Riverside is the best kept secret in Southern California. It is a great community to live, work, and raise a family in. Anchored with four colleges and universities, a historic luxury hotel, quality recreation spaces, and plenty of arts and culture, Riverside has a solid foundation to build upon.
One of the challenges of being in a leadership position is determining how to balance both immediate operational needs, while also planning for the future. The city has over 2,400 professionals that are responsible for critical tasks, such as maintaining roads, keeping us safe, and managing our parks, museums, and libraries. Team Riverside consists of quality people, people that I am proud to work with every day. With trusted individuals taking care of these tasks, I am able to focus on elevating issues that need greater attention. Below are a few of my current strategic priorities which play a factor in our long-term planning efforts.
The sacrifices veterans and their families make when serving our nation is not something that I take lightly. I find it unacceptable that we have veterans living on the streets of Riverside. This year I took a pledge with the President of the United States to end homelessness amongst veterans in Riverside by the end of 2015.Since that time, our city’s Homeless Outreach Team and my office have worked closely on this initiative. We have made great progress, but we still have a few folks in need of housing. One of the largest challenges associated with this initiative has been getting landlords to dedicate housing units for our veterans. The Office of the Mayor has been instrumental in reaching out to landlords and we will continue to do so until every veteran has housing. My office has also worked with local industries, like Walmart, ACE Hardware, Home Depot, and Habitat for Humanity, to raise funding and supplies to ensure that once a homeless veteran is placed in housing, they have the support they need to be successful. If you would like to learn more about how the Office of the Mayor is taking a stance against Veteran Homelessness, please read the Press Enterprise article that featured this initiative. http://www.pe.com/articles/veterans-773715-homeless-riverside.html
The Office of the Mayor is working with local K-12 leaders on the plans needed to launch a taskforce that focuses on early literacy. We know that if a child can read proficiently by the third grade that they will drastically increase their success later in their educational pursuits. I am excited to get these efforts underway.
On the higher education front, Riverside is fortunate to have over 50,000 college students studying in our city. This brain trust provides a huge opportunity for economic development. The Mayor’s College Forum, brings together student representatives from each of Riverside’s universities and colleges to engage the broader student population. Our hope is that upon graduation, locally educated students will select Riverside as their location of choice to live, start a business, and raise families.
Riverside has many assets and one of its largest is the Santa Ana River. Sadly, this outdoor recreational gem is underutilized. The great news is that its potential is unlimited. In 2015, I convened a regional group to focus on the Santa Ana River. The call to action was for representatives from San Bernardino, Riverside, and Orange Counties, to explore what could be done with the Santa Ana River, to drive economic development, to drive recreational use, and to educate the public about its value to our region-all with an eye on appropriate preservation and protections, of course.
Dementia is a growing concern for our aging population and has an immeasurable impact on families. The Purple City Alliance is an initiative to make Riverside dementia friendly. Consisting of a cross-section of government agencies, medical providers, non-profits, and other related service providers, the Purple City Alliance is working to educate the public about dementia and its impact, and to provide information to families in need of services. In the first quarter of 2016, we expect to have a resource page up and running so that Riverside families will have a place to obtain valuable services and the ability to tap into support groups.
What Southern Californian isn’t concerned with traffic? As Riverside continues to grow we must continue to find ways to increase mobility, as adding roads will not always be an option. The Office of the Mayor has played a critical role in elevating the conversations around alternative transportation options, whether it is active transportation such as walking and biking, or public transportation. The Office of the Mayor continues to explore what long-term infrastructure might be needed to serve our city in the next 5, 10, or 30 years. We have added bike lanes, improved streets, and added grade separations. The conversations must continue, as there will be no easy solutions to long-term transportation demands.
Responsible long-term planning must prioritize the protection of our environment, as our natural resources are not infinite. One of my priorities as Mayor has been to bring together diverse stakeholders to unify the multiple efforts that were taking place on the sustainability front, with the aim of focusing our efforts around common goals. We are better together. These results yielded returns, as we emerged with a focused sustainability plan, one that ultimately resulted in Riverside receiving awards for our progress. Currently, our sustainability gurus are working to coordinate a conference that will focus on developing the next generation of strategies that will drive our Green Riverside efforts forward.
Riverside has made great inroads to foster an environment where business owners would want to set-up shop, yet many of our residents continue to commute to Orange or Los Angeles Counties for work. Riverside’s next renaissance must focus on jobs: how will we attract additional business, expand the businesses currently operating in the city, diversify employment options, and foster an entrepreneurial ecosystem that focuses on raising up the next generation of innovators and business leaders? Much of 2015 focused on shoring up our internal processes, making it easier for businesses to expand and set-up shop in Riverside. 2016 will focus on outreach to our current businesses and implementing job attraction strategies.
Approximately 450 of our neighbors are without homes, a reality that troubles me greatly. In 2016, I launched the Love Your Neighbor Initiative to engage our local faith-based organizations in a collaborative effort to provide assistance to our neighbors. The idea is to assess what services are currently being offered, what gaps might exist, and to determine an approach to fill the voids. Amongst our many partners for this initiative are the social work programs at La Sierra University, California Baptist University, and Loma Linda University. In phase one of this initiative, students from these universities will collect information from local churches, synagogues, temples, and faith-based organizations on the services currently being offered in our city limits. Churches, synagogues, temples, and and faith-based organizations can learn more about these efforts on the following page: Love Your Neighbor Initiative - Letter from the Mayor
The Education Roundtable was founded by the Mayor of Riverside to support the vision and aspirations of Seizing Our Destiny. Members of the roundtable include representatives from educational institutions in Riverside. As champions of Seizing Our Destiny, the Education Roundtable members strive to:
Encourage a well-developed, highly sought-after workforce. This is accomplished by developing diverse, highly trained next-generation employees who embrace the entrepreneurial spirit and take full advantage of the abundance of skill-building opportunities to compete in targeted industries, and......
Exude a culture of lifelong learning for all and an increased quality of life through a diverse slate of educational and developmental opportunities.