SAN BERNARDINO’S FINANCIAL CRISIS

Staff Reports
Posted: 09/17/2012 02:32:15 PM PDT

Catch up: Read previous coverage of the city’s financial crisis in our San Bernardino section

SAN BERNARDINO – Sign-wielding employees protesting the potential outsourcing of the city’s trash services and a data-wielding fire chief presenting potential cuts to the Fire Department both ran into spirited debate but no action from the City Council on Monday.

Acting Fire Chief Paul Drasil outlined a new set of cuts in his department that didn’t include the controversial “browning out” of some stations, but those cuts were tabled.

And movement forward on a Request for Proposals intended to squeeze revenue out of the city’s solid waste was blocked by a veto from Mayor Pat Morris, who cited 14 questions raised by a consultant.

“This hastily thrown together set of responses to the 14 concerns … does not begin to meet, in my view, the needs of this council,” he said, saying refuse was the city’s second-most valuable asset. “That cannot be in any cavalier way disposed of.”

Those blocking the steps forward on requests for proposals from companies interested in contracting with the refuse services – which the council previously told staff members to prepare and show them a draft of Monday – were cheered by the audience.

But Morris and others have said they want outsourcing, just in a different way, said City Attorney James F. Penman.

“There is a lot of misinformation,” Penman said. “I think some of it is intentional. I think there is a desire to delay the process.”

Morris has said since before the city announced it would need to file for bankruptcy that he favors more “public-private partnerships,” but he said he was skeptical about how this process was unfolding.

Councilman Fred Shorett nearly leapt out of his seat at the end of Penman’s comments.

“Mr. Penman, that’s absolutely not the truth!” he yelled, prompting a heated exchange between them before Morris put his hand on Shorett’s shoulder.

The RFP motion passed 4-2, with Councilman Rikke Van Johnson and Shorett opposing it, but the city’s charter allows the mayor to veto items that don’t receive at least five yes votes.

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