By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the January 26 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the January 26 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
By Mark Gutglueck
In an historic move of significant consequence, the agency charged with overseeing jurisdictional issues in San Bernardino County without fanfare last week placed the six cities in the county’s southwest corner and a portion of the unincorporated land at their peripheries into the sphere of influence of the Metropolitan Water District.
The Metropolitan Water District is, essentially, a creature of Los Angeles County, having been established in 1928 under an act of the California Legislature to build and operate the 242-mile Colorado River Aqueduct to Los Angeles. The City of Pasadena initiated the organization of the district, which mailed to various cities in Southern California an invitation to submit to their citizens the proposition of joining the Metropolitan Water District. Twelve cities took Pasadena up on the offer and submitted the proposition to their voters, with voters in eleven of those cities electing to join the collective. Of the original eleven chartering cities, seven – Los Angeles, Pasadena, Santa Monica, San Marino, Beverly Hills and Burbank – fell within Los Angeles County. Two – Anaheim and Santa Ana – were Orange County entities and two – San Bernardino and Colton – enclosed by San Bernardino County. In 1931, Compton, Fullerton, Long Beach and Torrance joined the Metropolitan Water District, tipping the balance of control of the district even more heavily in favor of Los Angeles and Orange counties. San Bernardino and Colton were participating as members under the impression and assurance that the route of the Colorado River Aqueduct would come across the Mojave Desert, down the Cajon Pass and through their jurisdictions. By the 1940s, however, the passage for the aqueduct was changed to bring it through the San Gorgonio Pass in Riverside County, while Orange County, serving in a proxy capacity for several of the other members, successfully sued San Bernardino over the amount of water it was going to receive as a consequence of the project. As a consequence, both San Bernardino and Colton withdrew from the Metropolitan Water District. At present, the Metropolitan Water District’s participating municipalities are the cities of Anaheim, Fullerton and Santa Ana in Orange County and the cities of Beverly Hills, Burbank, Compton, Glendale, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Pasadena, San Fernando, San Marino, Santa Monica and Torrance in Los Angeles County. Other agencies now participating in the Metropolitan Water District, which is sometimes referred to simply as Metropolitan or by its acronym MWD or as the Met, are the Calleguas Municipal Water District, which serves southern Ventura County and the northwestern part of the Greater Los Angeles Area; the Central Basin Municipal Water District, serving the City of Los Angeles and the City of Commerce; the Eastern Municipal Water District in Riverside County; the Foothill Municipal Water District, in Pasadena; the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District in Calabasas in Los Angeles County, the Municipal Water District of Orange County; the San Diego County Water Authority; Three Valleys Municipal Water District, serving the Pomona, Walnut and eastern San Gabriel Valleys; the Upper San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District, serving El Monte and the surrounding area; the West Basin Municipal Water District, serving 17 cities and unincorporated areas of Los Angeles County; the Western Municipal Water District of Riverside County; and the Inland Empire Utilities Agency, known by its acronym IEUA.
The Inland Empire Utilities Agency is a regional wastewater treatment agency and wholesale distributor of imported water to the various water agencies in southwestern San Bernardino County, covering the cities of Chino Hills, Chino, Montclair, Ontario, Upland, San Antonio Heights Rancho Cucamonga, Guasti and adjacent unincorporated county areas. Some 875,000 people live within the service borders of the IEUA, which encompasses over 242 square miles. The agency is devoted to providing three key services: (1) treating wastewater, developing recycled water, local water resources, and conservation programs to reduce the region’s dependence on imported water supplies and drought-proof the service area; (2) converting biosolids and waste products into a high-quality compost made from recycled materials; and (3) generating electrical energy from renewable sources.
Given that the Inland Empire Utilities Agency is the entity through which a significant amount of the water imported into the southwestern corner of San Bernardino County and that most of the water the Inland Empire Utilities Agency obtains through outside sources comes from the Metropolitan Water District, San Bernardino County’s Local Agency Formation Commission last year proposed expanding the Metropolitan Water District’s sphere of influence into San Bernardino County. Since the departure of the cities of San Benardino and Colton as Metropolitan Water District participants nearly three generations ago, the Metropolitan Water District has had no officially dedicated authority in San Bernardino County.
Among the water purveyors within the Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s jurisdiction are the City of Chino Hills, the City of Chino, the Monte Vista Water District, the City of Ontario, the City of Upland, the San Antonio Water Company, the Cucamonga Valley Water District, and the Fontana Water Company. To meet the needs of their customers, those water suppliers utilize groundwater, local surface water, imported water and recycled water. From the late 19th Century until well into the 1960s, much of San Bernardino County in general was devoted to agricultural use, and the West, Central and East Valleys in particular, stretching from Redlands in the east to Montclair in the west were heavily laden with either citrus orchards or vineyards or both, and both Chino and Chino Hills supported separate farming and dairy operations featuring in some cases livestock numbering in the several hundreds to over 1,000 head. There were other farming operations involving the cultivation of strawberries, beans, corn and tomatoes that were generally less expansive than the citrus and grape-growing and dairy operations, but nevertheless a real presence in San Bernardino County. Beginning in the 1960s, and accelerating during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s, agricultural land in San Bernardino County outside of the Chino Valley was being converted to residential, commercial and, to a lesser extent, industrial use. In the 1950s, Chino, which was already a respectable agrarian district, saw its status as a dairyland intensify as dairymen made their exodus from places such as Torrance and Anaheim because of encroaching urbanization there, camping down instead in the Chino Valley. As wave upon wave of dairy farmers, many of Dutch or Portuguese descent, brought their herds in, the Chino Valley became the source for most of Southern California’s milk as well as a major supplier of cheese for a much larger geographical area. In 1968, the Chino Agricultural Preserve was formed under the auspices of California’s Williamson Act — a 1965 law that was intended to preserve California farmland and to serve as a hedge against urban sprawl. The law granted substantial tax breaks to property owners agreeing to restrict their land to agricultural uses for at least 10 years. By the late 1980s, a number of Chino Valley dairymen sold their property to those looking to develop it, moving their herds elsewhere, such as to Tulare and Merced counties or Idaho, or simply selling their cows to other dairies in the area. By the mid-1990s, the breakup of the Chino Ag Preserve was in full swing. Today, there are some 55 or so dairies in Chino on a mere fraction of the once-proud 17,000-acre Ag Preserve confines where in 1976 there were just under 400 dairies and 400,000 cows and $800 million in annual dairy production.
The Inland Empire Utilities Agency, often referred to by its acronym IEUA, was originally known as the Chino Basin Municipal Water District when it was formed in 1950 by a popular vote of its residents to become a member agency of the Metropolitan Water District for the purpose of importing water. Since the 1990s, approximately 90 percent of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s service area water demands have come from residential and industrial users with approximately 10 percent from agricultural users. Overall urban water demand has increased by approximately 20 percent since 1995, despite a regional growth of 30 percent, equal to approximately 200,000 additional residents. Over those 23 years, more efficient irrigation and indoor fixtures and conservation consciousness has reduced per capita water use. An effort to reduce water use in response to California’s 2012-2016 drought also resulted in water use restrictions that lessened, to a minor degree, water demands. Nevertheless, in a countywide service review pertaining to the provision of water that was completed and submitted to the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission in July 2017, it was acknowledged that San Bernardino County annually utilizes more water than is replenished into its aquifers on a yearly basis. That review states “One-third of the water distributed by IEUA’s member agencies is imported water from Metropolitan. Recognizing the limitation on imported water supplies caused by drought conditions and environmental restrictions, a key business goal for IEUA is to ‘drought proof’ the region by developing local supplies and maximizing groundwater recharge. IEUA and its member agencies have been able to increase the local supply of water by 33 percent through the construction of recycling plants and piping, new catch basins, and desalting plants.”
Further, according to the review, “The population within the study area increased 23% from 1990 to 2000. Interestingly, the population within the study area grew at a lesser rate of 16% from 2000 to 2010 during the construction boom. The 2015 estimated population was 856,168.”
In 1990 the population of the IEUA service area was 569,490. In 2000 the population of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency service area was 701,527. In 2010 the population of the IEUA service area was 814,210. In 2015 the population of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency service area was 856,168.
In 2020 the population of the IEUA service area is projected to be 896,533. In 2030 the population of the Inland Empire Utilities Agency service area is projected to be 1,009,349. In 2040 the population of the IEUA service area is projected to be 1,125,203
The Local Agency Formation Commission’s water service report states, “The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California lacks sphere of influence within San Bernardino County. Metropolitan is a special district subject to LAFCO purview. Therefore, San Bernardino LAFCO is obligated to establish a sphere of influence.” That document then offers the recommendation to “Initiate the establishment of a sphere of influence for Metropolitan within San Bernardino County to be coterminous with the sphere of its
member agency, Inland Empire Utilities Agency.”
Historically throughout its existence, the Metropolitan Water District has functioned within San Bernardino County without interference and without administrative complication. This is acknowledged in the Local Agency Formation Commission Report, which states, “Metropolitan has never had an established sphere of influence within San Bernardino County.”
Despite this more than 70 years of functionality, the Local Agency Formation Commission report states, “Metropolitan is a special district that is subject to LAFCO purview. Therefore LAFCO is obligated to establish a sphere of influence for the district. Technically, no changes of organization should be processed for any affected agency within a reorganization area lacking a sphere of influence. Metropolitan staff has identified support for a sphere establishment within San Bernardino County to be coterminous with the sphere of influence of its member agency, IEUA.”
In addition to recommending the expansion of the Metropolitan Water District’s sphere of influence to match the Inland Empire Utilities Agency boundaries, the Local Agency Formation Commission called for that sphere also including some 17 parcels and roads where the Metropolitan Water District is imposing a standby charge on land or water users in the southwestern portion of San Bernardino County. This brings the total area of MWD’s sphere of influence in San Bernardino County to 292 square miles.
The Local Agency Formation Commission report does not clearly specify what advantage accrues to the residents living within the Inland Empire Utilities Agency’s service area from officializing the Metropolitan Water Agency’s sway over the southeastern portion of San Bernardino County. The closest the Local Agency Formation Commission report gets to making a justification for moving the 292 square mile area into the Metropolitan Water District’s sphere of influence comes on pages 6 and 10 of the staff report.
