State AG Repudiates LAFCO For Facilitating Hostile Annexations

On June 1, California Attorney General Kamala Harris and her office issued a legal opinion which dealt a fatal blow to the current practice in San Bernardino County of allowing cities to undertake so-called “hostile annexations” of some properties lying at those cities’ peripheries.
Such hostile takeovers come about when cities annex pockets or islands of unincorporated county land where less than a majority of the landowners or residents are in favor of the takeover.
The San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission is the local agency which hashes out border disputes and jurisdictional issues.  In recent years, the commission has construed specific portions of the government code pertaining to annexations, §§ 56300-57550, to facilitate the takeover agenda of local cities.
In the last decade, controversy has erupted over that policy, as some of the landowners who did not want to be annexed into cities claimed their rights under the law had been violated.
Three of the county’s cities in particular – Fontana, San Bernardino and Colton – have made aggressive efforts to annex, or attempt to annex, properties. There has been considerable opposition to annexation in all three places, and the tactics used by the cities in conjunction with LAFCO in those cases have been deemed by annexation opponents to be especially egregious.
Between 2000 and 2009, Fontana expanded its boundaries from 35 square miles to 42.4 square miles, in some cases over the vociferous opposition of those who did not want to become part of the city. Fontana had better luck in its expansionist drive than the city of Colton, where that city’s manifest destiny has stalled, and the city of San Bernardino, where the annexations were granted but then rescinded in the face of a court challenge.
In 2006, Colton tentatively planned to use a provision of state law that allows cities to annex without a vote unincorporated island areas of 150 acres or less that are substantially or totally surrounded by the annexing city to gobble up seven unincorporated county islands totaling 535 acres  north of Interstate 10 and in Reche Canyon. Before the city council acted on forwarding that request to San Bernardino County LAFCO, a significant portion of the roughly 2,000 county residents whose properties would have been brought into Colton protested to varying degrees, and the city council declined in September 2006 to follow through with the annexation filing. But the following year, then-assistant city manager Mark Nuami resurrected a version of the annexation request, which was never filed with LAFCO but which remains sitting on a shelf, ready for filing. This plan has greatly alarmed the residents potentially to be annexed.
In 2009, the city of San Bernardino, relying on the same provision of state law relating to the annexation of 150 acres or less, filed with LAFCO to annex six county islands at its periphery totaling 354 acres. But some of those annexation requests qualified as piecemeal takeovers that to some appeared to violate the law. In those cases, a. few of the islands were contiguous, such that if they had been considered together they would have totaled more than 150 acres. In November 2009, the LAFCO board approved the annexations without allowing the residents to be annexed to vote on the issue.
At that point, a resident of one of those islands, Sue Hulse, challenged the city and LAFCO, ultimately spending $100,000 in legal fees to have lawyers argue that the city’s annexation of all six pockets of unincorporated county property at once stretched that law unto breaking and that three spreads of land that were annexed were adjacent and together totaled more than 150 acres.
While Hulse’s challenge was pending in San Bernardino Superior Court, on February 22, 2010 the November 18, 2009 annexations were confirmed by LAFCO and responsibility for servicing those areas transferred from the county to the city.
On March 9, 2010, however, Judge Robert Fawke granted Hulse a stipulation that called for the city to discontinue all of its action with regard to the annexations. Subsequently, on a motion by the city, the case was transferred to the court of Judge Donald Alvarez.
Hulse asserted the city was cutting corners in more ways than one in that it shortchanged the impacted residents of their right to self determination and then forced the takeover to occur without having adequate financial resources to service the area. In the meantime, the county agreed to resume providing services to the area while the matter was being litigated. A stipulated judgment accepted by Judge Alvarez ended Hulse’s case on August 13, 2010. Under the terms of the judgment, LAFCO was to bear two thirds and the city of San Bernardino was to bear one third of Hulse’s $100,000 legal bill.
