By clicking on the portal below, you can download a PDF of the March 27 San Bernardino County Sentinel.
YUCCA VALLEY– (March 25) The rash of voter initiatives relating to permitting medical marijuana dispensaries to function within several San Bernardino County municipalities is testing the limits of California election law. In the cities/towns involved – Upland, San Bernardino, Adelanto, and Yucca Valley – there are some basic similarities. Each has political leadership, i.e., a city or town council, which is on balance opposed to liberalizing local ordinances to allow pot shops to proliferate. Each of those municipalities finds itself struggling financially in the aftermath of the just-concluded, five year-running economic downturn that has deprived them of revenue. And in each municipality there is also a cadre of marijuana legalization advocates who have pushed for the city/town allowing medical marijuana dispensaries being set up. In all four, those advocates contemplated using the initiative process to put a measure on the ballot to have their respective city’s voters make the decision on whether the current local ban on the marijuana clinics should be abandoned, believing the voters in general are more favorably inclined to the idea than their elected officials. Along the way, those advocates have sought to promote the law change by touting the revenue-generating possibilities of taxing the marijuana sales.
In 209,000-population San Bernardino, the actual logistics of gathering the requisite number of signatures on the petition for the initiative – ten percent of the city’s registered voters – proved too daunting. But San Bernardino had filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection in 2012, and the city officials have grown increasingly desperate to find some form of revenue enhancement. Into that mix was thrown the idea of allowing marijuana clinics to set up in the city, pursuant to a taxing regime that would pour ten percent of the clinics’ profits into city coffers.
In July 2014, San Bernardino City Attorney Gary Saenz, taking stock of the number of pot shops sprouting up in the county’s largest city, offered his view that the cost and difficulty of shutting down dispensaries made the city’s ban on the enterprises that has existed since 2010 “futile.” The council formed a legislative review committee composed of three council members to study the issue and promised to reconsider the issue. Saenz said the city was contemplating allow some dispensaries to function under a strict set of guidelines that would include significant licensing fees. Meanwhile, a proponent of licensed clinics, Karmel Roe, undertook an ultimately unsuccessful effort to gather enough signatures to get a dispensary permitting initiative on the ballot. A Redlands-based attorney who had previously been the city manager of Adelanto, James DeAguilera, threatened legal action against the city over its continuing enforcement of the ban.
During the discussion of the concept of legalizing medical marijuana sales in the county seat, many entrepreneurs were emboldened, and some took the risk of opening dispensaries in the belief that in the liberalizing atmosphere, they would be able to operate unmolested. That ultimately proved to be a fallacy, however, as they were able to stay in business for a short time but were slapped back when the city rejected the idea of allowing some dispensaries to operate legally. Earlier this month, the police department and city code enforcement division embarked on concerted operations to close them down, seize their wares and cash on hand and serve them with court orders enjoining them from persisting in their operations.
In Adelanto, where a state of financial crisis had been officially declared by the city council in June 2013, Johnny Salazar, the owner of the Green Tree Health Healing Clinic, a medical marijuana dispensary, earlier this year began promoting the idea of having the city sanction such operations, which would be regulated and taxed. Salazar encountered rough sledding at first, as the council in general, and council member Charley Glasper in particular, were adamantly opposed to the concept of allowing Adelanto to be put on the map as one of the few San Bernardino County cities embracing marijuana sales, even if it offered a means of providing needed revenue. But as Salazar dialogued with city officials, discussing the possibility of putting a dispensary permitting initiative on the ballot, Glasper, who remained in opposition to the whole idea of permitting marijuana sales in the city, softened. He appeared to be willing to have the city council use its authority to schedule such a vote, if, he reasoned, the city could piggyback another vote on a city-sponsored initiative to impose a sales tax or utility tax on its residents and if Salazar would pay for the costs of the special election for those initiatives. Glasper hopefully calculated that the city’s voters just might pass the tax measure and reject the marijuana clinic proposal and for that reason was on the verge of voting to put the measure on the ballot. Salazar, however, was unwilling to bankroll the special election, angling instead to have the council simply adopt an ordinance establishing dispensaries meeting certain criteria permission to operate. For Glasper and the remainder of the council that was a deal-breaker, and the concept has been abandoned.
