Virus Victims Abandoned By Doctors And County’s Public Health Department

By Mark Gutglueck
Increasingly large numbers of San Bernardino County residents evincing symptoms of the coronavirus have found themselves isolated and without assistance, hemmed in by governmental orders to remain at home, unable to access medical care of any sort, as medical professionals and the county’s overmatched Department of Public Health have been gripped by paralysis which has rendered the most logical providers of medical care seemingly incapable of dealing with the burgeoning crisis.
Meanwhile, the number of confirmed cases of coronavirus within the county has continued to escalate, even as medical professionals confide that the actual numbers of the afflicted are well in excess of what is being officially acknowledged, with estimates on the low side being that the real number of those infected are certainly no less than double that being reported and more likely four to five times the rate laid out by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health, and perhaps at levels exceeding ten times the official number.
Over the last several days, the known infection rate and both the death toll and death rate have been climbing.
As of early this evening, 353 cases of coronavirus have been confirmed within the county and 13 deaths have been attributed to the virus. Based on those numbers, the death rate among those known to have contracted the disease is put at 3.683 percent.
As of early yesterday, the figures provided by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health was that there were 254 confirmed cases and six deaths within the county’s confines, pegged at a fatality rate of 2.362 percent. When those numbers were updated at 5 p.m. last night, Thursday April 2, the number had jumped to 304 people positively known to have the virus with eight having died, a death rate of 2.632 percent.
The medical community has been flying blind throughout the escalating crisis, unable to measure with any certainty the extent of the true infection rate, a circumstance brought on by a dearth of testing equipment and capability.
The precise number of San Bernardino County residents who have requested testing from either their medical care providers or the health department is unknown but projected to have exceeded 10,000 by this point. The vast majority of those requests have been turned down because of a shortage of not only test kits but an even larger shortage of the reagent needed to process the samples taken.
Last week, the county undertook what at first seemed to be a promising, but which proved to be a token, testing program offered to the public at large. Those seeking the tests had to complete an application in which they answered questions which the county health department used to evaluate their qualification for the testing. The answers on the applications were compared against a set of criteria to prioritize who would be placed on the testing list and in what order. Applicants meeting the symptomology and age criteria believed to number in the thousands were denied the tests. On March 26, between 380 and 400 tests were administered in a drive-through testing clinic involving mouth swabbings at the Orange Show grounds in San Bernardino.
County officials say they utilized a reasonable screening process to determine the eligibility of the applicants to be provided with the test, which used as a bare minimum qualifier that the individual evince the symptoms of cough, fever, sore throat and fatigue, while giving priority to those age 65 or over, those who had traveled internationally or those who had contact with someone confirmed to have been diagnosed with coronavirus. The San Bernardino County Department of Health has not disclosed how many, or what percentage, of those tested that day were confirmed to be infected, and it has declined to disclose either how many individuals applied for testing nor the number of those applicants who were experiencing coronavirus symptoms. Nor has the Department of Public Health followed up with those individuals showing signs of being infected who had applied for testing with the county and were turned down because of the testing kit/reagent shortage, despite having contact information for the those applicants.
The death rate among those known to be infected in San Bernardino County is alarming both statistically and historically. During the 1918/1919 Spanish Influenza pandemic, the deadliest flu outbreak in known history, roughly 28 percent of the planet’s estimated 1.8 billion population contracted the malady. Of the roughly 500 million people worldwide infected, at least 17 million deaths were directly and indisputably attributable to the disease, while 50 million deaths known to have occurred during the 35-month outbreak from January 1918 to December 1920 were potentially attributed to it. Because of inexact tracking in parts of Asia and South America as well as most of Africa, an unreliable high estimate of close to 100 million deaths has been connected to the disease. This puts the mortality rate for the Spanish flu at 3.4 percent at the low end with 10 percent at the most commonly accepted high end, and a less-accepted 20 percent at the high end. Thus, the mortality rate approaching 3.7 percent among known coronavirus sufferers in San Bernardino County falls close to the most conservative percentage given for the Spanish flu.
Medical professionals have expressed doubt, however, that the 3.7 percent mortality rate from coronavirus in San Bernardino extrapolated from the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health’s figures is accurate, based on the recognition that the number of confirmed coronavirus cases runs significantly below the number of actual cases. The underreporting of the degree to which the virus has actually spread is a direct outgrowth of the inadequate testing that has been carried out.
This would seem to be borne out in the consideration that as of early this afternoon, only 4,003 of the county’s 2.2 million residents had been tested. The 353 shown to have the virus equates to 8.82 percent of the 4,003 tested. Given that most of the 4,003 tested in the county had either shown symptoms or were in a risk category such as having traveled internationally or being in contact with an infected party, it is not a fair assumption that 8.82 percent of San Bernardino County’s 2.2 million residents – 194,040 – are infected. Nevertheless, given the large number of individuals who have evinced symptoms who have not been able to be tested, it is extremely likely, indeed certain, that the actual number of those infected with the virus residing in the county substantially exceeds the county’s officials figures.
This county health department’s reliance upon inaccurate figures and its inability to arrive at a baseline against which to make reliable ongoing and future deductions as is reflected in the county health department’s inaccurate official count, medical professionals and statistical analysts told the Sentinel, has resulted in the medical community being unable to define the parameters of the problem. That reality, they say, represents the first of two alarming failures on the part of the county public health department, the second being its personnel’s apparent unwillingness to actively engage with and thus leave isolated that unknown percentage of the county’s population now dealing with being infected.
Favoritism is clearly apparent in the fashion in which treatment for those afflicted with the coronavirus in San Bernardino County is apportioned. While those of average or below average social standing manifesting symptoms are finding it difficult to get tested to verify their coronavirus status, the well-heeled are not subject to the same limitations. Two weeks ago, anyone willing to pay an extra $500 on top of the other costs associated with a visit to a doctor or medical facility could be tested. That “black market” cost has now risen to around $700. In addition, county government employees have favored status that entitles them to preferential treatment. As of this morning, 15 county employees who work in six different county locations or buildings had tested positive for the coronavirus. One of those is a nurse employed at the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, the main campus of the county hospital. The nurse and his wife had recently sojourned to New Orleans. He is under care at Redlands Community Hospital.
The six county buildings where infected employees worked do not include the county’s five story administrative headquarters at 385 North Arrowhead Avenue in downtown San Bernardino, in which the offices of the board of supervisors are located along with those of the county chief executive officer and his staff, county counsel, the clerk of the board and county land use services. The areas within the six county buildings where the infected employees worked have been thoroughly cleaned using disinfectant while those workers who came into contact with those infected have been quarantined. To the extent possible, the workforce in those buildings has begun telecommuting in carrying out the majority of job assignments. Attending the reports of the county workers contracting coronavirus was information suggesting that those who worked with or were around the 15 infected employees have been tested for coronavirus, and that all county employees wishing to be tested have either been tested or put into a fast-track queue to be tested.
The vast majority of county residents have gone untested, and have little prospect of being tested for the next several weeks.
There is some conflicting wisdom as to where the blame for that circumstance falls and who bears rightful responsibility for it. How and why the region’s hospitals, medical providers and county public health officials failed to secure sufficient test kits is not something those institutions’ leadership is willing to publicly discuss at this time.
Similarly doctors and small-scale, medium-scale and large-scale providers of medical service in San Bernardino County are husbanding their limited testing resources, making it very difficult for residents of the county to be tested.
Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest providers of medical services in San Bernardino County and Southern California generally, made a decision last week to shutter several of its satellite office in the county, making it more difficult for those who may have contracted the disease to obtain assistance. The shuttered Kaiser facilities include ones in Chino, Colton, San Bernardino, Upland and Victorville.
Neither Julie Miller-Phipps, Kaiser Permanente’s Southern California regional president, nor Dr. Edward M. Ellison, MD, the executive medical director/chairman of the board for the Southern California Permanente Medical Group, deigned to answer questions about Kaiser’s decision to shutter its local medical offices or Kaiser having been left in a position where it is at present unable to provide testing to the vast number of those it provides service to.
Nor was the Sentinel able to reach Jarrod McNaughton, the chief executive officer of the Inland Empire Health Plan, or Karen Hansberger, the chief medical officer of the Inland Empire Health Plan, to speak with them in regard to the failure of regional health service providers to facilitate the provision of treatment to the significant numbers of people within San Bernardino County’s population who are isolated as a consequence of the precautionary sequestering now taking place who yet may have contracted the coronavirus and whose survival is now an issue.
Trudy Raymundo is the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health and Dr. Erin Gustafson is San Bernardino County’s public health officer. Some have sought to lay the county’s inadequate response to the coronavirus crisis at their feet. Neither Raymundo nor Gustafson by this week had formulated a pro-active program to identify let alone make contact with or otherwise gain access to the at-risk isolated portion of the county population to check on those residents’ condition or welfare.
It is unknown whether Gustafson had sought to have the county, the Department of Public Health or Raymundo secure testing kits and quantities of reagent to give her staff and the county, as well as the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, the main campus of the county hospital, adequate testing capability.
Raymundo is not a health professional, per se, but rather an administrative/managerial functionary. She has been an employee with San Bernardino County since 1990 and moved into a position within the Department of Public Health as a program coordinator in 1997. Over the next 12 years she served in the capacity of administrative analyst in the department and then promoted into the position of assistant director. In 2010, she was elevated to serve as interim director of the department. In 2012, the qualifier “interim” was dropped from her title and she became the Department of Public Health’s director. She is neither a nurse nor a doctor, and she has no extensive training in the field of medicine or the biological sciences. Rather, she holds a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management from California State San Bernardino.
There have been suggestions that Raymundo, who is provided with a base annual salary of $175,000 together with $125,000 in benefits and add-ons for a total yearly compensation of $300,000, failed to act with alacrity during the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak to use her hard-nosed business acumen and the negotiating leverage she had as a department head with California’s fifth largest county population-wise to purchase adequate reserves of equipment, devices, materials and medicine to meet the crisis head on. Some have suggested that the board of supervisors, which has co-existed with Raymundo as the head of the Department of Public Health for a decade because of her ability and willingness to live within the budget provided to her department, is now scapegoating her because through the board’s tightfisted approach it had failed to appropriate an adequate amount of funding to her department in time for Raymundo to go out onto the open market and purchase, using the economies of scale that large bulk orders of the needed testing products would have made for, the needed kits and quantities of reagent.
County Spokesman David Wert referenced Raymundo as “a competent, hard-working, and accomplished professional whose department under her leadership has earned national accreditation and won numerous state and national awards for innovation and public service; someone who is putting in long hours seven days a week to protect our community when she could easily walk away and retire comfortably.”
Wert said, “The shortage of testing materials is a national problem that has been experienced equally in every county in the nation. No one in this country has all the testing components they need. Our county follows the testing criteria set by the Centers for Disease Control and California State Public Health, which dictate only those with active symptoms of COVID-19 [coronavirus] shall be tested. The San Bernardino County Department of Public Health doesn’t decide who gets tested and who doesn’t. Private doctors decide which of their patients meet the criteria and will be tested, and the public health department or one of the two commercial labs operating in the county conduct the tests.”
Efforts by the Sentinel to reach both Raymundo and Gustafson were unsuccessful.
Meanwhile, feverish and in pain, in some cases finding it difficult to breathe, having contracted a virus that could kill them, cowed by the governmental imposition of a lockdown and threats of arrest for the breach of that restriction, unable to get treatment for their condition or a determination of whether they are indeed infected with the coronavirus or not, a segment of the county’s population yet in confused isolation awaits those agencies of their government chartered to protect them and their health to shake off their indolence and actuate themselves to carry out the mission the county’s taxpayers have employed them to perform.

