San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 10/13/16 – 9:34 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> Current and former leaders clashed Thursday in a televised debate over whether replacing the city charter would help or hinder economic development, corruption and the future of the city.

Measure L would replace the city’s charter — in place, with amendments, since 1905 — with a new one.

In broad strokes, that means the city would go from a modified version of a strong mayor form of government to a council-manager form; the positions of city attorney, city clerk and city treasurer would no longer be elected; and elections would shift from odd-number to even-number years, among other changes.

But what that means for the average citizen was the source of passionate disagreement.

“We need a new modern city charter that’s consistent with the broadly accepted best practices that successful cities all around us have been using for years,” said Susan Lien Longville, arguing in favor of Measure L. “We need to close the door on the old, cumbersome charter that helped pave the way down the road to bankruptcy.”

Former City Attorney James F. Penman disputed that the charter had anything to do with bankruptcy: The city thrived under it for years, and bad political decisions are to blame for squandering a budget surplus, he said.

What the proposed new charter would do, he said, is take power away from the people.

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