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Hardy L. Brown

San Bernardino City Needs New Medicine

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Due to my illness, I have been somewhat confined to take it easy and do most of my news gathering from newspapers, radio, internet, television and other interactions from people. I guess you say, Hardy this is how I gather my information as well but now I process the information differently than I used to. This brings me to my observation of the way the city government operates in San Bernardino. When I used to attend the meetings, I would only stay for the item on the agenda that I was interested in and never for the complete meeting.

Now more often than not, I will observe the entire meeting sitting in my den, including the Redevelopment Agency portion of the meeting where the council presides as the Board of Directors. I have noticed the many competing interests of people and departments such as the treasurer, city clerk, city attorney, water department or redevelopment that the council or mayor has no control or authority over.

The two areas I see where there needs to be great changes is in the redevelopment agency and water department when it comes to city government authority. I cite these two because they take in a tremendous amount of money from water payments and tax increment money and has tremendous impact on the planning of the city.

If the city is going to attract businesses with jobs, which we need, then we need more authority over it as elected officials so it can be better coordinated with other departments within the city. Currently the redevelopment agency operates outside of other departments and so does the water department. This leads to a disjointed or dysfunctional family relationship within the city. The city manager, for example, reports to the mayor and council but has no responsibility to or for these departments.

We as citizens argue with the council members about development and the redevelopment agency goes and does what it wants to do. I remember when John Hobbs was on the council and the redevelopment agency transferred tax increment money from the sixth ward to develop other projects including a golf course and Hospitality Lane in the city all without his knowledge and there was nothing he could do about it.

In the case of the water department the mayor appoints people to serve but has no authority over what they do or how the money is spent, to my knowledge. They can raise our rates and spend the revenues as they see fit.

Now I am not saying they have not done an adequate job but they could better serve the city if there were greater coordination and accountability with other departments under the direct authority of the mayor and council.

To a lesser degree the city attorney, treasurer and city clerk need to be under the direct authority of the council. My observation of the manner in which the mayor limited the conversation of the city attorney on matters not related to legal opinions can reduce that exchange. If the council reminds everyone that this is a meeting of the mayor and council and unrelated political comments by any city staff will not be tolerated, it will go a long way in reducing some of the tension at the meetings. Of course the public can say what they wish during the public comment portion because they pay taxes for that right. To all elected officials who say they are a “watchdog” can go and get a job at a junkyard so they can bark all they want without hindering the public business.

Now the trick is to get the citizens to demand change. The demographics and economic status of its citizens have changed drastically since the charter was put into place and needs to be reviewed and changed to keep up with the needs of the day. People with education and money are leaving the city for other communities. Some of the highest paid city servants, our police and firefighters do not live in the city and spend our tax dollars to improve other communities.

When the city was discussing the budget crisis neither the water department nor the redevelopment agency was at the table to participate in the solutions. I think a change would go a long way in helping the city spend more time on long range planning to bring businesses, jobs and a cleaner city to our area.

Another thing for us citizens to do is demand some kind of code of conduct in how elected officials treat one another at public meetings. I know when they seek office there is a code of conduct statement one must sign regarding how they run their campaigns so it could be extended after the election.

When a person is sick they go to the doctor and sometimes the doctor prescribes medicine that does not taste good but it is necessary if you want to get well. Well San Bernardino City is sick from a lack of civility at the council meetings and with a city charter that has granted power to agencies and departments outside the authority of the mayor and council. This needs to be corrected and the citizens need to demand the appropriate medicine by changing the charter.

Call To Action: What Are Black Parents To Do To Get A Good Quality Education For Their Children?

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It is my understanding that in February, the Sacramento County Office of Education made a decision on behalf of over 33,000 African American students that are failing under their jurisdiction by granting the authority to Fortune Charter Schools to educate a portion of these students. In doing so they are admitting that they are committed to finding alternative ways to ensure that this population is getting what taxpayers are paying for which is a good quality education. I want to commend the board for recognizing a problem and taking action to correct this nagging problem, that is also a similar problem around the state.

