San Bernardino Needs Real Reform: Are They Alone?


Voting San Bernardino’s elected officials out of office will achieve little if only the faces change. Real reform involves far more comprehensive shifts: The city needs candidates for office who put the public good ahead of petty politics, and an engaged electorate that demands a serious approach. And San Bernardino needs to alter a city charter that hinders a fiscally stable and effective city government.

Residents are legitimately frustrated with city officials. The city sought bankruptcy protection in August, after finding that budget reserves were gone and San Bernardino was nearly $46 million short of the money needed to cover $166 million in expenses planned for that fiscal year. And after pledging cooperation on solutions, the City Council quickly reverted to the bitter stalemate that has hampered the city for years.

The city’s voters will not change that pattern, however, through unfocused expressions of disgust. In May a group of civic and business leaders announced a sweeping recall targeting the mayor, the seven-member City Council and the city attorney — even though the mayor and three council members are up for re-election in November anyway. The group this month narrowed its approach to target only those elected offices not on the November ballot: four council members and the city attorney. Trying to recall people who will face the voters soon anyway is not a way to build consensus for pragmatic solutions.

Besides, changing the players will matter little if the city continues the same old political games that have blocked progress in San Bernardino for years. Even the city’s insolvency was not enough to shock the council into cooperation. Instead, the public got time-wasting obstruction and special-interest pandering while the city’s finances imploded.

San Bernardino needs candidates who will put the city’s interests first, instead of engaging in the personal vitriol, self-serving politics and grandstanding that often have typified San Bernardino government. A recall effort is pointless if proponents cannot offer voters a better alternative.

Voters also need to hold elected officials accountable for their performance. The city’s government will not change as long as residents elect and re-elect candidates who contribute to the city’s dysfunction. Voters need to be informed about issues, and ready to support candidates committed to making necessary fixes at City Hall. And voters should reject candidates bankrolled by employee unions and other special interests that put narrow agendas ahead of public needs.

San Bernardino also should scuttle charter provisions that block responsible government, such as the automatic salary formulas that forced the bankrupt city to hand out nearly $1 million in pay raises in March. The charter should scrap the elected city attorney position, to remove the incumbent’s power to divide and paralyze city government.

Superficial changes will not suffice. The city needs to transform a noxious political atmosphere and a dysfunctional government structure. And a recall can help only if it is part of a more comprehensive overhaul.

Source: California Political Review


  1. The Sun (Editorial)

    “Take back San Bernardino with a clean sweep of city hall”

    * * * * * * * * * * *


    “…That is why voters must sign petitions supporting a sweeping recall targeting the mayor, city attorney and City Council. It’s time to show those in power this town is serious about making the changes needed to put it on a path toward prosperity.

    This endorsement isn’t made lightly. It is made with the understanding that the recall — like democracy itself — is messy, costly and completely unpredictable.

    It is also made with the absolute belief that those who have sunk San Bernardino into bankruptcy cannot be trusted to now lift it out. If there’s a lifesaver in this town, it’s not someone sitting on the dais….”


    I love the way in which the Editor of the Sun makes no reference to his newspaper’s total failure to educate its readership about the goings on at city hall and what needs to be done until AFTER THE FACT.

    How lame is that? We have all had it drilled into us about just how vital the 4th estate is to good government and it is as obvious as the nose on their embarrassed faces that The Sun was not getting the job done.

    Of course, the same is true for the Evansville Courier&Press, which makes it all the more probable that Evansville city government will follow in the footsteps of San Bernardino.

    Trust but verify! The Evansville Courier&Press seldom verifies anything when it comes to the operations of city government. If the newspaper actually did its job their readership would skyrocket.


  2. City of Evansville

    Ordinance No. F-2012-14 Finance



    City Clerk………………$61,456.

    City Council Member………$19,164.

    Salaries here may not be altered for the year in which they are fixed.


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