CalPERS, the giant state pension system that is opposing San Bernardino in court, has claimed that the city's bankruptcy bid is a "sham."
This is how bad it has become for us here in San Bernardino. Even our bankruptcy gets no respect.
The California Public Employees' Retirement System says the city is guilty of "criminal behavior" and is faking its own insolvency in order to avoid making payments to the pension plan.
City Attorney James F. Penman has responded strongly for San Bernardino, saying, "Why would anyone put themselves through this level of pain - daily, recurring pain - to perpetrate a sham?"
Perhaps we should give these CalPERS people a guided tour of San Bernardino, a proud but embattled city that in recent decades has suffered a plague of afflictions that includes the loss of Norton Air Force Base, Santa Fe Railway, Harris' Department Store, Campus Crusade for Christ, nearby Kaiser Steel and other major financial engines, and additionally, in more recent years, has been ravaged by the worst extremes of the nation's recession, banking and investment crash, housing market collapse, foreclosure crisis and pandemic of job losses.
Jim Penman and I will conduct the tour. We'll put these CalPERS people on a bus. Jim will drive and I'll talk. Or no, we'll go wilder, and I'll drive and Jim will talk.
We'll swing through a few of the city's high-crime, gang-infested neighborhoods. "Sham!" the CalPERS people will cry. "Those aren't real gangbangers. They're probably Hollywood actors that you've hired."
Jim and I will say, "OK, why don't you go over and snap a few pictures of them, and ask for autographs?"
Next, we'll cruise through blighted areas that are everywhere in the city, with weed-filled lots, abandoned shopping carts, littered sidewalks and streets, and walls covered with graffiti. "Sham!" the CalPERS people will shout. "It's all fake! You probably put up that graffiti just yesterday - with chalk! It's easily removed."
Jim and I will hand them pails of sudsy water. "Show us," we will say.
Our bus then will tour neighborhoods filled with vacated houses and neglected yards. "Sham!" the CalPERS people will bleat. "You put up these `Foreclosure Sale' signs for show. These houses are fine."
Jim and I will say, "Really? That's great! We can get you a special deal on as many as you want."
Next we'll head to the downtown business district, with its endless abandoned storefronts, shut-down restaurants and boarded-up offices. "Sham!" the CalPERS people will rant. "This downtown is fantastic. Look at that shopping mall, that hotel, that convention center!"
Jim and I will let them find out for themselves that these are ghost facilities. We'll tell them, "We can schedule your state convention here right away. The center is all yours. And you can take over the whole hotel. Have yourselves a real party."
We probably should add, "Oh, by the way, it's a B.Y.O.B. hotel. Bring your own bellhops. And bath supplies. And bed linens. And beds."
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