The City of Redlands has added a “rumor control” page to its website.
Just below the page’s logo, its mission is enunciated. “The rumor control page is committed to dispelling inaccurate or misleading statements concerning the City of Redlands,” it says.
This week the page stated, “No rumors at this time.”
The ostensible goal of the page appeared to be to quell falsehoods before they metastasize. Some Redlands residents nonetheless saw something a bit Orwellian about a rumor control office, akin to the Ministry of Truth described in the dystopian novel 1984, in which an arm of the government seeks to control public perception, applying that effort within the context of official authority.
The Sentinel contacted the city’s spokesman, Carl Baker, to see if he could speak to what had triggered the need for the addition to the city’s website, and if there had been a recent spate of pernicious falsehoods being spread that had proven problematic tor the city.
“The rumor control page was added with the launch of the city’s new website, which went live earlier this month,” Baker said.
As to what had prompted the page’s inclusion on the website, Baker said, “It was suggested by staff and based on a similar page that the City of Glendale implemented several years ago. The intent is to provide factual information that residents may use to answer common questions or evaluate false or incomplete information published or disseminated widely through social media, comments made at public meetings or other methods.”
Asked if there was concern that the city taking on rumors might come across as a heavy-handed use of governmental reach, Baker said, “It is not intended as a forum to express opinions or to argue in favor of or against issues. As the public information officer, I will be responsible for maintaining the page but the content may be provided by other staff with subject matter knowledge. City staff will also assist in monitoring the circulation of rumors, questions and misinformation and evaluating whether they are significantly pervasive to warrant a response on the city’s website.”
The community of Trona is making a slow recovery on a multitude of fronts in the aftermath of the 6.4 and 7.1 Richter Scale magnitude earthquakes that hit the area on July 4 and July 5.
For a handful of the town’s residents and businesses, however, the devastation is proving more lasting.
Temblors and their aftershocks shook the earth and structures, cracked the earth and pavement, damaged underground water storage and pipelines, damaged or ruptured natural gas pipelines, damaged or cracked in some cases building foundations and above-ground elements of their structures, shifted buildings on their foundations and caused items and merchandise inside commercial and other buildings to come crashing down.
As early as Monday, July 8, personnel with the office of the county fire marshal and inspectors with the county land use services division were conducting inspections of properties and facilities in Trona, beginning with commercial buildings downtown that were likely to attract large numbers of members of the public.
Those structures were either red-tagged, yellow-tagged or green-tagged. Those red-tagged were deemed not habitable in their current condition, with a determination the structure has been severely damaged to the degree that it is too dangerous to inhabit. Those yellow-tagged were cataloged as moderately damaged to the degree that their habitability is limited, not suitable for overnight stays and useful only for limited occupancy. Those green-tagged were designated as suitable for habitation with no major damage noted.
According to the county, eight commercial buildings were red-tagged and four were yellow-tagged. Four underground storage fuel tanks were red-tagged. Among residential structures, 31 were red-tagged and 51 were yellow-tagged.
On Sunday July 14, the county posted on its website, “All initial inspections of earthquake damaged structures in Trona and nearby San Bernardino County communities have been completed by damage assessment teams led by the county fire marshal, including building inspectors from land use services. Structures that were not tagged as yellow or red, can be assumed to be green-tagged, with no major damage noted. However, residents are encouraged to call land use services at 760-995-8140 or 909-387-8311 to request a follow-up inspection if they have particular safety concerns, or to re-evaluate the tag status, considering repairs (such as a gas line or other utility repair). Remember: A yellow tag means the occupant may enter briefly to retrieve essential items. A red tag means the building is not safe to enter. If you have a yellow or red tag, call for an inspection appointment to discuss the damage assessment and next steps.”
The Sentinel made an inquiry with the land use services department’s building and safety unit and was told that a red-tagged home is not to be considered to be uninhabitable into perpetuity or absolutely fated for demolition. Rather, critical repairs of the damage can in most cases be undertaken and effectuated by a registered and licensed contractor if all stages of the repair are suitably monitored and checked off by building and safety division inspectors.
Official governmental building inspections are to be compended into a single, full report which is to be sent to state and federal officials for review. The Federal Emergency Management Agency will ultimately determine if the earthquake damage meets the Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act criteria/threshold for assistance, such as low interest loans.