Ontario PD’s Investigation Into March 4 Beating Death Yet Ongoing

The beating death of a man that took place last month just outside the Circle K store at the southwest corner of Holt Boulevard and Vineyard Avenue is still being investigated by the Ontario Police Department’s homicide division.
The beating that was administered to Justin Brown, 36, in which he sustained injuries including head and thorax trauma which apparently led to his death, occurred as the result of either Brown’s theft, or a misunderstanding concerning the ownership, of a cell phone charger. The incident escalated when other customers at the market sought to detain Brown out of a belief that he was fleeing the premises in the aftermath of a suspected theft.
According to information available to the Sentinel, Brown came into the Circle K at 1850 East Holt Boulevard sometime around 12 noon on March 4, either before or after he had gone to visit his then-infirm grandmother, who lives nearby. Brown may have had a cellphone charger with him when he entered the store, and may have used it in an effort to charge his phone while he was in the store.
An employee of the store had an exchange with Brown relating to the cellphone charger, at which point Brown exited the store. Several customers, in response to to the store employee’s shouts, pursued Brown out of the store and attempted to prevent him from leaving.
It was at that point that Brown sustained the injuries believed to have been a proximate cause of his death. At 12:36 p.m., an ambulance was summoned and Brown was transported to to San Antonio Hospital in Upland.
According to a family member, Brown was “flatlining the whole time until he got to the hospital.”
Brown was placed on life support at the hospital but expired some time later.
Detective Fred Alvarez with the Ontario Police Department said he was able to provide only limited information about the case because “the investigation is still ongoing.”
The matter was clouded, Alvarez said, by the events leading up to the fatal encounter. There were statements to indicate, Alvarez said, that what preceded the assault on Brown was “basically a robbery occurring, involving a cell phone charger.” He said Brown “got into a physical confrontation with the clerk, and tried to run out.”
Thereafter, Alvarez said there transpired “an altercation’ which led to Brown’s fatal injuries.
Alvarez indicated that the responding police units did not arrive until the incident had concluded and the ambulance was either at the scene or en route.
Alvarez said the investigation was incomplete and would remain so until the coroner’s report, complete with an autopsy, was provided to the department.
Alvarez did not say whether there was video footage of the assault or the events leading up to it, and he did not disclose whether the department had obtained the security video from the Circle K.
-Mark Gutglueck

