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Last fall, San Bernardino County transportation officials pulled the plug on their part of the Los Angeles-to-Ontario Airport Gold Line light rail system after more than a decade of planning and the outlay of more than a billion dollars by Los Angeles County and the State of California to bring the tracks for the train as far east as Azusa, while another $803 million is being spent to extend the line to Pomona. Dismayed at what he perceives to be wrongheaded intransigence to regional cooperation intended to provide the foundation of what is to become the commuting methodology of the future, Assemblyman Chris Holden is sponsoring legislation to form a separate construction agency that will bypass the San Bernardino County Transportation Agency to extend the Gold Line to Ontario International Airport perhaps as early as 2032.
Historically, there was a light rail line that connected Los Angeles with San Bernardino County, extending as far east as Mentone. San Bernardino County was a participant in Pacific Electric’s Red Car Line, the privately owned mass transit system in Southern California that extended out from Los Angeles, consisting of electrically powered streetcars, and light rail that existed between 1901 and 1961. Ultimately, organized around the city centers of Los Angeles and San Bernardino, by the 1920s it was the largest electric railway system in the world.
In 1901, building upon the electric trolleys that first traveled in Los Angeles in 1887, the Pacific Electric Railroad was established by railroad executive Henry Huntington and banker Isaias W. Hellman after they had success developing a trolley system in San Francisco. Together, Huntington and Hellman purchased some existing rail lines in downtown Los Angeles, which they standardized and organized into one network called the Los Angeles Railway.
The San Bernardino line, Pomona branch, Temple City branch via Alhambra’s Main St., San Bernardino’s Mountain View local to 34th St., Santa Monica Blvd. via Beverly Hills, and all remaining Pasadena local service were cut in 1941. The last vestige of the Red Car system into San Bernardino County was the interurban railroad post office service operated by Pacific Electric on its San Bernardino Line. This was inaugurated comparatively late, on September 2, 1947. It left LA’s Union Station interurban yard on the west side of the terminal turning north onto Alameda Street at 12:45 pm and reached San Bernardino at 4:40 pm daily, taking nearly four hours for the trip. It did not operate on Sundays or holidays. This last railroad post office was pulled off May 6, 1950. Pacific Electric’s Red Car Line fell victim to an effort spearheaded by Arthur P. Sloan, the president and CEO of General Motors from 1923 until 1956, to close out public transportation systems, which greatly profited General Motors.
In 1992, the MetroLink commuter rail system was established between Union Station in Los Angeles and the City of San Bernardino on a long existing track originally designed for heavy engines pulling freight cars. MetroLink utilizes diesel engines to pull its passenger cars and features departures every half hour.
In 2003, the first link of the light passenger rail Gold Line was established between Union Station and Sierra Madre Villa. Consisting of two lines dedicated entirely to commuter conveyance, it has made steady progress expanding eastward ever since. At present it is a 31-mile line running from Atlantic in Los Angeles west along 3rd Street to Indiana Street to 1st Street west to Little Tokyo through a tunnel under Boyle Heights with two underground stations there, from which it continues on to Alameda Street in Little Tokyo, where the line turns north and crosses over the Hollywood Freeway with a stop at Union Station. From Union Station, the Gold Line heads north on an elevated rail to Chinatown and then crosses the Los Angeles River adjacent to the Interstate 5, continuing north/northeast, running through Lincoln Heights, Mount Washington and Highland Park. Just north of Highland Park, the route crosses over the Arroyo Seco Parkway at the 110 Freeway and continues through South Pasadena and then downtown Pasadena, Old Pasadena and then enters the median of the 210 Freeway, east to Sierra Madre Villa, where east of Pasadena the route crosses over the eastbound lanes of the Foothill Freeway (Interstate 210) west of Santa Anita Avenue, with stops in Arcadia and then Monrovia, thereafter entering Duarte and the City of Hope. Crossing over the San Gabriel River, the Gold Line reaches Irwindale and continues to its Azusa Station. The Gold Line runs with significantly greater frequency than does MetroLink, with departures and arrivals every five to seven minutes during peak commuting hours and every 12 to 15 minutes during off-peak hours.
The Gold Line Construction Authority right now is in the first stages toward a nine-mile, $806 million extension of the light rail line from Azusa to northern Pomona. The track will reach Pomona by late 2025. Thereafter, the line was previously slated to be extended another 3.3 miles from Pomona through Claremont to Montclair at that city’s existing Montclair Transit Center. According to the Gold Line Construction Authority, the extension of the line from north Pomona to Claremont will entail a cost of $450 million. Previously, the Gold Line Construction Authority in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Transportation Agency, which was previously known as San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), intended to continue the line from Claremont to Montclair, and then from Montclair to Ontario Airport.
Accordingy, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority dedicated $39 million in Measure I dollars toward the Gold Line project and did a joint application with the Los Angeles Metro Transit Agency for a State of California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program grant. That application was successful and it brought in $250 million on the Los Angeles County side, which made a significant but not complete inroad on the $850 funding deficit that jurisdiction had, and provided another $41 million of the then-projected $80 million cost for the San Bernardino County portion of the projected expense on the eastern side of the Los Angeles County/San Bernardino County border in terms of getting the line to Montclair.
Subsequently, however, when the project went out to bid, it turned out the cost of building the line from Claremont to Montclair would not contain itself to an earlier $73 million projection or the later $80 million estimate, but had escalated to $96 million.
In reaction to that projected cost overrun, San Bernardino County Transportation Authority Executive Director Ray Wolfe said toward the close of the September 4, 2019 meeting of the authority’s board, “I’m going to come back to you through committee next month and hopefully to the board in November with a recommendation that we throw in the towel.”
Wolfe made good on that at the October 10, 2019 San Bernardino County Transportation Agency’s transit subcommittee meeting. That subcommittee is composed of representatives from the cities of Big Bear Lake, Chino Hills, Colton, Fontana, Highland, Montclair, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Rialto, Yucaipa and the Third Supervisorial District.
Wolfe’s proposal is to dispense with constructing the new Gold Line Track into San Bernardino County altogether and to instead have Gold Line passengers heading eastward from Los Angeles or the San Gabriel Valley load onto another train at the Claremont Station which will run on the existing MetroLink track. That system will use so-called diesel multiple unit trains in what he said was a “hybrid” plan which he dubbed the “Gold Link.” Wolfe said San Bernardino County would return the $41 million State of California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program grant that had been freed up to allow the county to overcome the gap between the $39 million in Measure I money put up to complete the Gold Line extension from Claremont to Montclair and the earlier projected cost of the 1.2-mile extension
According to Wolfe, the hybrid Gold Link concept combined the advantage of not entailing the cost of building another set of tracks and could be extended with relative ease eastward from Montclair to Upland, Ontario, Rancho Cucamonga, Fontana and beyond. The converse holds true, Wolfe suggested, as westbound commuters could use the Gold Link all the way to Claremont, disembark there and then board MetroLink to Los Angeles or the Gold Line to the San Gabriel Foothill communities.
Ultimately, the transit committee backed Wolfe, with Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe and the representatives of the cities of Yucaipa, Highland, Rialto, Big Bear Lake, Colton, Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga supporting him. Only Montclair, Ontario and Chino Hills opposed his plan to scrub the county’s support of the Gold Line. That vote essentially killed San Bernardino County’s participation in extending the Gold Line into its jurisdiction.
For advocates of the Gold Line and its extension, however, Wolfe’s formula is lacking with regard to several crucial considerations.
On an immediate level, the low cost of the Gold Line fare and its continuity offers the best draw of commuters, its advocates maintain. Moreover, the frequency of arrivals and departures on the existing track now used by MetroLink cannot match that which the Gold Line will provide. Thus, in the relative short term, traffic will be diverted in greater numbers away from the freeway system if the Gold Line is extended than if the only option given to commuters is using a passenger service on the existing track used for MetroLink and freight hauling.
From a longer term context, according to the Gold Line’s promoters, Wolfe’s solution lacks a wider regional perspective. Inevitably, over the next several decades, they say, greater and greater gridlock will force commuters, whether they are favorably inclined to using rail service or not, to use passenger trains to get to and from Los Angeles. At that point, the ridership volume will outrun the capacity of the existing rail line used by MetroLink. Despite whatever cost inflation there has been on building the Gold Line extension so far, it is better to commit to making that extension now than postponing it, as the cost will continue to escalate, those recommending that San Bernardino County stand by its earlier commitment to the Gold Line say. In this way, they assert, Wolfe’s move to cut costs now will entail far greater future cost.
Among those who believe Wolfe has it all wrong is 41st District Assemblyman Chris Holden, who represents Altadena, Claremont, East Pasadena, La Verne, Monrovia, Pasadena, San Dimas, Sierra Madre and South Psadena in Los Angeles County and Rancho Cucamonga, San Antonio Heights and Upland in San Bernardino County.
Holden introduced a bill this week, Assembly Bill 2011, which would create the West San Bernardino County Rail Construction Authority, an entity to be dedicated to designing and building the six-mile span of track linking Montclair to Ontario.
The assumption is that if the funding for the continuation of the line from Montclair to Ontario is provided by the state, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority will recommit to the previous effort to construct the Claremont to Montclair link. That is probably likely, given that San Bernardino County has already qualified for $41 million toward the project on its side of the boundary with Los Angeles County in the form of the State of California Transit and Intercity Rail Capital Program grant, meaning the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority will need to come up with $47 million to see the line reach Ontario Airport, a figure that is realistic given the constant proceeds from Measure I that are incoming.