In Upland, initiative backers, with the support of the California Cannabis Coalition and the financial backing of Randy Welty, a strip club and marijuana dispensary owner, began circulating a petition for an initiative in October and in January turned over to the city clerk’s office petitions signed with 6,865 signatures, 5,736 of which were verified by the registrar of voters office as having been signed by registered voters in the city. This amounted to more than 15 percent of the city’s voters and by law qualified the initiative to be put on a special ballot no more than 105 days after the verification. Nevertheless, three members of the city council – Mayor Ray Musser, councilwoman Carol Timm and councilman Glenn Bozar – were philosophically opposed to Upland hosting such marijuana clinics. City attorney Richard Adams, sensing the direction the council majority wanted to take, researched the issue and referenced Section 17.158.100 of the coalition sponsored initiative, Article XIII C section 1(e) of the California Constitution and Proposition 26 approved by California’s voters in 2010 in propounding a theory that the initiative vote could be held off until the November 2016 general municipal election in Upland. The referenced section of the initiative calls for levying a $75,000 “fee” upon the applicants for a dispensary license. Adams said that the California Constitution and Proposition 26 required that any tax to be levied upon local residents by a municipality must be approved by voters at a general municipal election. The fee designated in the Upland marijuana dispensary initiative qualifies as a tax, Adams reasoned, and this gave the council leeway to postpone the initiative election until next year. Council member Gino Filippi and Debbie Stone sought instead to have the council approve a special election, at a cost of some $150,000 to $180,000, for June 2015. They did not get a crucial third vote and subsequently, Musser, Timm and Bozar supported putting the vote off until November 2016.
This was not the end of the matter, however, as Welty and the Cannabis Coalition, on behalf of the Upland voters who signed their petition, induced famed constitutional rights attorney Roger Diamond to file, on March 19, a petition for a writ of mandate with San Bernardino Superior Court, in which he stated the California Elections Code Section 9214 and Article 2, Section 11 of the California Constitution require that the city hold the special election this year and that Adams had misinterpreted Article 13c of the California Constitution as applying to a voter initiated initiative when it applies exclusively to an initiative initiated by a public entity such as a city.
“By its conduct respondents [i.e., Upland city officials] are violating the California constitutional guarantee of the right of initiative and petitioners’ rights under Elections Code Section 9214. There is no conflict between Article 13c of the California Constitution and Elections Code Section 9214,” Diamond asserted in the filing for a writ of mandate.
Furthermore, according to Diamond, the city of Upland mislabeled the $75,000 fee specified in the initiative as a tax. “Petitioners’ proposed medical marijuana dispensary initiative ordinance does not impose any general tax,” Diamond’s filing states. “Article 13c, Section 1 of the California Constitution defines a ‘general tax’ as ‘any tax imposed for general governmental purposes.’ Petitioners submitted evidence to respondents demonstrating conclusively that the $75,000.00 annual licensing and inspection fee established by proposed Section 17.158.100 of the proposed medial marijuana dispensary intiative petition would not be a general tax but rather a regulatory fee. Without any support in the record whatsoever, respondents have asserted and have allegedly based their position on the false claim that Section 17.158.100 is a general tax.”
In response to questions posed to him by the Sentinel in the wee hours of March 24 after a marathon city council meeting on the evening of March 23, Adams said that he was confident the city would prevail in a test of whether the $75,000 fee can be characterized as a tax. “We looked at that very thoroughly ahead of time,” he said.
The matter appears to be headed for a showdown, with possible precedent setting implication, in San Bernardino Superior Court.
Further east in San Bernardino County, in the incorporated East Mojave Desert town of Yucca Valley, another test of how far the election code can be stretched is playing out.
In Yucca Valley, advocates for the availability of medical marijuana in that town effectively overran the town council’s procedural blockade of local marijuana clinics by getting the requisite number of voter signatures on a petition to direct the town council to adopt a new code allowing dispensaries or otherwise put the matter to the ballot. The town council eventually acceded to the success of that initiative petition process, but in so doing altered the initiative from its original form. It is that altered version of the initiative that is going on the ballot. The California Election Code requires that initiatives to be voted upon cannot be changed from what the petitioners asked for. Thus the circumstance in Yucca Valley is bound to create a test case in which the legality of the entire process and the enforceability of the initiative, if it is indeed passed by the voters, may be called into question.
