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

San Bernardino Charter Reform Oblivion

Leadership requires many virtues. The first and foremost of those is competence, or at least the public perception of it.

Apparently, that quality is severely diminished in the bankrupt City of San Bernardino. The Mayor and City Council, who are for the most part new to the jobs and should engender some political capital, appear to be squandering any opportunity of building a sustainable consensus in moving the city forward.

Case in Point: The Mayor and City Council’s decision to place a Charter Amendment on the ballot in November that will have no discernible impact on the city’s current or future financial situation, when bankruptcy is the “word for the day.”

Much of what is being proposed in the effort to change the city charter is little more than a cleanup measure, nothing more than rounding-off corners and the clarification of existing policy and matters of state law. These are unworthy of the $175,000 cost of an election on five separate measures in November when San Bernardino cannot mow the grass in her parks.

Far worse, in the midst of a contentious bankruptcy proceeding that, by its legal nature, will determine the debts owed to creditors, the Public Employee’s Retirement System (PERS) and her employees, city leaders seem intent on attacking the one Charter provision that affects public safety employee’s salaries, Charter Provision 186. Some people ignorant of government finance blame San Bernardino’s fiscal train wreck on employees and a charter provision that has been in place since the 1960’s.

Funny how the city wasn’t bankrupt in the last Fifty years of 186? It wasn’t until eight years of Mayor Pat Morris, a failed airport debacle, a giant casino built within its borders that saps the economic strength of San Bernardino Citizens, and dozens of failed big government programs and redevelopment schemes that the city had to file for bankruptcy. Even nearly a billion dollars in freeway and transportation construction over the last six years hasn’t made a dent in San Bernardino’s economy.

Yet, some in the city blame cops and firefighters who receive an average wage and below average benefits for the budget situation in San Bernardino. (San Bernardino Police Officers and Fire Fighters are some of the busiest in the state if not the entire nation.)

The Mayor and current Council seem obliged to continue that fallacy with an ill-timed, unnecessary, functionally meaningless, and divisive Charter Amendment that will again split the community of San Bernardino. Worse yet, the effort is also likely futile. The City Manager made it very clear that the proposed charter amendment will allow his effort to contract out fire services and close fire stations. This is a concept the voters of San Bernardino will not oblige.

It will also lead to all-out election war in November with Firefighters and Police Officers pursuing a well-funded campaign to defeat the measure, and city leaders with few resources to fight back. The deep pockets that funded the recall campaign that propelled the current, and likely temporary, council majority, are unlikely to put the financing necessary into a support campaign. Does the City Council intend to use taxpayer dollars to educate the public? Who will they hire; Mike McKinney and Westbound Communications, the hired guns behind the recall?

Yes, a city manager that obviously knows nothing about San Bernardino’s past wants to replace our firefighters with ambulance services. A Mayor and City Council with almost no municipal financial experience, and even less political experience is on board in an effort to “do something.”

The lessons of the past are lost on these folks. Whenever controversial charter changes have been placed before voters, they have failed miserably even with significant financial backing. Not only is this measure controversial, it has no financial backing, unless the City intends on using more taxpayer dollars in an education campaign which will only further disgust voters. We also wonder what a bankruptcy judge will think about that.

In the end, it will be the voters of the 4th, 5th, and 7th Wards that will provide the bulk of the votes in the November election. Unlike the current Mayor and Council, those folks remember the names “Panorama” and “Old.”

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