Now it is also my understanding the California Teachers Association (CTA) is threatening to sue the county board for approving Fortune School's charter school petition. To counter, the elected board is considering a proposal to tax the charter school petitioners (a non-profit organization and 120 parents, all taxpayers) in the event that the board has to defend its own decision to improve the quality of education for a segment of their student population they are currently obviously failing. This, in my opinion, is placing the parents in a position of having to foot the bill for a system that is failing their children and when they seek a proven alternative like Fortune Charters Schools they are saying pay for that too.

To borrow a statement from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) recently "Evidence Matters". Let us take a look at some of the evidence as it relates to African American students in Sacramento County. We have 33,988 or 14.3% of the students seeking an education while we have only 420 or 3.6% teachers in the classroom that look like them out of a teaching staff of 11,743. We have 36.9%, over a third of Black students, dropping out of school each and every year under the current system as compared to 17.1% for white students dropping out. The appropriate question for the board is, what have the parents of these Black students been paying for?

I do not know why the CTA would want to sue the board for trying to secure a good education for African Americans, unless it is getting more money for teachers. To that I say more power to them but not at the expense of Black children. Many educators believe students have too many excuses -- "the dog ate my homework...the lights were turned off...I was hungry...my mom was sick" and the list goes on. While no one accepts the children's excuses, we often accept the excuses our adult educators give as to why they are failing our kids - " We need more money...we can't discipline incompetent staff...the kids just aren't smart enough...their parents don't care,"and that list goes on. Teachers and managers want us to accept their excuses as validation for not educating Black students. On the farm that I grew up on in North Carolina, we were taught what was good for the goose was also good for the gander.

I say the decision to approve Fortune Charter School is a good one for African American students and would welcome the opportunity to tell our story of how our education system in Sacramento County treats Blacks in a court of law. I want our public to know where and who gets the money and who is not currently getting educated.

I served twelve years on the San Bernardino City Unified School District Board of Education and know how pressure is applied from employee and management groups but the board is elected to do what is right for parents, students, and the taxpayers. I was also a union member of the United Steel Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers so I am not against unions but for kids.

While I do not know the legality of the board to be able to pass off the liability of their decision to approve Fortune Schools, it baffles me because they are acting on the behalf of students, taxpayers and the public, while the CTA is acting out of a selfish position of its members and the detriment of African American students.

I think the board's decision to approve Fortune School was a good one based on the early test results of the students in Hardy Brown College Prep in San Bernardino. I am also cautious of most charter school operators because some are out to make some money at the expense of children and naive board members. I caution the board to be careful but do not be intimated by groups and people wanting to take you to court. You know why you are seeking to provide these African American students with the best possible education so they can become productive citizens in our society, maybe even president. So my question to the board is what are Black parents to do to get a quality education for their children?

Thank you for your consideration not to pass this proposal.

President Barack Obama Got His Man With Evidence

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John 14:11 “Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

This verse comes to mind when I think of President Barack Obama and his staunch critics. No matter what President Obama does, they will not believe him or the evidence brought before them.

President Obama was born in Hawaii and the state issued the certificate of live birth like they do for all Hawaiian citizens, yet his cri tics would not accept that. Show me the long form, they demanded. As soon as he produced the long form, they said he did not earn his way into Harvard School of Law and took the place of some deserving White privileged citizen.

Now we have the killing of Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted criminal for the past twelve years dating back to when Bill Clinton was president with a heightened pursuit by George Bush after the September 11th killing of 3,000 innocent people. We could not get bin Laden for two years under Clinton, eight years under Bush and it only took two years under Obama and bin Laden is dead.

Obama said during his campaign back in 2007 that if elected and bin Laden was located in Pakistan he would go after if him with or without the permission or knowledge of the Pakistani government. President Obama kept his promise and did not get permi ssion and got bin Laden.