Holden took his inspiration for the bill from one authored by then-State Senator Adam Schiff in 1999, Senate Bill 1847. SB 1847 seized control over the fate of the Foothill Gold Line from the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, instead entrusting it to a newly-created Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, which aggressively pushed forward with the project. The authority made a major breakthrough by completing the line to Pasadena in 2003. By 2016, it had been extended to Azusa.
With regard to Assembly Bill 2011, Holden said it would lay the groundwork to extend the Metro Gold Line all the way to Ontario Airport.
“Light-rail is playing a critical role in reducing our carbon footprint, improving air quality, and connecting communities throughout the region,” Holden said “These benefits will expand into San Bernardino County once the Metro Gold Line Extension to Montclair is completed, and have a greater impact if extended to Ontario Airport.”
Holden said he is banking on the train line reaching Montclair, which he described as “six short miles” from Ontario International Airport, which he characterized as a “critical airport and economic driver for San Bernardino, Riverside, and parts of Los Angeles counties.”
Holden was joined by 52nd District Assemblyman Freddie Rodriguez, who said, “Ontario International Airport is a convenient and rapidly expanding traveling option for many residents across San Bernardino and Los Angeles counties. Though we have seen significant progress in the extension of the Foothill Gold Line, which is planned to terminate in the transit center in the City of Montclair, there is no definitive plan to connect passengers from the transit center to the airport. Creating a nexus between Montclair’s transit center and the Ontario airport is a monumental endeavor, and will require a dedicated construction authority whose sole purpose is constructing a connection that will best serve both San Bernardino and Los Angeles County residents.”
“Electric light rail is the proven solution for dependable public transportation throughout the world,” said Ontario Mayor Paul Leon. “We can no longer have the belief that bigger freeways are better for the environment, travelers, or commuters. It is time to give people the option of using reliable, seamless public transportation instead of driving their cars.”
Holden’s proposal would create the West San Bernardino County Rail Construction Authority that would be responsible for designing and building the extension from Montclair to the airport. The new construction authority would include representation from the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority, Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Ontario International Airport Authority, and the cities of Montclair, Upland, Rancho Cucamonga, and Ontario.
Holden is currently chair of the Select Committee on Regional Transportation Solutions. This committee explores solutions to improve multi-modal interconnectivity between communities, establish sustainable transportation infrastructure, and relieve traffic congestion.
At an informational hearing relating to the creation of the authority held in Ontario this morning, Wolfe appeared to back away from his earlier stance to terminate the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s support of the Gold Line project.
Holden already submitted a budget request to Governor Gavin Newsom for LA Metro to study the feasibility of an extension to the Hollywood Burbank Airport.
Holden’s history with the Gold Line spans over 30 years. Prior to his election to the Pasadena City Council, Holden served on the Pasadena Light Rail Alignment Task Force established in 1985 to identify the light rail route alternatives in Pasadena. He is a former board president of the Burbank-Glendale-Pasadena Airport Authority where he served as a commissioner for 20 years.
“As a former city council member and mayor of Pasadena, I championed early efforts to establish the Metro Gold Line, which turned out to be more successful than anyone anticipated, just like the recent extension to Azusa,” said Holden. “Extending the Gold Line to Ontario Airport will propel both San Bernardino County and Los Angeles County into our new transportation future.”
Holden’s effort appears to be on a collision course with that of Grand Terrace Mayor Darcy McNaboe, who is currently the president of the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority. McNaboe has gone on record as saying the Gold Line extension to the airport and therefore to Montclair is “unnecessary and too costly” and will take too much time to complete.
Holden took the high road, looking beyond McNaboe’s pronouncements. “As we begin this process, I look forward to working with stakeholders at the local, regional and state level including San Bernardino County Transportation Authority President Darcy McNaboe, Senator Connie Leyva, and Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez,” he said.
Ontario Mayor Leon said he hopes that those formerly opposing the Gold Line concept “will soften their positions as this bill moves toward becoming law. Light rail needs to get built. The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority needs to stop dragging its feet. The Gold Line is the first choice of commuters on the other side of the San Bernardino County/Los Angeles County line. We have to make sure we do not alienate people with harsher judgments, but at the same time we have to make people realize there needs to be a future connection between Los Angeles and Ontario Airport, and the Gold Line is logically it.” He called upon McNaboe to end her opposition to the extension of the Gold Line to Montclair.
After a series of delays, the preliminary hearing in the case against Alex Opmanis got under way this afternoon. The proceedings are intended to outline a bare-bones version of the prosecution’s case against Opmanis, and convince Judge Charles Umeda that the accused should be bound over for trial in the fatal shooting of Sammy Davis last summer. The prosecution’s effort to demonstrate Opmanis’s action rose to the level of murder offered no startling turns. The testimony of three witnesses today did, however, provide some degree of nuance to a series of violent events that culminated in the death of the 29-year-old Davis.
Opmanis, who was then 27, is accused of gunning down Davis at 9:14 p.m. on July 11, 2019 in the parking lot of Goodwin’s Market, located at 24089 Lake Gregory Drive in Crestline.
Based on the proceedings so far, it does not appear that a crucial piece of evidence, a security video that captured moving images of the shooting itself, will be featured as part of the preliminary hearing when it resumes next week. Nevertheless, the video was referenced repeatedly in testimony today, which confirmed that the video had in some fashion been “chopped up.”
Word emanating from more than one quarter of the county, and indeed from the investigative agency that secured the original video, the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, is that the video was in some fashion altered in a way to assist the prosecution. A close examination of the video that was turned over to the defense shows that numerous passages were deleted, leaving out what, based upon the remaining parts of the video that were not deleted indicate, seem to be several key sequences. One of those is a crucial 12 seconds just two seconds before the shooting takes place. The images and sounds intact on those portions of the tape just prior to that 12 second deletion and after it suggest that Davis and another individual, 29-year-old Robert Shuey, were physically assaulting Opmanis while they were in immediate physical proximity to him. An earlier excision from the video, while Davis, Shuey and a third man, Shane Codman, are some distance away from Opmanis, featured, according to Opmanis, one or more of the trio taunting and threatening him.
While statements elicited from two of the three witnesses testifying today confirmed that the video was cut up, it remains unclear how the video was piecemealed and by whom, and for what purpose.
Testifying first under direct examination by Deputy District Attorney David Rabb was Detective Gerardo Moreno of the sheriff’s department’s homicide division, who was dispatched to Saint Bernardine Medical Center on the evening of July 11, 2019. Moreno testified that by the time he arrived at the hospital and was cleared to see Davis, who had been transported from the scene of the shooting in Crestline in the west San Bernardino Mountains to San Bernardino, that Davis was dead.
At the hospital, Moreno testified, he spoke with both Dr. Yasmina Boyd, the emergency room physician who was on call when Davis was treated, as well as coroner’s division examiner Brad Coleman.
Moreno said when he first saw Davis, he appeared deceased. He said a thoracotomy, a surgical incision into the chest, had been by that point performed on Davis, but that he was yet able to note a gunshot wound to the left side of his chest and another gunshot wound to his right middle back, along with an abrasion to his left index finger.
Moreno said that Dr. Boyd said she had performed the thoracotomy in an effort to locate the gunshot injury.
During his cross examination of Moreno, Deputy Public Defender David Spiker on behalf of Opmanis, elicited that the two gunshot wounds he had referenced appeared to be an entrance wound to the chest and an exit wound at Davis’s middle right back, signifying that Davis had been shot just once.
Moreno also indicated in response to Spiker’s questioning that the wounds to Davis were consistent with the statements that Opmanis had made to him about the shooting.
Spiker also inquired about when Davis’s blood was drawn. “I was not present when the hospital [staff] drew blood from Mr. Davis,” Moreno responded.
At the conclusion of his testimony as Moreno was leaving the courtroom, he looked toward a group of courtroom spectators that included Davis’s family members, and made a hand gesture of acknowledgment to them.
Detective Kevin McCurdy followed Moreno to the witness stand.
McCurdy related in response to Rabb’s questioning that on July 12 he had spoken with members of the San Bernardino County Fire Division crew that had responded to the parking lot at Goodwin’s Store on the night of July 11. He said one of those crew members, Michael Bass, told him that he and the rest of his crew, which included a captain named Newcomb, a firefighter/paramedic named Perry and a paramedic named Shakula, along with an ambulance operator named Eduardo Gonzales, had responded to the scene of the shooting, and had been delayed at the periphery of the parking lot until they were signaled that it was safe to enter it. Bass, McCurdy said, told him they encountered a “patient lying on the ground with labored breathing” who was “later identified as Sammy Davis.” McCurdy testified that Bass related that Davis had a “gunshot wound near the nipple on the chest and another believed to be an exit wound” on his back and that Bass reported “not seeing blood around the victim” which “indicated that bleeding was internal.”
According to Bass, McCurdy said, the team “immediately began life saving measures,” and given the seriousness of the situation, did what McCurdy referred to as a “load and go,” meaning Davis was put into the ambulance, which left directly to transport him to the hospital, in this case Saint Bernardine’s Hospital in San Bernardino. En route, Bass said, according to McCurdy, he and Paramedic Perry were continuing lifesaving measures, during which Davis’s pulse stopped, so they had performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and at one point needed to perform an incision to relieve the internal pressure on Davis’s lungs to allow him to breath. Further, according to McCurdy, Bass said Davis had received “two rounds of epinephrine” and that he and Perry were unable to insert a breathing tube down Davis’s throat, so they instead outfitted him with a breathing bag valve mask.
