Last Updated on September 26, 2015 by Alex Brown-Hinds

Two weeks ago I wrote that SANBAG’s governing board needs to look at its contractors’ and subcontractors’ employment practices. I did not have a clue how much money was being spent until a recently headline appeared in the May 26th Press Enterprise: “Boom time for roads, rails”.

The article stated that more than $2 billion worth of transportation projects are underway in San Bernardino County with over 90% of the construction in the cities of Colton, Rialto, Fontana, Grand Terrace, San Bernardino and Redlands. The article went on to say that before all of the 45 projects are completed, the total cost would be worth over $4.4 billion.

SANBAG’s Executive Director, Ray Wolfe was quoted in the article saying: “I expect over time you will start to see some serious development on the Westside of San Bernardino that will really correct the imbalance that was created when the freeway was first constructed” which I believe to be true referring to the original configuration of the freeway and ramps making it difficult to access the city’s Westside.

This is one of the reasons I signed on in support of Measure I back in 1989. The other underlining reason was to correct past racial discrimination that occurred during the first construction of the freeway. It has taken 50-years to correct the Westside’s isolation by the freeway, so one has to be careful with words like “over time”. My concern is if we cannot correct this lack of employment for local citizens, Blacks and Latinos will not be living on the Westside of San Bernardino because they will have to move where the jobs are.

With the development and completion of a lake in the middle of the city displacing those residents in that area, it will only be natural to redevelop the Westside and upgrade those homes like other cities are currently doing. With gas prices going up every month and citizens paying 70.6 cents on each gallon, it will not take long for workers to want to be closer to downtown.

According to the Metro Report on May 9th out of Riverside the unemployment rate for the Inland Empire is 10.5% and falls behind the state and nation at 7.6 percent. They also reported that the raw numbers show a gain of 23,500 jobs in the Inland Empire.

It is my opinion that outside contractors must have reported the jobs for the Inland Empire but brought in outside workers to fill those jobs, thus keeping us in double-digit unemployment. This practice must be investigated.

When a city like San Bernardino, for example, gives 81% of its general funds to public safety employees and those same employees take their earnings out of the area even as far away as Las Vegas, it is no wonder the area suffers.

SANBAG currently lists these projects on their books: Haven Avenue in Rancho Cucamonga, $954 million; Cherry Avenue in Fontana, $76 million; Citrus Avenue in Fontana, $56 million; Cedar Avenue in Bloomington, $59 million; Pepper Avenue in Colton, $8 million; Railroad crossing in Colton, $90 million; Duncan Canyon Road in Fontana, $37 million; Glen Helen Parkway in San Bernardino, $325 million; and hot lanes road widening and high speed rail projects along I10 and I15 in Rancho Cucamonga, $1.1 billion.

This is a lot of money and we need to know who is being employed using our local taxpayers’ dollars. If our people were being employed from all of the money being generated from the area, our unemployment rate would be below the national average. And contrary to popular belief our citizens’ living below the poverty level pay rent and contribute to our economy. When they pay rent it covers the property taxes paid by the landowner. It is those same citizens that pay local sale and gasoline taxes. They buy cars, furniture, groceries and other items. All of our citizens deserve respect from those spending our money.

Once again, in my opinion the SANBAG governing board needs to access their contractors’ hiring practices.