By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the July 27 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
By Mark Gutglueck
The schism between the City of Industry and the company it chose two years ago to oversee the development of the Tres Hermanos Ranch Solar Project, San Gabriel Valley Water and Power, has expanded full blown into an irresolvable dispute.
The apparent upshot of the division between the city and company, which has been in evidence for months, is that the previously declared intention to blanket a considerable portion of Tres Hermanos Ranch with solar power panels will not be fulfilled anytime in the immediately foreseeable future.
Rustic 2,450-acre Tres Hermanos Ranch and its rolling hillsides, canyon creeks, oak woodlands and pastures which straddle the Los Angeles County/San Bernardino County border has remained undeveloped and teeming with owls, bobcats, mountain lions, skunks and opossum for generations, even as urbanization has encroached on it from Chino Hills to the south and east and Diamond Bar from the north and west. In 1978, the City of Industry Redevelopment Agency purchased the ranch from the heirs of Oil baron Tom Scott, former Los Angeles Times Publisher Harry Chandler and California pioneer John Rowland for $12.1 million. For a generation there was loose talk about the City of Industry using the property as the site for a huge reservoir and other industrial utility-related purposes which never came to fruition. In 2012, as the consequence of state legislation which closed out all of California’s county and municipal redevelopment agencies, the City of Industry lost its control of the property, as authority over it passed to the so-called successor to its redevelopment agency and an oversight committee charged with distributing the redevelopment agency’s assets and/or the proceeds from the sale of those assets to the local governmental and taxing authorities such as school districts, fire districts, water districts and so forth. There ensued speculation and concern that the ranch would be sold to developmental interests which would be intent on converting the property to either or both residential and commercial subdivisions. Indeed, in 2015, GH America Inc. and its partner, South Coast Communities of Irvine, gave indication of their interest in acquiring the property for what would essentially be residential development. The following year, they firmed that expression of interest into a $101 million offer to take Tres Hermanos Ranch off of Industry’s successor agency’s hands. While the successor agency was considering that offer, the City of Industry tendered its own offer of $100 million for the land, which is not contiguous to the City of Industry, but more than eight miles distant from it, a distance which includes the entire breadth of the City of Diamond Bar. This prompted rumors, intense ones, that the City of Industry was on the brink of engaging in a bit of profiteering by using agency-to-agency privilege to get commitments from Diamond Bar, Brea and Chino Hills to radically upzone the property in terms of the intensity and density of permitted development, and then spin it off to a developer who would construct a massive subdivision there. Diamond Bar’s current zoning restrictions would allow 624 residential units to be constructed on the 700 acres of Tres Hermanos Ranch in Diamond Bar. Chino Hills currently has land use restrictions on the 1,700 acres of Tres Hermano Ranch within its jurisdiction which envision no more than 657 residential units there. Nevertheless, those zoning restrictions could be altered by mere majority votes of those respective city councils, and there were rumors extant that by engaging in efforts to support existing members of both cities’ city councils in upcoming elections or by similar efforts to back the candidacies of challengers to the existing incumbents, Tres Hermanos development project proponents could effectuate a change of attitude on those councils whereby they might get an entitlement to build 10,000 to 15,000 residential units on the ranch’s 2,400 acres.
Any concern about that potentiality was abruptly allayed, however, when on August 24, 2017, the oversight board to the successor agency to Industry’s redevelopment authority in a narrow 4-3 vote, called for selling the property to the City of Industry for $41.65 million. The sale carried with it a deed restriction that prevented the property from being used for anything other than a so-called “public purpose” and preservation as open space.
Ultimately, it would be revealed, the City of Industry’s declared “public purpose” would consist of utilizing the ranch as a hosting ground for a 450-megawatt capacity solar farm. An analysis of the generation capability of the state-of-the-art solar panels available for use currently indicated that roughly 73.5 percent of Tres Hermanos Ranch’s 2,450 acres – 1.801.4 acres – would need to be devoted to the footprint of the solar panels, leaving some 648.6 acres of open space. That analysis was not an official one, however, as the City of Industry was not forthcoming with anything beyond the most general of information and detail with regard to the solar field proposal.
A sizeable contingent of Diamond Bar and Chino Hills residents, who previously were less than sanguine about the prospect of the property being developed residentially, was no less dismayed with the City of Industry’s declared intention to convert the property to an industrial-scale electrical generating facility.
In defiance of normal standards of public disclosure that attend the operation of governmental entities, the City of Industry provided virtually no information about the proposed project. Only belatedly was it revealed that long before the city’s acquisition of the Tres Hermanos property the city had entered into a highly secretive arrangement with La Jolla-based San Gabriel Valley Water and Power, headed by William Barkett, to lease the ranch property to the company for $1 per year, extend to the company a 65-year option on continuing the lease of the property and an exclusive right to develop the solar farm on the property, and provide Barkett with loans and other funding for feasibility studies and preparations relating to the solar project, what was essentially a commitment of public financing of the company’s efforts in the initial stages of the project’s development. In exchange, San Gabriel Valley Water and Power committed, once the solar plant was functioning at capacity, to make an annual payment of $4 million to the city for the use of the property along with the sale of the energy to be produced there to the city and City of Industry-based businesses at bargain basement rates.
The city was able to play the terms of that arrangement close to the vest in large degree because of the nature of the City of Industry, which, despite its 12 square miles of land area, boasts a population of just 207, at least 167 of whom are in some fashion associated or intertwined with the city in some fashion or other, either as elected or appointed officials, family members of elected or appointed city officials, are city employees or family members of city employees, or live on or operate businesses upon city property. The city defiantly ignored requests from the public, press or other entities for information about the project, whether those requests were made informally or pursuant to the California Public Records Act.
Similarly, San Gabriel Valley Water and Power was tight-lipped about the project and virtually all of its features and details.
Two relatively deep-pocketed entities with an interest in the project – the cities of Diamond Bar and Chino Hills – used their standing and the leverage they possessed to first push for information about the project that was being withheld and secondly challenge the project itself. Indeed on the same day that the oversight board voted to sell the property to the City of Industry, the City of Chino Hills dashed off a request to the California Department of Finance to undertake a 60-day review to determine if the sale of Tres Hermanos Ranch to the City of Industry was legal, and reject it if any anomalies were discovered. Four days later, the City of Diamond Bar sent a similar letter to the California Department of Finance. Both cities called for the sale to be vacated, as the price – discounted by some $59 million from what GH America and South Coast offered – qualified as what both cities alleged was tantamount to a gift of public funds. Ultimately, the procedural challenges Chino Hills and Diamond Bar officials had initiated through the California Department of Finance failed to stem the project. Undaunted, on October 20, 2017 the City of Chino Hills filed a legal action in Sacramento Superior Court that sought to enjoin the City of Industry from proceeding with the solar project at Tres Hermanos Ranch, the first of what would eventually be six yet-unresolved lawsuits by Chino Hills and Diamond Bar relating to the project in which the cities contend Industry failed to comply with a number of land use procedures and environmental requirements before giving San Gabriel Valley Water and Power authorization to proceed.
Ironically, while the City of Industry and San Gabriel Valley Water and Power were presenting to the world a united front in resisting making anything more than minimum disclosure with regard to the project, it is now known that San Gabriel Valley Water and Power was similarly holding out on the City of Industry, even while it was spending its money profligately.
Information first surfaced that San Gabriel Valley Water and Power was not handling the project in a way that was in keeping with the City of Industry’s expectations when it was revealed in December that Barkett/San Gabriel Valley Water and Power had burned through some $14 million in carrying out preliminary planning on the project and had spent another $6 million in legal fees and other nondescript expenses, and had yet to produce anything tangible in terms of physical assets on the ranch grounds or anything indeed beyond conceptual plans and projections as to generating capability. The city satisfied San Gabriel Valley Water and Power’s billing for that work and those expenses, but when Barkett and San Gabriel Water and Power continued to work on the project apace thereafter and submitted invoices for services relating to the solar farm proposal exceeding $1.5 million over the next two-and-a-half months, the city balked at making those payments.
By January, momentum in the City of Industry had swung against San Gabriel Water and Power as well as against three of the Industry staff members most closely identified with championing the solar project – then-City Manager Paul Philips, then-City Clerk William Morrow and Anthony Bouza, an attorney the city was employing with regard to the solar farm’s development and legal issues. On January 25, the city council adjourned into closed session and took up a discussion of firing all three. Sufficient support to sack Morrow and Bouza manifested. Nevertheless, the council fell short of a necessary third vote to pull the trigger on Philips, as Mayor Mark Radecki and council members Abraham Cruz and Catherine Marcucci were unwilling at that point to join with Cory Moss and Newell Ruggles in handing Philips his walking papers.
On the morning of February 27, however, the council convened into a specially-called closed session meeting at which the only topic of discussion agendized was “public employee discipline/dismissal/release.” At that point, the entirety of the council voted to terminate Philips.
With Philips out of the way, city officials pressed San Gabriel Water and Power to provide it with the full range of documentation on the work it had performed to date, including surveys, feasibility studies, system and component specifications, plans, blueprints, legal inquiries and communications regarding permit applications, as well as environmental document preparations, including communication with the California Public Utility Commission and the California Energy Commission, and the like. The company, which at that point had not been paid by the city for three months, did not comply. The city thereafter seized upon the stratagem of using an arcane application of authority municipalities possess, the issuing of a legislative subpoena, which in this case demanded the company produce an exhaustive record of its work with regard to the project.
San Gabriel Water and Power defied the subpoena, maintaining that that it was overbroad in its scope, that the city is seeking proprietary information and that the city was not in compliance with the proper procedure in issuing the subpoena, including having the mayor endorse the subpoena.
In response, the City of Industry has moved to revoke entirely the lease agreement with San Gabriel Water and Power. This essentially terminates San Gabriel Water and Power’s exclusive right to develop the solar farm.
Unclear at this point is whether the City of Industry has abandoned entirely its intent to develop the solar farm. The terms of the city’s acquisition of the property last August included a restriction preventing the property from being used for any purposes outside of public use, which would seem to preclude freeing the property up for residential or commercial development. If the city abandons the solar project, a layman’s interpretation of the deed restriction is that the City of Industry would need to come up with an alternative development proposal that would meet the definition of “public use.” Also unclear is what legal leverage the city has in recovering from San Gabriel Water and Power either the “loans” it provided the company to allow it to proceed with the project development, or in the alternative to acquire the fruits of those efforts, consisting of the research, studies, plans, legal groundwork and applications for permits and licensing for the project which was completed by San Gabriel Water and Power using financing provided by the city. Equally unclear is whether any of the applications made by San Gabriel Water and Power are transferable to the City of Industry.
The Chino Valley School Board’s testing of the extreme parameters of religious freedom, which already failed with a judgment against it in federal court when it was sued over escalating its ceremonial prayer sessions at the opening of its meetings into proselytizing sessions, has now lost again at the level of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court. It is a yet open question as to whether it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take up the matter.
On November 13, 2014, the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin filed suit in Federal Court in Riverside against the district on behalf of two named plaintiffs, Larry Maldonado and Mike Anderson, and 21 unnamed plaintiffs who asserted they were alienated or intimidated at school board meetings because of the insistence of some district officials to engage in so-called Christian witnessing, including “prayers, Bible readings and proselytizing.” At one typical meeting, Board President James Na urged “everyone who does not know Jesus Christ to go and find Him,” after which another board member closed with a reading of Psalm 143.
The plaintiffs asked for an injunction against the intrusion of religiosity into the conducting of district business.
Although all board members and the district collectively were identified as defendants, the suit cited Na and Cruz for their routine practice of quoting Biblical passages and making other religious references.
Na and Cruz were able to convince the remainder of the board that the district would not sustain any costs or liability as a consequence of defending against the suit, and in January 2015 the board voted 3-2 against hiring the law firm which normally represents the district to respond to the suit. Instead, the district engaged the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute for $1 to defend the district in the civil lawsuit.
The Pacific Justice Institute, founded and led by Brad Dacus, touts itself as a public interest law firm that “handles cases addressing religious freedom, including church and private school rights issues, curtailments to evangelism by the government, harassment because of religious faith, employers attacked for their religious-based policies [and] students and teachers’ rights to share their faith at public schools.”