Because of ruptures in the water supply line from Ridgecrest to Trona, the Searles Domestic Water Company had been unable to deliver water to its customers following the first of the two major quakes, Following the governor’s declaration of a state of emergency on July 5, on July 8 bottled water was being distributed to residents of the community by July 8. Shortly thereafter, portable toilets and showers were brought into the community, the lion’s share of which were set up on or proximate to the Trona High School campus. As of Thursday, July 11, the Searles Domestic Water Company had restored water services to the entirety of the town, with the exception of a handful of isolated streets in one of the town’s neighborhoods. Though the integrity of the broken, cracked and leaking water mains had been restored, dirt and other contamination had made their way into the lines, and residents were advised to boil the tap water that was available. On July 17, it was announced that Trona residents no longer needed to boil their water for use in cooking, and that they could use the water for drinking purposes without concern for its purity. The county also informed the town’s residents that the company would not assess past due fees on its customers’ bills for July. The new phone numbers for customers to contact the Searles Domestic Water Company are: 760-382-3776 760-382-8553.
Operations at the Trona Library, one of the few structures downtown that had not been red-tagged or yellow-tagged and which was converted to a cooling center during the post-earthquake crisis, returned to normal on July 18, with its standard hours restored. Normal operating hours are: Monday – Wednesday: 11 a.m. – 7 p.m., Thursday: 10 a.m. – 6 p.m., Friday: closed, Saturday: 9 a.m. – 5 p.m., Sunday: closed.
Beginning on Monday, July 22, construction debris bins will be available Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Trona Transfer Station, 13177 Trona Dump Road. The dumpsters located at the Trona Library (82805 Mountain View, Trona, CA 93562) and Argus Area (across from Shell Station, 82275 Trona Road, Trona, CA 93562) will be removed today. Trona residents in need of non-construction clean-up may call Team Rubicon, a volunteer organization, to request assistance at 310-640-8787.
Hazardous waste collection will take place Saturday, August 10 and Saturday, Sept. 28 from 8 a.m. to noon at the San Bernardino County Fire Station, 83732 Trona Rd. in Trona.
Effective today, the local assistance center at Trona High School is to be closed, and a recovery center will open at 13207 Jones St. in Trona.
By Mark Gutglueck
In a tacit indication that San Bernardino city officials have abandoned the strategy of staving off a second municipal bankruptcy by substantial reductions in the salaries and benefits provided to city employees, the city council and mayor this week in a 5-to-3 vote finalized the promotion of Assistant City Manager Teri Ledoux to city manager.
In doing so, the council conferred upon her a raise of nearly $50,000 over what she was being paid for serving in the role of acting city manager, which she took on when the council suspended former City Manager Andrea Travis-Miller in April. The action brings Ledoux’s total compensation package to over $300,000 per year.
The council in May fired Travis-Miller, creating the need to fill the city manager vacancy.
Travis-Miller, who was a key assistant to former City Manager Charles McNeely, had herself been elevated to the role of acting city manager in 2012 when McNeely left the city under the strain of dealing with intractable financial problems besetting the county seat. It was under Travis-Miller’s guidance that the city made its August 2012 filing for Chapter 13 bankruptcy protection in Riverside Federal Court. Miller remained in place as acting city manager for the next six months, departing to head, as executive director, the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments in February 2013. She thereafter was hired as the city manager in Covina, but came back to San Bernardino as assistant city manager in October 2016.
In June 2017, just two months shy of the five-year anniversary of San Bernardino having entered into bankruptcy, the city emerged from Chapter 13 protection. Over the course of those five years, the city had tentatively regained its financial footing by getting Federal Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury to acquiesce in the $350 million stiffing of more than 200 of its creditors, some of whom were paid 60 cents on the dollar, others 50 cents on the dollar, others 40 cents on the dollar, others 30 cents on the dollar, with one class of those to whom the city owed money, litigants against the city who had prevailed in court on various lawsuits, getting just one cent on the dollar for the first million owed to them for those judgments.
Two months after the city’s exit from bankruptcy and after the departure of then-San Bernardino City Manager Mark Scott, Miller was hired, in August 2017, on a five-year non-guaranteed contract, as San Bernardino City Manager. In October of that year, she arranged to lure Ledoux, then working as the assistant to the city manager in the City of La Verne, to take on the assignment of assistant city manager in San Bernardino.
Part of the incentive Ledoux was given in making that transition was a sizable increase in pay. In La Verne, Ledoux was making a yearly salary of $114,437.10 with $22,645.25 in benefits. The pay range for assistant city manager in San Bernardino ran from $172,000 to $213,000 yearly. Travis-Miller arranged for Ledoux to be hired at a significantly higher salary step than was normally provided to a newly-hired assistant city manager, such that Ledoux’s hiring in San Bernardino represented a salary boost for her well in excess of $70,000 annually. Additionally, the benefits provided to Ledoux in San Bernardino were, at over $40,000 annually, close to double those provided her in La Verne.
Upon her elevation to acting city manager status in April, Ledoux’s annual salary was bumped up to $212,000.
How much money Ledoux would demand to have the qualifiers “acting” or “interim” detracted from her title and keep her in the role of city manager was of some moment. As she comes into the position, roughly two years after San Bernardino’s departure from bankruptcy, the city again finds itself behind the eight ball financially.
