There is a growing concern from taxpayers around the nation, states, counties and cities that pay for government employees is out of line with the private sector salaries and something must be done to correct this imbalance. While I am an advocate for public labor unions to get as much as the market or employer can bear, I am not an advocate of automatic salary increases that are out of the control of elected officials to openly negotiate such as San Bernardino City Charter Section 186, which states:
“There is hereby established for the city of San Bernardino a basic standard for fixing salaries, classification and working conditions of the employees of the police and fire department of the city of San Bernardino, and the mayor and common council in exercising the responsibility over these departments vested in them by this charter shall hereafter be guided by and limited by these provisions:” of Classification, Basic Salary Schedule and Special Provisions.”
These are items normally found in “collective bargaining agreements” and open for negotiations by the mayor and council at the end of a contract. What has happened in San Bernardino is the voters have given away the right of their elected officials to control and effectively manage these departments when it comes to cost.
When the voters passed this charter change most of the public safety employees lived in the city and their neighbors wanted them to be adequately compensated for the position they held.
When the Police Officers Association was first organized they had benevolence and social issues for the citizens they swore to protect and serve with integrity as their focus. Contrast now with their main mission or focus is to protect Section 186 of the City Charter, according to their mission statement. It is not about the people but about their pay and retirement into upscale communities.
Just like they have made money, so should the community. We have enough good reasons, for another example; the Pew Research Center just released a report Tuesday that said “Wealth gaps rise to record highs between Whites, Blacks and Hispanics.” The median net worth of households for Whites in 2005 was $134,992 compared to Hispanics at $18,359 and Blacks at $12,124. Since then there has been a drop for everyone with Whites falling to $113,149, a 16% drop, Hispanics $6,325 a 66% drop and Blacks $5,667 a 53% drop per household. The rich are getting richer and the poor, poorer.
The only thing left for the voters to do is change the charter section 186, stop paying sales tax or shopping in neighboring communities for the things they need or want. I am reminded of the California Eagle Newspaper in Los Angeles, published by Charlotta Spears Bass, when she ran a weekly ad telling Blacks “Do not shop where you can’t work”. So my question to the Black and Latino community, why pay sales tax to a city that does not want you to work in the police or fire department and the majority of staff live in other communities. I am aware of what the city is trying to do in diversifying its public safety departments, but it has not been done and some in the department do not want it to happen. I am also aware that some people have a way of sabotaging the well intentions of good people and then say we tried. The city has known for years that Blacks and Latinos have not been welcome in these departments, yet the have been slow to respond. I am sure some will say now that part of the reason to not move fast will be the economy.
So the Latino and Black communities needs to keep and apply the pressure until the numbers change and people have security in their jobs. Let us take a look at the city manager position. He is African American and every chance Jim Penman, Wendy McCammack or Chas Kelly get they take a stab to demean, embarrass, and challenge his competence or authority. They are trying to get him to leave, I know because I’ve seen these tactics before.
There are a lot of things going on in the city and Blacks and Hispanics cannot lose sight of the things that will improve their pursuit of happiness and employment is one of them.