This week, the San Bernardino City Council approved a Plan of Adjustment as their next step in the process to emerge from bankruptcy. After a presentation from City Manager Allen Parker along with a team of consultants and support from a community committee of seventeen citizens, the council took leadership and moved forward to approve the plan voting 6-1.
Several aspects of the Plan of Adjustment would be to outsource firefighters, trash collectors and other city workers. The plan would also call for a Charter amendment specifically dissolving the 1955 provision that calls for the salaries of firefighters and police to be set at an average of 10 equally-sized cities. However, the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) if approved would be paid nearly $50 million owed by the city.
It was five years ago that then city manager Charles McNeely warned the city council that unless they changed how they did business and made decisions, bankruptcy was forthcoming, said 6th Ward Council Member Rikke Van Johnson.
Fourth Ward Council Member Fred Shorett and 1st Ward Council Member Virginia Marquez have always advocated for looking at alternative ways to provide services such as fire protection to the citizens that might save costs to the taxpaying public. All of those who voted for the Plan of Adjustment indicated that it would be painful for them to do this but it is necessary for the viability of the city.
The leadership provided by the education community, including Superintendent Dale Marsden of the San Bernardino City Unified School District and CSUSB President Dr. Tomas Morales, impressed me.
One cannot ignore the support from our 5th District County Supervisor Josie Gonzales and SB County CEO Greg Devereux during this critical time.
It is during crises that you learn who your friends are and the true friends of the city are stepping forward with their time, talent, and resources.
Council Member John Valdivia was the lone dissenting vote, which was in-step with the firefighters union who also opposed the passage of this Plan of Adjustment which calls for the outsourcing of fire protection for the city. Valdivia was elected with the financing and support of the firefighters union whose members work for the city but do not live in the city.
In my opinion the city is moving in the right direction in supporting this Plan of Adjustment. San Bernardino’s problems did not happen overnight but over a few decades and after the fall of our national economy. This set-up a scenario of a perfect storm with bad decisions by city leaders on bad information given by staff. Then add unscrupulous dealings by Wall Street executives and uninformed national elected leaders and you wind up with an unplanned bankruptcy in local government.
I support the six council members that are looking out for the best interest of the city’s citizens.