San Bernardino Seal

By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
Posted: 01/07/15, 8:24 PM PST |

SAN BERNARDINO >> With symbolic support for their mission from the City Council and a plan to get policy support from an expert in city charters, members of the citizen charter review committee continued treading lightly at their second meeting since the November election.

That election saw one of the two suggested changes to the city charter — and the one that got by far the most attention — shot down by voters, who decided police and firefighters would continue to have their pay set as the average of 10 like-sized California cities rather than by collective bargaining.

Another ballot measure asking for a change to the 46-page governing document can’t come until November 2016, under state law, and members of the council-appointed committee said at their last meeting that they were unsure of their purpose going forward.

One member, Hardy Brown, resigned before Tuesday’s meeting. But the remaining members got approval of varying degrees from the four members of the public who spoke.

“I hope you’re not deterred,” said one, Tim Prince. “I don’t think the citizenry feels deterred. What the citizenry wants is changes that will promote unity.”

Prince and two other speakers advocated identifying a core problem of the city charter and focusing on that, perhaps by replacing it completely with a charter from another city, rather than making piecemeal changes. The remaining speaker, Paul Sanborn, said council members should be paid more and become full time to encourage higher-quality candidates to run.

On Monday, the City Council voted 5-1 to request proposals from a “charter expert” to advise the charter committee, as the committee requested. Proposals, including cost estimates, would come back within 60 days, said City Attorney Gary Saenz, who plans to write up the request this week.

The dissenting vote came from Councilman Henry Nickel, who said Wednesday that he supported the committee’s work but thought cost-free alternatives should be studied first.

“On Sunday we had quite a conversation on what occurred in this last round of charter reforms and the direction we’ve gone,” Nickel said, referring to a meeting with constituents he holds the day before each council meeting. “The concern was that before we go out with an RFP (request for proposals) and request an expert and come up with a scope of work, we should probably consult some other experts who are available to the city and we should probably consult” the League of California Cities.

City Clerk Gigi Hanna did just that, getting a recommendation from the director of the Institute for Local Government for a former city attorney named Michael Martello who would be willing to advise the committee if his travel expenses from Los Gatos were paid.

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