The Wrong Answer to Post-Bankruptcy San Bernardino
July 17, 2012 Leave a comment
There is a lot of misinformation out there about the City of San Bernardino regarding proposed reform efforts to the system of government for the City of San Bernardino.
One was a suggestion to transform the City of San Bernardino from a Charter city to a general law city. There are generally benefits to being a charter city in that you have a modicum more home rule then a general law city. However, if people think that converting to a general law city will get rid of the ward system they are mistaken for two reasons. First, general law cities can have elections by district. Redlands (a general law city), briefly, had elections by district, and Colton, a general law city, still has districts.
Second, when City Attorney Penman suggested a charter measure to do away with the ward system, he was met with challenges from rights groups. I believe that effort was before the California Voting Rights Act was passed, which makes it easier to prove dilution in an at-large election.
If the City of San Bernardino’s structure (the composite Strong Mayor, Strong City Manager, Strong Council Form of Government) is the problem, removing the Charter gives the residents less choice in creating a government. If this is just an end-run to trying to get rid of the elected City Attorney, the voters have already shown with the resounding defeats of Measures C and M that they do not want that. Going to a general law council-manager form of government would not have prevented this kind of insolvency, because if there were illegal activities by staff, they council still would not detect it, and if the council refused to listen to staff regarding the need for cuts, it wouldn’t matter if they were elected according to general law or a charter.
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