RIVERSIDE: 4 city issues that matter in the mayor’s race
Six candidates vying for mayor are a diverse group.
/ STAFF WRITER
From a proposed council pay raise to recreational pot, Riverside’s six mayoral candidates have a wide range of views that reflect the group’s diversity.
Mayor Rusty Bailey, who is seeking a second term, faces Councilman Paul Davis, Sally Martinez, Nancy Melendez, Vivian Moreno and Patrick Small on the June 7 ballot.
Here’s where the candidates stand on the key issues facing the city:
PAY INCREASE FOR COUNCIL
In interviews and at forums, the candidates were split on Measure B, which would increase council members’ salaries from $41,376 to $66,211 annually.
Davis, 48, who owns a furniture and appliance sales and rental business, has supported the measure, arguing the job takes so much time that council members should be able to support themselves on the pay.
Moreno, 60, a skin care consultant and activist, said she believes council pay should be increased to a full-time salary. Small, 50, who is listed on the ballot as an outdoor pot grower, said council members deserve a raise because it’s a big job that requires them to be “on call the whole time.”
Bailey, Martinez and Melendez all said it’s not the right time for a council pay raise. Melendez, 65, who is assistant director of the Riverside Community College District Foundation, said that with the multimillion-dollar deficit, “It just doesn’t look right.”
STREETCAR IN RIVERSIDE
Nearly all of the candidates rejected a proposed streetcar, an idea that Bailey, 43, touted in his first run for mayor and that is being studied.
Bailey pointed to other cities that have seen new businesses built along streetcar lines and called it “a long-term idea for public investment and infrastructure.”
Nearly everyone else had concerns about the proposal. Martinez, 23, a sales consultant at CarMax, said it’s not a bad idea, but the time isn’t right because of the city’s finances. Moreno worried about how construction would affect neighborhoods and trees along proposed streetcar route of Magnolia Avenue, and Davis decried the cost, which a consultant’s estimate placed at more than $600 million.
Small has not attended any candidate forums and did not express an opinion of the streetcar in a brief phone interview.
Riverside has banned medical marijuana dispensaries but allows patients to grow a small number of plants for their own medical use. Candidates’ views diverged on whether the city should allow, tax and regulate marijuana sales if voters pass a measure to legalize recreational pot.
Davis said legal marijuana would be “bad for our society,” Bailey said allowing recreational use is “not the right message to send to our youth” and Melendez said pot shops wouldn’t be good for the community.
Martinez said she believes voters will legalize marijuana, so the city should try to regulate it. Moreno said the city already has problems with pot grow houses, so “the city needs to get it regulated, it needs to get it taxed and it needs to get it where we actually have some kind of control over it, because right now it’s a free-for-all.”
One area where candidates’ views seemed to converge was Measure A, which would create a city prosecutor’s office. No one supported it, with Bailey backing away from his earlier endorsement and Martinez and other candidates saying the money would be better spent on police.
Moreno and Melendez both said the idea should have been vetted more thoroughly in the community, with Melendez adding that it was “rushed to the ballot” without enough information for residents.
ON THE BALLOT
Riverside voters will choose a mayor and decide two city issues June 7.
Mayoral candidates: Mayor Rusty Bailey, Councilman Paul Davis and Sally Martinez, Nancy Melendez, Vivian Moreno and Patrick Small
Measure A: It would allow the city attorney to prosecute misdemeanor crimes and is projected to cost about $2.23 million a year.
Measure B: Council members would get raises of $24,835, bringing their pay to $66,211 annually; it would cost the city an estimated $231,826 a year, including benefits.
Information: The Riverside City Clerk has information at riversideca.gov/city _clerk/june-7-2016- election.asp. Sample ballots and voter registration information are at voteinfo.net or 951-486-7200.