When the City of San Bernardino’s budget for the recently concluded 2018-19 fiscal year was drawn up and that spending plan passed by the city council last year, Travis-Miller in her then-capacity as city manager and then-Finance Director Brent Mason projected the city spending $166,357,066, of which $126,247,699 was accounted for in the city’s general fund and $40,109,367 in other funds that include special revenue, enterprise operations, and internal services. Travis-Miller and Mason said the city could afford all elements contained in the spending plan, which entailed a five percent increase in the general fund over the previous year, based upon $168.943,334 in anticipated revenue, allowing the city to net a surplus of $2,586,268, which was to be salted away it its reserves. As the fiscal year progressed, however, it became apparent, primarily because of a shortfall in the actual amount of revenue from gasoline tax that was to come to the city, that San Bernardino was not meeting the revenue projections assumed at the outset. Ultimately, it turned out, the amount of money the city took in during 2018-19, running from July 1, 2018 through June 30, 2019, was off by nearly $13.8 million, such that not only did the city not realize the $2,586,268 surplus, it actually received roughly $11.2 million less than the $166,357,066 it was going to spend.
The warning signs were clear: the city is heading, unless significant adjustments are made, back toward bankruptcy. Midway in 2018, the optimistic projection was that for the 2018-19 fiscal year, the city would fare well. But the modeling Travis-Miller and Mason were using at that time was less sanguine about future years. Based solely on what they could see at that time, Travis-Miller and Mason indicated that the projected revenues for 2019-20 set against the city’s projected expenditures would result in a $4.3 million deficit for that year; and that the modeling showed that the projected revenue to expenditure gap would continue to grow over the next three years until by 2022-23 the city was projected to run a $7 million deficit that year. Moreover, according to Travis-Miller and Mason, the city was on a collision course with its unfunded pension liability issue, such that the city, which was required to put up $20 million as part of its contribution to the California Public Employees Retirement System in 2018-19, would see that payment zoom to $40 million by 2028-29.
At the outset of 2018-19, the city had some $33 million in its reserves and was anticipating adding another $2.86 million to that sum during the just concluded year. With the gas tax shortfall, however, the $2.86 million never materialized and instead, the $11.2 million deficit ate into the city’s reserves such that the city now has less than $22 million in its rainy day account.
Prognostications, based on the best figures available, now indicate that the city, which ran an $11.2 million deficit in just concluded 2018-19, will see that annual deficit jump to $16 million by the end of 2019-20, $18 million to $19 million by 2020-21, $23 million to $25 million by the end of 2021-22 and $30 million to $34 million by the end of 2022-23. While those numbers are somewhat short of the $49 million operating deficit the city was faced with in 2012 just prior to its Chapter 13 filing, the city’s present reserves of less than $22 million are on a trajectory to be depleted to zero by the end of October 2020. At that point, unless the city’s spending patterns have been drastically altered, the city will not only be spending more money than it is bringing in, it will have no other source to make up for that deficit. Accordingly, the City of San Bernardino’s second bankruptcy filing could come as early as November or December 2020.
Already, some thought has been given to finding some way for the city to make its way up the steep path from the fiscal abyss it is being drawn down into.
An intrinsic element of the city’s dilemma is the overly generous salaries and benefits, given the restrictions on the city’s multiple revenue streams, that have been paid to San Bernardino’s municipal workers for decades.
Personnel costs in the city entail, on average, in excess of 91 percent of the city’s budget. While it had been the hope of Patrick Morris, who was San Bernardino’s mayor when the city declared bankruptcy in 2012, as well as the intention of the mayor who succeeded Morris, certified public accountant Carey Davis, that the bankruptcy could be used as a means by which the city could adjust the exorbitant costs it was bearing in personnel costs, that did not prove to be the case. In the four years and ten months between the time it entered into bankruptcy in August 2012 and its emergence in June 2017, the city while skipping out on just over $350 million it owed to a combination of some 209 creditors, vendors and partners, was unable to make any meaningful adjustment in what it is paying toward its most substantial cost – its employees. Left largely unscathed by the financial devastation the city was experiencing were the city’s workers, who continued to draw unreduced paychecks throughout the ordeal. They have seen no reductions in pay and their benefits remain intact, including the pensions they were promised by past mayors and city councils, though going forward the city’s employees are now being called upon to make a slight increase in their individual contributions toward their retirement benefits.
Thus, after five years of bankruptcy and two dubitable years of recovery, the underlying problem that sent the city into the pit of financial hell still exists.
What had emerged, prior to the extension of the contract to Ledoux was a tentative strategy that was both bold and desperate, painful for some to contemplate, startling and outside the box. But given the city’s desperation, it existed as the best, and perhaps even the last option to keep the city’s ship of state from being capsized by the colossal financial swells threatening it.