Upland Council Makes Majority Vote To Approve Amazon Distribution Center

In a hearing that tested the limits of the degree to which a public deliberative process can be altered and still serve as the basis for a governmental board’s decision, the Upland City Council Wednesday night conducted a four hour and thirty-seven minute virtual meeting at which it gave approval for Bridge Development’s controversial proposal to build a 201,096-square-foot distribution center to be operated by on-line merchandise marketing giant Amazon.
The project, which was originally officially previewed to the Upland community last June as a three building complex with 977,000 square feet under roof prior to being reconfigured as a single building entailing less than one fourth of the square footage initially proposed, has proven unpopular with a vocal segment of Upland’s population from the inception, as they perceived it to be a development that was both inconsistent with and prohibited by the city’s zoning and land use regulations for the site; that there is inadequate street capacity around the project site to accommodate the vehicular traffic that would result from the project, creating gridlock; that there would be significant air pollution resulting from that increased vehicle use; that there would be no or minimal sales tax revenue to the city based on Amazon’s internet-sales model; that there would be a 100-year impact upon the city’s infrastructure surrounding the distribution facility based on Bridge Development’s 50-year lease and a 50-year extension clause with the property owner, the Bongiovanni Family Trust; that there would be an inadequacy of infrastructure-maintenance revenue; that the city was not being empowered to control or restrict the future intensification of the use at the site; that the project would mar the span along the Route 66 Corridor, at that point known as Foothill Boulevard at a relatively short distance from the Los Angeles County/San Bernardino County boundary at the Upland/Claremont city limits, which serves as the gateway to the city; and the project would monopolize property, which lies so close to the Foothill Boulevard thoroughfare, more properly suited for commercial use.
As objections to the scope of the proposal manifested, the tentative site plan was modified several times until in October 2019 a revamped conception of the project was presented, one that was reduced to a single structure of 276,250 square feet. When the environmental review documentation for the project was posted on December 16, it came in the form of a draft negative mitigated declaration as opposed to a full-blown environmental impact report. In that documentation, the project was shown as a 201,096-square-foot distribution center to be located north of Foothill and south of Cable Airport. While the 37-day review period for that document was yet ongoing, on Thursday January 9, the Upland City Council, the Upland Planning Commission and the Upland Airport Land Use Committee held a joint workshop at City Hall to carry out a discussion of the draft initial study and draft mitigated negative declaration for the project. The vast majority of the public attending the meeting who addressed the city council and planning commission indicated opposition to the project.
A common theme iterated by the project’s opponents was that the use of the mitigated negative declaration process to provide certification for the project was inadequate, and an undertaking of the project’s scope was more properly evaluated in an environmental impact report. The mitigated negative declaration, those naysayers maintained, was replete with incomplete or erroneous information.
After feedback from the public was accepted in conjunction with the processing of the negative mitigated declaration, which some residents said was marred by the city’s failure to post all of the public input and commentary submitted to it, the planning commission met on February 12 to consider the project. Commissioner Alexander Novikov was absent that evening. Four votes/determinations/findings with regard to the project were slated for that night. Voting in conjunction with Airport Land Use Committee members Ronald Campbell and Howard Bunte, the planning commissioners present that evening – Chairwoman Robin Aspinall, Carolyn Anderson, Gary Schwary, Linden Brouse and Yvette Walker – voted unanimously to enter a finding that the project as proposed constituted a use compatible with the city’s zoning codes and general plan as set out in the airport land use compatibility plan. The planning commission then took up the critical issue of the project’s environmental certification. With Commissioner Walker dissenting, the panel voted 4-to-1 to ratify the mitigated negative declaration for the project, making what was essentially a finding that any untoward environmental impacts would be offset by the conditions of approval imposed on the project. The panel voted 3-to-2, with Schwary and Walker in opposition, to recommend approval of the development agreement, by which Bridge Development agreed to provide the city with $16 million to make up for the project not involving the collection of sales tax and to offset the city’s infrastructure costs to accommodate the development, including repair to streets worn down by the trucks and vans that will operate out of the facility.
When the project’s site plan was considered, a motion to reject it was made, garnering the support of commissioners Schwary, Walker and Brouse. Aspinall and Anderson dissenting in that vote.
Over the next two weeks, the members of the commission were subjected to pressure from project proponents inside and outside City Hall, as well as from lobbyists for Bridge Development Partners. On February 26, the commission reconsidered the project, and then took a follow-on vote, unprecedented in Upland history, to undo the February 12 decision that had rejected the site plan. With Novikov present, the commission reconsidered the matter, at which point Novikov joined with Walker in registering opposition to the site plan, while Schwary and Brouse reversed themselves from their February 12 votes, resulting in a 4-to-2 recommendation that the city council approve the project’s site plan.
Over the next month, the nation, state, region, county and City of Upland fell ever more firmly into the grip of the health threat crisis created by the widespread outbreak of the coronavirus. On March 12 California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order banning public gatherings of 250 people or more and then firmed that call for social distancing and isolation with a shelter-in-place mandate on March 19, practically prohibiting municipalities from holding traditional meetings such as those of the city council, planning commission or other entities at which members of the public were free to attend and participate.
The Bridge project’s opponents, meanwhile, began to openly express the concern that city staff was militating toward the approval of the project rather than making an unbiased evaluation of its merits upon which the city’s ultimate decision-makers, the city council, would be able to base a fair decision as to whether Bridge should be given an entitlement to proceed. Some of the more vocal members of the project opposition called upon the city council to postpone any decision on the project until such time as the city could resume holding public hearings at which the entirety of those within the Upland community who wanted to attend the meeting at which the council would make that decision could be present to weigh in on the matter. While a decision was made to remove the consideration of the project off of the agenda for the council’s March 23 meeting, a hearing on the project was rescheduled for a special meeting on April 1. At its March 23 meeting and again at a specially called meeting held on March 31, the council was asked and then ultimately declined to postpone the April 1 meeting/hearing date for the project.
Thus, the council convened Wednesday night, not physically in Upland’s city council chamber, but rather virtually from their respective homes or professional offices, with Mayor Debbie Stone being the only member of the panel at City Hall, where, from her office by means of a video hook-up with the others, she conducted the meeting. A video of the council members and the audio of the proceedings, with a 30 to 40 second delay, was broadcast or displayed on the city’s local cable network as well as on the city’s website.
Mike Poland, Upland’s contract planner, briefed the council on the project, and Community Development Director Robert Dalquest provided the council with an encapsulation of the development agreement.
In his presentation, one of Poland’s statements circumscribed an element of the controversy and contention with regard to the project. Noting that the land upon which the project is to be constructed was designated or zoned for commercial/industrial mixed use, he said that typically industrial uses were “limited general industrial, manufacturing, assembly, warehousing, multi-tenant industrial, research and development, and airport related uses.” He did not specifically reference a transportation facility, but nonetheless stated, “Staff has found the use is consistent with the Upland General Plan. Furthermore, with the zoning code, we found that the project complies with the development standards of the commercial/industrial land use designation, and that this site is under zoning intended to accommodate a variety of industrial, retail and support activities.”
Poland further stated, “On the basis of the mitigated negative declaration, comments received and the whole record, there is no substantial evidence that the project will have a significant adverse impact individually or cumulatively on the environment.”
According to Community Development Director Robert Dalquest, Bridge Development had upped its previous offer of endowing the city with $16 million in return for approving the project to $17 million. He said Bridge had committed, as part of the development agreement, to provide the city with $14.5 million in what he termed a “sales tax in-lieu fee” to make up for the city’s loss of sales tax from untaxed sales at the facility. On top of that, Dalquest said, Bridge will provide some $2.5 million of in-kind assistance to the city consisting of road improvements and/or signalization on Foothill Boulevard, Central Avenue, Benson Avenue, 13th Street, 15th and 16th Street. If the tenant’s operations exceed 50 truck trips per day or if the van trips exceed 187 trips in the morning rush hour or 171 trips in the evening rush hour, Bridge is to be fined $45,000, Dalquest said.
Heather Crossner, Bridge Development’s first vice president for development, and Brendan Kotler, Bridge’s executive vice president, touted the project to the city council.
Crossner said the project had the support of city staff, the planning commission and the explicit endorsement of 1,100 city residents. She said the project as was being considered by the city council had been changed from Bridge’s original proposal and had been shaped by public input, based on nearly one year of public discussion and five community meetings and hundreds of pages of written responses to the proposal during the mitigated negative declaration process. She said that the “critical” input of the public with regard to Bridge’s proposal “every step of the way has made this project better.”
Crossner gave a breakdown of the $17 million to be provided to the City of Upland by her company that differed from the way that Dalquest had represented it. She said the city was to receive $14.5 million in “voluntary community benefits” that were donated in keeping with the development agreement along with another $2.5 million in development fees. She said the company would provide not $2.5 million in street improvements to the city but $3.5 million. She said if the company operating out of the distribution center exceeded the number of vehicles allotted to it on a single day, the company would be subject to $45,000 fines for each violation during the first ten years and $47,500 fines for each violation during the net ten years. The company is allowed no more than 50 three-axle or more truck trips per day, with a maximum number of 187 van trips during the morning rush hour and 171 van trips during the evening rush hour. Semi-trucks are to bring merchandise to the facility and vans are to deliver the merchandise to Amazon customers.
To a question from Councilwoman Janice Elliott as to whether Amazon could designate Upland as its point of sale for all of the business it does in California, thereby making Upland the recipient of all sales tax revenue the company would generate in California, Kotler deflected the request, saying “At this time, we don’t have a tenant signed up, and I think the tenant that everyone presumes [Amazon] is going to be on the site, I don’t believe they’ve designated any site like this, any city like this, as a designated point of sale. My understanding is Amazon and a lot of these retailers like Amazon have statewide agreements that prevent them from doing individual agreements with any sort of municipality or city. Let’s not forget that this facility is just a portion of a longer logistics chain. So, if every city that had a portion of the logistics chain claimed that they wanted sales tax, then the entire system would break down. It would not be doable in this place at this point to make Upland the point of sale.”
City residents were permitted to participate in the meeting telephonically if they had made registration of their intention to participate at least two hours prior to the meeting, such that they were phoned by a member of the city clerk’s office during the course of the meeting, with each allotted up to three minutes to make a verbal presentation.
Justin Cadzow said, “I don’t trust Bridge at this point, and I don’t think this city council should.” He decried the ambiguity with regard to who was to be Bridge’s tenant, in particular the prior identification of Amazon as the tenant and Kotler’s unwillingness to acknowledge that Amazon will occupy the facility. He characterized that as “misinformation.”
Albert Pattison said, “One thing I know is the citizens are concerned with what the impacts of this project are going to be. Yet little or no discussion was given to their concerns.” He said there was an “inadequate job done … in compiling documentation for the mitigated negative declaration, which would have better been carried out in a more comprehensive environmental impact report. Let me remind the council that the project the developer has proposed is inconsistent with a number of municipal standards, a primary one being zoning. In this way, it is neither incumbent upon nor advisable for the city council to grant project approval to an undertaking so out of step with the vast majority of Upland’s residents’ concept of what is appropriate for this city. The citizens’ message apparently is not getting through to the city council or the developer, who is persisting with a project adverse to the values and expectations of Upland’s citizens.”
Helen Young said she had “concerns about air quality. I am concerned about control over exhaust and truck traffic on our streets.”
Planning Commissioner Alexander Novikov stated, “The temptation to approve the Bridge Development project is great. Is this warehouse an appropriate symbol for our great city? Will this project add value to the culture and quality of life of Upland, or is this a shiny object that momentarily distracts us, only to leave us with traffic congestion, a jolt to our tranquil community and bring us an onslaught of more behemoth projects? What are we giving away if this project is approved? What does it say about us and our values?”
