Worldly Soldier Scholar Cohen Looks To Oust Davis In Redlands District 1 Electoral Bid

Saying he “supports fiscally conservative views with socially pragmatic policies,” Rodgir Cohen explained that “I am running for city council because I feel that public policy can be done better in Redlands.”
Cohen, along with Andrew Hoder and Tom Berg, is vying in the November 8 election against Redlands First District Councilwoman Denise Davis, who is nearing the end of her first term in office after she was initially elected to the city council in 2018.
“As a combat veteran, I am a seasoned leader with the vision needed to stimulate the economic growth of Redlands,” he said. “Redlands needs bold leaders that envision economic prosperity for our city. I believe in freedom and liberty, and abhor government overreach.”
Cohen said he believes he is qualified to hold the position of city councilman because “I am a data-driven person. I don’t want to make decisions based on party agendas or personal whims. As an author of political science books in California, I believe in the importance of data. How one interprets that data is essential. As a seasoned combat veteran and academic, public service is important to me.” A university lecturer, Dr. Cohen believes in restoring governmental power to the grassroots level. He said he holds the values of justice and equality for all people as guiding principles when teaching.
Cohen said a number of recent events in the 73,168-population, 36.43-square mile city are “relevant for this campaign.”
One of those is the City of Redlands’ successful application for a $24,142,000 federal American Rescue Plan grant and another $5,858,000 obtained through the California Department of Housing & Community Development, which will fund the conversion of the Good Nite Inn, located at 1675 Industrial Park Avenue, into a full-dimensional shelter for the community’s chronically homeless. Upon conversion, the hotel will have 98 permanent supportive housing units, each with a kitchenette, intended to provide shelter on either a temporary or extended basis for those currently living on the streets.
“As to the homeless motel conversion,” Cohen said, “the approach to help homelessness in Redlands currently undertaken lacks the vision for good public policy. Centralizing the unhoused in environmentally dangerous conditions in commercially zoned areas perpetuates systemic racism and diminishes diversity. People living in socially segregated communities should be allowed to reside in communities with better environmental circumstances. I hope the best for this program; however, it further divides those at risk within our community and fails to help women with children.”
Cohen said, “The homeless problems need to be thought of differently. In order to create diversity in Redlands, one does not centralize all people who are unhoused in the most environmentally dangerous areas to live. To create socially equitable communities, people need to be treated as humans and housed within communities in order to become [reintegrated] and transition into the community and not be seen as a burden by placing them outside of the community in commercially zoned areas.”
With regard to crime, Cohen said, “The crime blotter reports in Redlands are rising with more severe crimes. The police department not only needs more funding than Measure T, but we also need focused regulations to help improve the ability of the police to protect the city.”
Cohen’s reference was to the initiative put on the 2020 ballot and approved by 57.35 percent of the city’s voters, which allows for the collection of a one-cent sales tax that will generate an estimated $10.7 million in funding to preserve public safety, city services and local infrastructure.
“I am worried that general funds will be reallocated from Measure T,” he said.
Cohen said city officials should route a significant portion of the Measure T money to dealing with the proliferation of lawlessness in Redlands.
“A major issue facing the city is crime, as evidenced by [media] reporting,” he said. “The incumbent’s platform and performance have been silent on this issue. Under the incumbent’s term, we have uncontrolled crime coming into the city. Higher crime rates are being reported, and people are being impacted because of public policy supported by the incumbent that diminished the power of the police to act. The funding is there. The vision to serve the community is wrong with the incumbent.”
He said, “An example is I was recently sitting at the Starbucks in front of Target, and a woman suffering from mental illness came and sat in front of me on the patio of the coffee shop. She told me she was ‘running from Putin’ and then promptly defecated on the ground. The business owner felt powerless to act, feeling that the police could do nothing. Our city needs to be addressing laws around vagrancy and equip private property areas to provide security for safekeeping of all citizens.”
Cohen hastened to add that “I do not believe it is a crime to be homeless. The unhoused are citizens. I do feel the incumbent’s leadership in homelessness creates less diversity and systemic racism.”
Redlands as a city can be more aggressive in combating crime and be more cooperative and better coordinated with other governmental agencies in doing so, Cohen said.
“The city council can be leaning into the county and state to redefine thresholds for theft,” he said. “State law holds that stealing merchandise worth $950 or less is just a misdemeanor, which means that law enforcement probably won’t bother to investigate, and if they do, prosecutors will let it go. Our city needs to be leaning into the state to change this. The city council needs to become more encompassing. It needs to be specific in working with police to create policies that allow the police to protect the communities from crime and vagrancy. Current policies limit action.”
Asked to contrast himself with the incumbent Davis, Cohen said, “A major distinction between Ms. Davis and myself is in vision. The incumbent’s public policy views are narrow in scope and limit their applicability from being relevant to all of her constituents. As a combat veteran and academic, I am fully committed to ensuring that public policy creates diversity and equity for all people.”
The city does not necessarily need to spend more money to actuate the solutions to the existential, social and political problems and difficulties the city and its residents face, Cohen said.
“As a grassroots advocate, I believe the government is not here to be the problem solver but to partner with community groups,” he said. “If we continue on the status quo, the incumbent will miss the vision needed to create a diverse and equitable Redlands.”
Asked what previous experience relating to government he possesses, Cohen referenced three academic books he has authored, Choosing Liberty in California Policy Reform: Examining Affordable Housing, Euthanasia, Occupational Licensing, and School Choice in California and Foundations of Political Science 2021, as well as well as California Government and Politics.
According to a review of one of the books, Cohen’s writing is done from “a free-market capitalist perspective.”
“I research heavily into government public policy,” Cohen told the Sentinel.
Cohen attended high school in Plano, Texas. He has a Bachelor of Arts degree in government and politics from the University of Texas at Dallas; a Master of Arts degree in religious studies from Southern Adventist University; a Master of Arts degree in Jewish studies from Gratz College and received his doctorate in philosophy from Avondale University College in New South Wales in Australia.
According to Cohen, he returned to Redlands two years ago after living there previously.
“This is my second year since returning to Redlands after being in the armed forces and returning from living in New Zealand,” Cohen said.
He is an instructor and lecturer at Chaffey Community College in the Department of Political Science, at Mt. San Jacinto Community College in the Department of Political Science and Loma Linda University within the School of Religion. In addition he carries out academic research related to public policy in the state of California and approaches to solving existing social issues.
He is married to Rabbi Dr. Heftsibah Cohen. They have three children, ages 20, 17, and 12.

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