By clicking on the blue portal below, you can download a PDF of the October 11 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel.
Altering the basis of what for more than a decade has existed as a key component of the regional transportation strategy envisioned for implementation in the last three-fourths of the 21st Century, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s Transit Committee yesterday dispensed with its resolve to build a second commuter rail line linking Los Angeles and the Inland Empire.
The move, supported by eight of the eleven members on the transit committee, signaled a rare and very serious break in the cooperative’s approach in forming a physical solution to reducing the gridlock that grips Southern California’s transportation system on weekdays, bringing westbound traffic on the 210, 10 and 60 freeways to a crawl during the critical three-hour duration in the morning from roughly 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. and then replicates itself with eastbound traffic each late weekday afternoon into the early evening as approaching three million motorists engage in their workday commutes.
Already in place is the MetroLink rail system that runs 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. MetrolLink utilizes diesel engines to pull its passenger cars and features departures every half hour. Los Angles Metro has completed more than a dozen links of a secondary rail system with its western terminus in Los Angeles, the Gold Line, which reaches northward before reaching the San Gabriel Foothill communities and then heads eastward. The Gold Line at present stretches to Glendora, and work on its extension to Pomona is ongoing. Previously, cooperation between Los Angeles County’s Metro transit system and the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority had created a commitment that work on the Gold Line would continue immediately toward the goal of reaching first Claremont, as the furthest east-lying Los Angeles County community and then continue across the Los Angeles County/San Bernardino County Line to the already existing Montclair Transcenter, a multi-modal transit hub roughly two blocks north of the 10 Freeway where a multiplicity of bus lines converge with Montclair’s MetroLink station. The Gold Line, which is defined as a light rail system, 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.
While MetroLink has alleviated to a very limited degree the number of commuters traveling at peak hours on the freeway system, it has not proven wildly popular, two reasons being the long waits between departures and its expense, entailing at present a $14 price for a round trip ticket. With its more frequent departures and $1.50 one-way fare, the Gold Line has proven far more popular, as the ridership level has exceeded projections at each eastward extension of the line so far.
Formerly known as San Bernardino Association of Governments or SANBAG, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority functions as the steward of Measure I funds. Measure I was a San Bernardino County funding initiative that imposed a half-cent sales tax collected throughout San Bernardino County for transportation improvements. Measure I was first approved by San Bernardino County voters in 1989 and was extended by a second vote in 2004 to remain in place through 2040. The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority has a governing board consisting of a council member or mayor from each of the county’s 24 incorporated cities as well as all five of the members of the county board of supervisors.
Previously, 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 Angles 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 yesterday’s transit committee meeting, which 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 a 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 1.2-mile extension
According to Wolfe, the hybrid Gold Link concept combined the advantage of not entailing the cost of building another track 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.
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 perspective, 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.
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.
Evinced in the vote was an east/west split, with the cities nearest Los Angeles in favor of the Gold Line extension and the others more distant from the megalopolis opting out. There was some question, however, as to whether the attitudes of the voting members of the transit committee fully match those in the communities they represent. Rancho Cucamonga Mayor LLoyd Dennis Michael, for example, voted in support of Wolfe’s plan. Some elements of the Rancho Cucamonga community, nonetheless, are passionately in favor of the Gold Line.
It has been pointed out that 65 percent of the county’s Measure I revenue is generated within the seven cities at the west end of San Bernardino County, and that the Gold Line is a major component of the strategy for alleviating traffic gridlock in that region. With the extension of the Gold Line into western San Bernardino County on the drawing boards for over a decade with vaguer plans for it to extend as far east as San Bernardino, Redlands or Yucaipa by the middle of the current century, the cities on the west side of San Bernardino County have in part shaped their planning to provide for transit districts – consisting of higher density residential units surrounding the rail corridor – in their jurisdictions. This is particularly true in Montclair and Upland. There are urban planners in Western San Bernardino County who consider the Gold Line to be an intrinsic element of the character of their respective cities’ futures, and they were miffed with what they considered to be Wolfe’s cavalier reversal with regard to a planning process that has been years in the making and refining.
Thus, Wolfe’s proposal to back out of the Gold Line extension has the potential for an even wider, indeed deeply significant, regional political impact. Talk has already begun about an historic jurisdictional realignment by which Montclair would secede from San Bernardino County and annex to Los Angeles County, with which it is contiguous. While such jurisdictional shifts are highly uncommon, there has been precedent for such in California history. Though at a mere 5.52 square miles, making it the second smallest city in San Bernardino County geographically, Montclair packs a relatively potent commercial punch, as it is home to Montclair Place, formerly known as the Montclair Plaza, which from its opening in 1968 was one of the county’s premier mercantile venues. While it has since slipped to being the fourth most popular shopping mall in the county, it is still a major generator of sales tax revenue, and thus of Measure I transportation funding for the county. Were Montclair to withdraw from beneath the San Bernardino County umbrella and append to Los Angeles County, Ontario would find itself with a common border with Los Angeles County. Ontario, which likewise has an interest in seeing the Gold Line extended to its major transportation venue, Ontario International Airport, at that point could likewise merge with Los Angeles County. Such a change would be far more significant than the loss of Montclair. Ontario is, hands down, the most prolific of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities in terms of the size of its economic engine. A reflection of that is the consideration that Ontario’s municipal budget dwarfs that of every other city in the county, as the more than $500 million – half of a billion dollars – which course through all of the city’s funds exceed the combined revenue/expenditure ledgers of the next two most generously financially endowed cities in the county. The loss of Ontario and its contribution to the county’s transportation improvement efforts in terms of Measure I money would be devastating to the county.
The transit committee’s vote yesterday is not binding, but represents a recommendation that is likely to be followed by the full San Bernardino County Transportation Agency Board when Wolfe agendizes the issue at a future meeting, perhaps as early as next month.
The California Department of Transportation rather quietly last month pulled the plug on the long-in-the-works plans for the 63-mile Desert Corridor Freeway that was to link California State Route 14 in Palmdale and State Route 18 in Apple Valley.
Once touted as an energetic multimodal transportation initiative which was to involve a planned train line built into the freeway design as well as a bike route and renewable energy transmission lines, the $8 billion project was nixed as the consequence of a court settlement brought by environmental groups against the State of California and the California Department of Transportation.
As early as the 1930s, there was serous discussion of building a major highway linking northern Los Angeles County to the Victor Valley, running through the vast virtually undeveloped expanse of the west Mojave Desert. But available capital, resources and energy during that and the subsequent era was devoted, indeed monopolized, by crucial transportation needs in the much more heavily populated and more rapidly growing areas south of the San Gabriel Mountains, resulting in the construction of the 10, 60 and 210 freeways as the Southland’s primary east-west connections between Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties.
By the 1970s, the concept of having an east-west freeway north of the San Gabriel Mountains was revived in earnest, though no realistic funding source for it was available. The idea grew increasingly attractive as population growth in the Antelope Valley on the far west side of the Mojave and in the communities of Oak Hills, Hesperia, Apple Valley, Victorville and Adelanto began to accelerate in 1980s, 1990s and into the Third Millennium.
Almost two decades ago, traffic jams down the 15 Freeway from the Victor Valley in the morning and back up the 15 to 4,190-foot elevation Cajon Summit in the late afternoon/early evening became a weekday reality. For the more intrepid of those impatient with taking that route to and from the Inland Empire or beyond to Orange County and the Los Angeles megalopolis, there was the back route, State Highway 138, the Pearblossom Highway, that generally traces the northern foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains lying to the south and the western Mojave Desert, which lies off to the north. Though scenic, the mostly two-lane highway is treacherous, and is commonly referred to as “Blood Alley” or “Death’s Highway.” Over the years, hundreds of motorists have lost their lives as the rolling contour of the land and resultant dips in the road create blind spots, which have contributed to legions of head-on accidents that occur when a speeding vehicle running in one direction or the other moves into the oncoming lane of traffic to pass a slower traveler.
In November 2006, the County of Los Angeles and the County of San Bernardino created the High Desert Corridor Joint Powers Authority, which took as its charter the creation of the High Desert Corridor, what was then envisioned as a 66-mile stretch of freeway connecting the Los Angeles County communities of Palmdale/Lancaster with the San Bernardino County communities of Victorville, Apple Valley, and Adelanto.
By earlier this decade, with much of the developable land south of the San Gabriel Mountains consumed in the Los Angeles Basin and the price of available undeveloped property in the Inland Empire skyrocketing, both the Antelope Valley and the Victor Valley had transformed into two of the fastest growing regions in the state, prioritizing the means of alleviating the gridlock on the 15, 210, 10 and 60 freeways even further. A study for the High Desert Corridor was initiated in 2010, as conceptually the plan intensified, with discussions centering on what was to initially be an eight-lane freeway, with room for a rail line, referred to as a high speed rail feeder service, along with facilities to convey solar power produced out in the desert to the San Fernando Valley or Los Angeles, along with a bicycling route.
