Use “Army Of Grant Writers” To Restore SB Respectability, Says 7th Ward Hopeful Abad

John Abad maintains his candidacy for 7th Ward Councilman is driven by his perception that the incumbent has been indolent in redressing the ward’s and the city’s obvious problems.
Abad, along with David Mlynarski, Damon Alexander, and Esmeralda Negrete are challenging Jim Mulvihill, who has been the 7th Ward councilman since 2013, when he was chosen in a special election to replace Wendy McCammack, who had been displaced in a recall election. Mulvihill, who is a retired urban planner and college professor, was reelected in 2015, when he defeated developer Scott Beard.
Mulvihill’s term in office began after the city’s 2012 bankruptcy filing. The city continued to function under bankruptcy protection until mid 2017, and all of his tenure in office has been marked by the fiscal constraints the city has been functioning under.
Abad, who in 2013 ran unsuccessfully for city council against Virginia Marquez in the city’s 1st Ward when he lived there, said he believes Mulvihill and the rest of the council have been less than fully engaged and energetic in coming to terms with the city’s myriad challenges.
“These things have been a major issue for quite a long time,” Abad said. “I don’t see too much progress in San Bernardino and the 7th Ward.”  Other cities that had filed for bankruptcy protection had bounced back by “vastly increasing their tax base, improving housing and development,” Abad said. “That’s not what I see here. It is stagnant.”
Other than “some federal funds for freeways and the state’s involvement through Caltrans,” Abad said, “There is no federal funding that we should be getting coming through. San Bernardino needs to have an army of grant writers put into place. We should be going after federal funds to build a homeless veterans home. I think we need to work hard to get federal and state funds to improve San Bernardino.”
Abad said the city is locked in a vicious cycle whereby neglect has begotten deterioration leading to a variety of social ills and outward blight, creating a situation in which the remaining middle class residents are electing to take flight, leading to further deterioration and an accompanying unwillingness to invest in improvements and maintenance, causing further neglect.
“Because we have crime, things are bad and getting worse,” Abad said. “We need to improve the streets and the blighted areas. We need jobs to put more people to work and create a vital economy. There are so few jobs in this area, most people drive 20 or 30 miles out of San Bernardino to their work, which takes them outside of the area and they shop out of the area. We need to bring back the middle class and better housing, better condominiums and homes and businesses. We are not doing that.”
Abad said, “We need a better tax base to improve San Bernardino. Go up any street from Baseline to Highland. Follow Del Rosa up toward the foothills, then take another street back to the freeway and you will see the same thing. It is not improving. Over the years the city did a little eminent domain to where the city owns over 100 properties. They should sell those to anyone who is ready to develop them or use them. No one wants to build homes. The city is not going to attract developers without some incentive. We have to engage in quality building to make it more like Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana. They [the council and city management] are not doing that.”
The city is failing to put its best foot forward, Abad said, by having its subsidized housing, much of which is in poor repair, in the center of the city, which is warding off any potential investors or developers.
“They need to put those Section 8 type of homes and apartment complexes somewhere else,” he said. “They are right there where it makes the city look bad. We need to give those people who live in the central core some self esteem. If we keep them there, it says to the world this is a lower economic area. That’s counterproductive.”
Mulvihill, despite his expertise in urban planning and other experience, is oblivious to the reality on the streets, Abad said. “He is a little older than I am and he has city planning degrees, but I think he is a little antiquated and being happy with the way San Bernardardino is,” Abad said of Mulvihill. “I don’t think he should be happy with the way San Bernardino is. I don’t think he goes to 7-11 in the morning for coffee and encounters homeless and the indigent people who are there begging for money. There are homeless all over the city. There are homeless and people living in transitional housing everywhere.  You can see them in morning sleeping on the sidewalk or in abandoned buildings. Many are mentally incapacitated. They are on the roads where children are walking to school. You get worried about your children having to deal with them. The same thing happens up on 30th Street around the schools there. You have children who are afraid to go into 7-11 in the morning. Every morning on Highland you see the same thing, the homeless are in front of Circle K and 7-11 and the doughnut shops. You see the police encouraging them to move on. There presence is so disturbing, people will avoid shopping at the stores where they are.”
The city needs to migrate toward a higher standard than the one that has settled over it, Abad said.