Indeed, last month, before the departure of Bill Essayli, who since December had served as Mayor John Valdivia’s chief of staff, the city council undertook what appeared to be a test run of such a strategy, seizing upon the opportunity that the 2016 passage of a revamped charter, which Valdivia at that time opposed, presented them. In addition to a host of other reforms, the charter revision eliminated the city attorney and city clerk positions as elected offices. Using its authority at a specially-called meeting on June 11, the council voted 4-to-2, with Councilman Jim Mulvihill absent, to reduce City Attorney Gary Saenz’s pay rate over the final nine months he will occupy the elected city attorney’s position by 45.8 percent and to reduce City Clerk Georgeann Hanna’s pay during the same period by 59.2 percent. Thus Saenz, who formerly made $246,266 in total annual compensation as city attorney, has seen the amount of remuneration he is to receive between July 1, 2019 and March 31, 2020 reduced from $184,700 to $100,000. Hanna, who was receiving $171,466 in total annual compensation as city clerk, including salary, benefits and add-ons, is now seeing her compensation over the same nine-month span reduced from $128,600 to $52,500.
It was thought that Ledoux, whose experience, résumé, skillset and portfolio as a municipal management professional are very thin, might prove amenable to accepting a total compensation package that was roughly two-thirds that which had been provided to her predecessor. In practical terms this meant that Ledoux would be given a $175,028.34 annual salary, coupled with $30,770.61 in benefits, for a total annual compensation of $205,798.94, as compared to the $307,941.56 in total compensation on a yearly basis Travis-Miller had made, consisting of her $262,542.50 annual salary and $45,399.06 in annual benefits. One justification for the difference consisted of the consideration that Ledoux’s previous experience paled in comparison to that of Travis-Miller. Ledoux’s top assignment career-wise consisted of her time as San Bernardino’s assistant city manager and acting city manager over the previous three months. Travis-Miller, on the other hand, had been city manager in La Mirada and Covina, had headed the San Gabriel Valley Council of Governments joint powers authority, and boasted her two stints with San Bernardino as assistant to the city manager/acting city manager and assistant city manager when she was promoted to city manager in 2017.
More importantly, however, was the moral, practical and situational authority Ledoux’s acceptance of the lower salary and benefit package would vest in her and thereby set the stage for her and the city’s political leadership to ask the city’s workers to voluntarily take across-the-board 25 percent pay cuts.
If the city’s workforce complied with that request, the city would be able to meet its financial burden, keep its head above water, and prevent its expenditures from greatly outdistancing its income, make the escalating payments into the California Public Retirement System to ensure that the city’s retirees receive the pensions promised them, and spare the city the ignominy of again going into bankruptcy court to seek permission to avoid paying its way in the world.
As it turned out, however, Ledoux was having none of that. She insisted that she receive 99 percent of what the city had been paying Travis-Miller. Moreover, she refused to be paid anything less than $10,000 more than San Bernardino’s police chief. Thus, the contract that was considered by the city council on Wednesday night this week provided for her receiving an annual salary as of that night of $259,674, benefits running to roughly $46,000 per years, a guarantee that she receive a salary at least five percent higher than that provided to the police chief and that she be given, as of August 1, a 3.5 percent raise.
The contract was backdated to July 1, 2019 and runs through December 31, 2020.
Assuming Ledoux remains in the position at least 12 months of the contract’s 18 month duration, it will up her pension, provided to her under the auspices of the California Public Employees Retirement System and her contract, from the $122,472 annual pension she is eligible to receive at present to an annual pension of $181,642.50. She will receive that amount of money, per year, for the rest of her life.
While council members Fred Shorett, Sandra Ibarra and Jim Mulvihill voted in opposition to extending the contract to Ledoux, council members Henry Nickel, Bessine Richard, Juan Figueroa and Ted Sanchez voted to approve it, as did Mayor John Valdivia. Shorett cited the long term escalation of costs to the city in terms of the increase in Ledoux’s pension in enunciating his reason for opposing the contract.
The short term of Ledoux’s contract – 18 months – together with her age, 61, is an indication that she intends to retire with the expiration of the contract. This is seen as an acknowledgment that Ledoux is intended less as a permanent city manager committed for a significant duration, but rather as a caretaker. Given that the council agreed to hire her at what is essentially the same rate of pay as was provided to Travis-Miller, the opportunityto apply the strategy of uniformly reducing the salaries and benefits of the city’s employees to obtain the savings needed to stave off bankruptcy has been essentially obliterated. Had Ledoux gone along with accepting a more modest salary and benefit package, she would have been in a position to ask the rest of the city’s workforce to voluntarily take 25 percent pay cuts. It now appears that either Ledoux toward the end of her 18-month tenure as city manager or her immediate successor will be obliged by the exigency of the city’s financial circumstance to lay a significant number of city employees off in order to achieve the economies that could otherwise be had with salary reductions. Most logically, Ledoux will at some point, most likely sooner rather than later, have to undertake a study to determine which of the positions on the city’s payroll are not absolutely crucial to municipal function and can be permanently eliminated. It is further likely that a significant number of city positions deemed necessary for the continuation of municipal function and the provision of services will be filled by contractual arrangements, by which young and qualified candidates, eager to obtain municipal experience or positions, would be hired at salaries or hourly rates approaching 25 percent lower than is being provided to current city employees holding those positions.
