The majority of San Bernardino’s elected officials – with the encouragement of community leaders – decided to sign an honor system type agreement to treat each other with respect by defining each other’s roles and responsibilities in the performance of their duties.
One might ask why elected officials would do such a thing when they were elected by the citizens to be accountable only to the people that vote for them? That, within itself, is problematic because unless you have a 100% agreement from the people, you will have division on how to do the job you were elected to do. Then you add a city charter — in this case — that gives so many office holders separate independent responsibilities and authority, you have a house that is divided and as we all know a house divided cannot stand.
So the community leaders, people like: Dr. Al Karnig, retired president Cal State University, San Bernardino; Dr. Tomas Morales, current president, Cal State University, San Bernardino; Dr. Gloria Macias Harrison, publisher of El Chicano Newspaper and trustee of San Bernardino Community College Board; Hardy Brown II, San Bernardino County Board of Education trustee; Dr. Margaret Hill, San Bernardino City School Board trustee; Dr. Dale Marsden, Superintendent of San Bernardino City Schools; Scott Beard, local businessman; Rabbi Hillel Cohn; Phil Savage, retired attorney and community volunteer; and many others encouraged the city leaders to sign this historic agreement to assist them in leading the city.
While a few community citizens were against this agreement, they did not offer any solutions that would point our leaders in the direction of a unifying government.
I was reminded of the tug of different approaches to achieve the advancement of our civil rights during the 50’s and 60’s between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. They both agreed on what the outcome should be but differed on the strategy, thus their struggle was in stark contrast to each other. However they did agree not to publicly trash each other or their strategy and later Malcolm did come to understand the non-violent movement as the best way to achieve the goal instead of a “by any means necessary” strategy.
So Mayor Carey Davis, Council members, Virginia Marquez, Benito Barrios, Fred Shorett, Henry Nickle, Rikke Van Johnson, Jim Mulvihill, City Attorney Gary Saenz, and City Manager Allen Parker all agreed to work together for the good of the city by respecting each other’s area of responsibility and authority. It is a non-binding non-enforceable by law type of agreement but a guide to work by.
If you have ever served as an elected official you can understand the agreement. If you have ever served on a board of directors where you need to agree in order to get anything accomplished you can understand this agreement. If you are the type of person who believes “it is my way or the highway” then it makes no sense to you and you cannot operate well in a group.
When I served on the San Bernardino City School Board, Dr. E. Neal Roberts and I offered the entire board the opportunity for a year long training session in order to have a highly trained functioning board to develop policies for the staff to implement without board interference once adopted. We did not sign an agreement but we understood the principles laid out in the agreement signed by the city leaders.
I applaud those who encouraged and those who signed the agreement for providing us – and the city – with positive leadership.