By Jonathan Ramirez
Community outcry against local corruption and warehousing inspired a Riverside Community College District graduate to run for a seat on the Moreno Valley City Council.
Jorge Zavala, 22, served as the district’s student trustee for the 2019-20 academic year and graduated from Moreno Valley College in June. He has lived in Moreno Valley since the second grade.
Zavala was inspired by the Facebook group Moreno Valley’s Politics Matter, a platform that inspires dialogue amongst its members.
“What they all agreed on was the corruption and warehouses as a problem,” Zavala said. “There, I got to see what people were really siding for and what they were angry about.”
Zavala plans to run his campaign completely free of donations. He said families should use their money wisely during the pandemic and that money has no place in politics.
“You should not have to be funded if the community knows you,” Zavala says. ”If you’re getting out there and going to these events then you don’t need money for people to know who you are.”
Instead, he plans to run his campaign solely out-of-pocket while working for Amazon Air.
He will be running against David Marquez to represent District 3, the city’s largest district. Marquez has represented District 3 since 2016.
Zavala argued that, although Marquez has more experience, what sets him apart are his new ideas.
If elected, his first plan is to add districts and thus more representatives in the city to better represent all residents.
“If you compare our population to other cities with similar populations like San Bernardino, they actually have seven council members and they are able to more effectively represent their constituents,” Zavala said. “Here in Moreno Valley, we only have four council members with the same population.”
Riverside County received an F grade for ozone levels and particle pollution in the 2016 State of the Air report conducted by the American Lung Association. The World Logistics Center, a warehouse complex the size of 700 football fields approved by the city council in 2015, has some residents worried that Moreno Valley’s air quality will only get worse.
Zavala wants to end the construction of warehouses, which contribute to poor air quality with the commuting trucks they require. Although he understands demolition costs and the contractual complications of getting rid of warehouses, Zavala said the city can combat air pollution by planting more trees.
“Start beautifying the city,” Zavala said. “We need to start somewhere in order to better our air quality.”
Nationwide Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality have raised questions about police funding and called attention to the strained relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve. Several of these protests occurred in Moreno Valley in early June, when demonstrators marched on City Hall and confronted Riverside County Sheriff’s deputies.
Zavala emphasized the need for community building between police officers and citizens. He advocates for an effective budget that does not militarize the police with unnecessary equipment.
“We need to make sure our people are not looking at the police as if they are being militarily occupied,” he said “We need to stop fighting one another.”
Zavala is the youngest candidate in the upcoming election on Nov. 3.