Monday, July 16, 2012

Put This City Out Of Its Misery


Well, this is the city where council members once signed a contract partly written in Japanese and -- you guessed it -- none of them read Japanese. The city even thought about banning tumbleweeds, raising the ire of Roy Rogers, whose "Tumbling Tumbleweeds" put the wind-blown Russian thistle on the map of Americana.

Was I surprised the other day to hear San Bernardino had become the third California city to pursue bankruptcy? I was surprised San Bernardino wasn't first. Go ahead, add up the budget deficits, toss in its public pension liability, and for good measure, calculate its home foreclosures. It still comes down to this simple fact: San Bernardino is a failed American city. The current billion-dollar expansion of the 215 freeway in the heart of the city means only that we will go faster through San Bernardino to Las Vegas.

San Bernardino is a demographic nightmare for city bugeteers. An unfavorable number of its 210,000 residents rely on public handouts, and to add insult, the city makes the list of top 100 cities with the "least educated" populations. The city is unlivable. Many people who do earn a living in San Bernardino choose not to live there. They take their families east to Redlands, a city affluent because of its larger neighbor's failures. To San Bernardino's north, Highland residents incorporated in self-defense, fearing the beast next door would devour them in the jaws of annexation.

For the area newspapers, San Bernardino has always been No.1 for crime news. The city once wore the dubious honor of having more murders than any U.S. city its size. It didn't have to be this way. The National Civic League named San Bernardino an "All-America City" in 1977, but the city has atrophied since, and really never recovered the loss of 10,000 jobs when Norton Air Force Base closed in 1994.

One thing that was suprising -- actually shocking -- was in announcing their decision to head for the cover of bankruptcy, city officials revealed that the city's financial figures haven't been accurate for years. Are they aware that manipulating municipal records is a crime in California? The city's mayor ought to know, he's a former county judge.

I was going to recommend as part of the Chapter 9 bankruptcy settlement, that the city be put out of its misery by de-incorporating. Then I realized it would make the rest of San Bernardino County's taxpayers responsible for this dysfunctional city's problems, and thought better of it.

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