By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the September 28 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
By Mark Gutglueck
Over the objections of two members of the California legislature and dozens of residents who were speaking that day, more than two dozen residents who inveighed against the project in person five weeks previously and hundreds of others who had affixed their signatures to petitions of opposition, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday voted 4-to-1 to allow residential property in the unincorporated county area of Bloomington adjoining a school and other residences to be rezoned for light industrial use so it can host a 344,000-square foot warehouse.
The zone change was one component of a land use designation readjustment that further included an amendment to the county’s general plan, the granting of a conditional use permit, the certification of a final environmental impact report which enumerated negative consequences for nearby residents and students attending an adjacent high school along with a declaration by the board of supervisors that a set of considerations existed which overrode the negative consequences of the warehouse’s development and therefore justified granting the proponent permission to proceed with the project.
County officials are hoping the vote will bring to an end the four-year controversy that has pitted them and the project applicant on one side and a significant cross section of Bloomington residents and a burgeoning network of activists and environmentalists on the other. But there remains yet the possibility that a lawsuit will be filed on behalf of the unincorporated county area’s residents to prevent J.M. Realty Group, Inc. from proceeding with constructing the warehouse.
The reason for the bitter and deep resistance to the project is that the county’s granting of the zone change conversion of the property in question from residential to industrial has the potential of being a tipping point that will lead to the eventual wholesale conversion of what was once a predominantly rural and low density residential community into an industrial district.
The continuation of Bloomington’s existence as a primarily agricultural/residential zone has long been threatened by the three major transportation arterials that cross it east-west: the Santa Fe Railway line, the I-10 Freeway and Valley Boulevard. Over the last half century, what was once a largely rustic area has haphazardly absorbed what is now a jumble of commercial uses along the freeway and Valley Boulevard, many of them transportation related. South of the freeway, a hodgepodge of light and medium industrial uses, adjuncts to the rail line, have come to dot the landscape along two other east-west roads, Slover Avenue and Jurupa Avenue. And while the area yet remains laden with a substantial number of homes, some older, some modest, a few upscale and some modern and attractive tract homes that embody the advantage of being on quarter acre lots, there are only scattered remnants of the area’s agricultural past as most farms and ranches have gradually given way to conversion to industrial use in recent decades. The county supervisor long overseeing the area, Josie Gonzales, is being advised with regard to Bloomington primarily by members of the Bloomington Municipal Advisory Commission, a panel which is far more sympathetic toward the goal of achieving “economic development” of the area and making infrastructure improvements than in preserving the district as a blue collar bedroom community. Gonzales herself had previously demonstrated that she is inclined to welcome virtually any type of investment in the area, such that she perceives the status quo of allowing Bloomington’s neighborhoods to remain residential in orientation to be unacceptable if that means no further non-residential development will take place. Given the county’s governmental ethos, in which each county district represented by a single county supervisor exists as something of a political fiefdom where the wishes of that particular supervisor are respected and adhered to by the remaining supervisors in return for and out of an expectation that similar accommodation will be extended for each of them in their own districts, going into the meeting there was little prospect that the Bloomington residents who were hoping to preserve the primarily residential nature of their community would prevail. Moreover, a previous hearing relating to the warehouse project had been held by the board on August 21, during which a strong showing of Bloomington residents had provided input at that time. By virtue of a stratagem put forward by Principal County Counsel Bart Brizee, those who had weighed in at the August 21 meeting were prohibited from participating in the public comment portion of the September 25 meeting. In an effort to offset that disadvantage, the project opponents sought to marshal a showing of further protest by having many among their ranks who had not come forward earlier give discourse to their sentiments on Tuesday. In addition, the opponents brought in two of the heaviest guns they could muster, California State Senator Connie Leyva and Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez-Reyes, the representatives in the statehouse in Sacramento of the legislative districts that include Bloomington.
Leyva, who was president of California Labor Federation for two decades before going into politics to become today the office holder in California’s 20th Senate District, noted the presence of a bevy of orange shirt clad construction union members within the meeting chambers and that most of them were there in support of the project because the construction phase of the warehouse building will be a source of jobs for those in the construction industry. While commending those union members for their participation in the process, Leyva said, somewhat wistfully, “I wish we were on same side of this issue. I would argue that we just don’t need this piece of property to be rezoned from residential to commercial. Four years ago, when I was elected, I went on something we lovingly called the toxic tour. I went from one end of my district – I started in Pomona and we traversed through the district and ended up in San Bernardino. What I learned on that toxic tour is that we do bad things to people who don’t have a voice. We do bad things to people who cannot always stand up for themselves. One of those places we stopped along the way was this piece of land on Slover. I said, ‘I don’t see any toxicity here. What’s going on?’ Well, then I was quickly informed that there was a movement to try and rezone this piece of property and build a warehouse there, which of course is problematic for the residents who live there and problematic for anyone who lives in the area.”
Leyva continued, “Warehouses don’t themselves pollute. We all know that. It’s the trucks, the hundreds and hundreds of trucks that come in and out that pollute. Many of you might have grown up here like I did. We moved to Chino when I was three years old in 1970 and we couldn’t see the mountains many days. We had smog alerts. Your chest hurt. Well, now we see the mountains far more than we ever have before, and that’s because we’ve done a better job with regulations. What we also know is we see the mountains more but the particulates are smaller, so the Inland Empire still suffers from some of the worst air pollution in the country. Again, it is not the warehouses. It is the trucks that come in and out. I have had a hard time trying to figure out how this particular project will benefit the community.”
In a personal plea to the board members, Leyva said, “I, like all of you, took an oath to take care of all of the workers and all of the residents that you represent. I don’t see how this helps the residents who will live right behind this project. I don’t see how it helps the school children that will be within a thousand feet. Rezoning this property helps one person. It helps the developer. You might get some nice new sidewalks out of it. We might get a couple bushes, so it looks a little prettier. But who does this project really help? And why does it have to be built here? You have been working on this for three years and it is as if this is the only piece of property left in Bloomington, and there’s no place else to build this warehouse. There are plenty of other places that we could build this warehouse and build it with the project labor agreement so that my brothers and sisters in the labor movement will be able to do their job and continue their careers.”
Leyva then indicated that she understood that Josie Gonzales was backing the developer, but appealed to her colleagues to stand with Bloomington’s residents against the project. “I have spoken with Supervisor Gonzales,” Leyva said. “I know that you will be supporting the project. So, I’m asking that each and every one of the others of you – Mr. Ramos, Mr. Lovingood, Mr. Hagman and Mrs. Rutherford – to please vote no today on rezoning this piece of property from residential to commercial because I don’t see where it benefits the people that I took an oath to represent.”
47th District Assemblywoman Eloise Gomez-Reyes referenced the strong opposition of her constituents “to the Slover distribution project which is being proposed to be built right in their back yards. I have been presented with petitions signed by hundreds of community members objecting to the project. They tell me they bought their home for themselves and their families knowing the property behind their backyard was zoned residential, not industrial, not commercial. They, like the rest of us, want to be sure they do the best they can for the future of their family. Imagine their concern when they found out the owner of the property was now attempting to put a 344,000 square foot warehouse, the size of six football fields, less than 100 feet behind their backyard. Initially, they thought it’s not a big deal. They can’t put a warehouse there. But then they realized their voices were not being heard and that it now is going to be a possibility. The residents tell me that it is now clear the developers’ discussions have been with the elected officials rather than with the residents. As a constituent, I am deeply concerned about another warehouse that will necessarily add to the already overburdened diesel traffic in our communities. I’m concerned that residents bought their homes knowing that they were going to be next to a lot zoned residential, which is now being proposed for a change to industrial. It is clear in this instance that the property was purchased with clear knowledge that it was residential. There were no promises made that a warehouse could be built there. The owners have a desire to build something that is not allowed under the present zoning. It is now up to you to decide if this particular owner’s desires are more important to you than the desires of the residents. An aye vote for this project will set a precedent in the region which says it is okay for policy makers to disregard the voice of their constituents, that the only people who have a voice in policy in our community are those who have the resources to influence policy. Democracy is so much more than that. We must begin today to renew our pledge to our communities so they know their voice matters. I urge each one of you – Supervisor Gonzales, Supervisor Ramos, Chair Lovingood, Supervisor Hagman, Supervisor Rutherford – to respect the voice of the people you were elected to represent. On behalf of the community of Bloomington, which I also represent, I am urging a no vote on the rezoning proposal.”
