By Hardy L. Brown
I was surprised and appalled at a mailer I received over the weekend from the firefighter and police association regarding the city’s recent bankruptcy filing.
I was appalled that they would attack the mayor while taking the position that they have not contributed to the financial troubles of the city. They say this while taking over $40 million annually out of the city in salaries and benefits each and every year. The mailer was to serve their personal agenda and soften up the voters on this financial problem facing the city.
Then equally appalling was the city council spending almost two hours discussing an issue to put a charter replacement measure on the November election cycle instead of how we are going to handle this bankruptcy problem in the city. While I am in favor of changing some parts of the charter, this isn’t the time to talk about it. It is the right issue, being discussed by this council at the wrong time. It is this kind of wrong timing that has kept the council, mayor, and staff from taking care of business in the past.
Mayor Morris described the government of San Bernardino as “habitual chaos or ungovernable” when asked by council member Chas Kelley for his opinion.
To give you another example, the council and city attorney wasted more precious time discussing how to get minutes approved from who makes and seconds motions. They have several months of unapproved council meeting minutes, that are tied up in the city attorney’s office and now he does not have time to review them. Now I don’t know why the city attorney would have to approve them since they are council minutes and the meetings are recorded.
More time was wasted because one council member wanted to tell the elected city clerk how to reduce her work force based on a disgruntled employee who was laid off. The city charter gives all the authority with this matter to the city clerk but this councilmember wanted to run that department instead of discussing the bankruptcy.
More time was wasted when a member of the public decided to threaten one of the council members with a letter of recall if he did not support the motion of putting the charter change on the ballot. I agree with the councilman for not bowing or caving into threats by a single individual.
Of course with our form of government, the public is allowed to add its voice. So twenty-two citizens spoke, offering their thoughts on the issue.
When the dust settled and everyone was exhausted from the discussion, the council voted 4 to 3 not to place the issue before the voters in November, which is a good thing at this point.
It is true that section 186 of the city charter governing police and firefighter pay is out of the control of the council and must be looked at if we are going to hold elected officials accountable for governing the city. However, my issue is not the pay but the fact that all of the police officers and firefighters moved out of the city and want me to continue to support their standard of living while they do not contribute to the tax base.
If they moved back into the city and more Blacks, Latinos, Asians, and women were hired I would not have a problem with Section 186.
Now I agree with the police and firefighters that they are not totally to blame for the city’s financial crises because the mayor, council, and city attorney are to blame by not paying attention to the business of the city. They have been too busy talking about all the right issues at the wrong time just like at the last meeting.
As council members, they must decide whom and how expenses will be cut, while looking at ways to increase revenues to make the city solvent. The citizens will not agree to any tax generating proposals if they do not get their act together.