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Has San Bernardino City Hall become like the O.K. Corral of Tombstone?

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I know you have heard of Tombstone, Arizona and the historic gunfight at the O.K. Corral between the Earps and the Clantons back in 1881 that left three dead in just thirty seconds. The story is that Ike Clanton made several threats on Wyatt Earp’s life which turned into a feud between them and Doc Holliday. The Earps put into law no guns were to be worn in the city limits but Ike and his boys came to town and waited for the Earps to come and take them off at the O.K. Corral. No one on Earps side was killed nor was Ike and two others from his side so the feud continued until Wyatt got Ike.

In San Bernardino, there has been a feud going on for some time between the city attorney and the city council for over twenty years, regardless of who sits on the council or in the mayor’s seat. Recently during the budget crisis facing the city every department has been requested to cut deep into their budget to fit the deficit. Every department has complied but on Monday, the city attorney came back with a request for funds to contract with outside law firms to handle some court cases. On the first go round the council said yes you can contract with outside law firms but you must do so with funds from the city attorney’s office. This did not sit well with city attorney Jim Penman because he saw this as retaliation on him by the city council as taking away his power to run his public duty. Of course the council sees it as their duty to handle the business of taxpayers in a prudent manner with everyone contributing to the solvency of the city. Penman of course re-hashed everything that had happened to him since he was elected over twenty years ago including court cases. This did not move four members of the council one bit as they blasted away at Penman telling him to use his current budget.

As the meeting wore on into the evening, other council members got in the battle with Rikke Van Johnson informing the public that Penman had orchestrated this whole incident for more funds. Johnson read a quote from one of the officers that told him Penman had talked with him about the plan. This did not sit well with other members on the council but then Councilmember Chas Kelly decided to talk to the city manager in a demeaning manner about finding the funds to help solve the problem. Of course the city manager, who is Black, fired back to Kelly in the same manner and this prompted Penman to quip in a derogatory tone about the city manager’s salary.

In the Black community we know of many whites who do not believe Black’s should make more than them, have nicer homes, wear better clothes even if the Black person has the qualifications to justify that salary. This is what Penman was saying and Kelley was reminding the city manager that even with the position, he was still a boy to him.

This exchange forced the mayor pro-tem Tobin Brinker to call for a break in the meeting so things might cool off. Later in the evening another opportunity came up for Penman to request the council to reconsider his request, if not, the city would surely lose current cases costing the city more. However, one thing was different in Penman’s tone of voice so Van Johnson put the funds for one case back on the table for reconsideration and the council did give him the funds.

Now there were more dynamics going on in the meeting than I have time or space to expound on but like the fight at the O.K. Corral, no one on the council (the Earps) were injured in the fight and Penman (Ike Canton) got away to fight another day. One thing is clear to Penman, the council is clear in its determination to do the business of the taxpayers and hold all other departments to the same financial standards.

The fight in tombstone lasted just thirty seconds as compared to seven hours at city hall. But, I am happy I watched all of it because I got to see not only the feud but witness Chas Kelley’s disdain for Black people in his treatment of the city manager and Penman’s jealousy of the city manager’s salary.

Rev. Benjamin Inghram Made A Difference in People’s Lives

The African Methodist Episcopal Church lost another pastor last week, who was a friend of mine, in the name of Rev. Benjamin Inghram. Rev. Inghram sheperded the flock of Bethel AME Barstow for over forty years.

I first met Brother Inghram at Muscott Elementary School, now Dr. Howard Inghram Elementary, where he was custodian with the San Bernardino City Unified School District and I was a meter reader with Southern California Edison. Inghram would have to let me into the electrical room where the meter was located and of course that would give us a few minutes to share the latest news of the day. During the sixties it was not too often that I would see someone of color with keys to the electrical room and I guess the same could be said about the one reading the meter.

He shared with me his calling to preach and his journey to spread the word to his loving congregation. During that time I was a member of Delman Heights Four Square Gospel Church so when I moved my membership to St. Paul AME we often visited him in Barstow. After he retired we got to see each other on a regular basis because he called St. Paul his home. I loved having him in my bible class because he always brought a different view to the discussion in his low voice. His low voice is one reason for getting your attention because in order to hear him you had to be quiet.

He loved talking politics with me each Sunday after church and would urge me to write more hard hitting editorials. Most people do not know it but my readers like Rev. Inghram are the reason I have to stay abreast on local and national issues and incorporate their thoughts into my editorials. He told me one Sunday the outer society needs to know and understand our plight and what we have gone through as well as our aspirations. He wrote two books during retirement because he wanted to make a difference in the lives of people, and that he did. I know he did mine.

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+1 # Guest 2011-03-10 14:37
Your characterizations about Councilman Chas Kelley are WAY off base. Councilman Kelley has been leading the fight to name San Bernardino's first city park for a local African-American leader--Jack Hill. Yet others at City Hall are stonewalling Councilman Kelley's request. Are THEY racist for refusing to Councilman Kelley's efforts to name a city park for Jack Hill? Kelley's criticisms of the City Manager have NOTHING to do with race. They concern the City Manager's refusal to provide information about city funds to members of the City Council and the public.

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