In the meantime, county residents alarmed at LAFCO’s annexation policy approached state senator Gloria Negrete-McLeod with their concerns. Negrete-McLeod in turn wrote to then-state attorney general Jerry Brown, requesting his office’s interpretation of the legal issues relating to hostile annexations. After Brown was elected governor, the matter was passed along to current State Attorney General Kamala Harris for her office’s legal opinion.
Many San Bernardino County cities, calculating that such resolve as was shown by Hulse in testing the issue is relatively rare, wanted LAFCO’s policy of facilitating hostile annexations to be perpetuated. While they were encouraging the county and LAFCO to do just that,  county chief administrative officer Greg Devereaux last year advised the county’s cities that the aggressive annexation of pockets of county land would be put on hold, at least temporarily.
In an interoffice memo with the subject heading “San Bernardino County Island Annexation Policies” dated May 4, 2011, Devereaux told LAFCO chief executive officer Kathleen Rollings-McDonald, “Through the San Bernardino County General Plan, San Bernardino County has adopted policies recognizing that cities are the logical service providers for municipal-level services and that unincorporated islands can be more effectively and efficiently served by surrounding cities. Although LAFCO has requested the county of San Bernardino to provide a definition of ‘entire island’, the county believes it prudent to await the California Attorney General’s  response to Senator Gloria Negrete-McLeod’s letter requesting a definition of ‘entire island.’
Earlier this month, on June 1, Harris and deputy attorney general Marc Nolan did just that, essentially repudiating LAFCO’s past practice of allowing cities to override the oppositional sentiment of those to be annexed by creating pockets smaller than 150 acres and annexing those without a vote.
With regard to “whether a LAFCO may split up an unincorporated island that exceeds 150 acres into smaller segments of 150 acres or less in order to use the section 56375.3 annexation procedures, and thereby avoid the landowner/voter protest proceedings that would otherwise be required,” Harris and Nolan wrote, “We conclude that it may not. To split an unincorporated island into smaller pieces for annexation is an action that simply may not be reconciled with the statutory requirement that, to utilize the protest-waiving procedures for island annexation under section 56375.3, a LAFCO must order the annexation of the entire island.
A LAFCO has no discretion to disregard this statutory mandate. The requirement is specifically designed to prevent piecemeal annexation as a means of circumventing the citizen participation in the annexation process.”
The attorney general’s office also said cities and local agency formation commissions are precluded from making creative use of the definition of an island and then splitting an island that is larger than 150 acres into a smaller piece to facilitate annexations.
Harris and Nolan wrote “an ‘island’ is an area of unincorporated territory that is (1) completely surrounded, or substantially surrounded—that is, to a large degree or in the main surrounded—by the city to which annexation is proposed or by the city and a county boundary or the Pacific Ocean, or (2) completely surrounded by the city to which annexation is proposed and adjacent cities. An island may not be a part of another island that is surrounded or substantially surrounded in this same manner.”
Furthermore, according to Harris and Nolan, “As to the question whether section 56375.3 requires the annexation of an ‘entire island’ or ‘entire unincorporated island’ as set forth, respectively, in subdivisions (b)(1) and (b)(2) of that statute, a straightforward reading of these provisions compels an affirmative response. Simply put, once the boundaries of an island are fixed, the question under section 56375.3(b)(1) becomes whether the island’s territory is 150 acres or less. If so, the territory is subject to annexation under the streamlined procedures of section 56375.3; if not, it is not subject to these procedures. A LAFCO lacks discretion or authority to use streamlined procedures to annex an island that exceeds 150 acres in area or that does not constitute the entirety of the island in question. Annexing part of a given island would run afoul of the command of section 56375.3(b)(1) and (b)(2).54 “
Rollings-McDonald acknowledged that LAFCO’s policy was at a variance with the definitions provided by the state attorney general’s office.
“The attorney general’s opinion does provide guidance on what constitutes an entire island and what is substantially surrounded,” Rollings-McDonald said. “We now intend to present to the commission an action for considering the modifying of its existing policy.“

Supercenter To Supplant WalMart In RC?