Novikov said that as a planning commissioner he had studied the project and after weighing all the pros and cons, “I came to the conclusion that this project is not the best fit for the location.” He said “It is better to have nothing than a big distribution center. Let’s take the opportunity to come together and envision what the possibilities are for that space that will add value to the community and enhance our quality of life. Let’s have the courage to deny this project and allow the gift of time to plan together. I hope that each of you will listen to your constituents who are also your neighbors and friends, and reject this project.”
Greg Bradley told the council the mitigated negative declaration had “an incomplete and inadequate analysis of project alternatives” and that under the California Environmental Quality Act the environmental analysis “must describe a reasonable range of alternatives to the project or to the location of the project.” Bradley said the city “should consider site suitability and availability of infrastructure, general plan consistency, other limitations and jurisdictional boundaries.”
Bradely said the mitigated negative declaration was “defective because it lacks feasible alternative uses and sites, and did not include evaluations of alternative options, including looking at what would occur if the project was not approved. The public has not been provided with enough information to make a determination of the impact of the project.”
Roger Stephenson said the city had not put into the record all of the correspondence related to the project submitted by the public. He further said, “The development agreement in the package is different from that version recommended to the city council by the planning commission.”
While the project parameters did draw a limitation on trucks of three or more axles, Stephenson said, the project if approved would allow “really large vehicles and vans to come and go as they please.” The development agreement, he said, leaves “too much open for interpretation or misinterpretation.” He said that “In my opinion the revisions incorporated this late in the approval process indicate the city realizes that the mitigated negative declaration and supporting documents are inadequate. The terms within the city approval documents are not mitigation measures under the California Environmental Quality Act and were were not part of the public review process. The draft mitigated negative declaration should be rejected by the city and a whole environmental impact environmental report for the project should be required. That environmental impact report would allow for a traffic analysis that truly reflects the actual distribution hub logistics character of what is proposed and allow for an adequate account of the number and types of vehicles and trip generation rates, reevaluate impacts to roadways based on appropriate assumptions for vehicle trips and routes and also a clear recognition of the huge structural canopies over the van loading areas and what they represent: shade from the sum or increased area for operations.”
Kris Gooding said she had concerns about the project’s impact on “traffic conditions,” which she said would involve “miles of delivery vehicles [and] chaos.” She said the project was incompatible “with the character of our city.” She said the company which compiled the mitigated negative declaration, Kimley Horn, had insufficiently charted the degree to which the project will “impact on residents’ quality of life.”
Lois Sicking Dieter decried the “incomplete hydrology and incomplete water quality analysis in the mitigated negative declaration,” saying its “findings are inaccurate because the city relied upon a flawed methodology, outdated software, generalized conclusions based on erroneous data, undefined calculations causing misleading results and analysis, lack of detail and inaccuracies in the city’s data input.” She asserted that the analysis and conclusions of the entire declaration are misleading as they understate the environmental impact of the proposed project. She said the city’s claim to having obtained similar data and to have arrived at the same conclusion after updating the software from a 1999 version to a 2016 version was “physically impossible.”
The stormwater system at the site would not be able to capture or contain water flow from rain events, she said, after the project is completed. She said the city was further ignoring the historic nature and features of Route 66 – Foothill Boulevard – in its consideration of the placement of the project at that location.
Brinda Sarathy said, “A full environmental impact report is essential. The city’s claim that the project is a warehouse permissible under the commercial industrial mixed use zoning is a significant misrepresentation of the actual operations of the project, which is not a mere warehouse for the primary storage of commercial goods but rather a soon-to-be node in a delivery station network characterized by the ongoing and continuous sorting and distribution of goods on a 24/7 basis. It is not a currently permitted land use under the existing general plan. As a transportation-oriented facility, the project directly conflicts with some of the stated purposes of Upland’s mixed-use zones, such as to foster developments that reduce reliance on the automobile, create pedestrian-oriented environments and support social interaction by allowing residents to work or shop within walking distance to where they live.”
She said an “e-commerce delivery hub dependent upon semi-trucks” was inconsistent with making the adjacent span along Foothill Boulevard an attractive and welcoming gateway from Claremont and Los Angeles County into Upland.
Someone identified only as Daniel said, “We need income to come into Upland to keep our city the way it is.” He said the project would “move the city forward.”
Russ Burroughs said he, his wife and surrounding neighbors “are opposed to this project.” He said Bridge was utilizing people from outside the city to voice support for the project “but none of them even live in Upland.” He said there was already excessive congestion on Foothill Boulevard.
Cindy Phillips referenced a letter from Claremont’s community development director which spoke of Claremont officials’ concerns with the underestimation of the truck traffic from the project, and impacts onto Claremont’s streets and roadways. “Please vote no until an environmental impact report is completed,” Phillips said.
Steven Reyes stated, “I am for the project, but I am concerned about their gathering of information and how they determined how much revenue they would be producing in the city.” He said he wanted to know if the projections of what that revenue was to be were true or false.
Brigitte James said, “I am for this development. Bridge has listened to the concerns and ideas the community has given regarding this project.” She said Bridge had altered its original plan to make the project “fit this community while still meeting the needs for a potential business partner. This development is perfect for this site. It is past time for this property to be developed. Please approve this project.”
Steve Bierbaum referenced prior written objections to the project from a group he is involved with, the Upland Coalition of Concerned Citizens. The coalition’s objections to the mitigated negative declaration, Bierbaum stated “are based on the city’s failure to address significant impacts,” which he said related to “land use, planning, traffic, air quality greenhouse gas emissions and wildlife that violate the legal mandates of the California Environmental Quality Act.”
Bierbaum said the project was “mischaracterized as a warehouse.” It was a “high intensity use logistics distribution center” that will be incompatible with residential properties and schools located nearby, Bierbaum said. He said development of the property in as a distribution facility was not permitted under the general plan. An environmental impact report should be prepared for the project before the city approves it, he said. He maintained that by approving the project without an environmental impact report the council was “inviting a legal challenge to that recommendation” because “the mitigated negative declaration did not adequately analyze the cumulative adverse impacts from the project.”
Terri DiMarco with the Upland Chamber of Commerce referenced Bridge’s proposal as a “positive development project” with “long lasting benefits to the citizens and businesses of Upland,” which will welcome visitors and residents to the city.
Rochelle Johnson said Bridge “listened to our concerns, using our feedback to revise the plan.” She mentioned the money that Bridge was venturing toward civic improvements. “I highly encourage that you approve this project tonight,” she told the council.
Ralph Cavallo said, “I’m in favor of approving the project now more than ever. In addition to dramatically improving the entrance to our community, the developer has truly stepped up more than any other developer I have ever heard of in making financial guarantees that will benefit our entire community for years to come. I’m particularly pleased with the projected 300 new jobs from the project. Upland should benefit by additional sales tax raised by some of those new employees patronizing our retail stores. The Bridge people are good people who have bent over backward and then some to meet our demands. This is a worthwhile project that should be totally embraced by our entire council and community.”
Lisa Nicely said that if a project’s impacts are “accumulatively considerable,” an environmental impact report is required. “Failure to assess accumulative harm may risk environmental disaster,” she said. She said the mitigated negative declaration did not adequately assess the project’s impacts. She further said the mitigated negative declaration did not examine the issue of existing contamination at the project site.
Heather Dunham said she supported the project. “I feel that this is a project that is of great benefit. I feel this is an improvement we need to make happen as soon as possible.”
Bob Cable said, “We seem to be dragging our feet on every project that comes before this city. I would urge you to improve this as quickly as possible and get this thing up. We keep hearing these ‘what ifs. We’re going to clog the streets with traffic. We’re going to kill people.’ We could be saving lives at this very moment if this project had been done a year ago and was up and running. Not only would we have people still employed, but we’d have medical supplies coming in not only to this city but every other city in this county.”
Cable asserted that Bridge Development Partners met “all the demands and then some.” He said that layering condition and condition upon the project proponent would take away the incentive for Bridge and any other potential developers to pursue projects in the city. “What message have you sent to every other developer who wants to come into this city?” he asked, his question posed under the assumption the city council was going to turn thumbs down on the project. “Approve this project and let’s bring some jobs in.”
Bill Behjat told the council to consider “the consequence of the pollution that would result in illnesses and sicknesses … cancer… asthma… kidney failure. Children at school would be more susceptible to illnesses,” he said, as would be “the elderly especially close to the facility and [nearby] traffic lights.” He suggest the council deny the project approval.
Jim Thomas told the council, “I trust you will all make a decision that is best for our city. Whatever the item on the agenda, there will be a small faction in the city showing up in strong support or in strong opposition. In the end your decision is not based on the numbers expressed pro or con, but a decision that will be best to benefit our community.”
Noting the 50-acre property on which the project is proposed to be built had remained undeveloped throughout the post-World War II building boom, Thomas asked, “When will Upland have an opportunity to attract a better offer? Perhaps there will be a higher and better use for that land, but the current offer is pretty darn good.”
Kim Anthony said the opposition to the project consisted of only about one percent of the city’s population. She implied that 99 percent of the city’s residents were in favor of the project, which she said provided city residents with an opportunity to achieve economic self-sufficiency and financial mobility.
Mahmood Khan said the project would “bring dollars into the community and create opportunity and new projects for the youth. I support this project. Hopefully, you will all vote for it.”
Rae Shephard said, “I feel it would be a very good benefit for Upland not only form the revenue generated there but for those employed at the warehouse and the potential for the upgrades for the schools and the parks.”
William Realyvasquez inquired as to what infrastructure improvements Amazon would make in support of the project and whether there would be taxes collected on the goods coming in through or sold from the logistics center.
Tommy Morrow said “This is a great project. Bridge Development Partners have demonstrated that they will be good neighbors. During this year long process of getting this approved, Bridge has done everything that was asked of them so that they could move forward. This is a great opportunity.” Morrow said those going to Montclair or Claremont to enlist assistance in opposing the project should move to those cities.
Ta Lese Middleton said the Bridge project was “an important opportunity and we should get behind it.” The undertaking will, she said, “convert a dirt lot into a modern business.”
John Swanlund said of the project, “I am pro this, just to let you guys know.”
Barbara Lindsey said, “I just want to let you know I support the Upland Bridge Point project. This plan will work for the City of Upland and the green technology is really going to be the wave of the future. This project will also add jobs immediately.”
Amber Thorneycroft said she thought the project “is going to bring a lot of needed jobs into the community. I also think it will bring a lot of needed revenue into the city.”
Dede Ramella said the city council had joined in an effort of “manipulation and control” by Amazon. She said the project carried the specter of a “done deal. They are showing us that no one can fight them, the system is rigged, they are bigger than every one of us. They are saying to the citizens of Upland, ‘We’ll win. Set down your pencils. Put your banners away. You can’t fight us. We are bigger than God.’ They are controlling our cities, our councils, our life choices. Our local government is bought and sold. They own you and the city. Look at what they are offering: the bribes to our schools, our parks, our downtown area, even our chamber of commerce. For God’s sake, they’ll stop at nothing. Hey Brandon! I mean Bridge: Can you put us in the black for the pensions, too? They can do what they want. No amount of money can or will stop them because they hold all the gold. The Upland residents have been misled, lied to and now taken advantage of. To the city council and planing commission: You are either blind or ignore the whole picture of what this will do to our once-welcoming community. I am pleading with you not to approve this disastrous global development.”
Frederick Lynch said, “There’s no doubt there are benefits from the proposed distribution center, but I think there are so many unanswered questions, so many doubts, particularly with regard to the unintended consequences in terms of noise pollution, air pollution, traffic and safety that greater care is warranted. I think we are meeting at a time of enormous crisis. I think more deliberation, more input, is definitely needed. I think we need a full environmental impact report. The builder has been very coy about who the tenant is going to be. I’ve heard the name Amazon tossed around. If it is Amazon, we are letting probably the most powerful economic and political force in the country into our community. Once they are here, to try to regulate them and try to control them is going to be very difficult. Make sure you have all the Ts crossed and the Is dotted before Amazon arrives. This needs a great deal of care.”
