His 5th Ward San Bernardino Council Candidacy Is A Stand For Inclusion, Reynoso Says

Ben Reynoso is one of five candidates challenging incumbent 5th Ward Councilman Henry Nickel for reelection in the City of San Bernardino’s municipal election next year, which will correspond with the March 3, 2020 California Presidential Primary.
A San Bernardino native, Reynoso is a graduate of Cajon High School. He attended and graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in English. He is now in his last semester at Loyola Marymount University, in pursuit of a teaching credential.
“I’ve been involved as an organizer since I was 15 years old,” Reynoso said. “I‘ve seen issues remain while our political leadership’s focus for rectifying these issues hasn’t gotten any clearer; we are seeing fewer results and no progress. There is an extreme lack of inclusiveness. I’m tired of being on one side of the table and feeling that our representatives on the other side of the table still aren’t on their constituents’ side. I look at the people running things and I want real change.”
His candidacy is not based on any hard and fast political difference with the incumbent, Reynoso said.
“I have no problem with Henry Nickel,” he noted, stating, “Of those up on the council, he asks better questions than the other councilmembers. For me the underlying issue is still inclusiveness. There is not any inclusiveness, at all, even from Nickel.”
The city is beset, Reynoso said, with “tons of issues,” which he said fell into three basic categories. “The major issues in no particular order are education, health and development,” he said.
“Educationally there are things going on that are great,” he explained. “But we have not been getting results. Our education system is not supported by pathways to employment. The end of those pathways don’t exist. We have started people off and we have educated them, but there are no jobs here when they are through. The students we graduate from California State University San Bernardino have to move on to get work.”
Continuing his overview, Reynoso said, “We are a hub for goods moving to market. We have one of the highest concentrations of warehouses in the nation. People on the ground are feeling the impact from that. There is nothing to mitigate the pollution that comes with the current goods movement,” he said, saying the detrimental aspects of a distribution-based economy and the physical elements it entails such as worker exploitation, massive numbers of carbon-spewing trucks and the warehouses themselves offset their benefits. “People have to be smarter about development and putting pollution-intensive warehouses so close to houses and churches, closest to the most impoverished parts of our city,” he said. “Development is better than no development but that doesn’t mean we have to be in the pocket of whoever is doing the developing. Too often we have been bending over for scraps. I am calling for accountability from the development community and our city officials.”
In terms of solutions, Reynoso said San Bernardino has to replicate what it has done well in limited venues across a larger scale.
A case-in-point, he said, is the career pathway program his alma mater has for students interested in finding employment within the medical field.
“Cajon High has a biomedical career pathway program in partnership with Loma Linda University,” he said.
The San Bernardino community and its political leadership, he said, have to be both “intentional” and “deliberate” in seeking to have similar programs in place for its high school graduates and the graduates from Cal State San Bernardino and San Bernardino Valley College.
The Cajon High pathway program, Reynoso said, is a rare “example of the kind of career pathway programs that work. We need to be more intentional about retaining people who have been educated here into our work force locally.”
He said “Some of those attending the School of Education at Cal State San Bernardino are staying in San Bernardino, but we need to keep people we have educated here at a much higher level. The university has many local residents and those from out of the area who want to be students here, but they do not stay.”
Reynoso said he wanted to get a conversation started about educational programs “at middle schools and high schools” that would cultivate in the students attending them skills that could then be used in local workplaces which have a need for those precise skills. “The schools should make them ready for jobs at many levels,” he said.
On a separate track, Reynoso said, he envisions programs promoting local industry and employment venues, “that hopefully would create jobs for them.”
Because warehouse jobs are now so predominant in this area, Reynoso said, there should be an element of the education being provided to students which arms them with the faculties and sophistication “so they can advocate for better wages.”
Without being any more specific, Reynoso referenced the “International Baccalaureate Program,” which he indicated was available locally. “That program offers great teachers here but does not provide opportunities for people to stay here,” he said.
He said the area’s political leadership needs to be more aggressive in extracting from the major developers and strong national corporations doing business in San Bernardino funding to augment and supplement the city’s educational and social support programs.
“Amazon is the biggest private sector employer here,” he said, simultaneously referencing Hillwood Development, which is a corporation headed by Ross Perot, Jr. which, Reynoso pointed, has an exclusive development agreement for the civilian use conversion at the former Norton Air Force Base, now known as San Bernardino International Airport.
He noted that Hillwood Development is responsible for the creation of 26 warehouses on the grounds of the former base or immediately surrounding it. Warehouse, logistics, and product distribution jobs, while better than nothing, Reynoso observed, carry with them multiple negative facets, including relatively poor wages, negative environmental impacts, and the disempowerment of its workforce.
He said Amazon engages in “temporary” hiring, which he said “does not guarantee workers employment.”
He called for the city forging “community benefit agreements” with both Amazon and Hillwood to offset the harmful health and financial consequences of the Amazon operations and others being attracted into San Bernardino International Airport by Hillwood.
Reynoso said the city should use Hillwood as its proxy in negotiating concessions from Amazon. “Amazon is not the developer of that warehousing,” Reynoso said. “Hillwood is. I would have the developer, the landlord, push for more from Amazon.”
Likewise, the city should use its regulatory authority to induce Amazon and other logistics companies locating into San Bernardino to “electrify,” that is end their reliance on trucks and vehicles using fossil fuels, he said.
“If I were to be elected, I will say we should obtain from those companies all the community benefit agreements we can, obtaining money from the different carriers to augment our school system, so you can turn this into a hub for training people on real career jobs,” Reynoso said. “This could be the first step in a long effort toward what could be great development in our city.”
Getting rid of diesel and gas powered vehicles, increasing workers’ pay and giving them job security, Reynoso said, would “advance the community” away from “how the culture here has become 18-wheeler and warehouse first. I am proposing accountability for our public officials and our corporations. We have to seriously think about how we can put people over profits.”
Reynoso said “Education and awareness in general has to come from our [government] representatives. Representation is all about transparency to me. There has to be an intentional education about things around us impacting us. There needs to be a logical situational assessment of what all the blowback will be if people are damaged by a new warehouse right off of the freeway, next to their homes.”
“We need civic engagement, so that people can see what the impact of their participation is, see it and feel it, and know that their votes matter again,” Reynoso said.
Reynoso said that his political philosophy is a logical outgrowth of his family background. “I come from a long line of social workers and educators,” he said.
Reynoso said he normally does not dwell on his racial background, but said it perhaps has some currency and relevancy in his electoral effort in San Bernardino.
“Culturally, I was raised as a Mexican-American and African-American,” he said. “My father is Mexican-American and my mother is African-American. As someone who is bi-racial growing up in San Bernardino, I saw a lot of tension between those two communities. I also studied in Mississippi, which has given me a wider perspective. No matter what you think of that place, I am extremely grateful that it has given me a lens to see bias in more than one way. I think from where I sit, I am able to transcend all racial barriers and recognize that in the vast majority of common issues we face, race is an irrelevancy.”
-Mark Gutglueck

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