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.