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San Bernardino's Mayor Pro Tem Looking To The Future

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Talks about engaging citizens and his vision of hope and practice

By Chris Levister –

Rikke Van Johnson is annoyed by pessimists who bellyache about city government but who are unwilling to roll up their sleeves and help change things for the better. He thinks that it’s ridiculous for people to be without jobs, safe clean housing, and access to quality education. That you shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to get City Hall’s attention when you’ve got a complaint or a bright idea. But unlike your typical bellyacher, the San Bernardino City Councilman who represents the 6th Ward is able to change things.

Johnson is a man with a mission to move forward the state’s eighteenth largest city indigenous people originally referred to as “The Valley of the Cupped Hand of God”.

It’s early morning and the light is still soft. Dressed in a dark suit crisp white shirt and tie, Johnson stands at the intersection of California Street and Baseline Road glaring at a traffic signal that drives many a motorist traveling this busy route to, well - cuss.

“It’s a damn shame you have to wait this long for a traffic light to change from red to green,” rants Jose Flores who on any given morning sits in a long line of vehicles waiting to drop off his son at nearby Arroyo Valley High School. “It’s maddening,” says special needs school bus driver Madilyn Patterson Berry who is among those discussing solutions to the bottleneck that occurs when buses and other vehicles driving south on California are forced to wait in long lines to cross Baseline.

“It’s particularly frustrating at 7:00 in the morning when it can take up to five minutes to merge from a side street onto California. When you get to the signal at Baseline you often have to sit there another 3 minutes waiting for the light to change. A few feet from that you’ve got the left turn signal at State Street. That’s like molasses too,” says Berry. “People start blowing their horns they get mad. They report you. They don’t know school buses can’t make a right turn on a red light. It’s really bad they need to do something.”

Johnson charged with stick-handling everything from tricky politically charged issues to creating jobs and infrastructure development welcomes the feedback.

“The buck stops here. I want to hear the people’s concerns,” he says. “This is a long standing problem. We’ve had a number of accidents along this stretch including a fatality in 2002.

Suggesting there is a McDonalds approach to solving many of San Bernardino’s problems he offers a no frills solution.

“Push California Street which dead ends here into the parking lot of the high school and create a new safer entrance to the school. That would alleviate the congestion on California and State Street.”

Unfortunately not every problem facing the city is that easy to solve.

“No question as with many projects on my list – funding is a sticking point.” All the while Johnson keeps a laser focus on the big picture – “move forward – keep San Bernardino moving forward.”

He points to the city’s top three priorities:

“Revitalize downtown, complete the 215 freeway expansion project and move the San Bernardino airport ahead.”

Johnson says the Inland Valley Development Authority is working hard to attract passenger carriers, and logistic operations such as trucking and air cargo. The Hillwood development corridor is a force driving the region’s job base,” he said.

Johnson says with the rough and tumble 2009 city election in the history books City Hall is looking to the future. He says he’s encouraged by the addition of new faces on the City Council.

“We won’t always agree on the issues but we’ve got an engaged team, a new cutting edge City Manager and Police Chief both of whom are focused on what I like to call a vision grounded in hope and practice,” he said.

“Our greatest challenge is to carry the vision and practices of active and engaged governance and citizenship to a new level.”

Johnson believes programs and practices employed by Mayor Pat Morris and other city leaders are demonstrating the potential and power of active leadership by engaging citizenship.

“When people have the chance to make a difference on the issues that they care about they will get involved. We’re asking people from all parts of our city, what are your hopes and dreams,” says Johnson.

He insists elected leaders, community groups; businesses; unions; nonprofits; schools and colleges must become more inclusive in leadership and be willing to work in multi-racial coalitions on public issues such as job creation, housing, racism, race relations and immigration. “The more they see the vitality of what is happening in their own communities, the more powerful the city becomes as an engine for community problem solving.” He says at first glance, issues of growth and development may appear to focus on technical topics such as zoning, land use planning and transportation design.

Yet growth is closely tied to down-to-earth challenges and opportunities that are central to everyone’s quality of life, he said.

“Problems are always a syllable away,” said Johnson. “We have to dare to imagine for the year of 2010 and beyond. We have to keep moving forward – bit by bit.”

Haiti Rocked with 7.0 Earthquake

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At press time, Haiti was rocked with a magnitude 7.0 quake with an untold number of bodies along the devastated streets after the powerful quake crushed structures, schools, homes, shacks, and people.

According to an AP article, the International Red Cross spokesman Paul Conneally said a third of Haiti’s 9 million people may need emergency aid and that it would take a day or two for a clear picture of the damage to emerge.

The U.S. and many other nations are planning to send aid workers and rescue teams to Haiti in the start of a major emergency operation.

Globetrotter JC Gipson Passes Suddenly

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Longtime Harlem Globetrotter, JC Gipson recently passed away. He was 77. Gipson who played more than 20 years for the Harlem Globetrotters and got his start at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles, where he was named basketball player of the year in 1951, died Dec. 30 of a heart attack in San Bernardino.

Born in Henderson, Texas to Eddie Gipson and Alberta Nickerson on April 30, 1932, he grew up in Concord, Texas and attended the schools there, including Concord High School. In 1946, He moved with his mother to Los Angeles, CA where he attended Mt. Zion Baptist Church. JC graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in Los Angeles.

JC began his outstanding career with the Harlem Globetrotters in 1952 and wore the famous red, white, and blue for 20-plus glorious seasons. His personality, superb playing ability, and outstanding flair for showmanship made him one of the most popular Globetrotters of all-time.

