Mlynarski Says He Can Retool San Bernardino From Bankrupt Chaos To Prosperity

Though he considers incumbent San Bernardino 7th Ward Councilman Jim Mulvihill a friend, Dave Mlynarski is seeking to displace him from office in the upcoming year’s election, he said, because he considers Mulvihill “unresponsive” to the city’s current challenges. “We just can’t afford business as usual at City Hall any longer,” said Mlynarski.
Mlynarski has already acclimated himself to San Bernardino municipal governance and operations as a member of the city’s water board. Moreover, he has been involved in the business community for a generation. That, layered on top of his experience as a city employee elsewhere in San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties early in his adulthood leaves him primed to take on a leadership role and provide the clearheaded guidance the city needs, he said.
“I’ve been involved in this community since 1976 in one aspect or another,” he said. “I watched San Bernardino go from an All American city to a bankrupt city. I have contributed to the development of not only San Bernardino but the Inland Empire.”
He has been a responsible citizen in his role as a resident and an entrepreneur in San Bernardino, he said, “with the exception of the fact” that in recent years he has participated with the rest of the city in putting “the wrong people into office. We don’t seem to have all the right leadership at this time to focus on what is important in San Bernardino, including the 7th Ward incumbent who wants to focus on regional types of projects like bus lines, and other regional pursuits that cost taxpayer money out of our general fund,” he said. “I think we need to retool the city. Every city around us is prospering. We just seem to go further in the wrong direction and into debt. I think I possess a set of tools that are very unique which set me apart from the other current members of the city council. I believe together we can possess a very strong set of skills and perspectives to complement each other vs. creating conflict and a poor image for the city as a whole. I have been a member of boards and commissions involved in planning and business, so I think I have a lot of value.”
Mlynarski went on. “I would say instead of like a lot of people who threw up their hands, cashed out and moved out of our community, I have stayed,” he said. “I think that the leadership has made a lot of wrong choices. I just think we need a different dialogue on the city council, and I think I have the qualifications to start that dialogue.”
Of Mulvihill, who has a background in urban planning, Mlynarski said, “Jim and I are friends. We’ve talked over the years and we share some common ideas but as far as the details, Jim says ‘I don’t want to get into the minutiae.’ I see myself as a manager. I’m interested in operations. I want to watch the budget and keep our city on the right track.”
He noted that both he and Mulvihill come from the same neck of the woods, western New York state. “We grew up 20 minutes from each other,” he said. “We both came here in the same way, when we were stationed in California with the military. I think Jim Mulvihill is more of a policy guy and I’m more hands on, implementing that policy and working with agencies through complex issues.
“I think the problem is we’ve had enough of elected leaders who don’t want to work hard and only want to show up every two weeks and who don’t possess the knowledge or experience to question staff on critical matters or communicate effectively with the business community,” Mlynarski continued. “They can’t even figure out who is competent and who to select as staff as witnessed by the ever-revolving door of city managers and department heads costing the taxpayers millions of dollars in precious resources and unfulfilled expectations. I think with my experience and background at every level of local government, I can contribute significantly to get things on the right track.
“We need to deal directly with homelessness, code enforcement and public safety,” Mlynarski continued. “I think we are spending too much energy dealing with the wrong issues. We can fill potholes and fix the medians, but the roads are going to continue to deteriorate and the flowers are going to die. We have to turn our economic engine on. If we don’t, we’ll be right back in bankruptcy before too long.”
And how would Mlynarski induce San Bernardino’s economic recovery?
“Almost every community surrounding our city is doing relatively well,” he said. “We need to have leaders that know how to communicate with business sector leaders, who know how to bring confidence to investors and communicate with their constituents all the time rather than for three or four months right before the election cycle.”
Mlynarski said, “I have worked very closely with dozens of agencies in and around the Inland Empire during the last 35 years. I’ve seen examples of what works at various levels and seen what doesn’t work. I think, unfortunately, our leaders haven’t had the experience I have had. I don’t think we have to have the same experience, but I will bring a unique tool chest to the dais. Every election, the city has to respond to different needs. I was a city planner. I worked for a development company. I’ve sat on boards and commissions.”
Alluding to the difficulty the city experienced under the leadership of Stacy Alstadt, the general manager of the San Bernardino Water Department, Mlynarski said, “I helped retool our water department into a more sound and strategic operation. We implemented a strategic plan and reorganized our city water department.  We settled several major lawsuits with our regional water partners and saved the city ratepayers precious resources to put back into infrastructure and water conservation projects.  It was tough, but we didn’t walk out of meetings. We [members of the city’s water department board of directors] are strongminded and hard working. The 7th Ward needs a change rather than someone walking out of council meetings because he’s upset.”
Mlynarski’s reference was to the action of the city council at its February 6 meeting this year when Mayor John Valdivia was seeking to get council approval for his proposal to hire four staffers who would be directly answerable to him and his chief of staff. The council at that point numbered six members, one shy of its full complement of seven. The position of Third Ward councilmember, vacated after Valdivia’s resignation to move into the mayor’s post following the 2018 election in which he had been elected mayor with two years yet remaining on his council term, had not been filled. At that point, Valdivia, who is a non-voting member of the council except in the case of a tie, had the support of councilmembers Ted Sanchez, Sandra Ibarra and Bessine Richard. Opposed to the hiring of new staff members entirely within the purview of the mayor were councilmen Fred Shorett, Henry Nickel and Jim Mulivhill. Recognizing that Valdivia as mayor has no direct voting power under normal circumstances and that if they were to participate in the vote with regard to hiring the staff members that the vote would end in a 3-to-3 deadlock which Valdivia would then have the power to turn in his favor by using his tie-breaking voting power, Shorett, Nickel and Mulvihill utilized their mastery of parliamentary procedure to walk off the council dais and thereby ensure that a needed quorum of the council was not available for the vote to be held. In this way, the trio effectively thwarted the mayor’s effort to empower himself in a manner that they and many of their constituents felt was inconsistent with the city charter. In Mlynarski’s view, staging the walkout was a base political act.
Mlynarski grew up on the East Coast. In 1976, while in the Air Force, he was stationed at Norton Air Force Base. Upon his discharge, he remained in San Bernardino, and attended San Bernardino Valley College and then California State University San Bernardino.  He found work as an assistant planner with the City of Fontana, then as an associate planner and zoning administrator with the City of Palmdale. He left the public sector and parlayed his experience behind the planning counter to become the vice president of land development with Moning Development in Fullerton, later becoming vice president of market development with Redlands-based Sierra Engineering. He gravitated to employment with Mapco, a civil engineering and land surveying company, which he purchased. In 2006 Mapco merged with Transtech Engineers, Inc., whereupon Mlynarski became a principal with that company, a position he now holds overseeing its Inland Empire operations.
“In San Bernardino alone, I have been heavily involved in the development of over a quarter billion dollars in subdivisions and retail centers,” he said.
Mlynarski is a member of the American Planning Association; the Baldy View Chapter of the Building Industry Association, of which he is currently an executive committee member;  the Inland Empire Economic Recovery Corporation, of which he is also the chief financial officer; the National Association of Home Builders; the City of San Bernardino Board of Franchises, of which he was the past chairman; the Urban Land Institute and the California Water Resources Institute Alluvial Fan Task Force. He was formerly a member of the County of San Bernardino Solid Waste Advisory Task Force, the Land Development Committee for the Catholic Diocese of San Bernardino and the City of San Bernardino Board of Building Commissioners.
-Mark Gutglueck

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