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Get to Know Kalya Booker, Candidate for Ward 1

Kalya Booker, candidate for Ward 1 City Council in the March 2024 election, answers 14 questions about why she is running for election.

Kayla Booker is running for the open Ward 1 City Council Seat in the 2024 election.

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 Kalya Booker

Kayla Booker is an empowerment advocate, community leader, and business owner based in Riverside Ward 1. As the daughter of an immigrant mother from Trinidad, Kayla draws strength from her diverse background and from a family of veterans and law enforcement. Since 2016, Kayla has been a small business owner and the CEO of the nonprofit organization The Black Collective. Through The Black Collective, she has spearheaded initiatives promoting mentorship, career development, and entrepreneurial growth, showcasing her dedication to creating a brighter future for the community.

Kayla is also making history as she runs for the Ward 1 City Council seat, aiming to become the first Black woman in that role. Her leadership is characterized by a steadfast belief in education, empowerment, and collaboration to inspire positive change within the community.

Why are you running for office?

I am running for Riverside City Council to fight for our neighborhoods and to deliver results and resources to residents. As a small business owner, I understand the challenges many of our businesses face, and as a non-profit founder, I have been at the forefront of helping our homeless community get access to critical services.

As a City Councilmember, I would immediately get to work on tackling homelessness, improving public safety, providing responsive constituent services, and attracting clean technology businesses to support our local workforce.

Additionally, representation matters. I am running to ensure that the concerns and voices of all the neighborhoods in Ward 1 are represented in the decision-making process. I intend to be a strong voice and advocate to deliver tangible results.

What is Riverside's city government currently doing well?

Booker declined to answer this question.

What is Riverside's greatest challenge, and how will you approach it if elected?

Riverside’s greatest challenge is the rise in homelessness and our unhoused populations. Given my professional and community experience working directly with our homeless community, I am prepared to get to work immediately.

The City of Riverside approved a “5 Year Plan to Reduce Homelessness,” which outlines goals and objectives to measure success in the city’s investments to reduce homelessness. I would use a similar approach, relying on data and policy while working hard to ensure the city is building and creating a variety of affordable and market-rate housing options to meet our regional housing goals and demands.

If elected, how will you improve the political discourse in Riverside?

My primary goal and objective will be to serve my constituents and deliver the best quality of life for residents in Ward 1 and across the city of Riverside. I hope to work with my colleagues and greater community to respectfully listen, while fostering a healthy and constructive dialogue on the issues at hand. I have always maintained an open-door policy as a veteran community leader and would do the same as a City Councilmember.

What past personal collaboration that demonstrates risk and compromise are you most proud of?

I am proud of the annual Juneteenth celebration held at Fairmount Park Downtown, which has grown to be a large success in the city. Building this event from the ground up factored several risks in terms of time and investments, which we felt were worth taking on due to the cultural significance and importance of the event. This required tremendous collaboration working with city staff, departments, local small businesses, vendors, etc., to meet all the requirements. I’m proud that what started as a small gathering now brings together hundreds upon thousands of people to gather in one of our beloved community parks.

How many hours a week do you expect to put into serving as a councilmember, and what is your commitment to responding to constituents?

As a councilmember, I am fully committed to serving the community and responding to the needs of constituents. With an open schedule and a 100% commitment to this role, I expect to put in as many hours as necessary to effectively fulfill the responsibilities of the position. I am dedicated to being accessible and responsive to constituents, and I recognize the importance of being proactive in addressing their concerns. Whether it's through regular office hours, community meetings, or other means of communication, I am committed to ensuring that constituents have a direct line of communication to voice their concerns and receive timely responses.

What will you do to address the City's homelessness challenges?

I would address the City's homelessness challenges by using the triage approach in which we invest in mental health and behavioral services, strengthening substance abuse services and rehabilitation, and expanding access to permanent and supportive affordable housing that provides wrap-around services.

It is critical we invest in wrap-around services that can include job training, financial literacy programs, and support for finding stable employment. This comprehensive approach addresses the root causes of homelessness.