Kathryn Di Stefano said she had requested that the council not risk litigation by holding meetings pertaining to contentious issues remotely because of the coronavirus pandemic. “Tonight, I’m asking again that Upland not place itself at legal risk,” Di Stefano said. “Do not adopt the mitigated negative declaration for the Upland Bridge project, and conduct a full environmental impact report.”
DeVo’n Espinoza said, “I want to voice my support for the Bridge Development Partners project,” calling it “beneficial. I support this plan. I approve of this project.”
Mireya Atoura said “I am in support of the Bridge Point Upland project. I would appreciate and I would be very grateful if you would approve this project. I have a feeling it would bring a lot of positive things to our community.”
Craig Stover said, “I’m in favor of the Bridge project so we can do what we can to help the schools and school district help more kids.”
Eric Gavin said, “I remain in support of this project. This is private development on private land that either does or does not comply with our general plan. That is the only decision tonight. My opinion of the project doesn’t matter, any more than it matters what someone does in their own backyard, so long as it is legal and fits within planning and zoning documents. The planning commission recommends and your staff has told you again tonight it is legal, it does fit. Now is not the time to add a bunch of new requirements on the project to satisfy the angry say-no-to-everything crowd.”
Linda Trawnik said that the “city will receive millions of dollars to support important services” as a consequence of the approval of the project. “I keep hearing people saying they are going to Claremont City Council members regarding this project,” she said. “I cannot imagine what the purpose of that is. This is a decision of our Upland council members and only Upland council members. Bridge Development, who in my experience throughout this process has been attentive, is a great partner. I’ve never seen a more generous offer for a project in our city. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
Paul Trawnik said the project “would be a great boon to the Foothill Corridor and the city” and “would bring much-needed funds into city coffers.” He said the project would provide temporary and permanent jobs.
Joann Washington said, “I’m calling in to support the Bridge project. The project is transforming a vacant lot that no one ever uses into something modern, nice-looking and productive. We should be doing more with it than just letting it sit there any longer.”
Natasha Walton told the council the mitigated negative declaration has an incomplete analysis of the impacts to biologic resources in the project area. “The project area is considered sensitive rare habitat as defined by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife,” she said. “Furthermore, the project potentially threatens a species of special concern, the burrowing owl, that could be there. The mitigations proposed are inadequate [and] contrary to the Department of Fish & Game’s protocols.” Walton said that Bridge was not making a sufficient effort to determine whether the owl is present on the property.
Bridge was not dealing rightfully with regard to the threat the project was posing to a rare plant on the site, the sage scrub, she said.
Gary George said he was “lending my support to the project. It would be a fantastic addition to the city, especially in the times in which we’re living.”
Selena Khan said the project “is important to Upland’s economy. I think it will provide a lot of jobs for all people who need it, especially in times like this.”
Ferdinand Estrada said, “Rightfully, there is a conversation about whether to deny this project, and I understand the concerns, of course. However, it is critical we vote to move forward, now. This is a project that has gone through a long and, most importantly, open public process. We have all been given multiple opportunities to participate. If we don’t get this project approved now we risk Bridge Development walking away. It is time to vote yes and improve this wonderful city.”
Kim Lyles said of the project, “I think it would be a wonderful, wonderful project for Upland to have and it will bring new jobs to the community.”
Ta Mia Morrow said “It is important for us to take advantage of opportunities such as this that could boost the local economy and also put money in our education system, our roads, our parks, as well as our police department. I want to urge the mayor and city council to consider the benefits of a proposal such as this, and what it will mean to our community.”
Marjorie Mikels, whose opportunity to address the council was initially foreclosed when Mayor Stone moved to close the public hearing prematurely, was given an opportunity to speak before the city council began its deliberation. “I respectfully object to the council’s decision to proceed with this important public hearing without members of the public being present. I also want to see the speakers, the brave people in our community with courage to come out and speak on behalf of their vision for the city. Cyberspace is not adequate, because I can’t see any of those speakers, including the Bridge people. It is not the same as a public hearing. I really object to you going forward with that. You really didn’t need to do this.”
Mikels called for a specific plan overlay of the site before the project was given consideration or approval. “What kind of uses are we going to allow in this area?” she asked. “By the confused procedural path that you have taken by this whole process, I think you believe you have already settled the issue of whether the site is consistent with the zoning map and the general plan, but that issue really has not been decided properly. You are going to get litigation as soon as you do this without an environmental impact report and without consistency of the zoning plan.”
When Mikels mentioned evidence that Bridge had been paying individuals to make statements in support of the project, her access to the meeting microphone was terminated.
The council’s deliberation ensued, which involved its members’ having a palaver with staff members, including Dalquest and City Attorney Steven Flower with regard to certain issues.
An issue raised by Councilwoman Elliott pertained to the city’s current land use and zoning codes and whether the project site was properly zoned to accommodate a distribution facility, in particular as project opponents have contended what Bridge Development Partners is proposing is incompatible with the area generally as well as specifically with the city’s codes. In putting the matter before the council, staff did not offer the council the option of considering granting a zoning variance.
“I completely disagree with the argument that this is a permissible use in the industrial/mixed use zone,” Elliott said. “The City of Upland General Plan provides for warehouse and distribution centers only in the College Heights Focus Area, which is south of Foothill. Our general plan does not include distribution centers in its list of permissible use for mixed use commercial industrial zones. That’s it. If you look at the Upland Municipal Code, and you look for the different land uses that are permissible in the City of Upland, you find that the definition of warehouse, which the American Planners Association defines, as ‘a use where goods are received and/or stored for delivery to the ultimate customer at remote locations.’ This project, this warehouse, is not storing goods for customers at remote locations. These are last mile deliveries. The major use of this land is distribution or a delivery center. That accounts for the rest of the land use, other than the landscaping. So the warehouse is ten percent. The parking facilities is considerably more than that. There’s no listing of a distribution center. There is no listing for delivery service in our Upland Municipal Code, and the Upland Municipal Code states that unless it is included, it is prohibited. So, I strongly contend that this is not a permissible use in our Upland Municipal Code and in our general plan. In addition, the general plan is very articulate as far as the vision for the City of Upland in mixed use commercial industrial zones. This use of delivery service does not make sense there because of its proximity to other neighborhoods and its proximity on Foothill Boulevard. This is not an appropriate land use.”
City Attorney Steven Flower said, “I can say that the definition of warehouse is not a spot on match here, but at the same time it’s certainly within the city’s discretion in how it interprets its own code, and I think it’s a perfectly reasonable interpretation in this case, although others may disagree, to say this project would fall within the definition of warehouse. It really is a matter of just the council’s discretion in interpreting the city’s own code in this instance. Even if there’s other codes or other authorities that might have more specific definitions, our code has this definition, and, as I said, I think it’s a reasonable interpretation. In that regard I defer to the planning experts, and staff previously determined that this met the definition. It’s now the council’s call.”
The denouement of the meeting ensued, with the definitive action then taken by the city council, which voted to approve the mitigated negative declaration 4-to1 with Elliott dissenting. She indicated she voted no “because we need the studies of an environmental impact report to determine the impacts of the proposed development since I questioned some of the underlying data and assumptions in the mitigated negative declaration impact studies.”
The council’s second decision pertained to accepting a lot line adjustment for the project site. That adjustment was approved in a 5-to-0 vote.
The council’s third vote dealt with the site plan approval, which passed 4-to-1 with Mayor Stone and councilmen Rudy Zuniga, Bill Velto and Ricky Felix prevailing and Councilwoman Elliott dissenting. Elliott cited the zoning inconsistency between the project description and site in voting against the site plan.
The council then took up the development agreement which specifies the $17 million commitment in revenue Bridge is to guarantee the city. It was passed on a 5-to-0 vote.
The vote provided Bridge Development Partners with an entitlement to proceed, putting the ball into the court of the project’s opponents to take legal action if they are to follow through on their stated determination to prevent the project from proceeding.
The entity known as the Upland Coalition of Concerned Citizens has been a prime mover in the effort to resist the project, having retained the law firm of Palmieri Hennessey and Leifer to represent it. Communication between the firm, on behalf of the Upland Coalition of Concerned Citizens, and city officials prior to Wednesday night’s hearing intimated that if the project were approved, the coalition would take legal action to enjoin Bridge Development Partners from proceeding.
In a letter dated March 30 to Upland City Clerk Keri Johnson and Michael Poland, Upland’s contract planner, Palmieri Hennessey and Leifer principal Patrick A. Hennessey wrote, “As proposed, the city contemplates converting a low-density, heavy industrial site zoned commercial/industrial mixed-use located near Cable Airport, and many sensitive receptors such as, without limitation, single and multi-family residential communities (located approximately 1,000 feet away), Cabrillo Elementary School (located approximately 1,500 feet away) and Sycamore Elementary School (located approximately 1.5 miles away) into a high-intensity use logistics/distribution center and transit hub that is not otherwise permitted under the city’s general plan and zoning ordinances. The cumulative effect of the proposed project, if approved, would create pockets of incompatible adjoining land uses. These ‘pockets’ would foment future discord between the existing residential developments, public schools and businesses who have long-established uses in and around the affected areas, and Amazon’s high-intensity distribution and transit hub. The list of potential environmental impacts that would be created by approval of the project is substantial, warranting further investigation and analysis. Yet, the planning staff has, up to this point, recommended that compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act may be achieved through approval of a mitigated negative declaration. The planning staff is mistaken in its recommendation of a mitigated negative declaration for the sweeping changes being proposed, and if the city council follows this recommendation, it is inviting a legal challenge to that recommendation. The mitigated negative declaration either defers and/or does not adequately analyze the cumulative adverse impacts that the proposed project will have to the surrounding environs within and outside the project area. The mitigated negative declaration insufficiently addresses the potential significant effects of the proposed project when, in fact, the available information and findings support a fair argument that there will be a number of significant impacts that will not be adequately mitigated. It is apparent that the proposed project will result in significant adverse environmental impacts and will significantly affect the quality of the human environment. Accordingly, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act, an environmental impact report must be prepared to address the myriad of potential significant environmental impacts that will result from the proposed project.”
According to Hennessey, there were significant shortcomings in the mitigated negative declaration which trigger the requirement that an environmental impact report be prepared for the project. Those shortcomings, he wrote, included an improper baseline analysis, inadequate and incomplete analysis of project alternatives, an inadequate air quality assessment and health risk assessment study, an inadequate greenhouse gas analysis, outlined mitigation measures predicated on faulty assumptions of vehicle miles traveled per trip and an inadequate transportation/traffic analysis, an incomplete analysis of the project’s impacts to biological resources at the project area, a failure to address cumulative impacts from what Hennessey termed “reasonably foreseeable future actions” as significant and unavoidable. Hennessey said the mitigated negative declaration further failed to analyze hazardous waste residue on the project site and mandate a cleanup of that problem. Hennessey said the mitigated negative declaration suffered from “an inadequate noise assessment/analysis and an incomplete hydrology and water quality analysis.”
Furthermore, Hennessey’s letter states, “The proposed project constitutes bad land use and planning and is violative of the city’s general plan and zoning ordinance for the project area. The proposed project is tantamount to impermissible ‘spot zoning’ in that the city contemplates the development of a high-intensity distribution center and transportation hub for the delivery of pre-ordered packages and parcels for on-line retailer Amazon in a historic low-intensity and low-density industrial use area of the city. The proposed project is inconsistent with the city’s general plan, and not a permitted use under the project area’s current zoning of commercial/industrial mixed-use.”
Coalition members told the Sentinel they are mindful of the financial resources that Amazon possesses, that they believe it is a reasonable assumption that Amazon has bankrolled Bridge Development Partners in the effort to obtain an entitlement to proceed with the project and that Bridge agreed as part of the project approval to indemnify the city against any legal challenge to the project approval. They said they are conferring among themselves and with Palmieri, Hennessey & Liefer with regard to the coalition’s best legal recourse at this juncture.
-Mark Gutglueck