It is thus anticipated that the city will, in the month or two prior to Ledoux’s scheduled retirement, need to initiate massive layoffs of city employees. At present, the city’s work force stands at 722, which is under 55 percent of the city’s peak level of 1,319 employees in 2007-08. If the layoff option is applied in such a way that it is effectuated uniformly across all levels of employees in terms of pay grade, the city’s workforce will need to be reduced to 541, meaning lay offs of 181 municipal workers would likely need to be initiated within the next 18 months. If for practical considerations the city must hang on to its higher ranking and higher paid employees such as department heads and assistant department heads, there will need to be higher number of layoffs, such that the city’s employees may be reduced to fewer than 520.
At that point, the city’s only other viable option will be to go into federal bankruptcy court once more to seek refuge from its creditors. That stratagem, however, is by no means a surefire one. The possibility yet exists that whatever bankruptcy judge the county comes before, either Judge Jury or another federal judge assigned to hear the city’s bankruptcy petition, would make a finding that given that San Bernardino had already spent five of its last eight-and-a-half years under the bankruptcy court’s protection and was yet unable to put its financial house in order, the city’s ability to remain as a going concern is so questionable that bankruptcy is not a reasonable solution, instead putting the city into receivership, a step which would be likely to lead to the outright disincorporation and decertification of San Bernardino as a municipal entity altogether.
Since July 10, deputies with the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department have been involved in four shootings, two of which were fatal.
On July 10 at around 11:10 a.m., the sheriff’s department received a report of an assault in the 18100 block of Poinciana Road in Adelanto. According to the victim, a female, her attacker had fled on foot. Deputies looking for the suspect in a nearby apartment complex encountered a man roughly fitting the description of the perpetrator in the complex’s laundry room.
“The door opened, and the suspect emerged, advancing toward the deputies while armed with a knife, and a deputy-involved shooting occurred,” according to the department.
The man felled by the gunfire was Darrell Allen, 32, of Adelanto, according to the department. Allen was pronounced dead at Victor Valley Hospital, to which he was transported after the shooting.
The Daily Press newspaper, based in Victorville, in an article authored by reporter Garrett Bergthold, quoted a nearby resident, Lakendra Williams, who said she witnessed the shooting. According to Williams per Bergthold, Allen was unarmed and had his hands in the air when he was fired upon by two deputies who shot a total of eight times.
According to Bergthold’s report, the apartment manager where Allen lived across the street from the apartment complex where he was killed heard an argument between Allen and his girlfriend prior to the incident.
The sheriff’s department has assigned the investigation of the incident to Detective Kevin McCurdy.
At 5:29 a.m Tuesday July 16, an as-yet unidentified deputy sheriff responding to a phoned-in report of illegal dumping of debris and trash near Orchid Avenue and Hackberry Street in Hesperia attempted to stop what was described as “an older Chevy Truck.” When the deputy did so, according to the sheriff’s department, the truck “Quickly left the scene.”
The truck was being driven by Leaire Moore, 43 of Hesperia, according to the department. With the deputy in pursuit, according to the department, Moore came to a stop on East Santa Fe Avenue near Darwin Road. When the approaching deputy was coming up on the truck, according to the department, Moore attempted to run the deputy down, at which point “a deputy-involved shooting occurred.”
Moore then sought to get away over the Union Pacific and Santa Fe Railroad Tracks, but the truck was unable to clear them and the undercarriage of the vehicle became hung up. With the truck disabled, Moore and a woman passenger fled from the truck on foot. Shortly thereafter, the woman was detained as other deputies arrived at the scene. Deputies, police dogs and aviation units were utilized in an effort to find Moore but were unsuccessful during a several-hour-long search.
The sheriff’s department thereafter put out an all points bulletin for Moore, stating that he was believed to be armed.
Meanwhile, Moore made a posting on Facebook in which he said he intended to turn himself over to authorities but not before he provided his version of events so “I can tell my side of the story. He acknowledged that the incident occurred following “days of being on drugs and homeless” and he had fallen asleep in the truck at the side of the road with his female companion. He was awakened by her, he said, who alerted him to the approaching officer. He “wrongfully,” he said, “took off in my truck.” He said his effort to leave the area was obstructed by the officer and that when he attempted to drive around him, the deputy opened fire on him. He had not, Moore claimed, shot at the officer or attempted to run him down.
