By Michael Reiter, Attorney at Law.
In the run-up to the Iraq war in 2003, factions in the City of San Bernardino wished to debate the merits and demerits of such an invasion. City Attorney Jim Penman wrote a piece called Why We Try To Keep Partisan Politics Out of City Council Meetings, which to this day is on the City Attorney’s official website. By partisan, the City Attorney was referring to Republicans and Democrats national politics versus nonpartisan local California offices.
Here, in the nonpartisan elected world of the City of San Bernardino, there are hyper-partisans of a different kind. Not in the sense they are acting in the interest of national political parties, but they are ruling by faction versus determining issues facing the City of San Bernardino on a case-by-case basis. President George Washington, in his Farewell Address in 1796, warned of the evils of factions:
Let me now take a more comprehensive view, and warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party, generally.
This spirit, unfortunately, is inseparable from our nature, having its root in the strongest passions of the human mind. It exists under different shapes in all governments, more or less stifled, controlled, or repressed; but, in those of the popular form, it is seen in its greatest rankness, and is truly their worst enemy.
The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.
Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.
It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection.
I have been accused by supporters of the City Attorney of being a secret David L. McKenna supporter, and a staunch Pat Morris supporter and former appointed official felt the need to write to me and say that City Attorney Jim Penman was terrible and had to go. I think it is a testimony to my neutrality is that both sides think I support the other. As a local small businessman, I am independent and neutral, because I have to work with all sides in the City, no matter who is in power.
All of these people have failed basic reading comprehension because these posts have a neutral viewpoint that is based on facts, not hyperpartisan posturing. If the reader wants that kind of us-versus-them, if you’re not with us, you’re against us tribalism, there are plenty of local blogs that fill that need to reinforce existing prejudices. That reader can blather on in the comments sections of the local papers and the Facebook page echo chambers of the various local factions.
The analysis found here is a continuation of my years of public service, from my time as an attorney at Legal Aid Society of San Bernardino, to my time in the trenches as a Deputy City Attorney for the City of San Bernardino, to my years as Assistant City Attorney for the City of Redlands. The San Bernardino Sun is virtually ignoring the City Clerk’s race, even though the Clerk is an important government function. The local press has abandoned any pretense of investigative journalism, and has turned to using Twitter and distilled news into 140 characters or less. These posts are for people who do not have sufficient information to make basic political choices and those interested in going beyond 140 characters or less. We, as a community and as a community service, must fill the void that is left in the digital age, and we have tools to do so that did not exist even fifteen years ago.
The information you obtain at this blog is not, nor is it intended to be, legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established by reading or commenting on this blog. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.
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