SB Mayor-Elect Valdivia Set To Institute SB’s Four-Pro Agenda

San Bernardino Councilman John Valdivia appears to be on track to take command of the full range of the machinery of municipal government in the county seat as the consequence of this week’s election and some skillful behind-the-scenes maneuvering at City Hall and among a core of San Bernardino’s influential elite.
On June 5, San Bernardino held what was the first of its elections under the auspices of the 2016 redrafting of the city charter that had been in place since 1905. Whereas previously, San Bernardino held its municipal elections in November of odd-numbered years, the new charter moved the first round of the municipal election cycle to correspond with the California Primary, held in even-numbered years. In June, Valdivia and incumbent Mayor Carey Davis were two candidates vying in a field of seven for the city’s highest elective office. They qualified to go head-to-head in this week’s run-off by finishing first and second, respectively, ahead of Danny Tillman, Gigi Hanna, Rick Avila, Karmel Roe and Danny Malmuth. They carried out vigorous campaigns against one another beginning in August.
With the initial posting of the election results made by the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters at 8:05 p.m., five minutes after the polls had closed on election night November 6,  the incumbent was slightly ahead of Valdivia in the 2018 race for San Bernardino mayor. Counted at that point were the results of early mail-in ballots and votes that had been cast at the polling place maintained at the Registrar of Voter’s office itself at 777 E Rialto Avenue in the weeks and days running up to and including the day of the election. With that single precinct having reported, Davis at that point owned a slim lead over Valdivia, having notched 4,937 votes or 50.82 percent to Valdivia’s 4,778 or 49.18 percent.
At the 10 p.m. posting, at which point 77 of the city’s 178 precincts had reported, the results were trending toward Valdivia, though Davis still led, 6,672 votes or 50.13 percent to 6,637 votes or 49.87 percent.
At midnight, with 107 of 178 precincts reporting, Valdivia had pulled ahead. Davis had recorded 10,203 votes, a drop off to 48.92 percent to Valdivia’s 10,652 votes or 51.08 percent.
At 4.a.m. on November 7, all 178 of the city’s precincts had reported and Valdivia had widened his lead slightly. The challenger at that point tallied 10,816 votes or 51.2 percent to Davis’s 10,308 votes or 48.8 percent. Those results were not considered final, however, as straggling mail-in ballots were yet to arrive, and provisional ballots, that is, ones that are potentially in dispute based upon doubt as to whether those casting them are properly registered or in some measure out of compliance with voting rules, had yet to be verified, and were not tallied.
Today, the results were updated with some provisional ballots that were verified being added to the mix, along with mail-in ballots that had come in on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and earlier today.   By that count, Davis had fallen even further behind, having logged 12,080 votes or 48.79 percent to Valdivia’s 12,681 or 51.21 percent. While the results are not official and some provisional votes and very late arriving mail votes are not reflected in those totals, Valdivia appears virtually assured of victory.
Of note is that two of the council candidates who were victorious on Tuesday, Sandra Ibarra in Ward 2 and Theodore Sanchez in Ward 1, had not been the top finishers in the June Primary race.
Cecilia Miranda-Dolan had registered what looked to be a substantial victory by logging 699 votes or 39.60 percent to Ibarra’s 541 votes or 30.65 percent in June, when the other candidate in the Ward 2 race, incumbent Benito Barrios, had finished third, not too distant behind Ibarra with 525 votes or 29.75 percent. Ibarra campaigned assiduously over the last two months, and appears to have picked up all of Barrios’ support and then some. As of today, she had an overwhelming margin of 1,619 votes or 63.44 percent to 933 votes or 36.56 percent for Miranda-Dolan.
