Breanna Reeves |
This interview has been edited for clarity.
Jaime Hurtado, Manager of Riverside’s International Business Office, and former Chief of Staff for Fifth District County Board of Supervisors, Marion Ashley, has declared his candidacy to become Moreno Valley’s next mayor.
A long-time resident of the Inland Empire, Hurtado attended UC Riverside and CSU San Bernardino and majored in Political Science. As current mayor Dr. Yxstian Gutierrez’s term comes to an end, Hurtado is stepping in to run for the open seat.
The IE Voice and Black Voice News spoke with Hurtado about his motivation for running as well as his plans for the city, if elected.
Q: What prompted you to run for the position of mayor of Moreno Valley?
A: I’ve always had a sense of public service. I’ve had 35 plus years in community service, working for elected officials, and I care a lot about Moreno Valley. I would definitely work hard to contribute in that leadership capacity. I ran for county supervisor two years ago, and I have this sense of wanting to serve in a capacity where I know I will make a difference based on my experience, my commitment, not only to my community, but to the region. I was approached by some business and community leaders to consider running, since it’s an open seat. And, after talking to my wife and family, they’re supportive of this. They know that I have a sense of public service. I consider myself a public servant, a servant leader.
Q: Do you think your work and experience as the manager of Riverside’s International Business Office prepared you to run for this position? If yes, how so?
A: Yes, I manage the International Business Office for the county, but prior to that, I worked 16 years in county administration, with a county board supervisor. So I ran this district for a long time. There’s six cities in that district. One of them is the largest city in that district, Moreno Valley. So, I’m very familiar, not only with county government, (but) with city government as well and its functions. And yes, to answer your question, I believe that my current position here with the County Office of Economic Development and International Business Office does help me to a certain degree, but I have all this background experience that definitely would help me overall.
Q: What do you believe is the role of mayor? What unique qualities would you bring to that role?
A: Well, a mayor is certainly a figure of leadership in any city. Sort of like the president of a city, more or less, the go-to person for citizens, for residents, to make sure that their government is running accordingly, appropriately and responsively. And that the city services or the services the city provides is working for its residents. The mayor is looked upon as a voice for its residents of any city, particularly Moreno Valley. It’s the second largest city in the county. It’s a working class, family type city, with tremendous potential for growth. It’s only 50 percent developed in the city, so it’s got potential to bring in good sustainable jobs. A mayor certainly plays a big role in attracting those jobs, meaning the potential businesses that want to establish themselves in the city. I would be the voice for a city that large. I would definitely be accessible to its citizens and hear what they have to say and provide feedback on a lot of their needs.
Q: What other experiences or attributes do you have that makes you qualified to be the mayor of Moreno Valley?
A: Over the years, I started out as an Employment Development Specialist Job Developer working with elected officials, knowing governance systems, [and] served and volunteered on various commissions. I’ve been president of the (Moreno Valley Hispanic) Chamber. I’m the Chairman of the Inland Empire Hispanic Leadership Council. I’ve been appointed, now for the past 12 years, to the State of California’s Southern California Fair Board, appointed by two Governor’s Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jerry Brown. I’ve been a Park Commissioner. I’ve dealt with city (and) community development projects. So, I’m very familiar with the various systems of government, particularly local government. And by having that experience, 35 plus years’ experience in this, it comes in handy. It’s second nature to me. That’s what makes me qualified — the experience that I’ve had in community development and community empowerment and serving on different boards and commissions.
Q: What are some pressing issues you think need to be addressed in Moreno Valley at the moment?
A: Definitely, keeping the streets safe. Crime is an issue. Of course, the homeless population — we can manage that problem. I know that local sustainable jobs are an issue in Moreno Valley. And I’m very passionate about creating recreational opportunities for youth, especially during critical times in the day when they’re being unsupervised. We need to create a safe haven for them.
Q: What would be your first priority, if elected?
A: Becoming very familiar with the needs of the city. Making sure that I understand its budget and where everything is appropriated and allocated and see how, based on my priorities as a candidate, to fit in with that. I’d like to establish a homeless commission and work with my colleagues on the council to create a commission-based type homeless entity that can provide feedback for us to tackle the homeless issue, for example. Also, I’d like to see if we can clean up the streets, bring pride back into the city, work with our nonprofits, our churches, to keep Moreno Valley clean and beautiful. And I’m also envisioning a regional perspective where, Moreno Valley is the second largest city in the county — population 215,000, (we) definitely take a look at how we can participate with the regional elements to bring in more resources to the city — economic development resources, private resources for recreational opportunities for youth (and) resources for the homeless.
One thing I also want to tackle is how do we create better paying jobs in Moreno Valley, considering that there’s a high graduation rate. Two districts provide a high population graduation rate, but a smaller percentage actually goes to four-year institutions or two-year foreign institutions. What happens to the rest of the high school graduates that are left behind? They need to be nurtured. They need to be geared toward higher paying jobs, not just in logistics, but in certification type employment opportunities where a livable wage is increased so they’re able to buy a home. So they’re able to live on their own. And if they live on their own, they’re able to pay taxes. They pay taxes, they create revenue. The revenue goes back to the city. The city provides more services to clean up our streets, to enhance our streets (and) create better neighborhoods. I’d like to work on those as well. I’d like to see if we can meet up with our local big businesses and provide an exchange of opportunities where we can provide certification programs, career technical education programs, for them to increase their employment wages.
Q: If elected, how do you plan to involve residents in the decision-making process of the city?
A: I always believe in being open and accessible, talking to different organizations (that) can help carry out the message that we want to create a city government, especially out of the mayor’s office, an environment in which they can voice their concern, not necessarily just at Tuesday’s meetings, because some of them don’t have the opportunity to view these screenings. Through the churches, through the nonprofits, create a mechanism, a voice for them to have access to City Hall, to get that feedback from them. Basically, be more accessible to its residents.
Q: What is one thing you believe the current mayor is doing well?
A: Well, certainly, [regarding] the current mayor, I’ve noticed that he’s creating a lot of good opportunities for the city. If you look at the city’s website, it’s pretty comprehensive. I’ve looked at other websites in other cities and the Moreno Valley City website, I must compliment them. They are definitely doing things well. So, that’s one mechanism. If we can encourage people to go online, especially during this pandemic, that’s a good way to play it safer and obtain information that they will need from the city. Definitely, that’s one way of doing it.
Q: What is one thing you think needs to be addressed that the current mayor may have not addressed?
A: I think the current mayor has done a great job. He’s certainly been very supportive. It’s an open seat, of course. But I don’t have much to say on that. If anything, he’s done an exceptional job and he’s running for another office. I don’t have any criticism towards him. I think the mayor has done a really good job.