According to McCurdy’s testimony, Bass told him he and Perry were able to restore Davis’s pulse, which was strong at around 115 beats per minute. At the hospital, Davis was unloaded and transferred from the care of the paramedics to the hospital staff, after which Davis’s pulse had stopped and the hospital staff was unable to revive him.
McCurdy indicated he had also spoken with Firefighter/Paramedic Christopher Perry.
McCurdy further testified that he had interviewed or interrogated Alex Opmanis at the Twin Peaks Sheriff’s Station for approximately four hours and that he read him his “Miranda Rights prior to speaking with him.” According to McCurdy, Opmanis “was not in custody but he had been transported in handcuffs” to the sheriff’s station. He said the Miranda Rights notification had been given “to make sure there was no misunderstanding during our interview.”
McCurdy said Opmanis indicated he understood his rights and was willing to speak to him. He said he asked Opmanis if he had fired a gun and that Opmanis said “he did fire a weapon …at an individual.” McCurdy said that Opmanis told him he had “retrieved a pistol out of a lockbox in his vehicle and put it on his driver’s seat.”
Asked if Opmanis had “prior contact” with Davis and those in his company, McCurdy said Opmanis told him he “had been assaulted by the same group of individuals,” one of whom was Robert Shuey.
Opmanis also told him that he was “charged” or “quickly approached” by the person he shot prior to the shooting. Opmanis said that he had retrieved the gun from the lockbox prior to being set upon by those he encountered, but that there was no no round in the chamber nor was the magazine inserted into the firearm at that point.
Opmanis had further stated that he was “grocery shopping prior to his contact with those individuals,” that he had interaction with “an attractive female” after leaving the store and that he had loaded the groceries he had purchased into his car when he heard motorcycles start up and revving. He said that Robert Shuey had yelled at him when the three on their motorcycles passed by him and that one of the motorcyclists turned around, parked and quickly approached him.
McCurdy said the interview/interrogation of Opmanis was “pretty lengthy, a couple of hours… He was very emotional. That’s why it took so long to speak to him.” McCurdy added that Opmanis was “crying” and “vomiting” throughout the exchange at the sheriff’s station.
McCurdy said he had gone “briefly” to Goodwin’s Market before the interview, where the entire parking lot was roped off as a crime scene. He said he saw Opmanis’s vehicle, which, while he was on the witness stand, he could not describe as to make, model or color, “somewhat centralized in the parking lot.”
McCurdy testified that the call to the fire/paramedic crew had come in at 21:18 [i.e., 9:18 p.m.], and that it took the crew about ten minutes to get to the scene, after which it was delayed by five minutes before the firefighters were cleared to render assistance to Davis, presumably because the sheriff’s department was seeking to verify that there was not an armed and active shooter yet in place on the premises. McCurdy testified that it took the ambulance another “20 to 25 minutes” to make its run to the hospital with Davis aboard.
Under cross examination by Spiker, McCurdy said that throughout the interview/interrogation Opmanis had the right to walk away and that if indeed Opmanis had left, he would have let him go.
Spiker questioned McCurdy about the security video of the activity in the Goodwin’s Market parking lot prior to, during and after the shooting.
At that point, McCurdy said he had only cursorily examined the video and that there “was a breakdown of the video by another detective.”
McCurdy acknowledged that Opmanis’s statements made to him during the course of the interview/interrogations were consistent with his investigation of the shooting, including his review of the video, which essentially verified that prior to the time of the shooting, Opmanis was near or at his vehicle and was approached by three motorcyclists, including Davis and Shuey. McCurdy identified the third motorcyclist as Shane Codman. The video did show, McCurdy said in his testimony, Opmanis remaining near his vehicle, and that one of the motorcyclists dismounted and then walked aggressively toward Opmanis.
McCurdy testified that Opmanis during the interview related to him that Shuey had assaulted him previously, putting him in the hospital, and that Opmanis had experienced night sweats and “major trauma” as a result. McCurdy said Opmanis claimed to him that he had suffered post traumatic stress as well as a traumatic brain injury and memory loss as a consequence of the beating.
Spiker asked McCurdy if he had verified Opmanis’s account of what he was experiencing and McCurdy said he had not. To Spiker’s follow-up question about whether he had found anything to disprove what Opmanis had claimed, McCurdy said he had not. McCurdy did say that Opmanis’s relating of how he had been beaten by Shuey prior to the shooting incident prompted him to be less than aggressive in his questioning of Opmanis, that is, that he had used “kid gloves” in conducting his inquiry, which contributed, he said, to the length of the interview/interrogation.
Spiker asked McCurdy if he was able to in fact verify that Opmanis had sustained serious injury at the hands of Shuey. McCurdy said “I located a prior battery report where the two were involved with each other.” Spiker asked if McCurdy had found anything to disprove what Opmanis had said about his prior encounter with Shuey.
“No,” McCurdy responded.
Spiker asked McCurdy if Opmanis had told him that he had no prior issues with Davis, no prior problems with Davis and had suffered no prior beatings by Davis.
“Correct,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy also testified that he had not passed along to the lead detective and case agent on the shooting, Eric Ogaz, that Opmanis had told him that he was afraid of Shuey, that he believed Shuey was in some way associated with the Hell’s Angels motorcycle gang and that Opmanis had related that he suffered from post traumatic stress. “It did not come up,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy acknowledged under questioning by Spiker that Opmanis had told him that Davis was being aggressive, that Opmanis was “basically standing his ground by the car,” and that Davis had punched Opmanis multiple times in the head.
McCurdy acknowledged that Opmanis had told him he had undergone reconstructive surgery and had two metal plates in his head, and that he believed being hit in the head put him at serious risk.
Spiker then read directly from a transcript of the interview/interrogation in which Opmanis said, “I thought they were going to kill me. I was so scared, man.”
McCurdy acknowledged that was an accurate reflection of what Opmanis said during the interview and that he had responded to Opmanis, “Don’t beat yourself up.”
McCurdy acknowledged that he had told Opmanis that he would track down Shuey and Codman but that ultimately that did not occur for several weeks.
McCurdy acknowledged Opmanis discussed with him that he had multiple head injuries, that he was being assaulted by being punched in the head, that he fired the gun in self defense and that he used the gun because he was in fear of his life.
Spiker asked if an effort was made by the sheriff’s department to determine if Davis’s DNA was present on the ripped hoodie that Opmanis was wearing when the shooting occurred.
McCurdy was unable to say whether that had been done.
Spiker asked McCurdy if Opmains’s statement that he had yelled at Shuey, “Get Back! Get Back!” in the seconds after the shooting had been verified by what was on the video.
McCurdy at that point indicated he had only briefly viewed the video.
McCurdy said viewing the video was not a priority at that time. He acknowledged a decision was made at that time not to arrest Opmanis, and that Opmanis needed medical attention, so he was released to paramedics who transported him to a hospital for treatment. Spiker pursued the issue, stating that just because a suspect requires medical care, an arrest can still be effectuated, and McCurdy stated that Opmanis was permitted to return home without being arrested after his release from the hospital.
Spiker further succeeded in getting McCurdy to put on the record that after the shooing Opmanis had remained on the scene and had been the first person to summon medical assistance and the authorities by making a 911 call. McCurdy also confirmed that Shuey and Codman had left the scene shortly after Opmanis summoned the sheriff’s and fire departments.
McCurdy also testified that Opmanis had told him he didn’t want to leave the parking lot and that he knew the video camera was pointed directly at his vehicle. McCurdy testified as well that Opmanis told him his head was throbbing, he felt his brain was swollen and he wanted to go to the hospital for a CAT scan. McCurdy acknowledged that after the shooting Opmanis said he feared that Shuey would come after him and his family.
McCurdy said that Opmanis was cooperative and had provided him with the password to his phone. He acknowledged that he had told Opmanis, “We want to work on getting you out of here and taken care of.”
After Spiker ended his cross examination of McCurdy, the court took a short recess, during which Rabb and McCurdy conferred. In Rabb’s redirect examination after the break, the prosecutor pursued a line of questioning that related to the video which appeared to be aimed at establishing that the video had not been altered after it was obtained from Goodwin’s Market. That questioning elicited a response that was different in tenor and substance than what McCurdy had provided during his testimony under cross examination by Spiker. Whereas in response to Spiker’s questions, McCurdy underplayed the significance of the video and represented that he had only a vague recollection of it, in response to Rabb’s questions, McCurdy evinced a far greater definitude, describing the video in much greater detail, saying that he had watched it on a colleague’s laptop perched on a vehicle in the Goodwin’s Market parking lot. The description he gave of the video in large measure matched the nature of the evidence that has been turned over to the defense. That video is not continuous, but chopped up into multiple sections, with passages missing, including a crucial 12 seconds just prior to the shooting having been removed entirely.
In response to Rabb, McCurdy said he had viewed “multiple clips” that had required “a significant amount of time” to watch as each clip had to load in the laptop’s video buffer.
McCurdy said the entirety of the parking lot was considered the crime scene and had been taped off, an area he estimated to be about two acres.
He said that Opmanis had been released to the paramedics to be taken to the hospital and was not arrested at that point because the investigation “was not complete at that time.”
Upon leaving the courtroom after his testimony, McCurdy made no eye contact with anyone in the group that included Davis’s family members, and walked straight out of the courtroom.
Also testifying on Friday was San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Deputy Victor Ruiz, who was the first law enforcement responder to the Davis death scene.
Ruiz said when he came into the Goodwin’s Market parking lot he observed a male subject on his back, with three individuals around him who were rendering assistance. He said he noticed no weapon or weapons around Davis.