Na and his board colleagues Andrew Cruz and Sylvia Orosco are members of the Chino Hills Calvary Chapel, a church led by the Reverend Jack Hibbs, who had successfully lobbied the board previously to include Bible study classes as part of the district’s high school curriculum. Hibbs evinces a denominationalist attitude, which holds that Christians have a duty to take over public office and promote their religious beliefs.
The case went before Federal Judge Jesus Bernal, who on February 18, 2016 issued an encyclical in which he rejected the Pacific Justice Institute’s arguments that the district’s policy of celebrating the beliefs of a majority of the board did not violate the plaintiffs’ rights to attend district board meetings and participate in other district and school functions without being subjected to an intensive round of religious advocacy. Bernal ordered the Chino Unified School District Board to discontinue its overt and constant references to Christianity during its public meetings and refrain forthwith from inserting religion into official proceedings.
“The court finds… permitting religious prayer in board meetings, and the policy and custom of reciting prayers, Bible readings, and proselytizing at board meetings, constitute unconstitutional government endorsements of religion in violation of plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights,” Bernal wrote. “Defendant board members are enjoined from conducting, permitting or otherwise endorsing school-sponsored prayer in board meetings.”
The board had claimed its actions are protected by the legislative prayer exception, and volunteer chaplains could be permitted to open each legislative session with a prayer
But Bernal called the argument “meritless,” saying, “The legislative exception does not apply to prayer at school board meetings.”
Bernal held that the nature of the school board made it even more imperative that it not break down the constitutional wall between state and church.
“The risk that a student will feel coerced by the board’s policy and practice of religious prayer is even higher here than at football games or graduations,” Bernal stated. “The school board possesses an inherently authoritarian position with respect to the students. The board metes out discipline and awards at these meetings, and sets school policies that directly and immediately affect the students’ lives.”
Bernal awarded the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s legal team $202,425.00 in attorney’s fees and $546.70 in costs to be paid by the district.
Despite that setback, Na, Cruz and Orozco, buttressed by Hibbs and the parishioners at Calvary Chapel, were persuaded to fight on, dispensing with the representation of the Pacific Justice Institute and on March 7, 2016 opting to be represented by another Christian advocacy attorney, Robert Tyler of the Murrieta-based law firm Tyler & Bursch, to handle their appeal of Bernal’s ruling.
In pursuing the appeal, the school board reasserted its rights to proselytize during public forums, hinging its argument on the basis of the 2014 5-4 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Town of Greece v. Galloway. In the Greece case the Supreme Court held that public officials can open public meetings with prayers — even explicitly Christian ones — if the government agency does not discriminate against minority faiths when choosing who may offer a prayer and the prayer does not coerce participation from nonbelievers. Nevertheless, in the majority opinion in the Greece case, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy made clear that prayer was acceptable only when it is offered “during the ceremonial portion of the town’s meeting. Board members are not engaged in policymaking at this time, but in more general functions, such as swearing in new police officers, inducting high school athletes into the town hall of fame, and presenting proclamations to volunteers, civic groups, and senior citizens. It is a moment for town leaders to recognize the achievements of their constituents and the aspects of community life that are worth celebrating.”
On Wednesday, a three-judge panel of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Bernal’s 2016 ruling.
9th Circuit Judges M. Margaret McKeown and Kim McLane Wardlaw and Colorado Dist. Judge Wiley Y. Daniel said the Chino Valley school board must desist in incorporating prayers, proselytizing and the citation of Christian Scripture as elements of its meetings. The court noted the frequent presence of children at the meetings who are obliged to attend because of presentations or participation in the items being taken up by the board. The proselytizing could have an undue influence on them, the panel said. “These prayers typically take place before groups of schoolchildren whose attendance is not truly voluntary and whose relationship to school district officials, including the board, is not one of full parity,” according to the decision, which stated that the school board meetings fulfill a further “function as extensions of the educational experience of the district’s public schools.”
Though the Greece decision on which the district based its appeal made clear that all religious affiliations had to be respected in such prayer sessions if they were to be conducted, the predominant number of the school district religious references were Christian one, slighting other religious minority groups within the district such as Buddhists, Jews, and Moslems as well as atheists and agnostics.
According to the 9th Circuit Court, the Establishment Clause of the 1st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution limits the degree to which believers of one faith can conscript others to go along with its rituals in a public setting, and it held that the board can solemnify its proceedings without the Christian references.
“The Establishment Clause, grounded in experiences of persecution, affirms the fundamental truth that no matter what an individual’s religious beliefs, he has a valued place in the political community,” the 9th Circuit said.
With five out of five factors now militating against the prospect, the City of Upland and the Lewis Group of Companies have dropped a plan to trade municipally-owned athletic fields at Cabrillo Park in the southwest quadrant of the city for property of marginal use for development the company has tied up at the north end of the city but where the placement of a sports complex had been proposed.
The Lewis Group of Companies, the most influential corporate interest in Upland, was able to get the tentative approval of both staff and a majority of the city council for an exchange in which Lewis was to obtain 16 acres at Cabrillo Park, located between Benson and Mountain Avenues on 11th Street in exchange for close to 45 acres of land upon what was formerly a gravel quarry north of the 210 Freeway where the company proposed more numerous, newer and more varied athletic fields would be located.
Without fully committing to the swap, the city council assigned council members Gino Filippi and Sid Robinson to define the parameters of the Lewis Group of Companies’ participation in creating the complex and to gauge citizen acceptance of the concept.
While some of the residents living near Cabrillo Park, fed up with the Saturday morning noise and commotion and intensified traffic that having the park host the American Youth Soccer Organization games entailed were not averse to having the soccer fields replaced with homes, the proposal was not gladly received among most others in the city. Those using the athletic fields, in particular those whose children participated in the American Youth Soccer Organization-associated league that played its games at Cabrillo Park, were taken aback by the proposal, in particular since a plurality of that league’s players resided in the southwest quadrant of the city, and relocating the playing venue to the north end of Upland would have created a hardship on at least some of those players and their families. Janet Orcutt, the regional commissioner for AYSO Region 32, of which Upland is a constituent, expressed skepticism about making the swap.
Another issue was the trade itself – level land in an area where infrastructure and utilities abound – for property blighted and pitted by decades of rock and gravel mining, large portions of which are at a subsurface level, without ready access to utilities and infrastructure. Though the conversion of the property in question north of the Freeway into a state where it could be built upon could be carried off, the expense of doing so was potentially prohibitive, as the financial means for making the conversion is not now nor likely to be any time within the foreseeable future available to the city. Thus, the trade carried with it the possibility that the soccer fields at Cabrillo Park, which had been in use for 45 years, would be shuttered and that it would be a generation, or perhaps even another 45 years, before youth soccer would again be actively played in the city again.
A third issue was the timing of the proposal, coming as it did in the aftermath of the city’s sale of 4.631 acres at Memorial Park to San Antonio Hospital for use as a parking structure, reducing the size of another key recreational amenity south of Foothill Boulevard, raised questions about both city staff’s and the council majority’s priorities. Residents began to openly talk about the city council’s obeisance to business interests outrunning its loyalty to the residents its members represent.
Fourth, three positions on the city council are up for election this year, the first time in the city’s history in which council members are to be elected from within the city’s newly designated districts. In this election cycle, the positions for districts 3 and 4, which cover the south end of the city wherein Cabrillo Park and Memorial Park are located, along with District 2, which covers the city’s northeast quadrant, will be contested. Thus, councilwoman Carol Timm, in District 4 and Councilman Filippi, in District 3, both members of the coalition supporting the swap who were last elected to the at-large council positions they now occupy in 2014, are due to face voters in November. Also contemplating a run for council in District 2 is incumbent Councilwoman Janice Elliott, the council’s lone dissenter who is thus not a part of the ruling coalition and who was elected to her at-large position in 2016. It appeared that Elliott was poised to politically capitalize upon her opposition to the land swap, thus potentially securing her presence on the council until 2022, a prospect frowned upon by the council’s ruling coalition of Filippi, Timm, Robinson and Mayor Debbie Stone. Simultaneously, Filippi and Timm were on the verge of having to face voters within their respective districts, many of whom were displeased with the planned obliteration of the parkland in their neighborhoods in favor of a business interest who has traditionally been a reliable donor to the campaigns of members of Upland’s political establishment, primarily meaning incumbents.
Those four factors, nonetheless, were insufficient to dissuade the city from seeing the swap of the soccer fields at Cabrillo Park for the quarry land from taking place. Rather it was fifth factor, one impacting Lewis Operating Company directly that led to a decision to forego the trade.
Lewis Homes was established by Ralph Lewis and his Wife Goldie in 1955 as a company that built homes, consisting exclusively of single family residential units. As it grew, Lewis Homes intensified the scope of its undertakings, going from building just a handful of houses at a time, to a dozen or so, then subdivisions of fifty or sixty in the early 1960s, until in the 1970s it was building hundreds of homes in one substantial expansive location as part of master planned developments. In time the company branched out into incorporating commercial elements and multi-family projects into the developments. As Ralph and Goldie moved closer and closer toward retirement, their four boys – beginning with Richard, then Randall, followed by Robert and Roger – took on roles and then major roles with the company, eventually moving on to inherent complete management and control of the company, by which time Lewis Homes was established as the quintessential San Bernardino County-based corporate success story. Now, as the four Lewis Brothers are themselves aging toward retirement and about to hand the development dynasty off to a succeeding generation of Lewises, the company has essentially out of the homebuilding business. Rather, having morphed out of the guise of Lewis Homes to that of the Lewis Group of Companies, it now specializes in acquiring land, the master planning of development proposals on that land, obtaining permits, approvals and entitlement to proceed with those projects and then having other homebuilders flesh out the projects with their housing creations.
In Upland, there are clear geographical socioeconomic divides that are essentially defined as escalating in a northward progression. That is, the rougher and more impoverished area of the city – to the extent that what is now the county’s third most affluent city can be said to have an impoverished area – lies south of Foothill Boulevard. The next dividing line comes at 14th Street, which lies two major thoroughfares up from Foothill Boulevard. The next dividing line is 16th Street. Thereafter, the next dividing line is the 210 Freeway. Thus, going northward on Euclid Avenue from the southernmost end of Upland just above the 10 Freeway, with the occasional exception that proves the rule, one encounters a few modest but quaint homes, with some occasional commercial, professional or governmental establishments intersticed among those residences; some progressively more impressive bungalows and two story homes on either side of the tree-lined Euclid median, then some vintage historic Craftsman-style homes dating from the 1910s and 1920s lying just north of Foothill Boulevard, then a mixture of one and two story homes built eight, seven, six, five and four decades ago, with an occasional grove home, a remnant of the bygone citrus industry that once defined Upland, thrown into the mix. As the northward progression continues, the homes become ever more stately. As far south as the northeast corner of 13th Street and Euclid one encounters a single mansion. Thereupon follow tasteful executive homes, starter castles and then a mixture of enviable abodes, ones with a wealth of architectural imagination and applications, incorporating brick or stone enhancing driveway entrances, Palladian windows, porticos, multiple chimneys, dormers, pilasters, and columns. Between 16th Street and the 210 Freeway mansions begin in earnest, some of which, despite their opulence, are outdone by an occasional manor as Euclid continues northward to the foothills below Mount San Antonio.
Officers with the Lewis Group of Companies a little more than a month ago began discussions with representatives of the homebuilding companies with regard to building upon the Cabrillo Park property. Reportedly, Lewis’s representatives were dismayed to hear those homebuilders evince little enthusiasm for building on the park property Lewis was on the brink of obtaining. The Sentinel is told that most of those builders had initiated those discussions with Lewis in the expectation of making a considerable profit by building in Upland, and were looking forward to creating homes on one-eighth of an acre lots that would sell in the range of $900,000 to $1.1 million. When the discussions with the Lewis Group of Companies got into full swing and it was discovered that the project site was in the city’s low rent district below Foothill Boulevard where a more realistic price on the homes would be in the rage of $600,000 to $700,000, the homebuilders walked away. Unprepared to itself undertake the building of homes on what was to be converted park property, the Lewis Group of Companies elected to forsake the park property acquisition deal.