In June, Gil Botello bested the three others vying against him in Ward 1, as he had captured first place in the primary balloting with 516 votes or 34.22 percent, while Theodore Sanchez lagged slightly behind with 505 votes or 33.49 percent. In the primary race, Miguel Rivera claimed 339 votes of 22.48 percent to take third place and Magie Castaneda recorded 148 votes or 9.81 percent. In the fall campaign, Sanchez proved highly aggressive, utilizing attack mailers which hinted that Botello had a criminal record and alleged he had stiffed his creditors as a consequence of a bankruptcy he had filed a little less than a decade ago. As of today, Sanchez’s vote total stood at 1,096 votes or 57.56 percent to Botello’s 42.44 percent. Sanchez and Valdivia are cousins, which is not widely known, and there were suggestions that the Sanchez campaign was aided by funding which originated with Valdivia or his supporters. Curiously, at one point early on, Valdivia indicated he was supporting Botello, though that support was apparently subsequently withdrawn.
In the one other San Bernardino City Council race held this year, incumbent Fred Shorett was reelected to represent the city’s Ward 4, pulling down 2,803 votes or 53 percent to outdistance Alexandra Beltran, who captured 2,486 votes or 47 percent.
Over the last several months Valdivia has put the final touches on arrangements to conform key players within city government to his will or move them out and bring in an administrative and management team that will be beholden to him and amenable to his direction. In this regard, Valdivia is reported to be purposed to jettison City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller, and to be looking toward replacing Police Chief Jerrod Burguan or forcing him into retirement.
Of note is that Valdivia is on the brink of effectuating a dynamic power transition in which the balance of control that is gravitating to him will more than make up for the attenuation of the mayor’s power that occurred with the aforementioned charter change. Previously, as now, the mayor had no voting power except in the case of a tie among the council. The mayor had before, as now, veto power over council votes of 4-to-3, 3-to-2 or 3-to-1. Under the previous San Bernardino Charter, the mayor’s position was an uncommonly strong one in terms of managerial authority. The mayor and city manager served as co-managerial regents, such that the mayor had the authority to hire and fire, or at least have final say-so in hiring or firing, the city manager and department heads and lower city employees. The new charter dispensed with that mayoral authority. The mayor still possesses the power to put any item onto the council agenda at his/her own discretion, and remains as the presiding officer at city council meetings, controlling the ebb and flow of council discussion and debate.
San Bernardino’s mayor is provided with a salary and benefit package of roughly $125,000 annually, which will free Valdivia up to devote the totality of his daily life to politics and governance. It so happens, as well, that in September, the city council voted to up its members’ salaries from $600 yearly to $14,000, bringing their individual annual compensation total, when benefits and perquisites are included, to $34,340. That makes serving on the council almost as much of a plum as an honor. Historically, San Bernardino’s mayor has had significant political sway, and has often extended it to impacting council elections and influencing whom donors will support. Valdivia is now positioned to have more leverage than any of his predecessors, as those who now occupy the council have even more of a personal financial stake than ever before in remaining on the council. Accordingly, it follows that future members of the council will be more likely to align themselves with the mayor’s agenda, given Valdivia’s leverage in militating politically against their re-election prospects.
As it stands, Valdivia already has a ready-made coalition willing to carry out most, if not all, of his bidding. On the existing council, the one that has been serving under Davis the last two-and-a-half years, Valdivia, Councilman Henry Nickel, Councilman Benito Barrios and Councilwoman Bessine Richards have voted, if not in lockstep with one another, then in what might be termed consistent unison. Barrios is now departing but is to be replaced by Ibarra, who appears to be aligned with Valdivia. Sanchez will replace Councilwoman Virginia Marquez, who generally lined up with the faction on the council that could be said to be the minority opposition, which also included Shorett and Councilman Jim Mulvihill. It thus appears that Valdivia has the four votes it will take for him to sustain control of the council. Moreover, upon Valdivia moving into the mayoral position, his departure as Ward 3 council member will necessitate a replacement for him in that post be selected. His growing political reach and the momentum in his favor makes it likely he will be able to influence events to ensure that his replacement will find himself or herself in consonance with his philosophy, goals and agenda.
Asked to characterize his approach to governance, Valdivia said he was a four-pro: pro –business, pro-growth, pro-development and pro-safety.
Mark Gutglueck

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