With the decision by Mayor Rusty Bailey to not seek re-election, along with a council majority made up of newcomers, Riverside’s City Hall is undergoing major changes.
On the March 3 ballot, Riverside voters have their pick of several candidates, with the most prominent being school board member Patricia Lock Dawson and longtime Councilman Andy Melendrez.
Navigating the city out of its budgetary morass will take somebody with business moxie, extensive experience working with state and local entities and persuasive abilities to bring along a sometimes lackadaisical council.
For Riverside, we think Patricia Lock Dawson is the best suited to do that. Her background of community service, not least her tenure since 2011 as a trustee with the Riverside Unified School District, well qualifies her to be Riverside’s next mayor.
Riverside’s charter calls for a council-manager form of government, where the mayor does not have a vote. But the mayor has a bully pulpit that can help guide public debate and focus the council.
Dawson says she would use that pulpit, first and foremost, to balance the city’s ailing budget and secure public pensions, which right now are growing at a torrid pace, adding to a crushing debt.
Without corrective action, those reserves will run out sometime soon. The next mayor must work closely with the council to put the city on a more sustainable course. We think Dawson has the ability to do that.
Among other priorities Dawson envisions for Riverside: securing more housing; getting federal and state funding to help address homelessness; refinancing existing debt to get lower rates and lower payments; establishing a budget stabilization committee made up of residents, labor, business leaders, city department heads and others to find and implement efficiencies, and attracting technology and other businesses to generate more city revenue.
A Riverside native, Dawson’s siblings all moved elsewhere for opportunities. But she loved Riverside and with her husband is raising three daughters here, saying that she wants to help make this a place her own children do not want to leave. Under Dawson’s leadership, Riverside can be that place — for all its children.