Cruz Seeking Upland Council Berth

Darwin Cruz, who is seeking the District 4 position on the Upland City Council in the November 8 election, said he is running because “Our community is at a critical juncture, and we need bold, strong leadership. District 4 needs to have visibility, transparency, and be represented by someone who will advocate for its residents.”
Cruz told District 4 residents that if he is elected, “I will proactively engage our community, and bring the necessary leadership. I will not simply wait for your call, and be reactive, which is how the current four-year incumbent Rudy Zuniga operates. District 4 deserves better. Our community deserves a new vision and someone to represent them who is willing to lead through service and engagement.”
Cruz, a financial professional who has worked 12 years in the banking industry, including nearly two years as a loan review administrator and credit analyst at Golden State Bank, credit analyst at Banc of California and a commercial loan processor at Pacific Premier Bank, has for some time evinced concern about Upland’s fiscal state. For more than two decades, the city has been on a downward financial spiral. In 2001, then-Upland Mayor John Pomierski began to make major giveaways to the city’s employees in terms of both generous salaries and benefits, including exorbitant pension plans it could not afford, to buy their silence about bribes he was taking. After Pomierski’s federal indictment in 2011, which would lead to his conviction on political corruption charges and a two-year prison sentence, the degree to which the greedy and irresponsible comportment of city officials had delivered the city to the doorstep of bankruptcy became apparent. A 2012 auditor’s opinion from the certified public accounting firm Mayer Hoffman and McCann stated there were serious questions with regard to the city’s solvency to the point that in a short while “it will be unable to continue as a going concern.” According to Standard and Poor’s, the city, which had already been downgraded from an AA credit rating to an A+, was in danger of seeing its credit rating eroding even further. In the decade since, the city in most years engaged in deficit spending, balancing its budget by making heavy borrowing from its reserves.
In 2020, Cruz vied for Upland city treasurer, coming up short in that contest.
Nonetheless, he issued a stern warning to the city about the inadvisability of utilizing so-called pension obligation bonds to defer to future generations its growing pension debt, a practice which has been likened by the Government Finance Officers Association to paying off the money owed on one credit card with another credit card. The city council did not heed his counsel, and moved toward issuing the bonds, which would have saddled the generations corresponding to the children and grandchildren of Upland’s current taxpayers with upwards of $350 million to retire the city’s current unpaid pension debt of $130 million. That debacle was narrowly averted when some of those who are now supporting Cruz’s candidacy acted to legally challenge that bond issuance, forcing the city to desist.
Cruz said he is worried that the financially unsophisticated council will be unable to map its way out of the quagmire it is already in and that through further endless fiscal folly it will drag the entire city into more monetary quicksand, leading to an inevitable bankruptcy.
“The challenges facing Upland in the future are financially complex and our city needs someone on the council with a background in finance and auditing,” Cruz said. “The 2020 Grand Jury report highlighted numerous managerial and operational inefficiencies, and this was under the leadership of the incumbent. Upland needs change to ensure its own financial and operational success.”
Addressing Upland’s residents directly, Cruz said, “Your ballots have been mailed and now it’s time to choose who you would like to represent you on the Upland City Council. I ask you: Do you want more of the same or are you ready for a new direction with new ideas, leadership, community engagement and solutions to resolve the issues that have been impacting our community the last four years?”
Cruz said, “I will help bring business development that complements our community. I’ll bring responsible housing development to enhance the character or our community. I am a fan of businesses that complement our city. We need a lot of small businesses. We need to be smart with our limited space and bring in business owners who hire local people and bring quality service to our residents. My focus in District 4 will be to try to help the current business owners in our downtown district and also work to bring in businesses to fill those vacant spots we have in our district. The more businesses we have, the more traffic it generates, which includes more tax sales revenue. That increases our budget and pays for services we are in dire need for.”
Cruz opposes Measure L, the Upland sales tax override initiative on the November 8 ballot, as one that is counterproductive.
He was committed Cruz said, to “advocate for public safety because we need a safe environment for everyone.”
Cruz said he would actively seek more money for Upland from Sacramento and Washington, D.C.
“I have no qualms knocking on the doors of our state representatives, federal representative to say, ‘We need grants,’” he said. “We need money.”
The city should move forward but be mindful of its past and should not discard those things that can be salvaged, Cruz said.
“Our community is rich with history, and we need to celebrate our past and embrace the future opportunities that we can accomplish, without losing the character that makes our community the gem of the City of Upland,” he said. “I will save our park space and work for additional green space. I will work tirelessly on additional solutions to address homelessness. I will partner with downtown businesses and property owners to create a more vibrant Downtown Upland. This can all be accomplished when you elect proactive leadership.”
“I am a local native who has seen our community and city quality of life decline and I know we can do better,” Cruz said. “I grew up in the Upland Housing Authority and my first job was as a dishwasher at the Upland Hills Country Club. Today, I am a college graduate with a decade-long career in banking credit risk, proving that with a plan and perseverance, anything in this world is possible.”

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