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Hardy L. Brown

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.

Assembly Bill 335 is a Common Sense Bill

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Recently my wife, the newly elected Assembly member Cheryl Brown of the 47th District, introduced AB 335 that will assist low income or working class communities by prohibiting law enforcement from impounding vehicles that can be parked legally or released to a licensed driver. I’m very proud of her for a number of reasons, but the most important one is that as a Sacramento lawmaker she is staying true to her life’s mission to help the disadvantaged, the voiceless, and those who are working hard to support their families.

In the state of California, the current law allows law enforcement officers to impound a car if the driver is stopped for some reason and found to have a suspended or revoked license or if they left it at home. In most cases, the person driving the car is released on the spot while the car, which has no violation of registration is impounded or put another way, is taken off to jail and locked up for 30 days at $50 a day plus towing fees of $225 and sold if the owner of the car does not pay all of these fees which is shared by the jurisdiction and the company.

The current law is disproportionately enforced in low-income communities as well as in communities of color. Who is going to believe the grandmother speaking in broken English who tries to explain that she did not know her grandchild was driving her car with a revoked licensed? Or the African American mother who did not know her son’s drivers license was suspended when he drove the car to the store for her? I even heard a story where a woman was stopped at night by law enforcement with her four children in the car. When she told the officer she left her license at home he sent for a tow truck and impounded her car while leaving her on the side of the road with her children. It cost her over one thousand dollars to get her car back.

There are hundreds of stories like this up and down the state. These people do not have the funds to pay the impound charges or a voice to combat this practice. I see no problem with a bill that will allow a car to be legally parked until a licensed driver or its legal owner can come and drive it away.

While I don’t talk to my wife about her legislation, like anything else I started reading more about the current practice. I found that some cities like Los Angeles already have a similar policy where the car can be parked and picked up instead of impounded if the car is not in violation. Even the current laws regarding DUI checkpoints require officers to arrest the drunk driver and release the car to a licensed driver. The person caught in a checkpoint without a license cannot lose his car to impoundment.

So why the inconsistency with the law? I think the state should use this legislation as an opportunity to study where this practice is taking place and see where these victims live. I would like to know if people in middle or high-income communities have their cars towed at the same rate as those in low-income communities and communities of color. In my opinion, I believe it can bring some parity to a practice that has been unfairly executed in communities of less influence.

Ain't Black Americans U.S. Citizens, Justice Scalia?

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United States Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia said that the Voting Rights Act of 1965 signed into law by then President Lyndon Baines Johnson, which had been reauthorized unanimously by congress for the past fifty years, is a “racial entitlement” law.

I don’t know which country Justice Scalia has been living in but it is not the United States. Ever since this law took effect, some White people with racial biases and an un-American idea of our democracy have tried to dismantle the rights of Black, Latino and, Asian Americans to exercise their right to vote as citizens.

In the Bible, Paul had to exercise his citizenship rights in Acts 22:25 when the centurion soldier was about to whip him. Paul said “is it legal to whip a Roman citizen who has not been tried?” Paul was saying you might have a desire to whip me for being a follower of Christ but you can’t whip me until I have been tried and found guilty.

To Justice Scalia: you might not like how I vote but you cannot take my right to vote away unless you remove all citizens’ right to vote. Race, sex, age, and religious entitlements have been a part of the American agenda every since an all-White male group wrote, enacted, and enforced the laws of the constitution of these United States.

Let me say it another way. Sojourner Truth rhetorically asked some White women during her speech of 1851, “Ain’t I a woman?” Truth had every thing that White women had, she had even bore children, 13 to be exact, and what she did not have was White skin that would allow her the privilege to go about in America as a free woman. So my question to Justice Scalia is “Ain’t I a United States Citizen?” I was born and raised in this country with over four hundred years of family lineage, does that not allow me the same guaranteed constitutional rights as any White citizen? Maybe what you are saying Justice Scalia is you do not want Blacks, Latinos and Asians to have the same “racial entitlements” as the White race in America.

