“The mayor’s schedule is fully booked, and he will not be able to see you today,” said the San Bernardino Mayor’s Office. “It’s Bankruptcy Tuesday.”
Bankruptcy has been at the top of San Bernardino’s agenda, with the bankruptcy team coming together every Tuesday, since the city filed Chapter 9 Bankruptcy in 2012.
And this is exactly why I wanted to visit San Bernardino. I wanted to learn how a community rebounds from such a blow.
Back in 2011, I was working for a solar company, and I spent a few days in San Bernardino dedicating a 448 kilowatt rooftop and carport solar power system for the Economic Development Agency. Well a lot has changed since this celebratory day of flipping the switch on solar.
Governor Brown dissolved economic development agencies in 2012. The city went bankrupt. And San Bernardino was $45 million in the hole. How did this happen? It was primarily caused by the housing crash and pension costs that caused this fiscal emergency.
How did I feel the effects of bankruptcy?
- The roads. I felt it from the moment I biked into San Bernardino. It was slow biking, as I circuitously navigated around the potholes. It is apparent that roads are at the bottom of the priority list.
- Crime. I had four people tell me to keep a close eye on my bike. They said, “People are quick here; don’t turn your back.” While stealing a bike is petty theft, it folds into a larger story of crime and violence. Because of the bankruptcy, the police force has been cut by over 34% and violence has hit an all time high.
So what is the city doing to Get Well?
- Finalize the bankruptcy exit plan
Mayor Davis seems like the right man to get the fiscal plan in place and drive economic growth. His background is in accounting; he is a numbers man. I imagine he will deliver a sound strategy by the end of the month. Everyone seems to be on edge for the May 31, 2015 deadline.
- Get behind a leader that listens and engages the community
The city will need a strong leader that is inspirational, connects with the community and revives morale. I’ll be curious to see how Mayor Davis rises to this occasion.
- Personal Wellness
The Chief of Staff to Mayor Davis shared a successful program that is feeding the mind and body of San Bernardino citizens. It’s the Farm Share program, which provides fresh fruits and veggies from local farms. For $28 you get your weekly fix of natures goodies. Farm Share sets up every Thursday outside City Hall, making it quite the social gathering full of positive energy.
- Social Wellness
The Chief of Staff also mentioned that they just got back from a visit to Chicago where they picked up a few strategies on how they can make strides in reducing crime. Right now it is apparent that the city is not socially well – sick with fear and doubt around gangs and violence.
My Main takeaway: There are plenty of smart minds that can come up with the right fiscal plan to get the city back on track. the question is -- who is going to be the leader, engaging the community to work together, improve morale and create meaningful wins?