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Hardy L. Brown

Yes on Proposition 16: 'Know the Cost to be the Boss'

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Proposition 16 is a straight forward proposition, basically giving the right to determine if local government can spend public money or incur public departments to take over private electric businesses. This issue came about when the legislature passed Assembly Bill 117 back in 2002 after our energy crisis. Citizens had high electric bills with rolling black outs due to out of state energy companies selling electricity to Edison, PG&E and San Diego Gas and Electric. Cities like Riverside and Colton in the Inland Empire were unaffected by this crisis because long ago they created and owned their own utility company.

So after the passage of AB117, local governments were given the right to seek out their own electric company. However, they were instructed to follow certain guidelines: Transparency, conducting a feasibility study, and identifying political and administrative costs associated before it would be approved by the California Public Utility Commission. Some municipalities have thought about it but none have followed through primarily because of the cost associated with the guidelines.

Mind you, if some group approached your city council, itcould sound like a sweet deal but they would be playing with your money before you would know when the reduction in your electric bill would take effect, according to studies in Massachusetts and Ohio. So evidence exists that it could be a good deal for those who might want to jump into that business.

My current concern is with the voters being left out of the equation. There is room for public dollars to find its way into individual pockets during the non-transparency phase of the process. Not saying that any current city council anywhere would do such a thing but you never know about someone who wants to make a name for themselves by pledging to reduce your utility bills, if the city owned its own power plant.

So by passing Proposition 16 you are saying you want to be a major player in knowing what your elected city officials are doing if the issue ever comes up. You will be guaranteeing that everything is going to be fully explained to you ahead of time including cost against further savings and when the savings would kick in.

Being a former employee of Edison Electric Company, I can say without a doubt it would be great to own your own company but you just need to “know the cost to be the boss” as B. B. King said in his song. Vote Yes on 16.

San Bernardino City Should Request An Economic Impact Study On Outside Workers

Last week I suggested a few ideas to the city of San Bernardino about ways they can tackle its $24 million deficit. Well this week I have a follow up idea having to do with people who work in the city not making a financial contribution to the tax base of the city.

I would like for the mayor and common council to request Cal State University San Bernardino or Dr. John Husing do an “economic impact study” of employees who work in thecity but pay no taxes or fees back to the city.

I don’t know all of the things that go into such a study but when you think about the impact a yearly salary of $128,684 a household can have on a community: paying a mortgage, furniture, food, clothing, automobile, city tax, city fees, property tax, making community contributions to non profit groups and other things a citizen does in their community, it has a tremendous impact. Then we have a business that wants to do business in a city, they have to pay a business license fee based on a percentage of their earned revenues annually. I thought about this after a conversation I had with a city employee who said “look I provide you a service of safe protection”. Since they view their employment as providing a service we should and could tax that or charge a fee like we do other businesses.

When you think about it, we have people who pay transient or bed tax because they cost the city while using ourresources of water, electricity, gas, phone, streets and othercity paid services. These outside employees are no different.

Another thing is to re-look at the way we pay publicsafety employees by having their compensation packageregulated by the city charter. When this proposed charter change was put in the charter by the citizens, they had no idea the money would be taken out of the city by the employees. Police officers and firefighters resided in the city as next door neighbors, that is not the case now and the pay was not on par with surrounding cities.

So I am suggesting that the mayor and council request such a study on behalf of the taxpayers in the city.

SB955: Racing to the Top

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Last week, I listened in on a senate committee hearing under the leadership of Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) where they were discussing SB955 authored by Republican Senator Bob Huff on education reform. Some ofthe key issues centered on teacher seniority for assignment, transfer, discipline, dismissal, grievance hearing and morelocal authority invested in school boards. These are very sensitive subjects when it comes to teacher associations and other unions and rightfully so, because they are the perceived foundation of unions. However, they are also the achilles heel of these organizations when looking at them from the outside because it appears good teachers get passed over and bad teachers are protected because of the seniority clause and cumbersome grievance procedures. The California Teachers Association spoke out forcefully against the bill and wants no change to the current set up.

