Due to my illness, I have been somewhat confined to take it easy and do most of my news gathering from newspapers, radio, internet, television and other interactions from people. I guess you say, Hardy this is how I gather my information as well but now I process the information differently than I used to. This brings me to my observation of the way the city government operates in San Bernardino. When I used to attend the meetings, I would only stay for the item on the agenda that I was interested in and never for the complete meeting.
Now more often than not, I will observe the entire meeting sitting in my den, including the Redevelopment Agency portion of the meeting where the council presides as the Board of Directors. I have noticed the many competing interests of people and departments such as the treasurer, city clerk, city attorney, water department or redevelopment that the council or mayor has no control or authority over.
The two areas I see where there needs to be great changes is in the redevelopment agency and water department when it comes to city government authority. I cite these two because they take in a tremendous amount of money from water payments and tax increment money and has tremendous impact on the planning of the city.
If the city is going to attract businesses with jobs, which we need, then we need more authority over it as elected officials so it can be better coordinated with other departments within the city. Currently the redevelopment agency operates outside of other departments and so does the water department. This leads to a disjointed or dysfunctional family relationship within the city. The city manager, for example, reports to the mayor and council but has no responsibility to or for these departments.
We as citizens argue with the council members about development and the redevelopment agency goes and does what it wants to do. I remember when John Hobbs was on the council and the redevelopment agency transferred tax increment money from the sixth ward to develop other projects including a golf course and Hospitality Lane in the city all without his knowledge and there was nothing he could do about it.
In the case of the water department the mayor appoints people to serve but has no authority over what they do or how the money is spent, to my knowledge. They can raise our rates and spend the revenues as they see fit.
Now I am not saying they have not done an adequate job but they could better serve the city if there were greater coordination and accountability with other departments under the direct authority of the mayor and council.
To a lesser degree the city attorney, treasurer and city clerk need to be under the direct authority of the council. My observation of the manner in which the mayor limited the conversation of the city attorney on matters not related to legal opinions can reduce that exchange. If the council reminds everyone that this is a meeting of the mayor and council and unrelated political comments by any city staff will not be tolerated, it will go a long way in reducing some of the tension at the meetings. Of course the public can say what they wish during the public comment portion because they pay taxes for that right. To all elected officials who say they are a “watchdog” can go and get a job at a junkyard so they can bark all they want without hindering the public business.
Now the trick is to get the citizens to demand change. The demographics and economic status of its citizens have changed drastically since the charter was put into place and needs to be reviewed and changed to keep up with the needs of the day. People with education and money are leaving the city for other communities. Some of the highest paid city servants, our police and firefighters do not live in the city and spend our tax dollars to improve other communities.
When the city was discussing the budget crisis neither the water department nor the redevelopment agency was at the table to participate in the solutions. I think a change would go a long way in helping the city spend more time on long range planning to bring businesses, jobs and a cleaner city to our area.
Another thing for us citizens to do is demand some kind of code of conduct in how elected officials treat one another at public meetings. I know when they seek office there is a code of conduct statement one must sign regarding how they run their campaigns so it could be extended after the election.
When a person is sick they go to the doctor and sometimes the doctor prescribes medicine that does not taste good but it is necessary if you want to get well. Well San Bernardino City is sick from a lack of civility at the council meetings and with a city charter that has granted power to agencies and departments outside the authority of the mayor and council. This needs to be corrected and the citizens need to demand the appropriate medicine by changing the charter.
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