Andrew Edwards, Staff Writer
Posted: 03/26/2010 06:28:18 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – The second day of the City Council and Mayor’s retreat was dedicated to long-range thinking as top officials jotted down wish lists for the kinds of improvements they want to see by 2025.

Whereas the retreat’s Thursday evening session was something like a college class on local government, Friday’s gathering was more like an all-day brainstorming session. In their second consecutive day together, the City Council and Mayor Pat Morris attempted to articulate a vision for what San Bernardino should become by 2025.

City Manager Charles McNeely has convened the retreat in an attempt to find a focus for city policymaking and potentially propose reforms to restructure San Bernardino government. Thursday’s meeting, led by guest facilitator and part-time University of Virginia faculty member A. Tyler St. Clair, began to transition from the general to specific before the session’s end as the conversation moved towards how council members want to define their interactions with each other and city administrators.

The city’s elected officials generally agreed on the kind of city they want the future San Bernardino to be, although it may not be too surprising that the council and mayor were of an accord that prosperity and civic tranquility are good things. The more difficult part of politics is figuring out how to attain such goals, and today’s final session of the retreat may feature some meatier conversations as the city’s top officials are scheduled to spend more time on the issue of reforming San Bernardino government.

Despite the competing personalities and viewpoints that are often on display among the mayor and council when they meet the dais to debate specific issues, San Bernardino’s top leaders had many goals in common.

“In 90 percent of the cases, you could say ‘ditto’,” 7th Ward Councilwoman Wendy McCammack said before presenting a long list of ideas.

The city’s officials catalogued their ideas by breaking up into smaller groups. McCammack and Morris, who often have very different ideas on what city government should do, were in the same group that considered long-term objectives.

The council’s and mayor’s long-term objectives included such desires as having San Bernardino establish a reputation as a “destination place,” foster a thriving business environment, preserving local landmarks and traditions, a safe and beautiful city and a family friendly environment.

Today’s agenda includes a review of the 2007 audit of city government, and about one-third of the 192 policy recommendations made in that audit have been implemented. That leaves a lot of work for the council and city administrators to consider, including auditors’ recommendation to clarify City Hall’s chain of command by increasing the authority of the City Manager’s Office while decreasing that of the Mayor’s.

The current City Charter has occasionally been the source of differing interpretations over the proper roles of the mayor and city manager. Most Inland Empire cities empower their city manager to run government while their mayors act as a first-among-equals within their city councils.

San Bernardino, however, has an elected mayor with power to appoint the city manager. The two officials share supervisory duties over the Police and Fire departments.

Morris and McNeely have yet to propose any specific alterations during the retreat, although the mayor signaled that there is room for improvement, noting the duplication of duties between his office and McNeely’s.

“That sometimes creates some confusion. We need to drill down on that issue,” Morris said.

Another issue that may arise during today’s session is whether the council wants to continue the city’s practice of having voters choose the city attorney, city clerk and city treasurer.

The firm that authored the 2007 audit, Management Partners, is scheduled to deliver a presentation during today’s meeting. City Manager Charles McNeely is scheduled present his own recommendations for reorganizing city government.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:15 a.m. today in the L’Orange Room at National Orange Show Events Center.

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