As I listened, I heard nothing from the teachers that addressed my concern of the African American students who are suffering under the current system of teacher seniority for assignments in classrooms within the district. Currently we have over 454,000 Black students, 7.3% of the student population, with a statewide dropout rate of 32.0%, an academic achievement gap wider than the Mississippi River and getting wider each year. Blacks are scoring at 674 in the Accountability Progress Reporting (API) test where 800 would be the acceptable score. Black students out test Asians and Hispanics only in English with 33% passing compared to 24% for Asians and 27% for Hispanics. Also according to the Department of Education, we expel 20,883 and suspend 782,692 students each year so who is left in the classrooms for teachers to teach?

I heard nothing coming from the association to address the civil rights of students to get a good quality educationfrom competent teachers whose civil rights should not be violated either. I did hear from one of our senior publishers, a strong supporter of teachers, who said, he is sick and tired of teachers complaining about nothing but money while producing nothing in our classrooms. I agree with him because I advocated for the passage of Proposition 198 and higher teacher salaries back in the eighties. What I have seen is salaries with benefits going up and African American student achievement rates going down. I see a current teacher staffing pattern of Whites at 70.1% and White students at 27.9% of the population and Blacks comprising 4.3% of the teachers and 7.2% for students.

This is not an indictment that the color of one’s skin cannot teach another person of a different race but I wish to point out the inequities of who gets the financial benefits from our education system.

I am not against seniority because seniority should account for something but it should not be the only criteria for districts to make classroom assignments or layoffs due to budget constraints. We cannot forget the primary mission of our public education is to produce an educated and literate society.

I want to commend Senator Gloria Romero for leading the hearing, Senator Huff for authoring SB955 and passing it through the committee with bi-partisan support. I also want to commend Governor Schwarzenegger for his leadership in pushing for this issue to be discussed. As we race to the top in education, they realize, if we all don’t get there we fail as a state. It is my hope and support of SB 955 that as it moves through the legislature they keep the children at the top of discussions with the changes that are bound to occur.

Budget Suggestions for the City of San Bernardino to Consider

The City of San Bernardino is facing a deficit of $24 million and they do not want to raise taxes or fees and do not want to cut services or any combination of the two. I watched public access Channel 3 as some council members declared some departments off limits with a standard Republican echo of “no new taxes.”

Since the city manager indicated he will explore alternatives to help them decide, I have a few suggestions to offer.

I did hear them discuss a “transient tax” for people who stay in hotels, since these people do not live here but use our resources. Cheryl Brown suggested and I concur, that we institute a “working tax” for all city employees who work here but live in other cities. These employees use the city services but do not contribute to the tax base that citizens have to pay for. These people could be considered drain resources while not contributing to the general budget.

The city should consider “contracting out public safety services” to the sheriff’s office. I am sure they can provide high quality services cheaper than the current $68 million department. In a way we contract out the servicenow because 90% of the police staff live in other citieswith a combined salary plus benefits equaling $128,684 a year. Just to give you an example of where they live: 29 in Beaumont, 11 in Corona, 17 in Riverside, 10 in Fontana, 21 in Highland, 28 in Redlands, 16 in Victorville, 41 in Yucaipa and one as far away as Sacramento with only 34 living in San Bernardino. They pay no city taxes or fees and only contribute to citycouncil member’s re-election campaigns and those council members are saying they are “untouchable”. Sounds like a campaign promise being kept.

They can keep the police officers hired with “Measure Z Funds” since it is a “special tax” and layoff police officers whose salaries come from general funds. Next they could bring the “Impounding of cars” back as a city function instead of contracting it out to political partners.

