San Bernardino Seal

By Jim Steinberg, The Sun
Posted: 04/24/15, 7:39 PM PDT |

SAN BERNARDINO >> As the city looks for a way to exist beyond bankruptcy, its charter once again was part of the discussion Friday as leaders and the public gathered for a strategy meeting designed to find ways to guide the city.

A consultant hired to help craft a document describing how it would move out of bankruptcy called San Bernardino’s charter “unusual” and said it poses a great obstacle in its future.

Its structure and vagueness “leads to turf fighting, friction and difficulty getting things done,” said Andrew Belknap, a regional vice president for San Jose-based Management Partners.

The charter is a contributing factor to the city’s operational structure being “more complicated than other cities of its size,” Belknap said.

It was an argument that the 17 local leaders from various fields, including elected leaders, education and business heard when they first met in March to come up with a strategy to revamp the city in the years after a bankruptcy it’s been mired in since 2012.

The urgency of that strategy is heightening as a May 30 deadline for the city to have a “plan of adjustment” in front of the judge overseeing the bankruptcy case approaches. That plan seeks to formally show how the city will exit bankruptcy, and includes details on how it would satisfy creditors.

But life after that exit is fertile ground for a city with many issues stemming from its financial troubles — issues ranging from public safety and high turnover rates of city employees to clean streets and the charter itself.

Despite all the talk of the charter, it wasn’t the only issue that came up on Friday.

City staffers unveiled proposals to add 32 sworn police officers and 10 civilian support officers.

The staff also proposed, as part of the draft Strategic Action Plan:

• spending $1.7 million on ongoing additional emergency response personnel.

• $1.5 million for improved library hours, technology and resources.

• $300,000 annually for repaid response team to rehabilitate vacant and boarded-up structures.

“It was the most encouraging and surprising thing to come out of the meeting,” said Mike Gallo, a member of a 17-member citizens group.

Gallo is also president of the San Bernardino City Unified School board. “It was the first time I have seen the city staff engaged in the planning process with the community,” Gallo said.

“I could hear in their voices and see in their eyes that they were excited.”

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