Finalized Results Show Calvin Ousted Richard In SB’s 6th Ward

While the margin was less than overwhelming, Kimberly Calvin, the challenger in the March 3 contest for councilwoman in San Bernardino’s Sixth Ward, has displaced incumbent Bessine Littlefield Richard, according to the final certified tally of votes released on Wednesday.
Richard was originally elected to the council in a runoff in February 2016 following the November 2015 election when San Bernardino, then functioning under its 1905 charter, held its elections in odd-numbered years. This time around Richard lost, displaced in last month’s contest by a mere 18 votes.
According to the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters Office, Calvin polled 1,446 votes or 50.31 percent to outdistance Richard, who captured 1,428 votes or 49.69 percent. Richard, or anyone, can contest the outcome and ask for a recount, but would need to pay roughly $10,000 to have the elections office reexamine the results. At press time, no such request, which must go through the San Bernardino city clerk, had been made. The deadline for such a request will elapse at 5 p.m. Monday, April 6.
Whereas previously the council members’ and mayors’ terms in office in San Bernardino ran from March in even-numbered years to March in an even-numbered year four years later, with the charter changeover that has been effectuated in San Bernardino, council and mayoral terms now conclude in December of even-numbered years. Thus, Richard will remain in her Sixth Ward post until December, such that she will have had a four-year-and-nine-month tenure in office when she departs. Her time in office was filled with a number of remarkable events. Though decisions with regard to privatizing the city’s sanitation division and transferring what had previously been the municipal fire department to the County of San Bernardino and its fire protection division occurred prior to Richard coming into office, those transitions were fully effectuated after she was in place. In 2016, a majority of the city’s residents participating in the November election voted to replace the city charter that had been in force since 1905 with a revamped version of the city’s constitution and operating plan that essentially did away with the strong mayor form of government that the city had abided by for more than a century, and replaced it with a council-city manager form of governance. In 2017, the city, which had filed for Chapter Nine protection in 2012, emerged from that bankruptcy pursuant to a recovery plan accepted by the council that included Richard.
Early on, even prior to her 2016 election, Richard had formed a political alliance with John Valdivia, then the city’s Third Ward councilman. Valdivia had lent her support when she first ran for the council, and they had, if not identical, then very similar voting patterns while they both served from 2016 until 2018 under the administration of former Mayor Carey Davis. In 2018, Valdivia successfully challenged Davis for the mayoralty, and Richard supported Valdivia in his campaign. When Valdivia acceded to the mayor’s post, Richard emerged as one of the members of Valdivia’s ruling coalition, and he sought, at first successfully, to use her support and that of a majority of the council in an effort to undo many of the 2016 city charter reforms that had limited the mayor’s administrative power. Part of Valdivia’s approach in this regard was to beef up the mayor’s staff, which entailed growing those working at City Hall answerable directly to him from a single mayoral chief of staff and a secretary to a complement of nine employees he oversaw.
There were excesses, however, in the manner in which Valdivia used the authority entrusted to him, and earlier this year, a scandal broke out into the open in which at first two women, and then eventually six individuals altogether, all of whom had formerly been among Valdivia’s closest associates at City Hall, accused him of a variety of wrongdoing, ranging from genderist comments to sexual harassment to abusive behavior, drunkenness, misuse or misappropriation of public facilities, personnel and money, as well as bribe taking. Those six included five members of Valdivia’s mayoral staff and a city commissioner Valdvia had nominated and whom Richard, along with the remainder of the council, had appointed by vote.
The advent of the mayoral scandal proved problematic to Richard for a number of reasons. During the run-up to the election last fall, Valdivia had openly endorsed Richard, which at the time was considered to be an advantage to her. Valdivia’s assistance included having his campaign consultant, Chris Jones, assist her in her reelection quest. Jones provided more than just electioneering advice, helping her tap into a wellspring of campaign donors Jones often networks with in the campaigns for his clients. But the revelations about Valdivia, in particular the pay-to-play ethos that attended his alleged bribe-taking, tainted Richard, whose support for Valdivia’s positions during the public portions of the city council meetings was widely recognized. Moreover, other members of the city council who had once supported Valdivia were beginning to defect from his political camp. Information emerged indicating that Richard had not merely supported Valdvia on routine council agenda items but that during the closed sessions of the council she was “blindly” following the mayor and serving as an automatic vote for him and his machinations.
When Jones conducted polling as the election campaign got under way, it was seen that Calvin had name recognition and positive name identification rivaling that of Richard. At that point, the Richard campaign went negative, sending out on its own or utilizing a so-called independent expenditure committee to put out political “hit pieces” attacking Calvin. That strategy did not work, however, as a large cross section of the voters saw the attack mailers as a below-the-belt tactic by Richard, made all the worse by her association with the now discredited Valdivia.
In January, a by-then clearly panicking Valdivia, sensing that Richard’s campaign was in trouble and that her defeat would mean his losing whatever hope he still entertained of remaining as a viable political entity as mayor, made a $2,000 transfer from his own campaign fund to Richard’s electioneering war chest to give his ally a final boost as the election was approaching.
That, too, redounded to Richard’s disadvantage, as many voters saw that as an indication Richard was and would remain one of Valdivia’s puppets.
The night of the election, and over the five following days, it appeared that Richard had outlasted Calvin, albeit by a very slim margin. Just after the polls had closed, Richard had garnered 510 of the 1,017 votes that had come in, with Calvin claiming three fewer, 507. As of 6:30 the next morning, by which time 1,950 votes had been counted, Richard had opened up a slightly more substantial lead, with 983 votes to Calvin’s 961.
By Friday of that week, Calvin had closed the gap to just seven votes. Richard at that point claimed 1,232 votes or 50.14 percent, as Calvin nipped at her heels with 1,225 votes or 49.86 percent.
The following Monday, Calvin leapt past Richard by 11 votes. In all subsequent counts, Calvin remained ahead. Later in the week following the election, Calvin laid claim to 1,365 votes, compared to Richard’s 1,343.
In the intervening time, Richard gained back some ground, but not enough to regain the lead.
Calvin expressed to the Sentinel some resentment over the way in which Richard had allowed Jones, an extension of the now foundering Valdivia political machine, to conduct a negative campaign against her. She said she was tempted to respond in kind, but had been talked out of doing so by her political supporters.
Calvin does not come across now as inclined to assist Valdivia in his effort to reestablish the short-lived dominance over the city he enjoyed last year with Richard in his camp.
Calvin told the Sentinel she intends to serve the constituency of the Sixth Ward, where she, her father and her grandmother were born and where one of her aunts on her mother’s side built an apartment complex in the early 1980s, in a way that will “honor those in my family who are still living and those who have transitioned.”
-Mark Gutglueck

Virus Reaction Taken By Some As Opportunity To Drive Homeless Population Out Of The Area