Even though I detected displeasure and downright meanness in some of the comments toward the city manager and his staff they were doing their job by providing all possibilities to reduce the deficit. It is apparent thatsome of the council members want to handcuff the staff from doing their job and then blame them (staff) if it does not go in the direction of their personal liking. You will have to “raise taxes” or “cut services” everything should be placed on the table with no sacred cows. You will have to raise taxes or cut services. When people get hungry they will eat things they vowed never to eat, like the things you took off the table.

Dorothy Height and Benjamin Hooks: A Legacy of Commitment

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If you have followed my stories of growing up as a sharecropper’s son, I want to introduce you to another entrepreneurial side I remember of my father. He had a side profession of “Logging” (cutting wood for the paper industry) in the south. He would take me into the woods with him sometimes and of course this was to teach me the logging business. As you enter the woody area the trees are small and as you travel deeper into the woods for cutting you see medium size to very large timber. Occasionally I would see trees leaning because of hard wind and soft ground and some blown completely down to the ground.

I remember playing on a large fallen tree one time and asked my father what happened to this tree that made it fall. He took the gas powered chain saw he had and cut into the tree and explained the lifetime of the tree by the ring circles of the tree. This tree was here for about 70 years before it fell. It had seen some good years because the rings are steady and even in the bad years when it lacked getting enough water and sunlight to let it grow, it continued to grow and provide protection to others growing under it and I’m sure it provided room for birds and animals to live in and raise their families. Now it is gone to provide space for other trees to do the same.

I thought of that time when I heard of the passing on Benjamin Hooks and Dorothy Height. When I entered the civil rights movement in the sixties Dorothy Height and Benjamin Hooks were already larger than life trees in Black History. They had already encountered many racial epithets while drinking from colored only fountains in Richmond, Virginia, the birthplace of Height and Memphis, Tennessee the place of Hooks’ birth.

Like those trees both had good years and many lean years of shattered hopes and dreams. For example, Dorothy was accepted into Barnard College in 1929 but was denied entrance because of the schools unwritten policy of admitting only two Blacks at a time.

That did not stop Dorothy. She enrolled at New York University where she earned both a Bachelor and Master Degree.

That knowledge was used to fertilize the tree and the tree continued to grow removing racial discrimination laws, practices and stereotypical images about people of color and closed the gender gap for women. I was watching an episode on the television show several months ago about black and white ladies from the north going down south during the sixties selling Tupperware while conducting civil right meetings. I wonder where that idea came from? Well, none other than Dorothy Height and her “Wednesday in Mississippi” organization that brought White and Black women together for racial understanding.

She grew up to advise several presidents from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Barack Obama. She accomplished so many things that made life easier for people thoughout the world. I remember listening in on conversations, here in San Bernardino, as she described to Lois Carson, Cheryl Brown, Wilmer Amina Carter and others, through the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW) Pig Bank Program she envisioned for Swaziland, South Africa. Dorothy Height is Civil Rights Royalty and will be missed but her legacy will live on forever in the deeds she did.

Benjamin Hooks grew up getting hand-me downs as the fifth child on a totem pole of seven. He went to Howard University and earned a bachelor degree and went into the Armed Forces. He later earned his law degree from DePaul University and like the tree he kept on growing; he was ordained as a Baptist Minister in 1956.

Rev. Hooks was a joy to be around because his mind was so sharp and witty with catches quotes. He kept us in stitches when NNPA (Black publishers) held our convention in Memphis back in the nineties. I was first vice-president and had to escort him and care for his needs along with that of Congressman Harold Ford Jr. at the time.

Hooks told a reporter of U.S. News & World Report during an interview; “I wish I could tell you every time I was on the highway and couldn’t use a restroom. My bladder is messed up today because of that, and my stomach is messed up to from eating cold sandwiches.”

Rev. Hooks, became a household name when he became Executive Director of the NAACP in 1976. He energized the organization by increasing membership and liquidating its debt. He was a leader in organizing sit-ins and voter registration drives that helped change the south.