Moore has more than 20 criminal convictions, including robbery, assault, assault with a deadly weapon, infliction of corporal injury on a spouse, violation of supervised probation, possession of a controlled substance, possession of dangerous drugs, transportation of a controlled substance, fleeing a police officer, evading a police officer and a series of more than a dozen lesser and greater violations of the vehicle code, including driving under the influence.
A warrant was issued for his arrest and the attention with regard to Moore revived an ongoing case against him filed in March involving making criminal threats, being a felon in possession of a firearm, assault with a firearm and contempt of court.
At 7:30 p.m. on July 17, Moore came into to the High Desert Detention Center and surrendered. He was taken into custody and booked for attempted murder of a peace officer. He was charged in Superior Court today with evading a police officer, attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon other than a firearm and being a drug addict who owns, purchases, receives, or has in his possession or under his custody or control of a firearm.
He remains in custody in lieu of a $1,000,000 bail.
Tuesday evening, July 16, San Bernardino County sheriff’s deputies in Chino Hills opened fire on and killed a 52-year-old man who was reportedly acting erratically on a public thoroughfare.
At 7:47 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, deputies were summoned to the area of Descanso and Pipeline avenues following reports of a man brandishing a knife, who was yelling and walking in and out of traffic.
After less-than-lethal rounds were employed but failed to have any appreciable effect on the man, later identified as Jose Javier Gonzalez, 52, of Chino Hills, an unidentified deputy approached him. At that point, according to the department, Gonzalez ran at the deputy with two knives. The deputy shot and fatally wounded Gonzales, who was taken to Pomona Valley Medical Center. Gonzalez was pronounced dead there just before 12:30 a.m. Wednesday morning.
The section of Pipeline Avenue where the shooting took place was closed for the investigation from shortly after the shooting occurred until almost 10:50 a.m. Wednesday.
The sheriff’s department maintains the deputy’s action was justified in that Gonzalez was threatening to kill people and “appeared to be under the influence of an unknown substance.” Gonzalez was uncooperative throughout the incident and did not comply with the responding deputies’ orders that he drop the knives, according to the department.
The department has assigned Detective Chuck Phillips to investigate the shooting.
On Wednesday afternoon, July 17, San Bernardino County Sheriff’s deputies in Victorville opened fire on a man in black Chevrolet Suburban after he drove the vehicle toward them.
Those deputies encountered the man in the parking lot of a of business on Seventh Street. The sheriff’s deputies were sent to the area, in the 15000 block of Seventh Avenue, in response to a report which came in at 2:39 p.m. of a man with a gun threatening people at that location.
Shortly thereafter, a number of deputies converged on the black Suburban, yet stationary in the parking lot. Passersby and others at the scene used cellphone cameras to capture the incident on video. Those videos show a protracted scene, in which sheriff’s department personnel seem to be trying to wait out the occupant of the vehicle. More than an hour into the video, the Suburban begins to move, setting out between two Sheriff’s vehicles and heading toward an exit from the parking lot onto the street. When it reached the sidewalk at Seventh Street, the deputies opened fire. The Suburban did not progress any further than the west side of Seventh Stree. Its occupant, an African-American man wearing an eye patch, did not emerge from the vehicle.
According to the sheriff’s department, the shooting occurred because the man had not complied with orders that he exit the vehicle and then “suddenly accelerated toward deputies and their units.”
According to the department, a deputy was injured during the incident, flown to a hospital, treated and released.
Deputies then utilized a loudspeaker to bark commands to the vehicle’s occupant that he come out of it, as sheriff’s department snipers with rifles took up position on the roof of the nearest building.
After further time elapsed, deputies approached the Suburban from the protection of two armored vehicles parked on either side of the Suburban. They were able to remove the man from the Suburban without further incident. He was apparently injured, perhaps even immobile, as he was laid out in a gurney and wheeled to an ambulance that was waiting nearby.
The man in the vehicle has not been identified.
Allegations that Big Bear Municipal Water District Board Member Larry Cooke engaged in unlicensed commercial activity at his place of business on Big Bear Lake was resolved this week after he agreed to secure a concession permit.
According to a staff report accompanying item 6A on the agenda for this week’s meeting of the water board, “It was brought to the district’s attention that Director Cooke has allegedly violated district policy regarding dock policy by working without a district-issued permit and has also been observed working on boats below the highwater line.”
Cooke owns Big Bear Dock & Marine. This year, he did not renew his district permit to conduct work on the lake. Cooke’s permit expired in April.
To ensure against the perception of favoritism being shown toward a district official, the district’s general manager, Mike Stephenson, as well as both members of the board’s administrative subcommittee, Director Bob Ludecke and Director Vince Smith, asked for the alleged violations of district policy and California Water Code 71660 be discussed on the record.