The Rancho Cucamonga City Council last week voted unanimously to employ a Chino Hills-based firm to carry out an environmental impact report relating to the proposed WalMart Supercenter Project on Foothill Boulevard between Milliken and Rochester.
City officials reportedly utilized $348,762 provided to them by the WalMart Corporation to defray the cost of the environmental impact report to be completed by Applied Planning, Inc. of Chino Hills.
The eventual placement of the 185,000 square foot supercenter on the north side of Foothill just east of Mayten Avenue will result in the closure of the existing Walmart located about a mile away on Foothill Boulevard, east of the 15 Freeway.
Despite opposition to the project on the part of some residents and a pattern of environmental lawsuits against proposed WalMart supercenters elsewhere in Southern California and San Bernardino County, the contract with Applied Planning for the report was placed on the city council’s June 6 consent calendar and voted upon collectively with other items of city business. Consent calendar items are normally designated routine and non-controversial.
The project, which is to cover 29 acres, would entail a large-scale retail store including a grocery component. There has been opposition to WalMart supercenters in the past by labor organizations because WalMarts, like many department stores, do not employ unionized retail clerks. Most grocery stores employees are  unionized.
WalMart Supercenters have generated controversy in other ways, in some measure as a result of lawsuits filed against them on environmental grounds by an Upland-based attorney, Cory Briggs. In Ontario, Briggs represented a group, known as the Ontario Mountain Village Association, which materialized to oppose a Supercenter WalMart planned for the northwest corner of Mountain Avenue and Fifth Street. Briggs brought court action against the city regarding that project, raising thirteen separate environmental issues. While the court rejected most of the arguments that the city had not made adequate mitigation of the project’s impacts, it did find merit in Briggs’ contention that the Ontario WalMart Supercenter involved problems with regard to truck circulation and excessive sound that needed to be redressed. The legal action against that project delayed it for more than four years.
Briggs acknowledged he is monitoring the proposed WalMart Supercenter project in Rancho Cucamonga.
While Rancho Cucamonga city officials were enthusiastic about the sales tax revenue generating potential the supercenter represents, opponents of the project point out that the expanded store will not generate a substantially greater amount of sales tax than the existing store at 12549 Foothill Boulevard, since the bulk of the increased square footage will be devoted to the sale of food. Most food items are not taxable under California law.
There is also concern that the closure of the existing WalMart will leave a vacuum at the shopping center, leading to blight and the exodus of other retailers there.
Jim Banks, who was formerly a member of the Rancho Cucamonga Advisory Committee and has been credited with having contributed to the framing and maintenance of the urban planning ideals which many believe distinguish Rancho Cucamonga from other San Bernardino County cities, said he believes city officials are taking a misstep by embracing the supercenter.
“Traffic is a huge issue,” said Banks. “Within a very short distance you have Lowes and Home Depot. Further to the east and west you have Victoria Gardens and the Terra Vista shopping centers. Cars are already stacked up there during certain hours and this will only make it worse.”
More than creating gridlock on the streets, Banks said, the city may be shooting itself in the foot financially by greedily biting off more than it can chew.  “A consideration that is equally serious or perhaps even more important is what I call commercial oversaturation,” Banks said. “We already have more retail than is needed and the idea that we can enhance our sales tax base by building more stores is illusory. They will drive out as much as they will bring in. What used to be Mervyns is now a hobby shop. The Kmart now houses a Goodwill outlet. The Longs Drugs at Baseline and Haven is still empty after several years. This supercenter will have a grocery component and that could lead to the closure of two or three grocery stores. By what they are doing they are going to create these mini-ghost towns all around Rancho Cucamonga.”
Banks said the city may end up regretting having put the matter on the consent calendar if a legal challenge against the project is made. “That was sneaky,” he said. “They prevented public input and opinion on many points relating to the project by doing that.”
The city arranged for WalMart to cover the cost of the environmental impact report but not pay Applied Planning directly. By having the city collect the money from WalMart and then having the city retain Applied Planning, officials sought to ensure that the environmental impact report would remain a neutral document that did not favor the project applicant
The WalMart Supercenter will be open to the public 24 hours a day with the major vehicular traffic access from Foothill Boulevard.  The store will receive about 88 truck deliveries each week. There will be a commercial drive approach from Mayten Avenue providing access to six loading docks at the rear of the building.  North of the project site are 19.25 acres of vacant land zoned medium high residential which will ultimately be developed as a multi-family residential project. To the east is a commercial development and to the west across Mayten Avenue are senior apartments.