On page 6 of the staff report, Local Agency Formation Commission Executive Director Kathleen Rollings-McDonald wrote, “A sphere of influence is defined by Government Code Section 56076 as ‘a plan for the probable physical boundaries and service area of a local agency as determined by the commission.’ This commission in its policies related to assignment of a sphere of influence has indicated the purpose is ‘to encourage economical use and extension of facilities by assisting governmental agencies in planning the logical and economical extension of governmental facilities and services, thereby avoiding duplication of services’ and ‘to promote coordination of cooperative planning efforts.’”
On page 10, Rollings-McDonald indicated the rational for the change was administrative and procedural rather than of practical physical or financial benefit. “The Metropolitan sphere establishment, being a planning tool, would work in concert with the Metropolitan mission, IEUA mission, and Metropolitan and IEUA planning documents,” Rollings-McDonald stated. Rollings-McDonald footnoted that “The mission of the Metropolitan is to provide its service area with adequate and reliable supplies of high-quality water to meet present and future needs in an environmentally and economically responsible way. The IEUA mission is [a commitment to] meeting the needs of the region by providing essential services in a regionally planned and cost effective manner while safeguarding public health, promoting economic development and protecting the environment.”
Historically, entities and interests in Los Angeles County have coveted San Bernardino County’s water and have engaged in a variety of efforts to commandeer water rights to allow that water to be diverted for use in Los Angeles, or near the coast within Los Angeles and Orange counties.
San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission officials effectuated the transfer of the 292 square miles into the Metropolitan Water Agency’s sphere of influence very quietly, carrying the action out at the LAFCO board’s January 17 meeting, which was only sparsely attended. Staff and council members with the cities of Chino Hills, Chino, Montclair, Ontario, Upland and Rancho Cucamonga did not know about it even after it had occurred, and staff members/directors with the Monte Vista Water District and the San Antonio Heights Water Company were not apprised of the action until just before or after it took place. Nor did the Sentinel receive notice of the pending action prior to the hearing and vote on the matter.
Now, with the Metropolitan Water District’s assumption of the sphere of influence in San Bernardino County, there is growing concern that a significant portion of autonomy over water issues and water availability in and around San Bernardino County’s six southwestern cities has been surrendered to an entity in many ways inimical to San Bernardino County and its residents.
LAFCO Board Member James Curatalo, an elected member of the Cucamonga Valley Water District and currently that panel’s board president, told the Sentinel that alarm over the move was misplaced.
“This change was only administrative,” he said. “That sphere of influence for the MWD should have overlaid the boundaries of IEUA decades and decades ago. For some reason that wasn’t done way back when. It was left out. When we [the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission] did a service review last July that looked at how water issues are handled in all of the districts, we discovered the discrepancy. They [the MWD] provide water to my district and all of these other districts. That will continue to happen. Nothing really changes. There’s no ‘gotcha’ here. This is basic governance and following the law. People think they can see shadows in it, but this is pretty routine. There’s nothing sinister. We’re just making things compliant with the law.”
Rollings-McDonald said providing the Metropolitan Water District with the sphere of influence over Chino Hills, Chino, Montclair, Ontario, Guasti, Upland, San Antonio Heights, Rancho Cucamonga and some unincorporated county areas on the peripheries of Fontana and Rialto simply equated “to a planning tool to plan for the delivery of services.” She said that leaving the area in question outside the sphere of influence of the Metropolitan Water District “was an oversight.” She said that “MWD brings a benefit to the area in terms of the distribution of supplemental Colorado River water to the region” and that this will continue to be the case in the aftermath of documenting the 292 square miles as within the MWD’s sphere of influence. “None of that is changed through the granting of the sphere of influence.”
Terry Catlin served on the IEUA board from 1996 until 2016, in the capacity of president for several terms, and was involved in the Santa Ana Watershed Authority. Since 2004 he has been the general manager of the 81 million-gallon-per-day water treatment facility operated by a joint powers agency consisting of the Cities of Chino, Chino Hills, Ontario, Upland and Monte Vista Water District. “Based on my initial analysis, Chino Hills, Chino, the Monte Vista Water District, Ontario and Upland, Cucamonga Valley Water District etc. are already receiving Met water, so I don’t see how there is any further benefit to these local jurisdiction by the action that LAFCO has taken,” said Catlin. “In practice, MWD already, and for decades, operated a ‘sphere of influence’ in the west portion of SBC coterminous with the service area of Inland Empire Utilities Agency. IEUA is a member agency of MWD and, as such, is able to provide supplemental water supplies, imported water from the State Water Project, purchased from MWD to serve local municipalities within the IEUA service area. This portion of imported water supply represents approximately +30% of the retail water supply portfolio in the IEUA service area and is necessary for supplementing local, primarily groundwater, supplies to meet demand. This imported supply also provides blending for water quality improvements in certain areas.”
Catlin continued, “I believe that the LAFCO action was primarily driven by the finding in the July Water Service Review that MWD did not have a sphere of influence established in San Bernardino County, at least for the portion of the MWD service area that extends into San Bernardino County by its service through IEUA. I don’t believe that the action gives MWD any more influence in San Bernardino County than it already conveys through IEUA. IEUA and local municipalities are sensitive to the “300-pound gorilla” (MWD) in the room and would ‘push back’ or protest if they thought MWD was attempting to expand its powers into their localities, desiring to preserve local control. I believe the action to be a ‘housekeeping’/administrative issue.”
By Mark Gutglueck
For more than 120 years, Los Angeles County-based interests and other speculators have sought to capture local water rights and profiteer by selling the water to local users or diverting it elsewhere within or outside of the county. Those efforts pertain to water which originates in the San Bernardino Mountains and flows northward into the Mojave River or southward into the Santa Ana River, water tables underlying the Mojave Desert or water flowing off of the eastern extension of the San Gabriel Mountains into either the Cucamonga alluvial or San Antonio watersheds.
Between October and December of 1892, a group of investors from Minneapolis and St. Paul raised $1.5 million and before the close of the year used a portion of that money to purchase from the Hesperia Land and Water Company an option on the water rights and dam site at the Victor Narrows. Working in conjunction with Dr. Joseph Jarvis from Riverside, James E. Mack of Bloomington as well as A. H. Koebig and O.J. Perkins of Los Angeles, the group was purposed to buy outright or otherwise purchase options on property that carried with it the existing water claims around the Mojave River and a suitable site for a 171-foot high and from 75-foot-to-150-foot-wide dam and reservoir above the Upper Mojave Narrows that would house enough water to irrigate 250,000 acres in the High Desert.
When the Panic of 1893 hit, the resolve to continue the effort dissolved. A handful of the participants reformed as another corporation headquartered in Springfield, Illinois led by J. C. Dickson of Sierra Madre and the previously referenced James E. Mack, still intent upon a venture to harness the Mojave River. That effort, too, foundered. But in 1895, J. W. Wilson, together with O. O. Howard, formed a corporation, the Columbia Colonization Company of Chicago, and bought the Victor reservoir project for a promissory note of $80,000. Later that year, Howard dropped out of the venture, to be replaced by Henrietta P. Sweet. The Columbia Colonization Company entered into agreements with homesteaders of 320-acre ranges provided for in the Desert Land Act to permanently provide those homesteaders with water in exchange for 280 of their claimed acres. The company then sought to sell land thus obtained to investors or buyers interested in occupying it. Questions about the legality of the company’s sales of land to which the government still held title emerged, resulting in a federal district court order enjoining the Columbia Colonization Company from marketing unpatented government land or their bonds outside of California. The company subsequently faltered when it failed to deliver on its promissory note to the Springfield, Illinois company, which then attempted to reassert its water rights and possession of the dam site.
That scheme was superseded by one pursued by another group of speculators, the Appleton Land and Water Company of Los Angeles, led by P. D. Hatch. Hatch’s plan was to construct a dam much closer to the ultimate source of the water, more than 11 miles above the Victor reservoir, to not only control the flow of the Mojave River itself but to reroute a major portion of the water flow coming northward down the slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains in flumes and aqueducts eastward.
At that time, both wells and the Mojave River were being tapped by a handful of farmers who planted non-citrus orchards in what would eventually become known as Apple Valley.
In the 1890s, hundreds of acres in Hesperia had been converted to vineyards, which yielded fruit utilized as much for raisins as for wine.
Simultaneously, up in the San Bernardino Mountains, the Arrowhead Reservoir Company had formed. That company’s goal was in no small part crosswise to what were the intentions of the Appleton Land and Water Company and other speculators in the desert, in that it had designs to dam up the water at a spot in the mountains and then divert the water through a tunnel to be dug and blasted out through the mountains southward to irrigate San Bernardino, Highland, Redlands, Colton and other growing communities well removed from the Victor Valley.
These competing designs and claims on the Mojave River’s water intensified in the late 1890s.
In 1899, Gifford Pinchot, head of the U.S. Division of Forestry, which would later become the United States Forest Service, personally came through the Victor Valley during a tour of California and its vast undeveloped wildlands. Upon his return to Washington, he commissioned a comprehensive survey of the Mojave River watershed. After President William McKinley was succeeded by the more conservation-minded Theodore Roosevelt, the Newlands Reclamation Act, authored by congressman Francis G. Newlands of Nevada, was passed by Congress in 1902, funding irrigation projects for the arid lands of the American West.
The act’s passage set off a second round of even more intensive and bitter legal battles between the Arrowhead Reservoir Company and nearly all of the water interests along the Mojave River. The Hesperia Land and Water Company, led by its then-president, W. A. Field, in both legal and bureaucratic filings maintained that the Arrowhead Reservoir Company’s proposed project would deplete, obstruct or eradicate the natural flow of water into the Mojave River.
Simultaneously, a group of small stakes West Coast investors, who were backed by a syndicate of larger stakeholders from the East Coast assembled and headed by James Westwater of Ohio, employed Arthur E. Poole of Los Angeles, whose brother Charles was an engineer working on the City of Los Angeles’ Owens River Aqueduct, to purchase options on the properties and ranches lying along the lower Mojave River. By these purchases, Poole secured the lion’s share of water rights along the Mojave River through the Victor Valley, including the property that had been intended as dam and reservoir sites in the area. In 1904, the Arrowhead Reservoir Company commenced construction of a dam in the mountains.
