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.