At a July 12 workshop where the concept was to be fully previewed to the public, Lewis disclosed it would pass on the Cabrillo park land, using the public sentiment against taking away the soccer-playing venues from kids to explain its sudden redirection.
“We heard resoundingly over the last two weeks that this was not what the community wanted,” said Lewis Group of Companies Project Manager Adam Collier.
Collier then announced an alternative deal with the city, one in which it would still make sure that the city could take possession of the 45 acres in the quarry. The trade the company is now pushing for involves 32 acres of land the city has title to in Sycamore Hills, which lies right at the Upland/Claremont border along the westernmost extension of 16th Street, what is at that point called Baseline Road. Calculations are that builders can construct homes in Sycamore Hills on one-eighth acre lots and sell those homes for $1.4 million to $1.6 million.
For the Lewis Group of Companies, that represents a far better deal than the trade for the Cabrillo Park property.
The city has brought in Steve Dukett, a principal in the municipal management consultancy Urban Futures, to sell the deal to the community. This week, at the Upland City Council meeting, Dukett previewed the trade to those assembled there. Among those in the audience at Monday night’s meeting was Randall Lewis of the Lewis Group of Companies.
Inadvertently, newly installed Adelanto City Councilwoman Joy Jeannette last week provided the FBI with a key element augmenting that agency’s tentative investigative findings that two of her council colleagues were involved with the councilman she has replaced in trading votes to favor would-be marijuana business operators for monetary considerations.
In November 2015, the Adelanto City Council, in a 4-to-1 vote, with Mayor Rich Kerr and councilmen Jermaine Wright, John Woodard and Charley Glasper prevailing, voted to open the city to the cultivation of medical marijuana, conditional upon those seeking permits and licenses to do so locating their operations within the city’s industrial park. That move set off a frenzy of purchases of property within the industrial park, where the zoning had been revamped to allow indoor cultivation of the drug to take place. Within short order, all available property within the industrial park, which previously had been available for sale or lease at rock bottom prices, had been snatched up, with selling prices doubling, then tripling, and quadrupling in the course of a week, and then escalating from there, as speculators flooded into the city and applicants for permits overwhelmed the city staff available to process them.
C.B. Nanda learned of what was going on in Adelanto and grew likewise interested in profiteering within the context of tolerance toward marijuana that had suddenly manifested in the City of Adelanto. Nanda created an entity, American Scientific Consultants, LLC, to achieve that goal. A problem was, however, that Nanda had come onto the scene a tad too late, as all the locations within the city’s industrial park had already fallen into the hands of those applying for cultivation project permits or landlords who were now in a position to charge top dollar for their warehouses where the indoor nurseries and greenhouses could be set up, eating into a significant amount of profit a grower might hope to realize.
What Nanda needed was to get ownership or control of some property in Adelanto where a) growing marijuana would be permitted; b) the utilities to do that, namely electricity and water, were available at the site; and c) he would not have to pay an extortionary price for a and b above. At that point, the zoning regulations had not changed to allow such operations beyond the industrial park. Moreover, within Adelanto the utilities to facilitate such cultivation activity outside the industrial park were sufficiently rare that finding such a place was challenging. A bit later in 2016 Nanda and American Scientific Consultants set sights on property owned by the city, in particular the city’s public works yard, located at 17451 Raccoon Avenue in Adelanto. The public works yard featured two two-story metal buildings, one of which housed the city’s emergency operations center. That emergency operations center had been constructed on the site and outfitted through a $375,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security the city received expressly for that purpose in 2011. Given the range of activity at the yard, the facilities there had been augmented with utilities and infrastructure so its public works department, its motor pool, its maintenance divisions, indeed the entirely of the city’s physical operation that needed support in terms of equipment operation, mechanical service support, storage, repair and application could function on a daily basis. Thus, Nanda noted, the property would be perfect for housing a humongous marijuana cultivation facility.
Ultimately, Nanda was somehow able, through dialogue with city officials in the spring and early summer of 2017, to convince them that the city would do well to unburden itself of its public works yard and that it should be sold to American Scientific.
According to a lawyer for American Scientific and Nanda, Irvine-based Rick Augustini, “On or about March 30, 2017, American Scientific Consultants offered to purchase the property” and “Over the next several months American Scientific Consultants negotiated the terms of the sale of the property in an arm’s length transaction.”
The Sentinel has learned that at this point, the FBI is less than fully convinced that the negotiation was carried out, as Augustini has represented, at “arm’s length.”
Nanda negotiated on the company’s behalf and Adelanto’s then-interim city manager, Mike Milhiser, negotiated on the city’s behalf. At the city’s March 30, 2017, June 14, 2017 and June 28, 2017 meetings, the city council discussed the sale of the property in closed session in the presence of the city attorney at that time, Curtis Wright. Subsequent to the June 28, 2017 meeting, city officials told Nanda that the city was willing to sell the public works yard to his company for $1 million. On July 3, 2017, American Scientific Consultants tendered an offer in writing to purchase the subject property for $1 million.
On July 6, 2017, City Attorney Curtis Wright submitted a letter of resignation, saying his departure would be effective on July 12.
On July 13, 2017 the city accepted American Scientific Consultants’ offer and entered into a written agreement to effectuate the transaction. Almost immediately thereafter American Scientific Consultants assigned its rights to purchase the building to AMN, LLC, a company affiliated with American Scientific Consultants, and entered into an agreement with Canniatric, LLC, a company which makes tinctures of cannabis, according to Augustini, at the specific request of city officials. An agreement committing the city to the sale and committing American Scientific Consultants to the purchase was signed by Milhiser and Nanda.
According to Augustini, “At the time American Scientific Consultants, LLC and defendant entered into the agreement, the subject property was outside the cultivation zone that the City of Adelanto had established for the manufacturing, testing and distribution of medical cannabis pursuant to its municipal code.”
The city’s cultivation zone then covered 663.35 acres, all of which fell within the city’s industrial park.
In August, the city council elevated community development director Gabriel Elliott to the city manager’s position. On September 8, 2017, at the direction of the city council, upon which Kerr, Wright and Woodard were the controlling majority coalition, one of the first significant actions Elliott took as the city’s top staff member was to orchestrate the city council’s expansion of the city’s cultivation zone by a factor of more than three, which included the property in the 17000 block of Raccoon Avenue. Elliott was not in favor of the zoning expansion and he felt it ill-advised for the city to proceed with the sale of the public works yard. He nevertheless held his tongue and facilitated the zone change, having acceded to the position of city manager less than a month prior to that. According to Augustini, “American Scientific Consultants, LLC and C.B. Nanda had no involvement in or foreknowledge of the City of Adelanto’s decision to expand the cultivation zone to include the subject property.”
The city’ September 8 action zoomed the city’s cultivation zone from 663.35 acres to 2,214.5 acres. The council’s decision to change the city’s zoning map increased significantly the value of the properties moved into the cultivation zone.
In October, the FBI, which had been conducting an investigation into a multiplicity of circumstances in Adelanto pertaining to the city’s moves to open it to the marketing of marijuana, cinched up a case against Councilman Jermaine Wright, who is of no blood relation to former City Attorney Curtis Wright. FBI agents had successfully lured Jermaine Wright into taking a bribe from an undercover FBI agent posing as a would-be marijuana distributor in exchange for assisting in cutting through city red tape to get that business up and running. Caught red-handed, Wright initially agreed to cooperate with the agents in further efforts to ferret out graft and corruption involving Adelanto officials and those seeking commercial marijuana business operating permits. Almost immediately, however, Wright compromised the undercover operation by disclosing it to others. On November 6, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office obtained an arrest warrant for Wright and the following day the FBI arrested him on charges relating to bribery and conspiracy to engage in arson. He remained in federal custody until late May. In January 2018, he was removed from his position on the city council.
The day after Wright’s arrest, on November 8, 2017, the city council went into closed session, during which Elliott had scheduled the council to come to a determination with regard to whether the sale of the public works yard would be finalized. Yet of consequence was whether the closure of the city’s emergency operations center, which would take place if the public works yard was sold, would be a violation of the city’s commitment to the federal government in having received the federal grant used to create the emergency services center six years previously. Without Jermaine Wright present, the crucial third vote to support finalizing the sale of the public works yard to American Scientific was not provided, as councilman Ed Camargo, who had always been opposed to the marijuanization of Adelanto, along with councilman Glasper opposed closing the deal, as American Scientific Consultants’ intention to convert it into marijuana cultivation facility was clear. Both Kerr and Woodard, who had offered C.B. Nanda their personal assurances that the sale would be approved, were livid with Elliott, having correctly surmised that he had outmaneuvered them in blocking the sale of the public works yard. Ruben Duran had replaced Curtis Wright as Adelanto city attorney. Word had reached Duran that based upon the arrangement made between American Scientific and Canniatric, LLC in July, well ahead of the city council’s September 8 action expanding the cannabis-related business operating zone to include the public works yard property, some type of side arrangement involving American Scientific Consultants and members of the Adelanto City Council was in place. Duran moved in November, the Sentinel is informed, to terminate the deal to prevent a criminal act which would have involved city officials from being actuated.
More than a month later, on December 21, 2017, Augustini filed a lawsuit against the City of Adelanto on behalf of American Scientific over what Augustini alleged was the city’s breach of an agreement to sell the city’s public works yard.
In the suit, Augustini maintained that on “November 9, 2017, an attorney representing defendant, Ruben Duran of Best Best & Krieger, purported to terminate the agreement by among other things falsely claiming the interim city manager, Mr. Milhiser, lacked the authority to enter into the agreement and the agreement was the result of a conflict of interest.”
The lawsuit propounds that the city is essentially obliged to rezone property would-be operators have acquired to accommodate cannabis-related commercial activities, skirting around the issue of the degree to which public officials have committed to making those changes ahead of time. Reasoning that the city’s public works yard has become worth $5 million as a result of the zone change made in September, Augustini asserted in the lawsuit that American Scientific Consultants is entitled to the profit it would have been able to realize by acquiring the property and then liquidating it in accordance with the greater value that would have been assigned to it by the council’s action. Consequently, Augustini in the lawsuit sought for his client a judgment “for damages according to proof at trial but in no event less than $5,000,000.00 plus prejudgment interest at the legal rate.”
At the Adelanto City Council’s last meeting in March, while the council was yet one member short because Jermaine Wright’s vacancy had not been filled, Kerr and Woodard succeeded in convincing Glasper that the city should settle the suit on terms by which the city agreed to sell the public works yard and its two buildings and accompanying one gross acre of property to American Scientific for $1 million, subject to a $1 per year leaseback arrangement by which the city will be allowed to have the emergency operations center remain in place for four years. Scientific American, according to the terms of that agreement was to hereinafter abandon any litigative claims against Adelanto arising out of the city having sought to terminate the deal. Scientific American also agreed to end its appeal of the city’s action in revoking permits it had once granted to Scientific American for a cannabis-related operation on Koala Road. The city moved to shutter that operation after the city’s code enforcement division learned that Scientific American had jumped the gun on initiating operations there prior to having other permits and documents certified.
Despite that agreement, however, a glitch manifested when American Scientific Consultants concluded that the $1 million asking price was too much, given that the city’s emergency operations center was going to remain in place there. For the next three plus months the deal languished.
In June, the candidate Kerr and Woodard backed in the special election the city called to correspond with this year’s statewide primary election to fill Jermaine Wright’s council position, Joy Jeannette, emerged victorious. After the election results were certified by the Registrar of Voters Office earlier this month, Jeannette was sworn in on July 11. That day she voted with Kerr and Woodard to terminate Elliott, whom Kerr had managed to place on administrative leave last December. Five days later, at a specially called meeting on July which neither Camargo nor Glasper attended, the council voted 3-to-0 to sell the public works yard to AMN, LLC, which is American Scientific Consultants corporate affiliate, and thus put the suit filed by American Scientific Consultants to rest. Three votes were needed to make the sale.