A multi-county, multi-jurisdictional project, it was catalogued as a joint effort between the State of California, Los Angeles County, and San Bernardino County and other involved agencies, with plans of applying local transportation funds toward the project over the course of more than 30 years to achieve it, along with state augmentation funding and the use of federal transportation dollars. Considered to just be at the planning stage, the funding that had been put up by both counties and Caltrans extended only to undertaking the review process.
In 2014, the California Department of Transportation, known as Caltrans, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority and San Bernardino County’s transportation agency, then known as San Bernardino Associated Governments, completed a draft environmental impact statement/report for the High Desert Corridor looking at five functional alternatives and four physical variations in the completion of the corridor, extending to alignments relating to avoiding or involving residential displacements in the Lake Los Angeles area and existing agricultural uses, as well as avoiding or involving impacts to several water wells supplying water to local communities in the environs of Adelanto.
At the same time, militation against the reliance on individual vehicles and fossil fuel-based transportation has been intensifying at all levels in the United States, and most especially in California, where mandates toward the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions thought to be responsible for global warming have been codified. It was posited that the addition of freeways ran counter to the goal of seeking to convince people to drive less. Simultaneously, Los Angeles County Metro officials are working to usher commuters in the Southland toward using rail travel alternatives, including MetroLInk, light rail options such as the Gold Line and a subway system. In this way, some planners, including transportation officials whose support of the High Desert Corridor was deemed crucial to the advance of the project, appeared to be leaning against proceeding with it.
Nevertheless, the forces working toward finding some way to reduce the worsening traffic situation in Southern California appeared poised to overcome whatever opposition might be manifesting based upon the prospect of some projected and unproven future technologies.
L.A. County Supervisor Mike Antonovich pushed to have some $170 million in Los Angeles County Metro’s Measure M sales tax intended to pay for transportation projects earmarked for right-of-way acquisition for the pathway of the corridor, and another $1.8 billion set aside to be used for construction.
In 2016, the environmentalist organization Climate Resolve, the Endangered Habitats League, Dr. Tom Williams and Bryan Baker, represented by attorneys Mitchell Tsai and James Birkelund, filed a lawsuit challenging the High Desert Corridor under the California Environmental Quality Act and the National Environmental Quality Act.
In the midst of that legal challenge, the San Bernardino Board of Supervisors in September 2017, at the instigation of First District Supervisor Robert Lovingood, through whose First District the High Desert Corridor was supposed to run, hired Ryan MacEachron, who had formerly been mayor and city councilman in Victorville, to serve as the coordinator of the High Desert Corridor Project. McEachron had been voted out of office by Victorville’s voters some ten months previously. As the High Desert Corridor project coordinator, MacEachron was provided with $98,363 in total compensation over the next nine months until the end of fiscal year 2017-18 on June 30, 2018, consisting of $60,378 in salary and $37,985 in benefits. San Bernardino County officials justified his hiring by stating that MacEachron had proven credentials in terms of dealing with traffic issues in general and an understanding of the High Desert’s road system. Previously, in June 2015, McEachron had been elected president of San Bernardino Associated Governments (SANBAG), the county’s transportation agency, which has since been reformed and renamed the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority. Known by its new acronym, SBCTA, it is overseen by a board consisting of one representative from each of the county’s 24 cities, either a mayor or council member, as well as each of the county’s five supervisors. The agency provides financial support toward and coordinates freeway construction projects, regional and local road improvements, train and bus transportation, railroad crossings, call boxes, ridesharing, congestion management efforts and long-term planning studies in conjunction with the California Department of Transportation, the county government, local municipalities and the regional public transportation agencies that offer bus and shuttle services, Omnitrans, Mountain Transit, Victor Valley Transit Authority and the Morongo Basin Transit Authority. The San Bernardino County Transportation Authority administers Measure I funds, revenue from San Bernardino County’s half-cent transportation sales tax first passed in 1989 and extended by voters in 2004 to run through 2040. Despite his position as the political head of the county transportation agency, MacEachron had no nuts-and-bolts experience in transporation issues and no real technical expertise with regard to such matters, having professionally been engaged as an insurance agent for most of his life.
Of note was that the two county officials who at that time would have normally played crucial roles in the hiring of county employees, Mark DeBoer in the human resources division and deputy county counsel Cynthia O’Neill, were essentially bypassed with regard to MacEachron’s hiring while the county’s de facto top in-house political operative, county governmental and legislative affairs director Josh Candelaria, who is directly answerable to the board of supervisors, made the evaluation of McEachron at Lovingood’s behest. Candelaria made the recommendation to hire him.
A large cross section of the public and many individuals involved in government throughout Southern California perceived MacEachron’s hiring to be a gross act of political patronage. Indeed, MacEachron’s placement in the position disturbed many Los Angeles County officials, who saw in San Bernardino County’s willingness to install what they considered a political hack into a position requiring extensive technical expertise and knowledge a demonstration that San Bernardino County was willing to misuse Los Angeles County’s larger financial resources.
Last month, at its September 4 meeting, the San Bernardino County Transportation Authority’s executive director, Ray Wolfe, citing a $16 million cost overrun, pushing from $80 million to $96 million the price on a collective effort to extend the Gold Line light rail system from Claremont to Montclair, indicated San Bernardino County will discontinue its participation in the project. The Gold Line, with an overall $2.1 billion budget, is a rail system running through the foothill communities along the southern side of the San Gabriel Mountains.
For Los Angeles County transportation officials, while projects such as the Gold Line and the High Desert Corridor represent a benefit to them and their constituents, they perceive those projects to be of relatively greater benefit to east-lying San Bernardino County and its residents. Out of a spirit of cooperation, Los Angeles County officials were willing to shoulder a greater degree of the cost of both of those projects. Now, however, with San Bernardino County balking at participating in the Gold Line extension and signals that the High Desert Corridor is being used to provide sinecures for top ranking San Bernardino County officials’ cronies and political associates, Los Angeles County officials have come to see their San Bernardino County counterparts as unreliable partners in the effort to mitigate regional transportation challenges, and are dismayed and disenchanted at the degree to which San Bernardino County’s politicians are willing to presume upon the western county’s goodwill and generosity.
With the Climate Resolve/the Endangered Habitats League/Williams and Baker lawsuit having survived efforts to have it dismissed, with the court finding that that the 2014 environmental impact report was insufficient with regards to biological and greenhouse gas impacts, Los Angeles County signaled to Caltrans that it was not willing, at this time, to go to the mat to keep the project on track. Caltrans, as the lead defendant in the case, simply gave up the ghost as opposed to appealing that ruling or engaging in what in the scheme of things would have been a relatively inexpensive revisiting of the environmental study, and taking on and completing a supplemental environmental impact report. Rather, the agency agreed to a settlement agreement to bring to a stop any further efforts toward pursuing the freeway component of the project, including not acquiring land for the freeway right-of-way until and unless a supplemental environmental impact report is completed at some subsequent point. Under the agreement, the light rail and bike aspects of the planning process, and even acquisition process, can proceed.
By Mark Gutglueck
James Markman’s second run as Upland city attorney may be coming toward an end.
Prior to its open public meeting slated to begin at 7 p.m. on October 14, the Upland City Council is scheduled to take up during a closed session what its agenda states is a “public employee performance evaluation and consideration of public employee dismissal and related actions pursuant to California Government Code Section 54957” relating to the “city attorney.”
Markman was the lead attorney with the law firm of Markman Arczynski Hanson Curley & Slough, which was founded in 1982. That firm is no longer active, and several of its members, including Markman and William Curley, subsequently signed on with the law firm of Richards Watson & Gershon. Markman is now a shareholder in Richards Watson & Gershon, where he specializes in representing municipalities and water agencies.
Markman has served as city attorney for the City of La Mirada since 1980 and City Attorney for the City of Rancho Cucamonga since 1985. He is general counsel to the Beaumont-Cherry Valley Water District and the Antelope Valley East Kern Water Agency. He was the city attorney for the City of Brea for 40 years and is now considered the senior attorney there.
In 1993, Markman accepted an assignment with the City of Upland as its redevelopment attorney, while Don Maroney was Upland city attorney. After Maroney’s retirement in 1996, Markman moved into the city attorney’s position. In 2003, after concerns surfaced about the potential conflict in Markman representing Upland and Rancho Cucamonga, which are contiguous, the City of Upland continued to contract with Richards Watson & Gershon as the city’s counsel, but had Curley take on the designation and duty of city attorney.