In early 1906, Poole and Westwater announced they intended to initiate by July 1906 the construction of a dam in the Victor Valley along the Mojave River that would be used for both irrigation and power generation. By that summer, Westwater’s East Coast co-investors were expressing doubts about any large projects in California in the wake of the San Francisco Earthquake. As Westwater’s access to capital dried up and Poole failed to make good on promissory notes he had provided to secure property along the river, the duo ultimately were unable to retain control of any of the riverbank property or the attendant water rights.
Over the next two-and-a-half years, The Arrowhead Reservoir Company continued to assert its Mojave River Basin water claims, making renewals on them every two months. But during the same time frame, Field and his Hesperia Land and Water Company claimed to have indisputable possession or control over 33,000 acres bordering the river. Field marshaled his company’s filing for one million miner’s inches (equal to 1.5 million cubic feet of water per minute) on both forks of the Mojave, which predated the Arrowhead Reservoir Company’s competing claims by more than two years, to assert that his company’s rights to the disputed water eclipsed the rights Arrowhead adduced. The Hesperia Land and Water Company had consistently utilized 5,000 inches of water from the East Fork every year for two decades, establishing, Field maintained, an inviolable right that would legally preclude the Arrowhead Reservoir Company or any other entity from diverting the Mojave River’s water away from the desert.
In 1909, a slew of other riparian owners along the Mojave filed suits against the Arrowhead Reservoir Company to prevent the diversion of the San Bernardino Mountain water away from the Mojave River Basin. While these suits were pending, the California Supreme Court entered a judgment in a case in the San Joaquin Valley involving a similar proposed rechanneling of water from its natural drainage area which barred such diversions where they would negatively impact existing agricultural operations.
Thereafter, the company’s subsidiary, the Arrowhead Lake Company, pursued transforming the once-contemplated reservoir site into a resort, completing that project, which had only minimal impact on the flow of water northward into the Mojave Desert, in 1922.
In October 1913, a San Francisco corporation, of which J. R. Wilbur was president, Ray K. Barrows vice president and A. L. Dahl secretary and treasurer, filed an application at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Forestry Service for a right-of-way to dig a tunnel twenty miles long through a portion of the San Bernardino Mountains to divert flood waters from the Mojave River to provide power and irrigation to citrus orchards in and around the cities of San Bernardino, Redlands, Riverside and that vicinity, where water would be used for citrus groves. One of the corporation’s board members was A. E. Boynton, at that time the speaker pro tem of the California State Senate. Wilbur’s corporation proposed locating a reservoir for the water at Victorville and a powerhouse to be driven by the gravity-fed water in San Bernardino.
Opposition to that undertaking involving the Victor Chamber of Commerce and local agricultural interests formed. The Victor Chamber of Commerce reclamation committee, led by its chairman, John D. Reavis, moved, according to a report in the Victor News-Herald, “to retain the most competent water attorney and engineer available” and immediately filed a protest with the government against the granting of a permit for right-of-way for a tunnel to divert water from the Victor Valley’s watershed to the San Bernardino Valley “on the grounds that it is contrary to law.” The tunnel project was not undertaken.
In 1921, the City of Pasadena filed with the California Water Commission to divert Mojave River water to Los Angeles County, spurring the Mojave River Irrigation District to take action to ensure that water rights along the river be secured by interests which would not allow the water to be appropriated by irrigation or municipal uses outside the local area. In the spring of 1922, the Mojave River Irrigation District asked a judge to set for trial the district’s request for condemnation of the Arrowhead Reservoir & Power Company’s land holdings along the Mojave River, which had gone unused since 1909, when the Arrowhead Reservoir & Power Company had abandoned its plans to divert a large portion of Mojave River water southward. Throughout late 1921 and early 1922, the Mojave Irrigation District along with a collection of Victor Valley residents lobbied San Bernardino County officials to use the authority of the county to oppose the city of Pasadena’s effort. In June 1922, interests in San Bernardino, in apparent reaction to Pasadena’s effort to secure water from the Mojave River, undertook an effort to divert an annual flow of 2,000 inches of water from Lake Arrowhead and an additional 4,000 inches from Deep Creek to San Bernardino, Redlands, Colton, Rialto and other cities south of the Cajon Pass.
In November 1926, a dispute within the Victor Valley over the use and monopolization of Mojave River water erupted when land owners along the lower Mojave River, objecting to the proposed use of river water in the Apple Valley region, filed suit to test the validity of the state water commission’s granting of a permit to the Mojave Irrigation District to impound the headwaters of the Mojave and use that supply in Apple Valley for agricultural purposes. The suit alleged the use of the water in Apple Valley would cause a shortage in the lower region, that is, in Barstow and beyond.
In August 1927, eleven cities located in Riverside, Orange, Los Angles and lower San Bernardino counties organized to form the Metropolitan Water District to undertake a $150 million project to bring water to thirsty Southern California from the Colorado River. The effort represented a landmark in terms of lessening, though not eliminating, the threat that entities outside of the Victor Valley would divert Mojave River water away from the High Desert.
In December 1930, residents of the Victor Valley were shocked to learn that Ralph E. Swing, the attorney who was hired to represent the county before the state water commission to resist the city of Pasadena’s attempts to appropriate water rights along the Mojave River in 1921 and who was now a state senator, was assisting the city of San Bernardino in its filing to obtain 1,000 inches of surplus water in the Mojave river basin and transport it through the mountains in a three-mile tunnel and an aqueduct as part of a $3 million project to deliver the water to San Bernardino, Riverside, Rialto and Redlands to provide irrigation for citrus groves. The proposal also entailed plans to utilize the water to generate electrical power at a powerhouse in Devil Canyon as well as a 160-foot high dam near the junction of the east and west fork of the Mojave River to impound water at an elevation of 3,800 feet. The Victor Valley Chamber of Commerce immediately went on record against the project proposal.
Less than two weeks later the chamber hastily formed a committee composed of E. E. Kiggins of Oro Grande, L. G. Merritt of Helendale, T. J. Thomas of Apple Valley, Frank Hubbard and C. M. Moon of Victorville with Judge J. P. Hoffman elected as temporary chairman, to formulate some method of organization which would guard against encroachments on Mojave River water.
In February 1931, the Mojave River Irrigation District filed with the California Department of Water Resources to divert 85,000 acre feet per annum from Deep Creek and the West Fork tributary to the Mojave River for irrigation and domestic purposes onto 26,878 acres. This application was made as part of an effort to protect the Mojave River basin and forestall any diversion of Mojave River water south of the mountains by establishing rights of priority over any applications which were to follow, subject to existing rights. The same month, 23 ranchers, well owners, riparian rights holders and other citizens formed the Mojave River Valley Protective Association with Judge J.P. Hoffman as chairman to safeguard the waters of the Mojave River from diversion. The association engaged attorneys Grant Holcomb and Byron Waters to protect its members’ water rights.
In June 1931 the Mojave River Valley Protective Association lodged a petition to the county board of supervisors for an election for the formation of a county water district, resulting in just such an election on August 21, at which the creation of a local water district passed by a vote of 183 to 41.
On August 4, 1932, the state filed a suit to cancel the rights of the Arrowhead Lake Company granted 18 years previously. According to the action, the rights in question pertained to the proposed construction of a 150-foot dam on the Mojave River for irrigating the 35,000 acres of land near Victorville. The state asserted in its suit that the Arrowhead Company failed to carry out provisions of the agreement on which the rights were granted, specifically undertaking the $3.25 million dam and reservoir construction project.
In December 1933 the directors of the Orange County Water District in Tustin advanced a $6 million-to-$10 million plan to purchase land along the Mojave River and develop a water project near Victorville and divert water to the Santa Ana River in Orange County.
While the Orange County water officials alleged in excess of 100,000 acre feet of water from the Mojave River was available annually and that only 6,000 acres in the Victor Valley were being irrigated with the available water, water owners and the communities in the Mojave Basin held a different viewpoint regarding the surplus water of the Mojave River and its availability for any use on the south side of the mountains. On Sunday, January 7, 1934, the Mojave Basin Protective Association authorized the expediting of conservation measures on the Mojave River, including the construction of dams at several points, as part of an effort to utilize the water locally and stave off the attempts of outside interests to seize a portion of the river’s water.
In July 1934, as the High Desert was gripped by a drought and Mojave Valley farmers and stockmen were applying through the county to the federal government for drought relief funding, Orange County water interests renewed their effort, which had lain dormant for several months, to divert to their county a portion of the Mojave River’s flow. At a meeting in Anaheim held under the auspices of the Orange County Chamber of Commerce, a resolution seeking an engineering survey to determine the cost of such a venture and the amount of water it might yield was passed.
In December 1934, before the interests in Orange and Riverside counties could themselves appropriate Mojave River water, the city of Los Angeles filed for 400,000 cubic feet of water from Seeley Creek, a tributary of the West Fork of the Mojave. Los Angeles’ stated intention for the water was to use it for domestic purposes at the “city playground at Camp Seeley,” owned by the City of Los Angeles. By establishing water usage there, the City of Los Angeles could at some indefinite future date discontinue its local utilization of the water and then divert a like amount to Los Angeles.
On January 12, 1935 the Mojave Basin Protective Association met at the office of A. S. Amaral to ready protests of the Los Angeles filing and the anticipated filing by the Riverside, Orange and lower San Bernardino counties interests.
On February 16, 1935 a meeting of the Mojave River Basin Protective Association was held in Helendale and an effort was initiated to organize all of the territory along the Mojave River from Yermo to the mountains into a county water district, incorporating the communities of Barstow, Helendale, Oro Grande, Victorville and Hesperia.
On June 12, 1935, the California state assembly, at the importuning of Assemblyman Gordon Corwin, amended legislation related to the Orange County Water District, Senate Bill 112, to prevent Mojave River basin water from being diverted to the headwaters of the Santa Ana River for use in Orange County. As originally drafted and passed by the State Senate, Senate Bill 112 granted the Orange County Water District the power of eminent domain in areas beyond its jurisdiction, permitting that entity to condemn lands and water rights along the Mojave River. Though the measure passed the Senate, it was amended and eventually defeated in the Assembly.
In September 1935, a report by irrigation engineer Harry F. Blaney and irrigation economist Paul A. Ewing made at the request of the Riverside Water Company and other water organizations in Orange and Riverside counties entitled Utilization of the Waters of the Mojave River became public. Although the Orange County and Riverside County interests had hoped the report would serve them in an effort to appropriate a portion of the High Desert’s water, Blaney and Ewing made findings that any substantial diversion of water from the Mojave River at its headwaters would produce a small deficiency between the forks and Victorville, some deficiency between Victorville and Bastow and very likely a substantial deficiency below Barstow. According to the report, “Any diversion of Mojave River water outside its watershed should be made only after care is taken of the normal agricultural, domestic and industrial needs (including those of railroads) of the valley itself. The valley’s rights should stand in the preferred position, and outside claimants should be satisfied with what is left. Hence, provision should be made to protect the present water needs of the valley before the diversion is begun in any year.”