President Obama, not George Bush, nor Bill Clinton got the call back in August of last year that bin Laden was hanging out in a million dollar mansion in Pakistan with his family and had been there for the past five years. Pres ident Obama asked are you sure, the security team said around 60% or 70% sure. Obama said to his team start planning for the capture or killing of bin Laden and only let a few people know. When presented with his options of fol low through it was Obama and Obama alone who made the “gutsy” decision to use the highly trained Navy Seal Unit to do the job. It was not the military, security council, George Bush, Bill Clinton or anyone else to make or be consulted on making the decision. If it failed, he would get all the blame and if successful Obama deserved all of the credit along with the team who performed the task.

President Obama even decided to gather the remains of bin Laden and treat him wi th respect which is in keeping with our Christian morals. President Obama even gave orders not to kill the women or children unless they presented themselves as a threat. This kind of painstaking decision on President Obama’s part was way more than what bin Laden had done during his terrorizing days on this earth. It was more than bin Laden deserved, yet Obama wanted to show our country and the world, this is how we do things even to our enemies. Now we are faced with the DNA, pictures and eyewitness accounts that bin Laden was there and is now dead. Just l ike in the time of Jesus with his disciples, people doubted and wanted to give the credi t to someone else.

In the case of Jesus his disciples did not want to believe what He was saying. So Jesus concluded in verse 11, “if you don’t believe me least believe in the evidence of the miracles themselves”. Jesus knew they had just witnessed the raising of Lazarus from the dead, they had seen him give sight to a man blinded from birth and feed over five thousand people from a few fish and five loaves of bread, just to name a few.

In the case of President Obama, I am saying to his cri tics and those who want him to fail, believe in the evidence and the Whi te people who were there like, Joe Brennan, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, Vice President, Joe Biden, Director of CIA Leon E. Panetta, and the fact that Obama did what he said he would do a few years earl ier. Do not let the fine work of our military service personnel and the Navy Seal Team be marred by your twisted racial view of African Americans get in the way of our country’s finest hour. I know you find it hard to bel ieve that we, Blacks, can read, write, multiply, add, subtract, analyze, evaluate data and lead wi th di stinction, but we can. Do not let your bent views of one’s skin color take away the glory of how this country and the world feels toward our President Barack Obama just because Obama did something Bush could not and did not do. President Obama said what he would do if given the chance and he did. So if you do not believe what President Obama is saying at least believe the evidence brought back from the mission by the Navy Seal team.

Mr. President Withhold the Pictures at Least for Now

President Obama did the right thing by not releasing the pictures of bin Laden to the public. It would only feed the critics and give the televi sion pundits more to talk about. There are some things better off not seen by bel ievers and non-believers.

Contrary to popular belief, we do not have a right to know or have access to everything. Doctors withhold information sometimes from certain patients for their own good. Parents wi thhold information from loved ones sometimes for their own good. So must our elected leaders sometimes and this is one of them, in my opinion.

Holding My Nose While Supporting State Budget Cuts with Tax Extension Proposal

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The status of California’s budget crisis has everyone concerned about the services provided by the state to its citizens. For the past decade, there has been a shortfall that gets kicked down the road like a kid playing kick ball. Now we are faced with a shortfall of $24.5 billion of which the democrats are suggesting we cut $12.5 billion in service and extend tax revenues that would raise $12 billion to balance our budget and limit cuts to education.

Now while I am not pleased over the choices before me, I know it will be unpleasant for all. The poor and voiceless will take the brunt of this proposal but will be in worst shape under the offer coming from the republicans across the aisle.

To use a combined quote stated by Dr. Albert Karnig, President of California State University San Bernardino, Chancellor Tim White, University of California Riverside and Bruce Baron, Chancellor of the San Bernardino Community College, “the impact on their institutions would be devastating with faculty layoffs, reduce class offerings which affect enrollment which reduce enrollment”.

If this will be the impact placed on the usual students seeking an institution of higher learning, God only knows the impact on students of color, especially African Americans and Latinos.

When you view just a couple of the key indicators of education on our students in public education, you will begin to see my concerns. The dropout rate for African American students is 36.8% and 26.7% for Latinos in California. For those students left in the system, their Academic Performance Index scores of 686 Blacks and 715 Hispanics fall way below the sought after score of 800. If our students are performing below acceptable levels in our public education system, they surely will not be able to attend our institutions of higher learning, so the few who might qualify will be impacted.