He indicated he was at the site from seven to 15 minutes before the arrival of the paramedics, at which point Davis in short order was put into the ambulance to be transported to the hospital. He said he had spoken with the defendant, whom he identified from the witness stand as seated at the counsel table in the courtroom. Ruiz said there were several vehicles in the parking lot when he arrived, and that Davis was prone on the ground six to ten feet behind a black Mercedes and approximately five to ten feet from a motorcycle.
Asked by Rabb what he noticed in his initial brief examination of the area, Ruiz said, “I didn’t see a large amount of blood anywhere.”
Ruiz testified that at some point he had gone into the store to see if he could get the video. He said that some other deputy had to wait for the owner to provide the video.
Ruiz testified that he spoke to Kyle Boggs, an employee of the market. Boggs stated to him, he said, that he heard while he was in the store that there was a fight outside. Ruiz also testified that Boggs said he had not seen the person who had fired the gun. Ruiz testified that Boggs had told him Opmanis had at one point screamed, “I didn’t want to do this! I didn’t want to do this!”
Ruiz testified that Opmanis had remained at the scene of the shooting.
On cross examination by Spiker, Ruiz stated that he had spoken with Opmanis.
“Did Mr. Opmanis tell you anything about motorcycles circling him?” Spiker asked.
“Yes,” Ruiz said.
Ruiz recounted, in response to Spiker’s questions, that the three bikers had driven past Opmanis in leaving the parking lot but then circled back and parked next to him and his vehicle, that Opmanis told him he had been hit several times and that he was in fear. Ruiz said his interview with Opmanis was approximately five minutes long. Ruiz said Opmanis admitted he did shoot a gun and that he had shot because he was being assaulted.
Spiker asked if Opmanis had been cooperative with law enforcement officers who arrived on the scene and Ruiz acknowledged that Opmanis was.
Spiker asked Ruiz if Opmanis had told him of a prior confrontation with Robert Shuey, and Ruiz said Opmanis had told him “he was assaulted by Robert Shuey because he had thrown up in Mr. Shuey’s residence” and that “they were picking on him.” Ruiz also indicated that Opmanis at that time had told him about sustaining a facial fracture and black eyes from the assault by Shuey.
Ruiz said he handcuffed Opmanis and put him in his patrol car, and that while Opmanis was in his patrol vehicle, “he was making sounds like he was trying to throw up.”
Ruiz indicated that Opmanis, after purchasing groceries, had remained in the parking lot for an extended period of time after the three motorcyclists were in the parking lot. Ruiz said Opmanis had indicated to him “he was doing some other things inside his vehicle.”
Asked “When did he [Opmanis] reach into his vehicle?” Ruiz responded, “After he heard the subject yelling and cursing at him.”
Ruiz said Opmanis described staying in place in the parking lot for approximately two to three minutes until the time the three motorcyclists encircled him. Opmanis told him that it was when he was hit from several different directions that he racked and loaded the gun. Opmanis told him, Ruiz said, that he only shot the gun once and didn’t aim the weapon.
Ruiz said that Opmanis was “fairly calm” in relating the incidents pertaining to and leading up to the shooting.
Prior to testimony, there was discussion with regard to information the defense was seeking to obtain relating to a DUI arrest and ongoing prosecution of Eric Dyberg, one of the detectives from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Departments working the homicide detail of the Specialized Investigations Division who was assigned to investigate the Davis shooting. Spiker was recently informed of Dyberg’s arrest and pending prosecution, and is seeking the police report relating to that matter to ascertain if there are any statements that Dyberg made which are at a demonstrable variance to the evidence that accompanies the case file. Without prejudging Dyberg’s guilt or innocence, Spiker said, if the police report provides an indication that Dyberg in any fashion made misrepresentations within an official police report, that would cut to the heart of Dyberg’s credibility.
Dyberg’s believability is of some moment in the Opmanis prosecution because of Dyberg’s relationship to the video of Opmanis’s shooting of Davis. The provenance of the video the prosecution provided to the defense is an issue, as the fragmented nature of the video and several crucial elements of it that are missing have led to suggestions that it was purposefully altered to assist the prosecution of Opmanis and hinder his defense.
Under standard protocol in criminal trials throughout the United States, prosecutors are mandated to provide to the defense any exculpatory, meaning potentially exonerating, evidence that the prosecution obtains or which is generated by the law enforcement agency investigating the circumstances of the alleged crime. Failing to make full and adequate disclosure of such materials to the defense is referred to, in legal parlance, as a Brady violation. On Monday morning, February 3, Judge Umeda is to conduct a special hearing relating to Brady issues and the information pertaining to Detective Dyberg that should be provided to Striker in order to aid him in his defense of Opmanis.
The remainder of Opmanis’s preliminary hearing is set to resume on Friday, February 7, before Judge Umeda in Department S-2 at the San Bernardino Justice Center.
Not quite six years after Upland city officials and Upland’s franchised trash hauler promised that city’s residents they would “lock in” the rates homeowners and businesses would pay for refuse service for 12 years, both entities have backtracked on that commitment and imposed on the city’s residents and entrepreneurs a 20 percent rate hike.
According to one of the four members of the council who supported providing trash hauler Burrtec with a so-called “extraordinary solid waste rate adjustment” Monday night, neither he nor any of his three colleagues who have joined the city council in the years since 2014 were informed by either the city manager or the city’s consultant about the agreement the city had entered into to stabilize rates for 12 years in exchange for not putting the city’s garbage handling franchise out for bid. He suggested the vote likely would have gone differently if the full range of information relating to the contract had been available prior to the council vote.
In 2000, when the City of Upland last put its refuse hauling franchise out for bid, Burrtec was selected to replace its previous franchised trash handler, Waste Management, Inc., effective in 2001. In what was a relatively quiet move that took place under the mayoralty of John Pomierski, in 2004 the city provided Burrtec with a “seven-year rolling evergreen” enhancement to the franchise contract. That provision committed the city to keeping Burrtec as its garbage pick-up provider at a minimum for seven years from that date, and it also meant that unless the city gave the company notice that it was initiating the seven-year wind-down of the contract by June 30, the contract was extended by one more year every July 1. Thus, at any given time, Burrtec had a guarantee that it would remain as the city’s franchisee for seven years. The justification for conferring this advantage on the company was that it allowed Burrtec a seven-year period to amortize any debt it might have accrued as a consequence of buying equipment needed to provide Upland with assorted trash-handling services.
In 2013, public discussion in Upland turned to, among other things, the consideration that the city at that point had gone 13 years without conducting an open bid on its trash franchise arrangement. Over the succeeding months discontent within a segment of the community grew, arising out of the perception that the lack of a competitive bidding process was allowing Burrtec to impose higher rates on Upland’s customers than would be the case if the city had the option of providing the franchise to any of a host of other companies that would be willing to underbid Burrtec. That resident discomfiture was exacerbated by the revelation that came about, because of the public discussion, of the 7-year evergreen clause in the contract. By the spring of 2014, residents – and a significant number of them – were demanding that the city initiate the 7-year wind-down of the franchise with Burrtec and undertake, sooner or later, an open bidding process.
At that point, then-Upland Assistant Public Works Director Acquanetta Warren inserted herself into the process. Huddling with then-City Manager Stephen Dunn and Public Works Director/City Engineer Rosemary Hoerning, she structured an arrangement whereby the city avoided the possible termination of its relationship with Burrtec. That arrangement called for foregoing the open franchise bidding process, and suspending for five years the city’s right to initiate the wind-down, such that it would need to wait at least until 2019 to give Burrtec notice of wishing to start the seven-year process of ending the franchise contract. This, in essence, guaranteed that Burrtec would remain as the city’s trash hauling franchisee at least until June 2026. This meant that there would be no bidding on the trash franchise in Upland for a quarter of a century. Nevertheless, Warren, Dunn, Hoerning and eventually three members of the city council – then-Mayor Ray Musser, then-Councilman Gino Filippi and then-Councilwoman Debbie Stone – asserted the deal would prove to be a win-win-win for the city, its residents and Burrtec. For the city extending the franchise at least into 2026, Burrtec committed to “locking in” the 2014 rates it was charging Upland customers for the next 12 years, subject only to an annual adjustment tied to the consumer price index and capped at four percent. In addition, Burrtec agreed to throw in street sweeping service and to pay the city a truck impact fee to offset the city’s cost of repairing the streets as a consequence of damage by the company’s trucks.
To those city residents who yet considered the city foregoing the open bidding process on the franchise to be a bad deal, city officials provided Burrtec Vice President Mike Arrequin with the opportunity to inform the public assemblage at one of the city’s council meetings of how Burrtec was partnering with Upland’s city fathers to look after the best interests of the City of Gracious Living’s residents. Burrtec was making a tremendous gamble in signing onto the deal, Arreguin said, explaining that the trash hauling business is an unpredictable enterprise, one that is fraught with financial pitfalls that can render what is normally a profitable undertaking into one that barely breaks even or loses money. Refuse handlers, Arreguen said, are subject to escalating tipping fees, legislative mandates and unforeseen fluctuations in the recycling market. In this way Arreguin said, Burrtec was taking a huge risk, and that if all of those kinds of factors lined up in the wrong way, Burrtec would have to bear the costs and Upland residents would be getting the benefit of the wager the company was making.
With then-Councilman Brendan Brandt abstaining and then-Councilman Glenn Bozar in opposition, the city council used the assertions provided by Warren and Arreguin as a justification to approve the arrangement with Burrtec, and the city forwent the bidding process.
