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Hardy L. Brown

Gigi Hanna for San Bernardino City Clerk

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I know it is Christmas time and all of us are involved with getting presents for our loved ones and getting ready for Christmas dinner, but we also have people trying to suppress or remove our rights to vote in some states while we are trying to motivate people to vote in San Bernardino.

As of this writing, the national office of the NAACP is fighting the fight in several states to oppose several state initiatives that would require a voter to have a driver’s license in order to vote. We know that many people do not drive especially senior citizens or those living in cities relying mainly on the use of public transportation. You also have states not wanting those with any criminal records to vote at all regardless of current status. The NAACP is trying to maintain the voting rights we have gained over the past fifty years, while in our area we have the right to vote but are not exercising it.

This brings me to the run-off election for San Bernardino City Clerk to be held in February. It will be a “vote by mail” election with the ballots going out on the 9th of January, a week before the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday that is at the height of the national football playoffs, and after the New Year’s celebration. So I know the last thing on people’s minds will be voting-- especially for the position of city clerk.

During the last citywide election just over 12,000 voters took the time to vote for the city clerk position out of a voting population of over 70,000 registered voters in the city. We must do better if we want a more open, transparent, and honest government.

Given this scenario, you might ask the question, “why concern yourself about the city clerk position.” I will answer that question this way; for those who attend church meetings or any meeting for that matter and a motion is made then seconded, then a discussion starts and the original intent of the discussion takes off in another direction and later someone asks the secretary to read the original motion and then the maker of the motion says that is not what I said or meant and the person who seconded it says I did not second that. So you finally pass something and you come back to the next meeting and have the minutes read for approval and the minutes read like something from another group. You wonder if the secretary or keeper of the minutes attended the same meeting you attended, this is why electing the right person as the city clerk is so important. That position governs the records that might wind up in court as what happened in a public meeting.

The city clerk position is responsible for accurate recording of all legal transactions of our city government and ensuring that all elections are conducted in a proper and fair manner. In other words, the city clerk is the “integrity agent” of city government. This person must not compromise or be so closely aligned with others at city hall to give the impression they would change documentation if requested to do so.

According to the primary election documents, the candidates were so closely aligned to another candidate, City Attorney Jim Penman, that they even printed their names on the same yard signs. Her campaign literature was even paid for by Penman. Now I am not saying she would not be independent but the printed evidence gives the impression she would owe her entire election to him. Even without that political baggage she does not match her opponent when it comes to qualifications to hold the position.

Gigi Hanna is a trained public records expert and has the college education to handle the job. If we want to continue a legacy of competent city clerks in the position; efficiently run departments; keeping politics out of the office; being a friend to citizens; and improving public access to government records through technology and conducting a fair and accurate election then join with me in voting for Gigi Hanna for San Bernardino City Clerk.

When you get your ballot in the mail during that first week of January, fill it out and mail it back. This will be your response in letting the NAACP know you take voting seriously. This will be your response to people who think we do not vote. This will be your response to people who think you do not care or count. Remember this will be a “vote by mail” election. This will be a message to Martin Luther King, Jr. that his death was not in vain. This will be your way of saying I want an open and transparent city government that is independent of other elected officials at city hall with a person who cares about me.

Please join me and vote for Gigi Hanna.

Making A Loud Noise So The Snakes Will Move

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This past weekend was a whirlwind tour for me. My wife and youngest daughter Regina Wilson got me to go to San Francisco to receive the Justus F. Craemer, Newspaper Executive of the Year Award from the California Press Association for my editorial writing and positions taken on key issues in the community.

One never knows who is reading or watching what you do or the impact it is having on individuals or the broader community. I always get feedback from my church members and the late Rev. Williams Jacks would always call me up and say “Brother Brown when are you doing your political endorsements so I can vote.” Then I found that most of the church community in Riverside and San Bernardino was waiting and reading my endorsements so they could vote. My Aunt Norma Archie still calls me for other members to say “Hardy don’t forget to do my endorsements”. My friend Rev. Benjamin Inghram would say to me, before he passed, “Brother Brown I wish the greater community could read what you are saying so they would understand where we are coming from on some of these issues.” Rev Inghram would be proud to know that the greater community gave me this honor.

This led me to contact candidates for interviews and research their stance on issues and ballot measures. I thank God everyday for the invention of the internet because now with my physical and verbal limitations from a degenerative neuromuscular condition PLS/ALS, I do not have to go to a bunch of meetings. I can watch public meetings from anywhere in the world on television and webcams from my computer in the office or at home.

