardino was forced to declare bankruptcy because of the failed leadership of Mayor Pat Morris.

Since joining the San Bernardino City Council, John Valdivia has consistently fought against the foolish policies of Pat Morris and been an unyielding advocate for the safety of the residents and families he’s elected to serve.

For those reasons and many others, the San Bernardino Police Officers Association strongly opposes the recall of City Councilman John Valdivia.

Now here’s our extremely candid interview with Councilman Valdivia.

Councilman Valdivia thank you for your time today.

You were elected to the San Bernardino City Council in November 2011, only a few months before the City declared bankruptcy. Going from being a candidate to the office holder, what things did you find eye opening or alarming once joining the Council that you knew needed to be changed?

I came to the council with a different mindset, that of a fresh new look and outsider coming into an organization with established behaviors and learned patterns of “how” things are done at city hall.

I did not believe then, nor do I believe now, that I have it all figured out. Nevertheless, I remain focused on essentials and the corresponding commitments to my residents that I committed to during my campaign in 2011.

San Bernardino city government needs to break the mold and retool. Our City must stop being putting out the welcome mat for parolees, panhandlers and homeless. We must insist on tougher measures to crack down on those who diminish the safety of our residents and reduce our city’s ability to attract new businesses and jobs.

One major eye-opener after taking office in March of 2012 was to witness the ego and arrogance of many city administrators—especially our former City Manager Charles McNeeley.

As a Councilman, I’ve been challenging the mindset of city government officials to get them focused on the needs of our residents. We must be focused on practical solutions to improve the quality of life for residents. It isn’t complicated and very easy to make good decisions for the good of our community.

Just a few months after you took office the City of San Bernardino declared bankruptcy. How did you vote on this action and why?

I was sworn into office on March 5, 2012 after defeating an entrenched incumbent councilman by a landslide margin. During the second week of July 2012 our city began discussion of financial insolvency and bankruptcy.

So with only 4 months under my belt as the newly elected councilman I had plenty of questions, and rightfully so. Many of which were left unanswered or certain departments did not respond with the necessary information to make an informed opinion that would lead to an informed vote.

I initially abstained because of the lack of information and my failed attempts to gain documents and information that I had requested. Thereafter, the votes I cast were ultimately NO on the bankruptcy.

I voted NO on the bankruptcy, first, because I understood there would be a stigma and negative connotation with us filing as such. I did not want to see our city, and primarily, our citizenry and business community, the embarrassment associated with BK.

Second, I voted NO on the BK, because I understand that city government is a creature of habit and that BK would NOT intrinsically address the wanton spending on non-essentials.

We must get our fiscal priorities in check and INVEST our city resources accordingly. Spending is a waste of taxpayer money-and it’s no surprise that city finances were out of control.

On a last note, to date, there hasn’t been an overt or coordinated attempt put forth by the city council, city manager, city finance department and mayor, to hear from the average person on the streets of our city.

On several occasions I have advocated that we need to have a tour with the mayor, city manager, department heads, and the respective council- member, and tour all 7 wards. Yet that suggestion has fallen on deaf ears.

In contrast, I have held well over a dozen townhall meetings since March 2012 and had several from July 2012 through October 2012 (during BK proceedings) in an attempt to hear from 3rd ward residents. I wanted to hear feedback from families, residents and businesses and learn their priorities.

What were your top priorities as a Councilmember prior to bankruptcy?

The basics of city government are what I am all about. I campaigned very heavily on a return to the principles of what city government should be and represent.

I believe city government should be providing basic essentials and protecting its residents with access to police and fire services; collecting trash; filling potholes, repairing streetlights and paving roads; reducing the burden of excessive fees and high sales tax; creating an environment where we attract the interest of potential businesses; and operating well within our financial means.

How has the bankruptcy affected your pursuit of those civic goals?

Irrespective of the BK, I am committed to addressing the concerns of 3rd Ward residents.
I am very accessible and quickly respond to phone calls, messages, and proactively seek out residents’ input. I am not fearful of their opinion and seek their reaction to what I do at city hall. Their issues are mine. I value their input and respect their voice.

