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Hardy L. Brown

Gigi Hanna - Courage In The Face of Adversity

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(NNPA) Having a backbone means having the courage to speak up for yourself and others, taking a position and holding it, taking risks and being trusted. Only a select few in public leadership, especially in the City of San Bernardino have the mental or spiritual backbone of courage to demonstrate it and go against the political opinion of the city attorney.

Well San Bernardino City Clerk Gigi Hanna has taken on the political opinion of City Attorney Jim Penman and the actions of the mayor and council to take over her duties as city clerk to oversee the city’s recall election of the mayor, all seven members of the council, and the city attorney.

It was the opinion of Penman that Hanna should recuse herself from her duties since she has been issued a separate recall notice not related to the original recall. Penman’s political opinion did not take into consideration that the city charter gives election responsibilities to a city elected clerk, which in this case is Hanna.

At the last council meeting, Penman went so far as to recommend an outside law firm back up his political opinion to advise the mayor and council to give this election process to the city manager and be supervised by four council members. These council members were selected by the drawing of four short straws. During my observation of this process, council member John Valdivia tried to get out of serving with Virginia Marques, Fred Shorett and Rikke Van Johnson who also drew short straws. In my opinion he did not want to serve with them because they usually vote in opposition to him.

After the meeting, Hanna decided to seek her own outside legal advice from the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office, the Secretary of State’s Office, the City Clerk’s Association of California and private legal council and on June 10th issued a statement that, she will not step aside from her duties as the municipal election official in the current efforts to recall the mayor, Common Council and City Attorney.

She went on to say, “Not only does the council not have a right to amend the Charter without a vote of the people, neither do I.” To which I agree.

I have often wished that the mayor and city council seek outside legal council against some of Penman’s long winded political opinions during council meetings. In my opinion the city would not be in its current mess if they had done so. It is often after his political opinions the council spends money they do not have or reallocates it on things that have not been properly vetted for accuracy by staff.

I want to commend Gigi Hanna for standing up for the citizens of the city against the vested interest of Penman and the inept mayor and some council members. I say some because Shorett and Van Johnson have taken on Penman and his unqualified opinions in the past, however they have not done so in the way and style of Hanna.

The city can be proud of the way Hanna is conducting herself in carrying out the responsibilities of her office. I wonder which elected official is behind the one individual who says Hanna is not doing her job and wants her recalled?

Hanna deserves our support to continue to do the job we elected her to do. We need someone who is not afraid to stand up and speak up for what is right. She does not use intimidation nor toss out false accusations about people like some at city hall.

In my opinion, Hanna deserves our support for having the courage and integrity to show us what being a watchdog for the people should do when confronted by misguided political opinions by other elected officials.

SANBAG, Check Out Your Contractors Hiring Practices

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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.

San Bernardino Police Officers Association is Out of Control

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Last week the voters in the City of San Bernardino were sent a mailer from their Police Officers Association stating: “Your tax dollars are still being collected” followed by the question “where is the money going?” It went on to outline that Measure YY and Measure Z passed by the voters was to ensure the public safety of its citizens while implementing more crime intervention and prevention programs.

It also went on to name the leaders they believe are responsible for the recent increase in crime as well as bankrupting the city. They laid it at the feet of Mayor Pat Morris and City Councilmembers Wendy McCammack, Fred Shorett, Virginia Marquez, and Rikke Van Johnson. The mailer did not include Councilmembers Chas Kelley, John Valdivia or Robert Jenkins with whom they have had in their hip pocket by running and financing their political campaigns. According to Forms 460 of their campaign statements, public safety associations have contributed 98.3% to Valdivia’s and 93.8% to Jenkins’ political campaigns and lesser percentages to Kelley, Penman, and McCammack.

Now the mailer is correct, the citizens are still paying the bills through utility, sales, property, business, and special assessment taxes to help finance the city. However, the public safety employees of police and firefighters are not paying their fair share.

In my opinion, to answer the question asked by the association of where the money is going, the city budget indicates that public safety takes over 75% of the budget. According to several different reports, many officers earn over $100,000 a year. Over 90% of these officers live in other communities and take over $40 million dollars out of the city each year. This is where the money is going.

Yes, I am aware that the police budget took a 10% cut, but so have other departments within the city government. Some departments have been combined and volunteers are currently cleaning public parks. Some libraries have been closed and open hours reduced. Trash pick up services have been reshuffled while potholes and weeds are growing in our streets.

I had the opportunity to talk with a San Bernardino-based small business owner about the problems facing the city. He said that for starters the city should be more business friendly beginning with the city business licensure and planning departments, and added that the police department needs to be more positive when interacting with the public. He shared his personal experience of being faced with a public safety problem only to be told, “what do you expect, you live in San Bernardino,” by the employees of his police department. This man lives and employs 10 people in the city and should not be treated this way.

The Police Officers Association did not blame Kelley, Jenkins, or Valdivia for the city’s bankruptcy because these three are the ringleaders running key department heads and managers out of the city at the direction of the police and firefighter associations, plus Kelley needs a job and wants to run for mayor.

In my opinion, these public safety associations are out of control and their services should be put out for contract with outside agencies for better service at a lower cost.