The upshot of that discussion, Stephenson told the Sentinel, was that Cooke “agreed to buy a concession permit. He was doing work without a license, and that was the issue.”
The work Cooke engages in consists of activity below the lake’s water line, Stephenson said. Getting a permit to do so, Stephenson said, will require that Cooke show he has proper insurance relating to his operation.
“He said he would do that,” Stephenson said.
Cooke having insurance was a major issue in the matter, Stephenson said.
The Big Bear Municipal Water District is an independent special district functioning under the authority of the State of California. It is responsible for the overall management of Big Bear Lake.
By Mark Gutglueck
Known as a charlatan and quack whose claimed medical license was absolutely bogus and his representation that he was a Methodist minister only slightly less dubious, Curtis Howe Springer nonetheless boasted a number of accomplishments, including an inadvertent contribution to San Bernardino County ichthyology and the creation of one of the county’s more obscure getaway spots.
A clever conman, Springer was a number of things throughout his 88 years of life. In the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s he was a prohibition crusader, radio evangelist, a Methodist minister, self-proclaimed physician and lecturer. Later he would be a homesteader and a developer. Along the way he made claims to being several other things in his past, such as a boxing instructor for the U.S. Army. It is difficult to verify some of those claims, at least some of which are as potentially dubitable as his assertion that he held a medical license.
Born on December 2, 1896, most sources cite his birthplace as Wheeling, West Virginia, though one source suggests he was born in Birmingham, Alabama.
Springer in his youth appears to have been filled with religious zeal, attaching himself to two of the leading Christian lights of the day. He worked as an advance man for William Jennings Bryan, “drumming up crowds for Bryan’s speeches attacking “demon rum.” He signed on with Billy Sunday’s evangelical tours, selling sheet music before and during Sunday’s exhortations to the crowd that combined an “old doctrine of damnation” with oftentimes graphic warnings against engaging in sexual sin.
Springer claimed that he was a private in the United States Army, further claiming that in this capacity he taught boxing to his fellow inductees.
After World War I, Springer worked as a teacher in Florida. He married to Mary Louise Berkebile, and in the 1920s, moved to Chicago where he was engaged with promoting an automotive technical school called Greer College. Springer was fired by 1930, and the school was forced into bankruptcy shortly afterward. Mary encouraged him to transition into the operation of health spas. In 1931, he founded the Haven of Rest health resort in Fort Hill, Pennsylvania.
Springer did not feel himself tied to the Fort Hill operation however, and in the early 1930s, affixing variously M.D., N.D., D.O. or Ph.D. after his name, gave lectures throughout the midwestern United States, claiming at times to be the “Dean of Greer College,” or that he represented/attended the fictional institutions of the National Academy, The Springer School of Humanism, the American College of Doctors and Surgeons, Westlake College of West Virginia, and two non-existent osteopathy schools in Meyersdale, Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania and New Jersey. These lectures began as “free” seminars, but part-way through his speech Springer would ask for donations, while further seeking to interest the attendees in $25 per session private psychoanalysis courses.
In the early 1930s, Chicago was essentially Springer’s home base. In the summer of 1934, upon his applying for airtime on WGN radio from which forum he intended to broadcast his lectures, his misrepresentations about himself were given their first major exposure. WGN contacted the American Medical Association’s Bureau of Investigations for background information regarding Springer, whereupon it was told that Springer was not a licensed physician. The American Medical Association, thereafter apprised of Springer’s falsified education record, notified the Better Business Bureau. Within weeks, Springer was being labeled as a notorious fraud and doctor-impersonator by the medical community. In the September 14, 1936 edition of Journal of the American Medical Association, an extensive article titled “Curtis Howe Springer: A Quack and His Nostrums” ran, cataloging in varying detail his ruses and schemes, together with his lack of education. “A most thorough search fails to show that Springer was ever graduated by any reputable college or university, medical or otherwise,” the article stated.
WGN refused to allow him on the air, but he nevertheless offered himself up as an evangelist and was able to broadcast twice daily from Chicago’s WCFL, beginning in 1934. He was a passionate supporter of Franklin Roosevelt and The New Deal, and he used his radio program to sell so-called medicine and medicinal remedies, most notably the antacid Re-Hib and Antediluvian Tea. Analyses done by the American Medical Association revealed the former to be little more than baking soda and the latter to be “a crude mixture of laxative herbs.”
In late 1935, Springer left Chicago and relocated to Pennsylvania, preaching on KDKA in Pittsburgh and setting up other health spas in Wilkes-Barre, Johnstown, and Mount Davis in Pennsylvania, as well as in Cumberland, Maryland and Davenport, Iowa.
In 1936 he lost the Haven of Rest spa in Fort Hill due to a tax lien.