$22 Million Down, $410 Million To Go In Fight With State For Airport Funding

The Inland Valley Development Agency and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority have made some progress in their legal battle with the state of California, securing $22 million of the $432 million they say they were deprived of in a miscarriage of the state’s authority.
Known by their acronyms, IVDA and SBIAA, the Inland Valley Development Agency, consisting of the county of San Bernardino and the cities of San Bernardino Loma Linda and Colton, and the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, consisting of the county and the cities of San Bernardino, Colton, Loma Linda and Highland, are joint powers authorities formed to facilitate the transition of the former Norton Air Force Base into a civilian airport. IVDA exists to build up the property around the airport and SBIAA exists to develop the airport itself.
Last year, at Governor Jerry Brown’s prompting, the state legislature passed two laws, AB X1 26 and AB X1 27, which shuttered county and municipal redevelopment agencies up and down the state. Those redevelopment agencies had used a variety of funding mechanisms, including bond financing and state and federal tax pass-throughs to develop or improve infrastructure, spur development and eliminate blight. Assembly Bills X1 26 and X1 27 ended redevelopment programs and routed much of the money to law enforcement, education and other programs.
IVDA and SBIAA officials maintain that their agencies are not traditional redevelopment agencies in that both were formed to facilitate the civilian reuse of what was formerly federal property and that as such they are exempt from SB X1 26 and SB X1 27.
The state contends differently, however. A provision of SB X1 26 and SB X1 27 is that any challenges pertaining to them must be heard in Sacramento Superior Court.
In addition to a number of bureaucratic filings pertaining to the matter they have lodged in Sacramento, IVDA and SBIAA have filed suit against the state, asserting those two entities should not have been classified as traditional redevelopment agencies and shuttered under SB X1 26 and SB X1 27. They maintain that they are entitled to $432 million in tax increment revenue from property taxes around the airport over the next decade to pay for airport construction, on- and off-site improvements and infrastructure and to cover cash incentives to commercial airlines to convince them to fly into and out of the airport.
While IVDA and SBIAA are pressing on with their lawsuit and claims, they are stepping up their efforts to use other means of dialoging with the California Department of Finance in an effort to show they are entitled to the money. There was an indication of a crack in the state’s position when the Department of Finance’s response made no claim that IVDA and SBIAA were not entitled to the $432 million but rather that they  had no existing contracts to utilize the money.
During a meeting between the San Bernardino County auditor-controller and officials with the state Department of Finance, state officials agreed to set the tax revenue IVDA and SBIAA are claiming aside in a sequestered account and that the money could be disbursed for any “approved,” i.e., contracted for, obligations the agency can demonstrate. Simultaneously, the Department of Finance reconsidered its blanket denial of the $432 million claim, finding that $22 million in tax revenue for road improvements near San Bernardino International Airport, including improvements to San Bernardino’s Mountain View Avenue Bridge, would be made available to IVDA. The state continues to deny the validity of the agencies’ claims to the remaining $410 million. IVDA and SBIAA are redoubling their appeal of that portion of the decision.
While both IVDA and SBIAA have enough money in terms of membership dues paid by their constituent members to continue to operate over the next several months, eventually obtaining the $410 million the state is denying them would be crucial to the survival of the airport development effort.
If the state’s Department of Finance relents and passes the remaining $410 through to SBIAA and IVDA, the lawsuit will be dropped. If not, the case in Sacramento Superior Court will proceed.