In virtually every other way, since Duran became city attorney slightly more than a year ago, he has made every effort to accommodate the council majority, such that he is largely referred by many of those who frequent City Hall and city council meetings as “Kerr’s attorney” rather than city attorney. Duran’s resistance to the sale of the public works yard to American Scientific Consultants is the one visible exception to that, conveying that he recognizes the issue is fraught with hazard for the city council and Kerr and Woodard in particular. Notably, City Hall and Kerr’s home were the targets of an FBI raid on May 8.
The settlement agreement entered into last week entails considerable complication and expense for the city. Nanda is unwilling to accommodate the emergency operations center in its present location or at the site at all for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that an operation funded through federal grants cannot be located within 300 yards of any cannabis-related activity. Thus, the emergency operations center will need to be relocated at considerable expense to the city. If the city elects to simply close out the emergency medical center, it will need to refund to the federal government the grant money it received specifically to create the center.
The irregularities around the public works yard sale – in particular American Scientific Consultants entering into an agreement relating to the use of the Raccoon Avenue property with Canniatric, LLC prior to the zoning of the property to allow it to be used for cannabis-related commercial activity and the September 8 action by the city council to rezone the property, thereby raising the value of the property from $1 million to four or five times that – has elevated suspicion to a fever pitch.
Said one city official, “The claim is C.B. Nanda did not have knowledge that the property would be rezoned. Why would Scientific American want to purchase a public works yard for a million dollars, then? No knowledge, my unicorn.”
All the way around, and from every conceivable perspective, the city got the short end of the stick on the public works yard sale, the employee said.
“C.B. Nanda not only got a $5 million property for cheap that included all utility connections, the two buildings have six units each that can be individually rented out as huge moneymakers. The city invested $200,000 of taxpayer money and another $200,000 in public works staff time doing the renovations that included all new plumbing, restrooms, drywall, electrical cabinets, carpet, and tile. Staff worked on the project for at least 8 months. The tax payer money used was money the city received from the sale of the Adelanto prison to renovate the building. This is as shady as it gets.”
Yet no actual smoking gun existed until title on the property was actually transferred to AMN/American Scientific.
Word now is that the sale of the city’s public works yard to AMN, which is tantamount to a sale to American Scientific Consultants, has given the FBI evidence it needs to form a case and the U.S. Attorney’s Office the grounds upon which to seek and obtain an indictment of two members of the Adelanto City Council.
The Sentinel reached out to City Hall for its version of events but received no response.
Barstow city officials, undaunted by residents’ rejection of a half cent sales tax proposal in 2017, last week resolved to come at the effort to redress its burgeoning fiscal problems through a taxing scheme from a different angle, and will this year appeal to the city’s residents to approve a one cent sales tax in November.
In 2017, Barstow sought from its voters approval of Measure J, a special purpose tax consisting of a half-cent sales tax hike throughout the city. The measure would have effectively raised Barstow’s total sales tax rate from 7.75 percent to 8.25 percent, given that the statewide tax rate is 7.25 percent and all San Bernardino County residents pay another half cent sales tax as a consequence of the Measure I tax override first approved in 1989 and which was renewed in 2004. The proceeds of the half cent tax were to be devoted exclusively to redress budget issues impacting the Barstow Fire Protection District, which is now a division of the city and runs the Barstow Fire Department.
The Barstow Fire Department’s financial fix is in large measure a function of a string of decisions made by Barstow’s political leadership in the last decade.
Traditionally, the Barstow Fire Protection District was an independent agency dedicated to providing fire protection within its jurisdiction and was unaffiliated with any other agency or governmental entity. As such, the district was a self-sustaining one that had to live within the means available to it. This translated into what were more modest salaries and benefit packages for its employees than were available in larger districts and even small municipal departments within San Bernardino County.
In a split vote taken at a special joint meeting in March 2010, Barstow’s city council and the separate fire protection district board voted to merge the district with the city. In this way, the city took on responsibility for the fire district’s entire jurisdiction, which included everything within the Barstow City Limits as well as some areas outside the city. The board for the district, which voted 4-1 in favor of the move with board member Paul Courtney opposed, was somewhat more enthusiastic about the takeover than was the city council, which voted in favor of the merger 3-1, with councilman Tim Saenz abstaining and councilman Tim Silva opposed.
Representations made to justify having the city absorb the department were that the takeover would ensure local control of the department, better service and save money.
It does not appear that this last rationale was fulfilled.
In 2011, the fire district became a part of the city. Fire department employees, who were still paid at the rates they received previously, overnight became municipal employees. The city undertook a routine study of the city’s classification of its employees and their compensation which showed fire personnel were being paid less than other city employees. The firefighters, who had previously been willing to work for the pay provided by the district, were beset with a newfound sense of deprivation upon learning that they were in many cases making less money than their municipal colleagues, including some members of the clerical and maintenance divisions.
According to the classification and compensation study, the results of which were accepted by the city council in October 2012, beginning firefighters received 42 percent less pay than beginning police officers, and there was a further discrepancy that “occurs through the rank of fire captain, with the majority of Barstow’s employees being compensated at a higher rate than fire captain.”
The Barstow Professional Firefighters Association, the union representing the firefighters, began pressuring city manager Curt Mitchell and members of the council, calling for pay and benefit increases that would put the fire department personnel on a par with those working in other cities and fire districts around the county.
Despite the pronounced intent of the city council in voting for the takeover in 2010 that the move would reduce costs, the council in October agreed to a negotiated settlement that went into effect on January 1, 2013, such that Barstow joined the ranks of cities paying the going rate, that is, union-scale wages to its firefighting staff. The increase in pay meant that at that time the pay of an entry level firefighter before overtime went from $4,000 per month or $48,000 per year to a minimum of $4,500 monthly or $54,000 per year. The contract called for firefighters making a nine percent contribution to their retirement fund. All higher ranking members of the department – firefighter paramedics, field training officers, fire inspectors, battalion chiefs, fire engineers, fire captains, and fire captain specialists – made even more money.
Additionally, the promises to firefighters with regard to enhanced retirement packages have resulted in retired firefighters being eligible in most cases for pensions exceeding $75,000 per year.
At present, the city’s cost of employing a single firefighter full time with overtime, including salary and benefits runs close to $160,000 per year, on average. At present Barstow firefighters are making somewhat less than their counterparts in some fire departments elsewhere such as Rancho Cucamonga and Ontario, which are particularly generous toward their firefighters. In the case of Rancho Cucamonga, three of its council members are retired firefighters, each of whom is pulling a pension of over $100,000 per year. Ontario has a single firefighter as one of its members, who likewise draws a pension exceeding $100,000 yearly. Barstow firefighters nevertheless are closing the gap in terms of salary and benefits paid to their firefighting brethren in the county’s more affluent areas. The pensions they collect upon retirement are calculated as a percentage of their final annual salaries. Fire departments generally have a policy of promoting their personnel into higher and higher ranks with accompanying increases in salary, thereby boosting those firefighters’ pensions upon retirement. Public safety retirees are provided with a pension that is a percentage – usually three percent – of their highest yearly salary and add-ons times the number of years they have been employed. In this way, a public safety employee who remains with a city for 33 years will be eligible for a pension of 99 percent of his or her highest salary for the rest of his or her life.
It is this phenomenon that has put the City of Barstow behind the eight ball financially and why it is now turning to its residents for a bail out.
Promoters of the tax are confident they can achieve passage of the tax as this time it will not be asking voters to approve a specific purpose tax but rather a general tax.
It is a peculiarity of California law that proposed taxes that are earmarked for application for a specific purpose cannot be approved with a simple majority of those to be taxed but rather must receive approval by a two-thirds margin.
Conversely, if voters are asked to approve a general tax, that is one in which the funds to be generated are to be expended at the discretion of the local government’s governing body on any programs or services that body – which in this case would be the Barstow City Council – deems fit, that tax need be approved by a simple majority vote, that is a bare minimum of one vote more than fifty percent.
2017’s Measure J, which asked Barstow’s citizens to impose on themselves an additional half cent sales tax, came tantalizingly close to meeting the two-thirds approval threshold. It was supported by 1,342 or 65.24 percent of the city’s voters.
Proponents of Measure J last year and of the taxing proposal to go before the voters in November point out that Barstow’s location on the 15 Freeway between the greater Los Angeles Area and Las Vegas puts it in a perfect position to yield significant sales tax revenue from those passing through the city, and that the average Barstow resident who does not purchase any big ticket items in town will only pay an average of $47 a year, as a result of the tax.
Significantly, Councilman Silva, the one member of the city council who was most resistant to and cautious about having the city take on the financial burden of higher salaries and pensions for retiring firefighters in 2012, was in support of seeking to defray the greater costs that have now come home to roost as a result of the fire department budget that is spiraling beyond the city government’s grasp in 2018.
Without explicitly committing to using the money that will become available if the measure passes in November in shoring up the fire department, Barstow officials hinted that was what they would do.
“A majority of residents want to save the fire district,” Silva said. “That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Other members of the council were a little more circumspect, as an-on-the-record commitment by the council to use the money for the specific purpose of backfilling the fire department’s budget might require that the measure be deemed a specific purpose taxing one.
Former Barstow Mayor Lawrence Dale dwelt on the paradox of having a half cent tax add-on rejected by the city’s voters in 2017 year and the boldness with which the council is in 2018 seeking a full cent tax enhancement this year. “Last year, you asked for a half-cent,” Dale said. “Now you’re asking for a whole cent. The city feels like it [is] free to do whatever you want to do. I am adamantly opposed to this measure.”
All voters in Barstow will be eligible to cast a vote on the tax measure on November 6. Barstow voters in two of the city’s newly drawn districts will also have the opportunity to participate in the municipal election by electing those who will represent them on the city council over the following four years.
The County of San Bernardino will pay the Chino Valley Unified School District and the Ontario-Montclair School District each more than $4 million and the Upland Unified School District almost $2.5 million to partially defray the cost of those districts providing mental health services to their students.
The board of supervisors on Tuesday, approved contracts with the three school districts for the provision of what is referred to as “school-aged treatment services” in their jurisdictions, in an amount not to exceed $10,568,363, for the period of August 1,
2018 through June 30, 2023. The Chino Valley Unified School District was appropriated $4,097,712. The Ontario-Montclair School District was provided $4,012,318. The Upland Unified School District is getting $2,458,333.
According to Veronica Kelley, the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, “Chino Valley Unified School District, Ontario–Montclair School District, and Upland Unified School District provide a range of behavioral health services that are tailored to meet the needs of students who are Medi-Cal eligible beneficiaries. In addition, services are provided to adolescents who are described as dually diagnosed, a designation to describe an individual in need of mental health and substance use disorder services. Chino Valley Unified School District, Ontario–Montclair School District, and Upland Unified School District provide these school-based mental health services as required under early and periodic screening, diagnosis and treatment programs, a federally mandated Medicaid option. The intent of the program is to extend Medi-Cal coverage to their students
to assist in the identification of each student’s physical/mental needs and to provide appropriate treatment in order to correct and/or improve their physical/mental condition.
Parental/legal guardian consent is required for children under 12 to undergo psychological counseling. Under state law, children age 12 and older may consent to their own behavioral healthcare, including substance use disorder services and mental health outpatient services. This is covered by California Family Code 6924, Family Code 6929 and Health & Safety Code 124260.
The Department of Behavioral Health anticipates that the school districts will provide services to approximately 528 students annually, at an estimated cost of $4,000 per student.
Department of Behavioral Health, as the mental health plan for the county, provides behavioral health treatment services to San Bernardino County beneficiaries through a network of service providers. Each provider has a specific responsibility. School-aged treatment services are tailored to meet the needs of children/youth who attend the school districts in order to restore or maintain functioning consistent with the requirements for learning, development, independent living, and enhanced self-sufficiency. The Department of Behavioral Health has provided school-aged treatment services through contracted services since 2015.
The recommended contracts with Chino Valley Unified School District, the Ontario-Montclair School District and the Upland Unified School District for school-aged treatment services are possible due to the ability of school districts to contribute match for funding and their ability to leverage State Department of Education funding to offer school-based mental health services to children with disabilities and to children living in foster families. While preparing the current contracts for a July 1, 2018 start date, the school districts informed the Department of Behavioral Health that it would be necessary to obtain their respective school board approval prior to entering into contracts with the county. In the past, this was not a requirement. Therefore, the Department of Behavioral Health entered into short-term school-aged program contracts for the period of July 1, 2018 through July 31, 2018 and is requesting board of supervisors’ approved contracts effective August 1, 2018 through June 30, 2023 to avoid an interruption in school-aged treatment services.”
Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales today embarked on a junket to China, where she is to visit the cities of Beijing, Yancheng, Nanjing, Kunming, Yunnan, and Hainan through August 6. She is to represent the County of San Bernardino and
the Inland Valley Development Agency during her various interactions with government, trade and business officials there.
The estimated $7,183 travel related costs, including airfare, meals, hotel, and ground transportation will be paid by the Chinese People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries Association, which is a governmental division of the People’s Republic of China. The $180 cost to process the travel visa application for Supervisor Gonzales was covered by an appropriation from the 2018-19 Fifth District Board of Supervisors office budget.
Gonzales is accompanying a delegation of local elected officials from Southern California on a foreign trade mission to China. It is intended that the delegation will meet with several Chinese government officials and business leaders to discuss potential trade and development opportunities, specifically with the Inland Valley Development Agency (IVDA) and the San Bernardino International Airport. IVDA is a joint powers authority comprised of the County of San Bernardino and the cities of San Bernardino, Colton, and Loma Linda devoted to community and economic revitalization in the area around the grounds of the former Norton Air Force Base, now known as San Bernardino International Airport, through business development, infrastructure improvement, job creation and retention.
By James Joyce
THE bell rang furiously and, when Miss Parker went to the tube, a furious voice called out in a piercing North of Ireland accent:
“Send Farrington here!”
Miss Parker returned to her machine, saying to a man who was writing at a desk:
“Mr. Alleyne wants you upstairs.”
The man muttered “Blast him!” under his breath and pushed back his chair to stand up. When he stood up he was tall and of great bulk. He had a hanging face, dark wine-coloured, with fair eyebrows and moustache: his eyes bulged forward slightly and the whites of them were dirty. He lifted up the counter and, passing by the clients, went out of the office with a heavy step.
He went heavily upstairs until he came to the second landing, where a door bore a brass plate with the inscription Mr. Alleyne. Here he halted, puffing with labour and vexation, and knocked. The shrill voice cried:
The man entered Mr. Alleyne’s room. Simultaneously Mr. Alleyne, a little man wearing gold-rimmed glasses on a cleanshaven face, shot his head up over a pile of documents. The head itself was so pink and hairless it seemed like a large egg reposing on the papers. Mr. Alleyne did not lose a moment:
“Farrington? What is the meaning of this? Why have I always to complain of you? May I ask you why you haven’t made a copy of that contract between Bodley and Kirwan? I told you it must be ready by four o’clock.”
“But Mr. Shelley said, sir—-”
“Mr. Shelley said, sir …. Kindly attend to what I say and not to what Mr. Shelley says, sir. You have always some excuse or another for shirking work. Let me tell you that if the contract is not copied before this evening I’ll lay the matter before Mr. Crosbie…. Do you hear me now?”
“Do you hear me now?… Ay and another little matter! I might as well be talking to the wall as talking to you. Understand once for all that you get a half an hour for your lunch and not an hour and a half. How many courses do you want, I’d like to know…. Do you mind me now?”
Mr. Alleyne bent his head again upon his pile of papers. The man stared fixedly at the polished skull which directed the affairs of Crosbie & Alleyne, gauging its fragility. A spasm of rage gripped his throat for a few moments and then passed, leaving after it a sharp sensation of thirst. The man recognised the sensation and felt that he must have a good night’s drinking. The middle of the month was passed and, if he could get the copy done in time, Mr. Alleyne might give him an order on the cashier. He stood still, gazing fixedly at the head upon the pile of papers. Suddenly Mr. Alleyne began to upset all the papers, searching for something. Then, as if he had been unaware of the man’s presence till that moment, he shot up his head again, saying:
“Eh? Are you going to stand there all day? Upon my word, Farrington, you take things easy!”
“I was waiting to see…”
“Very good, you needn’t wait to see. Go downstairs and do your work.”
The man walked heavily towards the door and, as he went out of the room, he heard Mr. Alleyne cry after him that if the contract was not copied by evening Mr. Crosbie would hear of the matter.
He returned to his desk in the lower office and counted the sheets which remained to be copied. He took up his pen and dipped it in the ink but he continued to stare stupidly at the last words he had written: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be… The evening was falling and in a few minutes they would be lighting the gas: then he could write. He felt that he must slake the thirst in his throat. He stood up from his desk and, lifting the counter as before, passed out of the office. As he was passing out the chief clerk looked at him inquiringly.
“It’s all right, Mr. Shelley,” said the man, pointing with his finger to indicate the objective of his journey.
The chief clerk glanced at the hat-rack, but, seeing the row complete, offered no remark. As soon as he was on the landing the man pulled a shepherd’s plaid cap out of his pocket, put it on his head and ran quickly down the rickety stairs. From the street door he walked on furtively on the inner side of the path towards the corner and all at once dived into a doorway. He was now safe in the dark snug of O’Neill’s shop, and filling up the little window that looked into the bar with his inflamed face, the colour of dark wine or dark meat, he called out:
“Here, Pat, give us a g.p.. like a good fellow.”
The curate brought him a glass of plain porter. The man drank it at a gulp and asked for a caraway seed. He put his penny on the counter and, leaving the curate to grope for it in the gloom, retreated out of the snug as furtively as he had entered it.
Darkness, accompanied by a thick fog, was gaining upon the dusk of February and the lamps in Eustace Street had been lit. The man went up by the houses until he reached the door of the office, wondering whether he could finish his copy in time. On the stairs a moist pungent odour of perfumes saluted his nose: evidently Miss Delacour had come while he was out in O’Neill’s. He crammed his cap back again into his pocket and re-entered the office, assuming an air of absentmindedness.
“Mr. Alleyne has been calling for you,” said the chief clerk severely. “Where were you?”
The man glanced at the two clients who were standing at the counter as if to intimate that their presence prevented him from answering. As the clients were both male the chief clerk allowed himself a laugh.
“I know that game,” he said. “Five times in one day is a little bit… Well, you better look sharp and get a copy of our correspondence in the Delacour case for Mr. Alleyne.”
This address in the presence of the public, his run upstairs and the porter he had gulped down so hastily confused the man and, as he sat down at his desk to get what was required, he realised how hopeless was the task of finishing his copy of the contract before half past five. The dark damp night was coming and he longed to spend it in the bars, drinking with his friends amid the glare of gas and the clatter of glasses. He got out the Delacour correspondence and passed out of the office. He hoped Mr. Alleyne would not discover that the last two letters were missing.
The moist pungent perfume lay all the way up to Mr. Alleyne’s room. Miss Delacour was a middle-aged woman of Jewish appearance. Mr. Alleyne was said to be sweet on her or on her money. She came to the office often and stayed a long time when she came. She was sitting beside his desk now in an aroma of perfumes, smoothing the handle of her umbrella and nodding the great black feather in her hat. Mr. Alleyne had swivelled his chair round to face her and thrown his right foot jauntily upon his left knee. The man put the correspondence on the desk and bowed respectfully but neither Mr. Alleyne nor Miss Delacour took any notice of his bow. Mr. Alleyne tapped a finger on the correspondence and then flicked it towards him as if to say: “That’s all right: you can go.”
The man returned to the lower office and sat down again at his desk. He stared intently at the incomplete phrase: In no case shall the said Bernard Bodley be… and thought how strange it was that the last three words began with the same letter. The chief clerk began to hurry Miss Parker, saying she would never have the letters typed in time for post. The man listened to the clicking of the machine for a few minutes and then set to work to finish his copy. But his head was not clear and his mind wandered away to the glare and rattle of the public-house. It was a night for hot punches. He struggled on with his copy, but when the clock struck five he had still fourteen pages to write. Blast it! He couldn’t finish it in time. He longed to execrate aloud, to bring his fist down on something violently. He was so enraged that he wrote Bernard Bernard instead of Bernard Bodley and had to begin again on a clean sheet.
He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office singlehanded. His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. All the indignities of his life enraged him…. Could he ask the cashier privately for an advance? No, the cashier was no good, no damn good: he wouldn’t give an advance…. He knew where he would meet the boys: Leonard and O’Halloran and Nosey Flynn. The barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.
His imagination had so abstracted him that his name was called twice before he answered. Mr. Alleyne and Miss Delacour were standing outside the counter and all the clerks had turn round in anticipation of something. The man got up from his desk. Mr. Alleyne began a tirade of abuse, saying that two letters were missing. The man answered that he knew nothing about them, that he had made a faithful copy. The tirade continued: it was so bitter and violent that the man could hardly restrain his fist from descending upon the head of the manikin before him:
“I know nothing about any other two letters,” he said stupidly.
“You–know–nothing. Of course you know nothing,” said Mr. Alleyne. “Tell me,” he added, glancing first for approval to the lady beside him, “do you take me for a fool? Do you think me an utter fool?”
The man glanced from the lady’s face to the little egg-shaped head and back again; and, almost before he was aware of it, his tongue had found a felicitous moment:
“I don’t think, sir,” he said, “that that’s a fair question to put to me.”
There was a pause in the very breathing of the clerks. Everyone was astounded (the author of the witticism no less than his neighbours) and Miss Delacour, who was a stout amiable person, began to smile broadly. Mr. Alleyne flushed to the hue of a wild rose and his mouth twitched with a dwarf s passion. He shook his fist in the man’s face till it seemed to vibrate like the knob of some electric machine:
“You impertinent ruffian! You impertinent ruffian! I’ll make short work of you! Wait till you see! You’ll apologise to me for your impertinence or you’ll quit the office instanter! You’ll quit this, I’m telling you, or you’ll apologise to me!”
He stood in a doorway opposite the office watching to see if the cashier would come out alone. All the clerks passed out and finally the cashier came out with the chief clerk. It was no use trying to say a word to him when he was with the chief clerk. The man felt that his position was bad enough. He had been obliged to offer an abject apology to Mr. Alleyne for his impertinence but he knew what a hornet’s nest the office would be for him. He could remember the way in which Mr. Alleyne had hounded little Peake out of the office in order to make room for his own nephew. He felt savage and thirsty and revengeful, annoyed with himself and with everyone else. Mr. Alleyne would never give him an hour’s rest; his life would be a hell to him. He had made a proper fool of himself this time. Could he not keep his tongue in his cheek? But they had never pulled together from the first, he and Mr. Alleyne, ever since the day Mr. Alleyne had overheard him mimicking his North of Ireland accent to amuse Higgins and Miss Parker: that had been the beginning of it. He might have tried Higgins for the money, but sure Higgins never had anything for himself. A man with two establishments to keep up, of course he couldn’t….
He felt his great body again aching for the comfort of the public-house. The fog had begun to chill him and he wondered could he touch Pat in O’Neill’s. He could not touch him for more than a bob — and a bob was no use. Yet he must get money somewhere or other: he had spent his last penny for the g.p. and soon it would be too late for getting money anywhere. Suddenly, as he was fingering his watch-chain, he thought of Terry Kelly’s pawn-office in Fleet Street. That was the dart! Why didn’t he think of it sooner?
He went through the narrow alley of Temple Bar quickly, muttering to himself that they could all go to hell because he was going to have a good night of it. The clerk in Terry Kelly’s said A crown! but the consignor held out for six shillings; and in the end the six shillings was allowed him literally. He came out of the pawn-office joyfully, making a little cylinder, of the coins between his thumb and fingers. In Westmoreland Street the footpaths were crowded with young men and women returning from business and ragged urchins ran here and there yelling out the names of the evening editions. The man passed through the crowd, looking on the spectacle generally with proud satisfaction and staring masterfully at the office-girls. His head was full of the noises of tram- gongs and swishing trolleys and his nose already sniffed the curling fumes punch. As he walked on he preconsidered the terms in which he would narrate the incident to the boys:
“So, I just looked at him — coolly, you know, and looked at her. Then I looked back at him again — taking my time, you know. ‘I don’t think that that’s a fair question to put to me,’ says I.”