Amazingly, JC had no college experience and played only a single season of basketball at Thomas Jefferson High. Selected as the city’s “prep player of the year,” JC was flooded with college offers but elected to sign a contract with the Globetrotters. The 6’8, 250-pound forward could run the floor, shoot from long range and rebound with the best.

He established a World Series of Basketball record by tallying 33 points against the 1953 College All-Americans in Chicago.

Gipson was one of six Globetrotters animated in the popular Saturday morning Hanna-Barbera cartoon series in the 1970s. Off the floor, he served as team spokesman and had an unbelievable relationship with children of all ages from around the world. JC received his “Legends” Ring on August 3, 1995.

JC met the love of his life Betty Davis in Montana in 1959.

They were married in 1971 in Colorado. He retired from the Globetrotters in 1979 and moved to Rialto CA. He later relocated to Highland CA. JC worked for several companies in the area, before he retired fully. However, he stayed busy by the help he gave so freely to his family and friends in taking them on errands and short trips. Just prior to his death, he had taken on another job as a Shop Manager in an auto repair business in San Bernardino.

JC Gipson passed away suddenly on December 30, 2009. All who knew him will miss him dearly.

He is survived by his loving daughter, Jaylene Gipson, Napa, CA; one brother Emmett Gipson, Houston, Texas; one sister Gale White, Houston, Texas and a host of nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

Parents and Civil Rights Groups Applaud Race to the Top Law

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Special to CBM --

After calling a special session and introducing a bi-partisan legislative package, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week signed historic education reform legislation making California highly competitive in President Obama’s national $4.35 billion Race to the Top education reform and funding competition. On July 24th, 2009 President Obama and U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced federal eligibility and competitiveness requirements for states to compete for the single largest pool of discretionary funding for education reform in U.S. History.

Bi-partisan measures SBX5 1 by Senator Gloria Romero (D-Los Angeles) SBX5 4 by Senate pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) ensure California can submit a highly competitive application for up to $700 million in funding for California schools and education reform measures designed to improve the state’s lowest performing schools.

The new law represents a victory for civil rights and parent groups including the California State NAACP; Urban Leagues throughout the state; and the Los Angeles-based parent union, Parent Revolution, who pushed Legislative leaders to adopt parental choice measures for students in the state’s lowest performing schools.

“This is a paradigm shift, an entirely new way of thinking about education reform. We're going to fix our schools by giving parents the power. We're going to trust that parents know more than anyone about their child's well-being,” said Shirley Ford a parent and leader in Parent Revolution.

Under the new law parents of students in schools that perform in the bottom 10 percent of statewide student achievement are free to enroll their child in any school in California. Called “open enrollment,” the new law conceived by Gov. Schwarzenegger and championed by Sen. Gloria Romero, will impact 1,000 California schools at the bottom of student achievement. Advocates anticipate that with the new measure, parents of children in low-performing schools will move their children to schools with a proven track record.

As a resource to parents and schools, California Business for Education Excellence (CBEE), a group formed by the state’s top business leaders, recently released a list of 395 “Honor Roll” schools with large populations of low-income and minority students that have boosted students’ grade-level proficiency for four years running.

“Schools on the Honor Roll dispel the myth that certain students can’t reach grade-level proficiency and that schools with a challenging student population won’t be able to succeed,” said Greg Jones, CBEE Chair. “Honor Roll schools are overcoming challenges every day to raise student achievement.”

Also a key part of California’s Race to the Top legislation is a provision called the “Parent Trigger,” which authorizes parents to petition and require school boards to fix failing schools. The law requires a school district to implement one of four federally-approved interventions for turning around a persistently low achieving school if half the parents request action through a petition submitted to the school board. Among the options is closing the school and transforming it into a charter school.

Teachers unions oppose the new Race to the Top law supported by Assembly Speaker Karen Bass, Senate pro tem Darrell Steinberg and a majority of Democrats and Republicans in the Legislature. California Federation of Teachers president, Marty Hettelman drew criticism from civil rights leaders last week when he referred to the “Parent Trigger,” a provision lawmakers designed to empower parents in the state’s lowest performing schools, as “the lynch mob provision” in the January 5th edition of Inside CFT.

Critics charged the use of the term was racially charged and inappropriate. State education department data indicate that in schools that have been failing for seven or more years, 86 percent of the students are African American or Latino. Hittelman dismissed request for a public apology for using the term saying “we thought we used it advisedly.”

The deadline for California to submit its Race to the Top application to the U.S. Department of Education is January 19, 2010. State education officials report Forty-four percent of the school districts, county offices of education and charter schools in California have signed-up to participate in California’s Race to the Top bid. State Education Undersecretary Kathy Gaither applauded the level of school participation, which represents 57 percent of students attending California K-12 public schools.

“This is going to give us broad statewide impact and make us very competitive,” said Gaither.

Assemblyman Nestande Hosts CA Superintendent of Schools Jack O'Connell

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Assemblyman Brian Nestande (R-Palm Desert) recently hosted Education Roundtables with California Superintendent of Public Instruction, Jack O’Connell in Riverside and Palm Desert with school Superintendents, Board of Education members, Principals, and PTO Presidents of school districts in the 64th District.

“I am pleased to have Superintendent Jack O’Connell come visit with educational leaders in my district,” Nestande said.

“It is important to have dialogue between Sacramento and our community.” Nestande is the Vice-Chair of the Education Committee, which focuses on K-12 education, certificated employees of schools, school finance, and school facilities.

Superintendent Jack O’Connell’s role is to lead the California Department of Education, which oversees the state’s diverse and dynamic public school system that is responsible for the education of more than seven million children and young adults in more than 9,000 schools.

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BVN National News Wire