In 2010, then-Upland Mayor John Pomierski and the entirety of Upland’s governmental structure were enveloped in scandal, with the FBI and IRS carrying out searches of City Hall, Pomierski’s business offices, Pomierski’s home and the offices and homes of Pomierski’s business associates and affiliates. In 2011 Pomierski resigned from office and then was named in a federal indictment alleging bribe taking and political corruption. In 2012, Pomierski pleaded guilty and his handpicked city manager, Robb Quincey, was charged with three felonies relating to corruption in office. The same year, the Upland City Council, having grown alarmed that the city had paid Richards Watson & Gershon over $8 million since Curley took over as city attorney in June 2003 with $6 million of those legal fees having accrued since 2009, jettisoned Richards Watson & Gershon as the city’s legal counsel. For a duration, the city utilized the services of Chino City Attorney Jimmy Gutierrez as interim city attorney, and then brought in the law firm of Jones Mayer as its legal representative, with Kimberly Hall Barlow and Richard L. Adams II serving as city attorney at different times.
In 2017, the Upland City Council abruptly ended its relationship with Jones Mayer, and brought Markman back as city attorney, as the city council as it was then composed did not have the same misgivings about Markman serving as the city attorney in the City of Gracious Living while he filled that role in neighboring Rancho Cucamonga.
For more than a year-and-a-half thereafter, Markman enabled the Upland City Council in carrying out a number of actions a majority of its members were determined to see through.
One of those involved, in 2017, the City of Upland’s application to the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission to dissolve its 111-year-old municipal fire department and have fire suppression, fire prevention and emergency medical service duties in Upland assumed by the county fire department. A second action taken by the city council under Markman’s guidance was the use of conduit financing in which the city in 2017 lent to San Antonio Regional Hospital its authority pertaining to the issuance of tax exempt bonds, in this case what are called certificates of participation, that were sold to certificate buyers by the hospital so the proceeds from those sales could be used to undertake an expansion of the hospital and its facilities. A third action the council engaged in under Markman’s watch as city attorney was the 2018 sale of 4.631 acres, or 12 percent, of Memorial Park to San Antonio Hospital for that entity to use toward the construction of a multistory parking structure to accommodate the hospital’s growth and influx of patients. In making the sale, the city council agreed to sell the park property to the hospital, the primary campus of which adjoins the 38.5 acre park, at a price of $906,931.55 per acre, deemed to be slightly above the property’s fair market value, according to then-Community Development Director Jeff Zwack, such that the hospital was to pay $4.2 million to acquire the property.
The close-out of the Upland Municipal Fire Department and the effort to reduce the recreational area at Memorial Park proved highly controversial and unpopular with Upland’s residents. In the 2018 election, three of the members of the city council who supported those initiatives – Gino Filippi, Carol Timm and Sid Robinson – were either displaced by the voters or left office in the face of massive resident discontent. The lone member of the council to oppose the shuttering of the fire department and the sale of the parkland – Janice Elliott – was endorsed by the voters, as she ran that year in what was the city’s first by-district election following its 112-year history of at-large elections, when she was chosen to serve as councilwoman in the city’s Second District.
In the meantime, questions emerged about the propriety, ethics, legality, advisability and general wisdom of those actions by the council, as well as the general quality of Markman’s counsel to the council while they were being carried out.
The shuttering of the city’s fire department entailed the annexing of Upland to the county’s neighboring and contiguous West Valley Service Area that included San Antonio Heights, whereupon both San Antonio Heights and Upland were annexed into Fire Protection Service Zone Five, what was at that point a discontiguous fire service district created in 2006 to provide fire safety and emergency medical treatment to the isolated Mojave Desert communities of Helendale and Silverlakes, which lie some 48 miles as the crow flies and 65 miles driving distance from Upland.
The controversial “annexation” of Upland and San Antonio Heights into Fire Protection Service Zone Five entailed the imposition of a $148.68 annual assessment with inflation adjustments into perpetuity. The county and city agreed to the option of tacking on the Fire Protection Service Zone Five service zone tax as part of the agreement to defray the cost of the county fire department providing that service. Upland City officials, with the exception of Elliott, were all for it, as having the county take on the task of operating a fire department on the city’s behalf relieved City Hall of having to pay for fire safety operations. The city’s taxpayers, who throughout the city’s 111-year history had been provided with fire service as a consequence of basic municipal function, took up the financial slack by being consigned to paying the $148.86 assessment. Thereafter, the city committed to turning over 51 percent of its share of property tax collected within the city to the county as part of the deal. Using the never before-imposed assessments paid by the city’s residents, business operators and property owners to offset a substantial portion of the burden of defraying the cost of the city’s fire protection service, the city pocketed the difference it realized from the closure of the fire department, and used the money it netted as it deemed necessary, which in practical terms meant paying down its substantial costs in providing pensions to retired municipal employees.
One small catch attended, however. Under California law, residents have a right to approve whatever newly created tax is to be imposed on them collectively, in some cases by a simple majority vote and in others by a two-thirds majority. Recognizing that there was virtually no possibility that the residents of Upland and San Antonio Heights would approve a $148.68 assessment on themselves to pay for a service they were already receiving, the city, the county and the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) rigged the process so that the voting requirement was met not by a traditional balloting in which those participating cast simple “yes” or “no” or “for” or “against” votes but rather through what is known as a protest procedure. Under that process, notifications of the pending ushering of all property owners into the proposed assessment zone expansion area were sent out. Those who lodged a protest within thirty days were deemed to have voted against the annexation. Those who did not lodge a protest were deemed to have voted for the annexation. While a majority of the residents/land owners in 2.619 square mile, 3,371-population San Antonio Heights, galvanized by what the City of Upland and the county were attempting to do to them, lodged protests, that did not prevent the Local Agency Formation Commission from annexing them into Fire Protection Service Zone Five, as the protest process applied to the entirety of Upland and San Antonio Heights, and fewer than two percent of the voting residents/property owners in 15.66 square mile, 76,000 population Upland went on record as being against the annexation.
A sizable group of San Antonio Heights residents, however, banded together as a collective known as the San Antonio Heights Homeowners Association. Represented by attorney Cory Briggs, the San Antonio Heights Homeowners Association, with the financial backing of a handful of Upland residents, filed suit in the summer of 2017, contesting the annexation. That suit survived three attempts by the city, county and the Local Agency Formation Commission to have it dismissed. In January 2019, Judge David Cohn ruled that the Upland and San Antonio Heights assessments were illegally imposed. In his decision, Judge Cohn held that the Local Agency Formation Commission does not have the authority to annex properties into service zones and that while annexation of the city and San Antonio Heights into the district was valid, the narrower annexation into the service zone within the district was not, averring accordingly that the imposition of the $148.86 annual assessment on property owners as a feature of the fire zone expansion was “improper and must be enjoined,” and that the Local Agency Formation Commission, the county and the city seeking and then approving an annexation that is specifically prohibited by law was a prejudicial abuse of the agency’s discretion. Upland, the county and the Local Agency Formation Commission have appealed Cohn’s ruling.
Because it was anticipated that the sale of the 4.631 acres of Memorial Park would raise the hackles of the community, Markman advised the city council in 2018 to authorize him to file a so-called validation proceeding intended to foreclose any procedural or future legal challenge to the sale. The council authorized him to do so. In its validation action filed with the court, the city invited anyone opposed to the sale to lodge a protest, which would then be heard by a judge rather than being subjected to a vote. The challenge to the validation had to be filed within 60 days. Once the court validated the sale, any future lawsuits contesting the sale would be barred. Markman’s calculation was that no one would go to the expense of hiring an attorney to make an answer to the validation petition.
The validation procedure was directed to the courtroom of Judge David Cohn in San Bernardino. To the chagrin of city officials, Marjorie Mikels, an attorney living in the city, as well as Cory Briggs, who had represented the San Antonio Heights Homeowners Association in its suit against the city relating to the fire service district service zone annexation also heard by Cohn, filed answers to the validation action. Mikels did so on behalf of herself and a few Upland residents. Briggs did so as an attorney retained by other Upland residents.
Those responses took issue with the sale on multiple grounds. Among those was that the city selling off a slice of the park – in particular the one sold by the council on March 26, 2018, which includes a long-extant and actively used baseball field – is tantamount to abandoning public property. Such abandonments, under state law, cannot be effectuated without a vote of the citizens residing in the jurisdiction that owns that property.
Having miscalculated in his assumption that no one would come forward to contest the sale in the course of the validation proceeding, Markman was obliged in the face of Briggs’ and Mikels’ filings to make a convincing case to Judge Cohn that the city council, acting on its own authority, was within its rights to sell off city land. Faced with the argument that a municipality’s abandonment of property it owned and was putting to beneficial public use had to be subjected to a vote, Markman asserted that selling the property did not constitute an abandonment.
Ultimately, some 14 months after the sale of the park property was approved by the city council, on May 29, 2019, Judge Cohn, after hearing the responses to the validation action, dismissed the city’s petition for validation. In effect, anyone with standing – meaning essentially any city resident – was yet at liberty to file a lawsuit challenging the sale.
