Juan Figueroa

Former Third Ward City Councilman John Valdivia’s victory in the November 2018 San Bernardino Mayoral Election necessitated his resignation from his council position when he was sworn in as mayor on December 19. As a consequence, the Third Ward post has been vacant ever since, resulting in the city council being down to six-sevenths strength and the city’s residents, property owners and businesses in the city’s southernmost sector being without a direct representative on the city council.
There were two years remaining on Valdivia’s term as councilman, and city officials have opted to fill the post through a special vote-by-mail election which concludes May 7. Three registered voters in the ward signed on to compete for the council position: Anthony Aguirre, Juan Figueroa and Treasure Ortiz. Ultimately, Aguirre decided against running, but not before the ballots for the election had been printed. Consequently, the names of all three are on the ballots that have been mailed to registered voters.
Figueroa this week told the Sentinel he is seeking a position on the city council because “As a lifelong San Bernardino resident who grew up in the 3rd Ward, I am deeply invested in our city’s future. I want to see San Bernardino become a place of greater opportunity for our families, our youth and our small businesses.”
A member of the city’s Elected Official Compensation Advisory Commission, Figueroa enumerated three major issues facing the city. With regard to public safety he said, “Making our community safer will be my #1 priority on the city council. That means improving police response times, targeting gang crime and cleaning up blighted properties.” He further said, “I will work to create a better quality of life for all residents by reducing homelessness and getting city streets and street lights repaired in a timely manner. In addition, I want to help struggling local families by reducing the costs of housing.” Moreover, he said accountability will be the watchword of his campaign. “I am committed to making city government more accountable and responsive to residents’ concerns,” he said. “We must always put the people first at City Hall.”
Queried about his feeling with regard to the city’s dissolution in 2015 of its then 137-year-old fire department in favor of placing the city into a county fire service assessment zone and having the county fire division assume fire prevention, fire suppression and emergency medical response duties throughout the 62-sqare mile city, Figueroa said, “I am pleased with San Bernardino’s current system of fire protection. As a councilman, I would not support rescinding the city’s agreement with the San Bernardino County Fire District.”
Figueroa signaled his satisfaction with the performance levels of city staff, indicating he would not be willing to restrict current or future salary increases to the city’s workers as a means of controlling the city’s continuing financial challenges, more than six-and-a-half years after the city filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection and less than two years after emerging from that status by means of an exit strategy that included stiffing a significant number of the city’s past vendors and creditors, while committing to maintaining its current and future payments to the California Public Employees Retirement System, which covers the ongoing provision of pensions to the city’s retired employees.
“I would not support a blanket freeze on city employee salaries and benefits,” Figueroa said.
Simultaneously, he said that he hoped the city could hold itself together without imposing additional taxes on the city’s residents.
“In general, I oppose increasing taxes,” he said. “I believe San Bernardino must strengthen our financial and economic foundations by attracting new businesses and helping our existing businesses grow, not by raising taxes on our existing businesses, residents or utility ratepayers.”
He is qualified to serve on the council, Figueroa said, in that “I have been walking neighborhoods throughout the 3rd Ward since early February, and residents are supporting my candidacy because of my long history of involvement as a neighborhood association president; community volunteer; and city commissioner. I am endorsed by community leaders throughout the 3rd Ward.”
He said, “I am running a positive campaign on my own record and have no interest in contrasting my qualifications with those of other candidates.”
Regarding questions about issues that have cropped up with regard to the city’s licensing of cannabis-related businesses, accusations of mishandling and favoritism in the determination of licensure eligibility by city staff and elected officials, as well as questions pertaining to the performance of the city’s management echelon in general, Figueroa said that “because the cannabis question is currently the subject of litigation, it would be inappropriate for me to comment on it because of my current position as a city commissioner. I also hold the same position regarding questions about city staff management, staff changes and work ethic, due to my position as a city commissioner.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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