The Alliance for Safe Access of Yucca Valley, led by Jason Elsasser, began circulating the petition late last summer. The petition called for the city to permit the opening and operation of one medical marijuana clinic per 10,000 residents living in the town under a set of rules governing hours when the dispensaries can be operated and within zones outside the proximity of churches and schools.
Elsasser and the Alliance undertook their effort after the closure of another clinic, which had gotten its operating charter from the city by applying for a business license as an ‘herbal shop.”
Upon town officials learning that the enterprise was a dispensary, they initiated efforts to close it but were met by the owner’s threat of litigation. The town and the clinic owner arrived at an agreement by which the owner was able to remain in business for a specified period. Before that deadline elapsed, the operation proved lucrative enough for the owner to reach his financial goals and he voluntarily closed.
Advocates for the availability of medical marijuana asserted that there is considerable demand for medical marijuana in Yucca Valley and that the town council, by its efforts to prevent the operation of dispensaries in town, has been forcing customers to purchase the product from criminals selling it illegally or travel to other cities where clinics are permitted and where those municipalities have tapped the tax revenue available from the sales.
That argument proved persuasive enough to get more than ten percent of the town’s voters to endorse the petition for the initiative and the registrar of voters verified the requisite number of signatures as valid.
The town council initially balked at the idea, and called for a study of the situation, as is permitted by law. Eventually, town officials concluded that the success of the initiative drive made a vote on the matter inevitable, and they agreed to hold the election on June 2.
But prior to doing so, the city approved the creation of an ad hoc committee to study the citizen initiative, appointing Councilmen Merl Abel and Robert Lombardo to serve as the committee’s members. They initiated a round of discussions with Elasser and the Alliance for Safe Access of Yucca Valley, which turned into negotiations on the final form of the initiative to be voted upon.
A compromise initiative was hatched from that process.
According to a town staff report for the town council’s March 3 meeting, the revamped measure is in the main similar to the initiative endorsed by more than ten percent of the town’s voters “but with additional provisions to enhance regulations for the protection of public health, safety and welfare, and providing for the town’s recovery of certain fees and costs attributable to law enforcement and other operational expenses affected by dispensaries.” The 26-page initiative redraft, entitled Medical Marijuana Authorization and Regulation Initiative, dwells on certain details the original initiative language did not, such as restrictions on loitering, security and a financial audit.
On March 3, after council member Robert Leone, a former police officer, made a motion calling for simply adopting the initiative as drafted but saw that motion die for the lack of a second, the council voted to put the redrafted measure allowing on a special election ballot for June 2.
That initiative is to read, “Shall the Medical Marijuana Dispensary Authorization and Regulation Initiative Measure be enacted to allow the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in the jurisdictional boundaries of the town of Yucca Valley at a rate of one dispensary per every 10,000 residents, and attendant provisions regulating such operations?”
Given Yucca Valley’s 20,700 population, the initiative, if passed would permit two dispensaries to set up operation in town.
A question remains, though, over whether the June 2 vote on the initiative, as it is now drafted, will be in compliance with the California Election Code. The initiative process in California calls for measures approved for the ballot in a voter-endorsed process be presented to the electorate in the exact form presented by the petitioners and approved by at least ten percent of the voters. Given that the initiative Elsasser and the Alliance for Safe Access presented to the voters is different from what the town’s voters will be voting on in June, the undertaking is out of step with the code.
Adams, who as city attorney in Upland has done considerable in depth research into the California Election Code as pertains to initiatives, said that the initiative to be presented to Yucca Valley voters on June 2 will deviate from what is specified under the code.
The vote is likely to yet go on, Adams said, if the process is not challenged. Outsiders or others without standing could not challenge the process the Yucca Valley Town Council approved, Adams said. But if the ballot initiative were to be challenged by an individual with standing, a day of reckoning will come for Yucca Valley, according to Adams.
“A challenge could only be made by an individual with standing,” Adams said. “Someone with standing would be one of the signers of the initiative petition.”
Yucca Valley Town Attorney Lona Laymon said substituting in the revised initiative was legal.
“The petition proponents and the town negotiated the revised measure pursuant to the provisions of Elections Code § 9604,” Laymon said. “Upon reaching a good faith compromise on a revised measure, the proponents of the initiative petition withdrew the original measure before it was acted upon by the town council and filed with the county registrar of voters.”
