San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 04/26/16 – 3:48 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> The City Council suggested a few changes but generally indicated support Monday for the specifics of a 14-page document that would overhaul the way the city’s been run for generations.

The proposed new city charter, which a volunteer committee spent nearly two years writing based on the charters of other cities and other input, would replace the 48-page governing structure that’s been in place since 1905, with periodic amendments.

The committee intends to implement the suggestions and give a final proposal to the City Council May 16, part of a plan to put the new charter up for a citywide vote in November.

Critics say that has created an outdated and unweildy governing process with confusing lines of authority that contributed to the need to file for bankruptcy in 2012.

“Everyone was in charge, so no one was in charge,” said Phil Savage, chairman of the charter review committee. “Most significantly, we’re recommending that it be a council-manager form of government … and flexible to the greatest degree possible.”

Among the unusual aspects of San Bernardino’s charter that will be eliminated if the proposed charter passes — which will require an election that can only be held in November of even-number years — are a mayor with power over functions that many cities give to the city manager; an elected city attorney, clerk and treasurer; and restrictions on many of the City Council’s powers, including how it sets pay for police and firefighters.

Voters have rejected some of those changes before, when presented individually. Most recently, in 2014, more than 55 percent rejected the proposed repeal of the charter provision that sets police and firefighter pay as the average of 10 like-sized cities.

The unions representing police, and particularly firefighters, heavily opposed the measure. The Fire Department is expected to be part of county fire by July 1, while the president of the police union submitted a three-page letter expressing concerns with the proposed charter.

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