Of significance was that the meeting was heavily attended by union members, the majority of whom appeared to be in favor of the approval of the zone change and the permitting of the project. Union support of the project was not universal, however. While some union members and union officials representing construction workers expressed support for the project and noted that the project proponent had committed to using union workers in the construction phase of the undertaking, others expressed opposition to the project in that there was no commitment to ensure that the warehouse workers will be unionized.
Jason Geiger of the Southwest Carpenters Training Fund was one of the latter. He said that the developers had “pledged to hire local labor and skilled labor” to construct the building but had refused to ensure that those who are employed in the facility after it is up and running will be organized. “San Bernardino County deserves to have developers who commit to the county for all work, not just one project,” Geiger said.
Darlene Scalf of Fontana, a retired teacher, said “There’s not a single person in Fontana or Bloomington that wants to live next to a warehouse. There’s not a single person in either one of those communities who wants their children to go to school with a warehouse directly across the street.”
Angelo Logan told the board, “Warehouses attract diesel pollution from trucks Many studies have identified diesel exhaust as a carcinogen, meaning there is a direct correlation between lung cancer and other respiratory illnesses and diesel exhaust. The State of California Air Resources Board has issued a land use guidance document that indicates you should not develop projects like warehouses in close proximity to residents and sensitive receptors.” Logan said the project “will cause detrimental harm to the public’s health. Warehouse jobs are typically temporary and low quality.”
Joan Kayano said students and parents of students at the nearby Bloomington High School campus “do not support” the project. “99 percent of parents and students did not know this was going there,” Kayano said. “Where is the engagement of your community? I am asking your to protect the children from getting sick from diesel pollution.”
Teresa Garcia, who identified herself as a retired county employee, said she had concerns about “traffic and pollution. This will bring a lot of traffic, more pollution and a lot of safety concerns for all of the children.”
Esperanza Razo of Fontana said the project would “create more problems for” asthmatics.
Samuel Rodriguez, a former Amazon warehouse employee, told the board, “I have seen firsthand how the logistics industry does not provide sustainable jobs for the people here in the Inland Empire. The average wage of a warehouse worker is $14,000 per year. To continue the expansion of warehouses here in our valley will only harm our community more, especially those projects proposed to be built next to homes and schools.”
Anthony Victoria, of the Center for Community Action and Environmental Justice, said the approval of the project would result in “poor quality jobs” and that the rush to approve the project was a demonstration of “poor leadership. The people of Bloomington have been clear that they don’t want this warehouse.”
Manuel Elizondo, one of only a few union member members to speak, said he supported the project because it would “provide members of our union work. I support projects like this that provide hardworking members of our community a chance to work on a well-paying job while also providing much needed infrastructure improvement for the rest of the community.”
Another union member, Jose Milena of Fontana, told the board of supervisors, “This project will provide me with much needed work.”
Anna Sanchez, who is currently residing in Fontana, said “This project should not be allowed in a residential neighborhood. The environmental impact report has many flaws and has been emphasized by the [project supporters]. These flaws make the environmental impact report inadequate for the California Environmental Quality Act. Your overriding considerations are not supported by substantial evidence on the record. The majority of your overriding considerations stem from your economic report for this project, the same economic report that has been highlighted by Dr. [Eric] Nilsson [a professor of economics at Cal State San Bernardino] as miscalculating jobs, economic output and earnings for this project. Based on Dr. Nilsson’s calculations, the jobs created is substantially less than 290. It will be 12 jobs. Estimated revenue earnings are not $35.2 million, but $1.3 million. And economic output is not $58 million but $2.1 million.”
Silvia Carrillo of Rialto, representing the Warehouse Workers Resource Center, said, “The warehouse jobs are not good jobs here in the region.”
Stephanie Montes, a Bloomington resident, called placing a warehouse into a residential zone “irresponsible. The accumulation of diesel exhaust near our homes and schools [will] expose our children and residents to heavy pollution.”
Melvin Martinez from Riverside said the first impression of Bloomington and San Bernardino County in general was of a “low standard community.” He said the political leadership should return to the concept of developing Bloomington with “agriculture produce markets” and pursue “other infrastructure projects other than these warehouses We don’t need kids living in hazardous, unsafe and unhealthy environments,” he said.
Marilyn Bundage, who lives on Octillo Street proximate to the planned warehouse, said, “When we bought our home the real estate agent told us the vacant lot was to be used for a residential area and later on some houses would be built, not a warehouse. Right now it’s a residential area. My neighbors, my family and I strongly oppose the rezoning because the vacant lot is so close to Bloomington High School. We do not want any more heavy and congested traffic.”
David Angel said, “I know that more warehouses is not the way to move the Inland Empire forward I worked in a warehouse in Mira Loma as a temporary worker. It was a low paying and unfulfilling job.”
Jennifer Arlington of Bloomington said, “We are comprised of working class families who are trying to make it. We are a rural and economically challenged community with children and the elderly living below the poverty line. Just because we are poor people, it doesn’t mean we don’t count. As a registered nurse, I come to the board to talk about what I see in two local emergency rooms. I have seen firsthand what pollution does to infants, children, adults who live in this community. This pollution is deadly to infants, children, adults and deadly to asthmatics and those with heart conditions and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.”
Noble Stephenson said, “I am not a fan of Asthma. If you were to vote in favor of this project, countless children will develop asthma.”
Vincent Razo, a student at UCR and Grand Terrace resident, said, “This project is against the best interest of the people of Bloomington and the surrounding area. I firmly believe that it’s important for struggling communities to invest in job opportunities and economic development, but not at the expense of the health of students at our high schools.”
Lennin Kuri said “I hope when you vote today you will picture the hundreds of children who will be affected by the pollution tied to diesel trucks from warehouses. We need sustainable forms of employment, not ones that exploit and often underpay their workers.”
Larry Saldana, a 40-year resident of Bloomington, said of the board of supervisors, “You all have made very poor decisions affecting Bloomington. You moved the railroad property over there from Colton to Bloomington, didn’t put any pedestrian access over the bridge; people on the north can’t walk to the south and vice versa.” He charged the board of supervisors with having already allowed someone to “put a warehouse next to the Bloomington Head Start. You folks plan poorly,” he said.
Darrell Peeden said, “We have incredible job growth, but our per capita income is completely going down the drain. We are getting poorer. 97 percent of all of the warehouses in Southern California are located in the Inland Empire. This has been going on for three decades. I think it’s time to change what we are doing. Do we not understand the data? Do we not understand what warehouses mean? It is one job for 10,000 square feet. We have horrible job density in this region. We need higher job density.”
Roxanne Bazo told the board, “My husband is a truck driver and I used to go with him when he was working as a truck driver, as a team. In that, I have seen warehouses behind the scene. I’m asking you guys: have you gone in unannounced to these warehouses? Have you gone in and experienced what the drivers do? The products, they are changed every couple of months. Are you aware that 1,100 pounds of batteries that go inside of a flashlight is considered toxic? Have you ever experienced a tractor backing up into a trailer hook up, their dispatcher yelling at them, and they forgetting they have hooked up and checked their trailer, when all of a sudden – bam! – that trailer has nosedived because they forgot to hook up and all that product inside careens either outside of it, smashed inside of it, pulled particles. All kinds of toxic stuff is kept inside those trailers. I found out not long ago that it is the marshal’s department who is supposed to be taking care and watching what goes inside of warehouses, but their funding was dropped to the very minimum. So for them to watch what is inside of those warehouses [is unlikely]. We chose to live in areas that were residential. Where did you choose to live yourself? We didn’t choose to live by these warehouses. You changed the zoning where I live.