So our legislators need to seek a balanced approach to solving the budget crisis. To paraphrase Assembly Member Wilmer Amina Carter: “If we want our children to have the kind of opportunity and futures we have enjoyed, then we will have no trouble finding enough republicans to solve the state’s budget problem”.

When I served on the school board and an educational issue came up in Sacramento that was divided along the party lines and this issue was going to hurt students, republican members of the board would contact republicans and democrats would do likewise. Local school board members must weigh in on this issue and speak for students who can not vote or contribute to campaigns.

All of us have contributed to the problem so let’s all join in to make a sacrifice in solving it by holding our nose if necessary to do what none of us want to do.

Norris Gregory, San Bernardino's First Black City Councilman Dies

San Bernardino lost Norris Gregory last week to cancer. Norris was the first African American to grace the city council as an elected representative of our government. In order to elect a Black or Hispanic during the late sixties and early seventies, the city had to draw lines down racial neighbors because Whites would not vote for people of color. Norris often talked to his supporters about the difficulty of raising funds for his two campaigns.

I first met Norris when I held a coffee for him in our home on California Street. As a young parent the thing I was concerned with was the fast traffic that came down the street between Baseline and Highland Avenue.

Norris won the election and we got our stop sign in front of Rio Vista School. Norris’s campaign also brought attention to the city from other elected officials like then councilman of Los Angeles, Tom Bradley, who came to San Bernardino for fundraisers on behalf of Norris. That single election changed the composition of every commission and board under the authority of the city. I was appointed by Norris to the Police Commission, when his original appointee moved out of the city.

Another thing Norris did was to help relocate the Kaiser Permanente Medical Clinic from 9th and “D” Street to its present location on Date Street. I got a call from a Kaiser Governmental Representative asking the question if I knew anyone on the council because they were having trouble in getting the votes. I gave them Norris Gregory’s name and how this would benefit the city. After the clinic was opened, Pam Bolton became the first African American employee to be employed at the clinic.

Because of his cutting through the racial tension that existed during that time others were able to follow like: John Hobbs, Valerie Pope-Ludlam, Dan Frazier, Betty Dean Anderson, Gordon McGinnis and now Rikke Van Johnson.

My Memories of Valerie Pope-Ludlam as a Friend

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By Hardy Brown –

I first met Valerie during an off campus Sociology Class put on by the University of California, Riverside throughout Riverside and San Bernardino County. The purpose was to bring people of different races together for greater understanding of each other and work on issues common to each group.

The next time I ran into Valerie was at a request to turn her electricity on for a hair dressing business, if my memory serves me correctly. Of course our paths crossed many times during political elections and she supported me for my school board election. But the thing I will most cherish about our relationship is in her position with the welfare mothers.

I was the collector of overdue electric bills and if you could not pay, I had the responsibility to turn the electricity off and the westside was part of my territory for the Edison Company. Delman Heights, above Highland Ave., had a reputation of people being bad and moving around, destroying property, replacing electric meters from one home to another to get free electricity and stripping vacant homes of cabinets, electrical conduits and selling them. I started working with Valerie and found out it was not the people on welfare but contractors who was refurbishing homes and wanted to get the federal government to fund various housing projects. I shared this information with my supervisor to change the perception of the people living in the community, thanks to Valerie.

Valerie also asked me to give more time in collecting unpaid bills to coincide with when the mothers got their checks at the first of the month. This way it would prevent lights from being turned off and them having to pay a deposit. I could not change Edison’s collection policy but I could and did give more extensions on over due bills, without the knowledge of Edison management. In turn the mothers got their checks and true to form paid me when I came back to collect. As a result more of them improved their credit rating with us as good customers. Also at the same time my good friend Don Griggs was in management training at our local district office and he used his position to have lights turned on for Valerie and her mothers with no deposits. He will tell you they never let us down.

Valerie went on to use the relationships she encountered throughout the years to hold public office as San Bernardino City Council Member and I will cherish her with fond memories. Her late husband Jack was my son’s baseball coach on Delman Heights Little League Baseball Team.

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