Yes when I entered the forest of civil rights, I am glad I did not stay at the edge where things are small. Learning from my dad if you want to get the real timber you have to venture deep into the forest to meet large giants like Dorothy Height and Rev. Benjamin Hooks. Because of them we can drink from any fountain in the nation. We can sit at any public counter where food is served. We can stay at any hotel we can afford. We can vote for the person of our choosing. We can even run and be elected president of the United States because of their life’s commitment to withstand the harsh elements of racial discrimination. Now they are gone like the fallen trees, it is only to make room for others to grow. We will miss both of them and their leadership. Our nation is a better place because they stood as tall trees.

Who Is Under the Big Tent of the Republican Party?

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Several years ago Retired General Colin Powell, a member of the Republican party, addressed their convention talking about a tent big enough to house a diversity of people with different points of view. I am sure Powell and a few other Blacks are Republicans because it is the party of our 16th President Abraham Lincoln who signed the Emancipation Proclamation abolishing slavery in America and stopping the civil war. Many Americans were happy to see that day but not as happy as African Americans who were the enslaved people and considered property of White owners mostly in the southern states.

There was one America with two different ideas about state rights and what they could or could not do when it comes to civil rights of all citizens regardless of race in this country. So they went to war over these ideas and the White southerners, Confederates, lost and became democrats along with the Ku Klux Klan and other groups that disguised racism in their every day business and practices. It is a history that has been altered and sometimes ignored in Americans history books because it brings back memories some want to forget. This is what we have learned from taking teachers on an Underground Railroad Study Tour every year from Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Canada and New York. Letting them experience the history the way it was during slavery in America.

I bring all of this up because a couple of weeks ago Governor Robert F. McDonnell of Virginia decided he wanted to celebrate Confederate History Month to commemorate the sacrifice of the Confederate solders who died during that war but not mention they were fighting over slavery. Some say he omitted slavery because he wanted to get conservative (KKK) voters, while he said you can’t celebrate everything that happened during that period so he left out why (slavery) the people gave their life for. To be fair Governor McDonnell later changed his mind and included slavery as part of the celebration.

Going back to Colin Powell’s speech of the big tent let us look under it, to see who in under there making policy. We currently have the racist Tea Party members, Rush Limbaugh with his racial comments from time to time, Sara Palin who writes things on her hand while critiquing President Obama who is educated and can articulate his ideas, you have party members calling for the firing of its only Black leader, you have some seeking office claiming Obama is not a citizen, you have the KKK, during Reagan’s presidential campaign, saying the Republican platform looks like it came out of their play book and you now have some Republicans developing a southern strategy to suppress Black voters, increase white voters while altering history in the process. The tent has grown since Powell gave his speech but not in the direction he hoped for.

Some other things have happened under the tent and some have left the tent. A few weeks ago, a White male Republican friend of mine came by to see me and he said: Hardy I had to get out of the Republican Party, I am now a Decline to State. There are a lot of those kinds of people leaving the “Party of No” with their mean spirited attitude. That is the reason McDonnell wanted to rewrite history and view Blacks as non people in the developing of this country and strip us of our rights.

The Republican strategy is to not only remove President Obama from office but all people of color from any decision making position in our society. Just like the Tea Party people are organizing, we to must remain vigilant in our efforts to keep progress moving forward.

The Black Press must report all incidents with analyses of their impact on our people and plead our own cause. The NAACP must remain tentative to all of the political nuances of public policies that are designed to take away civil rights and prepare for court battles. And the church must continue to enlighten our people to strengthen our spiritual resolve to fight against people in high places by putting on the (full armored suit) Paul speaks of in the Bible. Yes Republicans built a larger “tent but the wrong” people were invited in to break bread with them.