Eduardo Galuan said, “I’m here speaking as a Bloomington resident with 15 years of experience in the warehousing industry. I’m usually on the side of my fellow blue collar workers, but we don’t see this project in the same light. Yes, it will bring great jobs, but only for two or three months while the project is built. Once the project is there, the jobs that are inside the warehouses are usually temporary jobs that really no family can sustain themselves on. This project, once it is built, it will not bring these jobs that are promised. This is just the beginning. They are going to encroach into our community. This is the first project of rezoning and there are already other companies buying out our neighbors’ properties. Once this project gets approved, it is going to go deeper and deeper and deeper into Bloomington. This is something we have to stop right now before it’s too late.”
Joseph Chastine said, “Economists have estimated that over 50 percent of the Inland Empire’s jobs will be taken from us from automation due to the sheer number of warehouse jobs that have been created in the Inland Empire. I personally have worked in a warehouse as a security guard and even security guard jobs are being replaced by robots in these warehouses. This is a major problem. When I worked as a security guard in a warehouse I personally saw these warehouse workers work for 16 hours a day straight sometimes, not being able to see their families, having to work for all of these hours in a row just to make ends meet. It is very hard to sustain yourself on these jobs. They are extremely low paying. They are extremely hard work.”
Horacio Moreno of Rialto said he supported the project. “This is a job that will keep us close to home and [we will] spend less time on the freeway,” he said.
Joel Velasquez, representing Local Labor Union 783, said the developer “will use 100 percent union labor on this project.”
Celeste Doyle, who was not in the board chambers in San Bernardino on Tuesday, addressed the board remotely by videoconferencing from the county facility in Joshua Tree. “This sounds way too much like what we in Joshua Tree have suffered at your hands,” she told the board of supervisors. “You approved years ago a conditional use permit for a bad project in a bad location. You ignored serious community concerns. You approved a conditional use permit for a project in Joshua Tree, refusing to conduct a traffic study. You dismissed community concerns about other impacts. You declared our community land use plan unenforceable and refused to address it. You have, in my opinion, a skewed and myopic view of what will benefit the people of your county. I think you really don’t care. By the way: spot zoning is illegal under state law. I want to support everyone who has made statements objecting to this project.”
The county’s chief planning official, Terry Rahhal, acknowledged that for the hearing on the project held August 21, inadequate notice had been provided to the public. According to Rahhal, for the Tuesday September 24 meeting “The noticing error was corrected.”
In August, the City of Rialto had filed objections to the project. Rahhal said that within the last fortnight Rialto had withdrawn those objections to the project.
Rahhal told the board that the county had received a letter from attorney Abigail Smith on behalf of the Sierra Club in which she took issue with “land use consistency and a potential conflict with the Bloomington Community Plan by approving a land use change on that particular site.” Rahhal told the board that Christine Donahue of the firm Michael Baker International, which serves as the county’s consultant with regard to the more tortuous of issues relating to development proposals in the county’s jurisdiction, had drafted an overview response to Smith’s letter. Rahhal offered a defense to the suggestions that the county was engaging in spot zoning by altering the long-in-existence zoning designation on the property to allow J.M. Realty Group to meet its development objective.
“Land use was addressed in the draft environmental impact report, including consistency with the Bloomington Community Plan,” Rahhal said. “In the Bloomington Community Plan, it calls out typical uses that are located within the community and identifies opportunities, and specifically an opportunity area between Slover Avenue and the I-10 as a perfect corridor for industrial development, and that generally industrial uses should be located in that corridor. It did not specifically prohibit any industrial uses on the south side of Slover, and one way that is evident is there was already industrial zoning on the south side of Slover, including directly across Laurel Avenue from the project site.”
A conceptual reduction that was recurrent throughout the hearing was that relating to both the support and nonsupport of the project by unions and individuals affiliated with unions. Those in favor of the project or recommending allowing the zone change to occur followed by the completion of the project consistently blurred the distinction between the union representing the construction workers and any possible unions that would represent the laborers at the warehouse once it is established. Those engaging in this reduction, which implied that the project had across-the-board union support, included both Gonzales and Rahhal. In general, the construction workers’ unions, which have extracted from the developer an assurance that union laborers receiving union scale wages would be employed during the construction phase of the project, advocated on behalf of the zone change and the project. Simultaneously, others were noting that no assurances had been made that the operators of the warehouse would employ unionized workers.
The lone member of the board of supervisors that made any acknowledgment of the consideration that the support of the construction workers’ unions was not tantamount to universal union support was Supervisor James Ramos.
Ramos noted that a spokesman for the carpenters union, Jason Geiger, opposed the project on the basis that there was no commitment to employ unionized workers within the warehouse.
“It’s important because it [union support] is put down as one of the significant overriding considerations when we can’t meet some of those criteria that are there,” Ramos said. “We’re being told one thing but yet we have speakers who really oppose what is being told to us.”
Rahhal, departing to some degree from her area of expertise, i.e., land use and planning, responded, “I don’t understand the motive of the speaker who said that,” in reference to Geiger’s opposition to the project approval.
Ramos took one more stab at getting to the bottom of the issue. “When you have one [union] get up and say they are opposed because they haven’t met their criteria and yet we’re being told by the developer that 100 percent, 99 percent, of those jobs will go toward [unionized] labor, then we have another speaker saying carpenters are involved, it’s really confusing as to who is going to get those jobs and who is not,” Ramos said. “And it is one of the significant overriding considerations to be discussed. It’s something I think we need clarity on.”
Ultimately, however, further discussion and the board’s action left open the question as to whether the ultimate operator of the warehouse would be bound to hire unionized workers.
Gonzales in her remarks laid down what she said was the rationale for transitioning land previously zoned for residential use in Bloomington into light industrial or transportation/logistics applications. “We all pretty much know that Slover as it runs east and west is considered an industrial corridor,” Gonzales said, asserting “the fact that it dead ends into Ontario Airport” and “runs along the I-10 corridor, the major goods movement corridor” as proof. She said, “At one time, and perhaps will again, be discussed that even the name of Slover be considered to be changed to Airport Drive.”
Another major consideration, Gonzales said, was the willingness of J.M. Realty Group to invest money and undertake a project in Bloomington. “For the longest number of years I do not recall there being such a strong interest in Bloomington as there is today,” Gonzales said. “I welcome that. It’s about time. The impetus for us looking at the community development plan and looking at land use zoning has been to improve the quality of life, has been to bring about order in a manner when it comes to future development. We can’t do anything about past development, either poor planning or no planning, which in my opinion has been the case. We can however now begin to work toward the new community plan. Within that, does this project bring conformity to what otherwise would continue to be a dysfunctional development use, again looking at the industrial corridor, looking at the strategic geographical location which we cannot change? We are looking to get a more structured development approach.”
In response, Rahhal said, “There are existing conditions of uses that don’t always go easily together, but moving forward the best way is to have the infill development work in between some of these inconsistencies. So when we look at this project site and it is between a very nice housing tract and Slover Avenue, the warehousing, the railroad track being behind that and the freeway, development of this site needs to serve a function that’s in between and that is the way the development plan provides a bit of a buffer.” Rahhal said it would be better to have a warehouse rather than houses fronting on Slover, suggesting that justified making the zone change.
Gonzales took a stab at refuting suggestions that warehouse work was insufficiently remunerative to support a family. Citing the “Inland Empire Quarterly Economic Report from April 2018,” Gonzales said “Mr. John Husing states that the median pay for the logistics job sector is $46,708 per year.” Gonzales said that $40,000 to $60,000 per year was considered a “moderate” wage.
