As a part of our mission to publish news helpful to Riversiders, The Raincross Gazette is expanding our 2024 Election Guide with a series of interviews with each candidate running for a city office in the March 5, 2024 election.
Each candidate had several weeks to answer the same questions written in response to the nearly 500 questions Gazette readers submitted in a survey about their priorities for Riverside in the coming election. These answers have only been edited to fix minor grammar or spelling errors to ensure a fair representation of each candidate.
Get to Know Jessica Qattawi
Jessica Qattawi is the founder of NV Media, LLC, and host of the “What’s Up Inland Empire” podcast, where she’s been a vocal advocate for local businesses. With a three-year tenure as President of the American Advertising Federation - Inland Empire, Qattawi aims to leverage her expertise for Riverside’s economic development, community engagement, public safety, environmental sustainability, and education and innovation. Her campaign prioritizes inclusivity, transparency, and a dedication to Riverside’s prosperity.
Why are you running for office?
As a Riverside resident, I witness the decline in our city's quality of life—streets are worn, residents are discontent, and challenges like rising crime and homelessness persist. The soaring cost of living strains average families. It's time for change. I'm here to step up and ensure Riverside thrives. Ready to serve, I'm committed to revitalizing our city, fostering safety, and addressing the needs of every resident. Together, let's restore Riverside to its vibrant, welcoming essence, where every family can prosper. It's time for positive change, and I'm here for Riverside's bright future.
What is Riverside's city government currently doing well?
Riverside excels in swift resident services and robust infrastructure growth, notably in the vibrant downtown area. The seamless collaboration between city departments and residents is a commendable positive, ensuring efficiency and satisfaction. Additionally, the renowned Festival of Lights stands as a brilliant showcase, not only enhancing local culture but also attracting revenue from beyond city limits. These successes reflect a city on the rise, and I'm committed to building upon these strengths, fostering further progress, and ensuring Riverside continues to shine as a beacon of growth and community engagement.
What is Riverside's greatest challenge, and how will you approach it if elected?
Our foremost challenge lies in the rising homelessness within our city. It's imperative to delve into the root causes, understand influx patterns, and advocate for urgent county and state attention. Personally invested, I'm dedicating significant time to collaborative solutions. I've crafted an innovative plan to address this issue and am diligently refining the logistics. Together, let's tackle homelessness head-on, fostering a compassionate and effective approach for lasting change in our community.
If elected, how will you improve the political discourse in Riverside?
I believe in fortifying community bonds among the diverse groups within our city. Despite our differences, we share common needs and desires, and by discovering common ground, we can forge a more resilient unity. It's crucial that each individual is open to compromise for the greater good of our city. Together, through understanding, collaboration, and a shared commitment to progress, we can amplify our collective strength and create a city that thrives on the diversity and cooperation of its residents.
What past personal collaboration that demonstrates risk and compromise are you most proud of?
I take great pride in my collaborative efforts with clients, particularly in my role as a social media influencer specializing in live videos. I have showcased firsthand the extensive reach of my live videos for numerous clients. Engaging in unscripted dialogue during live videos involves inherent risks, yet I have successfully conducted numerous sessions for individuals and businesses across diverse industries, ranging from small enterprises to private organizations and nonprofits. I take pride in the outcomes achieved for my clients via my live video content.
How many hours a week do you expect to put into serving as a councilmember, and what is your commitment to responding to constituents?
Qattawi declined to answer this question.
What will you do to address the City's homelessness challenges?
I've meticulously devised a comprehensive plan aimed at not only relocating the homeless from our streets but also offering sustainable, long-term solutions. Recognizing the diverse circumstances, my approach involves delving into each situation to understand the root causes. Whether it's recent income loss, substance abuse, or mental health challenges, each homeless individual requires a tailored, tiered solution. Additionally, addressing the concerning reports of other cities relocating the homeless to Riverside will be a focal point of my mayoral agenda. By prioritizing these core issues, I aim to create lasting positive change for our city's homeless population and the community at large.
