“Let us…[remember] on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear but let us never fear to negotiate. Let both sides explore what problems unite us instead of belaboring those problems which divide us.”
Those words, from President John F. Kennedy, are as resonant today as they were in 1961.
In 2020, I ran for mayor of Riverside, a nonpartisan office, on a nonpartisan platform of stabilizing the city budget, building a hub for high-paying green-tech jobs, and reimagining the Santa Ana River.
I believed then, as I believe now, in the principles that have worked in this country for over 200 years: that elected officials should build broad consensus for any sweeping change and be representative of the people they serve.
And I believe that Riverside, as the largest city in Inland Southern California, should lead the way in promoting unity, cooperation and nonpartisan problem-solving.
I have done my best to model this approach through efforts such as:
- Emphasizing problem-solving. My focus is on good governance – using logic to make thoughtful, and not reactionary, decisions.
- Obtaining data and basing my policy recommendations on information rather than impressions or ideology.
- Promoting causes that unify, rather than divide – from improving city parkland to modernizing our downtown Military Wall of Honor to generating high-paying jobs that retain college graduates in Riverside.
Our city has many strengths and tremendous promise. It’s also part of a democracy that invites and requires robust discourse, but at its extremes, can also foment division.
We’ve seen many elected officials, throughout our country, treat the spoils of politics as a zero-sum game, pitting one group against another in endless clashes over power and resources.
In our region and elsewhere, baby boomers are retiring and leaving public office, taking with them a wealth of experience and knowledge. Millennials are coming into their own, ascending into positions of leadership, with bold new ideas different from those of their predecessors. This creates a positive tension which will move us forward if we can manage this change productively.
What’s unique about the 2020s is a shift away from centralized news sources – which interpret and help residents understand the local clashes – in favor of social media, a poor substitute for vigorous reporting, impartial fact-checking, and careful sourcing.
Too often today, small numbers of people – those with the loudest voices and most zealous views – disproportionately influence policy and decision-making.
Against this backdrop, our city needs steady leaders who cut through the noise to focus on issues that truly matter. We need officials who consider data, listen to all stakeholders, negotiate positions and compromise.
At no level of government do we need more of the same: drawing lines in the sand and defending positions in a zero-sum game. Voters in California have shown us they want something different: “No party preference” is now the second largest category of voters in the state, and growing.
As the mayor of Riverside, elected citywide, I will continue to represent everyone, with a steady hand, reject division, and do my best to inspire change, progress and unity. Please join me.