Markman, who together with his law firm had billed the city for its representation of the city with regard to the validation action, made a motion to deny Briggs’ and Mikels’ recovery of their legal fees as the prevailing party in the validation action. Considering that Briggs and Mikels had expended their efforts in preserving city residents’ rights under California law, Markman’s request, which Judge Cohn granted, was seen as an effort to inhibit the ability of Upland’s residents to protect themselves from governmental overreach and the violation of their rights in the future. The city council by that point had undergone a makeover in which three of its members who had authorized the parkland sale were no longer on the panel. At least two of the members of the city council as it is now composed were likewise taken aback by Markman’s action.
By most definitions, San Antonio Hospital is Upland’s most prestigious institution, one that has been in existence in Upland, previously at a different location, since 1907. It is the city’s largest employer, larger than the Upland Unified School District and the City of Upland combined. As the City of Gracious Living’s major non-governmental entity, it is also the city’s single largest provider of services to individuals living outside the city, thus representing a major draw of revenue into the city.
In 2011, upon Harris Koenig becoming San Antonio Community Hospital’s president and chief executive officer, the hospital embarked on a six-year long series of planned expansion stages, Over that span, the number of beds at the facility increased from 271 to over 400. Included in that expansion was the $160 million four-story Vineyard Tower at 999 San Bernardino Road, which upped the number of stations in the hospital’s emergency room from 34 to 52, while creating and outfitting 12 more intensive care units. By 2015, San Antonio had transitioned from a community hospital intended as a care facility for those living in Upland and at its periphery to a regional hospital, and that uprating was reflected in its name.
In 2017, San Antonio Regional Hospital undertook a partnership with the City of Hope, looking to expand even further, entailing the erection of a $30 million, 60,000-square foot structure at 1100 San Bernardino Road to house an ambulatory care center as well as a City of Hope outpatient cancer center on the first floor.
The City of Hope-affiliated facilities entail ones offering chemotherapy, radiation, and surgical services, intended to be of benefit to local cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy, as the treatment regimen they are subjected to can greatly weaken and fatigue them. Having the outpatient center in Upland can reduce the traveling distance for many of those patients and their families by as much as 24 miles, the distance between San Antonio Hospital and the City of Hope in Duarte.
The more than five-years of expansion initiated in 2011 had been paid for in no small measure by conduit financing, which was based upon the City of Upland using its authority as a municipality and public agency to issue tax-exempt bonds. In 2011, while Bill Curley was yet city attorney, the Upland City Council as it was then composed authorized the issuance of $125,000,000 in certificates of participation for San Antonio Hospital. Theoretically, in serving as a conduit in such arrangements, the city accrues no risk whatsoever in lending its tax-exempt bonding authority to those entities it deems fit. The city extends this generosity based upon the public benefit offered by those institutions – such as in the instant case San Antonio Hospital or in other cases developers of senior citizen or low to moderate-income housing. Even though the issuance of the bonds or certificates of participation is done through the city, the entities to whom the revenue from the sale of the certificates is passed through to are wholly responsible for the debt service entailed in the 20-to-30 years of bond payments the holders of the certificates are entitled to receive. Because the city’s authority as a public entity is brought to bear in making the issuances, the certificates of participation are marketed as tax-exempt instruments, making them more attractive to potential “participants,” that is, the certificate purchasers. Since the purchasers do not need to pay taxes on the regular repayments they receive as holders of the certificates, San Antonio Hospital did not need to pay them as high of an interest rate return, thus decreasing the hospital’s expansion financing costs.
On December 4, 2017, the Upland City Council voted to authorize another round of issuances of the $125,000,000 in certificates of participation its predecessor council had created in 2011 for the express purpose of creating financing to benefit San Antonio Regional Hospital, thus providing the capital needed to allow the next round of the hospital’s ongoing expansion to proceed. The law firm of Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe, the city’s bond counsel, prepared and reviewed the documents relevant to the sale with regard to documentation and procedure, as did Markman as the city attorney, to move the transaction forward. San Antonio Hospital agreed to indemnify the city and its officers, agents and employees with respect to the financing and to reimburse the city for its costs incurred in the financing.
While San Antonio Hospital indeed saw growth in its earnings over the eight-year period that its aggressive expansion effort has been ongoing, that income increase was outrun substantially by the costs of engaging in the expansion. Though the hospital had reserves as well as the ability to seek bridge loans and make other arrangements to remain solvent, by late this spring the reserves were exhausted and red ink was hemorrhaging from the institution’s books. This situation had alarmed San Antonio’s board of directors.
According to a report from moodys.com dated May 8, 2019 obtained by the Sentinel, Moody’s Investors Services downgraded San Antonio Regional Hospital’s bond revenue rating from Baa3 to Baa2. Simultaneously, the hospital’s fiscal outlook was revised from stable to negative. That particular action immediately impacted $1.42 million of rated debt issued by the City of Upland.
Indications were that San Antonio Hospital’s reach had substantially exceeded its grasp in undertaking the expansion. According to Moody’s, the hospital was suffering from poor operating performance and its debt service coverage was out of balance. It had a marked decline in its liquidity and was facing increasing competitive pressures just as its affiliation with the City of Hope was diluting its income stream, according to Moody’s.
According to Moody’s, the hospital had operating revenues in Fiscal Year 2017 of $323 million, but is carrying the liability of certificates of participation issued in 2017 and issued in 2011 which are secured by a gross receivable pledge of the hospital. Meanwhile, the hospital has no debt service reserve fund. Covenants impacting the hospital include an ongoing debt service coverage test of 1.1 times, and additional indebtedness tests.
Last month, on September 10, the San Antonio Hospital board terminated Koenig as the hospital’s president and chief executive officer.
That development garnered the attention of a wide cross section of the Upland community and sparked an examination of the cavalier approach the city had taken in lending its authority to orchestrate tax-exempt financing for the hospital, and by extension, the concept of conduit financing altogether.
Given the value they saw in promoting the hospital which unquestionably represents a public benefit to Upland and its residents, previous city councils were willing to assist the hospital where they could, and utilized the city’s authority as a governmental entity to make tax-exempt bond issuances to finance the institution’s growth. Quite plainly, however, those council members collectively had at best an imperfect understanding of the processes and implication of conduit financing. This made the council highly dependent on the far more worldly and sophisticated Markman, a graduate of Cornell Law School who has been practicing law for a half century after having been admitted as a member of the California Bar in 1969, and who is a stockholder in a major Southern California law firm.
A full examination of Markman’s role in advising the city with regard to conduit financing has turned up some troubling issues. The conduit financing for San Antonio Hospital was not the only such arrangement entered into by the City of Upland in 2017 under Markman’s watch. On June 26, 2017, the Upland City Council approved a promissory note and loan agreement for refinancing the Sunset Ridge Apartments. According to the staff report accompanying that item, Markman’s firm, Richards Watson & Gershon, was appointed as bond council with regard to the issuance. Exactly one month later, on July 26, 2017, there was a $14,865,000 issuance of a 2017 bond series in the form of a multifamily housing revenue note for the Sunset Ridge Apartments and Village Apartments.
Typically, bond counsel is provided with .25 to .5 percent of the entire issuance as a fee for services rendered with regard to the attendant legalities involved in preparing and making such issuances. Thus, it would appear that Richards Watson & Gershon netted at least $37,162.50 in connection with the issuance of the $14.865 million Sunset Ridge Apartments and Village Apartments revenue note. The precise percentage of the bond amount Markman’s firm was paid in the Sunset Ridge/Village issuance, which existed in the form of certificates of participation, is not shown in any of the documentation of the issuance put out by the city at the time.
Markman in this way churned legal fees for his law firm based on counsel he was providing the city council when he advised its members it was okay for the city to proceed with assisting the owners of the Sunset Ridge Apartments and the Village Apartments through the June 2017 conduit financing involving the promissory note and loan agreement. As a shareholder in Richard Watson & Gershon, Markman is entitled to a percentage of the profits the law firm realizes in its operations and representations of clients. According to a California Attorney General’s opinion provided in 2016, California Government Code section 1090 prohibits public officials, such as city employees, from being financially interested in contracts made by them in their official capacities, including an attorney contracting with a city to perform city attorney legal services acting as bond counsel for the same city and being paid a percentage of the bond issuance for providing such services.