I also thank God for my condition because without it, I would not be writing my weekly editorial because I would be too busy running around attending meetings and talking about what someone else should do. He told Paul I am not going to remove the “thorn from your flesh” because “my grace is sufficient for thee” in other words don’t be limited by what you think are limitations but trust in me and I will expand your boundaries and influence, as I did with Jabez.

I am thankful that my parents, Floyd and Essie Brown taught me the value of trying to treat people right and being involved in the community. I am also thankful that Edison and Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program showed me what corporate responsibility to one’s community should do. I am thankful for the public for electing me to the San Bernardino School Board for that is where I learned what good public policy can do in people’s life and that one person can make a difference. I am thankful for my wife, who has devoted her life to helping me in everything I have done over the past fifty years and not wavering as my helpmate. I am thankful for my children, who now work with me everyday and who are making my vision their vision. I am thankful to our staff, especially Lee Ragin, for making sure everything is laid out and in proper order before printing time. I am thankful to my mentor in the newspaper business Sam Martin who gave me the opportunity to own the Black Voice News and told me people need a voice. Last but not least, I am thankful to the Inland Empire community who support the paper each and every week with church and business advertising and readership.

Every week a member of St. Paul AME Church, Brother Abraham, gives my wife one dollar to give to me for delivering the paper to him. This is the kind of support we get from the community for putting out an issue each and every week.

However, it is from my past life experiences that I write the way I write and say it the way I do. I was engaged in a telephone conversation with my brother, Charles Donnie who still lives in Trenton, North Carolina, when he said my editorial reminded him of what we had to do in order to swim in the river behind our house. Each summer the brush and weeds would grow thick covering the pathway to the river. And each summer that would bring out the snakes which loved to hide in the thick brush. So in order to swim that meant making a new path to the river by making a loud noise and cutting back the brush so we could see and not get bitten by these sliding critters. Snakes do not like loud noises and neither do people in public life.

So in thanking the California Press Association for this prestigious honor, I say let us keep on making some noise so the snakes will move and Press Enterprise Publisher Ron Redfern for nominating me.

Political Fallout from the Election In San Bernardino

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After watching the first meeting of the city council after the election on November 8th, it is clear there will be those seeking revenge on behalf of some of the winners. This is the way of politics in America, like it or not, even on the local level. And, based on the attitude of Wendy McCammack toward the city manager and Jim Penman’s statements on the new council, it is clear the new staff will face a rocky road from them.

I have it from a reliable source that San Bernardino City Manager, Charles McNeely, might be leaving his post at the beginning of the year. McNeely, the city’s first African American top administrator, has brought openness with a management style that gave objective business recommendations to the council for public policy based on researching the issue.

McNeely has also integrated the workforce from top to bottom to reflect the diversity of the community that resides within. He has taken personal insults from some elected officials, who were re-elected, while making presentations to the city council at council meetings. From my observation, some of the attitudes from some council members and city attorney have bordered on disrespect for the city manager and other department heads hired to manage the city. One thing these council members have in common is that they are all supported by the police and firefighter associations who will control the council members in March with the addition of John Valdivia.

The question you might ask is why would he leave? It is clear to me that after the elections, the council will take on a 4th member that will not agree with the direction being offered by McNeely. This new council also might become problematic to the new chief of police Robert Handy. In my opinion, the last police chief left or was pushed out by the association, some council members, and an argumentative city attorney, who has not changed his approach to being the city’s legal council. Penman warned the council at its last meeting, if his budget request to pay and hire outside legal firms to handle cases were not honored by the current members, in March it would be.

It is a fight that I am certain any sane person, McNeely included, would not want to engage in everyday and tarnish a good reputation of public service to many communities. I will hate to see anyone pushed out of a job but it is a double whammy loss to the Black citizens of the community. The other fallout could be the people he brought to the city could exit as well thus creating more uncertainty in the direction of a city in need of stable leadership.

This is politics and the citizens of San Bernardino that did not vote can only blame themselves for not being more involved with the election. The city is in need of a community police force and firefighters that pay taxes. I was watching an old western movie the other day titled “The Return of Daniel Boone,” starring Wild Bill Elliott. The town was reeling from some citizens that took property from homeowners. During the auction of one property, the auctioneer said, “every good citizen pay their taxes and those who do not, are well, not good citizens.” Well those citizens who work in the city but pay no taxes like the police and firefighters are good citizens to other communities but not to San Bernardino.