My work in support of 3rd Ward residents is getting results. Over the course of the past several months, we have benefited from:

  • Improving Lytle Creek Park, with new 1/4 mile walking track, installation of 
new irrigation vales and controls, park benches and outdoor gym stations soon to 
 be completed.
  • Repaving Mt. Vernon Avenue, Rancho Street and many other 3rd Ward roads. I suggested to the Mayor and Council in January 2013 to utilize California State Prob 1b Road improvement funds otherwise we would have to repay these funds with a fee and possible interest.Consequently, many other roads in our city were paved as a result of my advocacy of utilizing and completing these projects before the fiscal year end of June 30, 2013.
  • Helping to create hundreds of new jobs by supporting the expansion of our local facility. I also organized a successful Jobs Fair for 3rd Ward residents in October 2012.
  • Fixing Street lights throughout the 3rd Ward and allocating funding for “knocked- down” street light poles with CDBG funding; as a result we successfully replaced 22 light poles in my ward that were had been missing for years.

In addition, I’m working to keep our local library branch in full operation (Paul Villasenor Library) by collaborating with local businesses and healthcare agencies and resolve longstanding parking problems around our Community College neighborhoods.

After San Bernardino exits bankruptcy, what policies need to be changed or 
 implemented to ensure that a financial crisis like this does not happen to our 
city again?

I support Zero-Based Budgeting that requires every budget item be determined on merit and every financial decision to be based on priorities established by the Council and Mayor in full consultation with residents. Public Safety and Economic Development are two very important budget priorities for me.

In addition to the City’s financial problems, San Bernardino has an extremely high number of jobless residents. What do you believe the City should be doing to help residents find employment and bring jobs to San Bernardino?

We must make San Bernardino more attractive to business. As the business gateway to San Bernardino, the 3rd Ward is critical to these efforts. We must eliminate bureaucratic roadblocks to job creation and make economic development a major priority for our city.

Public safety is also a major concern in San Bernardino. Unfortunately both the San Bernardino Fire and Police Departments have been hit hard with cuts and loss of staffing. What types of public safety complaints are you hearing from you constituents?

I receive the most complaints about panhandling, graffiti and gang activity. Additionally, I’m looking forward to a greater enforcement tool, and have advocated with our Police Chief for increased patrols along the Hospitality Lane corridor, as this area represents the greatest contributor to our city treasury by means of our sales tax.

What do you think the City of San Bernardino should be doing to improve safety for its residents and families?

Adopt the Broken Windows approach that was so effective in reducing crime in New York City. San Bernardino should also oppose any new housing facilities or social programs that attract lawbreakers to our community.

A tough on crime position is what I’m looking forward with the change in leadership from the standpoint of the new mayor. Another aspect of improving public safety is the need to penalize absentee landlords which gives our city a bad image and a welcome mat to the undesirable element.

Staying with the issue of public safety, before you were elected the voters approved a 10 year tax by passing Measure Z. Many residents and city employees are questioning whether Measure Z funds are being used as demanded by the voters when they also approved Measure YY, directing the Mayor and City Council to use this tax revenue to enhance public safety. Do you believe these funds are being used in accordance with the voters’ intent?

I support Public Safety as the city’s top budget priority. However, I would like to repeal measure Z and will advance those efforts with whoever the new mayor as s/he assumes office in March 2014.

I believe we should be cutting our sales tax and NOT hiking it up. I ask, “what is the advantage to shop in San Bernardino?” There isn’t one. I believe we could become a regional magnet for shoppers if we were to LOWER the city sales tax.

This would encourage residents to shop within our city limit and generate a robust resurgence in foot traffic within our business districts. I do not see the value of a higher sales tax as many families and residents are already burdened and shouldered with high federal and state taxes.

There are studies to suggest that when a municipal agency (such as the city of San Bernardino, in our case), lowers local sales taxes, that there is a mammoth rebound in the local economy and an overwhelming argument to reduce it NOW!

You as well as every other elected official in the City of San Bernardino has been targeted for recall. Other than the exorbitant cost of Special Elections the City cannot afford, why should voters oppose your recall and keep you in office?

Well, I disagree that “every” elected official in our city was targeted.

I can point to several instances where I heard that deals were brokered and backroom conversations were negotiated that suggest otherwise. In large part, this has to do with sour grapes from 2 years ago. I wish they would move.

The real reason for the recall campaign against me is that the downtown special interests who used to run things at City Hall don’t like my independence.

They want a rubber stamp —like my predecessor–representing the 3rd Ward. Their recall campaign is all about political sour grapes from the last election.

Two years ago, 70% of local residents supported my election to the Council and my call for changing business as usual at City Hall.

I am confident that voters in the 3rd ward will stand with me this year in defeating the dishonest recall campaign being promoted by the downtown special interests.

End of Interview