Into that mix, some residents took stock of the fuller circumstance surrounding Warren. In addition to her position as an assistant department head in Upland, Warren had also been, from 2002 until 2010, a city councilwoman in Fontana, and from 2010 onward until the present time, Fontana mayor. As it is in Upland, Burrtec is also has the trash service franchisee in Fontana. Over the years, Burrtec, as a corporate entity and through its ownership and senior employees, has proven to be one of Warren’s major campaign contributors. Under California law and the California Political Reform Act, elected government officials are, when acting in their elected capacity, permitted to vote on matters impacting their political donors. Nevertheless, it is a peculiarity of the California Political Reform Act that it prohibits appointed government officials from voting or participating in any part of the official decision-making process that benefits one of his or her campaign donors. Thus, Warren was in the clear when she made votes as both a Fontana city councilwoman and as Fontana mayor that impacted Burrtec in its franchise relationship with Fontana. In Upland, however, she did not possess elected status. In this way, her recommendation, while she was serving in the capacity of Upland assistant public works director, that the city council waive the opportunity to carry out a competitive bid for the contract to provide trash service in the city and instead confer on Burrtec the franchise extension until 2026, was a violation of the law. Violations of Government Code sections 1090, 87100, 87103 (e) and 84308, all of which applied to Warren’s circumstance, can be and in other similar circumstances have been prosecuted as felonies. As a consequence of her action, as well as her participation in votes as Fontana mayor in approving and ratifying that city’s labor agreements with the San Bernardino Public Employees Association, of which Warren was herself a member as an Upland City employee, the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office’s Public Integrity Unit initiated an investigation into multiple allegations of public officer conflict of interest against Warren. It was while this investigation was ongoing that on January 8, 2015, without any pre-announcement, Warren abruptly resigned as Upland’s deputy public works director. Just prior to taking her leave, Warren had arranged for the hard drive on the computer at her work station within the Upland public works division to be “wiped clean,” that is, purged, such that no data pertaining to her activity as assistant public works director over the last several years of her tenure with Upland remained on it. That action, the destruction of public records, was itself a violation of the law.
While investigators and prosecutors within the public integrity unit had accumulated sufficient evidence to make a case against her that was characterized as “lead pipe cinch,” ultimately no charges against Warren were filed, as then-District Attorney Mike Ramos moved in to protect her. Ramos and Warren were firm political allies, having endorsed each other in their political campaigns over the years.
For close to five years, Burrtec consistently won the gamble it had made in 2014, as its costs remained relatively constant, with little escalation other than that of routine inflation. Thus, its operations in Upland, as elsewhere, remained profitable. But over the last year to 18 months, there were troubling issues visible on the horizon for Burrtec and other refuse handlers in California. In 2016, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 1383, which mandated that a threshold of organic waste reduction be achieved by 2020 and a higher threshold of organic waste reduction be achieved by 2025, one upshot of which was that it involved greater costs for trash haulers in dealing with food waste. In 2018, the People’s Republic of China, which hosts companies that were previously accepting and paying for a large measure of the plastic and cardboard waste generated by the United States, imposed a ban on receiving those materials, which created within the waste handling industry in general, including Burrtec, a major dilemma. Rather than being able to market a significant portion of the recyclables it was handling, the company was left with tens, then hundreds, then thousands and now tens of thousands and soon hundreds of thousands of tons of waste plastic that is turning into a liability as it cannot sell it and must now store it.
As it did with all of the governmental entities with which it has franchises for providing trash service, Burrtec requested that Upland give it permission to increase the rates it is charging the households and businesses in Upland by a percentage commensurate with its increased costs to comply with Senate Bill 1383 and to make up for its loss of revenue by not being able to sell its cardboard and plastic recyclables wholesale to Chinese companies, and any added costs it is sustaining by having to warehouse those plastics while it comes up with a strategy for getting rid of them.
By last year, the vast number of residents in Upland either never knew about the deal Burrtec had brokered with the city through Acquanetta Warren, Rosemary Hoerning and Stephen Dunn in 2014 or had forgotten about it. Thus, in making the request, Burrtec was banking on Upland’s collective and institutional memory of the commitment to lock in the 2014 rates having faded. Both Dunn and Warren were gone from the city, and of the city council’s five councilmembers in 2014, only Stone, who had advanced to the position of mayor in 2016, remained. Hoerning, was yet in place, remaining not only as the city’s public works director/city engineer but having been elevated to the post of acting city manager in May 2019.
The city brought in a consultant it had turned to previously in evaluating the dynamics relating to solid waste-related issues, R3, headed by its founder, Richard Tagore-Erwin. Tagore-Erwin had previously studied matters pertaining to a multitude of cities’ solid waste handling options while he was with the firm R.W. Beck in the 1990s and early 2000s. Indeed, in 2013, Upland upon Warren’s suggestion had hired Tagore-Erwin through R3 to look at whether Upland should at that point conduct a bidding process that would potentially bring in a new trash-handler by June 2021. R3 had recommended against doing so, and it was partially upon that recommendation the City of Upland put itself on track to draw up the contract with language that conferred the franchise on Burrtec for at least another 12 years, until June 30, 2026, which was passed by the council in 2014.
In addition to the recommendations favoring Burrtec which R3 or Tagore-Erwin has provided to Upland on three occasions, Tagore-Erwin or the companies he has been affiliated with have likewise made recommendations in Burrtec’s favor to the cities of San Bernardino, Colton and Rancho Cucamonga.
On November 22, 2019, R3 delivered its report, assembled in large measure by R3 associate Rose Radford, evaluating Burrtec’s request. Thereafter, at the Upland City Council’s December 9 meeting, Radford made an oral presentation of her report supported with visual aids and charts displayed on the council chambers’ monitors.
The report stated, “Burrtech requested a special rate review due to ‘uncontrollable circumstances’ including changes in law and tipping fee increases. Based on discussions with Burrtec’s vice president and chief financial officer, R3 concluded that those circumstances include:
* The effect of China’s “National Sword” policy significantly increasing costs and reducing commodity revenues at Burrtec’s West Valley Materials Recovery Facility, which is the facility used for tipping and processing city solid waste collected by Burrtec; and
* The effect of increased quantities of collected food scraps driven by state mandates requiring subscription to organics collection service at businesses in the city, which is in turn increasing the tipping fee costs for organic materials.
Based on the review of financial information provided by Burrtec during an on-site review, R3 is able to confirm that these factors are, in fact, increasing Burrtec’s operating costs.”
In the findings section of her report, Radford wrote, “With respect to Burrtec’s request for special rate review, R3 finds that Burrtec has sufficiently demonstrated that a special adjustment pursuant to Section10.06.b(1) of the agreement is warranted.”
Nowhere in the November 22, 2019 R3/Radford report/recommendation was any any reference made to Burrtec’s 2014 commitment to “lock-in” the rates it was charging in return for getting the franchise contract extension.
The November 22, 2019 R3/Radford report/recommendation was included in the packets for the city council meetings of December 9, 2019 and this week, on Monday January 27, when the matter was scheduled for a vote. On neither occasion was the report augmented with any reference to the 2014 rate lock-in, although the Sentinel did discuss the subject with Radford following her December 9 presentation to the council.
In presenting the matter to the council, Hoerning joined in recommending that the council provide Burrtec with what was termed an “extraordinary rate increase,” and she made no mention of the 2014 commitment to lock-in the rates.
Absent from the Monday, January 27, 2020 hearing was Radford or any representative from R3.
After hearing from members of the public, the balance of whom were opposed to the increase, the council took up a discussion of the matter.
Of the mayor and four councilmembers, the only one who demonstrated a recognition of the degree to which the extraordinary rate increase request was violating the spirit and terms of the 2014 deal to lock in rates in exchange for the contract extension appeared to be Councilman Rudy Zuniga. At no fewer than three turns in the discussion, he attempted to usher his colleagues toward either denying the requested increase outright or extracting from Burrtec some form of concession in return for granting the rate increase and rescinding the terms of the 2014 agreement.
Of note was that Mayor Stone, who was a party to the 2014 agreement and had voted to put it in place, never made reference to it during the discussion.
At one point, Zuniga, recognizing that the agreement contained a provision to allow for annual Consumer Price Index-based inflation rate increases capped at four percent, suggested placating Burrtec with that adjustment, but not going beyond that.
“We can give them their four percent like normal,” Zuniga suggested.
Hoerning, however, jumped in to take up, seemingly on Burrtec’s behalf, the suggestion that Burrtec should be given rate increases beyond that.
“The agreement we negotiated in 2014 set the [annual rate increase] cap at four percent,” Hoening said. “However, in the agreement we have with Burrtec, if there’s uncontrollable expenses that they’re experiencing, they can request that [extraordinary rate increase], and that’s what they did. They came back and said, ‘This is not something we can absorb and pass through in a subsequent year. This is something that we need to have addressed. So, that’s why we proceeded forth to validate the expenses, which we have done. Now we have created a rate schedule which reflects those validated expenses.”
Zuniga, detecting momentum moving toward approving the rate request Burrtec was seeking, sought to negotiate better term for the city in granting the request.
“So, if I give you your 20 percent now, would you allow me out of this evergreen contract in a year?” Zuniga asked from the council dais, addressing Arreguin, who was seated in the council chambers’ gallery. “Would you be open to that?” Zuniga asked. “I’m not saying I’m going to do that, but give me the option to [go out to bid] in maybe two years, then.”
Arreguin eluded the question.
