Wendy McCammack is a San Bernardino City Councilwoman

So, what is San Bernardino’s true budget picture?

The present budget gap advertised as $24-million, after Council-approved reductions, is now closer to $6-million. By presenting an inaccurate view of the city’s financial position, is a scare tactic aimed at convincing a skeptical public to accept higher taxes.

These disingenuous actions have resulted in bad-faith employee negotiations and the present lack of voter confidence in city government   Mayor Morris and Councilmen Brinker and Shorett have threatened that if voters reject their proposed increased sales tax, 85 cops and 23 firefighters will be laid off.

Those layoffs and corresponding expenses would save almost $13-million; $7-million more than required for 2010-2011. Also, were that many layoffs imposed, our community could suffer even greater losses of property or life.   Common sense dictates cutting non-essentials before you layoff front-line employees or ask voters to raise their taxes.

Management’s salary/perk waste is about $1.4 million, including, but not limited to, the Mayor’s newly-hired City Manager’s first year package at about $378,000, and a public relations manager at well over $100,000. The Mayor hired a strong City Manager who has a full staff, so why does the Mayor need almost a million dollar budget?

The Mayor has spent well over a million on consultants while highly-paid staffers remain on the payroll. The Mayor and Brinker complain, somewhat hypocritically, about excessive employee retirement benefits when they themselves enjoy similar benefit and pension packages. And, who in their right mind would spend $8-million more in a crime-ridden neighborhood that’s been rehabilitated time after time which continues to contribute to lower surrounding property values? Common sense says rid the crime first.  

Increasing sales tax to 9.5% will hurt the financial stability of families living paycheck to paycheck and also thwarts job-creating industry’s ability to compete fairly. This is not only about undue hardships placed upon families of four earning only $40,000 annually, but also about the uncertain unrest felt by retailers or manufacturers when considering whether or not to locate here. San Bernardino is already more expensive, than surrounding cities, within which to legally do business.

A higher sales tax can make the difference between being able to equally compete…or not.  

On Facebook, Mr. Brinker falsely wrote that I am now saying that we should borrow from the Economic Development Agency. Legislatively-approved programs currently exist that can be used to fund, not borrow, almost all of code enforcement, new job creation, and residential/commercial façade improvements. Additionally, revenue estimates have been underestimated.  

The Mayor has permitted or directed city officials to waste time and resources to intimidate/retaliate against those who disagree with him. When citizens voice their opinions at Council meetings or in “letters to the editor”, they shouldn’t have to worry that a high-ranking Mayor’s appointee may call their boss and express “concerns” about that citizen. Such political interference in people’s livelihoods is now in litigators’ hands, and could cost us millions.  

Efforts led by the Mayor and Brinker are costing almost $250,000 on ballot measures, consultants, lawyers, pollsters, city staff time and resources to convince you to raise your taxes.  They will also cost you at least $1-million more in “flexible legal services” annually if you allow politicians to appoint, instead of you electing, the City Attorney, Clerk and Treasurer, therefore removing our voter-hired watchdogs. Another costly payback being pushed by the Mayor and Brinker.

Does the City of Bell ring a bell?

Why should your property devalue because the Mayor won’t insist the Code Enforcement manager use the tougher enforcement tools that eventually can cure our community’s fiscal instability? Using those tough tools the Council enacted has proven to stimulate property/business taxes, business license fees, development impact fees, sales tax, and jobs that create spendable income. Dr. Husing forcefully warned that if we don’t clean up the blight and housing stock we’ll never get out of this deep financial rut.

We can de-blight this city and raise property values by intelligently using the millions in tax increment and 20 percent set-aside funds in project areas. We legally could (and should) use those redevelopment dollars, freeing up about another $3-million in general fund money. With more creativity, the real gap could easily be closed, this year and next. The Mayor already asked you for, and received a quarter-cent more sales tax, promising to hire 40 additional officers. At that time we had 305; and now? 312.  

The Mayor has said he wants to contract out our police and fire services to the County. That suggestion requires another costly election to amend the Charter but do we want to sacrifice our police and fire departments while Operation Phoenix centers remain open?   Mayor Morris and Pro-Tem Brinker rejected another proposal just one month ago in favor of their sales tax increase.

This alternative revenue proposal, which would be paid mostly by out-of-towners, was projected to raise $2 to $16-million annually.

Before rushing into public safety layoffs and raising the sales tax, common sense dictates, and taxpayers deserve, a serious examination of the common sense alternative budget and revenue proposals they have blindly refused to consider.