Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Endorsements 2011

It's election time in River City, ladies and gentlemen, and that means it's time to take a look at where the candidates stand on transportation, land use and urban issues. This year, seats are up for grabs in Council Wards 1, 3 and 7. (Incumbent Chris MacArthur is running unopposed in Ward 5.) Ballots have been mailed out to voters, and are due back by June 7th.

Headlines: Yeager for Ward 1, Bailey for Ward 3, and Brandriff for Ward 7.

Let's start in Ward 1. Ward 1 comprises the North Side, Downtown, the northern half of the University area, the Wood Streets and the Hunter Park industrial area. Of particular interest in urban issues is Downtown, the densest part of the City. Currently running for the seat are incumbent Mike Gardner, local politico Dom Betro (no web site available), teacher Dvonne Pitruzzello, and LA Metro executive Marisa Valdez Yaegar.

First off, Dom Betro (who held this seat before Councilman Gardner) ought to be off of anyone's list. His name is nearly synonymous with political scandal in Riverside, particularly in terms of eminent domain abuse.

Pitruzzello has generated a lot of buzz in the local political press, but two things about her make me wary. First, she supports ending metered parking downtown- currently the only place in Riverside it actually exists. Not a great plan for downtown's walkable future. Second, one of her key issues is the elimination of "wasteful spending"- which, in politician-speak, usually means all spending. We're in the middle of an economic crisis, but the City of Riverside is still quite sound and still doing good things to help out her citizens. We don't need somebody on the Council willing to end that.

Now, we get down to the hard choice in this race. Mike Gardner has been a capable Councilman (I usually count him among the votes on "our side" of urban issues), and he seems to really reach out to his constituents. He also uses alternative transportation- if you count a Segway, that is. He is in favour of downtown parking.

Yeager, on the other hand, is trained in political science and works for Los Angeles Metro. She has a degree in policy and experience in transportation. While she is (deliberately?) vague about her issue stances, she could be a powerful force for good in Riverside's transport policy. She also has an impressive list of endorsements from what counts for Riverside's political left- Democratic Congressional candidate Bill Hedrick, RCCD trustee and candidate for Assembly Jose Medina, even statewide figures like Gavin Newsom. I'm feeling lucky- I endorse Marisa Valdez Yaeger for Ward 1. That said, if you have your reasons, Gardner's not a bad pick- but don't vote for Betro or Pitruzzello.

Ward 3 comprises a broad swath of the middle of the City. Running from the west side of Chicago Avenue all the way down to Van Buren, it covers the Airport, Magnolia Centre, Ramona, and southern bits of the Canyon Crest neighbourhoods. Incumbent Rusty Bailey is running against retired ironworker Jim Davis.

Mr. Davis is running a very conservative, economically populist campaign- correctly pointing out that unemployment is a huge issue, and yet spending most of his time on pensions and immigration. If you read the speech he gave to the Friday Morning Club, you'll see why I couldn't support such a candidate. (He goes so far as to lament the nation's military defeats, criticize the Ho Chi Minh statue downtown, and did you catch the subtle racism at the end there?) On the bright side, he does support food trucks.

Councilman Bailey is, thus, the other option- but he has several things to recommend him to urbanist voters. Not only is he for "targeted" infrastructure spending, but he also speaks positively about both a bicycle corridor system and the high-speed rail project. (He does, sadly, put the bicycle plan under "Parks and Recreation" rather than "Traffic and Transportation.") I endorse Rusty Bailey for Ward 3.

Last, we have Ward 7. On the far southwestern edge of the City, the ward contains La Sierra University... and a whole lot of low-density single-family homes, many in new tract developments. There's a three-way race on between incumbent Councilman Steve Adams (no campaign web site), former mayor Terry Frizzel and UPS driver John Brandriff.

Steve Adams... what can I say that I haven't already said? He was a key force in evicting Greyhound, he favoured sending HSR down I-15 instead of through Riverside, and he is the #1 biggest user of the free cars provided for councilmen. Every other member of the Council said they'd be willing to give up the car perk. Not only that, but he's also the only Council member who has ever been personally rude to me in a meeting. Google around and you can find any of a dozen more scandals involving Councilman Adams. Ward 7, vote this bastard out please.

Terry Frizzel has garnered considerable praise from others in the City political blogosphere, such as it is, but she has a serious problem with density. One of her biggest issues with Councilman Adams was that he allowed too much growth in the ward. Anti-density politics are not uncommon out in that stretch of the City, but I can't say it endears a candidate to me. She did mention that residents have a right to better public transportation service, but was unspecific as to what.

That leaves us with John Brandriff, a union activist and UPS driver, who has served on several boards and commissions throughout the City. Among Mr. Brandriff's issues is a concern for bus-dependent residents of his ward. He notes, correctly, that the last bus bound for Ward 7 leaves residents entirely unable to participate in City Council meetings, and has come out directly in support of extending the span of RTA service to his ward (presumably along Route 15). He also doesn't seem to have the same hostility to density that plagues Ms. Frizzel- while he does see a need to protect open space, he seems to advocate a cooperative process that balances community concerns and development. Therefore, I endorse John Brandriff for Ward 7.


Rene said...

I understand how any city can use eminent domain as a weapon of abuse. However, I support the city of Riverside using eminent domain to combat against the housing bubble. The city did the right thing using eminent domain mechanism to acquire the properties at its highest market value. Right now, I bet the property owners are wishful that the prices go back to heydays so they can sell and get tons of profits. Right now, the land in downtown Riverside are back to the prices before the housing bubble. So, looking back, the city gave more than fair market value to the property owners (mostly who do not care to improve their properties). Those properties will not go back to its market value during housing bubble for next decade or many more years.

I strongly believe that the City of Riverside did manage its finances very well. They were able to spur projects during the worst economic downturn. It's impressive of what they are doing lately.

I am not impressed with Marisa Valdez Yaegar because it's all talk. She did not give details how she will cut the "city wasteful spending". I'm pleased of what Mike G. (he got my vote) did with the building next to Fox Theater, pleasing two opposing groups (one want to tear down the building and other want to preserve the historical building). It worked out in the end.

Mike G. got my vote because he cared about my voice, opinions, etc. He took time to reply. I want him to continue being Ward 1st councilman so he can improve his political skills to get things done quicker.

JN said...

As I think I mentioned, the Ward 1 race was the toughest choice this year- not because of Betro, but between Gardner and Yaegar. I'm a bit biased against incumbents generally, and I think the latter is more progressive than the former, but I think there are perfectly good reasons to vote for Gardner and I do think he's done a fine job on the Council. If either one of them (and not Betro) wins, I'll be pleased.

Five Before Midnight said...

I was appalled to find out that there's no buses operating on Memorial Day. I was planning to take a nice stroll down Victoria and then head out to either catch a bus to Tyler Galleria and spend my $$$ shopping or at a movie.

But no buses today and a 16 mile roundtrip walk or over $40 in cab fees one way just doesn't seem like a viable option in our budding metropolis. People can talk about how great the RTA and Riverside is with public transit but closing down service on Memorial or Labor Days belie that. What if people need to take a bus out to Mo Val even to get close to the National Cemetary to visit loved ones' graves?

It's a long walk and Mo Val doesn't even offer reliable cab service all the time.