10:00 PM PDT on Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Press-Enterprise

Riverside voters drew a variety of lessons from the outcome of Tuesday’s council election, which returned three incumbents to office. But several community leaders made the same forecast for the city’s immediate future: more politics.

With a runoff between Ward 7 Councilman Steve Adams and challenger John Brandriff set for November and a mayoral election in 2012, some community leaders said they don’t see a near-term end to the campaigning.

“I think that’s going to be a real focus for awhile,” said Chuck Beaty, a former councilman and Riverside Unified school board member.

Ward 2 Councilman Andy Melendrez and former councilman Ed Adkison have opened campaigns for mayor; Ward 3 Councilman William “Rusty” Bailey, who won a second term Tuesday, said he’s considering a run, and Ward 1 Councilman Mike Gardner, also just reelected, said he’s not now a candidate but hasn’t ruled it out.

What’s hard to sift out of the politicking is what message voters sent Tuesday. Participation ranged from roughly 18 percent to 27 percent in the four wards with seats on the ballot.

Marisa Valdez Yeager, who took the second-most votes in Ward 1 after Gardner, said the all-by-mail election may have led to less participation. As she campaigned, Yeager said, she heard people weren’t sure where to drop off ballots with no polls open, and some didn’t realize the election was Tuesday.

“There was a lot of confusion,” she said. “I think there’s still an adjustment (period) for all voters to make sure their voice is heard.”

Beaty and former city administrator Tom Evans, who is heading a committee reviewing the city charter, agreed that those who did vote seemed happy with city government, because most went with the status quo.

“I think you have to say in the main that people are satisfied with the incumbents,” Beaty said.

Mary Figueroa, a community activist and Riverside Community College District trustee, disagreed and pointed to Ward 7, where unofficial results showed Adams with nearly 47 percent of votes and his two challengers together taking about 53 percent.

“Is the city happy with the current council? I would say that it’s probably split,” she said.

Figueroa was part of a group that filed an ethics complaint against Adams, which the councilman said was politically motivated; a city panel found no ethics violation.

David Leonard, president of the Old Riverside Foundation, a historic preservation group, said since Bailey’s opponent didn’t run a serious campaign and no one opposed Ward 5 Councilman Chris Mac Arthur, Gardner is the only one who can credibly claim a mandate from voters.

Some residents have raised concerns about what they see as city management’s shoot-first-ask-questions-later style, Leonard said, citing a land swap deal for the old Marcy library and the abrupt demolition of most of the Press Bindery building.

But that didn’t translate to big changes on the council because most voters don’t blame council members for those perceived PR gaffes, Leonard said.

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