Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
Posted: 04/26/2012 07:24:56 PM PDT

SAN BERNARDINO – Speaking in the sparkling Sturges Center for the Fine Arts – one of many city assets threatened by the abolition of the city Redevelopment Agency, which owned the building – Mayor Pat Morris focused on both challenges and opportunities Thursday evening in his annual state of the city address.

Rather, the states of the two cities.

Like 18th century Paris in the Charles Dickens novel, Morris said, San Bernardino is in the best of times and the worst of times.

“(This is) a city that is currently in the midst of an unprecedented set of infrastructure investments totaling more than $1.5 billion that are creating opportunities that – if cultivated, nurtured, and built upon – are poised to make the coming decades some of the `best of times’ for our city,” Morris said.

But he also said the city was on the brink of financial disaster, noting a projected $16 million deficit for the coming fiscal year – 12 percent of the budget – and a projected $60 million deficit by 2016.

To overcome those financial difficulties and bring out the best of the city, Morris pushed for reforms in two main areas: pensions and what he termed inefficient government services.

“The first step to financial health for San Bernardino is the same step that is being taken across the state and in Sacramento: reform and recalibration of public pensions and benefits,” he said, advocating a plan modeled on Gov. Jerry Brown’s pension proposal.

That plan would require new and current employees to pay 50 percent of their pension costs; return the retirement age to 1932 levels – 65 for nonpublic safety workers compared with 55 today; and shift more risk from taxpayers to employees, as is the case with most private-sector workers.

Morris also wants pensions to be based only on salary, not bonuses or other forms of compensation.

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