Three of the current members of the council were not on the 2017 council that approved the issuance of the $14.865 million Sunset Ridge Apartments and Village Apartments revenue note. There has been no public statement issued from the council or any of its members with regard to whether the council collectively or any of its members individually believe the conflict inherent in Markman advising the city as to whether it should engage in conduit financing arrangements and the income he has personally derived as a consequence of his firm’s involvement in the resultant bond/certificate issuances has compromised his ability to render unbiased service to the city. That the council has scheduled Monday’s performance evaluation and consideration of dismissal is a sign, the Sentinel was informed, that there are at least two members of the council who have questions in that regard, and that they too are troubled by Markman’s performance with regard to shuttering of the city’s fire department simultaneous with the city’s property owners being straitjacketed without a vote into what a judge now says is an illegally imposed assessment zone, as well as his continuing efforts to deny the city’s residents the ability to vote on reducing their park acreage.
A full generation after the shuttering of Norton Air Force Base, the board overseeing the entity that has replaced it sounded a call to make a serious effort to transition it into a regional passenger airport.
The Department of Defense signaled its intention to close Norton Air Force Base in 1988 and made good on that in 1994, an event that is widely recognized as the single largest factor in the demise of the economy in once-thriving San Bernardino.
Before the base closure, in accordance with federal requests, the governmental entities surrounding Norton formed two separate joint powers authorities intended to facilitate the civilian use conversion of the property. One of those was the Inland Valley Development Authority, known by the acronym IVDA, which was chartered to deal with zoning, land use and planning prerogatives to include the creation of light and heavy industrial, office/professional, commercial and residential development on approximately 600 acres on the former base property and roughly 14,000 acres surrounding it. The San Bernardino International Airport Authority was formed to convert the airbase and its airfield and runways into an international airport.
Initially, the County of San Bernardino and the cities of San Bernardino, Colton, Grand Terrace, Loma Linda and Redlands participated in both the agency and the authority, with the county and the City of San Bernardino most heavily involved and invested in the two joint powers authorities.
Despite the infusion of substantial amounts of money from the cities and the rerouting of property tax away from the county and the cities, primarily Highland, San Bernardino and to a lesser extent Redlands and Loma Linda, to the authority and agency to fund their operations, the former air base and its surrounding property languished in a holding pattern, essentially for the next two decades. A series of individuals were brought in to act as the authority’s and the agency’s executive directors, several of whom were political appointments and/or former elected officials provided with six figure salaries. Token efforts toward transforming the base into an airport were made, but no real progress in that direction was achieved.
Recognizing that both the authority and the agency were being exploited by certain board members and staff members, the cities of Redlands and Grand Terrace opted out of both joint powers arrangements. The City of Highland, which grew highly skeptical after witnessing the position of Inland Valley Development Agency executive director being given to T. Milford Harrison, a former Loma Linda councilman and mayor and that city’s economic development director, withdrew from the Inland Valley Economic Development Agency.
Meanwhile, property tax money that would have otherwise gone to the cities upon which the airport sits as well as the surrounding cities – San Bernardino, Highland, Redlands and Loma Linda – has instead been slurped up by the authority and the agency. The cities have thus missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue over the last two-and-one-half decades.
In 2007, without any competitive bidding, the San Bernardino International Airport Authority brought in Scot Spencer to serve as the contract developer and manager of the airport. Spencer had served a four-year prison term from 1995 until 1999 as a result of his fraud conviction relating to his having, in conjunction with financier Jeffrey Chodorow, absconded with $14 million of company and investor funds by hiding payments to a shell company they created after they swooped in to create Dallas-based Braniff International Airlines, Inc. after Braniff Airways, which had been in operation since 1928, had faltered and fell into bankruptcy in 1982.
Spencer used his position as airport manager at San Bernardino International to provide businesses he owned favorable leasing arrangements while obstructing other aviation-related companies from operating. As the contract developer of the airport, Spencer was paid to oversee what was supposed to be a $38 million renovation of the airport’s passenger terminal and a $7 million development of its concourse. Spencer undertook that assignment amid confident predictions that upon completion of those projects, the airport would attract at least one and perhaps as many as a half dozen commercial passenger carriers. In carrying out that project, Spencer used two corporations he owned, Norton Development Company, LLC and SBD Properties, LLC. The cost of the passenger terminal and the concourse escalated to $142 million. While that effort did deliver a first class terminal, that facility has for nearly a decade sat fallow and virtually unused, as the airport has yet to host any commercial airlines, although corporate jets and other private pilots did land at the Million Air corporate aviation facility, for which Spencer was the franchisee, from 2010 until 2012. Another $210 million was invested in airport facilities, which have gone largely unused over the last decade.
In March 2013, Spencer was arrested by the FBI and charged with engaging in a conspiracy to steal $1.75 million in public funds, a gambit which ultimately netted him $1.03 million, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
At the September 25 meeting of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority Board, members talked about doing something to get the airport off of top dead center so that it actually functions like an airport, where planes land and from which planes take off. It was suggested that grandiose designs such as those implied in the airport’s branding as an international facility was a bit unrealistic at this point and that the airport would need to grow gradually and incrementally. Most logical in that progression was getting more charter flights to use the facility and to have it recognized as a convenient alternative landing facility for the Southland’s two largest airports, Los Angeles International Airport and Ontario International Airport.
Loma Linda Councilman Ovidiu Popescu, who is his city’s representative on the authority, said, “I think there’s an opportunity for charter flights. We’ve had a few. I think we can have a lot more. We’ve had some military flights. I think there’s an opportunity to have even more. I think that should be a key focus. We’ve just been added to the FAA’s [the Federal Aviation Administration’s] list of being a diversionary airport and I think we should work hard to talk to every single airline that goes into LAX [Los Angeles International Airport] to use us in case they need us. Most people don’t realize that there’s literally dozens and dozens of flights that get diverted from LAX because of weather. They get moved everywhere.”
Popescu referenced having supply bunks and beds in whatever Air Force barracks remain at the base, where passengers waiting at the airport could be put up for several hours or a whole night while the control tower makes arrangements for the flight they were on to be sent on to its original destination. “It’s an opportunity for us,” Popescu said. “It’s a very niche market because in a sense we’re not a very busy airport. We could meet that niche. I think that should be the goal.”
Highland Councilman Larry McCallon said, “This airport should be the economic engine for this part of the county. So far, it’s evolving, but I think we can do more in terms of generating jobs and helping the economy in this area.”
Colton’s representative on the board, Mayor Frank Navarro, rather dubiously asserted “The jobs we have created are greater than what was here when Norton was active. That’s commendable that we did provide all those jobs. We are at at point where our logistics is pretty well set up.”
Navarro continued, “We are still working on logistical deals and yes, I do agree that we do need to expand the utilization of the airport to include commercial airlines coming in. Whether it’s one or two to begin with, it’s a baby-step thing. And the first and most critical item we have to address is Customs being here available when the flights come in. If a flight’s coming in and we don’t have the support staff from Customs, flights aren’t going to stop here. It’s going to go someplace else. So, we need to make sure we get that part of the plan set up in a concrete fashion to where we can say, ‘Yes, we feel very strong. We feel comfortable in the relationship we have established with Customs.’ So we can tell this airline, ‘We’re ready for you.’”
San Bernardino Coucilman Ted Sanchez, who with Mayor John Valdivia represents the City of San Bernardino on the authority board, said the authority and the airport’s management needed to “adjust the [airport’s] business plan to reflect the priorities the board has established.”
Valdivia, the board’s chairman, told Sanchez to make a stab at framing a resolution the board could vote upon.
“So, first of all, that staff actively approach fulfilling the goal of bringing commercial airlines…” Sanchez began, whereupon Valdivia interjected, “-meaning international or domestic scheduled passenger flights,” after which Sanchez continued, “as well as actively approach getting personnel from the Customs and Border Patrol to staff our airport needs and we’re also looking to diversify our cargo intake. Right now we’re vulnerable to the whims of the market. We need to diversify our investments and our marketing of this airport as a commercial cargo hub.”
Thereupon the full board, including Third District San Bernardino County Supervisor Dawn Rowe, voted to have staff “begin actively fulfilling a goal of bringing commercial airlines whether they be domestic or international [and] actively approach getting personal from Customs and Border Patrol to staff” the airport.
Under new guidelines set out by San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Bob Page, San Bernardino County’s poll workers will allow those showing up at the polls for the California Primary and General elections in 2020 to register to vote on the spot and cast provisional ballots. The ballots cast by the just-registered voters will be set aside and counted after the bona fides of each individual new registree is verified.
That new policy was among several changes announced during a meeting between Page, senior county election office staff members and the 22 of the 24 city and town clerks from around San Bernardino County or their representatives held on Wednesday, October 9.