In the first week of October 1935, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and San Bernardino County District Attorney James L. King filed upon all the surplus water of the Mojave River with the proviso that the filing would within sixty days be turned over to a water district to be formed within the Mojave River Basin. The action was taken in response to reports that water interests in Riverside and Orange counties were planning to file on a portion of the Mojave River’s water for diversion into the Santa Ana River.
On October 9, 1935 a meeting of Orange and Riverside counties’ governmental officials and public and private water interests was held in Riverside. San Bernardino County First District Supervisor Arthur Doran and district attorney James L. King attended the meeting to represent San Bernardino County. Also present were San Bernardino mayor C. T. Johnson and a number of water users from the Mojave basin. Discussion at the meeting centered around a report by federal engineers regarding the amount of water that might be diverted from the Mojave River. After the San Bernardino County contingent went on record as being opposed to any diversion of Mojave River water to Riverside or Orange counties, the other attendees of the meeting protested the San Bernardino County delegation’s continued participation, and Doran and King left the confab.
On January 21, 1936 voters within the boundaries of the proposed 60,000-acre Mojave River County Water District between Victorville and Barstow ratified the district’s creation 149 to 28.
San Antonio Dam, which was built by the Los Angeles District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers between April 1952 and May 1956 using funding authorized by the Flood Control Acts of 1936 and 1938, is an embankment flood control and debris dam on San Antonio Creek below Mt. Baldy and north of Upland. San Bernardino County Second District Supervisor Will Mason, who was instrumental in getting the project going while he was supervisor from 1944 to 1954, played a key role as a member of county’s Flood Control District’s Zone 1 Citizens’ Advisory Committee, on which he served from 1958 to 1966, in keeping outside interests from diverting to their purposes the water contained in the reservoir created by the dam and thereby stopping them from laying claim to water rights there.
Beginning in the late 1980s, what was then known as the Cadiz Land Company, which had been created by Ted Dutton and Keith Brackpool, sunk a well in the Cadiz Valley in the Eastern Mojave Desert and initiated an organic farming operation there growing tomatoes, peppers, melons, grapes and citrus. Though at no time throughout its existence did the Cadiz farming operation operate at a profit, it was able to make an assertion, based upon the irrigation of the crops at the Cadiz farm, to water rights from the Cadiz/Fenner aquifer. By the late 1990s, it was clear that the Los Angeles-based Cadiz Land Company’s true design was on securing water rights in a remote locale in the Mojave Desert to then sell that water for use elsewhere. In 1997 the Metropolitan Water District bought into Cadiz Land’s proposal to convey up to 1.5 million acre-feet of what was referenced as “surplus” Colorado River water to Cadiz and “store” that water by pumping it into the water table. In “dry years” the Cadiz Land Company proposed allowing the Metropolitan Water District to extract water from the aquifer and conduct it through a 35-mile pipeline that was to be constructed between Cadiz and the Metropolitan Water District’s existing Colorado River aqueduct.
After five years of environmental studies, in August 2002 the federal government gave approval to the project. In October 2002, however, the proposal was rejected by the Metropolitan Water District’s board of directors after conservationists raised concerns over possible environmental damage. An extensive round of litigation between the Cadiz Land Company and the Metropolitan Water District ensued.
The concept lay dormant for six years but in 2008, the Cadiz Land Company, by then known as Cadiz, Inc., revived the plan in modified form, emphasizing less the drawing of water from the Colorado River and instead proposing to obtain water from sources feeding the desert area’s dry lakes that Cadiz Land claimed are subject to evaporation. The revamped project, to entail the sinking of 34 wells into the desert and construction of a 44-mile pipeline to meet up with the aqueduct carrying Colorado River water to the Los Angeles and Orange County metropolitan areas, was given a tentative budget of $536.25 million. Cadiz, Inc. first arranged to find potential buyers of the water, lining up the Santa Margarita Water District in Orange County; the Three Valleys Water District, which provides water to the Pomona Valley, Walnut Valley, and Eastern San Gabriel Valley; the Golden State Water Company, which serves several communities in Southern California, including Claremont; Suburban Water Systems, which serves Covina, West Covina and La Mirada; and the Jurupa Community Services District, which serves Mira Loma in Riverside County. Then, to obtain environmental certification of the project, Cadiz, Inc. turned not to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, but to the Santa Margarita Water District, which was to be the largest recipient of the water. The Santa Margarita Water District is the second largest water district in Orange County, serving the affluent communities of Rancho Santa Margarita, Mission Viejo, Coto de Caza, Las Flores, Ladera Ranch and Talega.
A contingent of San Bernardino County residents protested the Santa Margarita Water District’s assumption of lead agency status on the project, officially known as the Cadiz Valley Water Conservation and Recovery Project, based on the consideration that the district lies 217 miles from the Cadiz Valley across the county line from San Bernardino County. San Bernardino County could have contested that arrangement in court, but Cadiz, Inc. effectively muted that by providing then-San Bernardino County Supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, in whose First District the Cadiz and Fenner valleys and much of the East Mojave were located, with $48,100 in political donations as he attempted to vault from his position as county supervisor to Congress. In the June 2012 primary, Mitzelfelt proved unsuccessful in his effort to get into the 8th Congressional District race runoff in November 2012, placing a distant fifth among thirteen candidates, in no small part because his support of the Cadiz Project was so unpopular with his constituents that the hefty political contributions from Cadiz, Inc. proved to be of no avail to him. In seeking to transition into Congress in 2012, Mitzelfelt had to forgo seeking reelection as supervisor that same year. Thus, he was consigned to leave office later that year. He was still in office as a lame duck when on July 31, 2012, the Santa Margarita Water District’s board of directors certified the environmental impact report for the Cadiz Water Project, clearing the way for Cadiz, Inc. to extract an average of 50,000 acre-feet of water per year – more than 16 billion gallons of groundwater annually – for the next century from the eastern Mojave Desert and send it via pipeline westward to Los Angeles, Orange and Riverside counties.
In the more than five years since, a succession of environmental challenges and lawsuits have delayed the implementation of the project. Cadiz, Inc. has succeeded in overcoming those lawsuits, nearly all of which were heard in Orange County Superior Court.
Legal and administrative sparring over the project continues, with the Donald Trump administration having issued a blanket memo revoking a Bureau of Land Management’s 2015 decision preventing Cadiz Inc. from using existing federal railroad right-of-way for the water pipeline it intends to construct to convey water drawn from the aquifer to the MWD’s aqueduct. Simultaneously, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-California, who was the lead sponsor of the 1994 California Desert Protection Act signed into law by President Bill Clinton and a longtime opponent of Cadiz, Inc.’s designs on desert water, has united forces with California Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, in forging legislative efforts to prevent the Cadiz Water Project from proceeding.
Nestlé Waters of North America, a Swiss-owned company, in 1992 purchased from Perrier an expired permit to pump water out of the National Forest in the San Bernardino Mountains. Under the auspices of that permit, for which it pays $524 annually, using boreholes and horizontal wells cut into the mountain at the 5,200 foot elevation level Nestlé has extracted on a yearly basis 192 acre-feet (62.56 million gallons) of water, which the California Water Resources Control Board says exceeds by 166 acre-feet (54.09 million gallons) the 26 acre-feet of water (8.47 million gallons) per year the water rights referenced in the expired permit the company continues to renew. Historical documentation casts doubt on the validity of the water rights Nestlé claims. Nestlé has also tapped into natural spring water from the foothills above Rancho Cucamonga, which the company conveys through 20,000 lineal feet of 8-inch and 12-inch transmission pipelines to the Nestlé Waters of North America bottling plant in Ontario. Nestlé markets the water drawn from the San Bernardino Mountains and from the foothills above Rancho Cucamonga under the Arrowhead 100% Mountain Spring Water brand name.
In 2009, the City of Riverside proposed laying claim to a considerable amount of Santa Ana River water at the south end of San Bernardino County through an undertaking to be known as the Riverside North Aquifer Storage and Recovery Project.
Through its public utilities division, Riverside hatched plans to construct a 700-foot wide dam extending across the Santa Ana River north of the Riverside County Line on 30 acres of unincorporated San Bernardino County land owned by the City of Riverside just beyond the outskirts of Colton to capture the river’s flow. The project as conceived would provide a ready supply of 6,000 acre-feet of water that originates in the San Bernardino Mountains annually. The water would be conveyed by aqueducts or pipes to areas of the City of Riverside’s choosing for use in recharging groundwater basins.
The part concrete, part vulcanized rubber dam contemplated for the project is designed so it could be retracted, i.e., deflated, at will to allow the river to continue its southwesterly flow.
Initially, Riverside was slated to spend $15 million on the project. The projected cost subsequently escalated to $30 million. The undertaking was to have been of primary benefit to the Western Municipal Water District in Riverside, which was to be the recipient of over 80 percent of the water to be collected by the dam. The City of Riverside also indicated that it intended to sell some of the water to the City of Colton and the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. Subsequent preparation and study on the project revealed that it would cost $45 million, with a significant percentage of the increased cost relating to dealing with design and maintenance issues to alleviate river silt clogging the series of cascading aquifer recharge basins to be constructed adjoining the river. The project has been put on the shelf, but according to Michael Plinski, the interim assistant general manager for water with the Riverside Public Utilities Agency, it could potentially be revived and brought to fruition sometime in the next five to twenty years
The criminal case against Bill Postmus, which hung in suspended animation for eight years as the others caught up in his depredations against the citizens and governmental structure he once led were themselves put through the grinder of the legal system, has again come into sharp focus. Already complicated, the matter now appears to be complexifying further as the two criminal attorneys representing him since the inception of the investigation that toppled him from his perch of power have withdrawn. His newest lawyer appears intent on rescinding the plea bargain Postmus entered into nearly seven years ago in which he acknowledged guilt with regard to a total of fourteen felonies.