Gamely, Zuniga pressed on, reminding the other council members that “They really changed the contract from four percent to now it’s 20 percent…”
“That’s a onetime [increase],” Hoerning interrupted him.
Zuniga, while immediately acknowledging that the increase was indeed going to be imposed “one-time,” asserted that if the city was to make such a concession to Burrtec, it should seek something in return.
“So, can’t we open the door?” Zuniga said. “If we say, ‘We’ll give you that, but we want to open the door to change the evergreen contract down to maybe two years,’ we have the leverage right now. I don’t want to do a deal right now that’s going to not allow us to do what’s beneficial to our city and our residents.”
Councilman Bill Velto at that point diverted the discussion away from using the opportunity the circumstance provided to obtain concessions from Burrtec.
“What are the consequences if we don’t give this increase?” he asked. He inquired of Arrequin what would happen if the city did not agree to the 20 percent increase, asking, essentially, if the company would then take it upon itself to cease dealing with the city’s recyclables.
“Councilman Velto, you’re asking me to state something that I’m really not authorized to give an opinion to one of my municipalities,” Arreguin responded. “That’s something that’s an owner decision. I couldn’t say what the company would do from that standpoint. We have costs. We’re behind a year in costs.”
Thereupon, Velto seemed to take up Burrtec’s position, rather than that of the city.
“That is extremely important for the residents to know, because if we say, ‘No,’ what is the consequences of that action, because we know what the consequences of voting yes are. We’re going to have a lot of upset people, a few upset people, I should say. But what about the consequences if we deny it – the 20 percent? What is the ramification, the impact on the community as a whole? And that’s really important for the residents to know.”
“It may come to a point where we can’t absorb those costs any longer,” Arreguin said.
“So how does that impact our contract’s specific performance?” Velto asked.
“It [the contract] allows for the uncontrollable costs to be passed through,” Arreguin said. “I’m not an attorney.”
The question was referred to City Attorney Steven Flower. Flower said, “I don’t have the full franchise agreement in front of me, but there is an excerpt in the packet from the study from R3, so, just to quote from that, in the procedure that’s outlined for these extraordinary rate increases it does specify that the city does have the sole judgment as to whether or not to approve it in full, part or not at all, but in the instance that the city does not approve it or approves it in part, Burrtec would have two remedies. One, they could seek a writ of mandate, which is basically a court order, and I’m not prepare to comment on what that might look like at this point. And their other option is to terminate the agreement. If, basically, Burrtec finds that without the rate increase they can’t make it work, they would have the option to terminate the agreement.”
Velto then offered a question phrased in the form of a statement. “But we don’t have the right to terminate because of a pass-through increase?” he said.
Flower responded, “I’m not prepared to comment on that because I don’t have the full agreement in front of me.”
Velto seemed to be on the verge of pursuing having his colleagues table the matter until a future meeting. “I think we need to know those answers, Mike, when we’re talking about 20 percent,” he said, almost apologetically to Arreguin.
At that juncture, however, Mayor Stone diverted the discussion to how the city had previously sought to pass its costs through to its customers when it formerly handled billing for trash service.
Councilman Ricky Felix further diverted the council’s focus from ascertaining what rights, precisely, the city possessed under the franchise contract. Felix latched onto the R3 report, saying it would be unwise to ignore the consultant’s recommendation. He then asked Hoerning what she recommended.
“Well, I think it would be appropriate to move ahead with the rate adjustment,” Hoerning said. “I think the cost associated with this is the disposal component, which is not something that lines Burrtec’s pockets.”
Stone made a motion to accept the rate adjustment, which was seconded by Velto. It passed 4-to-1, with Zuniga in opposition.
Following the meeting, Mayor Stone quickly exited City Hall, using an exit not accessible to the public, and could not be encountered for comment.
The Sentinel managed to reach Radford this morning, four days after the meeting. She said her absence from Monday night’s meeting was a consequence of her having caught a virus.
In explaining R3’s recommendation to give Burrtec what it had requested, Radford reiterated what was in her report, stating that the company was encountering unanticipated operational cost increases and that R3 had examined Burrtec’s books, toured its facilities and verified the increased costs as ones the company was actually experiencing.
“Burrtec did request those, which we recommended be approved as extraordinary rate increases,” she said. “The costs associated with the worldwide impact on recyclable materials and the cost of handling organics have gone up far beyond anyone’s expectations.”
Those developments taken together with the provision in the city’s contract with Burrtec allowing the city to agree to the extraordinary rate increase if it deemed doing so to be appropriate and justified, she said, was the basis of the recommendation.
When pressed, Radford acknowledged that the R3 report did not provide the current city council with the full range of background for the 2014 agreement, including the verbal commitment that the 2014 rates were to be locked in in exchange for the franchise extension at least until 2026.
She also said that in drafting the report, she had relied upon an incomplete record of the City of Upland’s proceedings with regard to the 2014 franchise contract extension.
Asked why the report had made no inclusion of any information pertaining to the commitment to stabilize the trash hauling rates paid by Upland’s residents and businesses through June 2026, Radford said, “As you know, I personally was not there in 2014. I was not able to review the video. The paper [i.e., documentation] for the meetings in 2014 was not available. To be as direct as I can possibly be, what the contract says is what the parties have agreed upon, so the extraordinary rate increase provision remained in the franchise agreement. We would not be able to consider it if it wasn’t allowed in the contract.”
Radford said for the city to have been able to insist on Burrtec living up to the commitment to keep the 2014 rates in place until 2026 irrespective of any extraordinary costs the company encountered, the city would have needed to convert Burrtec’s verbal assurances into writing. “In terms of what was committed to or was discussed during the public meeting, that would have needed to be included in the contract language,” she said.
City Manager Rosemary Hoerning did not return phone calls seeking from her an explanation as to why she had withheld from the council information about the commitment to keep the 2014 rates intact until 2026.
Councilman Bill Velto said he believed “the council as a whole utilized” the R3 recommendation as the basis for its decision. He said he had not critically analyzed the consultant’s report or recommendation and essentially accepted it at face value. He said to strike out on his own and do for himself an independent evaluation would be “to micromanage” city operations, which he said as a policy director rather than a manager with the city he was not entitled to do.
“They’re the experts,” Velto said, with regard to R3, and he said he had put his faith in the company. “We hire the experts to come in and advise us,” he said.
Velto said he recognized that Burrtec was entitled to a four percent increase under the contract and that it had the right to ask for an additional passthrough fee under certain circumstances.
Asked directly about the 2014 commitment to lock in what were then the current customer rates until June 2026, Velto said he had not been informed of that.
“This is the first time I’m hearing about his,” Velto said. “If I would have known about that, I would have asked them the right questions. That was not presented to me by anyone. I didn’t think to challenge the integrity of the consultants. We hired the consultants because we trust their judgment. This throws me.”
Velto expressed dismay over Hoerning not having mentioned the 2014 commitment at any point, particularly since there was no reference to it in the R3 report. He said Hoerning had been the major driver toward the council taking up Burrtec’s request for the increase.
“The only reason we considered this was because the city manager brought that to the city council,” he said.
He reiterated that no reference to the 2014 commitment had been provided to the council during its consideration of the request from Burrtec going back to last fall. Velto further said that no reference to Arreguin’s 2014 likening of the deal to exchange the extension of the franchise to 2026 for the rate lock-in to a gamble that Burrtec could lose and the city’s residents and businesses could win was ever made in his presence.
“That was not provided to us by staff,” Velto said. “I based my decision on what was put in front of me. I was not given that information.”
Velto strongly suggested he would have voted differently had he been provided with that information so he could have made a fuller reckoning of the facts. He then used the term “fraud” in describing what had occurred.
“I don’t think we can undo that vote,” Velto lamented. Nevertheless, he said, “If that was fraudulent and that can be proven, then there should be recourse for the city.”
Velto said he understood that from a certain context his questions and statements Monday night might be seen as ones advocating on behalf of Burrtec, but that his intention was to inquire after what liability the city might run if it denied Burrtec something it was entitled to under the franchise contract.
“I wanted to know what the consequences were if we denied them that rate increase,” Velto said. “My concern was involving the city in litigation it would be better to avoid. If we took action, or failed to take action, as the case might be, and they filed a lawsuit, then we would have to respond, and before you know it we would have $250,000 or $350,000 or $450,000 in legal fees. That’s how it is in government. You might not do anything improper, but you still get sued, and it can be very expensive.”
At one point on Monday night, Velto said, things “felt wrong,” and he was looking to delay the decision until the city attorney could make a more complete and detailed analysis of the city’s position under the franchise contract. But when he made an effort to move in that direction, Velto said, Councilwoman Janice Elliott, who would have needed to provide a key vote to join with his and Zuniga’s votes to postpone the decision, did not respond to the idea he was attempting to float or make eye contact with him when he looked over at her. For that reason, he said, the effort to table the matter fell by the wayside.
When the mayor’s motion was made, Velto said, he went along with it, on the basis that it was backed by R3’s and Hoerning’s recommendations.
Velto dismissed any suggestions that there were venal elements in the council’s decision to support the rate increase for Burrtec, which will provide the company with an estimated influx of $2 million in the coming year alone. He said the company’s propensity to make campaign donations were not a factor in the vote. Nor did he anticipate receiving any money from Burrtec, he said.
“I don’t care about their contributions,” he said. “I obviously after this can’t take contributions from them now.”
When queried about the rationale for her vote in support of giving the extraordinary rate hike to Burrtec, Councilwoman Janice Elliott said, “I do not wish to respond,” asserting such questions “lack journalistic integrity,” since, she said, they involved “conjectures about graft.”