Laymon said the initiative language was not set in stone once the signed petitions were turned over to the town clerk.
“The statute allowing for negotiations with regard to the measure, Elections Code § 9604, creates the opportunity for negotiation as to the terms of any measure even after signatures have been obtained. Section 9604 permits proponents to ‘withdraw the measure at any time before filing the petition with the appropriate elections official, i.e., the county registrar of voters. While there is little case law interpreting Section 9604, we believe this plain statutory language would override a challenge to a negotiated measure placed on the ballot and/or the concurrent withdrawal of the original measure before filing—indeed, the statute is very clear in stating that proponents may ‘withdraw’ their measure before filing.”
Laymon added, “In terms of timing, please note that we interpret the phrase ‘filing with the appropriate elections official’ as referring to the filing of the measure with the County Registrar of Voters, not the Town Clerk. Here’s why: Subsection (a) of § 9604 dealing with local initiatives refers to filing with the ‘appropriate elections official.’ Subsection (d), however, makes a distinction that a withdrawal under §9604 is effective for a local initiative upon receipt ‘by the appropriate local elections official.’ This would seem to create a distinction between the election official charged with actually processing the election, i.e., the county registrar of voters and the local elections officer whose duty is to present the petition to the council in order to call the election, i.e., town clerk. Therefore, the statute allows the withdrawal of a petition any time before filing with the county registrar of voters, which was precisely the case in Yucca Valley.”
As to the potential launching of a challenge to the town’s action by an individual with “standing,” such as one of those who had signed the petition in the expectation that what was presented to him/her would be what was voted upon, Laymon said, “We are aware of cases granting citizen/signatory standing in the context of citizen initiatives. However, those cases involved a writ of mandate to compel the placement of a measure on the ballot, not to prevent the statutorily-authorized withdrawal and substitution of a compromise measure.”
SAN BERNARDINO—(March 22) Racing to meet a May 30 deadline to present the city’s bankruptcy exit plan, San Bernardino city officials have learned they may very likely disappoint the judge hearing the entire bankruptcy matter as the figures upon which to base future city financial action will simply not be available until after the deadline passes. In a desperate measure to meet that deadline, the city council agreed to nearly double what it is paying to get those audits completed.
The city of San Bernardino filed for Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection in August 2012, and Riverside-based federal bankruptcy judge Meredith Jury has pretty much indulged the city in most of its efforts to hold off its myriad of creditors as it attempts to stabilize its financial picture and structure a future municipal operation in which revenues match expenditures.
But the city’s financial situation, past, current and future, is exceedingly complicated. The city’s previous auditing firm – Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott – was unable to get its arms around the matter and the audit it was supposed to complete for fiscal year 2011-12 – just as the city was heading into bankruptcy – literally took two years to complete. That document was not submitted until June 2014.
In the meantime, with questions mounting over the integrity and quality of the financial monitoring, guidance and strategy the city had received in the past, the city ditched Rogers, Anderson, Malody and Scott and brought in the Macias, Gini and O’Connell LLP accounting firm, depending on that company to provide a transparent profile of the city’s financial condition overall as well as its income and outgo, liabilities and assets, investments and rates of return, reserves and balances.
In June, the council approved a contract with Macias, Gini and O’Connell, LLP to perform an independent audit of the city’s financial records for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2013 and the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. The estimated cost when the contract was executed between the city and the auditing firm was $218,086 for each fiscal year and included the annual financial statements, successor agency to the city redevelopment agency financial reports, single audit report (including 6 major federal grant programs), and an appropriations limit review.
Last year, Macias, Gini and O’Connell represented that the available city financial figures would allow them to carry out the auditing in a timely manner. From all appearances, it seemed the firm understood the urgency of completing the reports expeditiously. That need became manifest in November when Jury told the city the exit plan had to be presented to her by May 30.
Inexplicably, Macias, Gini and O’Connell did not begin the fiscal year 2012-13 audit until November 2014.
According to a report from the city’s finance department for the city council’s March 16 meeting, Judge Jury’s “deadline necessitates that the city have audited beginning numbers to support the city’s plan and as such, Macias, Gini and O’Connell is auditing both fiscal years simultaneously. Because of the complexity of the city’s audits, the city being in Chapter 9 bankruptcy, the number of transactions that require testing and the tight deadline mandated by the city of April 30, 2015 for completion of the audit reports, it is now estimated that costs will increase $270,000 to $488,086 for fiscal year 2012-13 and will increase $220,000 to $438,086 for fiscal year 2013-14.”