I will work to pass policies that increase housing availability and long-term affordability, which is a crucial step in transitioning individuals out of homelessness. Partnering with nonprofit organizations that have community-specific programs and solutions that can offer a range of services, including food assistance and education, is critical.

My approach reflects a commitment to addressing the diverse needs of the homeless population and acknowledges the interconnected nature of the challenges they face. By integrating mental health services, substance abuse support, economic empowerment, and housing initiatives, we can work towards a comprehensive solution. This approach aligns with the understanding that solving homelessness requires a multifaceted and compassionate strategy.

What are your plans to help Riverside's growing senior population?

My plans to help the growing senior population involve implementing and expanding programs that provide essential support services for seniors, including community programming, transportation services, and meal programs. Working to increase the availability of affordable and accessible housing options for seniors is imperative, as this is one of the fastest-growing populations who are facing homelessness. I intend to proactively work with developers that promote affordable senior housing.

I equally plan to support initiatives that provide opportunities for seniors to stay socially connected and engaged. This includes promoting senior-friendly recreational activities, clubs, and events and creating more senior centers. By focusing on these areas, we can create an environment that respects, supports, and enhances the quality of life for Riverside's senior population.

How do you plan to deal with the trash collection issues Riversiders have been contending with since early 2020?

I intend to address this issue by working closely with our Public Works department to address residents' concerns and ensure we are doing everything possible to hire up so we can meet the demands of our growing population and service routes. I believe we must continue to invest in new equipment for the team to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. We must also continue to work with our Human Resources department to recruit and retain new employees to reduce turnover. I do not believe that rates should be raised on residents until we are able to stabilize this issue and meet the needs of the service to be expected.

Would you support making City Council roles full-time jobs?

If elected, I would advocate for a thorough assessment of the feasibility and potential benefits of making City Council roles full-time jobs. The decision to transition City Council roles to full-time positions involves various factors, such as the growing population and constituency, workload and responsibilities, and what that full-time transition and commitment look like to meet the needs of each unique Ward.

The tax revenue and income generated from cannabis sales can be allocated to various community needs, such as infrastructure improvements, education, parks, public safety, and other critical spaces in need. The cannabis industry has the potential to create jobs, from cultivation to retail positions. This can have a positive effect on the local economy by reducing unemployment rates and boosting consumer spending. However, it's essential to consider the costs associated with regulating the cannabis industry.

Implementation of legal cannabis sales should include considerations for social equity programs and policies to ensure there is fairness and balance. In summary, the impact of legal cannabis sales in Riverside on budgets and community culture will depend on how effectively it is regulated and integrated into the community and how revenue generated is utilized. Open dialogue, community involvement, and careful planning are essential to navigate these changes successfully.

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 would have to sit down with the City Manager and Finance team to learn more about what is being recommended as it relates to any reduction of the City’s operating budget. I would then connect and meet with the community to learn more about their priorities before making any decisions.

What would help reduce crime in town, and how do you plan to advocate for safe communities?

It is critical that residents feel safe in the community they live and raise their families in. Promoting community policing strategies that foster positive relationships between law enforcement and residents will be a top priority of mine. I would hold regular community engagement meetings and neighborhood watch gatherings in tandem with our Riverside Police Department to advocate for safe neighborhoods.

I equally believe in investing in technology and infrastructure that enhances public safety, such as improved street lighting, surveillance systems, and emergency response capabilities. With proactive communication and collaboration with residents, law enforcement, and community organizations, I will advocate for these strategies to create safer and more vibrant communities across our city.

What is your position on the Riverside Transmission Reliability Project?

I believe the City Council has listened to the concerns of the community as it relates to the Riverside Transmission Reliability Project and has taken recent action that addresses valid community concerns. I firmly understand the need for Riverside to establish a second connection to the electrical grid to meet the needs of our growing community, however, I would like to continue learning more about this topic as I meet with residents and city staff.