Personal Agendas Aside, Council Needs to Work Together for the Betterment of San Bernardino
By Hardy L. Brown
Just prior to the San Bernardino city council meeting on Tuesday evening, two more citizens lost their lives from gunshots on 9th Street and Medical Center Drive and later that evening, a Colton police officer shot and killed another citizen in the city during a crime committed in Colton. Also reported the same day, an 18-year-old was shot by an off duty police officer because the youth had broken into the officers home while his family lay asleep in another room. The young man was not killed but was later taken into custody.
In between all of these shootings, the city council met and with a 4-2-1 vote ordered the city attorney to file chapter 9-bankruptcy in federal court. Led by council members Rikke Van Johnson, Virginia Marques, Robert Jenkins and Wendy McCammack voting in favor of the motion and Dennis Shorett and Chas Kelley voting no and John Valdivia abstaining.
This action came on the heels of an analysis that showed for the past 20 years the city revenues have lagged behind the expenditures and just a few years ago the city lost $16 million in sales tax.
City Attorney Jim Penman, said that for 13 out of the past 16 years budgets presented to the council was inaccurate and the budget documents were false. This implies that the mayor and council have been lied to or misguided by staff members. I do not know if the documents are false or not but I do know that this city knew they have been heading toward bankruptcy for some time. They have ignored the warning signs presented to them and proceeded to “rob Peter to pay Paul” or as I said before they preferred to “fiddle while Rome was burning”.
Just as guilty as those we elected are the citizens, like myself, who voted for Charter Section 186 that gave auto pilot income to public safety without intervention from the public regardless of the financial conditions of the city. Believe me that is not the total problem because our now defunct redevelopment agency has made its share of very bad deals and shabby investments. They would buy and sell property then bail out the city during those lean years of budget shortfall.
As those who profited from these actions, they took the money and moved out of the city thus draining the city from a higher property tax and lack of sales tax that was now being spent in other cities. It was shown in one report that public safety alone exported over $40 million each year out of the city and last night it was stated if the council eliminated every department but, public safety from the city including the mayor and council they would still have to cut something in public safety. And according to Penman there is nothing the council can do because we the citizens put it into the charter which is protected from bankruptcy.
The city has a $45.6 million shortfall and will not be able to meet payroll by August 15 if they do not file chapter 9-court action. One thing I noticed from the vote is it brought together voting partners. Johnson and Marques were joined by Jenkins and McCammack in supporting the motion while Kelly joined with Shorett in opposing the motion. Valdivia the newest member on the council did not know what to do by claiming he did not make this mess, so he abstained.
Regardless of who is to blame, and not one person or group is, the fact is we are all in the same sinking ship so what do we do to stop the leak? Those citizens with the life jackets moved out of the city years ago; and now standing on the shore looking back and saying I got mine while the getting was good.
Let me say the council did the right thing last night but must now do the heavy lifting by putting aside personal agendas and working together for the betterment of the city. The groundrules must be that everything is on the table and everyone is encouraged to say what they think regardless how crazy it might sound without the other ones taking it personal or feelings being hurt. It will take everyone to stop the leaks. It is like the commercial with the Aflac duck plugging the holes in the boat; we have enough holes so every hand will be needed.