An individual representing the developer, whose name and company Chairman Robert Lovingood did not clearly enunciate but which phonetically approximated “Phil Prasis of Crowell Holdings” told the board that the developer was “following all Cal Green standards” in completing the project. No reference to a Phil Prasis or any similar name nor the company Crowell Holdings was contained in the minutes of the meeting.
Ultimately, on a motion by Gonzales which was seconded by Rutherford, the board voted 4-to-1, with Ramos dissenting, to grant the zone change, amend the county’s general plan, approve a conditional use permit, certify the final environmental impact report and allow the warehouse project to proceed.
By Amanda Frye and Mark Gutglueck
In recent years, there has been significant controversy over the Nestlé Corporation’s siphoning of water from the San Bernardino National Forest.
Since 1992, when Nestlé acquired the Arrowhead brand from Perrier, the Swiss corporation has continued to bottle water drafted from the Strawberry Creek headwaters at the approximate 5,000 foot elevation level in the San Bernardino Mountains. The water withdrawal from the Strawberry Creek headwaters started in 1929 after the Arrowhead Spring Corporation sold Consolidated Waters questionable rights which appear to have been used to fund a 1925-issued “Gold Bond” payment. Perrier had obtained the Arrowhead water bottling operation and brand from a long list of predecessors, both valid corporations and shell entities, including BCI; Beatrice Foods; Coca Cola Bottling of L.A.; Northwest Industries of Chicago; Standard Oil; Rheem Manufacturing; Arrowhead Springs Co.; Consolidated Water, which had acquired that operation formerly operating as the Arrowhead Hot Springs Company; Arrowhead Puritas; Arrowhead and Puritas; Arrowhead Drinking Water Co.; BCI-Arrowhead Drinking Water; Arrowhead Water Corporation; the shell company “Arrowhead Mountain Spring Water Co.; Great Spring Waters of America; and Nestlé Waters of North America, Inc.
In 1978, Arrowhead Puritas renewed with the U.S. Forest Service a permit pertaining to transporting the harvested water from Strawberry Canyon for ten years. While still holding that permit, for which it paid $524 per year, Arrowhead Puritas was bought out by Beatrice Foods, which morphed into the BCI-Arrowhead Drinking Water Company as a consequence of Beatrice’s bankruptcy. In 1987, Perrier purchased the BCI-Arrowhead Drinking Water Company, in so doing acquiring the still-active permit. Prior to the permit expiring the following year, Beatrice had applied via letter to renew it. Such a renewal required a U.S. Forest Service review of the water drafting arrangement and its environmental/ecological impact, which at that point the U.S. Forest Service did not have the immediately available resources to carry out. In a gesture of compromise, Perrier was allowed, pending the eventual Forest Service review, to continue to operate in Strawberry Canyon by simply continuing to pay the $524-per year fee to perpetuate the water extraction under the terms of the expired permit.
In time and with drought conditions, environmental groups moved to challenge the U.S. Forest Service’s laissez-faire stance with regard to the removal of the Strawberry Canyon headwaters from horizontal wells and tunnels going hundreds of feet into the mountainside, filing a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service over the matter. While that suit was yet pending before the federal court, the California State Water Resources Control Board undertook an investigation into Nestlé’s water collection in the San Bernardino National Forest. After a two-year investigation, state officials last December determined that Nestlé was diverting on a yearly basis 192 acre-feet (62.56 million gallons), an amount more than seven times the 26 acre-feet of water (8.47 million gallons) per year it had a preliminary right to draft. The board told Nestlé to immediately end any unauthorized water use. There is no indication Nestlé did so. Three environmental groups leading the charge against what they claimed was profligate use of San Bernardino Mountain forest groundwater – the Center for Biological Diversity, the SOS Project, and the Courage Campaign – agreed to drop their appeal to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals of a ruling by Judge Jesus Bernal that had dismissed their earlier suit conditional upon the Forest Service making a decision with regard to the renewal or cancellation of Nestlé’s permit.
In a decision memo issued on June 27 by San Bernardino National Forest District Ranger Joseph Rechsteiner, The U.S. Forest Service gave Nestlé clearance to renew its permit for three years with a potential two year extension. That continued water extraction is to be subject to a complex of conditions and restrictions. The decision was memorialized in what was termed a categorical exclusion and decision memo.
“I have decided to approve the continued occupancy and use of National Forest System lands for the extraction and transmission of water using existing improvements, subject to resource mitigation measures designed to ensure compliance with the Forest Service’s land management plan,” Rechsteiner wrote in the memo. Ranger Rechsteiner confirmed to a group stakeholders on September 11 that he was told by the “Washington Office” to reissue the permit to Nestlé as a categorical exclusion. Nestlé signed the new permit agreement on August 24.
On September 11, local mountain and valley stakeholders and activists started to garner signatures for a petition asking Governor Brown to intervene. On the September 20, the SOS Campaign joined the petition drive with an on-line petition version containing a drafted form letter to Governor Jerry Brown. That form letter states, “On behalf of all Californians and our state’s treasured natural environment, we ask for your help to stop the federal give away of our public water to Nestlé, a Swiss multinational corporation. Nestlé is withdrawing millions of gallons of our water from the headwaters of Strawberry Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest and bottling it for huge profit under the Arrowhead brand. Nestlé pays nothing for this water and, despite severe drought and wildfire conditions, the corporation has not reduced its water withdrawal.
The State Water Resource Control Board is in the process of issuing a final ruling to determine if Nestlé has legitimate water rights. Our extensive research shows that Nestlé has no legitimate water rights in our San Bernardino National Forest. Nestlé is taking millions of gallons of groundwater meant for the forest and the local community’s water supply. These groundwater levels are depleted, and wells are drying up. Nestlé fills its pipeline from borehole wells and tunnels that tap the water hundreds of feet into the mountainside. The pipeline rushes with water, transporting it down the mountainside, following the dry upper creek bed and diminished flows downstream.
The United States Forest Service has recently decided to issue Nestlé a new permit, allowing it to continue its water extraction. With the severe drought conditions in the San Bernardino Mountains and no proven water rights, this decision is illogical and immoral.
Governor Brown, we ask you to immediately intervene to protect California’s water supply from Nestlé — whose water withdrawal is taking place with federal approval on our public land. We ask for this cease and desist to occur until the State Water Resource Control Board issues a final ruling, and the Strawberry Creek ecosystem is restored.
Some of those petitions have already been sent to the governor. So far, over 10,255 signatures have been collected via paper and online petitioning efforts. The SOS Campaign and stakeholders are continuing their signature gathering effort. Those who wish to participate can do so by going to http://action.storyofstuff.org/letter/tell-brown-shut-nestle-down-letter/?t=8&akid=77106.767315.VGwWRm
By Marian Nichols and Mark Gutglueck
Mystery and controversy are attending the abruptly announced but simultaneously extended leave-taking of Bill Manis as Upland City Manager.