NAACP Branch is Seeking Answers to Low Performing Schools

A couple of weeks ago the California Department of Education released a report that landed 11 schools in the San Bernardino City Unified School District at the bottom of the pile in the state. The first report showed other neighboring districts had the same problem but for some reason they were removed the next day. A week later members of West Side Action Group (WAG) decided to call a press conference in front of the district office to highlight its concerns because the kids at the bottom are African Americans. The same is true in the surrounding districts as well as in county operated schools.

School Board President Danny Tillman, rebutted at the conference that some of the actions by the Department of education and WAG are politically motivated because Arturo Delgado, Superintendent of San Bernardino City Schools is running for the County Superintendent of Schools against appointed incumbent Gary Thomas. Some people are supporting Thomas and others Delgado. ents has anything to brag about when it comes to educating Black students, which is my greatest concern.

The NAACP San Bernardino Branch is holding a meeting to try and uncover the facts and focus on educating our children.

I hope they will be able to shed light on the crisis we have in our educational system locally and in Sacramento.

Tobin Brinker Elected Mayor Pro-Tem SB City Council

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The city council of San Bernardino elected Tobin Brinker by a 4-3 vote to be the next mayor pro tem for one year. This will give Brinker the authority to preside over the council meetings and signing authority of city business in the absence of the mayor. It also gives him appointment power of council-members to various committees.

Brinker’s election follows one year of service in that position by council member Rikke Van Johnson, who supported Brinker along with Fred Shorett and Virginia Marques. In my opinion Brinker was the right choice to help move the city forward with his thorough manner of doing his homework and calm demeanor when presenting.

Congratulations on your election and continue to move the city in a direction of professionalism in conducting business and working closer with the school district.

Joe Baca: What is on Your Agenda Now?

A couple of weeks ago I shared my thoughts on Congressman Joe Baca’s lack of action in supporting the Obama administration’s efforts to pass the Health Care Reform Bill, which trigged the administration to send people in the 43rd to contact Joe for support. Well I did get a written response from Joe which was printed today next to my colum. Joe did explain his long support of health care issues, reform and that the letter I was referring to might have come from the Democratic National Committee to remind all representatives to buckle down and vote. Joe even closed his article by stating my column was untrue.

Let me be clear that the request to urge Joe’s support came from the Obama Administration and not the DNC to remind Joe to vote. Joe also said he was surprised to read my thoughts by asking the question “what’s on your agenda? Like I said last week, I was surprised to get the email from Obama that he needed your vote. I do want to know what is on your agenda with the same question: why were you holding your vote out to cause the administration to send your district constituents an email for you to support the bill?

Joe explains in great detail his support for health care issues in hisdistrict as well as his personal interest in the illness (PLS) that has attacked my body. I was aware of the health care hearing he conducted in the district last year. I read all of his communications from his office and view his website regularly. I even watch CSPAN and catch Joe speaking from time to time. I even caught him during the heat of the debate where he said in a few words when called upon to speak, “chairman I reserve the balance of my time” meaning he had nothing to say at this time. Now I know it was a procedural thing, at least I think it was, but here I was watching my representative, having nothing to say. For your information Joe, one thing I have now is lots of time to watch CSPAN, CNN, FOX and view the internet news local and national outlets ten to fifteen hours every day. I also get and read hundreds of emails from every political group in the world, not to mention agencies. So I stay informed about all that you are doing.

Now I know Joe cares about the issues that affect the people in his district but sometimes his politics prevent that from coming through. I have had the good fortune to live under two members of congress since living in the Inland Empire: the late Jerry Pettis, a Republican and George Brown a Democrat. I have also had the good fortune to interface with each of them while working in the healthcare field in Fontana.

When I had to contact Pettis on behalf of our federal funded program his politics was always above board and his reputation was stellar with all his constituents regardless of political party affiliation. The same remained true with George Brown.

I did mention also that the Obama Administration did send out a follow-up email thanking Joe for his support, not the DNC. I too want to thank Joe for finally supporting the historic bill because what ever he was doing gave the administration the impression you had a different agenda.

Now that the issue is behind us Joe, “What is on your agenda now?”

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