We will watch and see what the real political fallout will be. It is my hope that they will focus on governing and moving the city forward.

I Will Give You Thanks Forever

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Thanksgiving Day is set aside to give thanks for the many blessings God has given us, for he has brought us over many rough and winding roads last year. Some of us take it for granted because we are still above ground even though the economy or our personal finances might be a little sluggish. Even with the good and bad of our situation I want Him to know I will love Him forever.

Psalm 30
New International Version (NIV)
A psalm. A song. For the dedication of the temple Of David.

I will exalt you, LORD, for you lifted me out of the depths and did not let my enemies gloat over me.

LORD my God, I called to you for help, and you healed me.

You, LORD, brought me up from the realm of the dead; you spared me from going down to the pit.

Sing the praises of the LORD, you his faithful people; praise his holy name.

For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; 
weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” 
7 LORD, when you favored me, you made my royal mountain stand firm; 
but when you hid your face, I was dismayed.

To you, LORD, I called; to the Lord I cried for mercy:

“What is gained if I am silenced, if I go down to the pit? 
Will the dust praise you? Will it proclaim your faithfulness?

Hear, LORD, and be merciful to me; LORD, be my help.”

You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 
 that my heart may sing your praises and not be silent. LORD my God, I will praise you forever.

Have A Happy Thanksgiving from the Black Voice News Family.

Firefighters and Police Associations Control San Bernardino City Government

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“Perception is Reality” is said over and over throughout our daily conversation these days in America. We use it when people believe something to be true or not or when there is evidence to support their belief. Now that the election is over in the City of San Bernardino, it appears to me that the firefighters and police officers associations are now in control of the city council and the city attorney after spending over $100,000 for those candidates. I know these elected officials will say their support will have no influence on their vote but I have witnessed these associations receive more support than the chiefs who are hired to manage them.

With the election of 3rd Ward Council member John Valdivia, he will join Chas Kelly, Wendy McCammack, and Robert Jenkins giving them a majority vote on the council. All of them are independent thinkers but will sing to the same tune when it comes to compensation and benefits for the police and firefighters at the expense of other departments and services within the city.

One could argue that the citizens had a chance to be heard and they did, while less than 10% made the effort to vote in the election. If we did not have a vote by mail opportunity, the voter turnout would have been even lower because 7.7% cast their vote that way and only 2.3% went to their local polling locations. So the other citizens will have to live with what less than 10% of the population wants to happen in the city.

Now we will see what the police and firefighters will put forth as an agenda to govern the city while working within a struggling economy and budget deficits. It will take some working together if the city is to move forward but it will be difficult from the battle lines that have been drawn from prior years of political wrangling by the city attorney and some council members and the mayor.

The city is facing an unemployment rate of over 15%, with over 34% living below the national poverty rate. The city also faces a decline in revenue because businesses and middle class income citizens are leaving and setting up housekeeping in other cities like the police and firefighters. The police and firefighters are responsible for moving over $40 million out of the city each and every year so it will be interesting to see what they recommend in solving the budget problems. It is clear to me that if something is not done with city charter section 186 and the 100% pension paid by taxpayers, the city is headed into bankruptcy and everyone will lose. Section 186 should be a collective bargaining issue that is negotiated during contract session and not an automatic pay raise based on other communities with greater financial resources; that is what collective bargaining rights are all about.

It will be interesting to see what this group recommends for other departments within the city to do when it comes to reductions in spending or how to attract business development. It will be interesting to see what happens when the chief of police takes a policy stand contrary to what the rank and file officers think. Will they take a no confidence vote on the chief and be supported by council members? My perception is the associations and four council members will take the position that every department can sacrifice except public safety. The other perception is the city attorney will offer legal opinions that will support the police and firefighters arguments due to the financial political contributions to his campaign.

The reality is the police and firefighters are paid well for the service they render to the city. Over 90% of them take $40 million in salaries and benefits to live in other communities because they believe it is not safe for them or their families. They also have taken some of that money to support or buy council members to make sure there is no interruption of the taxpayer’s money to them. This is not a perception but reality, all you have to do is review the candidates’ campaign reporting statements, watch budget discussions of council members, and see how they vote on their issues.

So once John Valdivia takes the oath of office along with Chas Kelley, Wendy McCammack, and Jim Penman it is my “perception of reality” that the firefighters and police officers associations will be in control of the City of San Bernardino.

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