Councilman Chas Kelley
Point of View
Councilman Chas Kelley
Posted: 07/17/2012 08:59:29 AM PDT
On July 10, four members of the City Council voted to put San Bernardino on the formal path toward bankruptcy. As one of the two no votes on the bankruptcy motion, I believe the council’s action was premature and unnecessarily damaging to our city’s economic future.
Bankruptcy is a stigma that will haunt San Bernardino for many years. It will discourage new businesses from locating here and encourage existing businesses to leave. Bankruptcy will also taint our city’s ability to attract public or private grant monies for infrastructure and other civic improvements.
Worse, declaring bankruptcy is an act of surrender by city leaders who refuse to make tough decisions to get San Bernardino’s financial house in order. The national news media coverage generated by the council’s action has already made San Bernardino the poster child for local government fiscal incompetence.
The City Council had plenty of time to make the tough financial decisions before resorting to bankruptcy. Instead of rushing into default, the City Council could have met on a daily basis to involve the public, reform the city’s wasteful spending practices and develop new revenue sources for our community. In short, city government should have used every possible tool and taken every possible action necessary to avoid the stain of bankruptcy.
Unfortunately, City Hall panicked and chose to use the crutch of Chapter 9 as a legal dodge to avoid their financial responsibility to balance the City’s budget.
Even though bankruptcy is now moving forward, city leaders must not shirk from tough decisions. As mayor pro tem, I am offering a number of spending reforms and revenue proposals to move our city back into the black.
Start budget cuts at the top
San Bernardino must immediately cut the number of administrative positions in city government by at least 50 percent. Highly paid city administrators should be let go and their job responsibilities permanently transferred to other existing employees. City department managers will simply have to learn to do more with less.
Our budget priority must be the protection of services for city residents, not the financial well-being of city staff.
Cut unnecessary expenses
When families face tough economic times, they cut back on nonessentials. It’s time for San Bernardino city government to do the same. The City Council should immediately vote to eliminate funding for “feel good” but nonessential programs such as Operation Phoenix and the call center.
Sell the city Refuse Department
Currently the Refuse Department is running a deficit, a reported $3.5 million shortfall. San Bernardino can turn this financial drain into a major revenue producer if we sell the city refuse service to a private trash-hauling company like those used by most other cities in our region. San Bernardino simply can’t afford its own trash department any longer. Most other Inland Empire cities have ditched this financial dinosaur many years ago. San Bernardino needs to follow suit.
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