Over a barrel, the city council in accordance with a recommendation in that report amended the city’s contract with Macias, Gini and O’Connell to reflect the estimated increases in costs to perform the auditing services.
Despite the significant increase in the amount the firm will be paid, Macias, Gini and O’Connell’s officers are not confident they will be able to complete the auditing of the city’s financial statements in time for them to be assimilated into the bankruptcy exit plan due for presentation to Jury on May 30.
The city and Macias, Gini and O’Connell will be cutting it pretty thin. The auditors believe they can have the 2012-13 audit in the can by April 30. But under even the most optimistic of projections, it will be touch and go on whether the 2013-14 audit will be finished by May 30, let alone well enough in advance of that date to allow the numbers to be carefully considered and abstracted into the plan of adjustment.
The rush job the city is being forced to do carries with it a high probability that corners will be cut and mistakes made in formulating the plan of adjustment. For some time Jury has been holding an increasingly impatient line of the city’s creditors at bay. If such errors manifest in the plan or the documentation the city provides, it will give many of those creditors more ammunition with which to attack the city and its credibility.
Last week, city manager Allen Parker and assistant city manager Nita McKay blamed – some said scapegoated – former finance director Scott Williams for the delay.
Williams, who had only been with the city since December, was ignominiously placed on administrative leave and then dismissed less than three weeks ago. Williams had been hurriedly hired into the position after his predecessor, David Cain, bailed from the position in September after having lasted 18 months in the post.
When he was confronted by the council about the delays in having Macias, Gini and O’Connell getting the auditing show on the road, Parker said that Williams had control of the information the auditing firm needed to go over to make its report but that Williams had dithered, carrying out his own review, even though McKay had been pushing him to turn over to Macias, Gini and O’Connell everything the firm needed to do its work. According to Parker, some order of personality conflict had emerged between Williams and McKay, and McKay had petulantly balked at working with McKay and taking orders from her, even though she was higher in the municipal pecking order than he was.
At one point, Parker came close to expressing complete despair over the city’s listing financial ship ever being righted, saying that the city’s problems were years or decades in the making and that the city council’s demands that he and current staff, most or all of whom have only been with the city for a few years, solve the problems in the near term are hopelessly unrealistic.
(March 25) San Bernardino County Superior Court Judge Bryan Foster’s finalized ruling halting the Fontana Water Company for engaging in unbridled pumping of water from the Rialto-Colton Basin was entered on March 20.
Foster had tentatively ruled in February that an injunction against the Fontana Water Company was in order.
Fontana Water serves about 210,000 users in a service area that covers most of Fontana and portions of f Rialto, Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, and unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County, utilizing 34 wells. But four of those wells tap into the Rialto Colton Basin, where water rights were adjudicated in 1961.
Since at least 2003, Fontana Water, which is owned by El Monte-based San Gabriel Valley Water Company, has been sucking water out of the Rialto Colton Basin at a rate well beyond its allotment.
The 1961 water adjudication grants various established pumpers clearance to draw from the aquifer, such that in wet years, the entities can extract freely, with the parties limited to their base pumping allowance in normal years and reduced to lesser amounts in dry years.
With the onset of an extended drought, the water suppliers were supposed to reduce their pumping in accordance with the lower water levels in the Rialto-Colton Basin since 2009. While the other pumpers limited their drawing of water from the Rialto-Colton Basin, Fontana Water has not.
In 2013 the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District, the West Valley Water District, and the cities of Colton and Rialto filed a lawsuit against the Fontana Water Company, alleging that at the direction of its parent company, the San Gabriel Valley Water Company, it has since 2005 extracted nearly three times its base water pumping allotment established as part of the water rights adjudication regime put into place 54 years ago. That lawsuit was followed with another in 2014, filed by the cities of Colton and Rialto and the West Valley Water District, essentially reiterating the charge that the Fontana Water Company is utilizing more water from the basin than it is entitled to.