Last December, Manis was widely hailed as an excellent fit for 77,000-population Upland, when the city council moved to hire him after going 15 months without having officially filled the city manager void created when a 3-to-2 majority of the council in July 2016 handed Rod Butler his walking papers. In the interim, Marty Thouvenell, who had been the city’s police chief throughout most of the 1990s and the first five years of the Third Millennium until he was essentially forced into retirement from that position by later-disgraced, indicted and convicted Mayor John Pomierski in 2005, had functioned as acting city manager. Thouvenell’s tenure in the post was intended to be a short one that was to last only until a successor for Butler could be chosen. But that search dragged on beyond the three months it was originally anticipated it would take to attract a fair number of candidates from which a suitable manager might be selected. The recruitment drive eclipsed the six-month mark, then nine months and then a year, with speculation echoing that the council might simply confer the city manager’s post upon Thouvenell, who repeatedly insisted he did not want the job. The city at last settled upon filling the position with Manis, who was then the city manager in Rosemead. Previously he had been the deputy city manager in San Bernardino overseeing that city’s economic development, community development, public works and housing departments, had been the City of Banning’s economic development director and public information officer prior to that and he had held a series of progressively more responsible administrative positions with the cities of Cypress, Corona, Santa Ana, and Cerritos earlier in his career. The decision to hire Manis was represented as a carefully rendered one that had allowed the city to examine the full range of options. The depth of Manis’s experienced was emphasized by Thouvenell and the members of the council at the time his selection was announced, and it was strongly implied that all parties were looking toward Upland being the last stop in Manis’s career, where he would remain until his eventual retirement. Given that he was 57 at the time of his hiring, the suggestion was that he would serve as Upland’s city manager at least until 2021, at which point he would be 60, and that he might potentially remain in place until he eclipsed 65, such that he might not leave until late 2024 or early 2025. Such stability and capable leadership was what Upland had been lacking for some time, and it was hoped that Manis might provided the direction and continuity city officials and city residents were seeking.
There were a few complicating issues, not the least of which was that prior to Manis’s hiring, in 2017 following an initial inquiry made by the city in late 2016, Upland had proceeded with shuttering its more than a century-existant municipal fire department, annexing the entirety of the city limits and the adjacent unincorporated county area of San Antonio Heights into a county fire service district and having the county fire department assume the responsibility of providing the Upland and San Antonio communities firefighting and emergency medical service. That annexation was effectuated without a vote of the residents and in essence upon the action of both Thouvenell and the city council and a final ratification of the changeover by the county’s Local Agency Formation Commission, which serves as a final regional authority with regard to jurisdictional issues. The annexation into the fire service district carried with it the imposition of $157 per year assessments on all land parcels within the city and San Antonio Heights. There was massive resident and business owner discomfiture with the city’s action, which many interpreted as a violation of the electorate’s right to approve beforehand any newly enacted tax. Ultimately a group of San Antonio Heights residents functioning under the aegis of the San Antonio Heights Homeowners Association, which was supported and encouraged by a cross section of Upland residents and business owners, filed a lawsuit contesting the legality of the procedural propriety of the annexation. That lawsuit is yet progressing toward trial in the courtroom of Superior Court Judge David Cohn. Lingering animosity toward city officials is yet smoldering among Upland residents over the matter, and Manis has had to function in an atmosphere wherein the public’s hostility toward his political masters has made for some testy moments during public meetings. Nevertheless, to all appearances, Manis had been able to function with professional aplomb week in and week out over the more than eight months he had been with the city, with only the rarest of exceptions, most of which involved differences between the four-member council majority that found itself at odds with that panel’s lone dissident, Janice Elliott, who last year parted company with her colleagues primarily over her efforts to indulge resident protest of the fire service district annexation. In May, the council majority voted to censure Elliott, and the preparation of the resolutions to do so were in large measure coordinated and processed by Manis, which did not endear him to Elliott. Otherwise, however, Manis enjoyed a positive and professionally cordial working relationship with four-fifths of the council.
Earlier this month, Manis attended, on behalf of the City of Upland, the 2018 Annual Conference & Expo of the League of California Cities in Long Beach, which spanned three days from September 12 to September 14. Manis was there to take in as many of the seminars and expositions as time and the crush and conflict of the schedule would permit, which included updates with regard to a number of issues current in municipal governance, new legislation and both developments and programs pertaining to employing what are considered “best practices” in running a city. That Manis was in attendance at the conference at the expense of the city and on its behalf was an indication that his status with the city was intact and both he and the council anticipated his continuing and ongoing fulfillment of his role as city manager. Manis was back at Upland City Hall the following Monday, September 17. In Upland, the municipal work week runs Monday through Thursday. By 6 p.m. on Thursday September 20, the agenda for the September 24 city council meeting was posted. On that agenda was a single item scheduled for discussion during the closed hearing of the council that was to take place at 6 p.m. outside the earshot and sight of the public, an hour before the standard business portion of the meeting open to the public was to commence at 7 p.m. That item, according to the agenda, was to consist of “Consideration of public employee appointment pursuant to California Government Code Section 54957. Title: Acting City Manager.”
The language of the agenda, by implication, indicated that the position held by Manis was no longer, or would no longer be, occupied, necessitating the city’s hiring of a replacement.
On September 24, after the public portion of the meeting was underway, Mayor Debbie Stone designated Deputy City Attorney Steven Flower to disclose the reportable action that took place in closed session. Flower said, “The council considered [a] public employee appointment. The council on [a] motion by Councilman [Sid] Robinson and seconded by Councilman [Carol] Timm voted unanimously to confirm Jeannette Vagnozzi as the acting city manager as of November 2 of this year. And they also agreed to schedule a future closed session to discuss the process of appointing a permanent replacement for city manager. I believe the city manager would like to add something here at this point.”
Thereupon, Manis said, “After long thought and talking with my family, last Tuesday I sent the mayor and city council a memorandum announcing I would be retiring, effective my last day of regular business hours… November 1. That was my decision to step down, and pursue additional opportunities in my professional life. So, I just wanted to share that with the community and thank the mayor and the council for the opportunity to have served here, and that concludes my comments.”
No further explanation of the reason for Manis’s departure was given.
During the oral communications portion of the meeting, former City Councilman Glenn Bozar came to the podium. He arranged to have projected on the council chambers’ overhead viewing screen the first page of an information sheet relating to the pension stipend that Manis would have received upon retiring with an immediately effective departure date. “Mr. Manis, thank you very much for your service,” Bozar began. “It seems like yesterday I read in the paper of a yearlong search trying to find somebody like you to help us out. Interim City Manager Thouvenell said out of 40 or 50 applications you were the guy that was going to help us out and Mayor Stone, you [said] were looking forward to working with him and moving on the city. But, obviously, there’s greener pastures, and I wish you luck in your endeavors. One of the things that comes up when people retire out of government service that people need to know is their pension. According to what I read in the paper, you had 32 years of service [and] your estimated pension from the California Public Employee Retirement System would be approximately $190,800 per year.”
The projected image on the screen broke this down, showing the formula for deriving that $190,800 per year pension as 80 percent times Manis’s current $238,500 annual salary, as the pension formula used by the California Public Employees Retirement System entitles him to draw 2.5 percent of his top salary for every year he is employed by a public agency.
Bozar then had the second page of the information sheet relating to the pension stipend that Manis is to receive upon retiring with an effective departure date of November 1 projected. That image, viewable to all in the council chambers, showed a formula deriving a $196,763 annual pension based upon the same $238,5000 annual salary multiplied by 82.5 percent.
“If your anniversary date is prior to this November 1, then your estimated California Public Employees Retirement System pension is $196,763,” Bozar said. “Now that doesn’t count the $9,000 I think you have in some kind of deferred compensation. At any rate, I wish you the best in your future endeavors, whether you come back as a consultant for the City of Upland or for any other city. You’ve got 32 years experience you’ve gone through with different cities including this one, including San Bernardino I wish you luck in your retirement and enjoy life. It’s short, and enjoy it.”
Bozar’s comments, which were confined to the three minute limit the council insists members of the public must adhere to, had double implication.
In the main, Bozar highlighted that the current council was assisting Manis, whose tenure with the city was less than a year and shorter than Thouvenell’s interim term as well as the 23 months Butler remained in place as city manager, to pad his pension by remaining in the official capacity of city manager roughly six weeks after his departure was settled upon. In practical terms, this favor to Manis will cost current and future Upland taxpayers $5,963 per year going forward for the rest of Manis’s life. If Manis predeceases his wife, she will continue to draw half that amount annually, $2,981.50 per year for the rest of her life. This is of some moment in Upland, as city officials have over the last several years made recurrent reference to the degree to which dwindling revenues are resulting in the city’s need to reduce basic municipal services so the city’s budgets can be balanced. The primary drain on city resources, those officials note, are the increasing pension costs the city is sustaining as more and more employees reach retirement age. Thus, artificially inflating Manis’s pension will contribute to future budgetary difficulties for the city.
