San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 08/04/16 – 8:41 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Years of efforts to change the governing document that many blame for the city’s dysfunction will culminate with voters deciding whether to replace it in November, the City Council decided Thursday.

The City Council voted 6-1 Thursday, with Councilman John Valdivia opposing, to ask voters to replace the city charter with a new one that a volunteer committee spent the last two years writing.

Mayor Carey Davis presented a plan to create the committee on his first day as mayor, in 2014. For more than a decade before that, experts inside and outside the city have that the charter was confusing and frustrated efficient government.

Aspects of it, though received passionate defense, and voters rejected most of the major changes put on the ballot.

Those arguments largely went unsaid Thursday. As City Attorney Gary Saenz noted after the meeting, those interested in the process have parsed the charter in multiple meetings every month since shortly after November 2014, when voters approved one amendment to the charter and rejected another.

But Saenz’s predecessor, former City Attorney James F. Penman, argued Thursday that language in the charter deferring to the city government reversed a tradition of deferring to the people that goes back to creation of the U.S. Constitution.

Pulling out a pocket Constitution — “Mr. Khan isn’t the only one who carries a copy of the Constitution,” he said — Penman read the 10th Amendment, which says powers the Constitution doesn’t give to the federal government or prohibit to the states are reserved to the states or to the people.

He contrasted that with Section 102 of the proposed new city charter: “The powers of the City under this Charter shall be construed in favor of the City, and the specific mention of particular powers in the Charter shall not be interpreted as limiting in any way the general power granted in this article.”

The philosophy is the opposite, Penman said.

“This is not an American charter,” Penman said. “This charter, ladies and gentlemen, is un-American.”

To read expanded article, click here.