State and local officials are perceiving nearly diametric opportunities in the circumstance that the coronavirus pandemic presents in working toward a solution relating to homelessness issues.
Whereas politicians in Sacramento are seeking to implement policies and action aimed at sheltering those living on the streets in or near the areas in which they are located, local authorities rather are using the exigency of the rapid spread of the virus and the sometimes inexact edicts that have originated with the Centers For Disease Control headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, from Washington, D.C., or from Sacramento to give the homeless the bum’s rush out of their respective neighborhoods and down the road.
Southern California, in large measure because of its mild winters, has in recent decades become a haven for those who have no place to call home. And while the problem locally is less pronounced than it is in Los Angeles, San Bernardino County has been struggling against, and losing, pervasive homelessness in its urban districts as well as in its more rustic and remote areas.
Annual homeless counts done in January over the years have consistently demonstrated that the highest concentration of those with no roofs over their heads is in the county seat of San Bernardino.
Victorville, Redlands, Rialto, Ontario, Upland, Barstow, Fontana, Highland, Colton and the Town of Yucca Valley, all of which are incorporated municipalities, have likewise consistently had unenviable numbers of those living on their streets. Unincorporated Joshua Tree has had homeless numbers on a par with those places, as well.
Recurrently for decades there have been do-gooders who have taken a run at forging solutions to the plight of those unhoused, and to some limited degree they have made minor inroads against the problem, in some cases placing individuals, families or small numbers of people into living quarters. But overall over the years, the problem has persisted and worsened, as those efforts have been carried out haphazardly and without there being any coordination leading to a transformative correction, and the numbers of the homeless have continued apace on a steady incline.
The reasons for this are myriad. Some individuals want no help or are making lifestyle choices averse to living as most others live. The aforementioned lack of comprehensive coordination is one reason. The sheer numbers of those who must be housed and the expense this represents is another factor. The liability an individual or a group runs in housing or offering help to street people is itself prohibitive, as individuals among the homeless population are in many ways unpredictable and may engage in behaviors that hurt themselves or others. Those well-intention people involved in creating a circumstance where that harm came about – such as creating a shelter where the homeless congregate – may be deemed liable or legally responsible for having done so.
And there are forces of self-interest militating against those who would exercise compassion. It is pointed out that economic reality is brutal, as is life and nature itself, and that a Darwinian principle attends the matter. There are scores, hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, indeed millions upon millions of hardworking Americans, ones who wake up early and commute to work five, six and even seven days a week and put in eight or more hours of toil or drudgery, then commute home, all the while paying exorbitant rent or servicing a steep mortgage, never getting far ahead, eking out a hardscrabble existence. To them, generously providing those who do not work and do not share the hardship of pulling their own weight with the fruits of the labor of others is antithetical to the American work and enterprise ethic. Many people find it galling and unconscionable to simply freely hand over to the indolent that which others labor with such intensity to achieve for themselves.
Moreover, residents and officials are wary of the so-called “magnet effect,” by which showing compassion and kindness to the homeless such as offering them housing and services results in further homeless people flocking to that location in hope of receiving similar benefits themselves.
Thus, the problem has perpetuated itself, with those living outside the bounds of dignified society unable to fend for themselves, while those who are perhaps advantaged to help them are generally unwilling to collectively and effectively do so.
Following his 2018 election, California Governor Gavin Newsom signaled his intention to initiate a comprehensive public assistance program aimed at ending homelessness in California, and indeed, there ensued some legislation angled along that line. Nevertheless, more than a year into Newsom’s tenure in office, little tangible in terms of removing the denizens of the streets into respectable quartering had occurred, and the scourge of homelessness remained an ubiquitous and highly visible phenomenon. But with the mushrooming of the coronavirus outbreak, and the very real potential that the harsh conditions the homeless live under, including cold and wet or damp nights in which they are exposed to the elements and will see their physical reserves depleted, their natural immune systems weakened and their ability to resist contracting the disease or fighting it off once the condition has taken hold, Newsom leapfrogged over the delays and called for immediately housing a significant portion of the state’s homeless, not at some distant and indefinite point in some yet-to-be-built facilities, but at once.
Prior to that, however, the governor had mandated certain measures to protect the general population, calling for the cessation of public gatherings and for people to sequester themselves inside.
Those mandates presented, officials who have long wanted to end the homeless problem by inducing the street waifs, urchins and wastrels to just leave, a basis for them to at last act. There was just enough inexactitude in Newsom’s March 12 and March 19 mandates that officials could insist that homeless encampments – examples of the group gatherings Newsom was seeking to prohibit – be broken up and those who populated them scattered. If that meant scattering them into neighboring cities or counties, all the better, those officials figured.
This morning, during a virtual press conference broadcast statewide and attended by the Sentinel, Newsom announced Project Roomkey, which will route millions of dollars the state has earmarked to pay for hotel and motel rooms for that portion of the state’s homeless population considered most vulnerable to the coronavirus. The first phase of Project Roomkey will provide rooms for some 15,000 people, representing ten percent of the state’s estimated 150,000 homeless.
“Homeless Californians are incredibly vulnerable to COVID-19 [coronavirus] and often have no option to self-isolate or social distance,” said Governor Newsom. “By helping the most vulnerable homeless individuals off the street and into isolation, California can slow the spread of COVID-19 through homeless populations, lower the number of people infected and protect critical health care resources. We’re working hard with our county partners to get these hotels up and running as rapidly as possible.”
According to Newsom, the program is to be 75 percent funded by Federal Emergency Management Agency money, pursuant to California having aggressively moved to become the first state in the nation to secure federal funding available for a homeless support mission in the face of the coronavirus pandemic. The program is intended to provide hotel and motel rooms, as well as so-called wraparound supports such as meals, security, and custodial services. County governments will administer the program at the local level.
The state provided counties a list of approximately 900 hotel/motel locations where the homeless would be housed. One of those is the Rodeway Inn located at 2000 Ostrems Way in San Bernardino, proximate to Walmart off the 215 Freeway and University Parkway. That particular Rodeway Inn features over 100 rooms.
In very short order, San Bernardino city officials had reacted to the development.
One issue was that the county, in deference to the consideration that the City of San Bernardino has the most intensive homeless problem countywide, had concentrated much of its early preparations toward accommodating Newsom’s plan in San Bernardino. At least three days ahead of time, San Bernardino County was forewarned that Newsom would go public with the Project Roomkey plan.
By this afternoon, San Bernardino City Manager Teri Ledoux had reacted. She dashed off a letter to San Bernardino County Chief Executive Officer Gary McBride, stating, “The city appreciates the unique circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic as well as the need to protect our homeless population. Nonetheless, the city has several concerns about the county’s current plan to relocate homeless individuals from across the county to hotels within the city’s incorporated boundaries. As a preliminary measure, it is imperative for the county to engage both executive staff and elected officials of the City of San Bernardino in the planning process of a proposal of this magnitude that will have major short-term and long-term impacts on the city.”
Ledoux continued, “City of San Bernardino representatives must be directly involved in the planning process so that we may provide input on and assistance to the county’s efforts. The concerns of our community must be heard and appropriately addressed. Among our immediate concerns are:
• Health issues related to a large homeless population sheltered in a small geographical area;
• Public safety and law enforcement issues stemming from a concentrated homeless population;
• Availability of and accessibility to health, social, and other governmental services required to sustain the homeless population at a large shelter;
• The economic impacts to the City of San Bernardino, its residents, and businesses, including the possible stigmatization of one of the city’s major business corridors and revenue generators;
• The location of the planned shelters relative to sensitive sites;
• The county’s commitment to ensuring these hotels do not become permanent shelters;
• The county’s commitment to ensuring hotel owners receive necessary resources to protect their properties from long-term damage as a result of this use; and
• Other anticipated and unforeseen short-term and long-term consequences and impacts of establishing a large homeless shelter at a hotel facility.”
Continuing, Ledoux wrote, “As you are aware, the City of San Bernardino is already home to a sizable homeless population. We are prepared and willing to assist the county in its efforts to comply with Centers for Disease Control recommendations to provide shelter options for those homeless individuals already living in the City of San Bernardino. However, our expectation is that other cities in the county accept that same level of responsibility for homeless individuals in their communities, and provide adequate shelter options within their own jurisdictions. The city is willing to permit hotels within the city’s jurisdiction to operate as temporary homeless shelters so long as the city is provided reasonable assurances that: (1) the county will require other jurisdictions do their share; (2) the hotel operators are provided assistance from the county to ensure the properties are not impacted in the long term (e.g., assisting with enforcement and removal prior to the end of temporary tenancy); and (3) the city will be consulted on the appropriate locations for such shelters.”
Also today, San Bernardino City Councilman Henry Nickel put out a community alert with regard to the anticipated placement of homeless into the Rodeway Inn.
Nickel lamented that San Bernardino was being called upon to host far more of the county’s homeless population than other jurisdictions.
“It appears San Bernardino is the only city in the valley selected by the county thus far to house homeless under this program,” he stated.
Nickel indicated he was less concerned about the presence of the homeless while they were in the hotel than what will occur after their stay there has ended.
“These individuals will likely be released into our community and neighborhoods within only a few short weeks following their relocation to this hotel. They will then become our community’s collective responsibility to care for, a burden we simply cannot afford. The City of San Bernardino has little ability to prevent or otherwise determine such relocation.”
Nickel said that CaSonya Thomas, who is the assistant executive officer of the San Bernardino County Human Services Department, and the county board of supervisors “have sole discretion regarding into what cities such homeless are relocated and the respective contracts awarded to hotel operators.” He called upon the city’s residents to contact Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales, who represents the portion of the county overlaying the west side of San Bernardino in which the Rodeway Inn is located, as well as Curt Hagman, who is currently the chairman of the board of supervisors. Nickel advised residents to urge Gonzales and Hagman “to reconsider this matter as San Bernardino carries nearly 4 times its share of the county’s homeless burden.”
Nickel added, “The county’s conduct constitutes a threat to the public health and safety of our community. We simply cannot afford the county’s apparent discriminatory concentration of homeless in a city already burdened by excessive homelessness, poverty and crime. These homeless individuals deserve to be housed in other cities in the county that have less burdened resources.”
It does not seem the homeless are welcome anywhere in the county.
Officials and residents in various communities throughout the county have adopted policies of dealing harshly with the homeless as a hedge against the magnet effect. Some elements of officialdom have cherry-picked those portions of the governor’s mandate which will serve their underlying goal of driving the homeless out of their communities, while ignoring the elements of Newsom’s directions that call for accommodating them.
The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department is sending a clear message to the county’s homeless population: Move along and leave the county, or things won’t go well for you.
The sheriff’s department, under pressure from county officials, including those in the health department, to make use of its vast manpower in this time of crisis, has interpreted the mandate from above as a call to solve the homeless problem in a way  that is consistent with the tools the department possesses. Deputies justify the heavy-handed tactics as ones necessitated by circumstance.
The homeless tend to congregate in public parks, under freeway bridges, beneath  railroad trestles or in the thick vegetation of freeway landscaping where they can remain out of sight, as well as in riverbeds, abandoned properties and buildings and other locations of opportunity. Oftentimes they share bedding, makeshift tents or cardboard shelters, available cooking and eating utensils, subsisting in close proximity to one another. They do not have the facilities to shower, bathe or wash their hands or engage in even the most basic form of hygiene. Thus, their encampments and very presence represents potential incubation spots for the coronavirus, sheriff’s deputies have concluded, such that Governor Newsom’s March 19 mandate empowers them to use their authority to redress the problem as they see fit.
Street deputies, with the sanction of their superiors in the department, have initiated a program of letting the county’s dispossessed know they are not welcome any longer, so that the decent people of the county who can afford to live with a roof over their heads are no longer subject to the health threat the unsheltered represent.
Indeed, the county is now employing a deputy, described as a giant or a mountain of a man, as a member of its homeless task force, to confront those who appear to be homeless, letting them know that the department will deal with them harshly in a way that will not include housing them in a jail or detention facility. The implication, or in some cases the unequivocal expression, is if those confronted about their loitering, indigence, insalubrity and shiftless presence don’t head south to Riverside County or west to Los Angeles County, they can expect a beating and the loss of what few possessions they have with them. The deputies assigned to the task force inform the homeless they have been put on “proactive” status, which means they are empowered to immediately effect the removal from the county those who can’t or don’t wash their hands, who don’t stop coughing, or won’t stay away from one another.
“Anyone who doesn’t leave gets their ass kicked,” one of the destitute said.
The Sentinel was unable to verify a report that the sheriff’s department was providing transportation to any homeless who would willingly agree to be taken across the county line.
Some county residents expressed approval of the sheriff’s department’s action in confronting the homeless issue, indicating such action was long overdue.
Governor Newsom this morning was reluctant to be drawn into a statement with regard to how individual jurisdictions throughout the state are implementing his policies with regard to dealing with the homeless, including the provision of housing in whatever form, be it placement into brick and mortar structures, trailers or temporary accommodations at motels or hotels.
The state is providing 1,305 trailers to local jurisdictions with the intent that they will be utilized as living quarters for elements of the homeless population.
There were, Newsom said, “some circumstances where we’ve given trailers and they are not being utilized.”
Newsom indicated he was reluctant to push local jurisdictions to take action its officials are resisting. “l cannot cite them against the wills of the local [authorities], unless I want to get the local government to be supportive,” Governor Newsom said.
-Mark Gutglueck

