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Hardy L. Brown

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.”

Pete Aguilar for the 31st Congressional Seat in 2014

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The race for the 31st Congressional seat in 2014 has already drawn many democratic contenders to run. The seat is currently occupied by Republican Gary Miller. Miller has the money but democrats have the majority voters in the district and for all practical purposes the right candidate should get elected without much effort. However that is easily said than becoming a reality as the last election showed us.

Currently we have Mayor of Redlands, Pete Aguilar who was born and raised on the west side of San Bernardino where his parents told family members that in order to make it in America they must learn and speak English as their primary language. He did as his parents told him and got a good education that allowed him to grow up and lead one of our premier cities in the Inland Empire. Not bad for a Latino boy from the west side of town where he also worked with his blind grandfather in the family business.

This diverse community of African Americans and Hispanics with his family experience taught him how to relate to all people and has propelled him to lead Redland’s citizens as mayor and council member. He led all Democratic contenders in the June 2012 election but came in third behind two Republicans because four democrats split up their votes. The National Democratic Party has already committed to helping Aguilar which he has said yes to their support.

Also we have former congressional member Joe Baca who was defeated by Gloria Negrete McLeod in 2012 for the 35th Congressional seat. Joe decided to move from Rialto to Fontana so he would not have to run against his republican friend Gary Miller. The voters in this new district heard of Joe using his office as a personal bully club and rejected his family style of representation and his close relationship with the National Rifle Association.

Next we have Danny Tillman of the San Bernardino School Board who is talking about running for the seat. Tillman has been elected to the school board for four terms and we have witnessed the decline in test scores and high dropout rate in the African American student population. He has to take responsibility for that decline even though some movement is being made.

I know that Tillman is being giving advice by a losing candidate Renea Wickman who believes that being African American should be a part of the qualifying criteria for seeking office. The voters an myself have rejected that kind of thinking even though the candidate should be inclusive of all people that they represent.

Last we have Eloise Reyes, Esq. talking about exploring a shot at running for congress. She is a very successful attorney and has expressed an interest of being appointed a Superior Court Judge. Maybe she changed that line of thinking and wants to make public law instead of interpreting public law. I am not sure if she is aware of the effort, time, money and commitment it takes to seek a seat in congress.

In my opinion, I believe every citizen has the right to run for office just like I did when I ran for the school board. Having said that, all candidates need to know what they are up against, why they are running, what they hope to accomplish and have some plan as to how they might pull it off.

From what I know thus far, Pete Aguilar has all of those things I just mentioned and more because he has garnered the support of many leaders in the district and the National Democratic Party, plus he has my support for what it is worth. Pete will provide the leadership our district needs.

Norma Torres For 32nd District Senate Seat

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With the election of Gloria Negrete McLeod to the 35th Congressional District, her former state senate seat became vacant and as of Monday, early voting began to fill this vacancy. On the ballot for the position are Assembly Member Norma Torres (D) of Pomona and Paul Leon (R) of Ontario.

Both individuals have local government experience - serving on city council and serving as mayor of their respective cities. Torres has additionally served her district well as a member of the state assembly since 2008.

While both candidates have similar backgrounds at the local government level, in my opinion the edge would go to Torres with her Assembly experience. And with the Democrats in control of the Senate, Assembly and executive branch of our government, she will have a greater chance of being heard in bringing our regions issues to the top of the state’s agenda.

I know Torres will continue in the fine tradition of female senators that started with Nell Soto and continued with Negrete McLeod. In her current position Torres serves on the Economic Development and Job Creation Committee, Housing & Community Development Committee, and the Banking & Finance Committee. She has the full support of labor unions and the Democratic Party.

The 32nd Senate District serves the communities of San Bernardino, Rialto, Fontana, Ontario, Colton, Montclair, Bloomington, Muscoy and Pomona. So citizens living in these cities must exercise their civic duty and vote.

Our district is in great need of good paying jobs that will sustain families above the poverty level. Our local cities need help recovering from current financial hardships. Our educational institutions are in need of attention and Torres will help with that as well.

I am recommending that the voters in the 32nd Senate District vote and elect Norma Torres.

Wall Street Journal Wrong on "Pay to Play" Bill

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Last week the Wall Street Journal’s Allysia Finley published an opinion that California liberals were at it again for introducing Assembly Bill 475 that would require all NCAA associated universities give student athletes an additional $3,600 annual stipend from their $20 million revenue generated from media and merchandising profits.

It is estimated that the NCAA, a non-profit organization, makes $11 billion each year from televised college sports, specifically basketball’s “March Madness” and football’s various bowl games. Of that revenue, the athletes get nothing. Even the coaches and their staff earn multi-million dollar annual salaries to coach these gifted athletes.

Many in the public are not aware that if the athlete is injured, he or she is left to figure out a different method for paying for school or has to dropout entirely because of a lack of tuition. Often these scholarships are given with annual contingencies for that very reason. This total control over our young athletes reminds me of some systems that have been practiced in the past and are now outlawed in America.

First there was “slavery” which was legal from 1619 to 1863. Slaves had no rights and helped build the economic foundation in America of which we now enjoy as citizens. Many people watched that practice and thought it was a fair system to work people for no wages but give them food and shelter in exchange for their free labor.