The prospect of a criminal trial against Postmus, who bestrode San Bernardino County like a political colossus before he imploded in a sordid cascade of personal and revelatory public scandals beginning a decade ago, is threatening to dredge up and draw out even further revelations with regard to the manner in which San Bernardino County’s power elite operates in an environment where money is routinely traded for official access and action as well as favorable outcomes in the halls of governance and justice.
After Postmus testified last year in the marathon political corruption case involving three of his former political associates and one of his major campaign donors, Judge Michael A. Smith in October gave indication that he would sentence Postmus this month after making a review of Postmus’ trial testimony and considering the dual recommendations of the district attorney’s office and that contained in a probation department pre-sentencing report along with the input of Postmus’ two criminal defense attorneys, Stephen Levine and Richard Farquhar, in the form of written submissions, known as sentencing memorandums. Judge Smith ordered Postmus to return to his courtroom on January 19, at which point sentencing was to take place or further hearings or arguments on the matter were to be either heard or scheduled.
Well prior to January 19, Postmus was supposed to have submitted himself to an interview with either the Riverside County Probation Department or the San Diego County Probation Department, for the purpose of obtaining a recommendation of an appropriate sentence for him and his suitability for probation. One of those agencies was to make that examination and deliver a report in lieu of that analysis being carried out by the San Bernardino County Probation Department. Because of Postmus’ once vaunted status in San Bernardino County from which he oversaw and approved budgetary allotments for the San Bernardino County Probation Department, removing that analysis to Riverside County or San Diego County was deemed appropriate. But as of January 19 Postmus had not met with anyone from either the Riverside County or San Diego County probation departments. Moreover, he was moving toward reversing himself entirely, jettisoning his 2011 plea deal, firing both Levine and Farquhar as his legal representatives, and allowing his newly retained attorney, Jeffrey Lawrence, to go to battle against the district attorney’s office and contest the 14 criminal charges he had previously admitted to, up to and including going to trial.
Lawrence, however, maintaining he is not yet up to speed with regard to the case against his newest client, sought a postponement of sentencing so he could review the case files and see if he is indeed willing to commit to taking the matter to trial pursuant to Postmus’s withdrawal of his guilty plea.
Postmus’ sentencing has been held in abeyance since March 2011, when he entered into the plea agreement with prosecutors worked out by Faraquhar and Levine by which he committed to cooperate with prosecutors in their prosecution of his alleged accomplices and co-conspirators. In the immediate aftermath of his guilty plea Postmus met the prosecutors’ expectations, testifying as the star witness before a grand jury in April 2011 which was looking into a $102 million settlement conferred upon the Colonies Partners development consortium in November 2006 and the exchange of money that took place between the Colonies Partners and county officials within the ensuing eight months. That $102 million payout ended legal wrangling between the Colonies Partners and the county which related to disputes the company had with the county flood control district over drainage issues at the Colonies at San Antonio residential and Colonies Crossroads commercial subdivisions in northeast Upland. Following Postmus’ testimony, which was augmented with the testimony of more than 30 others, that grand jury in May 2011 handed down an indictment of Colonies Partners co-managing principal Jeff Burum; Postmus’ former board of supervisors colleague Paul Biane; former San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies union president Jim Erwin; and Mark Kirk, who had been the chief of staff to another of Postmus’ board colleagues, Gary Ovitt. According to the 29-count indictment, Burum had conspired with Erwin to threaten and blackmail Postmus and Biane into settling the lawsuit. The indictment alleged Erwin prepared but ultimately withheld “hit piece” mailers that targeted Postmus and Biane. Those mailers, according to prosecutors, took as their subject matter Postmus’ homosexuality and methamphetamine addiction and Biane’s financial travails which had him on the brink of bankruptcy. Postmus and Biane were vulnerable to that blackmail because they were, respectively at that time, the chairman and vice chairman of the county board of supervisors and the chairman and vice chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee. After Postmus, Biane and Ovitt on November 28, 2006 voted to enter into the $102 million settlement, the indictment alleged, between March 2007 and the end of June 2007, the Colonies Partners endowed political action committees controlled by Postmus, Biane, Erwin and Kirk with $100,000 each. Prosecutors maintained the donations to Postmus and Biane were bribes provided in return for their votes in support of the settlement and that the $100,000 donation to Kirk’s political action committee was likewise a bribe made in exchange for his having delivered Ovitt’s vote in favor of the settlement. Kirk, as Ovitt’s chief of staff, had been Ovitt’s primary political advisor.
Postmus’ vote in favor of the settlement had come when he was a lame duck as a member of the board of supervisors. Three weeks previously, on November 7, 2006, he had been elected county assessor. In 2007, after he assumed the position of assessor, he upped the number of assistant county assessors from one to two and installed both Erwin and a close friend and political associate, 23-year-old Adam Aleman, into those positions. In the ensuing 18 months, Postmus slipped further into the morass of drug addiction. The county assessor’s office, into the management echelon of which Postmus had made a series of no fewer than 11 political appointments of friends and associates who had virtually no real estate, appraising or taxation policy/regulation expertise, became a hotbed of partisan political activity, promoting the Republican Party, Republican causes and certain Republican candidates. An investigation into this activity by the district attorney’s office began in 2007, and in 2008 events overtook Aleman, who was called before a grand jury to be questioned about the goings-on in the assessor’s office. Panicked, Aleman had an office employee alter some internal assessor’s office documents, destroyed the hard drive in a county-issued laptop and then lied in his testimony to the grand jury. Ultimately, all of these actions were detected by district attorney’s office investigators and Aleman was arrested and charged with a variety of crimes in July 2008. By November 2008, Aleman had begun cooperating with prosecutors, including recording conversations with others, among them Postmus, helping at first to assemble a case against members of the assessor’s office engaged in political activity on county time using county facilities that was unrelated to the assessor’s official function. Subsequently, Aleman provided information to district attorney’s office investigators with regard to events prior to and after the $102 million settlement of the litigation brought by the Colonies Partners against the county, which he said involved efforts to intimidate, threaten, and blackmail Postmus and Biane to extort from them support of the lawsuit settlement, followed by the provision of kickbacks after the settlement, disguised in the form of political donations.
Aleman pleaded guilty to four felony charges in July 2009 and agreed to testify against any others involved in illegal activity about which he had knowledge. Based in large measure on information supplied by Aleman, the district attorney’s office in 2009 charged Postmus with misuse of his authority as assessor in allowing the office to be used for unauthorized purposes and with misappropriation of public funds. In February 2010, again based to a considerable degree on information provided by Aleman, the district attorney’s office in conjunction with the California Attorney General’s Office charged both Postmus and Erwin with conspiracy, fraud, involvement in an extortion and bribery scheme, misappropriation of public funds, engaging in a conflict of interest as public officials, tax evasion and perjury related to the Colonies Partners lawsuit settlement and its aftermath.
Postmus, who had been driven to resigning as assessor in February 2009 in the wake of public revelations about his drug use, by early 2011 was running out of options and money. At that point, with Farquhar representing him with regard to the charges growing out of the Colonies Lawsuit settlement matter and Levine representing him with regard to the issues relating to his stewardship of the assessor’s office, Postmus entered into the aforementioned plea arrangement on the assessor’s office corruption case, the Colonies Partners lawsuit settlement case and a separate charge relating to drug possession, a total of 14 felonies and a single misdemeanor.
Since 2011, Postmus has been a free man despite his conviction, though the resolution of his criminal case yet hung over his head, and the adverse publicity had ruined any prospect that he might remain in politics. His guilty plea on the conflict of interest charge legally prohibits him from holding elective office.
In January 2017, the criminal case against Burum, Biane, Erwin and Kirk went to trial after numerous motions, rulings, appeals and delays. A total of 39 witnesses were heard from during the course of the case. The lion’s share of those testified during January, February, March and April, setting the table for Postmus and Aleman, who were the star witnesses, to begin their testimony in May 2017. During his first three days of testimony under direct examination from May 1 through May 3, Postmus replicated the key elements of the prosecution narrative. In the latter half of 2006, Erwin, working on behalf of Burum and the Colonies Partners, Postmus testified, had threatened to expose elements of both his and Biane’s personal lives in an effort to persuade them to support the settlement. And Burum had promised to support him in either or both future political and business endeavors once the settlement was out of the way, he said. Moreover, Postmus said, he believed the $102 million paid out to the Colonies Partners was ridiculously more than the development company was due. The threats and promises of reward, he testified, along with the desire to put the whole thing behind him prompted the settlement. And after the settlement was in place, Postmus testified, the Colonies Partners had come through with $100,000 for him in the form of two separate $50,000 donations to political action committees he had control over.
But thereafter, the defense was given an opportunity to cross examine Postmus and controvert the prosecution’s version of events he had supported. Particularly under the withering questioning of Burum’s attorney Jennifer Keller, Postmus began to go sideways, and he testified that he had been intimidated by the district attorney’s office investigators to meet their expectations of what they needed to make the case against the others. Keller and the other defense attorneys in the case also drove home for the two juries hearing the case – one deciding the fate of Burum, Biane and Kirk and the other sitting in judgment over Erwin – that Postmus was in the throes of methamphetamine addiction at the time of the events in question, rendering his memory unreliable and leaving him vulnerable to manipulation by the prosecution.
After eight months, the trial drew to a close with Burum, Biane and Kirk being exonerated on all of the charges against them and Erwin’s jury deadlocking, followed by the district attorney’s office dismissing the case against Erwin. At the time of that dismissal, district attorney Mike Ramos stated publicly, “Bill Postmus’ unexpected testimony on cross-examination at the last trial conflicted with his grand jury testimony, his statement to the FBI, and multiple interviews with the district attorney’s office.”
Ramos’ statement was a prime indicator that the district attorney’s office was opposed to adhering to that provision in the plea agreement with Postmus which called for dismissing eleven of the felony charges against him and a commensurate lessening of his sentence in return for his testimony and cooperation with the prosecution. Thus, all appearances are that the district attorney’s office is set to keep all 14 felony convictions against Postmus intact as part of the assessment of his guilt and proper level of punishment, and it will seek a substantial sentence for Postmus of several years in prison. Moreover, there was indication that Postmus has lost faith in Levine and Farquhar, based upon contact between Levine, one of Postmus’s attorneys, and prosecutor Lewis Cope, as well as Judge Smith. Cope prosecuted Postmus and was also the district attorney’s office’s lead member of the joint San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office/California Attorney General’s Office team that prosecuted Burum, Biane, Kirk and Erwin. Smith, a former prosecutor, was the judge overseeing the case against Postmus as well as that against Burum, Biane, Kirk and Erwin. In this way, Smith has been vantaged to have seen Postmus’ testimony in the trial firsthand, allowing him to assess whether Postmus adhered to the commitment he made in his 2011 plea arrangement.
