Joseph Richardson is seeking election to the Redlands City Council in District 3 in this year’s election, the third electoral contest in the city’s 130-year history wherein council members are not elected at large but rather from within the city’s five wards.
In this year’s once-again established district voting, under an electoral map approved last year by the existing city council, Richardson finds himself in the same ward as sitting councilman Paul Barich. Challenging Barich along with Richardson are Enrique Estrada and Mike Saifie. Richardson said, “I am running because Redlands has been very good to me and my family. I have been involved in the community for 30 years, first as a student at the University of Redlands. My family and I came to live in Redlands permanently 13 years ago. My passion is communication, and this is the next step of my involvement in the community. My goal is to build bridges with all types of people to move Redlands forward. We want to give everyone in Redlands a seat at the table.”
Richardson said he is qualified to hold the position of city councilman because “I am a lawyer by training and would bring an analytical eye to city government. I also have both passion for communicating and bridgebuilding, and compassion for people.”
He can be distinguished from the other three candidates in District 3, Richardson said, by his “desire to truly bridgebuild and involve citizens earlier in the decision-making process for things that affect our city. I have done 100 meetings over the last year to gauge the concerns of citizens, and so I would have a fresh perspective that comes from listening to all types of stakeholders, from business owners, to activists, faith leaders, and others. Finally, my legal background would bring a skill set to the council that it currently lacks, all the more necessary with city payments for legal claims going up in this year’s proposed budget.”
The major issues facing Redlands, Richardson said, are “safety, homelessness, business development, revenue, and accountability of our government leaders.” He said the city can meet those issues head on. “In terms of safety,” he said, “we need to get our police and fire departments the support they need, which would include a new headquarters for police and a new station for firefighters. A community is also safer when their leaders are known and accessible, so communication is huge. To deal with homelessness, our entire region needs to work together on something comprehensive to deal with this issue. That would include identifying resources, better communicating what resources are available, and shifting some of the resources we use for emergency services related to the homeless to the prevention side. To promote business development, we need to create more quality businesses in Redlands that will create good jobs that will allow workers to own homes and raise families in Redlands. Redlands should become a business incubator; this would involve putting people in government, business and education together to identify businesses that would be good for Redlands, and then incentivize those businesses to come to Redlands. To enhance city revenue, we need to identify more sources of recurring revenues so that we can meet the challenges of the future, which includes unfunded pension obligations and other liabilities that we don’t necessarily have to pay today, but we will have to pay eventually.”
In order to provide accountability, Richardson said, the city needs to make its operations more transparent and accessible. “Our leaders cannot be accountable if they are anonymous,” he said. “Our leaders need to plant seeds of goodwill through being available to citizens before the citizens have a problem or question. That way, once they do have an issue, it is easier to come to those leaders.”
The city should use a combination of funding strategies to pay for the solutions to the city’s challenges, Richardson said.
“For major one-time expenses such as the police center, we could look at bonds,” he said, but added, “We can’t fund continuing obligations through bonds. That would be irresponsible. We don’t want to be unwise, so we would need to study this thoroughly. Unfunded pension and other obligations are helped through our continued fiscal responsibility and finding new sources of recurring revenues.” The city can add to its operating funds, Richardson said, “through increasing the city’s tax base through more quality businesses.” Richardson said he has a modicum of previous experience in government that has prepared him to hold elective office. “I have been on the Utilities Advisory Commission here in Redlands,” he said. “I have also been a delegate in state politics.”
Richardson is steeped in the community of Redlands in several ways, he said. “I was connected to the community as a student at the University of Redlands from 1989 to 1993,” he said. “During that time, I was student body president and spoke at Rotary Club of Redlands every week, which showed me how the community works with the University. I have lived in Redlands permanently since 2005.”
Prior to coming to Redlands as a student, Richardson was an Angelino. “I am born and raised in South Central Los Angeles,” he said. “I attended Palisades High School in Pacific Palisades.” He obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of Redlands, and his law degree from Northwestern University School of Law. He is an attorney with the law firm of Borton Petrini in Redlands. He teaches law school at LaVerne College of Law as an adjunct professor.
Married for 20 years to his wife Joi, whom he met as a freshman in college, he has with her a 17-year-old daughter, Julia, who is a senior in high school.
Richardson said he wants District 3’s voters “to know that I am a person who comes from humble circumstances and who is looking forward to having an opportunity to serve my community through being on the city council. My mother worked for the Department of Veterans Affairs for 40 years and my dad, who died six months ago, was an auto mechanic. I am seeking to work representing all of Redlands, which will incidentally help make it easier for people from all backgrounds to see themselves involved in city government and community leadership positions. There has never been an African-American city council member in Redlands history. I believe in people and in our ability to work together to solve problems without having to ‘pick sides’ through political party affiliation. City residents are welcome to see my website, www.joe4redlands.com, which has info about issues facing Redlands, a video gallery, how to support my campaign, and other info.”
Last year, the city council voted to return to a ward electoral system, 23 years after the city abandoned a two-election cycle sampling of holding its council votes by-district.
In 1989, Redlands voters passed Measure Q, which established a by-district voting system for the city council. At that time, Redlands held its elections in November of odd-numbered years. In 1991, the first vote under that system was held in two of the city’s then-newly established districts. Under that system, residents were authorized to vote only with regard to a candidate representing their district, where one-fifth of the city’s population resided. Candidates were restricted to running only within the district in which they lived. Two years later, the city’s voters elected council members from the city’s three other districts but also voted in the same November 1993 election to end by-district voting and go back to selecting members of the city council in at-large elections once again beginning in 1995. Under the re-established at-large suffrage, voters throughout the city for more than two decades participated in the elections and the only residency requirement for candidates was that they live within the City of Redlands.
Richardson, with his lawyer’s sophistication and connections, is looking to concentrate his electioneering in the geographcially concentrated District 3 to achieve victory.