The upcoming bankruptcy declaration by the city of San Bernardino has been a long time coming. For at least the last three administrations, residents and business owners have watched while the so-called leaders in City Hall have frittered away opportunity after opportunity to bring in new sources of revenue
and to make the necessary cutbacks in expenses.
There are members of the common council who do not have the capacity to guide this city. Yet they are elected by a disinterested populace by voters who are not engaged on the real issues facing the city and low voter turnout. We have observed the nasty bickering and infighting, yet the players remain the same. No sense in pointing fingers; we have seen the enemy, and it is us because every one of us let it happen.
Collectively, every resident and business owner has allowed the public policies that guide the city to fester and drive positive opportunities to other areas of the county. Now collectively, we have to find a way out of this quagmire to rebuild a city worthy of being the county seat.
The city must find ways to draw revenues to the city. One positive current project is the SbX bus Rapid Transit Project. It will help to continue to bring focus to the downtown area as did the recent movie theatre opening. The SbX project will help serve as a catalyst, much like Hospitality Lane helped bring focus to the southern part of the city. Those public officials who claim that the project helped bring the city closer to bankruptcy as a financial strain are either intentionally lying or are completely ignorant – neither of which is acceptable under the these dire circumstances. Not one dime of general fund monies has been used on the project, just in-kind support.
While not ideal, the city must gauge the efficiency of current public safety operations. Maybe it would be better to subcontract with the county as so many other cities have done. While we certainly support unions and what they have done to protect and build up working class families, it is untrue that San Bernardino public safety employees’ (especially fire personnel) wages and benefits are on par with other locales as claimed by S.B. unions. Public safety personnel in Rancho Cucamonga and Ontario and other prospering areas would love to transfer to San Bernardino because the wages and benefits and work environment are so much better for the employees. Paramedics are barely making it financially outside the city. The burden is too high and elected officials need to bear down and make the tough calls they were elected to make. How can we wait until the financial situation is better to make labor cuts? The financial situation will get better when costs are reduced and new revenues are encouraged to enter the city.
When making cuts, we suggest that as much budget protection for parks & recreation and the library system as possible should be an imperative. There are so few inexpensive outlets in the city for residents to enjoy. We must do a better job of maintaining our parks. Just making them green would help. Additionally, the libraries provide a resource for students and residents to have access to information and the internet. Nothing is more powerful than access to information, yet year after year the library budget is cut.
It doesn’t matter whose fault it is that San Bernardino is bankrupt. That can be decided by historians later. Right now what matters is that each of us holds everyone in a position to make a difference accountable. We must engage ourselves to force the idiocy we’ve accepted in City Hall to be unacceptable going forward.