Ryan Hagen, The (San Bernardino County) Sun
Posted: 07/18/2012 02:17:52 PM PDT
SAN BERNARDINO — The City Council took what several members called the hardest decision of their professional lives Wednesday, formally declaring a state of fiscal emergency and directing staff to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.
The two votes, both 5-2, came eight days after the council first voted to allow City Attorney James F. Penman to file for bankruptcy protection to help it escape a $45million deficit and a shortage of cash on hand that officials said would leave them unable to pay employees Aug. 15.
The intervening week brought heavy attention to the issue from across the nation and particularly in San Bernardino, and council members said they had been flooded with messages.
The week of information and attention shifted two votes: Councilman Fred Shorett, who voted against filing last week, approved it Wednesday, while Councilman John Valdivia switched from abstaining to opposing. Councilman Chas Kelley continued to oppose bankruptcy.
“The horse is out of the barn – the whole world knows we’re
insolvent,” Shorett said. “I will be supporting going forward with Chapter 9 and fiscal emergency.”
Many of those who spoke to the council said moving forward with bankruptcy was the only responsible position, but they criticized how the city has gotten to this point.
“This City Council and city councils before, they had their chance,” said Roxanne Williams, a chemistry teacher and member of a new group called Save Our San Bernardino, or SOS. “We’re taking the power from you.
…My question to you is as you’re in conversation with the bankruptcy judge: When can we as the public put in our input? I have so many questions, I have so many suggestions, and I want to be heard.”
The city will make a bankruptcy plan with public input, and throughout the process the city will remain in control rather than a court-appointed trustee, Penman said.
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