What are your plans to help Riverside's growing senior population?
Addressing the needs of our seniors is a critical priority that demands our attention and care. It's imperative to place a heightened emphasis on developing comprehensive programs that specifically cater to the essential needs of our elderly population, including access to nutritious food and vital necessities. I propose fostering a community that encourages more nonprofits to dedicate their efforts toward supporting the elderly. Additionally, we must explore options for providing affordable living arrangements tailored to the unique requirements of seniors. By actively investing in these initiatives, we can ensure that our seniors receive the support, respect, and quality of life they truly deserve.
How do you plan to deal with the trash collection issues Riversiders have been contending with since early 2020?
This is a deeply personal issue for me, and it underscores the urgency of ensuring our city services receive adequate funding to meet the demands of our community. A meticulous review of their budgeting is essential to guarantee that resources align with the needs of our residents. Those who rely on these services deserve a commitment to timely and accommodating schedules. It's crucial that our residents receive the quality of service they're paying for, and I'm dedicated to advocating for the necessary resources and improvements to make this a reality.
Would you support making City Council roles full-time jobs?
I advocate for personal accountability in public service. When individuals choose to serve the public, they inherently commit to dedicating the necessary time and effort to enhance our city. Rather than micromanaging every aspect of their lives, I believe actions should speak to their commitment. Transparency is key—if dedication wavers, let the voters decide on the best course of action. It's about trusting in the electorate's ability to make informed decisions and fostering a culture of responsibility. By promoting accountability and transparency, we can build a stronger, more effective foundation for public service that truly serves the needs of our community.
How do you see legal cannabis sales in Riverside affecting our budgets and community culture?
I understand the sensitivity of this topic, with varied opinions. My viewpoint centers on the prevalence of illegal cannabis sales in Riverside. By offering a regulated option, we can diminish illegal sellers while generating additional revenue for the city. Let's acknowledge the reality—many people use cannabis. Personally, I witnessed its positive impact on a stage 4 breast cancer patient, providing comfort and improving her quality of life. Recognizing cannabis as a natural herb with proven health benefits and minimal side effects, I advocate for a thoughtful, regulated approach that considers both the well-being of our residents and the potential economic benefits for our city.
Pending General Fund Transfer lawsuits may reduce the City’s annual budget by over $40 million; if elected, how would you respond to a 14% reduction of the City’s operating budget?
I refuse to let challenges hinder our city's progress. Instead, I'm dedicated to crafting effective plans that boost revenue. Rather than allowing obstacles to hold us back, let's leverage our city's assets to attract external traffic. By strategically utilizing our sites, we can draw in visitors who'll contribute to our local economy, fueling increased sales for business owners. This, in turn, translates to more revenue for the city. It's about turning challenges into opportunities, making our city a thriving hub that benefits both residents and businesses alike. Together, we can transform adversity into prosperity and chart a vibrant future for our community.
What would help reduce crime in town, and how do you plan to advocate for safe communities?
I firmly believe that a rising crime rate signals desperation, indicating insufficient income and limited opportunities. With the current staggering increases in the cost of living, goods, and utilities, the average person is facing significant challenges. To break free from this cycle, we must fortify every business in Riverside, ensuring their strength and profitability. By fostering successful businesses, we create more job opportunities and empower employers to offer better wages. It's time to disrupt this vicious cycle, promoting a community where economic prosperity circulates, benefitting both residents and local businesses alike. Let's build a Riverside where financial security is within everyone's reach.
What is your position on the Riverside Transmission Reliability Project?
It's not about personal preference; it's about prioritizing what the city and its residents need in the long run. The Riverside Transmission Reliability Project is a critical initiative. With the city's population steadily increasing, proactive solutions are essential to meet rising demands. Collaborating to identify effective measures is crucial for ensuring a robust power supply that supports our expanding community. This isn't just about health and safety; it's about addressing daily living needs. Simultaneously, we must prioritize the installation of environmentally friendly and sustainable power lines and equipment, demonstrating a responsible and eco-conscious approach to our energy infrastructure.