Attending were Barstow City Clerk Joanne Cousino, Big Bear Lake City Clerk Erica Stephenson, Chino City Clerk Angela Robles, Chino Hills City Clerk Cheryl Balz, Twentynine Palms City Clerk Cindy Villescas, Upland City Clerk Kari Johnson, Colton City Clerk Carolina Padilla, Grand Terrace City Clerk Debra Thomas, Hesperia City Clerk Melinda Sayer, Highland City Clerk Betty Hughes, Loma Linda City Clerk Barbara Nicholson, Montclair City Clerk Andrea Phillips, Redlands City Clerk Jeane Donaldson, San Bernardino City Clerk Georgeann Hanna, Victorville City Clerk Charlene Robinson and Yucca Valley Town Clerk Lesley Copeland. Attending the meeting for Apple Valley Town Clerk La Vonda Pearson was Kiel Mangerino; for Ontario City Clerk Sheila Mautz was Vicki Kasad; for Fontana City Clerk Tonia Lewis was Evelyne Ssenkoloto; for Rancho Cucamonga City Clerk Janice Reynolds were Linda Troyan and Patricia Valdez; and for Yucaipa City Clerk was Tammy Vaughan. Additionally, Cousino was accompanied by Tanya Gordon; Balz by Lynnae Sisemore; Padilla by Jacqueline Shook and Stephanie Vargas; and Hanna by Candice Alvarez and Diane Grant. Needles City Clerk Dale Jones participated telephonically. Adelanto City Clerk Brenda Lopez and Rialto City Clerk Barbara McGee did not attend.
Referred to as a “roundtable discussion” intended to prepare each of the cities or towns for the upcoming elections, Page briefed the attendees with regard to Assembly Bill 72, which was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom the previous day. AB 72 allows voters same day registration and the ability to vote at all polling places beginning in 2020. Previously, same day registration was permitted only at early-voting sites.
Early voting sites are locations around the county, including the Registrar of Voters headquarters at 777 East Rialto Avenue in San Bernardino, where voting machines, ballots and voting materials are available on weekdays in the weeks prior to the election so voters can cast ballots there and avoid having to vote at their designated precincts on election day or by mail.
Votes cast by a citizen registering at the polling station on the day of election will be provisional and counted last, as the registrar will need to verify that the person’s voting eligibility as well as making certain that voter has not voted in another county or another polling place. According to Page, the same-day registration and voting process will be aided by E-poll books, which are iPads, issued to election workers.
According to Page’s briefing, other equipment changes in the upcoming election will include new ballot marking machines and precinct scanners for ballots scanned at polling places so votes will be tallied at the polling places and the secure files transferred to the registrar of voters office. Two new mail-ballot counting machines and 20 mobile ballot printers are to be used at early voting sites.
After California Secretary of State Alex Padilla on February 27 of this year issued an edict calling for voting officials throughout the state to transition to voting systems that are in compliance with the California Voting System Standards adopted in 2015, and that they do so in time to conduct polling in conjunction with the March 3, 2020 California Primary election, the county board of supervisors voted to move ahead with the purchase of Dominion Voting Inc.’s $31.93 million Democracy Suite 5.2 voting system to be used countywide at its elections over, at minimum, the next 15 years. Despite that outlay, it does not appear that the Dominion Voting program will be available for use in the March California primary in San Bernardino County. Instead, for the vast number of the county’s voters, paper – or actually cardboard – ballots will yet be used. The ballots to be used next year will have an oval to fill in, left of the candidate’s name, rather than ballots that required the voter to complete-the-arrow to the right of the candidate’s name which have been in use for the last decade.
In a statement to the Sentinel on Thursday, Page said “Your assumption in July that the county’s purchase of a new [California] State-certified voting system would cause all voters to cast ballots electronically was incorrect. The primary method of voting will continue to be to mark a paper ballot, whether it is a ballot mailed to the voter or one provided at a polling place.”
Page on Wednesday said the state will defray roughly $8 million of the total cost of purchasing and putting into place the Dominion system.
Another specific issue of consequence taken up at the Wednesday meeting was the designation, or description, candidates are to be permitted to reference themselves by on the county’s ballots in the future. Over the past several years there have been disputes among some competing candidates over the manner in which certain candidates have characterized themselves or the titles they have laid claim to.
According to Page, ballot designations henceforth will not be approved without documentation that the candidate is employed in the fashion in which he or she claims or proof of what he or she does professionally or in some other capacity before that can be listed on the ballot as his or her designation. All candidates, including incumbents, will be required to provide such proof. Verification in some cases could include a pay stub, letter from the candidate’s employer’s human resources or personnel department or directly from his or her employer. If a candidate cannot provide documentation to the satisfaction of San Bernardino County’s in-house attorneys, no ballot designation will be granted.
To the Sentinel’s inquiry and suggestion that ratifying such a designation could require a subjective interpretation of complicated circumstances, Page said, “Regarding the candidate ballot designation process, the candidate must provide proof of the requested designation during the candidate filing period and the elections official has the authority and responsibility to reject a ballot designation that would mislead a voter or does not comply with Elections Code or California Code of Regulations.”
With regard to the changeover to allowing county residents to engage in last-minute registration, including registering on election day and then casting a provisional ballot, Page indicated that the county was complying with a new state law, and that measures were being taken to ensure that the new policy was not exploited to permit fraudulent voting. He said, “We are about to contract with a vendor for electronic poll books as we believe they provide us the most efficient and effective way to comply with SB 72, signed by the governor this week, which requires us to provide conditional voter registration and voting at all polling places starting in March 2020.”
Additionally, Page said, “The registrar of voters may implement additional changes to the voter experience in 2020, including the use of ballot scanners at voting locations to improve the counting process on election day and the use of electronic poll books instead of paper rosters to better check in voters and identify the correct ballot type for each voter. We have not yet made a final decision about whether and when to implement ballot scanners at voting locations. An image of every ballot scanned and the tally of votes for each scanner would be saved on a storage device and returned to the registrar of voters office after the polls close along with the paper ballots. A random sample of paper ballots from every contest on the ballots are to be hand counted to audit the accuracy of the machine count during the canvass period.”
By Grace Bernal
Jordan Barton, the starting quarterback for the Damien High School Spartans, had high expectations for his senior year coming into the 2019 season. Having already received athletic scholarship offers from Redlands University and Sacramento State, he was in the hunt to see what other colleges might be interested in his talent and providing him with a possible stepping stone to a career in the NFL.
At a still-growing 5 foot 11 and a yet-to-fully fill out 165 pounds, Barton can throw level passes with zip accurately to 45 yards, and heave the pigskin somewhat wildly in a looping arc to 65 yards. The Spartans had come off a somewhat disappointing show of things last year, with an overall 4-7 record and a league record of 1-4, in Mark Paredes final season as coach. Last January marked the arrival of Matt Bechtel, a Damien alumnus, who had just guided South Hills High through a season where they rang up a string of 14 straight victories, a Hacienda League championship and then two lopsided post season victories before being defeated for the first time in the 2018 California Interscholastic Federation Southern Section title game against Lawndale.
Bechtel’s return to Damien as a coach, some 20 years after he had played there as a quarterback, was a good omen for Barton, who was hoping the on-and-off-the-field discipline Bechtel is known for instilling in his players would redound to his benefit, allowing him to function as the Spartan’s field general in an environment tightly controlled by Bechtel in his role as sideline general. That, with what he knew was a solid group of linemen in front of him and some talented receivers he had been working with at Damien over the previous three years, held out the promise of being able to cap his high school football career with a winning, and quite possibly a championship, senior year.
Barton realized that Bechtel’s advent at Damien meant that the playbook he had been utilizing for the first years he was at Damien was going out the window and he would be required to learn everything anew.
“I studied the playbook about an hour everyday, but sometimes it’s no set time,” Barton said. “I just keep with it until I feel that I fully understand everything and know all my assignments and those of my teammates.”
He added, “We practice about eight hours a week, not including film time, so, yes, I have mastered the playbook. There’s new stuff every week but it’s pretty easy to learn and remember.”
Barton was raring to go. The first game of the season, in a non-league contest against Glendora, he had what appeared to be an auspicious start. In the first half, he completed seven of thirteen passes for 92 yards with one touchdown throw to Jacob Leazonby. He had just hit his stride in the second half, with two completions in three passes during the Spartan’s first possession in the third quarter. Having yet avoided any interceptions, Barton was ushering the offensive unit downfield toward what looked to be another sure touchdown when disaster struck. On a pass play in which a linebacker was blitzing, the forward running back, who was supposed to pick up any intruders into the backfield, missed his blocking assignment. As Barton was dropping back and had just set up to throw a midrange pass to his left, he was lit up by the linebacker. Because of his athleticism, Barton did not go down. However, because of the force of the hit he had sustained, when he came down he landed awkwardly with his left foot, causing it to bend slightly upward, resulting in an inside fracture mid-foot.
He came back into the game with the next series of downs, completing one pass and playing until Damien had to punt. It was clear at that point, however, that something was amiss. With Barton out of the line-up for the rest of the game, the Spartans were unable to stay on track offensively, and the Tartans prevailed 17-7.
An X-ray at Pomona Valley Hospital, where he was taken, revealed the break, what was termed a “slight” fracture of his left foot.