Ballantyne Courted Chino For Manager’s Job

CHINO–Matthew Ballantyne, Chino’s city manager designee, convinced the city council to hire him by actively campaigning for the post, simply out-hustling 70 other applicants for the job.
Ballantyne, 38, six years ago landed what for many in the city managing profession might consider a plum assignment: city manager in San Marino. He was brought into that position after eight years as a city staff member.

Matthew Ballantyne

San Marino was once considered the most affluent city in the world, where its residents had a medium income higher than any other municipality on earth. It is home to the Huntington Library, and remains an exclusive bastion. The median list price of a single family home in San Marino was $1,987,500, as of July 2010.
Incorporated in 1913, the Los Angeles County city’s founders envisioned it as exclusively residential, with picturesque  properties intersticed with well-manicured gardens and parkways, paseos, vistas and wide streets.  Nearly a century later, it maintains its hauteur.
But at just 3.77 square miles in land area and 13,147 population, the city reached build out long ago, with more than 97 percent of its current housing stock having been put in place between 1920 and 1950.
For Ballantyne, running San Marino has been fulfilling at the same time that it has been frustrating.
With master’s degrees in both public administration and urban and regional planning, Ballantyne has longed to utilize his refined level of expertise in the professional setting he finds himself in. There have been no major development projects in San Marino during his tenure there.

County Reaches Compromise With Feds Over Road Access In Mojave Preserve

The county of San Bernardino last week concluded a settlement with the federal government and three environmental groups over road access to remote areas in the Mojave National Preserve.
In 2006, the county filed a “quiet title” suit against the federal government to preserve access over what were then 14 county-maintained roads within the preserve. The federal government had moved to take over authority of the roads and the county claimed that the roads maintained by the county which are adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve are permanent and protected rights-of-way under Revised Statute 2477, part of the Mining Act of 1866, which allowed construction of roads across public lands. Revised Statute 2477 was repealed in 1976 and replaced with the Federal Land Policy and Management Act, which subjects the county to extensive environmental review and regulatory costs when it is invoked on county roads not established or authorized under Revised Statute 2477 before it was repealed. The county had not secured official acknowledgment or documentation of the Revised Statute 2477 rights from the Department of Interior, despite efforts to do so. Consequently, it filed suit to force the issue.
At the heart of the dispute was whether the public would continue to be able to reach land where many endangered or sensitive forms of wildlife existed.
The National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club and Center for Biological Diversity joined the suit in support of the federal government, as part of an effort to prevent the county from creating a situation in which wildlife would be harmed.
Proposals and counterproposals from both sides failed for nearly six years to reach an acceptable middle ground. Last week, the federal government agreed to maintain at a cost of $53,000 annually all of the existing roads in the preserve under a rubric worked out between the county and the environmental groups that calls for the county to maintain ownership of two roads on public lands bordering the preserve that were used for travel before 1976 along with eight other roads within the preserve. The county agreed to the closure of four other roads in the preserve which encroach on areas where the environmental groups say species such as Joshua trees and desert tortoises are threatened.
The county entered into the settlement over the protest of supervisor Brad Mitzelfelt, in whose First District the preserve is located. Mitzelfelt indicated he did not believe the National Park Service would adequately fund the road maintenance program. “Based on my own conversations with the Park Service, I have little confidence that they will be appropriated enough funding to properly maintain and improve those roads,” Mitzelfelt said.  “As far as a process to prevent arbitrary closure of roads, such a provision exists in the settlement.  But I fear the Park Service will simply go through the public process and consultations with the county and attempt to close roads anyway based on lack of funds.”

New University of Redlands President Has Extensive Medical Research Background

The University of Redlands Board of Trustees  selected Ralph Kuncl, the university provost at the University of Rochester in New York, as the 11th president of the university.

