Newly elected San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotyuk running for State Assembly

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(Newly elected San Jacinto Mayor)

San Jacinto Councilman Andrew Kotyuk will take on the duties of mayor for the third go-around as of January.  I sat down with him on Tuesday for an interview, hoping to hear his plans for the upcoming term. I got that and more, as you shall see in detail in the paragraphs to come.

How, I asked, would the new term be different from the two previous terms?

“I think those answers are intertwined. All of the work done in the first term is now coming to fruition. Government moves slowly. Take Walmart, the new Soboba Casino or the commercial development along Sanderson Avenue. We have a great deal of commercial activity. Those are extremely positive commercial ventures that draw “spenders” into the city. That is one reason I ran again. All those cylinders are firing up and I want us to progress from there.

‘As to the negatives, we still don’t have a tremendous amount of revenue in the city. Our public safety isn’t 100% funded. That will come.  Also, we have sales tax leakage. We don’t have the big car dealerships. We don’t have malls. People spend that money elsewhere and it becomes a loss of tax revenue to us. The same goes for jobs.”

“I have a vision because we have all the probabilities of growth. The entertainment corridor along Ramona Expressway by Soboba. We’re working on that to bring outside dollars into the valley. When people come here and leave their money that is a boost to our economy: it brings in more tax dollars which can be used for development and expansions. If that doesn’t happen, then all we’re doing is just passing our money around and the economy never grows.”

Why aren’t the car dealerships coming to San Jacinto? “Historically Hemet wanted them. The traditional mind-set was to have them in Hemet.”

“Our entire Valley has been harmed because we lack viable corridors from the outside world. When the I-15, 215 and 10 freeways were extended around our valley, highways 74 and 79 no longer mattered. That is known as the “Route 66 effect” and everybody knows what happened to “America’s highway”; It literally became a side street to the nation. Before those freeways, people came here and spent their money because 74 and 79 were the corridors. We lost all that commercial trade. With the widened freeways they simply have by-passed us.

“The 79 expansion and the Mid-County Parkway are finally, after 30 years, ready to be built. In a recent meeting with leadership of the valley, it was agreed that we can bring those new corridors into the valley and open the central part of the economy again. Return of commerce will increase land values and bring back the tourism that once blossomed here. Those highways are the aortas to the heart of our growth. Our link has already been approved.”

What, I asked, will people be attracted to here if they do come?

“People are creatures of habit. We have a natural corridor for people driving from Orange County to Coachella and the festival; Stage Coach and the Tennis Tournaments from Newport to their houses in the desert. Also San Diego to all points north and west. Typically, they will stop along the way for food or gas.

“We live in one of the most beautiful valleys anywhere. People come here and see the snow-peaked mountains and lush wild flowers – things that don’t exist everywhere. You know, this valley was once the most popular retirement community in the country.”

That being all and well in the past, our median age is in the mid thirties and not high sixties anymore. What do we have that will attract a younger generation?

(Newly elected San Jacinto Mayor)

“We have an affordable life-style, and are implementing neighborhood connections and trails where you don’t have to drive to go to a restaurant or store, but can bike or walk there. It keeps you close to home which allows one to enjoy and participate in the community. We have installed a ton of trails that serve to implement neighborhood connections. New communities that are rising out of the past like a Phoenix from the ashes. There is a community focused on Spanish styles and one more focused on a country atmosphere, craftsmanship and a space for outdoor performances. I see a future that involves affordable housing in a beautiful place: a quality of life not available to young families starting out. That’s why we already have a generation of youth settling in the Valley. Our median age in San Jacinto is not 70 but 31.1. That’s a whole new transfusion into the community.

“Folks can both live and work here. Most hate to commute anyway. It will give more time for family recreation and other family activities. The new corridors will accommodate semi rigs bringing goods and commerce to us. That isn’t about to happen on the roads coming in now.”

How about entertainment. What do we have available for visitors and where do you see expansion?

“As to what we already have, look at the history of the community, Mount San Jacinto Theater, music and dance or our school systems and their theater and music productions. Then there is ISOMATA in Idyllwild which produces entertainment stars that become known world wide.  We have the infrastructure. If we have an entertainment venue, a place where those local entertainers and artists can practice their talents, it would be awesome. Also, look at the Ramona Bowl, the Soboba Casino. We used to draw new actors and actresses to the Ramona Bowl, drawing the theatrical actors to perform there in the Ramona Play. Our entertainment roots are vast and strong. We just have to water and nourish them and they will bloom.”

Summing up, Kotyuk believes that the effort he will push, for better highways into our community, more jobs and the entertainment sectors will cause people to want to come here and bring their dollars to increase the economy.

He states that, “It isn’t rocket science. For more than 30 years the Chambers of Commerce, business and environmentalists cooperated to bring tourism here. They need to do it again. Our pitch is simple: Draw the right people into the valley to live and spend their money here, instead of going outside and spending our tax dollars in other communities. We need to be united in that cause.”

Every so often the question is posed: Why doesn’t the valley unite to become one city. We have two cities and county governments. Wouldn’t it be easier and cost-effective to merge into one entity?

“Been there. Done that. It didn’t work. Municipalities receive revenues and how those revenues are structured, whether it be housing, gas or vehicle license fees – if you stop and start over those funds go away and you have to start from scratch. What we could do is create a Joint Powers Authority where both cities remain as they are, but share our overheads with their own identities. A lot of people won’t like what I say. There are a lot of generational habits that don’t want to change. But sharing management of water, trash or city management would create great cost-savings. Don’t expect that to happen anytime soon.”

Now the big question. It is rumored in every coffee shop and gathering place in town: the new mayor will run for Supervisor. Any truth there?

“Here is the facts: in the past week, I was approached by leadership from Sam Bernardino and Riverside Counties to run against Chad Mayes on the Republican ticket since he has resigned from the party and is registered as a NPP (No political persuasion). This past Friday I qualified as a candidate. I am definitely running for the State Assembly in the 42nd District and one thing is for sure: had I been your Assemblyman, that Florida Avenue median being put in by Cal-Trans would never have happened.”

If Kotyuk makes it to the State Assembly, you can be sure he will concentrate on bringing all those things we discussed to the valley. Mayor or Assemblyman, this young man charts his own course. Just sayin’

rustystrait@gmail.com

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