The Rialto-Colton Basin lies just east of the Chino Basin. There is a 1,600 foot wide and four mile long patch of ground that lies between the two aquifers where the Fontana Water Company sunk wells and from which it has been aggressively pumping. Fontana Water sought to maintain that those wells were not drafting from the Rialto-Colton Basin and that the 1961 adjudication did not pertain to wells located in the border area. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit contested that assertion.
Foster’s ruling vindicates the allegations in those suits. Pursuant to his ruling, Fontana Water will need to cease pumping water from the basin forthwith and not resume until September, at which point it would need to limit its use to the quantities specified in the 1961 adjudication.
Fontana Water officials must now find other supplies. Fontana Water will have the option of purchasing water from the state water project, which conveys water from Northern California to Southern California by means of the California Aqueduct, subject to availability and a price that has fluctuated in recent years from $500 to $1,200 per acre foot. An acre-foot is the amount of water that will cover an acre to a depth of one foot, that is 43,560 cubic feet or 325,853.4 gallons, which is typically the amount of water consumed by a household of four people in one year.
In the West Valley Water District, which has declared a Stage II Drought Alert and requested that its customers voluntarily reduce their water usage by 10 percent, district general manager Anthony “Butch” Araiza hailed the court’s decision.
“Judge Foster’s ruling confirms that everybody, even Fontana Water Company, must play by the same rules, especially during a historic drought,” said Araiza. “Nobody is exempt from the drought and Fontana Water Company can no longer take everyone else’s water in violation of established water rights agreements.”
(March 25) Ontario International Airport on Wednesday announced that Aeromexico will add roundtrip service four times a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday & Sunday to Mexico City, Mexico beginning April 6 for travelers wanting more international service.
Aeromexico currently flies out of Ontario to and from Guadalajara four times a week and with its new flights to Mexico City, the airline continues to increase its number of flights from four to eight flights per week. This marks a significant move for Aeromexico and is welcome news for travelers at Ontario Airport.
“We’re excited to see the return of Mexico City service, especially as the spring and summer seasons approach,” said Ontario International Airport’s manager Jess Romo. “It will provide our international travelers going to Mexico with more flights choices. Aeromexico last served Mexico City from Ontario Airport in 2000.”
Aeromexico’s chief revenue officer, Anko van der Werff, said, “With the start of these new flights, we now offer service to 29 different routes from the United States to Mexico, which consolidates us as the airline with more and better options to travel between these countries”.
Aeromexico will operate 737-700 aircraft, which seats 132 passengers – 12 of them on Clase Premier (the carrier’s First Class), with departures from Terminal 2 at Mexico City International Airport and arrivals at the International Arrivals Terminal in Ontario. On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, AeroMexico Flight 0793 will depart Ontario a 1:05 a.m. local time and arrive in Mexico City at 7:40 a.m. local time. On Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, AeroMexico Flight 0792 will epart Mexico City at 9:10 p.m. local time and arrive in Ontario at 11:25 p.m. local time.
Tickets are on sale now on www.aeromexico.com.
Ontario International Airport, located approximately 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles, is a medium-hub airport, which will with the Mexico City increase have full commercial service to 15 major U.S. cities and through service to many international destinations. There are approximately 60 daily flights offered out of Ontario by seven carriers. For more information about Ontario International, visit www.lawa.org
Grupo Aeromexico, S.A.B. de C.V. is a holding company whose subsidiaries are engaged in commercial aviation in Mexico and the promotion of passenger loyalty programs. Aeromexico, the largest airline in Mexico, operates more than 600 daily flights and its main hub is in Terminal 2 at the Mexico City International Airport. Its destinations network features more than 80 cities on three continents, including 45 destinations in Mexico, 16 in the United States, 15 in Latin America, three in Europe, two in Asia and two in Canada.
The Group’s fleet of more than 120 aircraft is comprised of Boeing 787, 777, 767 and 737 jet airliners and next generation Embraer 145, 170, 175 and 190 models. In 2012, the airline announced the most significant investment strategy in aviation history in Mexico, to purchase 100 Boeing aircraft including 90 MAX B737 jet airliners and 10 B787-9 Dreamliners.