Smith granted Postmus’ dismissal of Levine and Farquhar as his attorneys and allowed him to substitute Lawrence in as his new counsel. He further granted, somewhat reluctantly, Lawrence’s request for a delay to allow him to review materials relating to the case. Smith noted that there had been numerous continuances prior to the criminal trial in which Postmus was to testify, ultimately delaying the date for sentencing. Smith said continuances of that nature and duration would not be appropriate for a sentencing hearing. Smith continued the sentencing hearing until April 27, at which point there is to be a hearing on the plea withdrawal.
Though the court’s on-line data base relating to the case against Postmus shows the notation “probation officer’s report received” on January 16, 2018 with the comment “placed in S21 JA bin,” indication in court was that Postmus has not met with probation officers and had not scheduled an interview with the San Diego County Probation Department, which is to prepare Postmus’ pre-sentencing probation report. Smith ordered Postmus to have an interview scheduled with the probation department by today, January 26.
The prospect of Postmus withdrawing his plea presents both a dilemma and opportunity for San Bernardino County District Attorney Mike Ramos, who is scheduled to stand for reelection this year. In some quarters Ramos was praised and in others vilified for the prosecution of Burum, Biane, Kirk and Erwin. Some saw the prosecution as an earnest effort to rein in political corruption and the county’s notorious pay-to-play culture of governance, while others saw it as an example of prosecutorial overreach. Ramos suffered a setback with the acquittals of Burum, Biane and Kirk and the failure to get a conviction of Erwin. If Postmus succeeds in withdrawing his plea and insists on going to trial, depending on the timing involved, Ramos could use the attention his office’s active prosecution of the once-powerful political figure as a tool to capture reelection to the office he first won in 2002. Nevertheless, the case is fraught with hazard for Ramos, who, like Postmus, is and was a member of the political establishment that has played fast and loose with the law and ethical standards in San Bernardino County for generations.
In the aftermath of the arrest, prosecution and political demise of a city councilman who was one of those who shepherded Adelanto’s ongoing transformation into the Cannabis capital of California, two of his council colleagues yet remaining in office appear determined to stay the course in keeping the city of 31,457 at the forefront of the Golden State’s marijuana revolution. Both mayor Richard Kerr and councilman John Woodard, however, were unable to succeed in convincing the other two remaining members of the council to acquiesce in their choice of a replacement whose enthusiasm for and commitment to creating an economic boom by cashing in on the production and sale of the formerly controlled substance matches their own.
Councilman Jermaine Wright remains in federal custody following his November 6 arrest on charges that he accepted bribes from one FBI agent masquerading as a would-be marijuana entrepreneur and that he offered money to another FBI agent masquerading as an arsonist-for-hire to assist him in torching the restaurant he owns in an effort to collect on his fire insurance policy. By the end of November, arrangements were in place for Wright to be released in accordance with the posting of a $100,000 bond on his behalf, but he was unable or unwilling to meet the other conditions of his bail release, which included surrendering all of 12 firearms registered to him or believed to be in his possession, his refraining from continuing to participate in civic affairs in his capacity as an elected official, and undergoing a psychological assessment.
Prior to his arrest, Wright in October was confronted by FBI agents, who induced him into cooperating with their investigation into what is perceived to be a wider circle of graft and corruption involving Adelanto public officials. That perception grew out of the cutthroat competition between would-be marijuana-related entrepreneurs seeking to take advantage of the city council’s succession of moves, beginning in 2015, to first legalize the cultivation of medical marijuana within the city’s industrial park, followed by voting to allow the licensing of medical marijuana clinics, and the eventual acceptance of recreational marijuana cultivation and retail outlets following the passage of California’s Proposition 64, the Adult Use of Marijuana Act, in 2016. In making that pledge of cooperation, Wright committed to keeping the investigation a secret and acting as an informant. The next day, however, he violated the promise he had made to the FBI, compromising the existence of the bureau’s investigation. Casting about to get out from under the circumstance he found himself in, Wright approached the individual who had put him into contact with the two undercover FBI agents, who unbeknownst to Wright was an FBI informant himself. Wright sought from the informant assistance in locating a hitman to kill one of the FBI agents whom he characterized as a “snitch,” as well as arranging for someone to administer a beating on himself so he could claim loss of memory and avoid having to make good on his vow of cooperation in the criminal probe.
At a specially-called meeting of the city council on January 3, the council voted to remove Wright as a council member based on provisions of both California Government Code §36513 and the Adelanto City Charter §505, under which city officials are obliged to vacate a council member’s position when that official has been absent from all regularly scheduled city council meetings for a period of 60 consecutive days from the date that the city council member last attended a regular meeting of the city council. Wright last attended a regular council meeting on October 25, 2017. Citing the consideration that he did not attend any regularly scheduled city council meetings for the 60 consecutive day period ending on December 24, 2017, the council declared Wright had abandoned his office and that the position he had held on the council was therefore vacant. Under the city’s charter, the city council had the duty to either appoint someone to fill the vacancy or call for a special election.
Initially, believing that holding an election would cost the city in the neighborhood of $70,000, all members of the council appeared purposed to make an appointment.
FBI agents working the investigative detail in Adelanto are ultimately answerable to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director Christopher Wray, who are intent on finding a bulletproof case with which to drive home the point that federal law, under which marijuana is yet classified as a Schedule I narcotic, trumps state law, despite the selected liberalization of state marijuana policy such as in California. Moreover, local agents are in possession of indications that other Adelanto officials beyond Wright have taken money in the form of bribes or kickbacks from individuals competing for marijuana-based business permits or licenses in Adelanto.
Mayor Rich Kerr and councilman John Woodard, who was elevated to the position of mayor pro tem to replace Wright in that position on January 3 upon the latter’s removal from the council, were solid votes along with Wright and the sometimes flagging support of councilman Charley Glasper in favor of shifting the city to a marijuana-based economy. Both Kerr and Woodard are ringed with a bevy of supporters who are wholeheartedly in favor of aggressively embracing the cannabis culture and getting a corner on the marijuana market early to establish for the city an advantage over other cities who are less energetic or less prompt in taking advantage of the moneymaking opportunities legal tolerance of a drug heretofore outlawed represents for both the private and public sectors in Adelanto. Nevertheless, there are others who suspect or are even convinced that Kerr and Woodard are merely using the assertion that marijuana offers the city a lot of what it takes to get along as a way of masking that they are themselves personally cashing in on the bonanza. In defiance of those perceptions, Kerr and Woodard have refused to retreat, doubling down in their support of the marijuana game plan, insisting that the city, which in June 2013 declared it was in a state of fiscal emergency, will not be deterred from the path that will rejuvenate its economy.
This week, on Tuesday January 23, Kerr presided over a specially scheduled council meeting at which the council was to engage in a discussion relating to filling the gap on the council, including a possible motion and vote to make such an appointment. It was anticipated that the six individuals who had applied to replace Wright would be allowed to make a public statement or presentation of their qualifications to hold the office.
With the progression of the early evening proceedings, carried out before a crowd that included an FBI agent, it became clear that the three votes needed to fill the post by appointment were not to be had. The reason for this was twofold. The first was that Kerr and Woodard were intent on having planning commission chairman Chris Waggener, who has steadily supported converting Adelanto to a cannabis-based economy, installed as Wright’s replacement, giving them carte blanch to continue with the marijuanafication of Adelanto. Councilman Ed Camargo has been a steady opponent of that approach in forging Adelanto’s financial recovery all along. And while Glasper did go along with that game plan, he had done so only reluctantly, coming to accept that the city was heading down that road in late 2015, acquiescing at that time only on the condition that the city would permit the cultivation of marijuana plants within the city’s industrial park without permitting the drug to be sold to end users within the city limits. As the council majority of Kerr, Woodard and Wright shifted further toward embracing retail sales of medical marijuana in the city in 2016, and then in 2017 reached for the gusto and even greater tax revenue for the city by militating toward having the city get out in front of virtually every other city in the state in terms of taking advantage of the liberalization of marijuana law following the passage of Proposition 64, Glasper went along with the troika only in the most desultory of fashion, seemingly resigned to the New Age political reality. While he was not enthusiastic about the prospect of the city being saturated with marijuana, which he considers to carry with it a hefty social cost, Glasper believed the city’s tolerance of reefer held the promise of having the redeeming effect of creating a revenue stream that might right the city’s listing financial ship. Wright’s travails, however, have given Glasper significant pause, and intensified his questions and doubts about what the city has gotten itself into. By Tuesday night Glasper was convince that further acquiescence, consisting of letting Kerr and Woodard handpick a council member to back them in taking the city in a direction he had seriously begun to rethink, would be a mistake.
Additionally, a motivating factor on January 3 that had pushed the city toward simply making an appointment was the belief that the election would cost $65,000 to $70,000. But what had emerged since that time was that the city had the option of holding the election on June 5, consolidating it with the California 2018 Gubernatorial Primary Election. So doing would drop the price to less than $6,000, they were told, after city clerk Cindy Herrera, who had been in touch with the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office, was given a cost estimate of $5,442 to put the matter on the ballot.
When the council’s discussions began, Kerr yet harbored hope that either Camargo or Glasper could be persuaded to forego the election in favor of an appointment.
Camargo put the kibosh on that. “With this new information we have with the $5,442, I think it… would only be appropriate to go to the special election, and as I made in my comments before, letting the residents decide,” Camargo said. “[It’s] not that we’re incompetent. It’s given within [the city and government code], the choice, the right to vote. That would be my direction.”
Glasper noted that an appointment would put Wright’s replacement in office for close to three years.
“The amount of time this person would be in this seat is three years, and that is an appointment,” Glasper said. “That’s just a year short of a regular elected position and I feel that if it’s possible [to hold] an election that is not that costly, it should go to an election.”
Woodard said the city should not spend money on an election and it should not leave the position unfilled for another four-and-a-half months. “My opinion is to not have an election,” he said, suggesting the nearly $5,000 the election will cost could be spent on sidewalk improvements. “Why not pick ourselves a guy now and not wait four months?” Woodard asked.