Federal Express Looking To Hire 525 Package Handlers At $14.25 An Hour In Rialto

FedEx Ground is purposed to hire 520 people to fill positions at its Rialto facility in order to meet burgeoning demand for its delivery service, according to a statement from the company’s corporate headquarters in Memphis, Tennessee.
“FedEx is an essential business and we take seriously our responsibility to continue delivering critically needed supplies as the country responds to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the company said.
“FedEx is hiring team members in Rialto to help us continue to power commerce during this time of need. Open positions are for package handlers with growth opportunities to build a great career.”
FedEx offers its employees a host of perquisites, which include:
• Competitive wages dependent on shift starting at $14.25/hour with the opportunity for additional temporary earning potential;
• A wide range of benefits after a minimum threshold of service, including medical, dental and vision coverage, paid time off, holiday pay and tuition reimbursement
• Paid parental leave;
• Employee discounts on cell phone service, groceries, car purchases and more;
• Day and night shift availability.
Interested persons who are at least 18 years of age can explore employment opportunities at GroundWarehouseJobs.fedex.com.

Coronavirus Has Put Adelanto Councilman Hernandez’s Life In Danger

Adelanto Councilman Gerardo Hernandez is in critical condition as a consequence of his having contracted the coronavirus, it was disclosed this week.
It was confirmed this afternoon that Hernandez had tested positive for COVID-19. He had previously been tested, but the results came back negative. That was a false negative, one of the physicians attending him said. A second test was made and processed. The results came in late yesterday.
It is believed that Hernandez has been ill with the coronavirus for nearly four weeks. Initially, on March 9 or 10, he was showing signs of a mild cold.
He reportedly resolved to self quarantine on March 11, but broke from that regimen that evening to attend the regularly scheduled city council meeting, as well as a specially called meeting following day, March 12. Hernandez wore a mask during the March 11 meeting, but perhaps because the March 12 meeting was an emergency meeting which he might not have anticipated, he was not wearing a mask that day. Somewhat ironically, the March 12 meeting was held for the purpose of declaring a local emergency and to issue an advisory that residents sequester themselves in their homes and minimize social contact to avoid the possible spread of the disease.
In a memo to all Adelanto city employees issued April 1, Adelanto City Manager Jessie Flores said, “It is important to note that Vice Mayor Hernandez was last at City Hall on the evening of Thursday, March 12, which is well over 14 days ago. Still, if you believe you were in contact with the vice mayor during that timeframe and feel sick, please notify myself or HR [human resources] immediately so we can take appropriate measures to keep you and other city staff safe.”
Six days after the March 12 meeting, Hernandez was admitted to a hospital. The Sentinel has agreed to a request that the hospital not be identified in print at this time. Since that time, Hernandez has been confined in what is referred to as “isolation,” unable to have contact with anyone other than a limited subset of the hospital’s medical personnel, who are outfitted in garb designed to minimize the possible spread of any contagion. That concern goes both ways, as the personnel are seeking to avoid contracting the coronavirus themselves and to not convey it to any other employees or patients at the hospital, and are simultaneously seeking to prevent Hernandez from being exposed to any other viruses or bacteria that could weaken him further and complicate his recovery.
Shortly after Hernandez’s admittance, it was determined that he was suffering from a variety of conditions which in combination are life-threatening. He was intubated and put into a medically-induced coma.
According to the Victorville Daily Press, Hernandez is stricken with multiple organ failure, acute kidney failure, septic shock and must undergo dialysis on a regular basis.
Flores said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with the vice mayor and his family during this difficult time, and we are wishing him a speedy recovery.”
Hernandez is the second city councilman in San Bernrdino County known to have contracted the coronavirus. Big Bear City Councilman Rick Herrick likewise has been diagnosed with the malady.
-M.G.

My Date With Death

  • I’ve never been one of those guys who has an easy way with women. So when a friend of mine mentioned that there was this hot little number who was just dying to go out with me, I took the bait.

    “Look, she won’t hesitate to go all the way the first night,” he said. “Just take her out to a movie, maybe some dinner before or afterwards, and I’m sure you’ll have no problem. I’m telling you, she’s rarin’ to go.”

    I went for it. To make it easier for the both of us, he set it up. I was to meet her out in the open, in a public place, so there would be no pressure on either one of us. We could chat first and if we clicked, it would be up to the both of us to take it from there.

    We were supposed to meet at six in that little all night café right off Main Street on the Highway of Eternity.

    “How will I know her?” I asked.

    “She’s absolutely stunning,” he said. “You won’t be able to miss her. Besides, she’ll know you. I told her all about you.”

    “Great,” I said.

    I made sure that I arrived a few minutes early. As I got there the sun was just starting to go down. It was still hanging over the horizon, but it had that sanguine hue with its rays all spread out and streaming into the clouds and you just knew that in a half hour or less it was going to disappear and the night would be coming on. Its blood red glow was filtering through the cafe’s west window and [radiating rivuleting] against the east wall of the diner..

    I came in and looked around. She was already there, sitting at a booth not too far from the entrance facing the door so she could inspect everyone that walked in.

    She smiled when she saw me and I walked over to the booth and sat down across from her.

    “You can sit next to me if you want,” she said, seductively.

    “That’s alright,” I said, trying to not sound unfriendly. “I can take you in better from over here.”

    She smiled again, and, boy, she really was something to look at.

    “I’m not the kind of girl who beats around the bush,” she said then, not wasting any time. “I knew the second you walked in that I was interested. Actually, I was interested before that, when I first heard about you.”

    Her voice was like blueberry syrup poured over a stack of buttered pancakes.

    A waitress came up to the booth and we both said we’d start with some coffee.

    I looked across at death and I could see the pupils of her eyes had swollen up so that only a trace outline of her pupils was visible at their edges. It was like they were trying to swallow me.

    “So, what do you want to do tonight?” she asked.

    “I was thinking we could go see a movie…”

    “We could do that,” she said.

    “…and maybe we could get some dinner, either before or after.”

    “Well, I am a little hungry,” she said, “but to tell you the truth, I don’t think it’s food that will satisfy me.”

    The waitress came up to our table then and set down two mugs of black coffee, one for each of us and a small metal pitcher of cream, which she slid to the halfway point between us. There was already a clear glass sugar jar on the far end of the table against the wall to my right and silverware on napkins.

    “Are you going to want some of this,” I said, pointing to the pitcher.

    “I want some cream,” she said, “though not that dairy stuff. I was thinking of letting you pour me some of the real thing. You know, the kind that gets frothy.”

    “Already?” I said. “You hardly know me.”

    “Let’s just say I know a few things about you already that no one else knows, that maybe you don’t even know yourself.”

    “Like what?” I asked.

    “You’re my type,” she said.

    “How’s that?” I angled.

    “You’re a live one.” She gave me a half wink as she said it and her tongue, starting in the middle, slid seductively to the right along her lower lip.

    “And how is it that you know that?”

    “I can see by the way you move.” She looked at me very intensely then. “I like the way you move.”

    The import of what she said hung in the air between us and I reached over for the sugar. Picking up the spoon from my place setting, I suspended it slightly over the mug and then delicately poured just enough of the crystals to make a level measure and set the sugar shaker down. I turned the spoon ninety degrees to let the sugar fall into the cup. With my other hand I reached halfway across toward my date and took up the cream pitcher. I poured a modest amount of the white into the black and returned the pitcher to the spot between us. I stirred the coffee and set the spoon back down onto the napkin.

    Normally I drink mine black and bitter, but today was somehow different. I raised the mug to my lips and gingerly took a sip. It was hot, but did not burn my mouth.

    “You’re different from other men I’ve known,” she said after I brought the coffee mug down to rest on the table. “You have this masculine grace.”

    “Oh,” I said. “We’re still talking about the way I move.”

    Yesss,” she said, holding the s just a little too long.

    “I don’t ever think about the way I move,” I said. “It’s not like I’m a gymnast or a dancer.”

    “Believe me,” she said, “with the kind of dancing and vaulting I’m thinking about, Barishnikov wouldn’t be able to keep up with you.”

    “Well, I don’t know about that,” I said.

    “Trust me,” she said and then leaned ever so slightly across the table toward me. “Let me tell you a little secret.” Her voice softened then, so I had to listen carefully to hear her. “I obsess about us doing a dance together. A close dance. Horizontal, not vertical. I can picture you gliding over me.”

    I reached for the coffee mug again and took a longer draw this time.


3