With mayor defeated, San Bernardino council’s spirits soar – San Bernardino Sun

I was on my way to the San Bernardino City Council meeting when a giant election sign on a chain-link fence caught my eye: “John Valdivia, The People’s Mayor.”

This was too good to pass up. I turned around, drove back, parked and walked over for a commemorative photo. You’ve gotta admit that based on election returns so far, “The People’s Mayor” boomeranged as a campaign slogan.

In a field of seven, Valdivia is running a distant third, which means he won’t even qualify for the runoff in November. “The People’s Mayor” got a puny 17% of the vote.

That means 83% of “The People” told their mayor to take a hike.

And he got the message, at least temporarily. He was absent from Wednesday’s ceremony to swear in the new police chief, Darren Goodman. And he was absent from that evening’s City Council meeting too.

One of Valdivia’s refrains this year, when council members increasingly ignored him and his ideas, was to complain about “the do-nothing council.” If Wednesday was any guide, now he’s the do-nothing mayor.

Where was he? What was he doing? Maybe he was taking a hike. And muttering about do-nothing voters. (Late in the meeting, Councilman Theodore Sanchez said Valdivia “may have already left the country.” It was hard to tell if he was joking.)

Anyway, I got to the council meeting on time, unlike the council, which was still in closed session. So I chatted with two of the mayoral candidates who were in the audience.

“I accomplished what I set out to do, which was to get John Valdivia out,” Treasure Ortiz told me. Although she finished fourth, Ortiz was a revved-up speaker during council meetings on the need to dump Valdivia, which even her critics concede may have had a positive effect on those watching from home.

The likely two candidates in the Nov. 8 runoff are Helen Tran, who was far out front with 41% of the vote, and Jim Penman, a distant second with 20%.

Ortiz is no fan of Tran, her former boss in the city’s Human Resources department, or of Penman, a former city attorney who was recalled by voters in 2014. Given the choice likely to be in front of them, how would she advise voters?

“I would tell people I would never, ever support Jim Penman. I would leave it at that,” Ortiz told me. She added: “But they absolutely have to vote. Regardless of my opinion, they need to show up.”

Penman was sitting with Judith Valles, a former mayor who is his major supporter.

Did Penman imagine that the well-financed Valdivia was as vulnerable as he turned out to be?

“Oh yeah,” Penman told me. “There was so much negative press against him. Almost his entire staff resigned and filed lawsuits against him. That’s almost impossible to overcome.”

Penman seems unlikely to prevail in November, given how far behind he ran, but he said we shouldn’t count him out.

Once the meeting got underway, just six of the eight council members were present. Not only was Valdivia a no-show, so was Ben Reynoso. Since the pair seem to have become mortal enemies in recent months, it’s safe to say they were not watching the meeting together on TV.

City Manager Rob Field was midway through his oral report on city doings — fireworks, street improvements, a recent police sweep and more — when his relaxed tone struck me.

During the period for council members to comment, Sandra Ibarra plugged the movie in the park, “Tom & Jerry,” that will show at dusk Friday at Anne Shirells Park (1367 N. California St.). “It’s not in my ward, but you may see me there,” Ibarra said lightly. “I really want to see that movie.”

That’s about as relaxed as I’ve heard Ibarra sound too. The tension on the dais and in the executive ranks always evaporates when Valdivia is absent.

Also, Ibarra appears to have won reelection, as did councilmen Sanchez and Fred Shorett, which has to be a good feeling.

As council members took their turns yakking, good feelings prevailed.

“I’d like to congratulate all my colleagues up here who won reelection,” Kimberly Calvin said with enthusiasm. “We’re going to be doing some great things.”

Listing recent activities in which he participated, including a community barbecue and dance, and a 5K race, Damon Alexander crowed: “The do-nothing council is doing something.” Moments later, he emphasized the collegiality: “You getting the pattern, all of us doing stuff together?”

There was more where that came from, but I’ll spare you.

The good vibes, of course, may not last beyond November. They’re already a little nauseating. But “The People” have spoken, and you can’t blame the council for liking what they had to say.

This just in

Linda Reich will be Chino’s city manager starting Aug. 1. That will make her the first woman to serve as her city’s chief executive. Reich, now the community services director, replaces Matt Ballantyne, who decamped to Fontana as its city manager earlier this year.

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