Mayor Pro Tem Bessine Richard Announces 6th Ward Run
By Dianne Anderson
San Bernardino Mayor Pro Tem Bessine Richard reflects on coming in the doors for the first time four years ago, and how her perception has changed from then until now.
She has sat on various committees, visited other cities and met with other councilmembers, and the big task is always getting everyone to be on the same page.
No single vote can move the agenda.
“Not one person can do it alone. Like they say, it takes a village, it takes everybody to come together and raise this city,” said Ms. Richard.
Richard, elected in 2016, said her Sixth Ward priorities include public safety, dealing with homelessness, illegal pot shops with the city’s limited resources, and getting more jobs for the community.
Clamping down on bad landlords and proliferating weed shops is an immediate concern. Richard said it’s one reason why she voted to establish the local police substation on the Westside to curb illegal businesses.
“Having Police and Code Enforcement Officers based here in our community will enable the city to shut down these illegal marijuana operators more quickly and efficiently,” she said.
She also supports stiff fines, asset seizures against illegal pot shot operators, and forcing landlords who permit those operations to pay big fines or lose their property with repeated violations.
Any assets seized from illegal weed shop operators could pay for needed community improvements on the Westside, including local street paving and better recreational amenities at Nicholson Park.
Weed shops are popping up in different places, she said. They’re parked in front of neighborhood houses.
“People are finding things like dirty diapers, dirty needles, drug paraphernalia the next morning,” she said. We fine them $1,000 a day, but then you have to have somebody enforce the fine.”
It’s a catch 22. The city can’t barge in and shut down illegal pot shops that are under a rental agreement. She said the County District Attorney says they don’t have the ground to follow through because cannabis is legal.
The good news is that most illegal pot shops have recently been identified, and the goal is to go after those that pose the greatest nuisance and threat. To report illegal pot shops, residents can call the city at 909.384.7272, and will be directed to the right department.
“It’s getting the big heavy hitters, the ones that are a nuisance to the community, and neighborhoods they operate in,” she said.
Richard, a member of Interagency Council on Homelessness, said the city is dealing with the largest homeless population in the county, and she is working to help get people off the streets. She said Supervisor Josie Gonzales challenged the city to help because the county also can’t do it alone.
But, help for the homeless needs to come through a nonprofit, she added. The city may have vacant property to build a shelter on, but she said they are not in a financial position to manage it.
“Then you have to ask the question, can we afford to be the homeless hub of the county? What would that do for the economic future of our city?”
There are some good moves in the making. She is encouraged that the airport is fully functioning and bringing in revenue, and that the revitalization of Carousel Mall is currently pulling several proposals for the city to consider.
Another upside is the Seccombe Lake grant is good for that park, and it also frees up other money for other parks, including Nicholson Park. A couple of meetings ago she said someone suggested putting money into rebuilding parking structures, but many people in the low-income community don’t have a car.
“I said we’re not rebuilding parking structures until we rebuild the park,” Richard said.
For all the negative issues of recent years, she feels the city is upward bound.
New community policing now gives a single point of contact for residents to call and connect with the police department on non-emergency phone calls. She is in contact with the Lieutenant who dispatches someone within a reasonable period of time.
She wants to see more Black cops on the beat, and she is interested in forming a committee of African Americans specifically to help get more Black officers for local hire.
She said she talked to Chief McBride about how local talent may be lost to other agencies that are gleaning for local potential officers. She invited him out to consider America’s Jobs Center where LAPD recruits locally each month, and now SBPD is also coming out the same day.
“It was like why don’t you guys come here and do it in the same day they do it. Maybe you can get some of the people to apply to SBPD,” she said.
To deal with the city’s financial situation, San Bernardino is looking to draw revenue-generating businesses and jobs to the city. She and Mayor Valdivia will be hosting community job fairs with employers to hire residents from the Westside, as well as other areas of the city.
“We have a tremendous opportunity with new warehouse facilities that will create up to 4,000 new jobs in San Bernardino. As our Mayor Pro Tem, I am committed to working with the employer at these new warehouse facilities to give priority to hiring local residents,” she said.