Tuesday , June 18 2024
Inland Empire Political News.001
Inland Empire Political News.001

Charter Reform in San Bernardino Hits a Roadblock

The appointed citizen’s committee appears to be running into some difficult challenges as it works to make recommendations to the San Bernardino City Council for charter reforms.

None of those challenges are more insurmountable than the timeline the committee and the city council has for placing a measure on the ballot for voters to consider in November. If voters are to have a say, the deadline for submitting a ballot measure is the end of July, less than three months away. That leaves little time for any committee to properly analyze the complicated, archaic, and voluminous document, let alone recommend viable alternatives and then provide the city council ample time to study the proposed changes and understand the potential ramifications.

No one will argue that the governing document for San Bernardino does not require changes. But, proper analysis requires time, particularly for persons who had probably never read the full document before their appointment. City personnel, who could usually assist appointed and elected officials are also virtually useless in this discussion as very few who have worked under this charter are still around. City departments have been decimated by budget cuts, retirements, and staff changes.

The current San Bernardino City Council has also lost senior members due to the recall and recent election cycle. As such, there is almost no current member who has served longer than a single term.

So far, the committee has only voted on very minor recommendations, recommendations unworthy of spending thousands of taxpayer dollars on an election. Worse yet, the committee has not decided whether to recommend the abolition of Section 186, a semi-controversial section governing public safety employee salaries.

Even if recommendations are made and the council votes to place them on the November ballot, there remains one glaring problem: voters still have to approve it.

Let’s be clear on this matter. Any real effort towards reforming San Bernardino’s Charter will require changes that will be controversial. If the charter changes are not, then you can bet that they won’t really change anything.

What makes the rush to place charter reform on the November ballot a fool’s errand? Any effort for meaningful change in the city’s founding document will require developing consensus across a broad spectrum of the community. This is no small task in a community with significant demographic, economic, social, and geographic divisions. Those challenges have also been augmented by a destructive recall campaign, personality battles between elected and former elected officials, and looming bankruptcy.

In other words, there has never been a worse time to push a charter reform measure that could provide fundamental change that truly fixes a dysfunctional city government.

The rush to place something on the ballot for November will not allow for the extensive public input necessary for real change. It will not even give the committee time to actually understand how the charter and current city government actually works (or doesn’t), let alone the knowledge necessary to actually fix what is wrong.

It is time for city leaders to take a step back and take a deep breath. They need to focus on the process of charter reform as well as the end result. This will first require uniting a seriously divided community, healing still gaping wounds from the election, bringing former enemies to the table, and including city employees in the effort.

The mayor and council need to rethink this matter. They should also wait for the bankruptcy to be completed before wasting tax dollars on what will be, if current course holds, another expensive, divisive, and damaging election for the entire city. We have been down this path before.

Check Also

California Power Outages Predictable and Here Forever

The recent “Public Safety Power Shutoffs” by Southern California Edison (Edison) and Pacific Gas and …