By Daniela Ramirez
A city reeling from the pandemic and racial divide seen last year looked to Riverside’s new mayor as she talked economic recovery, equity and housing during her first State of the City Address.
The annual address was recorded at the Fox Performing Arts Center in downtown Riverside and aired Jan. 28.
Mayor Patricia Lock Dawson discussed beautification of the city, addressing the homeless population, the pandemic-induced healthcare crisis and anti-racism strategies in her plans to “work together towards tomorrow.”
The first major area Dawson aims to tackle is Riverside’s finances. The mayor’s three-pronged approach to fiscal success includes refinancing city debt, creating a budget stabilization committee and generating new revenue. Increased investment, not taxes, should be the path toward financial growth, she said.
“Sales tax revenue for the fiscal year came in above pandemic expectations,” Dawson said.
City officials expected a worse financial impact from COVID-19 than what came to be. According to Dawson, the actual tax revenue received allows the city to meet adjusted budget targets.
Having a robust social capital is her goal for the city.
Navigating COVID-19, is also high on her list of priorities. Vaccine distribution and services for pandemic-impacted Riverside residents will continue, she assured.
“Riverside will be shaped by, not defined by, the pandemic,” Dawson said. “We will keep doing what we have done before: creating opportunity from adversity.”
Dawson said her job is to serve all Riverside residents no matter what and has included anti-racist action in her strategic plan. She acknowledged inequality within the city and the nation, calling this reality a potential striving force to bring all communities together.
“While Riverside values diversity, it doesn’t mean we are immune to racism,” Dawson said. “Inequities … allow some of us to succeed while holding others back.”
The mayor promised diversity audits in the workforce, so that all residents are given the opportunity to have a place at the table.
Affordable housing, a major deficiency in many areas, has also become a problem in an increasingly populated Riverside. Dawson said 24,000 new housing units will be built by 2029.
“Riversiders must be able to live where they work,” she said.
Along with new affordable housing, the mayor said new jobs are coming to the city. The mayor has planned vocational programs that aim to keep skilled tradesmen in the city and create a more diverse workforce.
Incorporating the Santa Ana River into society would create many new opportunities, Dawson said, from education, to the beautification of Riverside and small market places alongside that would add to the growing city.
The mayor urged hope despite the hard work and challenges that lay ahead.
“As Americans, as Riversiders, we are uniquely positioned to rise to this challenge and emerge a stronger, more prosperous community,” Dawson said.