When most people hear the word recall, they think consumer protection of faulty or defective products being removed from the market place for public safety. The actions by these companies cost millions of dollars but not as much in public confidence if no recall is taken. In the short run, they take a hit but it sends a message to the public you can trust us.
Now we have citizens in the City of San Bernardino saying we have had enough of misguided leadership from the current and past mayors, city attorney, some council members and the public safety employee associations, specifically the police and firefighters. I heard last week that some prominent citizens in San Bernardino began a petition to recall the San Bernardino mayor, city attorney, and the entire city council. To some people this might seem to be drastic, while others might be asking, “what took them so long?”
Back in the early 70’s, I had some personal involvement in one recall. As a matter of fact, I cut my political teeth on that recall and the Westside Action Group (WAG) was born. Also in San Bernardino during the 70’s five school board members were swept from office during a recall election over the issue of bussing. In recent California history, Governor Gray Davis was recalled from office and Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected governor. Presently, a group of citizens in Fontana gathered enough signatures to move forward to recall two members of the school board. That election will take place this summer.
Past mayors gave away the shop including inappropriate use of redevelopment funds by investing in bad projects and not using the funds as they were supposed to be used. City leaders have allowed outside investors from Japan and Spain to buy prime downtown properties that now sit empty and bring down the value of other businesses in the city. According to the city attorney, who is supposed to be the “watchdog” of our local government and who helped agree to these actions, there is nothing the city can do.
The current council and city attorney seem beholden to the public safety associations who fund their campaigns. These elected officials will not vote against any changes in these departments which consume over 73% of the city’s budget with 90% of them living in other cities which amounts to $40 million leaving the city. These public safety employees pay no property taxes to the city, pay no utility taxes to the city, pay no sales taxes in the city, do not educate their children in the city, yet they tell the council how to vote against the best interest of their citizens.
The mayor appears to be afraid to veto any actions approved by the council that he knows is not in the best interest of the city. Thus businesses are hesitant to move into or do business in the city. I have also heard of business leaders being afraid to speak out because some of the city’s elected officials are vindictive and will take action against them or any project they might bring before the council. This is absurd and the mayor and city manager should direct any employee that is approached by any elected official to report it to them so this kind of action can be brought out into the open. No employee should be afraid to report such actions.
One might ask why has it taken so long to take out recall petitions? I think it is because concerned citizens now realize the city is not safer even with these high public safety salaries. They also have watched the poverty rate rise and the unemployment rate remain higher than other cities around them. And it is their property values going down, as their neighbors are moving out of the city.
These residents are saying their city is worth fighting for: this city they raised their children up in; this city that their mothers and fathers help build; where they went to visit grandparents and play in the yards and even the streets without fear of being gunned down by a stray bullet or hit by an under the influence driver. This city that allowed them to establish law firms, medical practices, have thriving hospitals, profitable auto dealerships; the city that President Lyndon B. Johnson worked in as an elevator operator; the city that provided Sammy Davis Jr. with lifesaving healthcare; and the city that birthed McDonald’s, the food services innovator and one of the most recognizable brands in the world.
In my opinion, these citizens have in their mind enough justifiable reasons to recall these elected officials. They are saying we must turn this city around and in the words of Malcolm X, “by any means necessary.”
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