By Hardy Brown
I watched with great interest the town hall meeting held by Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren the other night with all of the city department heads in attendance. Also present was councilwoman Lydia Wibert. The other three council members could not be present due to the Brown Act. Mayor Warren explained the purpose and format of how the meeting should proceed with questions coming from citizens and answers being offered by the appropriate department administrator.
What impressed me most about the session was the way they treated one another as elected officials, staff, and citizens. The public brought up concerns about traffic speed, speed bumps in the streets, parking lot designs, business development, the new median design between San Bernardino Avenue and Marigold on Sierra Ave., parade route blocking unnecessary streets, bus transportation for citizens to shopping centers in Fontana and the importance of doing business in Fontana, as well as helping to develop businesses in surrounding communities that will employ citizens of Fontana.
Many of the citizens who asked questions did so respectfully and yet powerful enough to indicate the urgency of their need to staff and elected representatives. As the camera would pan the audience, I recognized many old community activists like Jerry Wiesman (Mr. Democrat), Drayman Crawford (banker and Loveland housing manager), and former Fontana Mayor David Elcherman. These individuals helped lay the foundation for Fontana to make this transition into a leadership role of today. There were others but I remember their hardwork in the community when government did not function the way it does today.
I noticed the respect that the public and elected officials interacted with the staff and vice versa. The chief of police and fire chief were relaxed in their interaction like they were neighbors instead of outsiders as in many cities. People wanted to know where and when they could get CPR training and if it was offered by the fire department. They had questions of these department leaders but they were looking for answers while acknowledging the concerns as taxpayers.
The mayor explained that while she is elected and concerned about Fontana there are some things that can only be accomplished with the help of other cities in the region like San Bernardino, Riverside, and Ontario because of population. She said large employers look at safety and the available qualified workforce in a community before they will agree to invest in a city and that is why educating our young people is crucial.
This was a textbook town hall meeting for others to follow and a teachable moment for all civic leaders.