San Bernardino Mayoral Candidates battle Ideas

San Bernardino Mayoral Candidates battle Ideas
Photo by the west side story newspaper, "City Of San Bernardino Mayoral Candidates Trade Barbs and Competing Ideas"

Nearing San Bernardino Mayoral Elections this month at one of the latest debates between Mayoral Candidates Jim Penman and Helen Tran sponsored by the Northwest Project Area Committee held at the Sixteenth Street Seventh Day Adventist Church where the attendees heard two different versions of the future of the City of San Bernardino.

Helen Tran

Candidate Helen Tran, according to the Tran campaign website, worked for the City of San Bernardino as the Executive Assistant to the Director of Human Resources and after ten years was elevated to Director of Human Resources.

While Helen Tran was Human Resources Director for the City of San Bernardino in early 2019, three female employees filed complaints against the city’s mayor John Valdivia claiming inappropriate conduct according to a webpage for law firm Pelayes, & Yu, APC.

The law firm alleged on March 14, 2019, Human Resources Director Helen Tran issued a memorandum to Mayor Valdivia warning him about having employee Mirna Cisneros work out of class by repeatedly assigning her to work various after-hours events, which were not within the scope of her work duties.

Shortly after, Helen Tran left her position at the City of San Bernardino and accepted a position as Director, Human Resources & Risk Management at West Covina according to Voter’s Edge website.

Based on the Tran campaign website, in 2006, Tran earned her Bachelor’s degree in American Studies with a minor in Education from the University of California at Santa Cruz.

Jim Penman

After graduating from law school, Jim Penman became an attorney in private practice in the City of San Bernardino.  In 1987, he was elected with 70% of the vote as City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino after being named “the Best Lawyer in the Inland Empire,” and held that office for 26 years.

Until he was recalled by 60.66% of the voters in 2013, according to records at the San Bernardino County Register of Voters.  At the time, John Husing, an economist and political strategist was quoted saying, “From the day he was elected city attorney, he fought with every mayor to try to run the city from his office.” Mozingo, J. (12/30/2015) Did hard-nosed ex-city attorney clean up or cause San Bernardino’s problems? Los Angeles Times

At that time, former Mayor Judith Valles shared, “Anyone who came as mayor, he didn’t trust. He didn’t trust me. Everyone was suspect.” Mozingo, J. (12/30/2015) Did hard-nosed ex-city attorney clean up or cause San Bernardino’s problems? Los Angeles Times

Jim Penman obtained his Bachelor of Arts, from California State University, San Bernardino, in June 1969, followed by receiving a Juris Doctorate from Western State University, College of Law, in December 1979, according to the Jim Penman campaign website.

Out, “He was the major disrupting influence who brought the city to its knees. He’s made it impossible to get anything done….,” John Husing, an economist and political strategist who writes the Inland Empire Quarterly Economic Report.  Mozingo, J. (12/30/2015) Did hard-nosed ex-city attorney clean up or cause San Bernardino’s problems? Los Angeles Times

The Debate

Tran cited her knowledge of what the city has gone through and the complexity of city government after working for the city for 14 years.  Tran explained she would engage with council members to effectively address many issues facing the city such as homelessness, and public safety, to repair streets, improve infrastructure, redevelop downtown, and provide affordable housing.

Penman cited his dedication to the City of San Bernardino and that he thought he was done with politics after being voted out of office.  Penman explained the only people he was meant to were slumlords and developers who were trying to get a free ride from the city.  Penman revealed his plan to take two vacant buildings, convert them into homeless housing, and provide mental health, anti-addiction services, and job training.

As to what Tran’s first item to accomplish in her first year would be, Tran spoke of creating relationships with the council, the administration, and with the community, everyone that needs to be at the table to move the city forward.  Tran spoke of being an ally to those at the table, working collaboratively, and then working together to deliver services effectively and efficiently while holding the city manager and administration accountable.

While Penman explained he won’t waste his time building relationships with people he already has a relationship with, explaining when you have a mayor in training, they have to spend the first year establishing relationships with the council, referring to his opponent.  As to what his first item to accomplish in his first year as mayor would be Penman said he would hire more police officers and that citizens should not have to wait hours or days to have an officer respond when they call 911.

What would penman do with Homeless people?