To my brothers and sisters, this is why politics is so important to me. Part of the process is appointing people to our court system on a national and local level. We must appoint people who have a good understanding of our history and are fair in their deliberation of the issues placed before them on behalf of the people.

 

My friend Frank Stallworth

I first met Frank during a political campaign when he first came to San Bernardino. Frank was the campaign manager of Jerry Herndon for the Sixth Ward City Council and I was the manager of John Hobbs’ campaign for the same seat. Needless to say, Hobbs won and Frank and I became lifelong friends after that. Frank went on to join the staff of Senator Ruben Ayala and Senator Nell Soto where he served our community.

Everyone got to know Frank by his jovial way of greeting anyone and always approached me with kindness, “Brother Brown, let me tell you about this business venture I am thinking about.”

Frank loved the church and all of the things that went along with it and he was most at home being in front of the church, it was like tossing a rabbit in a briar patch.

If I didn’t see Frank for a while, I knew I could always see him on New Years Eve at St. Paul AME’s 10 PM night watch service with his entire family. He was a faithful worshipper of Jesus Christ and lived his life as such.

Frank, along with Rev. Lamar Foster, talked me into serving on the Boys and Girls Club Board of Directors with his friend Jerry Herndon as Executive Director. From that relationship we developed a bond that would draw laughter everytime we would greet one another because the club was struggling from a lack of funds during our tenure.

Our community has lost a committed citizen, his family a great leader, and me a good friend.

Your Customers Can Get You in Trouble

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Most of us know and have used the statement, “the customer is always right” but in some instances it’s not always the case. In Saturday’s business section of the Press Enterprise the top story caught my attention, as did two other stories on that page. The top story headline was “Some patients won’t see nurses of different race”. The second story was “Black contractors group seeks hiring parity and the third was “Unemployment rate dip”.

The first story cited the request of a White father in Detroit, with a swastika tattoo insisting that Black nurses not be allowed to touch his newborn and the request was written on the patient’s chart. Of course the two Black nurses on duty read the note and wondered what were they to do if the baby needed care and no other White nurses were on duty with them. There were no compelling reasons stated with the note and of course the nurses filed a charge against the hospital for honoring this “racial preference” request from their customer.

This first story reminded me of a phone call I received from the head nurse at Kaiser Hospital’s maternity ward during my early days as the Equal Employment Opportunity Coordinator at Kaiser Hospital in Fontana. She said, “Hardy I have a problem, there is a young White girl here in labor and she does not want our Black doctor to help with her delivery and there is no other doctor on duty.“

I told her we couldn’t assign our services to members based on race, so she will have to go somewhere else for service because we cannot honor her request.

A few hours went by and I received another call which the head nurse informed me that it worked out quite well. As the baby moved closer to being delivered and discomfort came with pain the doctor’s race became less of an issue. The doctor did such a great job that she selected him to be her doctor after the delivery.

Now there are times when certain circumstances of race or gender might be a reasonable request from a patient or family member because of some traumatic life experience that is motivating the request, which must be evaluated and considered. If you are in the emergency room for care after just being beat up by a group wearing swastikas, you might reject the care from a health worker with those tattoos all over his arms and body.

Not fully understanding discrimination law at the time, I relied on my personal experience as the first Black meter reader at Edison. I came into the office after reading meters on my shift and my supervisor, Bill Slaven, called me into his office and said, “Hardy we received a call from a customer who told me he did not want any Negros coming on his property reading his electric meter.” Mr. Slaven said “I told him we would send a crew out to disconnect his service and he could sign up with another company for electrical service or he will accept whoever we send out regardless of race or sex.”I just wanted you to know customers do not tell us how to run our business.”

My experience has told me the customer is not always right and sometimes can get you into real trouble.