Kerr took a shot at shaking either Camargo, Glasper or both loose. “I agree the five or six thousand [dollars] it would cost is money the city doesn’t have,” Kerr said. “And I also want to throw this in: This is something we’ve been going at for two weeks now that we decided to go ahead and go to interviews. I think this council is more than capable of picking a successor to Mr. Wright to sit up here. You’ve got six people out there who have applied for it. They have done their due diligence. They filled out the paperwork. They’ve lobbied yourselves as well as me and stated their cases to the citizens and everything, so my thing is we go ahead and listen to them and vote one way or the other and pick somebody ourselves.”
Woodard endorsed that sentiment, saying “I think that’s more than fair.”
Camargo said the council on January 3 had rushed toward the concept of making an appointment because the information on the expense of holding an election was not available and it was widely assumed that it would cost in the neighborhood of $70,000. With the actual cost being less than one-tenth of that, Camargo said, “I feel strongly. Go to the election. Let the people speak.”
Glasper again weighed in. “If this duration was six or seven months, I’d say, ‘Make the appointment.’ We’re talking about three years, folks. Three years is a long time for a person to get an appointed position. I had to run for this position. I had to get out there and campaign for this position. I had to spend my money for this position. I think the person has to go out there and campaign with the people of this city. Ask them what they think of him. Get out there and walk the streets and knock on doors. [An appointment ] cuts out the citizens. An election is coming up. That election is not going to break us. That election is something we should spend our money on if we have to, and give the people a chance to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to that person who is going to come up here and sit. This is an elected position. The process of getting up here is to knock on doors and show people what you have, that you are bringing something to have them vote you into this seat.”
After residents and local entrepreneurs expressed mixed views on the advisability of an election vs. an appointment, Kerr pressed forward with trying to forge a consensus on making an appointment. He held off on making any motions toward a vote. He called city clerk Cindy Herrera to the podium and in questioning her sought to have her say that the $5,442 the city would need to pay the registrar of voters to hold the election would not be the sole cost the city would bear, in that it would need to pay city employees extra money, presumably in overtime, to ready the city for the election. Herrera did not give Kerr much ammunition in making that argument, however.
Herrera said the city has held numerous special elections in the past and that in the current case her office is working from “a template. We are fast-pacing this. Basically, it is not going to take me a lot of time to do that. You’re not looking at a lot of time. It is pretty much boilerplate. The registrar of voters does this all the time.” She said the $5,442 was a conservative estimate and that the election might cost a little less than that, although it might cost more, though she said not much more.
Kerr gave the candidates for appointment four minutes each to state a case for their selection.
In his presentation, Waggener enunciated a clear advocacy for the policies Kerr, Woodard and Wright had enthusiastically embraced, which seemed to have the precisely opposite impact on Glasper and Camargo that Kerr was hoping for.
“We need to get someone, in my opinion, appointed now,” Waggener said. “You have good, qualified candidates and we need to get that done.”
By some of his remarks, Waggener seemed to suggest that a strong and perhaps even prevailing political opposition to Kerr, Woodard and Wright had taken root in town, and that holding an election might give it the opportunity to flex its muscle.
“If this election com[ing] up takes a turn for whatever direction, you guys could lose the city, because we have fought long and hard for three years to get this back in the black, and we don’t want this back in the red over somebody’s opinion or what they don’t want in our city and start to influence a new board,” Waggener said. “So, it is very important that we do what is best for the city now. You voted on a decision [on January 3 to make an appointment] and I personally think you need to stick with that vote.”
Waggener noted he has been a member of the planning commission since 2008 and is currently that panel’s chairman. He suggested the city’s incipient success in creating a marijuana Mecca was a positive development and that he “wanted to be a bigger part in moving it forward. I have supported the city council on many decisions, including the medical cannabis industry, which added very unique things to modifying our zone changes and how to bring up zoning to the demands of the incoming businesses and utilize the properties’ maximum output.” He said he pushed for achieving those strides even “when our old staff, prior staff, recommended denial.”
Camargo reiterated that “I still feel strongly about taking this to the voters.”
Glasper dismissed suggestions that having four members of the council equally divided on certain issues for the next four months would spell ruin for the city. “With an election coming up in June, I feel that the position should be filled through the elective process with the people speaking,” he said. “There’s four of us up here. We can run this city without that vacant seat being closed down. You might come up with some 2-2 ties all the time, but sooner or later we’re going to come up with a 3-to-1, or whatever. We’ll get the job done.”
Woodard made a last impassioned plea to his colleagues Camargo and Glasper to decide who the fifth crucial element of the council’s composition will be with a vote of council rather than of the city’s voters.
“This is a new time in the city of Adelanto,” he said. “In the history of Adelanto, they have never moved as quickly as we have in the last three years. There are some factions here who would perhaps like to see it go to an election. I think that would kind of leave us in the back seat for four months We don’t’ have to wait around and jerk around and goof off and have a little circus going on for four months. We have some fine candidates to choose from. Some of them are highly qualified. To spend five grand and wait around for four months takes us backward. We have to have a fifth vote up here. The city is moving at a rapid pace like never before.”
Kerr said that as a dedicated Marine before he embarked on his political career, he had fought to ensure the right of all Americans to vote. But he suggested that elections should occur on regular cycles and that making sure an elected decision-making panel remains at full strength in the face of extraordinary developments such as what had occurred in the case of Wright did not require that the city go to the bother, expense and delay of holding a special election. “This is not the time [for an election],” Kerr said. “I swore to take care of this city, and that’s what I intend to do. I am a firm believer that we as a council can make that decision as to who will sit in that seat up here.”
Trinidad Perez, who had served on the council previously in both an elected and appointed capacity over a period of 12 years and was one of the six candidates for appointment to replace Wright, took stock of the circumstance facing the city that night and advised the council to dispense with trying to make an appointment, and instead hold an election.
“You guys are under a microscope, all four of you,” Perez said. “Why? Because of one person. Let it go to an election. It keeps you out of trouble,” he said, gesticulating to indicate Kerr and Woodard, “and it keeps them out of trouble,” he said, indicating Glasper and Camargo.
At one point, in an exchange with city attorney Ruben Duran in which Duran’s statement was not audible because he was not speaking into his microphone, Kerr’s frustration with the circumstance grew evident. “The charter says we have the right to friggin’ do this,” Kerr said to Duran in what appeared to be a remark intended for Duran but was picked up by the mayor’s microphone. Shortly thereafter, Kerr said, “It is the city of Adelanto’s charter that gives us the right to go ahead and make the appointments on here, and I believe the citizens of Adelanto voted on that charter that gave us the right to do that.”
At last, Kerr pushed forward, hoping that either Camargo or Glasper would give him the support he needed to keep his control of the council and the city intact.
Deadlocked 2-to-2 over the issue, the council did not make an appointment Tuesday night. Wednesday, at its regular council meeting, the council confirmed the process begun the previous night of calling for the special election in June. The council needed to initiate that process in order to meet an election request deadline with the registrar of voters office, as the council’s next meeting in February will fall after that deadline.
Nearly nine months after the Federal Aviation Administration rerouted aircraft headed to Ontario International Airport from the east into a flight path almost directly over Lake Arrowhead, it was announced this week there will be a forthcoming adjustment to that route during evening hours. That change is set to come this spring.
On April 27, 2017, the Federal Aviation Administration initiated its Southern California Metroplex Project, which was intended to increase the efficiency of the approaches into five Southern California commercial airports and reduce fuel consumption. The revised routing diverted westbound planes formerly headed to Ontario International Airport from their previous trajectory over the San Bernardino Mountains using Heaps Peak as a pass-over locus to the airspace above 5,100 foot elevation Lake Arrowhead. With those planes flying at anywhere from an elevation of 7,200 feet to 9,600 feet on what is referred to as the EAGLZ route, those planes passed somewhere between 2,100 feet to 4,500 feet over the homes and businesses of Lake Arrowhead.
Those living in Lake Arrowhead found the resultant engine noise to be anywhere on the scale from mildly irritating to absolutely unbearable. There are conflicting figures as to how many planes come into Ontario on the EAGLZ route daily, with the Federal Aviation Administration acknowledging an average of no fewer than 29. Anecdotal, and therefore unofficial, counts by residents put that number at closer to 80 per day.
In short order Lake Arrowhead residents began importuning their governmental representatives, ranging from Second District San Bernardino County Supervisor Janice Rutherford to Assemblyman Jay Obernolte to Congressman Paul Cook to U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris, to seek a solution.
Lake Arrowhead resident David Caine formed the group Quiet Skies Lake Arrowhead, which redoubled those efforts and initiated a petition-gathering drive which netted 4,000 signatures on a resolution requesting the route to be changed. Some residents advocated legal action, which resulted in Rutherford and her representatives insisting that such action would not have a salutary effect, and might even harden the Federal Aviation Administration’s position. The Federal Aviation Administration maintained that it had served public notice of the Metroplex Project and the EAGLZ route in a way that was legally adequate, had engaged in public outreach and held information workshops, all ahead of making the change.
This week, on January 25, Federal Aviation Western-Pacific Region Administrator Dennis Roberts publicly announced that the FAA would compromise its commitment to Metroplex and EAGLZ by discontinuing the flights over Lake Arrowhead during evening hours.
Roberts said that in any event the planes never dropped below 9,000 feet as they were passing over Lake Arrowhead, putting them some 3,900 feet above the homes and businesses there.
Roberts intrepidly sojourned to Lake Arrowhead himself to make the announcement before a rather hostile crowd of some 220 people in a forum put on by the Lake Arrowhead Municipal Advisory Council.
Roberts said he hoped the nighttime flight changes could be instituted by April, a little less than a year after Metroplex and EAGLZ were put into place.
Marc Steinorth, who in 2016 was able to use his incumbency and public information dissemination expertise to maintain his incumbency in the 40th Assembly District despite registration numbers and demographics that favored his opponent, was hit with a far more daunting challenge this week. San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos, whose wealth and contacts advanced him to become the immediate past chairman of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, has filed papers to vie for the Assembly in the 40th District in this year’s election.
