Last week I wrote about what I witnessed at an Arroyo Valley High School community meeting called by the San Bernardino school district and San Bernardino chief of police. Shortly after that there was a city council meeting where I witnessed another thing that we must correct or change.
Our city is divided into wards to ensure that a diversity of citizens are represented from all sections of the city. Now that most discriminatory practices have been lessened, our elected wards now reflect a more diverse population. This now places responsibility on the elected representatives to reflect that in their selection and appointment of citizens to the city’s various boards and commissions. I am not advocating a change in the ward system but pointing out that each elected council member must take diversity and inclusion into consideration when making appointments.
When it comes to inclusion in our city government some of our departments do not have a good record and people in San Bernardino do not forget how their people have been treated. For example our public safety departments do not have positive relationships with the Latino and African American community. As newly elected officials we have a chance to change that or we will travel down the bumpy road getting the same results we always have had. I am reminded of the scripture of the sins of our fathers being passed on to the third and fourth generation. If we do not look at our hiring system to determine if equal access is given to all, then we will continue with the same problem others have had and you have inherited as public officials. We can break that by being more inclusive and transparent in all of our decisions.
President Barack Obama recently awarded the Medal of Honor to 24 US Army veterans who did not receive the nation’s highest combat medal because of racism. The veterans, who fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War were discriminated against receiving the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest service medal based on ethnicity and religion. They were Hispanic, Asian, African American and Jewish.
I am proud of the fact that you recognize our local heroes that serve in our military. And it is interesting to see the number of African American and Latinos that chose the Armed Services as a career path after graduating from our public school system. Yet I am concerned that unless we change to become a more inclusive city government in all we do, many of them will return home and not find gainful employment in the same government that represents them. As newly elected officials we can be more inclusive.
Other Inland Empire cities like Rialto, Fontana, Riverside, and Banning have surpassed San Bernardino when it comes to appointing high-ranking people of color in the police and fire departments. I would encourage us to look at the recruiting, selection, hiring and promotions within those departments like Los Angeles is doing now.
As newly elected leaders we can’t afford to do business as usual with our public safety employees. I say reach out to the community for ideas and input. All of us stand ready to assist.