At some point in the late 1930s or early 1940s, he separated from his first wife. By 1944, he had taken up with Helen Springer, whom he eventually married quite possibly without having first divorced Mary Louise. He and Helen had several children, including Curtis Jr., who later became a judge in Montgomery, Alabama, and a daughter, Marilou.
In 1944, Springer and Helen filed a 12,800-acre mining claim on federal land in the Mojave Desert at the remnants of an 1860s Army post and a railroad station on the defunct Tonopah and Tidewater Railroad. He named the settlement, built on the shore of a dry salt flat, Zzyzx, asserting it was to be “the last word” in health. Originally consisting of 20 tents, Zzyzx was offered as haven to the denizens of Los Angeles’ skid row, whom Springer assured would be provided with meals, living quarters, hot showers and medical care in exchange for assistance in erecting the Zzyzx structures.
Inevitably, some of the more curious, or hungry, or down-and out, would allow themselves to be coaxed aboard Springer’s crusading bus, to be driven the 170 miles to their destination, where a no-alcohol policy was in force and where, indeed, no alcohol was available. That proved too much for many if not most of the volunteers, who then returned to Los Angeles when the bus departed three days later. Some, however, remained, completing the work begun on the concrete buildings and then became Springer acolytes and part of the Zzyzx staff, leading lives of sobriety and espousing the restorative grace of faith and the curative powers of mineral waters.
The main draw to Zzyzx was its hot springs and mineral baths, which in fact were artificial rather than natural, consisting of pools that Springer had built and supplied with water drawn from nearby Soda Springs that was first run through a boiler.
Using a succession of “guests” recruited from skid row and elsewhere, Springer was able to establish a sixty-room hotel, a church, a cross-shaped health spa with mineral baths, a radio broadcast studio, a private airstrip dubbed “Zyport” and several other buildings which included a castle. The entire development was riddled with loudspeakers, from which Springer’s sermons were bullhorned.
The “Boulevard of Dreams,” a divided parkway that ran through the middle of the project, lead to a real oasis in the area that Springer augmented with water from Soda Springs to create an artificial pond that was called Lake Tuendae was stocked with the Mohave chub, an endangered chub originally found only in the Mojave River.
During the building of the Zzyzx retreat, Springer spent a portion of his week in Los Angeles, where he would record his radio program, and rounding up workers to build his desert retreat, which eventually was completed with the construction of an administrative building and chapel.
Once Zzyzx was completed, Springer and Helen took up residence there, from which he would broadcast his syndicated radio program, which at one point was carried by 221 stations in the United States and 102 more abroad. His program was a mixture of religious music and his own radio evangelism, which was heavy on admonitions against the use of alcohol and his expounding on the destructive energy of engaging in argument. The commercial breaks consisted of Springer’s appeals to this listening audience that they provide him with “donations,” in return for which he offered to send them his elixirs and special cures to treat all order of maladies, from halitosis, to hair loss to cancer. Springer’s potions were actually little more than a blend of celery, carrot and parsley juices.
Those who sojourned to Zzyzx Springs were provided with a diet that included goat milk; his old stand-by, Antedeluvian Tea; and a $25, self-administered hemorrhoid cure. But because man does not live by bread alone, visitors also were provided spiritual guidance from Springer’s twice-daily sermons heard by all in the resort by means of the omnipresent loudspeakers.[
Lauding the curative powers of mineral water, Springer used Soda Springs to bottle water and soft drinks he sold to desert travelers passing near his paradise.
Springer did alright for himself and while the world was not, exactly, beating a path to the door of the Zzyzx Mineral Springs and Health Resort, it attracted more than enough people – true believers, those convinced that the mineral baths and mineral waters offered bona fide pathways to a healthier life, those merely curious and the adventuresome – to keep it as a going concern.
In 1969, however, Springer again caught the attention of the American Medical Association, which anew took up the cause of exposing him, labeling him the “King of Quacks.”
In 1974, the federal government had reached the conclusion that the mining claim Springer and his wife had made in 1944 based on an 1872 mining law was bogus, and he was ordered off the Zzyzx property. When he didn’t budge, he was arrested by the United States Marshals for squatting and falsely advertising products like Mo-Hair, which he claimed was a cure for baldness. Springer was convicted of selling junk cures, but miraculously, perhaps because he was then 79 years old, spent only 49 days in jail. Springer and his followers were evicted from Zzyzx,and the property was reclaimed by the government.
Springer made his way to “Sin City,” Las Vegas, a curious choice for a man of the cloth, where he died on August 19, 1985, at the age of 88.
Zzyzx today is managed by the California State University as a desert studies center where arid-climate, biological and archaeological research is conducted. Most of the concrete buildings still stand, repurposed as a research facility. Artificial Lake Tuendae, created by Springer and stocked with the Mohave tui chub, is now one of the few remaining habitats of that endangered species, perhaps Springer’s most important and beneficent legacy.