Barton thereafter came under the care of Damien’s head athletic trainer, Gabrielle White, who oversees Damien’s sports medicine program. Barton was outfitted with a boot and underwent a physical therapy regimen outlined by White, which included nonstop, weekends included, water therapy in the pool.
Barton remained sidelined for four weeks. The recuperative power invested in youngsters, along with the magic White worked, allowed Barton to make his long-awaited return in the Spartan’s sixth game, what promised to be a hard-fought contest against 2018 Baseline League Champion Upland High, who last year went all the way to the California Interscholastic Federation championship game before losing. Barton and his teammates played valiantly, but were overcome 21-3, with the Highlanders defensive secondary preventing Barton from making any scoring contact with his receivers.
“We always look forward to playing teams the level of Upland,” Barton said. “We can play with any team out there, and playing tough against them proves it.”
While Upland carried the day on the gridiron last week, it turns out that the Highlanders had failed to properly register two of their players, and under the California Interscholastic Federation’s rules, they were required to forfeit the game against Damien on technical grounds. That puts Damien on firm footing with a 1-0 record going into the rest of the Baseline League Season, which continues when they meet the Chino Hills Bulldogs tonight.
While with the four-game interruption it does not look like Barton’s season will turn out in quite the way he hoped, he was philosophical about things
“My injury has taught me to be patient and has taught me to keep a positive mindset,” he told the Sentinel. “Your mind plays a large role in how fast you recover from your injury. My advice to an injured athlete who’s eager to get back into the game is listen your body. You know your body better than anybody else. If you feel you can go and you know it won’t make things worse, go ahead and do it. Play it smart and get yourself healthy again and rest, but if you can feel it and your body is telling you ‘Yes,’ I say get back with your team. There’s nothing like being on the field playing with your teammates.”
Barton said, “I’d say the biggest challenge in football is just going out and living up to my own expectations every week. Every week I set a new goal for myself and challenge myself to get better than I was the week before.”
He is prepared for setbacks along the way, and fierce competition is part of sports, he said. “The Baseline League is loaded with solid teams all the way around,” Barton said. “It’s great competition week in and week out.”
It was rough being on the sidelines and not being able to play, but he says he was rooting for his team as hard as anyone, including cheering on Dylan Gutierrez, the 16-year-old freshman who filled in for him as quarterback.
The Sentinel asked if watching someone else at his position made him consider that he might have to take an alternative route to playing if someone were to beat him out as the play caller.
“I don’t shy away from playing another position because I’ll do whatever the team needs me to do,” Barton said, “but I feel I’m best at quarterback and I plan to stay at quarterback for the rest of my career.”
Asked if his perception of football has changed since he started as quarterback on the Damien freshman team, he said, “No, nothing has changed from freshman to senior year. It’s pretty much been the same amount of intensity all four years of high school.”
And even with the setback of this year’s injury, he said, he will look to play when he gets to college, proving he can compete at that level.
“Yes, I see myself playing college football,” he said.
As dedicated as he is to making it on the gridiron, Barton said that is not his only or even primary focus.
“Grades are very important to me,” he said. “My parents have drilled that into my head since I started going to school. Good grades are a must in order to get into a good college and create a good future.”
Barton said, “As of right now, I’m not sure where I want to go. I would love to stay close to home, but I will go anywhere if it means I will receive a great education and be given the opportunity to play football.”
Things do not always run smoothly or the way he and everyone else expects or wants, he said. His injury and the way it untracked him for four games illustrated that. He said, however, that whatever adversity and bumps in the road that one encounters, “You have to trust the process. There will be tough times, but it all happens for a reason. Those hard times will only make you better and stronger and make you strive to be greater. Also, don’t wish time away. Enjoy every little thing and every moment because it really does go by fast. Have fun and enjoy the game. It should always be fun.”
By Mark Gutglueck
Matthew Gage was instrumental in the expansion of the already established citrus industry in the Inland Empire, and is considered a major figure in the history of both San Bernardino and Riverside counties, though in one sense at least for converse reasons. Gage was at the forefront, in the 1880s, 1890s, 1900s, and 1910s, in making adequate water available for the thirsty citrus industry. While his efforts began while what we know today as Riverside County was then primarily southern San Bernardino County, Gage’s efforts in enabling expansive citrus groves to spring up in Riverside and give that city financial independence from San Bernardino proved a deciding factor in the secession of Riverside County from San Bernardino County.
Matthew Gage was born on January 11, 1844, in Coloraine, Ireland. His mother was Margaret Jane Orr Gage. Available records do not provide his father’s name.
As a child, he came with his family to Canada. He was raised and educated in Kingston, Canada, where, in 1869, he married Miss Jane Gibson. By profession, he was a jeweler, but not particularly successful in that capacity. He pooled the money he had been able to save, using it to arrange the purchase 20 acres of orange and other deciduous fruit trees more than 2,600 miles away in Riverside, at the corner of California and Jackson streets. He then crossed the Canadian/American border and made his way southwest across the continent, arriving in Riverside, which was then yet a part of San Bernardino County, in March 1881. His effort to make a go of it as a farmer failed, at least in some measure because of the lack of reliable water availability in Riverside.
Understanding the need for irrigation and water if any large scale agricultural venture in the area around Riverside was to succeed, he redirected his energies to diverting enough water out of the alluvial field surrounding the Santa Ana River, the headwaters of which lay at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains in the area around what is now known as Highland.
To raise capital for what he was about to undertake, Gage entered into commitments with individuals living in the area, including George Cooley and his son, George M. Cooley, both of whom were at one time or another members of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and who had a large ranch in the Colton area, as well as with the heirs of Jefferson Hunt. Through a variety of deeds, agreements and contractual arrangements, Gage bound himself, the water source he had acquired and the canal system he was intent on completing to guarantee the delivery of water in the future in exchange for grants to him of the necessary land, or for cash to purchase such land. Rights specified at that time as being in Gage’s possession were the East Riverside and the Hunt and Cooley rights.
In 1882, Gage filed for entry under the United States Desert Land Act of 1877 on Section 30, Township 2 South, Range 4 West, San Bernardino Base and Meridian, which lay adjacent to and immediately north of a large ravine known as the Tequesquite Arroyo. By that point, he also had title to a water well field located roughly twelve miles northerly in the valley of the Santa Ana River, on a tract of land southeast of San Bernardino which currently remains within San Bernardino County. He punched a series of artesian wells there and constructed a canal from that major water source to Section 30 during 1884 to 1886.
The enterprise under which Gage’s efforts were carried out, the Gage Canal Company, employed his brother, Robert Gage, as general superintendent, and his brother-in-law, William Irving, as chief engineer.
In 1888 and 1889 Gage constructed an extension of the canal from the north bank of the Tequesquite Arroyo, across the arroyo and thence in a southerly direction, a distance of about ten miles.
On December 13, 1889, Gage entered into an agreement with Wilson Crewdson of London, England, in which it was recited that Gage owned what was formerly known as the ‘Carit Tract’ but which was referred to as the ‘Victoria Tract’ containing 2,377 acres, with water rights, and a second tract of 4,794 acres known as ‘Arlington Heights,’ plus a recently constructed canal. The agreement laid out that a company named the Riverside Trust Company, Limited, which was to be formed to acquire and work the lands, canals and water rights owned by Gage, and to take over the rights and duties described in the agreement. A provision was that Gage was to sell to the trust company the described lands, canal, and water rights, along with plant machinery and furniture used therewith, and the benefit of all contracts relating thereto. The trust company in turn obligated itself under two contracts with Gage to engage in the sale of water, one supply coming from Gage’s ‘East Riverside’ right and the second being the ‘Hunt and Cooley’ right. The agreement stated that after January 1, 1890, Gage would be deemed to be carrying on business on behalf of the trust company. The agreement then permitted that an “American Company” be formed to take title to such property as the trust company considered desirable, with Gage to be managing director of the said “American Company.”
Gage’s efforts were crucial to allowing the expansion of Riverside – both agricultural and developmental – to proceed.
