San Bernardino is hard at work digging itself out of bankruptcy. Earlier this week, a federal judge tentatively approved their plan to exit Chapter 9 protection. A second hearing is scheduled for early next year.
But San Bernardino is very eager to close this chapter, and Mayor R. Carey Davis has a list of priorities prepared.
"It really does start to pave the way for the city's needs to now once again be met on a more normal basis, where before so much energy has been concentrating on building a successful plan," Davis said.
It's been a tough year for San Bernardino. In addition to bankruptcy, the Inland Empire city is still reeling from the terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center a year ago, and it has also faced a wave of crime. It has more than double the violent crime rate as its neighbors, and budget restraints have forced it to cut the number of police officers by 30 percent since 2008.
"Certainly the safety and welfare of our community continues to be at the forefront of our priorities," Davis said. "This will allow us now to have the ability to recruit, to rebuild our police department, to give that attention to some of those priorities that we established as a community back in early 2015."
San Bernardino has been closely watching the city of Stockton, which exited Chapter 9 bankruptcy in February 2015. Post-bankruptcy, Stockton also prioritized growing its police department.
"They went through a significant downsizing just as we did, and that's one of the things we're certainly working at right now," Davis said, adding that the city was able to increase the police budget last year by about $10 million to help grow the workforce. But the financial stability had to come first, Davis said.
Other priorities on Davis' list include job creation and continued improvement in local schools—things that he said are already in the works.
"This will just now give us that ability to refocus our attention on those areas and quality of life issues that will help to continue to show San Bernardino is going to be stronger as we emerge from bankruptcy and also as we recover and heal from the Dec. 2  terrorist attack that took place."