She insisted she had not received any money from Burrtec.
Burrtec as a corporation, since May 29, 2018, has made 928 political donations to politicians or political causes within California, primarily to local or state politicians in Southern California, totaling $1,268,620.40, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office. That does not included money separately provided to politicians by Burrtec’s ownership, management and employees.
In San Bernardino County, it is de rigueur for trash hauling companies that have obtained or which are competing for municipal trash hauling franchises to make substantial political contributions to the elected officials in those cities, either to solidify their holds on those franchises or in an effort to obtain them. Scores of the county’s politicians count trash hauling companies or their ownership and senior management among their major campaign donors.
In March 1992, then-San Diego County District Attorney Edwin Miller issued the so-called Miller Report linking Waste Management, Inc., which at that time had the franchise for refuse handling in Upland, with organized crime, antitrust activity and illegal hazardous-waste dumping. In 1997, former Riverside County Deputy District Attorney Mark McDonald, at the behest of then-Colton Police Chief Bernie Lunsford and then-Colton City Attorney Julie Biggs, compiled the McDonald Report, in which he cataloged a host of irregularities in Colton’s bidding process for the city’s trash hauling franchise contract after it shuttered its municipal sanitation department. That report detailed the provision of inducements McDonald characterized as “tantamount to bribery” made to then-Colton Mayor George Fulp and then-councilmen Donald Sanders and Abe Beltran to dissuade the Colton City Council from extending the franchise to Burrtec, which had been identified by Tagore-Erwin of R.W. Beck as most deserving of the contract, and instead vote to award the franchise to Taormina Industries, now known as Republic Industries. In 1999, former San Bernardino County Chief Administrative Officer James Hlawek, his predecessor as chief county administrator, Harry Mays, and Norcal vice president James Walsh were named in a federal indictment. The indictment cataloged a bribery scheme in which Norcal was awarded the contract for managing San Bernardino County’s landfills, an assignment by which it received more than $20 million before the indictment resulted in the termination of the contract. According to the indictment, Walsh had secured Mays’s services as a consultant, paying him $4.2 million, while Hlawek, Mays’s protégé serving in the role of the county’s top administrator, had been provided with 28 payments from Norcal in amounts ranging from $650 to $5,400. In return, Mays and Hlawek engineered the awarding of the landfill management contract to Norcal. Mays, Hlawek and Walsh were convicted.
In 2019, the Upland City Council did not trigger the 7-year wind-down on the Burrtec franchise contract, such that Burrtec’s franchise in Upland is scheduled to last at least until June 30, 2027. If the city council does not signal its intent to begin the wind-down by June of this year, Burrtec’s franchise will be extended until June 30, 2028.
By Rita Loof
Prior to my election to the San Bernardino County Board of Education, I made a pledge to my constituents that I would advocate for greater transparency and accountability. I was attempting to do just that on Monday, January 6, 2020 when the annual audit of the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools was presented to the board for review, which is required under the Education Code. I was dismayed and shocked to hear the board president state that she was going to limit the amount of time that I would have to ask questions of the auditor to 15 minutes. The county board does not have a policy to limit board member questions and in the many years I have been attending county board meetings, I have never seen such a practice. I managed to ask two questions of the auditor, who is supposed to be an independent entity. She quickly told me that my questions related to documents management had put together and that her firm only wrote two pages of the report.
At least one of my questions was answered, namely, the report does not encompass all of the functions of the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools. It only deals with the internal business services department. I was told that my questions should have been submitted to staff prior to the meeting, but we only get the report two business days ahead of the meeting, so there is very little time to ask staff any questions. I took time away from my family to review the report over the weekend to be ready for the Monday meeting and do the best job I could for the people of San Bernardino County. I had pages with sticky notes on it and a list of questions which remain unanswered. As elected officials, aren’t we supposed to deliberate and discuss issues in public, not behind the scenes? I am starting to get the feeling that certain elements do not welcome questions and prefer to keep elected officials uninformed and as rubber stamps, which I am unwilling to do.
I do not believe the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools audit report was reviewed by the board as intended under the Education Code. I, for one, did not even get the opportunity to ask most of the questions I had. The audit issue has been a longstanding one for the constituents I represent in the West End, as for many years they have complained that the West End Special Education Local Plan Area (WESELPA), with a budget of over $200,000,000 has never conducted any audits. In response to calls from community members for the agency to conduct an audit as mandated under a federal grant program specifically required under the contract, the WESELPA chose to decline re-applying for the grant rather than performing the audit. It was a $2.1 million grant, which provided services to students with disabilities. For all the talk of how children with disabilities are such high cost, the West End Special Education Local Plan Area can afford to turn away $2.1 Million? And what kind of skeletons are in its closet that WESELPA would rather turn away a couple of million dollars than perform a legally required audit? It should be noted that the San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools is the employer of record of the WESELPA staff.
The bottom line is that an audit of over $458 million of our county tax dollars was “reviewed” with little or no questions asked. I certainly did not get the opportunity to ask the many questions I had. These are the questions I planned to ask had I been given the opportunity:
–Page (x)—Expenses, “General Administration” has increased by $6.65 million, why?
–Page (xi)—Figure 7; 33% of funds listed as “Other Outgo”; what’s included in that category?
–Page 3—“Community Services” have increased by $4.5 million; what do those consist of?
–Page 17—CAHELP, what does it do? Who are the members and how does it “provide for the administration of a special education service region” to implement mandated special education programs?
–Page 38– Which funds are used for legal services such as lawsuits against children with disabilities paid out of?
–Page 42—Why is there $21 million listed as “tuition,” given the fact that public schools do not charge tuition?
–Page 56—Workability I, $2.1 Million; is WESELPA included?
–Page 58- $66, 076,586 in federal awards; what is the breakdown by SELPA and how are the other SELPA funds audited?
–Page 58– $17,439,410 in Medical “Administrative” activities; how is the money being spent?
–Page 74—The auditor identified “Significant deficiency (ies)” for internal controls over financial reporting; please explain why.
I urge you as concerned citizens to demand accountability and transparency of your government. Let your representatives on the board know how you feel.
Rita Loof is the elected board member on the San Bernardino County Board of Education, representing Area B, which encompasses the school district areas of Upland, Central, Alta Loma, Etiwanda, Mt. Baldy Joint, Ontario and Montclair.
In this year’s race for Third Ward councilman in San Bernardino, Luis Ojeda is challenging the incumbent, Juan Figueroa.
Ojeda said he is running for office out of “frustration,” explaining, “I am very involved in the community doing community service with my own volunteers, my own equipment, my own money. I have come to realize through going to the city council meetings very often that with the people we now have in office making the decision for the city’s residents, we are never going to move forward. What I have come to see is that none of those on the dais at this moment has any understanding of how finances work. They need to realize we are in serious difficulty. Somehow, they haven’t noticed yet that money needs to be earned and it doesn’t grow on trees and it can’t be found lying in the street. We have to bring in money and be mindful about how we spend the taxpayers’ money. I feel this council lacks that.”
Ojeda, who moved to San Bernardino from Rancho Cucamonga four years ago, almost immediately engaged himself where he could in civic improvement efforts, spearheading neighborhood cleanup projects on week-ends and attending city council meetings, at which he would bird dog the council to look into and take action on items or issues he had come across which he believed deserved the attention of the council and city officials or staff members who had the authority and means to do something about the problems and challenges he saw. This resulted in some movement on the city’s part, but Ojeda said that the city’s reaction has been insufficient.
“I was involved in these neighborhood cleanup projects, week after week,” he said. “I was volunteering my time and working with others who would volunteer. I used my own equipment and my own money. I tried to push the city and the council to do better. If they didn’t react, I came back and would talk about them some more. Some of the citizens were welcoming me, but not the council. I soon realized that things wouldn’t change. That is why, frankly, I want to get in there. The way the city operates is through a culture of ineptitude, cronyism and nepotism that doesn’t lend itself to the elected officials thinking about the residents. The main things the council concerns itself about are the needs of special interests. In this city, special interests come before the residents. The people are frustrated and I am frustrated along with them over how the council won’t do what is right for the residents. The council has been compromised or corrupted or however you want to put it by this misplaced loyalty to special interests. I am all about business and promoting development and progress, but we need to put the people first.”
Ojeda said there has been a major “corruption” of the city government’s function.
He believes he has the formula to map the city’s way out of the hole it is in, Ojeda said. “We first have to hold people accountable,” he said. “The first thing is to do an audit of all of the departments, especially the police department. Why are we the most dangerous city in California and number three in the nation? When you ask that question, you get simplistic answers. They say we don’t have enough money and that we don’t have enough people. When you are spending approximately 80 percent of your budget on the police department and you are still experiencing the level of crime we are having, that tells us we are doing something wrong. That the police chief is against an audit is very concerning. I think we have valuable people who work for the city, but their opportunity to try out the solutions that will work are limited because of the people above them, the leaders and the culture of failure, this culture of corruption. We have to do an audit to find out what we are spending all that money on, to find out what we are doing and who is making that money, and whether they are earning the money we are paying them.”
Ojeda said, “We need to to engage the community. I have been walking my ward the last few weeks and talking to the residents. I tell you, they have an apathy toward our local issues. They feel it doesn’t matter, nobody listens to them, that there is no accountability. They believe the solution is to just move out of the city. Many have already moved out of the city. We need to engage our community and tell them it is not hopeless. We can turn this city around. We need to engage them and get them to participate and show them them we can clean up blight, we can reduce the presence of things that lead to crime. Some people talk about what needs to be done but don’t get involved. I have been trying to lead by example.”
