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The San Bernardino City Council has Rung the Bell

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At a boxing match the announcer comes into the ring grabs the microphone and announces “in this corner weighing in at so many pounds and wearing black trunks is Joe Louis and in this corner wearing white trunks is Max Smelling weighing so many pounds.”

But in San Bernardino politics at the special budget hearing Mayor Pat Morris grabbed the microphone and called the meeting to order and introduced Charles McNeely, the City Manager, who explained the rules of the match for the evening.

He laid out the budget of the city with the shortfalls in revenue and the cuts required to bring the budget in line with the reality of the cash flow. At the end of the marathon session, which lasted until after eleven o’clock in the evening and all the body blows were thrown, Mayor Morris asked thecouncil members “to cast your votes please”.

At this moment it was in the judge/council’s hand to cast a vote to accept the recommendations of the city manager or reject his recommendations. Voting to accept the city manager’s recommendations were Rikke Van Johnson, Virginia Marquez, Fred Shorett, Tobin Brinker and Jason Desjardins with the win and Chas Kelley and Wendy McCammack with the loss. That is the way the vote goes most of the time.

While every level of our government agencies are going through a financial crisis at least the San Bernardino City Council is moving in the right direction to correct a long nagging mismanaged system. I want to commend the five council members who bit the bullet, Johnson, Marquez, Brinker, Shorett and Desjardins for doing the right thing. They accepted the recommendations put before them by McNeely. It calls for an $11 million dollar budget reduction that will begin in July 2011.

One of my main reasons for commending the majority is that the cuts included some sacred cow departments, police, fire and city attorney. Council members Kelly and McCammack did not even want to discuss these departments for cuts. Mind you when you add them together they represent over 72% of all the money from the city’s budget. Then when you look at how much the employees in those departments make and do not live in the city to pay taxes it will make your blood boil. For example: the police average yearly salary is $128,684.20 per officer and only 34 out of 305 call San Bernardino home. They take our hard earned money to other cities to employ other employees to provide services for their own family members.

The firemen are no better when it comes to being good citizens of San Bernardino. They make on average $160,183.57 per year with only 8 of 148, calling San Bernardino home. In the communities where these city workers live they have nice green parks, libraries, paved streets and enough employees working in planning to help developers with building permits.

According to the adopted budget of 2010-2011 information given to us by John Wilson, Senior Assistant City Attorney, their budget is nearly $4 million dollars, of which they employ two code enforcement officers and two detective inspectors whichare duplicate employees which are provided by other departments. Penman wants to have his own FBI employees instead of relying on the police or code enforcement departments for action. The Police Department budget is over $57 million dollars, that does not include Measure Z money. The Fire Department’s budget is over $32 million dollars. Just think about what we could do if these employees lived, bought homes, cars, food, paid sales taxes and sent their children to school in San Bernardino?

The reason McCammack and Kelley did not want these public sacred cows to be touched is because of donations to their political campaigns. Also added to this bunch is Jim Penman the City Attorney who is the Muppet Masters of all of them. It became crystal clear watching him at the budget hearing as he described his ability to get five votes onthe city council. Penman said he went to thecity manager and then the mayor after he hadtalked the strategy over with his mouth piece on the council Wendy McCammack. I said to myself Mr. Penman has lost his way by gathering votes instead of offering legal advice to the city. He lost his way when he told a Mexican family I will help you by giving you a one way ticket to Mexico. Or was it another time when he proposed that every council member should be voted on by every citizen in the city. He proposed that because Whites vote at a higher percentage than Blacks and Hispanics thus Whites would control city hall with this scheme. The NAACP and MALDF organizations saw this as a violation of the Voting Rights Act and called him on it.

Mr. Penman also gets the lion share of his political donations from, you guessed it, the police and firemen associations. I hope they do not help fund the opposition to Measure Con the ballot in November for some necessary charter changes to have the city attorney, treasurer and city clerk appointed instead of being elected. If they do then the next charter change will be to correct the way police and firemen are paid. The current city clerk and treasurer have signed on to the charter change recommended by four members of the city council. I might add the mayor had nothing to do with the original group that came up with the idea to push forthis charter change. I know because I was atthe meeting.

And Mr. Kelly sits at the dias and talks about developing jobs for citizens in the city while he sends millions out of the city every payday with police and firemen toother communities. He didn’t fight as hard for the departments where the Blacks and Hispanics are working to provide services to the public.

Yes I know that we are going through horrible financial times but I am glad to see the council stand up for what is right. Because the well funded well organized public safety unions are getting so much support I am offering to meet with other employees of the city to discuss ways in which they can help themselves politically here in the city. For one you can vote and the police and firemen cannot because they do not live here. So let us get together and discuss strategies so your voice can be heard down at city hall now that the BELL has been rung by the council.

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