Secondarily, Bozar made a reference to Manis potentially coming back to work for Upland as a consultant. Thouvenell, upon Manis’s hiring, discontinued drawing a salary as city manager but was still kept on the city’s payroll as a management consultant at a rate of $9,000 per month or $108,000 per year. With Jeannette Vagnozzi being elevated from her deputy city manager’s position to that of acting city manager officially in November and unofficially assuming the de facto city manager’s role immediately and with Manis for all intents and purposes now making his exit while yet being paid, the city finds itself at present essentially employing three city managers at once – Manis, Vagnozzi and Thouvenell, a redundancy that Bozar and others have said is unnecessary and a squandering of the city’s precious financial resources.
On Monday night, at the close of the council meeting, the Sentinel sought to engage with Manis and get from him a more substantive explanation for the reasons leading to his departure and what had precipitated it. He was unwilling to engage in any discussions relating to his leaving.
Sam Crowe, who has been a part of Ontario’s social, political and governmental establishment off and on for more than a half of a century, is seeking to cap his public career with a stint as mayor.
In seeking the city’s highest elected office, Crowe has placed the incumbent mayor, Paul Leon, directly in the crosshairs, basing his campaign on an effort to illustrate the degree to which Leon is out of the mainstream with regard to not only the political orientation and party affiliation of the city’s current population, but ineffective in his function of looking after the interests of his constituents. Leon is at the top of a political hierarchy out of step with the residents of Ontario, Crowe said, promising his candidacy will give the common people of the 175,000 population city a realistic and politically viable alternative.
“I think people are aware of the mayor’s history since his appointment to the city council 19 years ago,” Crowe said. “If not, I will be happy to discuss those issues with anyone. As the result of the mayor’s misdeeds, he lost any influence in the city, and the city has been run by others.”
Crowe alluded to the mayor’s one-time enmity with council members Alan Wapner and Jim Bowman, which resulted in them politically neutering him and trimming his mayor’s pay nine years ago, and then restoring it a little less than three years ago, which Crowe said now places Leon at the end of their leash. Leon, who was appointed to the Ontario City Council in 1999 and then elected in his own right to the council position he held in 2000 and re-elected in 2004, was elected mayor in a special election held in June 2005 to select a replacement for Gary Ovitt, who had been elected to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors in 2004. Leon outdistanced Crowe in that election, 5,190 votes or 58.29 percent to 3,657votes or 41.08 percent. Leon then cultivated a working relationship with the other members of the city council, who then included Wapner, Jason Anderson, Jerry Dubois and after the 2006 election, Bowman. At that point, Ontario was flush with cash, as it had the largest budget of all of San Bernardino County’s 24 incorporated municipalities, with nearly $600 million running through all of its accounts, including those of its general fund, enterprise funds, its reserves, and its redevelopment agency. Saying that Leon deserved to be recognized and remunerated in accordance with his station, the city council conferred upon him a $30,000 raise in 2007, zooming his compensation to more than $50,000 per year. By 2009, however, the relationship between Leon and both Wapner and Bowman had soured and those two utilized their alliance with Debra Dorst-Porada, who had displaced Leon’s firm and fast ally on the council, Jason Anderson, to take the raise they had given him away. In 2014, when Leon, Bowman and Wapner were up for reelection, they set their political differences aside, and all three campaigned successfully by extolling what a fine job they had collectively done in managing the city’s affairs. The hatchet seemingly buried, Wapner, Bowman and Dorst-Porada voted to restore $33,549 in add-on pay for the mayor to the $25,135 yearly pay provided to all members of the council, bringing Leon’s monetary remuneration to $58,684. As of this year, the council’s members are provided with another $24,683 each in various benefits, so that currently Leon is receiving nearly $83,000 in total compensation per year to serve as mayor. That makes Leon the second highest paid elected municipal official in San Bernardino County, second only to San Bernardino Mayor Carey Davis, who receives roughly $100,000 in pay and another $30,000 in benefits for something like $130,000 per year in his capacity as mayor in the county seat, where the mayor, under that city’s charter that was put in place in 1905, fulfills a role somewhat akin to that of a city manager in which he has direct authority in the hiring and firing of city personnel, which differs to a considerable degree from the more modest duties performed by Leon in Ontario, which is a general California law city rather than one with its own charter.
“The mayor is loyal to the city council and his salary has not only been restored, he currently is the highest paid general law city mayor in the Inland Empire,” Crowe said. “The Ontario mayor is receiving $82,947 per year for a part time job. Basically, Mayor Leon cannot afford to lose his position. I am running to try to bring some sanity back to the city.”
Crowe said the City of Ontario is in need of political reform, and he will undertake to push those reforms through if he is elected.
Crowe is currently a member of the Ontario-Monclair School Board. He said, “I want to have the city council elected by districts. The current incumbents have very large campaign accounts, making it hard to run against them. District elections would reduce the necessary mail contact candidates must engage in to reach voters and will allow competition. A candidate could actually walk a smaller district. I achieved getting district elections in the school district.”
Continuing, Crowe said, “I want to introduce and pass campaign contribution limits. I want the voters to decide if Ontario should have term limits. I want an ethics code to ensure transparency. It should be illegal to accept large donations and then vote on matters that donor is involved in.”
Crowe was on the Ontario City Council for eight years beginning in 1964 and running through 1972. While on the city council, he served on the Ontario Airport Commission, which ran the airport. He was also a member of the Ontario Planning Committee from 1962 until 1972. He was Ontario’s city attorney from 1976 to 1996. He was Hesperia city attorney from 1998 until 2007. His firm, Covington & Crowe, served as the city attorney in Rancho Cucamonga from the time of that city’s inception in 1977 until 1985. He is on the Travelers’ Aid Board at Ontario Airport and has been on the Casa Colina board of directors for two decades. He has been on the Ontario-Montclair School Board from 2008 to present.
“I have lived in Ontario and been a part of the Ontario culture since 1960,” Crowe said. “I am ready to be mayor.”
Crowe said, “Unlike my opponents, I have specific things I want to do for the city. The current mayor campaigns on the fact that the city is doing well. That is true, but the mayor had little to do with the same. I negotiated the Ontario Mills agreement while city attorney and that agreement brought the City of Ontario into financial security.”
The major issue facing the city is graft at City Hall, Crowe said. “Every surrounding city is aware that the City of Ontario is run for the financial benefit of the individual council members,” he said. “The population has doubled without the growth of city facilities, including the police department. The lack of community involvement is because the council has made no effort to keep the residents informed. I will change that. In addition to the changes I want to accomplish, public involvement is needed. Regular meetings throughout the city will inform the residents.”
The city can easily afford to implement the reforms he is suggesting, Crowe said. “Except for increasing public services and police, the costs for district elections and the cost for term limits will not be a major cost to implement the rest of my proposal,” he said. “These costs will not create a budget problem.”
Crowe said, “I have lived in Ontario from 1960 to present. From 1944 to 1960, I lived in Upland. I attended Upland Elementary School, Upland Junior High School, and Chaffey High School. I graduated from Chaffey High School in 1953.”
Crowe attended UCLA from 1953 to 1957, majoring in prelaw. He attended USC Law School from 1957 to 1960.
Benjamin Lopez, known to his family and friends as Ben, said his candidacy for city council in Montclair is a logical outgrowth of his immersion in the city.
“As a lifetime Montclair resident, businessman, Little League coach and volunteer, I want to build upon the progress being made in Montclair and bring a new, fresh and younger approach to solving the needs of our great city,” Lopez said. “I have devoted over 20 years of involvement to my community and giving back to my fellow residents and neighbors. Our family has been a part of Montclair’s fabric even before Montclair was a city. This is the only city I have ever called home. I want my fellow residents and future generations to come to experience the many joys, benefits, programs and safety I have experienced living here. We are a small but mighty city.”