Black Workers Need Work Too

The second PE story involved Black workers in the construction industry protesting the lack of being hired on a state funded project worth $63.2 million to build a courthouse in Banning. The Young Black Contractors Association of South Central spokesperson Drexell Johnson said in the article that officials made a commitment to put a racially diverse pool of local laborers and contractors to work on the project but that has not happened. They have hired many minorities but none are Black.

Banning is a city in Riverside County that has a good reputation over many years in the Black community. The mayor, Debbie Franklin is African American and Mayor Pro-Tem Bob Botts is White and the city has a long history of inclusion of all races in public policy and the citizens elect minorities to the city council and to the school board.

I wonder what went wrong with the contractors in charge of this project to think that they could build without the Black community noticing or saying anything?

With the unemployment rate for Blacks doubled that of any other group in California, I can see why they would protest. If the contractor was using his on money maybe he could hire whomever he pleases, but since this is public money and being built for public use he is wrong. So I encourage him to get with the program and be more inclusive or not go after publicly funded projects.

President Obama's Bold Agenda – They Deserve A Vote

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In last week’s State of the Union address President Barack Obama laid out a bold agenda for congress to work on for the American people. He challenged congress to get it done for the people and not for any political party. He advocated for immigration reform, becoming a magnet for new jobs in manufacturing, building a “fix it first” infrastructure program, funding early childhood education, voting rights reform, passing climate change legislation, passing the Violence Against Women Act, increasing the federal minimum wage to $9.00, and other issues. However, it was during his call for sweeping change on gun violence that saw the chambers erupt with a standing ovation as he called out the names of those killed or seriously injured by guns: Hadiya Pendleton, 16 years old of Chicago whose family deserves a vote, former Congresswoman Gabby Gilford deserves a vote, the families of Newtown where 20 children and six teachers were killed deserve a vote, the families of Aurora deserve a vote, the families of Oak Creek deserve a vote, the families of Blacksburg, Tucson and countless other communities deserve a vote.

I would like to add a few names to this list that deserve a vote for gun reform: Riverside police officer Michael Crain and San Bernardino Sheriff detectives Jeremiah MacKay and Alex Collin deserve a vote; Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence who were to be married deserve a vote for stricter gun regulations in America. While Christopher Dorner, with his law enforcement and military history, could have easily passed the background check, legislation that would make it more difficult for civilians to obtain assault weapons, could have possibly made a difference.

So I join President Obama, hundreds of law enforcement leaders, and surviving family members of lost and injured loved ones in saying these citizens deserve a vote.

The Leadership of San Bernardino is Misguided

The citizens of San Bernardino deserve better leadership at city hall. Everyone knows that the city has filed for bankruptcy and that means you do not have any money to spare. So what does the city attorney do? He asks the city council to hire a litigator for $6,000 a month retainer while guaranteeing him 25% of whatever he can obtain by taking people to court. If he is as good as the city attorney says he is, why not give him 30% or 35% of what he litigates without the retainer fee obligation. By the way the litigator currently works in the city attorney’s office and lives in Palm Desert. Enough for keeping the citizens’ tax dollars in the city.

The city council approved the request on a 6 to 1 vote while in their next breath asking for all citizens to buy local and shop in the city to help the city out. Fred Shorett was the lone council member that voted against this give away of public money. You may or may not know that currently the public safety employees take over $40 million dollars out of the city each year in salaries because they do not live in the city.

If the city is broke how could you agree to such a request by the city attorney if you do not have any money? It does not add up or make any sense. On top of that, the mayor and council are asking citizens to consider voting for an increase in their refuse pick-up fee. I am actually in favor of that proposal because of all the employees who work in this department that live, shop, pay taxes and send their children to schools in the city.

Before investors put up their money in stocks they first look at the company’s management team. If they have faith or trust in the company’s leadership they will invest in the stock. If the City of San Bernardino were on the stock market no one would invest any money based on the leadership from the mayor, council and city attorney.

They should be recalled, but it would cost the city money that could be used to provide what little service they are currently providing.

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