In response to issues of homelessness and mental health, Penman explained the city needed to provide the homeless housing before it could legally enforce its ordinance prohibiting outdoor camping.  “We are going to treat them with respect, kindness, and decency, we are going to get them housing,” Penman voiced explaining numerous studies show less than 40% want to be off the streets. Penman offered, “We are going to rehire retired law enforcement officers to move them, and move them, again, and again, until they either decide to go to the housing or go to another city.”

Tran becomes realistic

Tran criticized Penman’s plan to rehire retired law enforcement officers to address homelessness, explaining it would jeopardize their pension per CalPers Regulations, claiming Penman made empty promises to gain support.  Tran countered that Penman had never been mayor and should stop saying she is a mayor in training.  On homelessness, Tran explained, “There are so many ways of dealing with it, it’s complex, there is not a one size fits all on homelessness.”   Tran reasoned you can’t work alone as the mayor, you have to work collaboratively with the county, and with the council to create a policy, and a plan of action, and adopt it before you can access government funds.

On the question of affordable housing, Penman questioned Tran’s plan.  “How are you going to work with them?” Penman asked, adding, “Who has the money, the federal government has the money, the state has some.”  As the former director of human resources, my opponent should know it doesn’t affect the pension of retired police officers to be hired as investigators.  We are going to get affordable housing.  We will get it as mayors have always gotten it.  I don’t need to wait around to start working with council members to do these things.

Forget about homeless housing

Tran acknowledged, “Affordable housing is a huge crisis, not just in our city, but throughout the state and the state is already implementing a mechanism for us to really push and build affordable housing quickly.”  Tran continued, “Mr. Penman talked about abandoned buildings and turning them into housing for the homeless, we should turn that into affordable housing.  We need to create a pathway to homeownership for renters.  You have to work with your partners, that is with your state legislators, and that is the county, that is with our organizations out in the community.

With the power of the mayor having been reduced by the council, Jim Penman explained why he still wants to run for the office of mayor.  “I have been out of office for nine years and I have watched the city go down, down, down,” Penman observed explaining when he left office people opined it couldn’t get any worse, and some thought half their problems would leave when he left.  The city is worse, Penman opined voicing that he has a passion for San Bernardino, his children and grandchildren live in San Bernardino, and would be remiss if he didn’t take action to help the city.

“I am raising my three children, with my husband who I met at Sierra High, and we are living in San Bernardino, raising our children, investing our time and our life within the city,” Helen Tran voiced.  “I am sorry Mr. Penman, 26 years of failed leadership, adversarial relationships, having seen directors and leaders leave this city because they got fed up,” Tran declared adding, “That is why I am running.”  Tran concluded, “I look forward to moving this city forward, not backward, new leadership, new energy, that is much needed because we have a huge list of things to do, we have to get things done immediately.”

The biggest obstacle

As to the biggest obstacle she found at city hall, Tran recognized there was a lack of leadership.  “If you can’t lead effectively, everything else falls apart,” Tran explained adding, “You have to make sure that you are working as an ally, not as an adversary.”  Tran apologized and opined, “And I’m sorry, my opponent has been an adversary for 26 years as a former city attorney.”  Tran promised to lead with humility, work together with the council, set aside differences, represent all of the citizens, and be an effective leader for the city moving it forward to get to the bottom of it to tackle a laundry list of issues facing the city.  Tran said there is a solution to every problem.

“The biggest obstacle when I was city attorney, was corruption, and that’s the biggest obstacle today, corruption that’s what needs to be addressed,” Penman explained saying that was why he was adversarial.  “And sadly, my opponent is getting into the same thing, a memo went out from her campaign last week, saying that women in city hall had accused me of sexual harassment that was a big lie.”  Penman declared that he was investigated, and cleared of any wrongdoing by the California State Bar, holding up documents to support his statements.  Penman warned that a candidate that would lie during a campaign would use those same tactics in office.

Tran countered, “I am going to stand up for these women, who were faced with harassment and I am going to stand up for them because you did them wrong all these women.”

“I just heard my opponent say that she is going to stand up for women,” Penman voiced, asking, “She is going to stand up for them the way she stood up for the women that complained to her office about Mayor John Valdivia?”  Penman opined that Tran abandoned the women and ran to West Covina.


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This article originally appeared in City Of San Bernardino Mayoral Candidates Trade Barbs and Competing Ideas

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