His suitability and qualifications to serve on the city council is evinced, Lopez said, by his previous contributions to the Montclair community.
“I have given back and served my fellow residents in various positions dating back to the 1990s, and I was still in my teens then,” he said. “I have served as secretary of the Montclair Youth Accountability Board, which helped give first-time offender youth a second chance at making things right. I was appointed by Councilwoman Carolyn Raft to serve on the Fire Department Citizens Advisory Commission, where I fought to provide increased fire protection, more firefighters and equipment for our residents. I was appointed by County Supervisor Curt Hagman to a two-year term on the Mosquito and Vector Control Board, where I helped protect our residents from emerging threats from West Nile and Zika outbreaks. For the past several seasons I have volunteered my time as a Little League coach to the youngest of Montclair’s youth, ages 3 to 5. Our family has been sponsors of Montclair youth sports and high school programs.”
Moreover, Lopez said, his professional function has given him a window on the way in which everyday life intersects with government at the local level.
“I am a small businessman providing document and notary assistance to families and individuals,” he said. “Additionally, I am an independent consultant where I serve as a business advocate, solar energy advocate and grant-writing advocate. I know firsthand the needs of working families struggling to make ends meet and the needs of the business community.”
He is easily distinguished from the others vying for city council, Lopez said.
“I am only one of two lifetime residents running for Montclair City Council, with over 20-plus years of involvement,” he said. “Get that, over 20 years of involvement and I am 42 today. I cared about my city when I was young. I am president of a small consulting and public service business. As a local business advocate and recruiter in the region, I am well aware of the needs of business owners, the need for jobs in the city and region, and the need for increased investment and development to Montclair. Through my involvement as a Little League coach I see firsthand the needs of struggling families and the importance of programs needed to help families and youth. I also see firsthand the needs of our seniors and veterans. That is why I strongly support our senior center programs, a medical clinic for all residents young and old, meals on wheels, education programs for youth, programs assistance for low-income families, programs to help our veterans and more.”
In sizing up the major issues facing the city, Lopez said, “The first legitimate object of government is to provide for the safety of its residents. My number one issue will be increasing public safety, both in our police and fire departments. Our police and fire staff are doing a great job, despite having to do more with less. But we cannot afford to barely get by by providing minimal levels of staffing, equipment and compensation for public safety. We must upgrade the equipment used, find additional sources of revenue to fully fund important safety functions of both departments, and offer increased pay so we draw the best and keep the best police and fire staff. Montclair can no longer be near or at the bottom in many categories of public safety in the county.”
Lopez continued, “We must continue to build on the success of revitalizing the Montclair Plaza, now called Montclair Place. This is a huge component of our city’s source of income and we must do all we can to make sure we help the mall’s owners attract long-term investment from businesses. The addition of a dine-in AMC Theater and several upscale and popular restaurants, along with a new entertainment venue at the mall will draw in much needed sales revenue from shoppers throughout the region. This will be key to help fund necessary city programs and departments.”
Lopez also emphasized that “We must maintain the current level of funding for critical programs that serve our seniors, our youth, our low-income families and more. I opposed President [Donald] Trump’s budget proposal to cut funding to the Meals on Wheels program in 2017, which would have affected hundreds of our seniors, families and veterans who rely on this critical program. As a Little League coach, I see firsthand how families struggle to pay for the necessary jerseys, sports equipment, and other participation needs for their children. I would fight hard to gain funding to help our youth programs. With the recent sad death of an 11-year old boy in a crosswalk, I strongly support the need for a fully funded crossing guard program so every crosswalk near every school has a crossing guard. These are just some of the issues I see as being critical to the people of Montclair.”
Lopez said that “As a consultant for a grant-writing firm, I know of various grants and sources of funding to government agencies that could help fund many of the needs the city lacks the resources for in its current budget. Our city should actively pursue more funding in the areas we need. We could also refinance debt incurred by the current city council and city to save money. With new homes being built in areas of the city, additional property tax revenues will be received that will also help fund our priorities. We should also invest in an active business recruitment plan that specifically draws new businesses to open up in Montclair. Doing so will mean more tax revenue and jobs for our residents and those in nearby communities.”
Reiterating that “I have over 20 years of community activism and volunteering in Montclair and the region” and referencing his service on the Montclair Youth Accountability Board, the Montclair Citizens Advisory Fire Commission and the vector control board, Lopez said the highlights of his volunteerism included “partnering with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department in offering first-time nonviolent youth a way to offer restitution and work off time from their penalty by giving back to the community, addressing ways to provide increased fire protection for our residents, and broadening the vector control effort beyond Montclair’s city limits to ensure that the City of Upland gained better service to treat mosquito and vector threats by pushing for their inclusion into the district and was given a voting seat on the board. This resulted in fast service, higher quality of service to their residents and a savings to the county.”
The Lopez family is not new to Montclair politics. Lopez’s father, Tony Lopez, is an elected member of the Monte Vista Water District Board of Directors, where he represents the entire city of Montclair and the northern part of Chino and unincorporated areas between the two cities. While the younger Ben Lopez has been active since the 1990s and has found himself in tough election races in the city, the elder Tony Lopez won political office in 2003 by a razor-thin 85 vote victory. Tony Lopez has been re-elected ever since. Ben Lopez came close to winning an open seat on the Montclair City Council in 2014. This year’s election finds the three major players from 2014 in a rematch. Incumbents Bill Ruh and Trisha Martinez face Lopez and three other challengers, Juliet Orozco, Remoushell Henry and Omar Zamarripa. In 2014 Martinez ran and won as a non-incumbent. In a very close contest, Martinez edged out Lopez by approximately 323 votes to win the open seat she holds today.
The Lopez family name is established in Montclair,” Lopez added. “My family has been here before Montclair was incorporated as a city. I’ve worked hard building the reputation of the name. Today, nearly every resident in town knows of the service and commitment I have given back to Montclair. The voters have been good to our family. They are the ones I will represent to move Montclair to the next level of prosperity we anticipate our city will see. It is time for another young, fresh face with a fresh outlook for the future to be sitting on the city council. We need someone who can relate to the people. It is my hope the people elect me come November. I’ll work hard as hell for every vote. Coming close is not an option for me. Three hundred-and-twenty-three is a number I’ll never forget.”
A lifetime resident of Montclair, Lopez attended Cal Poly Pomona where he studied political science, with an emphasis on political campaigns and strategy, law and origins of political philosophy.
His candidacy has been endorsed by State Senator Mike Morrell, Second District County Supervisor Janice Rutherford, Fourth District County Supervisor Curt Hagman and Monte Vista Water Board Member Tony Lopez.
Dan Ramirez is seeking election to the Hesperia City Council in that city’s newly-drawn Second District, he said, “because I am tired of seeing elected representatives not heeding the concerns of the residents. I believe council members should represent the interests of the residents first. A cornerstone of my campaign is to provide transparency and be a voice for the residents of Hesperia.”
He is qualified to hold the position of city councilman, Ramirez said, by virtue of his professional training and performance. “I have over 40 years management experience leading different organizations,” he said. “I understand the complex world of running organizations, trying to solve problems, managing change and adverse situations.”
He stands above his competition for the post, Ramirez said, in that “Out of five candidates for District 2, I am the only one who has actual business experience running manufacturing firms, business departments. I am well acquainted with completing multimillion dollar projects, working with multimillion dollar budgets, working with diverse employees and staff to attain goals and objectives. And, out of the five candidates, I am the only one with advanced educational degrees, having attained both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree. In addition, I am the only one of the candidates that has a title of ‘professor,’ having taught business classes at Victor Valley College the last 24 years.”
