Toni Momberger, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/27/2012 06:48:38 PM PST

REDLANDS – The latest Redlands resident to announce candidacy for the newly drawn 31st Congressional District wants to be clear that he does not live in a manicured part of town.

“I live in North Side Redlands,” stressed Robert Mardis, 25, who announced the bid Tuesday and says he’s running as an independent who understands the reality of the district.

“If you look at our city near downtown, it’s beautiful,” he said. “Cross the 10 Freeway and you’re in NSR. You can see on one entrance it’s clean and the plants are green. Go under the freeway and the plants are dead. There’s a tattoo parlor. The point is we have people in this race who act like these problems don’t exist.”

Mardis grew up in San Bernardino. He attended both San Bernardino and San Gorgonio high schools.

“The demographics of this constituency are important. This is not how these other politicians live. They don’t understand our culture; they don’t understand our society,” he said.

“I want people to know that I am from a place where someone was shot on my football team. I’ve walked these streets, and I know the people.”

Mardis says his platform is community improvement,and he’s making sure every fundraising venture he plans also serves that end.

“Instead of asking you for money and promising to back you in the long term, we’re setting up art shows and concerts to raise money. We’re effecting change.”

The message on his campaign website and emails is “Stand up. Make a difference,” and he sees the Occupy participants as people who are doing just that.

“I am not a member of the Occupy movement, but I have contributed to Occupy causes,” he said. “Before there was a Redlands one, I went to New York and helped them set up a legislative group.”

Friday night he had a speaking engagement with Occupy Riverside.

“I agree with a lot of the things they say, but I mostly agree with the idea of activism,” he said.

By trade, Mardis runs art studios around the nation, including one out of his Redlands home. He said he is also a writer.

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