“We have too many stores like the 99 Cent Store that appeal to that lower income bracket,” Abad said. “They are there for the 67 percent of the city that are in that lower income group, and they need those type of stores that sell what they can afford, but you have to bring in some quality shopping and attract some middle class people to the city. We need to be able to offer housing to people who work in Grand Terrace and Loma Linda at the hospital there and in Redllands, teachers from the districts around the area who have decent incomes.”
Abad moved to San Bernardino as a child with his family in the 1950s, and he attended San Bernardino schools and has lived in San Bernardino for 30 years of his adult life. As an adult he moved to Redlands for a time but returned to San Bernardino.
He says he is intimately familiar with the city, having lived in many of its districts. He says the city offers a number of features and amenities that make it a great place, but that neglect and mismanagement have created a circumstance in which the vast majority of the city’s residents do not avail themselves of them. An example, he said, are the sports competitions that are held at the various high school venues. Having participated in sports when he was a student himself, Abad said he is drawn to these.
“It is sad to see very few people at those sporting events,” he said. “I have encountered some people who are members of school spirit clubs who go to athletic competitions. Like me, they want to cheer on San Bernardino or the team of the school they attended, and they do. But there aren’t too many of us. We have plenty of population here to support those teams, but if you ask most people why they’re not willing to go, they’ll say, ‘It’s too dark over there. San Bernardino has too many vagrants, vandals and homeless. They’re around the school at night.’ That’s why they won’t go and watch a basketball game or a football game. I am not afraid to walk around the city. I’m a hometown boy. I’m not leaving, and if I want to watch a game or a wrestling match or a track meet, I’m staying right here in town to do it.”
As that school spirit has diminished, so has pride in San Bernardino, Abad said. “We used to be better than Riverside,” he said. “People don’t say they love San Bernardino anymore. We have got to get it back to being a respectable place, what it was in the past. I want to build the city up and give it some respectability.”
Abad said, “I’d like to at least try to donate something back to the community. Before, I was teaching high school students to be citizens, teaching history and economics, and then they’d go out on their own and come to their real life. Young people are going out onto the streets of San Bernardino and they see how life works. It can be really discouraging, when you see the reality, see how it really is, what the reality is in San Bernardino. Secombe Park used to be a very nice place. I’ll bet you half the people who live here now would never go there. They won’t go to the other run-down areas. The high school graduates, the young adults, if they have ambition, they don’t see any chance of fulfilling it here. They say there is no future here in the engineering field or the medical profession of getting on the police force. They want to get into a respectable place with a job that will pay enough to protect their future. San Bernardino Valley is a good college but they’d rather go to Chaffey or Riverside City or Crafton. I say ‘Why not San Bernardino?’ But for them, it is just that they see the surrounding community day after day and want to go to a newer community college. I want to see improvement that will convince them differently.”
Abad says he has engaged with Councilman Henry Nickel from time to time and a few of the other members of the council, but that he finds his exchanges with Mulvihill to be a frustrating dead-end.
“I was talking to him about trees,” Abad said. “There was a neighborhood where the city took them out. They never replanted them. I happened to run into Jim [Mulvihill] on the street and said I was interested in planting some palm trees to take their place. He said, ‘Palm trees are prone to disease.’ I asked what the alternative is. He said I should call the city about getting trees they have which would go in. I did that, or I tried. I had to get permission, and then it was nothing but a constant run around. My thinking is that Jim Mulvihill knows what the problem is but he is overwhelmed. He’ll consider something long enough to give a speech, and then he just turns the corner and forgets about it. With him, it’s out of sight, out of mind. That’s why I think he has competition right now. There are some good candidates running against him.”
Abad said, “I worked at the Stater Bros. warehouse and I was a high school teacher for 30 years. I know what it is to work hard. I know what it is to teach children.”
A Pacific High School graduate, Abad went to San Bernardino Valley College where he earned an A.A. degree in sociology before moving on to UCLA and earning a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in kinesiology. He subsequently obtained a master’s degree in education and counseling from Cal State San Bernardino. He began his teaching career at Shandin Hills Middle School and then worked for the Colton Unified School District teaching at Bloomington High and subsequently moved to the Fontana School District, teaching at A.B. Miller High School, including a stint as a special education teacher.
He is remarried after the death of his first wife. He has two grown children, one who is an adjunct college professor and the other a supervisor of laboratory technicians with Kaiser Hospital in San Francisco.
-Mark Gutglueck

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