As a founding member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, Aeromexico offers customers more than 1,000 destinations in 178 countries served by the 20 SkyTeam airline partners, rewarding passengers with benefits including access to 516 premium airport lounges around the world. Aeromexico also offers travel on its codeshare partner flights with Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines, Avianca, LAN, TACA and TAM with extensive connectivity in countries like the United States, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia and Peru. More information is available at www.aeromexico.com www.skyteam.com http://disfrutaam.tumblr.com/
VICTORVILLE—(March 21) Victorville’s seven-year running experience with red light camera systems is coming to an end, following the city council’s 4-1 March 17 vote against renewing the contract it has with Redflex for ten of the devices.
The council had the option of renewing the current arrangement it has had since 2010 with Australia-based Redflex, which has an American corporate office in Arizona, or entering into a contract with different terms that would be more favorable to the city. The council took neither path, and indications were that the cameras will come down as of July 1.
Victorville is one of the last of several San Bernardino County cities to jettison the red light camera program. Previously, Chino, Grand Terrace, Hesperia, Loma Linda, Montclair, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto San Bernardino Upland and Yucaipa had contracts with Redflex or its main competitor, American Traffic Solutions for the operation of the systems. But a combination of profiteering by the corporations operating them, misrepresentations as to their value as a revenue producer for local governments, their ineffectiveness and public discontent derailed the programs.
Red light cameras came into vogue in much of San Bernardino County just as the economic downturn of 2007 hit. While billing the installation of the devices as a safety enhancement measure, many local municipalities were hoping they would generate, by means of the state-mandated minimal $489 citations they entail, more revenue. But in nearly every case, the deals made with Redflex and American Traffic Solutions, granted the companies operating the cameras the lion’s share of the profit to be had from the systems. Processing the tickets, as required by law, through the courts entailed court costs, which further lessened the city’s piece of the action on the operations. In most of the cities, a police department employee was devoted either full or part time to working the system, augmented by two to three other non-sworn employees who devoted part of their work weeks to the processing of tickets. The human interaction with the automated systems, and in particular the interaction of sworn law enforcement personnel, became an issue as an increasingly sophisticated public began to use elements of the traffic code to contest the tickets, citing in some cases the need for tickets to be issued by officers with current training certification to be valid. This undercut the Redflex and American Traffic Solutions selling points, which asserted that the automated systems would be cost efficient. In the cases of at least three San Bernardino County cities, when the fees paid to Redflex or American Traffic Solutions and the courts were subtracted from the net ticket proceeds, those cities were losing money on the ventures.
Coming into play was the consideration that red light cameras, by certain statistical analysis, increased rather than diminished traffic accidents. In this regard, there had been controversy over red light camera programs from even before they were put in place in San Bernardino County. Some opposed them on safety grounds, arguing that it would result in an uptick in rear-end collisions as many motorists in reaction to yellow lights came to an abrupt halt. Advocates of the system said that the cameras would nonetheless prevent more serious T-bone accidents, i.e., ones that involved cars being broadsided in the city’s intersections. Statistics appeared to bear this out.
The systems proved highly unpopular with a large percentage of the county’s residents, many of whom were being cited to appear for making what would turn out to be, upon a time-consuming court appearance, legal right hand turns against a red light. When cities looked into shutting the red light camera operations down, they were confronted with clauses in the Redflex and American Traffic Solutions contracts that required the cities put up a substantial amount of money, in some cases hundreds of thousands of dollars, to buy out the contracts. Some elected to bite the bullet and pay off the companies to end the arrangements early. In Victorville’s case, the city is hanging on to the bitter end of the contract.
On March 17, the city council heard a presentation from captain Sam Lucia, who heads the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Victorville station, which serves as the Victorville police department. Lucia, presented statistics indicating collisions were down almost 91 percent at both camera-guarded and non-camera intersections in Victorville and that overall in the city vehicle mishaps had reduced by 54 percent since 2007. Paradoxically, drivers in Victorville were increasingly running red lights during the same time frame. The traffic light cameras perhaps had an impact Lucia said, but he could not say that for sure and he could not quantify it. Sizing up whether this was “solely” attributable to Redflex, he said, “I don’t know.”
(March 23) The county is giving up on regulating fortune tellers, pool and billiard halls and theaters.
The county has long had ordinances relating to licensing such operations but, according to a report by San Bernardino County Clerk of the Board of Supervisors Laura Welch dated March 17, “Such regulations are redundant and unnecessary because these businesses are already sufficiently regulated by other state and local laws. Such repeal will also, as a practical matter, have a negligible effect because there is currently only one fortune telling business licensed within the unincorporated area of the county, no business licenses have been issued for theaters since 1948, and no license has been issued for a pool/billiard hall since April 1972.”
