Over the last several months in this column, I have shared what I am most passionate about—and what we should all work towards each day in our respective spheres of influence: bridging the division in our society. As Mayor, I am tasked with establishing a vision for our city and being focused on building that tomorrow. But the truth is, we cannot envision, much less build, tomorrow if we cannot come together.
A reality we are regularly reminded of is our country, our democracy—even our city—are threatened by divisions, a crisis we cannot ignore.
Beyond acknowledging this crisis, we must call upon all leaders to do something about it. Identifying the problems are the easy part, finding the solutions takes real attention and hard work.
Several events that occurred locally—charged by the national sentiment—over the last 18 months left me feeling like I had to do something locally around the need for bipartisanship and unity. The idea I had was a simple one: let’s take 14 Riversiders who span the broad political spectrum, have differing ideologies, professional backgrounds, upbringings, socioeconomic statuses and bring them together to discuss our most pressing challenges. Out of this idea came the Mayor’s Bipartisan Forum.
The Forum and I wasted no time. We first convened in October 2021 and started discussing how we could locally drive solutions to our city—and state’s—mental health and homelessness crisis.
Since then, this group has reviewed state laws and legislative proposals, met with state leaders, and found substantial common ground on this often politically charged topic.
Riverside is leading the discussion. Earlier this year legislative proposals from California senators, the Governor, and my fellow twelve Big City Mayors all reflect topics and solutions the Mayor’s Bipartisan Forum previously identified. With the advice of the Forum, I have been at the table every step of the way focused on modernizing how our state approaches mental healthcare.
As these proposals advance through committee hearings, we will need the support of Riversiders to encourage state legislators to vote in favor of bills that will update our mental health laws in California—laws that have been untouched and unchanged since 1967.
This shows us how effective we can each be if we set aside ideology in favor of pragmatism. I have relied on this method for over two decades in public office and it has never let me down. We, in Riverside, as the largest city in Inland Southern California, can strive to set an example and be a model for others—we are doing it right now.
The Mayor’s Bipartisan Forum demonstrates the power of transcending the partisanship that has so gripped our nation. Their work should give us hope as it shows how in our own backyards and beyond, we have much more in common with one another than we do different.