San Bernardino voters to decide future of mayor’s position – San Bernardino Sun

On June 7, San Bernardino voters will decide whether they want to continue electing a mayor in a citywide contest or have the position filled each year by one of the city’s seven council members.

Amending the City Charter to eliminate the mayor’s seat as an independently elected position would save San Bernardino more than $367,000 annually, city staffers said Wednesday, Feb. 2.

Council members Theodore Sanchez, Juan Figueroa, Fred Shorett and Kimberly Calvin favored placing the proposed charter amendment before voters.

Council members Sandra Ibarra and Damon Alexander opposed.

Councilman Ben Reynoso abstained from the vote.

Mayor John Valdivia was not present Wednesday.

Ahead of the decision, Reynoso noted how difficult it would be for a part-time council member with a full-time job to fulfill mayoral obligations such as attending grand openings, meetings and other events without some sort of salary bump to allow that elected official to quit his or her job to serve as mayor for a year.

Alexander concurred, and subsequently urged his colleagues not to make the issue personal.

“This is an office, just like we have our offices,” he said. “If we have a good person in office, this would not be an issue at all. We have to stop making it personal.

“Reducing salary is one thing,” Alexander continued, referring to the council’s decision last month to cut the mayor’s salary to $50,000 starting in December, “but we are a city of approximately 236,000 people, the 18th largest in California, we need someone out there that is going to be lobbying for us, out there on a full-time job getting the grants and other issues we don’t have time for.

“That’s his job, or her job,” he added. “Setting us up for success, whoever is in that seat.”

Councilman Fred Shorett, who a year ago first pitched the idea of asking voters whether they want to continue electing their mayor, reiterated Wednesday that eliminating the position through a charter amendment is strictly good governance given the council-manager form of government voters approved in 2016.

Shorett, who has clashed publicly with Valdivia over the years, said other council members could attend events in place of an appointed mayor who is unavailable that day due to his or her job.

Other cities in the region rotate the mayor’s position among council members, Shorett added, “and they are doing quite well.”

Multiple elected officials Wednesday lamented how contentious council meetings have become in recent months.

Residents are “tired of the fighting that happens on the dais every two weeks,” Sanchez said.

“A lot of that has to do with the dynamic up here,” he added. “We have a mayor elected by the public that really in many ways can’t be touched by the rest of the council. … It creates a toxic environment where we can fight each other to the death very publicly, but we can’t take each other out.”

Appointing a mayor from among the council, Sanchez contended, would create a different dynamic entirely.

Ultimately, voters will decide what to do with the mayor’s position.

Should the initiative pass, the change would take effect at the conclusion of Valdivia’s term in December.

“We are a council who can elect their own leader to essentially see over (council) meetings, preside over meetings,” Shorett said. “Nothing precludes the mayor pro tem elected by the council from working with their colleagues. That’s part of what we’re trying to do, part of what this city has not had for so, so long: a group of people to work together, respect one another and help one another to do the job we do, which is represent the city.”

The June ballot measure is expected to be accompanied by an impartial analysis of no more than 500 words written by the city attorney; arguments for and against the measure; and rebuttals to those respective stances.

The mayor’s seat and council seats in the 1st, 2nd and 4th wards are on the June ballot as well.

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