Charting a Course for a New San Bernardino:

An Open Letter to San Bernardino Residents

On labor Day a handful of San Bernardino Generation Now members and a group of Young Dems walked neighborhoods to get the word out on the new charter.
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If there is one theme that has dominated our chaotic presidential election, it is that of the political revolution—a roiling wave of change that will sweep the nation, for better or for worse.

But for all the talk of national politics, perhaps it is time to turn an eye inward towards politics of a smaller scale, though of no less importance, and discuss how we can bring a much-needed political revolution to our own San Bernardino. Due to the efforts of a small group of hardworking and impassioned citizens, we finally have a rare opportunity to lead such a revolution by reforming San Bernardino’s charter—our city’s constitution.

The reasons behind reforming the current charter are varied and substantive, ranging from its confusing and often contradictory language to its outdated and impractical provisions. But most tellingly, the charter was identified as one of the key factors that brought about San Bernardino’s bankruptcy in 2012, a devastating turn of events that sent shock waves across the city. Since then, the Bankruptcy Court Recovery Plan has determined that until “fundamental government and management issues are resolved,” it will be difficult to restore San Bernardino to some semblance of its former glory.

Of the many positive changes Measure L (the new charter) would bring about, some of the most notable are:

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  • Moving towards economic stability and transparency. New requirements include a balanced budget, a long-term financial plan, and an annual, independent, and publically-shared audit. This would help ensure that our bankruptcy remains a relic of the past rather than a prophecy of times to come.
  • Getting out the vote. Elections would be held on the same dates as regular state and federal elections, meaning that you would be able to vote for your city councilmember or mayor on the same ballot as your congressman or the president. It would not only save taxpayers’ money, but also increase our typically dismal voter turnout rate—which hovers around 15%—by over 40%. In any city, such a small fraction of the population should not have total control over how their city is run and who should be entrusted with the power to make big decisions. But in a city in as precarious a state as San Bernardino, the need for sustained and meaningful public engagement is even more pressing.
  • Keeping our cops for ourselves. Instead of being contracted out to the county, our police department would continue to be run by the city. Now more than ever, we need our cops to stay our cops and not be outsourced, so that they can be our first line of defense against the simmering violence and crime that threatens to spill its way into our streets.

The time for anxious hand-wringing and empty promises is over. After seeing our city run aground by bad policies and antiquated laws, we, its citizens, have been presented with a rare chance to take things into our own hands and enact true reform.

When you flock to the polls on November 8 to vote for the direction in which you wish this country to travel, consider also your city. Vote for Measure L, and be a part of the movement to create a San Bernardino we can be proud of—a San Bernardino that eschews a troubled past for a promising future.

Will you join us?

San Bernardino Generation Now

Lou Chen

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