An Illustrated History of Southern California: Embracing the Counties of San Diego, San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Orange, and the Peninsula of Lower California, which was published in 1890 by the Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago, said of Gage, “Perhaps no part of the United States, or the world, abounds in men of larger mental grasp, more daring enterprise and greater executive ability than does Southern California; men who possess the genius to conceive and the courage to undertake and carry forward to completion gigantic schemes which advance the welfare of whole communities and are so far-reaching in their effects that their benefits cannot be computed. Among the first of this class of public benefactors ranks Matthew Gage, the founder and constructor of the great irrigating canal and water system which bears his name. Mr. Gage came to Riverside, San Bernardino County, in March, 1881, and during that year took up a section of land under the Desert-Land Act, on the plain above the canals of the Riverside colony and eastward from the settlement. All the visible water supply having been previously appropriated, he began to cast about to obtain a sufficiency of this liquid monarch to enable him to improve his arid land, which was considered valueless without it. He gave much thought and time to the subject of developing water from some unknown source, not only for his own tract, but for the thousands of fertile but barren acres lying about it. He first bought some old water-rights in the Santa Ana River; then, conceiving the idea of developing a sufficient flow of water for irrigating on a extensive scale by means of artesian wells, he purchased a large tract of bottom land along that stream, about two miles southeast of the city of San Bernardino, and began sinking wells. Although practically without moneyed capital, he also commenced in 1882 the construction of the great canal, the cost of which would eventually reach hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hence Mr. Gage was compelled, through his own personal efforts, to create the values which enabled him to carry forward his great work as it progressed step by step. The task was herculean. Obstacles numerous and varied were met and overcome which would have discouraged and crushed men of less persistent energy and fertility of resource. Not the least of the difficulties he had to contend with was the determined opposition of jealous, narrow-minded people, who were unable to comprehend the magnitude of the importance of his grand enterprise. The first section of twelve miles of the canal were completed in little more than a year. Despite all impediments the work of construction advanced to completion without the sale of a dollar of stock or an acre of land. The canal is twenty-two miles in length and includes sixteen tunnels, besides aqueducts and flumes, which are built with a capacity to carry 4,500 miner’s inches of water. The cost of the work up to date, April, 1890, is $1,400,000. The Gage water system covers 12,000 acres of choice citrus fruit lands, which prior to the inauguration of his enterprise was a drug at $1.25 per acre, but which is now selling, with water rights, for $300 to $500 an acre unimproved. Water rights have been sold for about 4,000 acres of this land, 3,000 acres of which have been planted to oranges and lemons. With a view to interest moneyed men and secure the investment of capital in still further carrying out his ideal, Mr. Gage twice visited Europe during the past two years, and succeeded in associating with himself a number of wealthy Englishmen in a company known as the Riverside Trust Company, of London, incorporated under the laws of Great Britain, for the purpose of the further development of the property connected with and belonging to the Gage canal and land system, which is now worth several millions of dollars. This company is composed of some of the most prominent people financially and socially in Great Britain. Mr. Gage is managing director of the company and has the entire active charge of its business, ably assisted by his brother, Robert Gage, as general superintendent, and his brother-in-law, William Irving, as chief engineer. The company, which has its working office in Riverside, and its financial office in London, is investing a large sum of money in enlarging the water supply and putting in a system of steel distributing pipes costing $75,000 to $100,000, which convey it to every ten-acre tract of their land, known as Arlington Heights, together with the construction of streets and avenues, and other extensive improvements of an ornamental and useful character. They are building one main avenue, which has been named in honor of England’s reigning sovereign, Victoria. This magnificent street is to connect with Magnolia Avenue, and will be about twelve miles in length, and when finished according to design will be one of the most elegant rural drives in the world. Mr. Gage has had opportunity to dispose of his property and retire with an ample fortune, but declined, preferring to place it in its present shape, and devote his talent and energies for years to come to the perfecting and expansion of his grand ideal. Besides his large interests in the company, of which he is the directing head, he owns thirty acres of bearing orange grove in Riverside, where he and his family reside. Though but just at the meridian of life, Mr. Gage has accomplished alone and unaided a work which for magnitude of achievement and beneficent results to society, is equaled by the life-work of but few men; and he deserves to live many years to contemplate with satisfaction his struggles and enjoy his triumph.”
One of the realities of life is that often, when one individual or a group of people advances, others are set back. While Riverside gained immensely from Gage’s efforts, in a very real way, San Bernardino and San Bernardino County lost as a consequence of what he did.
Landowners, farmers, speculators, investors and business owners, chaffing under the yoke of county governance in San Bernardino moved to secede from San Bernardino County. On August 14, 1893, Riverside County broke away from San Bernardino, taking with it the southernmost lying section of San Bernardino County and including in its formation a limited portion of northernmost San Diego County.
After the secession, Gage continued to own property and water rights on the San Bernardino County side of the newly formed boundary. In this way, Gage was largely responsible for the exportation of water from San Bernardino County elsewhere, a precedent that has since proven problematic in San Bernardino County as numerous entities for more than 120 years since have attempted, with varying degrees of success and failure, to make raids on San Bernardino County water, including that in the Santa Ana River watershed, from the Mojave River and from various aquifers beneath the Mojave Desert.
Matthew Gage’s immense success was in some respects tempered by challenges, indeed failures, in his effort to secure control of the empire he had built. While he had essentially built that empire from scratch, based upon his own innovative know-how, hard work, sacrifice, gumption and creative arrangements without working capital, there eventually came a time where he had to pay the piper. Between 1892 and 1909, the Riverside Trust Company sold parcels in Arlington Heights to individuals. With each parcel conveyance, the trust company also transferred shares in the Gage Canal Company on the basis of two shares for every acre in the parcel sold.
In 1892, Gage arranged to get a ‘Deed to Water’ from the Riverside Trust Company to the Gage Canal Company in the amount of 1,000 inches under a four-inch pressure. The trust company assured the canal company that 1,000 inches of water was flowing or ready to flow at the headgates of the canal. In exchange for the deed, the canal company issued 10,000 shares of its stock to the trust company. In 1903, the trust company in exchange for 1,968 shares in the canal company, conveyed to the canal company 196.82 inches of water, the deed describing them as ‘water and water rights in the Gage Canal.’
It was around that time, well after the turn of the 19th Century to the 20th Century, Gage resolved to free himself of the commitments he had made to Crewdson and the other owners and investors in the Riverside Trust Company. He drew together all of the unencumbered capital he had – $100,000 – along with $200,000 in loans he had raised from the Bank of California. He sojourned to London with the $300,000 in hard cash with which he intended to buy up the remaining stock of the Riverside Trust Company, extending to all of the real estate in Arlington Heights that had not yet been sold, and ensure that he had from that point going forward management of the company. Gage made his pitch to the London directors of the company, who in response sent Crewdson and another director with the last name of Newton across the Atlantic and then across the continent to Riverside to investigate the local management of their holdings.
“Upon their return they reported adversely,” the Los Angeles Herald reported in its June 1, 1904 edition, “and Gage’s plan failed. It Is announced that an entire change in the management of the concern will be made at once.”
Gage had pledged all of his stock in the Riverside Trust Company with G. Howard Thompson of the Bank of California as a mortgage for $200,000 he needed to carry off the deal he was trying to effectuate.
“The stock of Gage, which was hypothecated with G. Howard Thompson, Is now in the latter’s hands,” according to the Los Angeles Herald’s June 1, 1904 article. “It is stated that formal announcement of the future course of the company will be made in the near future.”
The Herald reported that some of Gage’s associates suffered as the result of his inability to wangle the Riverside Trust company takeover. “Several local firms are concerned in the failure of Gage’s deal, one of which is said to have lost $12,000,” the article stated.
For a time, Gage withdrew from the Riverside area and went to live in Berkeley.
Gage had indeed succeeded in becoming a Southern California water baron. Nevertheless, his dreams of becoming a land baron as well had been dashed.
Gage was able to maintain a working relationship with the Riverside Trust Company, which accrued to the mutual benefit of both parties. In 1909, a deed to “water and water rights in the Gage Canal, lying within the counties of San Bernardino and Riverside, in the State of California” consisting of twenty-eight inches of water measured under a four inch pressure was transferred by the trust company to the canal company in exchange for 280 shares of trust company stock Gage still owned.
In 1890, Gage and his wife had seven surviving children. The names of five of them were Margaret, Maude, Anna, Horace, and Frances. In early 1916, Gage, who was again living in Riverside, contracted pneumonia and died on January 22 of that year, 11 days after his 72nd birthday. His obituary, which ran in the Riverside Daily Press stated that he was survived by his widow; his three daughters; two brothers, W. John Gage, of Riverside, and Robert Gage of Utica, N. Y.; two sisters, Mrs, William Irving, of Riverside, and Mrs. William Spooner, of Kingston, Canada; and a grandson, Gage Henderson. It made no mention of surviving sons.
By Robert Porter
As I close my eyes and dream about Arrowhead Peak
My brain gets excited, and my soul starts to seek.
As I open my mind, I appear at the great hills base .
Then I start up the mountain, a kind of flat slanted place
I see the heart clear as an Arrowhead, waiting for coyote to this day.
Ready to run up to Big Bear, near God’s Eye is where they say.
Then up the huge grizzly bear that’s been carved into the earth.
Wow, I see the jaguar in all is glory, the Creator before birth.
The great white eagle soars, with a dove feather to drop.
I just can’t believe it, the art on the dirt canvas just won’t stop.
Then I awake from my vision and my mind is left in pure blessed awe.
It’s real, it’s real, the Creation Song of Arrowhead Peak, is what I saw.