Nosey Flynn was sitting up in his usual corner of Davy Byrne’s and, when he heard the story, he stood Farrington a half-one, saying it was as smart a thing as ever he heard. Farrington stood a drink in his turn. After a while O’Halloran and Paddy Leonard came in and the story was repeated to them. O’Halloran stood tailors of malt, hot, all round and told the story of the retort he had made to the chief clerk when he was in Callan’s of Fownes’s Street; but, as the retort was after the manner of the liberal shepherds in the eclogues, he had to admit that it was not as clever as Farrington’s retort. At this Farrington told the boys to polish off that and have another.
Just as they were naming their poisons who should come in but Higgins! Of course he had to join in with the others. The men asked him to give his version of it, and he did so with great vivacity for the sight of five small hot whiskies was very exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing when he showed the way in which Mr. Alleyne shook his fist in Farrington’s face. Then he imitated Farrington, saying, “And here was my nabs, as cool as you please,” while Farrington looked at the company out of his heavy dirty eyes, smiling and at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor from his moustache with the aid of his lower lip.
When that round was over there was a pause. O’Halloran had money but neither of the other two seemed to have any; so the whole party left the shop somewhat regretfully. At the corner of Duke Street Higgins and Nosey Flynn bevelled off to the left while the other three turned back towards the city. Rain was drizzling down on the cold streets and, when they reached the Ballast Office, Farrington suggested the Scotch House. The bar was full of men and loud with the noise of tongues and glasses. The three men pushed past the whining matchsellers at the door and formed a little party at the corner of the counter. They began to exchange stories. Leonard introduced them to a young fellow named Weathers who was performing at the Tivoli as an acrobat and knockabout artiste. Farrington stood a drink all round. Weathers said he would take a small Irish and Apollinaris. Farrington, who had definite notions of what was what, asked the boys would they have an Apollinaris too; but the boys told Tim to make theirs hot. The talk became theatrical. O’Halloran stood a round and then Farrington stood another round, Weathers protesting that the hospitality was too Irish. He promised to get them in behind the scenes and introduce them to some nice girls. O’Halloran said that he and Leonard would go, but that Farrington wouldn’t go because he was a married man; and Farrington’s heavy dirty eyes leered at the company in token that he understood he was being chaffed. Weathers made them all have just one little tincture at his expense and promised to meet them later on at Mulligan’s in Poolbeg Street.
When the Scotch House closed they went round to Mulligan’s. They went into the parlour at the back and O’Halloran ordered small hot specials all round. They were all beginning to feel mellow. Farrington was just standing another round when Weathers came back. Much to Farrington’s relief he drank a glass of bitter this time. Funds were getting low but they had enough to keep them going. Presently two young women with big hats and a young man in a check suit came in and sat at a table close by. Weathers saluted them and told the company that they were out of the Tivoli. Farrington’s eyes wandered at every moment in the direction of one of the young women. There was something striking in her appearance. An immense scarf of peacock-blue muslin was wound round her hat and knotted in a great bow under her chin; and she wore bright yellow gloves, reaching to the elbow. Farrington gazed admiringly at the plump arm which she moved very often and with much grace; and when, after a little time, she answered his gaze he admired still more her large dark brown eyes. The oblique staring expression in them fascinated him. She glanced at him once or twice and, when the party was leaving the room, she brushed against his chair and said “O, pardon!” in a London accent. He watched her leave the room in the hope that she would look back at him, but he was disappointed. He cursed his want of money and cursed all the rounds he had stood, particularly all the whiskies and Apolinaris which he had stood to Weathers. If there was one thing that he hated it was a sponge. He was so angry that he lost count of the conversation of his friends.
When Paddy Leonard called him he found that they were talking about feats of strength. Weathers was showing his biceps muscle to the company and boasting so much that the other two had called on Farrington to uphold the national honour. Farrington pulled up his sleeve accordingly and showed his biceps muscle to the company. The two arms were examined and compared and finally it was agreed to have a trial of strength. The table was cleared and the two men rested their elbows on it, clasping hands. When Paddy Leonard said “Go!” each was to try to bring down the other’s hand on to the table. Farrington looked very serious and determined.
The trial began. After about thirty seconds Weathers brought his opponent’s hand slowly down on to the table. Farrington’s dark wine-coloured face flushed darker still with anger and humiliation at having been defeated by such a stripling.
“You’re not to put the weight of your body behind it. Play fair,” he said.
“Who’s not playing fair?” said the other.
“Come on again. The two best out of three.”
The trial began again. The veins stood out on Farrington’s forehead, and the pallor of Weathers’ complexion changed to peony. Their hands and arms trembled under the stress. After a long struggle Weathers again brought his opponent’s hand slowly on to the table. There was a murmur of applause from the spectators. The curate, who was standing beside the table, nodded his red head towards the victor and said with stupid familiarity:
“Ah! that’s the knack!”
“What the hell do you know about it?” said Farrington fiercely, turning on the man. “What do you put in your gab for?”
“Sh, sh!” said O’Halloran, observing the violent expression of Farrington’s face. “Pony up, boys. We’ll have just one little smahan more and then we’ll be off.”
A very sullen-faced man stood at the corner of O’Connell Bridge waiting for the little Sandymount tram to take him home. He was full of smouldering anger and revengefulness. He felt humiliated and discontented; he did not even feel drunk; and he had only twopence in his pocket. He cursed everything. He had done for himself in the office, pawned his watch, spent all his money; and he had not even got drunk. He began to feel thirsty again and he longed to be back again in the hot reeking public-house. He had lost his reputation as a strong man, having been defeated twice by a mere boy. His heart swelled with fury and, when he thought of the woman in the big hat who had brushed against him and said Pardon! his fury nearly choked him.
His tram let him down at Shelbourne Road and he steered his great body along in the shadow of the wall of the barracks. He loathed returning to his home. When he went in by the side- door he found the kitchen empty and the kitchen fire nearly out. He bawled upstairs:
His wife was a little sharp-faced woman who bullied her husband when he was sober and was bullied by him when he was drunk. They had five children. A little boy came running down the stairs.
“Who is that?” said the man, peering through the darkness.
“Who are you? Charlie?”
“No, pa. Tom.”
“Where’s your mother?”
“She’s out at the chapel.”
“That’s right…. Did she think of leaving any dinner for me?”
“Yes, pa. I –”
“Light the lamp. What do you mean by having the place in darkness? Are the other children in bed?”
The man sat down heavily on one of the chairs while the little boy lit the lamp. He began to mimic his son’s flat accent, saying half to himself: “At the chapel. At the chapel, if you please!” When the lamp was lit he banged his fist on the table and shouted:
“What’s for my dinner?”
“I’m going… to cook it, pa,” said the little boy.
The man jumped up furiously and pointed to the fire.
“On that fire! You let the fire out! By God, I’ll teach you to do that again!”
He took a step to the door and seized the walking-stick which was standing behind it.
“I’ll teach you to let the fire out!” he said, rolling up his sleeve in order to give his arm free play.
The little boy cried “O, pa!” and ran whimpering round the table, but the man followed him and caught him by the coat. The little boy looked about him wildly but, seeing no way of escape, fell upon his knees.
“Now, you’ll let the fire out the next time!” said the man striking at him vigorously with the stick. “Take that, you little whelp!”
The boy uttered a squeal of pain as the stick cut his thigh. He clasped his hands together in the air and his voice shook with fright.
“O, pa!” he cried. “Don’t beat me, pa! And I’ll… I’ll say a Hail Mary for you…. I’ll say a Hail Mary for you, pa, if you don’t beat me…. I’ll say a Hail Mary….”
By Flannery O’Connor
THE GRANDMOTHER didn’t want to go to Florida. She wanted to visit some of her connections in east Tennessee and she was seizing at every chance to change Bailey’s mind. Bailey was the son she lived with, her only boy. He was sitting on the edge of his chair at the table, bent over the orange sports section of the Journal. “Now look here, Bailey,” she said, “see here, read this,” and she stood with one hand on her thin hip and the other rattling the newspaper at his bald head. “Here this fellow that calls himself The Misfit is aloose from the Federal Pen and headed toward Florida and you read here what it says he did to these people. Just you read it. I wouldn’t take my children in any direction with a criminal like that aloose in it. I couldn’t answer to my conscience if I did.”
Bailey didn’t look up from his reading so she wheeled around then and faced the children’s mother, a young woman in slacks, whose face was as broad and innocent as a cabbage and was tied around with a green head-kerchief that had two points on the top like rabbit’s ears. She was sitting on the sofa, feeding the baby his apricots out of a jar. “The children have been to Florida before,” the old lady said. “You all ought to take them somewhere else for a change so they would see different parts of the world and be broad. They never have been to east Tennessee.”
The children’s mother didn’t seem to hear her but the eight-year-old boy, John Wesley, a stocky child with glasses, said, “If you don’t want to go to Florida, why dontcha stay at home?” He and the little girl, June Star, were reading the funny papers on the floor.
“She wouldn’t stay at home to be queen for a day,” June Star said without raising her yellow head.
“Yes and what would you do if this fellow, The Misfit, caught you?” the grandmother asked.
“I’d smack his face,” John Wesley said.
“She wouldn’t stay at home for a million bucks,” June Star said. “Afraid she’d miss something. She has to go everywhere we go.”
138 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
“All right, Miss,” the grandmother said. “Just remember that the next time you want me to curl your hair.”
June Star said her hair was naturally curly.
The next morning the grandmother was the first one in the car, ready to go. She had her big black valise that looked like the head of a hippopotamus in one corner, and underneath it she was hiding a basket with Pitty Sing, the cat, in it. She didn’t intend for the cat to be left alone in the house for three days because he would miss her too much and she was afraid he might brush against one of the gas burners and accidentally asphyxiate himself. Her son, Bailey, didn’t like to arrive at a motel with a cat.
She sat in the middle of the back seat with John Wesley and June Star on either side of her. Bailey and the children’s mother and the baby sat in front and they left Atlanta at eight forty-five with the mileage on the car at 55890. The grandmother wrote this down because she thought it would be interesting to say how many miles they had been when they got back. It took them twenty minutes to reach the outskirts of the city.
The old lady settled herself comfortably, removing her white cotton gloves and putting them up with her purse on the shelf in front of the back window. The children’s mother still had on slacks and still had her head tied up in a green kerchief, but the grandmother had on a navy blue straw sailor hat with a bunch of white violets on the brim and a navy blue dress with a small white dot in the print. Her collars and cuffs were white organdy trimmed with lace and at her neckline she had pinned a purple spray of cloth violets containing a sachet. In case of an accident, anyone seeing her dead on the highway would know at once that she was a lady.
She said she thought it was going to be a good day for driving, neither too hot nor too cold, and she cautioned Bailey that the speed limit was fifty-five miles an hour and that the patrolmen hid themselves behind billboards and small clumps of trees and sped out after you before you had a chance to slow down. She pointed out interesting details of the scenery: Stone Mountain; the blue granite that in some places came up to both sides of the highway; the brilliant red clay banks slightly streaked with purple; and the various crops
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND 139
that made rows of green lace-work on the ground. The trees were full of silver-white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled. The children were reading comic magazines and their mother had gone back to sleep.
“Let’s go through Georgia fast so we won’t have to look at it much,” John Wesley said.
“If I were a little boy,” said the grandmother, “I wouldn’t talk about my native state that way. Tennessee has the mountains and Georgia has the hills.”
“Tennessee is just a hillbilly dumping ground,” John Wesley said, “and Georgia is a lousy state too.”
“You said it,” June Star said.
“In my time,” said the grandmother, folding her thin veined fingers, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else. People did right then. Oh look at the cute little pickaninny!” she said and pointed to a Negro child standing in the door of a shack. “Wouldn’t that make a picture, now?” she asked and they all turned and looked at the little Negro out of the back window. He waved.
“He didn’t have any britches on,” June Star said.
“He probably didn’t have any,” the grandmother explained. “Little niggers in the country don’t have things like we do. If I could paint, I’d paint that picture,” she said.
The children exchanged comic books.