Steinorth, a Republican, exhibited a mercurial rise since he initiated his political career in 2010. That year he made his maiden run for political office, losing in the race for Rancho
Cucamonga mayor against incumbent Rancho Cucamonga Councilman/former Rancho Cucamonga Fire Chief Dennis Michael. But two years later, Steinorth ran successfully for a position on the Rancho Cucamonga City Council. He gathered no moss there, however, and with the endorsement of his fellow council members including Michael, in 2014 ran for Assembly in the 40th District, which encompasses nearly all of Rancho Cucamonga, the mostly unpopulated foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, most of San Bernardino and all of Highland, Loma Linda and Redlands. He defeated Democratic candidate Kathleen Henry in the November 2014 election, garnering 39,303 votes or 55.7 percent to Henry’s 31,309 votes or 44.3 percent. At that time, the Democrats held only a marginal lead over Republicans in the 40th Assembly District in terms of voter registration numbers. Superior Republican voter turnout won the day for Steinorth.
In 2016, Steinorth faced a stiffer challenge as the Democrats were making significant inroads in terms of registering voters in all of San Bernardino County, and the 40th Assembly District was a key area in that effort. In the June primary, Steinorth was opposed in a one-on-one contest by Democrat Abigail Medina, a San Bernardino City Unified School District board member. Medina beat Steinorth in the June polling 36,524 votes or 50.5 percent to 35,814 votes or 49.5 percent. Primary election results in California, however, are not binding beyond qualifying the top two finishers for a run-off in the November general election. Steinorth, who owns a direct mail advertising company and could use his incumbency to raise considerable funds, made a concentrated effort to promote himself in the months and weeks prior to the November election. Expending $2.3 million from his campaign war chest in the effort, Steinorth had less money than did Medina, who was provided with $3.3 million by her backers, including the Democratic Party, which wanted to establish a supermajority in the state legislature and saw the removal of Steinorth as possible. Steinorth was able to use his mastery of techniques for recognizing likely voters and reaching them through effective and repeated mass mailings while not squandering his money on ineffective mailing efforts to voters who were unlikely to vote. Steinorth’s sophistication in this regard outran Medina’s, whose campaign misused resources to reinforce her candidacy with voters already committed to supporting her that would have better been used at appealing to voters not registered with either party or driving to the polls Democratic-registered voters with a poor history of showing up to vote. Steinorth reversed the June election results, pulling down 76,537 votes or 50.6 percent to Medina’s 74,589 votes or 49.4 percent.
Steinorth’s 1,948 vote lead proved to be the closest margin of victory for any state legislator in the 2016 race.
None of this has been lost on James Ramos, the former chairman of the San Manuel Indian Tribe who successfully knocked off incumbent Third District Supervisor Neil Derry in 2012 and was handily reelected in 2016. Ramos is a Democrat, although he has had widespread support from Republicans, particularly those from Redlands, which is the seat of a political machine going back generations which at one time dominated San Bernardino County. Ramos was embraced by these Republicans because his personal wealth as a member of the San Manuel Tribe, which operates a casino on its reservation in the foothills above Highland, provides him with electioneering money that gives him a commanding advantage over any rivals he might come across, be they Democrat or Republican. One report is that Ramos’ income as a member of the tribe and principal in the casino is roughly $18,000 per day, $540,000 per month or $6.48 million per year.
Steinorth has just over $330,000 in his campaign coffers at present.
Simultaneously, the Democrats have been steadily improving their registration numbers vis-à-vis the Republicans throughout San Bernardino County and particularly in the 40th Assembly District. As of this week, of the district’s 221,554 voters, 89,192 or 40.3 percent were registered Democrats and 73,304 or 33.1 percent were registered Republicans.
Despite his connection to the Redlands Republican political machine, Ramos identifies as a Democrat, has long been registered as a Democrat and is supported by a faction of Democrats in San Bernardino County, including ones formerly associated with another Democrat who was on the board of supervisors two decades ago, Larry Walker.
Steinorth told the Sentinel “It’s clear my vote and continued opposition to the gas tax increase has made Sacramento politicians furious. Their game plan is no different than 2016, where they found a candidate who will blindly vote for their agenda that hurts middle class families. Our community can’t be fooled. We’re smarter than that.”
He continued, “The voters made their choice and reelected me to serve them in the legislature. I’m confident this time will be no different. I’m proud of the work I’ve done as an effective, independent voice for our community, including my work on repairing our roads without raising taxes, campaign finance reform to hold politicians accountable, and increasing punishments for sex offenders in our neighborhoods. I’ve been accessible and accountable and that’s what our community deserves.”
In addition to Ramos, two others, school teacher Libbern Cook and Mark Parker, have filed to run against Steinorth in the June 5 primary.
The Habitat For Humanity San Bernardino Area Board of Directors announced the recent hiring of David Hahn as executive director. Fresh in the position, Hahn was in Sacramento Monday and Tuesday this week as part of Habitat for Humanity’s annual Advocacy Days.
“We were so excited about David’s breadth and depth of experience regarding housing issues, as well as his long-term commitment as a Habitat volunteer, that we didn’t think twice about sending him to Sacramento on our behalf,” said Housing For Humanity San Bernardino Board President Gigi Hanna. “His experience throughout the state addressing and resolving issues related to the recent housing crisis fits well with Habitat’s vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.”
Hahn’s corporate roots are with Bank of America, where he spent his 34-year career in a wide variety of leadership roles, many of which were based in the Inland Empire. He most recently was senior vice president with the bank’s Enterprise Customer Care Resolution Division, as advocacy relationship manager for the State of California. He also was a member of the Bank of America charitable foundation grant review team for the Inland Empire.
Hahn is not new to the non-profit world, having served on the boards of numerous local nonprofits, including United Way of the Inland Valleys, Operation Hope Southwest Region, the Arthritis Foundation of the Inland Empire, and Housing Opportunities Collaborative of the Inland Empire.
“I am very honored and excited to be taking on the responsibilities of executive director with Habitat for Humanity San Bernardino,” said Hahn. “I have always held Habitat For Humanity in very high regard and have enjoyed leading volunteer teams at many Inland Empire Habitat events over the years. The mission statement of the organization is one that I firmly believe in and plan to put into action for the communities we serve.”
Hahn comes from a long line of public service in Los Angeles County, including his father Gordon, his uncle Kenneth, cousin James, and cousin Janice Hahn, who currently serves as Los Angeles County supervisor for the Fourth District. He and his wife Cathy live in Moreno Valley, where they raised their three children, and he serves as an elder with Discovery Christian Church.
The white-crowned sparrow, known by its scientific name Zonotrichia leucophrys, is a medium-sized sparrow of the passeriformes order and the emberizidae family. It is native to North America.
Distinctive birds with bold black and white stripes on their heads, white-crowned sparrow adults are seven inches long and have gray faces, brown streaked upper parts and long tails. Typically, these birds have a clear, gray breast and belly, and wings distinctly marked with two white wing-bars. The beak is orange-yellow, yellow, or pink to reddish-brown, depending on the subspecies. They are similar in appearance to the white-throated sparrow, but do not have the white throat markings or yellow lores. Young birds are streaked overall until August, when they take on a juvenile plumage similar to the adult; they have brown and tan head stripes rather than black and white, which they keep until the spring.
There are five currently recognized subspecies of white-crowned sparrow (pugetensis, gambelii, nuttalli, oriantha, and leucophrys), and these subspecies vary in terms of their individual breeding distribution migratory routes. Birds of the subspecies nutalli are permanent residents in California, while birds of the subspecies gambelli may migrate as far as the Arctic Circle during the summer breeding season. Northern birds migrate to the southern United States.
Different subspecies vary in their habitat requirements, but in general they require a patchy mosaic of bare ground and shrubby areas for breeding, mostly brushy areas across northern Canada and the western United States. Their territories are usually small, and they will breed in small patches of habitat in the middle of a city. During winter, they move into slightly more open habitats.
The white-crowned sparrow is a very rare vagrant to western Europe. It has been sighted in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Norway.
White-crowned sparrows are generally found in flocks of their own and other species outside the breeding season. Flocks of white-crowned sparrows fan out into open ground away from sheltering bushes as they feed, flying back to cover in a wave if disturbed. They forage on the ground in open areas or in low vegetation, with sheltered thickets nearby for cover, and sometimes make short flights to catch flying insects. They use a two-footed scratching maneuver to locate food in leaf litter.
They mainly eat seeds, other plant parts and insects. In winter, they often forage in flocks, during which time they dine on eat seeds, grass, buds, fruits, and arthropods. During the breeding season, arthropods make up a larger proportion of their diet.
Males generally arrive on the breeding grounds before females. The males sing to defend their territories and attract mates. The nest is usually located on the ground at the base of/under a shrub or a clump of grass, in a depression so the rim is level with the ground. Nests on the West Coast are often placed in a shrub a few feet off the ground. The female builds the nest, which is an open cup made of grass, sticks, pine needles, rootlets, and bark strips and is lined with fine grass, feathers, and hair. The female incubates the three to seven brown-marked gray or greenish-blue eggs for eleven to fourteen days. Both parents feed the young, which leave the nest at eight to ten days after hatching. The young begin to fly about seven to ten days after leaving the nest and start finding their own food at about that time as well. The pugetensis subspecies typically raises two to three broods each year, while the other subspecies usually raise only one.
The white-crowned sparrow is known for its natural alertness mechanism, which allows it to stay awake for up to two weeks during migration. This effect has been studied for possible human applications, such as shift-work drowsiness or truck driving.
The scientific name for these birds is from Ancient Greek. The genus Zonotrichia is from zone, “band,” and thrix, trikhos, “hair,” and the specific leucophrys is from leukos, “white,” and ophrus, “eyebrow.”
From Wikipedia and BirdWeb, the website for the Seattle Audubon Society.
With no winter drama this January we have to accept that the chilly weather doesn’t call for much layering in the daytime. Nevertheless, the poncho and cape are here to put out that warmth that comes in during the evening and morning hours of a California day. Oftentimes neither the poncho nor cape are practical warmth pieces, but they’re perfect for layering and providing the needed cover up. And, by adding a belt to the waist of a poncho or cape to hold in heat, it makes all the difference. Belting is actually a lot of fun too! Everyone has to change according to weather, and the fur coat isn’t really needed in California, but a cape or poncho are a great option, especially with a belt accent. For extra warmth, add a coffee cup with this ensemble. The weather has been delightful in Southern California, and that’s part of the fun of here. Watching people out and around in their ponchos and capes is really neat. For now, enjoy the belting and we’ll see what happens next.
“If you like something, rock it. If you want to rock a cape every day, go for it.” -Post Malone