We had another unfair labor practice under the “Indentured Servitude” law. An owner was allowed to work a person for up to seven years and give them food, accommodations and no payment for their free labor. It was a binding contract and the person had no rights to speak out against the owner. Again many people watched that practice and thought it was a fair system for people to work for no wages.

After that we had (and still do in some states) a system of “share cropping” of which I have some personal experience because I worked under it. The owner will give you food and a house to live in during your agreement to work the farm and share in the profits after the crops are harvested. Some people were able to live well under this system depending on the owner but the majority of the share croppers left the farms with only the clothes on their backs and no place to go.

Just like the athletes of today it depends on the coach of the team as to how athletes are treated. If you attend a school where the coach put your academics first and sports second, then you make out good because you leave with a degree in hand.

Now we have the bigger than life NCAA which is run by a group of individuals that set the polices that govern the honed skills of our young and gifted boys and girls and give them nothing in return while the owners make billions of dollars.

In the article, Finley even suggested that low-income athletes should take out Pell Grants to cover any additional cost while attending college and playing ball. This is a new one for me. She is suggesting that now the student should take out a loan and give it to the college or university to play on the team. Neither the person in slavery, indentured servants nor sharecroppers had to do that.

So in my business opinion the Wall Street Journal is suggesting a new system of Pay to Play for the student athletics in America. Also California is leading the way to ensure our students are treated fairly and not being exploited by greedy hungry organizations exploiting them financially.

In my opinion this “pay to play” practice must stop.

San Bernardino City Says One Thing Then Does Another

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To borrow a quote from Dr. Benjamin Mays of Morehouse College on Leadership and Core Values: “It will not be sufficient for Morehouse, for any college, for that matter, to produce clever graduates, men fluent in speech and able to argue their way through; but rather honest men, men who can be trusted in public and private--- who are sensitive to the wrongs, the sufferings, and the injustices of society and who are willing to accept responsibility for correcting the ills.”

I had the opportunity to watch the televised city council meetings for Riverside, Fontana, and San Bernardino and after watching the latter I thought, I have taught Bible classes for over forty years and one thing I have found is that nations or cities with the strongest and best trained armed police forces have not always prevented crime, corruption in government or those in authority from taking advantage of its people. I have also read many history books and watched many movies portraying stories where the highest paid gun slingers only added to the town’s problems; it was only when good citizens raised up with enough backbone to confront the towns bullies that these bullies turned themselves around.

The city of San Bernardino has been drifting towards bankruptcy and not electing strong leaders for many years especially under its present system of public safety association funded political campaigns. Although the leadership has been different (different mayors and council members), they have all served under the same legal advisor, City Attorney Jim Penman. And all of them have been funded by public safety associations. And they have all had to enforce Charter section 186 which provides public safety workers automatic salary increases regardless of the city’s ability to pay.

The council has a tendency to say one thing and turn around and do another all while being gently nudged by its legal advisor. A few examples: The council was faced with having no money to pay for a section 186 pay raise of over $1 million to police and firefighters. Penman took to the mic and proceeded to scold the mayor and told the council if they did not approve the raise they would lose the vote in court. That might or might not be true but since the city is broke they could tell the court we have no money to pay them like we had in the past as we are also required to provide other services to our citizens.

Now all of the blame does not fall at the feet of Penman because the council approved the salary increase on a 5-2 vote with Fred Shorett and Virginia Marques voting no, showing courageous leadership in opposition to charter section 186.

The mayor opened the agenda item explaining the problems with section 186 but then turned the meeting over to Penman for a history lesson in politics and not a legal opinion. Mayor Morris must shoulder some responsibility as the city’s Chief Executive Officer and spokesperson. He must take charge of these meetings and keep it a meeting of the mayor and council.

Another one of his political opinions has now put the city on the hook and in the crosshairs of the State of California, by keeping millions in redevelopment funds. Penman has recently written a legal opinion to the state only to have the state say they will withhold payment of any money due the city until the state is paid all that is due them.

Penman prides himself as being the city’s watchdog for good government. But why would he take on the State of California but not public safety? Is it because the state does not give to political campaigns?

T mayor and the council say we have the best cops in the state because we pay them high wages, while in the same sentence say we have the most dangerous city in the state. Mind you we have been paying these high wages ever since the voters added section 186 to the city charter over two decades ago.

Then they say we want to bring high paying jobs in the city. The highest paying jobs in the city are the police and fire fighters but less than 10% of them live in the city with 90% taking over $40 million into other communities where they live. Penman tells us that other police officers that work in other cities live in San Bernardino but fails to give any evidence to back up that statement. They say one thing then do another.

They want the citizens to spend money in the city but they give contracts to vendors outside the city.

They want the best employees yet they belittle all employees who come before them at the meetings.

They want the cleanest city in the region yet they give those departments with the responsibility to keep it clean, no money and ask for citizen volunteers to pick up trash in the parks.

They are in bankruptcy then hire a city manger who has filed personal bankruptcy two times. It’s time for our elected city leaders to stop saying one thing and doing another.

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