The Press-Enterprise | March 24, 2016 –
Rusty Bailey can point to a lot of good things that have happened in Riverside during his first term as mayor.
An effective effort to reduce homelessness among veterans. The state Air Resources Board’s selection of Riverside as the site for new labs and offices that will bring about 400 jobs. The opening of the UC Riverside School of Medicine. Good job growth overall. An increasingly vital downtown.
Plus, Riverside was ranked by Forbes as America’s eighth-coolest city – for what that’s worth.
Unfortunately, he must also face something very bad that’s happened lately: The city suddenly discovered that it has a structural budget deficit it needs to overcome.
The Press-Enterprise Editorial Board endorses Mr. Bailey for re-election based on the good job he’s done in his first term, with one caveat.
Riverside gives its mayor a limited role: presiding over meetings without having a vote on issues except to break ties or to cast a veto, representing City Hall to its constituents and to businesses and organizations outside the city. In a way the mayor is Riverside’s cheerleader in chief, in which Mr. Bailey has excelled.
But in a second term, we will look for Mr. Bailey also to lead the council – non-voter though he may be – through the discomforting but crucial exercise of righting Riverside’s fiscal ship. In other words, he must become a cheerleader for fiscal responsibility.
He has shown an early sign he can do that by backing off on his quest to bring streetcars back to Riverside, citing financial realities. That’s a start.
There are worthy challengers. Councilman Paul Davis makes a good case for his economic-development credentials and is a proponent of outsourcing city services where possible. Nancy Melendez, the just-retired assistant director of the Riverside Community College District Foundation, emphasizes the need for more communication and collaboration between the city and all its stakeholders. Vivian Moreno is an interesting challenger, a City Hall critic who maintains the blog thirtymilesofcorruption.com. Ms. Moreno uncovered a Proposition 218 violation – the city’s shuffling of utility revenue to the general fund – which resulted in a $10 million settlement; she is a valuable city watchdog.
None of the challengers would do a better job than Mr. Bailey in Riverside’s mayoral role.
Mr. Bailey’s impressive list of supporters among business, education and political leaders shows he has the solid support of his community. He must now draw on that support to guide the council toward fiscal responsibility for the sake of all Riverside residents and businesses.
Riverside voters should re-elect Mayor Rusty Bailey.