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

Here we go again.

The City of San Bernardino voted Thursday to place two city charter amendments on the November ballot.

One measure would repeal Section 186 related to the establishment of procedures to set wage scales for Police Officers and Firefighters. The second measure would eliminate pay for fired employees while they appeal terminations to the civil service commission.

Well, isn’t that just honky dory. A city that is in its third year of bankruptcy, that recalled a city council member and an elected city attorney, and that is known for its political turmoil over decades of time, is set to “reform” their charter with two minor, truly unimportant measures that will have no actual impact on the city budget or governability.

This is not an effort of great thinkers and leaders. To be sure, this is about politics and political payback. Former Mayor Pat Morris complained for years about Charter Section 186 because it took the establishment of salaries for police and firefighters out of the political decision making process. The amendment requires the city to pay these employees based on the salaries paid in ten cities of similar size, five chosen by the city and five by the union. Benefits are negotiated separately.

Proponents of the change say that it will save the city money. Over 65 percent of San Bernardino’s budget funds police and fire services. The facts are that these city employees are neither paid at the low end or the high end of the pay scale, and that the collective bargaining process that would replace 186 is unlikely to change that very dramatically. It is a dishonest ruse and an effort to place blame for the bankruptcy on police officers and firefighters who are some of the busiest in the State of California.

Neither measure will save much money. The Police Department has become a revolving door with recruitment unable to keep up with the loss of experienced officers going to other agencies. The Fire Department is closing a station and reducing its service levels.

San Bernardino had an election and swore in a new Mayor and Council members in March. Apparently, nothing is changing. The city still slogs along on the San Bernardino Airport bandwagon, touts the SBX bus line and new Metrolink terminal, and continues to be a very bad place to do business. The new housing ownership program recently released by city hall is little more than a news release. No one in San Bernardino knows what to do at this point in time and it is becoming painfully obvious.

The political answer therefore has been to blame public employees for the poor financial leadership of the city and place the Section 186 repeal on the ballot in order to push that canard further into the minds of the public. The city has tried this before.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, the public safety unions have prepared for this battle. Expect a very divisive campaign that will pit the community against itself once again and erode the public confidence in newly elected leaders who were supposed to pull the city back together.

This effort is unlikely to fare very well for San Bernardino, pass or fail. The new Mayor had a tremendous opportunity to pull people together and rebuild San Bernardino. As the 4-3 vote to approve these measures for the ballot proves, he has already flushed that concept down the proverbial toilet. A very sad end to what could have been a new beginning.

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