Volunteers: Talk About Hopes for 2019
By Dianne Anderson
Neighborhood and community leaders in San Bernardino are tweaking their to-do list and getting ready for the new year with the changing of the guard.
No one expects post-bankruptcy miracles, but community leaders are mildly optimistic that what’s coming up can be better than what’s behind.
Curtis Stout, vice-chair of the The North West Project Area Committee, said their group is committed to their charter to advise the Mayor and City Council about improvements needed within the Sixth Ward.
As always, they recommend prioritizing street lighting and infrastructure, and street repairs, particularly along main corridors bordering the Sixth Ward — Highland, Medical Center, Mt. Vernon and Baseline. This year, he hopes to see a list of projects going on in other wards to compare it with what is, or is not, coming to the Sixth Ward.
He said they need better communication with representatives from code enforcement, planning and public works. He wants those departments to attend their NWPAC meetings to respond to concerns.
“It hasn’t been what we want it to be. We have to have a police representative at our meetings so they could tell us what’s going on with crime in the area,” he said.
Connecting with city commissions is one goal. He doesn’t feel the Westside is adequately communicated to, and he wants an active role to understand the projects slated for the area.
Stout, a 30-year homeowner in the Sixth Ward, said NWPAC is especially concerned about negative business allowed into the area, and proliferation of liquor and marijuana dispensaries. He said there are more liquor stores on the Westside than other areas of the city, and he wants greater input on what’s permitted, especially businesses that request liquor licenses.
One question that always comes up at his meetings is why the city is not using tax incentives to lure positive businesses to the area. “What does the city do as an incentive to bring in that kind of business with employment so they can enhance the area? I don’t know the answer to that. It has been asked, and asked,” he said.
For the coming year, Rev. Bronica Martindale-Taylor is hopeful about recent CalVIP funding to address city violence. So far, she said a lot of funding has been allocated for the city’s police department, but the VIP outreach should be a big help.
“Since we have the Violence Intervention Program, hopefully, we can partner with some of those funds to be more strategic in doing things in the community for prevention,” she said.
Under the new leadership, she wants a better understanding of plans for the city. She is concerned that the leaders chosen by the people will be held accountable for ideas that helped get them elected.
“I would like to listen to the vision of our new Mayor Valdivia. Then I’m going to of course, ask the Council what are their goals for each of their wards. Mine happens to be Sixth, and I will try to work with them to achieve just that,” she said.
Martindale-Taylor, also chair of the San Bernardino Police African American Advisory Committee, is calling on the community to participate in their regular meetings. This year, she wants to work with the County Sheriffs Department and San Bernardino Police Department to get more people of color hired within the departments, create pathways and mentorships.
It’s not all about putting lipstick on a pig, she said. There are a lot of issues at play. “I think my thing right now is just identifying the pig,” she said.
Martindale-Taylor sits on the Measure Z Citizens Oversight Committee, which advises city council about good use of Measure Z funding that covers after-school programs, anti-crime, and funding the police department, among others.
Until recently, the city didn’t have the benefit of CalVIP funding. She hopes there will be more funding transparency, and partnerships for prevention solutions. She wants the community to see how funding is allocated, and how to participate in intervention strategies.
“Hopefully, it can look differently now working with the community instead of it just being totally for suppression, which was with our police department,” she said.
Carlos Teran, president of the Mt. Vernon Neighborhood Association, has high hopes the city can build up a viable local tax base, and that he won’t see another gas station pop up in his neighborhood.
Besides the fumes sickening the community, he said gas stations invite blight. He also takes issue with planning project delays for Medical Center and Highland, and that another developer has now knocked down the old fire station there.
He said the original plan was to build a gas station, some homes and a couple of condos. “Now, no condos, no homes, just a gas station, but how many gas stations does San Bernardino need?” he asks.
Without decent businesses coming in, he thinks it’s going to be hard to get a tax base. He has to go across the other side of the freeway to sit and eat breakfast, and he said even a small diner on the Westside could bring tax revenue.
He said more police and improving public works are needed. “We get another rainstorm, and the ground is not stable. You can’t have a nice car out here without getting realigned every two months,” he said.
Charle’ Jacobs, president of Terrace West Neighborhood Association, hopes that with the new leadership, the community has a greater voice. She wants to see Nicholson Community Center receive long overdue attention.
“We are still a community where there are no activities for children, adults or seniors. It’s sad,” said Jacobs, Sixth Ward Parks and Rec commissioner.
On the positive side, CalTrans has addressed concerns on Foothill, which has been smoothed and paved nearly to Pepper going to 4th street. The Fifth street corridor has also seen some enhancements, but she said there are three illegal marijuana dispensaries. One partially burnt out, vandalized building at 2596 Foothill still stands.
“It’s a complete eyesore,” she said. “It’s hard to promote a vision of business development when you come through and look at that.”
Jacobs, a civic volunteer for over 20 years, said the task and vision are in the hands of city-hired consultants that have come and gone. She said the recent consultant community outreach was not a real attempt to connect.
In the process, she said they tapped a good amount of funding, and requested more. “They haven’t reached out to the community. They had a five-question survey, which didn’t mean a hill of beans,” she said.
Access to information about upcoming projects at the city council meetings is needed. Some projects are referenced only by call letters.
“It really is a secret. If you listen, they’ll come out with something like Project AB76.37. We don’t know exactly what that is,” she said.
Code enforcement had been removing graffiti. However, lately, she said they must review reported cases and contact all businesses individually to obtain a release form to paint off graffiti, or the city could face a lawsuit without the owner’s permission to remove it.
In the meantime, she said the graffiti is flourishing all over San Bernardino.
Over the years, the community has had many great ideas, Jacobs said, but the city hasn’t been eager to listen. “We see this stuff every day. Talk to us,” she said. “We’re willing to give you the information you’re looking for.”
Amelia Lopez, president of the Neighborhood Association Council hopes to see city services restored that have been neglected, such as overgrown trees. Adequate street lighting, and tree trimming are important to safety.
In recent years, trees had to be cut in her Muscupiabe neighborhood because they were not trimmed, and posed a threat if they fell under the weight of the rains.
“Trees that are very top heavy create potential liabilities for residents and the city if people or property gets damaged – and we don’t want to lose trees,” she said.
Other services suffered during the bankruptcy, including deep potholes, curbs, stop signs and infrastructure, that need more attention this year. Burnt out lights invite blight. Many in her area are not functioning.
Edison is one of the providers, and she said they usually respond to calls within two days, but it takes the city longer. Scant lighting can be a public safety and traffic issue.
Residents in her area want better response times to calls for help. “Even a short call acknowledging the complaint, and when to expect a crew person to come out would let residents know that someone is looking into it,” she said.
Her best hope is for downtown, to see a new look and support for local small businesses. New homes and families moving in attract good businesses. She would like to see more places for people to shop, eat and be entertained. It could help build up the community.
“I try to buy everything in the city so that my tax dollars stay here, but I can’t always do that,” she said.
For as hard as recent years have been in the city, she is inspired as community groups and individuals have stepped up in times of crisis.
“The Community Ho Ho Parade parade happening all week. Community residents and organizations do that,” she said. “Ordinary everyday citizens come out to continue some of those traditions to beautify, or to clean up.”