The grandmother offered to hold the baby and the children’s mother passed him over the front seat to her. She set him on her knee and bounced him and told him about the things they were passing. She rolled her eyes and screwed up her mouth and stuck her leathery thin face into his smooth bland one. Occasionally he gave her a faraway smile. They passed a large cotton field with five or six graves fenced in the middle of it, like a small island. “Look at the graveyard!” the grandmother said, pointing it out. “That was the old family burying ground. That belonged to the plantation.”
“Where’s the plantation?” John Wesley asked.
“Gone With the Wind,” said the grandmother. “Ha. Ha.”
When the children finished all the comic books they had brought, they opened the lunch and ate it. The grandmother ate a peanut butter sandwich and an olive and would not let
I40 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
the children throw the box and the paper napkins out the window. When there was nothing else to do they played a game by choosing a cloud and making the other two guess what shape it suggested. John Wesley took one the shape of a cow and June Star guessed a cow and John Wesley said, no, an automobile, and June Star said he didn’t play fair, and they began to slap each other over the grandmother.
The grandmother said she would tell them a story if they would keep quiet. When she told a story, she rolled her eyes and waved her head and was very dramatic. She said once when she was a maiden lady she had been courted by a Mr. Edgar Atkins Teagarden from Jasper, Georgia. She said he was a very good-looking man and a gentleman and that he brought her a watermelon every Saturday afternoon with his initials cut in it, E. A. T. Well, one Saturday, she said, Mr. Teagarden brought the watermelon and there was nobody at home and he left it on the front porch and returned in his buggy to Jasper, but she never got the watermelon, she said, because a nigger boy ate it when he saw the initials, E. A. T.! This story tickled John Wesley’s funny bone and he giggled and giggled but June Star didn’t think it was any good. She said she wouldn’t marry a man that just brought her a watermelon on Saturday. The grandmother said she would have done well to marry Mr. Teagarden because he was a gentleman and had bought Coca-Cola stock when it first came out and that he had died only a few years ago, a very wealthy man.
They stopped at The Tower for barbecued sandwiches. The Tower was a part stucco and part wood filling station and dance hall set in a clearing outside of Timothy. A fat man named Red Sammy Butts ran it and there were signs stuck here and there on the building and for miles up and down the highway saying, TRY RED SAMMY’S FAMOUS BARBECUE. NONE LIKE FAMOUS RED SAMMY’S! RED SAM! THE FAT BOY WITH THE HAPPY LAUGH. A VETERAN! RED SAMMY’S YOUR MAN!
Red Sammy was lying on the bare ground outside The Tower with his head under a truck while a gray monkey about a foot high, chained to a small chinaberry tree, chattered nearby. The monkey sprang back into the tree and got on the
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND 141 highest limb as soon as he saw the children jump out of the car and run toward him.
Inside, The Tower was a long dark room with a counter at one end and tables at the other and dancing space in the middle. They all sat down at a board table next to the nickelodeon and Red Sam’s wife, a tall burnt-brown woman with hair and eyes lighter than her skin, came and took their order. The children’s mother put a dime in the machine and played “The Tennessee Waltz,” and the grandmother said that tune always made her want to dance. She asked Bailey if he would like to dance but he only glared at her. He didn’t have a naturally sunny disposition like she did and trips made him nervous. The grandmother’s brown eyes were very bright. She swayed her head from side to side and pretended she was dancing in her chair. June Star said play something she could tap to so the children’s mother put in another dime and played a fast number and June Star stepped out onto the dance floor and did her tap routine.
“Ain’t she cute?” Red Sam’s wife said, leaning over the counter. “Would you like to come be my little girl?”
“No I certainly wouldn’t,” June Star said. “I wouldn’t live in a broken-down place like this for a minion bucks!” and she ran back to the table.
“Ain’t she cute?” the woman repeated, stretching her mouth politely.
“Arn’t you ashamed?” hissed the grandmother.
Red Sam came in and told his wife to quit lounging on the counter and hurry up with these people’s order. His khaki trousers reached just to his hip bones and his stomach hung over them like a sack of meal swaying under his shirt. He came over and sat down at a table nearby and let out a combination sigh and yodel. “You can’t win,” he said. “You can’t win,” and he wiped his sweating red face off with a gray handkerchief. “These days you don’t know who to trust,” he said. “Ain’t that the truth?”
“People are certainly not nice like they used to be,” said the grandmother.
“Two fellers come in here last week,” Red Sammy said, “driving a Chrysler. It was a old beat-up car but it was a good one and these boys looked all right to me. Said they worked
142 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
at the mill and you know I let them fellers charge the gas they bought? Now why did I do that?”
“Because you’re a good man!” the grandmother said at once.
“Yes’m, I suppose so,” Red Sam said as if he were struck with this answer.
His wife brought the orders, carrying the five plates all at once without a tray, two in each hand and one balanced on her arm. “It isn’t a soul in this green world of God’s that you can trust,” she said. “And I don’t count nobody out of that, not nobody,” she repeated, looking at Red Sammy.
“Did you read about that criminal, The Misfit, that’s escaped?” asked the grandmother.
“I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he didn’t attact this place right here,” said the woman. “If he hears about it being here,I wouldn’t be none surprised to see him. If he hears it’s two cent in the cash register, I wouldn’t be a tall surprised if he . . .”
“That’ll do,” Red Sam said. “Go bring these people their Co’-Colas,” and the woman went off to get the rest of the order.
“A good man is hard to find,” Red Sammy said. “Every- thing is getting terrible. I remember the day you could go off and leave your screen door unlatched. Not no more.”
He and the grandmother discussed better times. The old lady said that in her opinion Europe was entirely to blame for the way things were now. She said the way Europe acted you would think we were made of money and Red Sam said it was no use talking about it, she was exactly right. The children ran outside into the white sunlight and looked at the monkey in the lacy chinaberry tree. He was busy catching fleas on himself and biting each one carefully between his teeth as if it were a delicacy.
They drove off again into the hot afternoon. The grand- mother took cat naps and woke up every few minutes with her own snoring. Outside of Toombsboro she woke up and recalled an old plantation that she had visited in this neighborhood once when she was a young lady. She said the house had six white columns across the front and that there was an avenue of oaks leading up to it and two little wooden trellis
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND 143
arbors on either side in front where you sat down with your suitor after a stroll in the garden. She recalled exactly which road to turn off to get to it. She knew that Bailey would not be willing to lose any time looking at an old house, but the more she talked about it, the more she wanted to see it once again and find out if the little twin arbors were still standing. “There was a secret panel in this house,” she said craftily, not telling the truth but wishing that she were, “and the story went that all the family silver was hidden in it when Sherman came through but it was never found . . .”
“Hey!” John Wesley said. “Let’s go see it! We’ll find it! We’ll poke all the woodwork and find it! Who lives there? Where do you turn off at? Hey Pop, can’t we turn off there?”
“We never have seen a house with a secret panel!” June Star shrieked. “Let’s go to the house with the secret panel! Hey Pop, can’t we go see the house with the secret panel!”
“It’s not far from here, I know,” the grandmother said. “It wouldn’t take over twenty minutes.”
Bailey was looking straight ahead. His jaw was as rigid as a horseshoe. “No,” he said.
The children began to yell and scream that they wanted to see the house with the secret panel. John Wesley kicked the back of the front seat and June Star hung over her mother’s shoulder and whined desperately into her ear that they never had any fun even on their vacation, that they could never do what THEY wanted to do. The baby began to scream and John Wesley kicked the back of the seat so hard that his father could feel the blows in his kidney.
“All right!” he shouted and drew the car to a stop at the side of the road. “Will you all shut up? Will you all just shut up for one second? If you don’t shut up, we won’t go anywhere.
“It would be very educational for them,” the grandmother murmured.
“All right,” Bailey said, “but get this: this is the only time we’re going to stop for anything like this. This is the one and only time.”
“The dirt road that you have to turn down is about a mile back,” the grandmother directed. “I marked it when we passed.”
144 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
“A dirt road,” Bailey groaned.
After they had turned around and were headed toward the dirt road, the grandmother recalled other points about the house, the beautiful glass over the front doorway and the candle-lamp in the hall. John Wesley said that the secret panel was probably in the fireplace.
“You can’t go inside this house,” Bailey said. “You don’t know who lives there.”
“While you all talk to the people in front, I’ll run around behind and get in a window,” John Wesley suggested.
“We’ll all stay in the car,” his mother said. They turned onto the dirt road and the car raced roughly along in a swirl of pink dust. The grandmother recalled the times when there were no paved roads and thirty miles was a day’s journey. The dirt road was hilly and there were sudden washes in it and sharp curves on dangerous embankments. All at once they would be on a hill, looking down over the blue tops of trees for miles around, then the next minute, they would be in a red depression with the dust-coated trees looking down on them.
“This place had better turn up in a minute,” Bailey said, “or I’m going to turn around.”
The road looked as if no one had traveled on it in months.
“It’s not much farther,” the grandmother said and just as she said it, a horrible thought came to her. The thought was so embarrassing that she turned red in the face and her eyes dilated and her feet jumped up, upsetting her valise in the corner. The instant the valise moved, the newspaper top she had over the basket under it rose with a snarl and Pitty Sing,the cat, sprang onto Bailey’s shoulder.
The children were thrown to the floor and their mother, clutching the baby, was thrown out the door onto the ground; the old lady was thrown into the front seat. The car turned over once and landed right-side-up in a gulch off the side of the road. Bailey remained in the driver’s seat with the cat-gray-striped with a broad white face and an orange nose-clinging to his neck like a caterpillar.
As soon as the children saw they could move their arms and legs, they scrambled out of the car, shouting, “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” The grandmother was curled up under the
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND 145
dashboard, hoping she was injured so that Bailey’s wrath would not come down on her all at once. The horrible thought she had had before the accident was that the house she had remembered so vividly was not in Georgia but in Tennessee.
Bailey removed the cat from his neck with both hands and flung it out the window against the side of a pine tree. Then he got out of the car and started looking for the children’s mother. She was sitting against the side of the red gutted ditch, holding the screaming baby, but she only had a cut down her face and a broken shoulder. “We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” the children screamed in a frenzy of delight.
“But nobody’s killed,” June Star said with disappointment as the grandmother limped out of the car, her hat still pinned to her head but the broken front brim standing up at a jaunty angle and the violet spray hanging off the side. They all sat down in the ditch, except the children, to recover from the shock. They were all shaking.
“Maybe a car will come along,” said the children’s mother hoarsely.
“I believe I have injured an organ,” said the grandmother, pressing her side, but no one answered her. Bailey’s teeth were clattering. He had on a yellow sport shirt with bright blue parrots designed in it and his face was as yellow as the l shirt. The grandmother decided that she would not mention that the house was in Tennessee.
The road was about ten feet above and they could see only the tops of the trees on the other side of it. Behind the ditch they were sitting in there were more woods, tall and dark and deep. In a few minutes they saw a car some distance away on top of a hill, coming slowly as if the occupants were watching them. The grandmother stood up and waved both arms dramatically to attract their attention. The car continued to come on slowly, disappeared around a bend and appeared again, moving even slower, on top of the hill they had gone over. It was a big black battered hearse-like automobile. There were three men in it.
It came to a stop just over them and for some minutes, the driver looked down with a steady expressionless gaze to where they were sitting, and didn’t speak. Then he turned his
146 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
head and muttered something to the other two and they got out. One was a fat boy in black trousers and a red sweat shirt with a silver stallion embossed on the front of it. He moved around on the right side of them and stood staring, his mouth partly open in a kind of loose grin. The other had on khaki pants and a blue striped coat and a gray hat pulled down very low, hiding most of his face. He came around slowly on the left side. Neither spoke.
The driver got out of the car and stood by the side of it, looking down at them. He was an older man than the other two. His hair was just beginning to gray and he wore silver- rimmed spectacles that gave him a scholarly look. He had a long creased face and didn’t have on any shirt or undershirt. He had on blue jeans that were too tight for him and was holding a black hat and a gun. The two boys also had guns.
“We’ve had an ACCIDENT!” the children screamed.
The grandmother had the peculiar feeling that the bespectacled man was someone she knew. His face was as familiar to her as if she had known him au her life but she could not recall who he was. He moved away from the car and began to come down the embankment, placing his feet carefully so that he wouldn’t slip. He had on tan and white shoes and no socks, and his ankles were red and thin. “Good afternoon,” he said. “I see you all had you a little spill.”