The portion of the county code relating to pool and billiard halls was originally adopted in 1947 and was last amended in 1963. The provisions of the county code give significant discretion to the board of supervisors in approving a business license. They also prohibit gambling and the serving of alcohol in pool/billiard halls. “The concerns underlying the adoption of the original ordinance, to the extent they still exist, are adequately addressed by other regulatory authority,” said Welch. “California Alcoholic Beverage Control enforces state liquor licensing laws and gambling is regulated by state law. Pool/billiard halls are also subject to zoning requirements. Defined as “commercial entertainment – indoor,” they are limited to certain commercial land use zoning districts, certain industrial and special use zoning districts, and, with a conditional use permit, the rural living district.”
The portion of the county code relating to theaters requires movie theaters and stage theaters to obtain a business license. The sheriff’s department, public health department’s division of environmental health services, county fire, and land use services department’s building and safety and planning divisions are required to review applications. The ordinance also prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol. California Alcoholic Beverage Control enforces state law regarding the sale and consumption of alcohol. “Elimination of the business license requirement would not limit these divisions and departments in conducting inspections pursuant to their own authority,” Welch said. “Theaters are also subject to zoning requirements; they may operate with a minor use permit or a conditional use permit in all districts of the commercial land use zoning district except for neighbor commercial and office commercial. There are also specific noise standards and parking standards for theaters.”
The portion of the county code relating to theaters relating to fortune telling requires business licenses for fortune telling. Environmental health services, county fire, building and safety, and planning must review the application. “Elimination of the business license requirement would not limit these divisions and departments in conducting inspections pursuant to their own authority,” Welch said. “Fortune telling businesses are subject to zoning requirements. They are a permitted use in all of the commercial land use zoning districts as psychics or palm readers, except neighborhood commercial and office commercial, and require a site plan permit and, under certain circumstances (large operations), a conditional use permit.”
In conclusion Welch said, “ Repeal of the above-described business license provisions will not undermine the ongoing regulation of pool/billiard halls, theaters, and fortune telling establishments because these businesses are already sufficiently regulated through separate state and local authority.”
One of Baker’s residents, 39-year-old Earnest Ortega Huerta was found dead in the desert near the Dumont Dunes on March 19, it was disclosed this week. Caltrans workers working on Highway 127, which leads to Death Valley, found Huerta’s lifeless corpse near mile marker 137.
Deputies from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and officers from the California Highway Patrol responded. Huerta, died, it appeared, from upper body trauma.
Huerta’s death was ruled a homicide and the sheriff’s homicide detail is looking into the circumstances and seeking further leads. Detective Mike Walker and sergeant Jason Radeleff have been assigned to the Huerta death. They can be reached at 909-387-3589. According to the coroner, it has not been determined how long Huerta’s body might have been in the desert before being found.
Redlands police will set up a checkpoint to snare intoxicated drivers or those without valid licenses tonight, Friday, March 27, in Redlands.
The operation is set to begin at 8 p.m. and end at 1 a.m. The location of the checkpoint was not disclosed in the press release giving required notification of the undertaking.
(March 24) San Antonio Community Hospital has been renamed San Antonio Regional Hospital.
San Antonio Hospital has been in existence since 1907, when it was originally located at the corner of San Antonio and Arrow Highway. In 1924 it moved to its present location on San Antonio Road just east of Campus Avenue and near what is today Memorial Park.
Twenty-five years ago the hospital began to reach beyond Upland, opening the Rancho San Antonio Medical Plaza in Rancho Cucamonga and shortly thereafter the . Sierra San Antonio Medical Plaza in Fontana in the last three decades. Next month, San Antonio will add a third satellite facility with the opening of the Eastvale San Antonio Medical Plaza.
According to Harris Koening, the facility’s president and chief executive officer, the rechristening of its flagship Upland facility to San Antonio Regional Hospital is intended to announce to the world the expansion of its service area. Work at the Upland site has been ongoing for some time and later this year, the $160 million expansion will be complete. It is to include a new patient tower with 92 private beds, including 12 for critical care, and an enlargement of its emergency department by 8,000 square feet, entailing another 52 beds.