“Crime, infrastructure, roads and the Tapestry Project,” Ramirez said, are the major issues facing the city at present.
In sizing up how those issues should be addressed, Ramirez said, “With 58 sworn law enforcement personnel, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Hesperia station is one of the busiest in the county. But they can’t be everywhere. With the rise in crime, residents need to partner with law enforcement and take an active role in combating crime. ‘Leave it to the cops’ is not an attitude that results in a safe community. We need to be involved, even if it is only picking up the phone and reporting suspicious behavior. The Hesperia station has 74 volunteers who do the work of 11 full-time deputies. Think of the impact on crime if at least 30 percent of our residents got involved in neighborhood watch programs, patrol programs, school programs, etc. We need active residents to make a difference in Hesperia.”
Ramirez continued, “Lake Arrowhead Road needs to be four lanes, with two lanes in each direction, from Main Street to Highway 138. Highway 138 needs to be four lanes from Lake Silverwood to the 15 Freeway. Ranchero needs to be four lanes from 7th St to the freeway. Hesperia Road, Maple Street 7th Street, 3rd Street, 11th, Street, Summit Valley Road and Mariposa all need to be 4 lanes. And all of the roads mentioned need to be repaved as a start in any discussion involving traffic problems in the city.”
Ramirez weighed in on the impact of the Tapestry Project, a master planned development consisting of 16,000 residential units on a portion of 9,365 acres controlled by the Terra Verde Group that lies north of the 138 and 173 highways and south of eastern extension of Main Street. “The Tapestry project needs to be revisited,” Ramirez said. “Bringing 16,000-plus dwelling units into a small mountainous valley would severely impact infrastructure, roads, police services, fire services, water supply. Look at just one scenario: how many times has the area been affected by fire in the past few years? Now add 25,000 to 40,000 people living in the area. How would evacuations be carried out given the woeful state of existing roads in the area? I was told Highway 138 would be widened to four lanes ‘in the future.’ No timetable was given. In the future. Well, in the future, all sorts of things could happen. We don’t need a tragic episode to point out the faults of cramming 40,000 people into a small area and not have the means to rapidly evacuate those people.”
The community of Hesperia can reduce the cost of implementing needed changes to the way the city conducts itself, Ramirez said.
“If we utilize more volunteers, there would be minimal costs involved in raising personal safety,” he said. “I am saying that residents need to take a personal interest in their safety by watching out for themselves and their neighbors. Instead of an attitude of ‘let the cops handle it,’ adopt an attitude of ‘This is my city. If I see something I am going to call the police and other neighbors.’ The state of the roads did not happen overnight. It will take years of consistently tackling neglected roads before we can have safe streets that can handle the expected volume of traffic. The city is experiencing an uptick in building requests which directly increase developer’s fees that add to the city coffers. The city is starting to increase commercial development along the 15 Freeway corridor which means increased funds through sales tax fees. Expected growth can bring in needed revenues to pay for needed infrastructure improvements.”
Ramirez said, “The costs involved in the Tapestry Project should be borne by the developer. There will be costs as the area around the project is improved, but once again, the expected revenue mentioned previously can be used to fund those expenses.”
Ramirez lays legitimate claim to having been involved in Hesperia’s civic affairs right from the time of its incorporation three decades ago. Professional commitments prevented him from remaining involved to the degree he would have wished in the interim, he said, but he now has the time and opportunity to reengage.
“I was the chairman for City of Hesperia’s Citizen Advisory Committee in 1988,” he said. “Work requirements and eventually going back to school at night kept me from expanding my interests in civic activities. Starting to teach business classes at night at Victor Valley College in 1995 further kept me from acting on my civic interests.”
Ramirez has lived in Hesperia for 31 years. A graduate of Ontario High School, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in sociology from California State University at Fullerton and a masters degree in business administration from the University of La Verne. He was employed by Southern California Edison as the operations supervisor overseeing the company’s High Desert District facilities until he retired two years ago. For the past 24 years he has been on the Victor Valley College staff as an adjunct faculty member teaching business classes at night. He has been married for 32 years and has two sons.
Saying “It’s time for a change,” Norberto Corona explained that “I am running for Ontario City Council to address the increase in homelessness and gangs in the city.”
Corona says he envisions the revitalization of the city’s central core to reestablish it as the resplendent draw it was throughout most of the 20th Century. “I also want to focus on making the Ontario downtown area a place where people want to come to shop and eat great food every weekend, not just on the days they have a concert in the park.”
It is his work ethic that qualifies him to serve on the city council, Corona said. “I am a hard working dedicated individual who has experience in resolving issues by collaborating with other agencies to achieve a positive and productive solution.”
Moreover, Corona pointed out, he is a common man who sees, lives with, and appreciates the challenges the vast majority of Ontario’s residence are facing. The elitism of the current council has put it out of touch with the city’s mainstream, he said. “I live in the area where it’s not the nicest,” he said. “The candidates live in the nice areas of Ontario and they do not see what I see firsthand every day. Where I live, I see the crimes and homelessness and how it’s affecting the quality of life of our residents.”
The major issues facing Ontario are “homelessness, crime and limited business in the downtown area,” he said.
He has the tools and philosophy to make positive change, Corona insisted. “As a peace officer in L.A. County, I have experience working every day with individuals dealing with homelessness,” said.
His formula for reinvigorating Ontario consists of “providing housing, enforcing existing camping laws. enforcing current laws to prosecute criminals and enforcing existing ordinances,” Corona said. Additionally, Corona said, he would “work to provide incentives to encourage new business to come open their operations in the Ontario downtown area.”
Ontario has the wherewithal to accomplish what needs to be done, Corona said, but needs political leadership to recognize the problems and pursue the proper solutions. “We have current funds that the city needs to fix these things,” he said. “We simply need to readdress our priorities to focus on these issues.”
Corona acknowledged that he has never previously held elected public office, but said that is not a requisite to ensuring government is answerable to the citizens. “I have no political experience, but I understand that the one thing that is most important to all individuals is the quality of life,” he said.
Corona has lived in Ontario for 16 years and has a bachelor degree from Long Beach State in occupational studies/vocational arts. His professional training pertained primarily to law enforcement. He is currently a probation officer for the Los Angeles County Probation Department. He has been employed with Los Angeles County for 19 years, the last 17 of which have been in his current assignment. He is married, with five children, four boys and a girl, along with six grandchildren.
Corona said, “I would like the voters to know that I am dedicated. I am a hard worker who cares about Ontario. I live in the same area they live in, where the parks and apartments are close and see what they see and what issues need to be addressed.”
By Matthew Arnold
The sea is calm to-night.
The tide is full, the moon lies fair
Upon the straits; on the French coast the light
Gleams and is gone; the cliffs of England stand;
Glimmering and vast, out in the tranquil bay.
Come to the window, sweet is the night-air!
Only, from the long line of spray
Where the sea meets the moon-blanched land,
Listen! you hear the grating roar
Of pebbles which the waves draw back, and fling,
At their return, up the high strand,
Begin, and cease, and then again begin,
With tremulous cadence slow, and bring
The eternal note of sadness in.
Sophocles long ago
Heard it on the A gaean, and it brought
Into his mind the turbid ebb and flow
Of human misery; we
Find also in the sound a thought,
Hearing it by this distant northern sea.
The Sea of Faith
Was once, too, at the full, and round earth’s shore
Lay like the folds of a bright girdle furled.
But now I only hear
Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar,
Retreating, to the breath
Of the night-wind, down the vast edges drear
And naked shingles of the world.
Ah, love, let us be true
To one another! for the world, which seems
To lie before us like a land of dreams,
So various, so beautiful, so new,
Hath really neither joy, nor love, nor light,
Nor certitude, nor peace, nor help for pain;
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.
By Alfred Birnbaum
The mountains fly past
Kids torture a cicada
It’s screams fill the car