One Should at Least Believe the Evidence of the San Bernardino School District

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Some of you have questioned my opinion for laying some blame of the lack of African American student achievement on San Bernardino School Board Member Danny Tillman and have responded that there is no evidence that our students, and especially African American students, are at the bottom. That feedback brought to mind one of my favorite scriptures: John 14:11, which is about the disciples not believing the evidence of witnessing the miracles that were performed.

For the record, I have strongly supported Danny each and every time he has run for office and when some members in the community began to attack him, I counseled him on how to approach the issue. Now one might have a problem with me as the messenger, but you cannot ignore the message.

That being said, I want to document some of the evidence as recorded by the California Department of Education regarding San Bernardino students. This is in no way a condemnation on the district because there are a lot of good things happening. The district has some new board members President Mike Gallo and Margaret Hill and a new superintendent Dr. Dale Marsden that have committed themselves to providing positive leadership for us to follow. So we should give them adequate time to point this district on the road to success. I am pointing out that when one wants to seek a higher level of public responsibility make sure you at least evaluate your evidence.

We all have heard or at least are familiar with the Academic Performance Index (API) score that is one of the indicators of how well our children are doing in school. A statewide base line score of 800 has been established as a student performing well. As a former school board member I have personal knowledge that these indicators are a basis and not gospel as to how well a district is doing with our children.

A snapshot of student performance in San Bernardino in three critical areas:

API scores:
Blacks 687
Latinos 723
Whites 788
Asians 832

Remember 800 is the baseline score everyone is trying to reach.

Cohort dropout rate:
Blacks 18.8%
Latinos 14.8%
Whites 14.7%
Asians 14.3%

So the question is what is the acceptable number of students who dropout of school?

Graduation rates:
Blacks 67.8%
Latinos 73.7%
Whites 76.3%
Asians 78.6%

This shows that for every 100 Black students attending school over 30 of them will not get a high school diploma.

Without a diploma, these students will find that decent employment is out of reach for them and with a 12.4% unemployment rate in the city and employers seeking candidates with some college education, these students are doomed.

Yes, this is my opinion. You might not believe me, but at least believe the documented evidence.

San Bernardino City Citizens Might be Justified for Recall

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When most people hear the word recall, they think consumer protection of faulty or defective products being removed from the market place for public safety. The actions by these companies cost millions of dollars but not as much in public confidence if no recall is taken. In the short run, they take a hit but it sends a message to the public you can trust us.

Now we have citizens in the City of San Bernardino saying we have had enough of misguided leadership from the current and past mayors, city attorney, some council members and the public safety employee associations, specifically the police and firefighters. I heard last week that some prominent citizens in San Bernardino began a petition to recall the San Bernardino mayor, city attorney, and the entire city council. To some people this might seem to be drastic, while others might be asking, “what took them so long?”

Back in the early 70’s, I had some personal involvement in one recall. As a matter of fact, I cut my political teeth on that recall and the Westside Action Group (WAG) was born. Also in San Bernardino during the 70’s five school board members were swept from office during a recall election over the issue of bussing. In recent California history, Governor Gray Davis was recalled from office and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor. Presently, a group of citizens in Fontana gathered enough signatures to move forward to recall two members of the school board. That election will take place this summer.

Past mayors gave away the shop including inappropriate use of redevelopment funds by investing in bad projects and not using the funds as they were supposed to be used. City leaders have allowed outside investors from Japan and Spain to buy prime downtown properties that now sit empty and bring down the value of other businesses in the city. According to the city attorney, who is supposed to be the “watchdog” of our local government and who helped agree to these actions, there is nothing the city can do.

The current council and city attorney seem beholden to the public safety associations who fund their campaigns. These elected officials will not vote against any changes in these departments which consume over 73% of the city’s budget with 90% of them living in other cities which amounts to $40 million leaving the city. These public safety employees pay no property taxes to the city, pay no utility taxes to the city, pay no sales taxes in the city, do not educate their children in the city, yet they tell the council how to vote against the best interest of their citizens.

The mayor appears to be afraid to veto any actions approved by the council that he knows is not in the best interest of the city. Thus businesses are hesitant to move into or do business in the city. I have also heard of business leaders being afraid to speak out because some of the city’s elected officials are vindictive and will take action against them or any project they might bring before the council. This is absurd and the mayor and city manager should direct any employee that is approached by any elected official to report it to them so this kind of action can be brought out into the open. No employee should be afraid to report such actions.

One might ask why has it taken so long to take out recall petitions? I think it is because concerned citizens now realize the city is not safer even with these high public safety salaries. They also have watched the poverty rate rise and the unemployment rate remain higher than other cities around them. And it is their property values going down, as their neighbors are moving out of the city.

These residents are saying their city is worth fighting for: this city they raised their children up in; this city that their mothers and fathers help build; where they went to visit grandparents and play in the yards and even the streets without fear of being gunned down by a stray bullet or hit by an under the influence driver. This city that allowed them to establish law firms, medical practices, have thriving hospitals, profitable auto dealerships; the city that President Lyndon B. Johnson worked in as an elevator operator; the city that provided Sammy Davis Jr. with lifesaving healthcare; and the city that birthed McDonald’s, the food services innovator and one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

In my opinion, these citizens have in their mind enough justifiable reasons to recall these elected officials. They are saying we must turn this city around and in the words of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary.”

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