“We turned over twice!” said the grandmother.
“Once”,” he corrected. “We seen it happen. Try their car and see will it run, Hiram,” he said quietly to the boy with the gray hat.
“What you got that gun for?” John Wesley asked. “Whatcha gonna do with that gun?”
“Lady,” the man said to the children’s mother, “would you mind calling them children to sit down by you? Children make me nervous. I want all you all to sit down right together there where you’re at.”
“What are you telling US what to do for?” June Star asked.
Behind them the line of woods gaped like a dark open mouth. “Come here,” said their mother.
“Look here now,” Bailey began suddenly, “we’re in a predicament! We’re in . . .”
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND 147
The grandmother shrieked. She scrambled to her feet and stood staring. “You’re The Misfit!” she said. “I recognized you at once!”
“Yes’m,” the man said, smiling slightly as if he were pleased in spite of himself to be known, “but it would have been better for all of you, lady, if you hadn’t of reckernized me.”
Bailey turned his head sharply and said something to his mother that shocked even the children. The old lady began to cry and The Misfit reddened.
“Lady,” he said, “don’t you get upset. Sometimes a man says things he don’t mean. I don’t reckon he meant to talk to you thataway.”
“You wouldn’t shoot a lady, would you?” the grandmother said and removed a clean handkerchief from her cuff and began to slap at her eyes with it.
The Misfit pointed the toe of his shoe into the ground and made a little hole and then covered it up again. “I would hate to have to,” he said.
“Listen,” the grandmother almost screamed, “I know you’re a good man. You don’t look a bit like you have com- mon blood. I know you must come from nice people!”
“Yes mam,” he said, “finest people in the world.” When he smiled he showed a row of strong white teeth. “God never made a finer woman than my mother and my daddy’s heart was pure gold,” he said. The boy with the red sweat shirt had come around behind them and was standing with his gun at his hip. The Misfit squatted down on the ground. “Watch them children, Bobby Lee,” he said. “You know they make me nervous.” He looked at the six of them huddled together in front of him and he seemed to be embarrassed as if he couldn’t think of anything to say. “Ain’t a cloud in the sky,” he remarked, looking up at it. “Don’t see no sun but don’t see no cloud neither.”
“Yes, it’s a beautiful day,” said the grandmother. “Listen,” she said, “you shouldn’t call yourself The Misfit because I know you’re a good man at heart. I can just look at you and tell ”
“Hush!” Bailey yelled. “Hush! Everybody shut up and let me handle this!” He was squatting in the position of a runner about to sprint forward but he didn’t move.
148 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
“I prechate that, lady,” The Misfit said and drew a little circle in the ground with the butt of his gun.
“It’ll take a half a hour to fix this here car,” Hiram called, looking over the raised hood of it.
“Well, first you and Bobby Lee get him and that little boy to step over yonder with you,” The Misfit said, pointing to Bailey and John Wesley. “The boys want to ast you some- thing,” he said to Bailey. “Would you mind stepping back in them woods there with them?”
“Listen,” Bailey began, “we’re in a terrible predicament! Nobody realizes what this is,” and his voice cracked. His eyes were as blue and intense as the parrots in his shirt and he remained perfectly still.
The grandmother reached up to adjust her hat brim as if she were going to the woods with him but it came off in her hand. She stood staring at it and after a second she let it fall on the ground. Hiram pulled Bailey up by the arm as if he were assisting an old man. John Wesley caught hold of his father’s hand and Bobby Lee followed. They went off toward the woods and just as they reached the dark edge, Bailey turned and supporting himself against a gray naked pine trunk, he shouted, “I’ll be back in a minute, Mamma, wait on me!”
“Come back this instant!” his mother shrilled but they all disappeared into the woods.
“Bailey Boy!” the grandmother called in a tragic voice but she found she was looking at The Misfit squatting on the ground in front of her. “I just know you’re a good man,” she said desperately. “You’re not a bit common!”
“Nome, I ain’t a good man,” The Misfit said after a second as if he had considered her statement carefully, “but I ain’t the worst in the world neither. My daddy said I was a different breed of dog from my brothers and sisters. ‘You know,’ Daddy said, ‘it’s some that can live their whole life out without asking about it and it’s others has to know why it is, and this boy is one of the latters. He’s going to be into every- thing!'” He put on his black hat and looked up suddenly and then away deep into the woods as if he were embarrassed again. “I’m sorry I don’t have on a shirt before you ladies,” he said, hunching his shoulders slightly. “We buried our clothes that we had on when we escaped and we’re just
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND I49
making do until we can get better. We borrowed these from some folks we met,” he explained.
“That’s perfectly all right,” the grandmother said. “Maybe Bailey has an extra shirt in his suitcase.”
“I’ll look and see terrectly,” The Misfit said.
“Where are they taking him?” the children’s mother screamed.
“Daddy was a card himself,” The Misfit said. “You couldn’t put anything over on him. He never got in trouble with the Authorities though. Just had the knack of handling them.”
“You could be honest too if you’d only try,” said the grandmother. “Think how wonderful it would be to settle down and live a comfortable life and not have to think about some- body chasing you all the time.”
The Misfit kept scratching in the ground with the butt of his gun as if he were thinking about it. “Yes’m, somebody is always after you,” he murmured.
The grandmother noticed how thin his shoulder blades were just behind-his hat because she was standing up looking down on him. “Do you ever pray?” she asked.
He shook his head. All she saw was the black hat wiggle between his shoulder blades. “Nome,” he said.
There was a pistol shot from the woods, followed closely by another. Then silence. The old lady’s head jerked around. She could hear the wind move through the tree tops like a long satisfied insuck of breath. “Bailey Boy!” she called.
“I was a gospel singer for a while,” The Misfit said. “I been most everything. Been in the arm service, both land and sea, at home and abroad, been twict married, been an undertaker, been with the railroads, plowed Mother Earth, been in a tornado, seen a man burnt alive oncet,” and he looked up at the children’s mother and the little girl who were sitting close together, their faces white and their eyes glassy; “I even seen a woman flogged,” he said.
“Pray, pray,” the grandmother began, “pray, pray . . .”
“I never was a bad boy that I remember of,” The Misfit said in an almost dreamy voice, “but somewheres along the line I done something wrong and got sent to the penitentiary. I was buried alive,” and he looked up and held her attention to him by a steady stare.
150 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND
“That’s when you should have started to pray,” she said “What did you do to get sent to the penitentiary that first time?”
“Turn to the right, it was a wall,” The Misfit said, looking up again at the cloudless sky. “Turn to the left, it was a wall. Look up it was a ceiling, look down it was a floor. I forget what I done, lady. I set there and set there, trying to remember what it was I done and I ain’t recalled it to this day. Oncet in a while, I would think it was coming to me, but it never come.”
“Maybe they put you in by mistake,” the old lady said vaguely.
“Nome,” he said. “It wasn’t no mistake. They had the papers on me.”
“You must have stolen something,” she said.
The Misfit sneered slightly. “Nobody had nothing I wanted,” he said. “It was a head-doctor at the penitentiary said what I had done was kill my daddy but I known that for a lie. My daddy died in nineteen ought nineteen of the epidemic flu and I never had a thing to do with it. He was buried in the Mount Hopewell Baptist churchyard and you can go there and see for yourself.”
“If you would pray,” the old lady said, “Jesus would help you.”
“That’s right,” The Misfit said.
“Well then, why don’t you pray?” she asked trembling with delight suddenly.
“I don’t want no hep,” he said. “I’m doing all right by myself.”
Bobby Lee and Hiram came ambling back from the woods. Bobby Lee was dragging a yellow shirt with bright blue parrots in it.
“Thow me that shirt, Bobby Lee,” The Misfit said. The shirt came flying at him and landed on his shoulder and he put it on. The grandmother couldn’t name what the shirt reminded her of. “No, lady,” The Misfit said while he was buttoning it up, “I found out the crime don’t matter. You can do one thing or you can do another, kill a man or take a tire off his car, because sooner or later you’re going to forget what it was you done and just be punished for it.”
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND 151
The children’s mother had begun to make heaving noises as if she couldn’t get her breath. “Lady,” he asked, “would you and that little girl like to step off yonder with Bobby Lee and Hiram and join your husband?”
“Yes, thank you,” the mother said faintly. Her left arm dangled helplessly and she was holding the baby, who had gone to sleep, in the other. “Hep that lady up, Hiram,” The Misfit said as she struggled to climb out of the ditch, “and Bobby Lee, you hold onto that little girl’s hand.”
“I don’t want to hold hands with him,” June Star said. “He reminds me of a pig.”
The fat boy blushed and laughed and caught her by the arm and pulled her off into the woods after Hiram and her mother.
Alone with The Misfit, the grandmother found that she had lost her voice. There was not a cloud in the sky nor any sun. There was nothing around her but woods. She wanted to tell him that he must pray. She opened and closed her mouth several times before anything came out. Finally she found herself saying, “Jesus. Jesus,” meaning, Jesus will help you, but the way she was saying it, it sounded as if she might be cursing.
“Yes’m,” The Misfit said as if he agreed. “Jesus shown everything off balance. It was the same case with Him as with me except He hadn’t committed any crime and they could prove I had committed one because they had the papers on me. Of course,” he said, “they never shown me my papers. That’s why I sign myself now. I said long ago, you get you a signature and sign everything you do and keep a copy of it. Then you’ll know what you done and you can hold up the crime to the punishment and see do they match and in the end you’ll have something to prove you ain’t been treated right. I call myself The Misfit,” he said, “because I can’t make what all I done wrong fit what all I gone through in punishment.”
There was a piercing scream from the woods, followed closely by a pistol report. “Does it seem right to you, lady, that one is punished a heap and another ain’t punished at all?”
“Jesus!” the old lady cried. “You’ve got good blood! I know you wouldn’t shoot a lady! I know you come from nice
152 A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND people! Pray! Jesus, you ought not to shoot a lady. I’ll give you all the money I’ve got!”
“Lady,” The Misfit said, looking beyond her far into the woods, “there never was a body that give the undertaker a tip.”
There were two more pistol reports and the grandmother raised her head like a parched old turkey hen crying for water and called, “Bailey Boy, Bailey Boy!” as if her heart would break.
“Jesus was the only One that ever raised the dead,” The Misfit continued, “and He shouldn’t have done it. He shown everything off balance. If He did what He said, then it’s nothing for you to do but thow away everything and follow Him, and if He didn’t, then it’s nothing for you to do but enjoy the few minutes you got left the best way you can-by killing somebody or burning down his house or doing some other meanness to him. No pleasure but meanness,” he said and his voice had become almost a snarl.
“Maybe He didn’t raise the dead,” the old lady mumbled, not knowing what she was saying and feeling so dizzy that she sank down in the ditch with her legs twisted under her.
“I wasn’t there so I can’t say He didn’t,” The Misfit said. “I wisht I had of been there,” he said, hitting the ground with his fist. “It ain’t right I wasn’t there because if I had of been there I would of known. Listen lady,” he said in a high voice, “if I had of been there I would of known and I wouldn’t be like I am now.” His voice seemed about to crack and the grandmother’s head cleared for an instant. She saw the man’s face twisted close to her own as if he were going to cry and she murmured, “Why you’re one of my babies. You’re one of my own children!” She reached out and touched him on the shoulder. The Misfit sprang back as if a snake had bitten him and shot her three times through the chest. Then he put his gun down on the ground and took off his glasses and began to clean them.
Hiram and Bobby Lee returned from the woods and stood over the ditch, looking down at the grandmother who half sat and half lay in a puddle of blood with her legs crossed under her like a child’s and her face smiling up at the cloudless sky.
A GOOD MAN IS HARD TO FIND 153
Without his glasses, The Misfit’s eyes were red-rimmed and pale and defenseless-looking. “Take her off and thow her where you shown the others,” he said, picking up the cat that was rubbing itself against his leg.
“She was a talker, wasn’t she?” Bobby Lee said, sliding down the ditch with a yodel.
“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”
“Some fun!” Bobby Lee said.
“Shut up, Bobby Lee” The Misfit said. “It’s no real pleasure in life.”