There needs to be greater openness and accessibility at City Hall and less restriction on information, Ojeda said.
“I can see that nobody [other than top city officials] know what the finances of the city are,” Ojeda said. “The city council deals with that and those issues in closed session, and during the open sessions, we don’t have access to crucial information, important information. For me, that is why I would like to have an audit, so we can see and hear as far as our finances go, what our income is, what our liabilities are. We need to concentrate on how to create revenue. I have been talking to people who deal with our economic development and planning department and they tell me it takes too long for people to get permits to get their businesses going. They say that frustration is why they would rather go and have their businesses in Rialto and Fontana, Loma Linda or Redlands. The planning department is one of the key departments we have to pay attention to, so that people can get their projects approved fast. That will go a long way toward creating a healthy business environment. People are looking to develop businesses and locate them in our city. We should not be keeping that from happening. We need to get our act together. We should not just be receptive to the people who want to establish businesses here but be proactive in seeking out those who are thinking of starting a business, to let them know San Bernardino is an option for them, and that if they come here we will get their plans approved fast. That is how we can bring this city’s economic situation around.”
Ojeda is running in the city’s Third Ward against the incumbent, Juan Figueroa, who was elected in a special election last year. Ojeda essentially bypassed the opportunity offered to him to engage in a broadside attack on Figueroa, who has now been in office eight months, saying tersely, “The only thing I would say to him is to ask, ‘Why is the council you are a member of spending money that we don’t have? You and the council have given city employees salary increases when we don’t have the money. Why did you vote against doing an audit of the police department?’ I do not want to say he is doing a bad job, but there is always room for improvement.”
Ojeda said that with regard to himself, “I have been telling the voters when they ask ‘What are you going to do if we elect you?’ that I don’t have a magic wand that will fix everything. What I can promise is that I will work for them, the same way I have worked for the city as a volunteer. I can promise them a lot of hard work and a lot of action.”
Ojeda attended high school in Mexico City and studied accounting, broadcasting, communications and computer science at Chaffey College. He has operated businesses within the logistics industry, the most recent one being Khan D’Kulia, a trucking company which also entails a truck driving training center.
Divorced, Ojeda said, “from the most beautiful woman in the world,” he has five daughters.
At its January 14 meeting, the Fontana City Council approved the development of another warehouse project, in this case one that will be built in the city’s northwestern quadrant.
In giving go-ahead to the 76,809-square-foot structure, the four members of the city council present signed off on a site plan and architectural review of the project, as well as approving a general plan amendment, a specific plan amendment and changing the city’s general plan land use map on eight parcels from general commercial (C-G) to light industrial, while altering the West End Specific Plan zoning from commercial light industrial (CLI) to rail service industrial (BP3).
Though the warehouse is to be located on 3.25 acres on the south side of Hilton Drive and east of Redwood Avenue, the overall acreage amended by the council’s action extended to approximately 8.25 gross acres. That action signals that in the future, more warehouses will likely be developed on adjoining properties.
This project was considered by the Fontana Planning Commission at its November 19, 2019 meeting. After hearing staff’s presentation, the commission heard from the project applicant, James T. Fong, whereupon it voted 5-to-0 to adopt a resolution approving the project. The project was scheduled for a city council public hearing on December 10, 2019; however, the project was continued due to a lack of quorum.
According to Fontana Director of Community Development Zai AbuBakar, “The proposed building totals approximately 76,809 square feet. The concrete tilt-up warehouse building has been designed for two potential offices. The office/mezzanine is approximately 7,000 square feet. The offices are located on the northeast and northwest corner of the building. The building will incorporate architectural features consisting of glazing, towers, and painted banding in gray tone colors which will add structural and visual interest to the building. Additionally, variations to the building face and roof lines, with tower elements proposed at 37 feet, will be architecturally pleasing and be consistent with the surrounding buildings. The main focal point will be the front elevation of the building facing Hilton Drive. The glazing and wall articulation are carried to the side elevations because they are also visible from the street. The site will be accessed by two driveways along Hilton Drive. Both driveways will accommodate commercial truck and passenger car traffic. The building has unloading/loading areas for trucks to the south of the building completely screened from the public right-of-way. In addition, landscaping is also proposed along the perimeter of the site. The project site is physically suitable in size and shape to support the development of the proposed warehouse building.”
The project was approved unanimously, 4-to-0, my the council members present, Mayor Acquanetta Warren and councilmen Jesse Armendarez, Phillip Cothran, and John Roberts. Not present at the meeting was Councilman Jesse Sandoval.
In recent years, Fontana has approved a spate of warehouse projects, both within its city limits and its sphere of influence. Consistently Warren, Armendarez, Cothran and Roberts have proven to be in favor of the addition of warehousing. Sandoval has consistently opposed it.
There has been growing public opposition to warehouse development in Fontana and elsewhere in the Inland Empire, as residents and environmentalists as well as social activists have expressed concerns about possible health, environmental, and traffic impacts, as well as inveighing against the relatively low wages paid to workers in the warehouse industry.
Warren, who heads the city’s ruling coalition which features Armendarez, Cothran and Roberts as members, maintains the development of warehouses represents economic enrichment for the area. This has earned for Warren the disrespectful sobriquet “Warehouse Warren,” which she, in defiance of her critics, wears and touts as a badge of honor.
Brian Davison is running for city council in San Bernardino’s Fifth Ward, once again challenging incumbent Henry Nickel.
Davison was Nickel’s only opposition in 2015, the city’s last election held before the passage of the new San Bernardino City Charter in 2016, which changed San Bernardino’s election cycle from odd-numbered to even-numbered years. This year, three others – Ben Reynoso, Mike Avelleneda, Marlo Brooks and Pete Torres – have joined with Davison in seeking to unseat Nickel.
“I think Henry has accomplished as much as he is going to,” Davison said, adding that by rejecting Nickel and electing him, the Fifth Ward’s voters will be bringing about “change” that will be “better for the city.”
The major issues facing the Fifth Ward, Davison said, are indistinguishable from those vexing the rest of the city, Davison said.
“Crime and the homeless situation,” Davison said, need to be addressed. “We need more police patrol,” he said. “There are not enough officers on the street.”
The solution to a large measure of what ails the city, Davison said, is simple.
“We get more police officers patrolling the city,” he said. “If you have a guy walking down the street, casing the neighborhood, and he sees the police patrolling there, he is probably going to say to himself, ‘This is not the area I need to be in,’ and he will go somewhere else. If you talk to the people who live up here in the Fifth District where I am running, they will tell you we need the police up here, on the streets, not in an office behind a desk in the police station or the substation. We want them right in the area where the crime is. If you have a police presence, if you have officers on the streets throughout the areas patrolling, that is going to be a major deterrent to crime. We want the police officers here. I think I have seen them on my street maybe three times in the last year. Other residents will tell you the same thing. The police presence in our city is inadequate. You can see that. Residents are taking things into their own hands. Nine out of ten houses now have the Ring.com app. They are trying to protect their own homes, protect themselves, protect their families.”
Davison said he recognizes that financing in San Bernardino, which declared bankruptcy in 2012 and did not emerge from that status until 2017, is tight. He said the upgrading of the police department’s patrol reach can be effectuated through the reprioritzation of its existing assets and without the expenditure of more money.
“We are already spending close to 80 percent of the city’s budget on public safety,” he said. “Given the constraints on our budget, we don’t have more money to spend. What we have to do is reallocate the funds we have to put more boots on the ground to drive down crime. We are too top-heavy, with more sergeants, lieutenants and captains than we need. For everyone that is sitting behind a desk, we could instead have two officers out on patrol. I don’t know why we keep on feeding a dead horse. Henry [Nickel] is going the wrong way on this. I would never have voted to give the police chief and the assistant police chief a nine percent raise. I would have put that money where we need it.”
Davison was also critical of Nickel’s other decisions and votes as a councilman.
“He was on a committee that was supposed to save the city money and what they did was recommended and then voted to reduce the pay of the city attorney, the city clerk and city treasurer by two thirds, and that went to a lawsuit and naturally the city lost. Those were three elected officials. The city treasurer just quit. It cost the city more than we were supposed to save. We had to provide the city attorney and city clerk with back pay and we had legal expenses on top of that. I would never have voted for that.”
Davison has served as a park and recreation commissioner since 2016.
He is also active in Blessing Angels. “It is a grassroots service organization that focuses on fixing the homeless problem,” he said of Blessing Angels. “We work to find homes for the veterans and the homeless, provide them with clothing and amenities they need, which is sometimes something as simple as toothpaste and toothbrushes, so they can brush their teeth. This is run entirely on donations and it is very direct, with the money going straight to the homeless. There is no administration that is eating up the money. We take pictures of the homeless, so those who donate can see that the money or clothes they have provided is going to where we said it was to go.”
Davison grew up in San Dimas, graduating from San Dimas High School. He moved to San Bernardino in 1986. He he owns a business in San Bernardino, and lives in a house in the Fifth Ward that he built himself in 2001.
He has been working his entire adult life, Davison said. “I got married early and had to go to work,” he said. “I followed in my father’s footsteps. He was an electrician and I went to trade school by going to work with him. Now I am a licensed electrician.”
Davison said, “I have lived in San Bernardino for 34 years. If I am elected to the city council I will restore integrity, pride and transparency to the way our city is governed. My goal is to return San Bernardino into being an All America City.”
Davison has three children, two stepchildren and 26 grandchildren.