Ralph Kuncl

The university’s search committee, chaired by former Redlands Mayor and university trustee Carole Beswick, considered more than 115 candidates to replace current president, James R. Appleton, who will leave in August after more than 20 years in the post.
Kuncl is an MD and medical researcher who a decade ago was intimately involved in the discovery of the glutamate transporter defect in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease, carried out at Johns Hopkins. That discovery was considered a breakthrough that led to the first effective treatment for the disease. In 2001, Kuncl was named Hopkins’ first vice provost for undergraduate education.
Kuncl has a combined Ph.D. and M.D. from the University of Chicago.
At the University of Rochester in New York, Kuncl is currently provost, executive vice president, and professor of brain and cognitive sciences and neurology. He was raised in Southern California, having attended high school in Eagle Rock.
At each level of the search committee’s winnowing of candidates, from the original 110 to 15 and then seven, Kuncl was at the top of the heap. He outdistanced the other six finalists during his oral interview.

Competence, Ambition & Betrayal: Marsden Departs VESD For SBCUSD

The San Bernardino City Unified School District Board of Trustees choice of Dale Marsden to serve as superintendent will fill a gap in the 54,000-student district in the county seat that has existed since Arturo Delgado departed there to become the superintendent of Los Angeles County Schools a year ago. At the same time, Marsden’s departure from the Victor Elementary School District in the High Desert leaves that district in the lurch.

Dale Marsden

Depending on your perspective, Marsden was either groomed to become the leader of  Victor Elementary School District or he was merely ticket punching during his tenure there.
After serving in the U.S. Air Force for four years and securing his bachelor’s degree, Marsden briefly taught at the experimental Orange County Department of Outdoor Science School and then taught school for six years, going to school at night to earn his doctorate in education from Pepperdine University. He used that degree to move into a temporary teacher-in- charge position, meaning he filled in as principal during the actual principal’s absences.
He departed from classroom teaching assignments permanently when he hired on with the Victor Elementary School District as director of quality and development. In 2007 he was promoted to the position of deputy superintendent and was hired as superintendent the following year.
Marsden was well thought of in that school district and the community at large. He was credited with improvements in student test scores on state administered academic tests despite more than 70 percent of the households in the district qualifying as economically challenged by federal standards. He transformed one of the district’s campuses into a leadership academy that maintained its emphasis on math and reading while simultaneously imparting business and governmental leadership skills to its pupils.
Marsden held a leadership role among the Victor Valley’s superintendents in the county’s Alliance for Education, which is a division of the county schools’ higher education and workforce development program. And he was a member in good standing of the Victorville Chamber of Commerce, having been elected vice president of that organization. He had been chosen to be president of the chamber of commerce in the upcoming year, but had not assumed that position when he was selected by San Bernardino City Unified as the new superintendent.
To many in the Victor Valley and especially within the Victor Elementary School District, Marsden was seen as something of a High Desert institution. Almost universally, it was perceived that the district had invested in him and the advancement of his educational administrative career in the anticipation that he would remain with the district for at least another decade and a half to guide it through the challenges it continues to face.
While no one expressed doubts about his capabilities, many in the High Desert and the Victor Elementary District, which now must undertake a search and recruiting drive for a new superintendent,  consider Marsden’s departure from the 18-school Victor Elementary District to the  44 elementary school, ten middle school, seven high school and three special education school San Bernardino City Unified School District to be a betrayal.

Marshall, Who Oversaw Crafton’s Accredtation Comeback, Named Interim President

YUCAIPA—The San Bernardino Community College District board of trustees has chosen Cheryl Marshall to serve as interim president of Crafton Hills College.

Cheryl Marshall

Marshall was elevated from the position of vice president of instruction. She has been at Crafton Hills since 2007 and is credited with managing the college’s comeback from the most serious challenge in its history when it was put on probation by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges in 2009.
Marshall was designated the college’s accreditation liaison and worked with college staff to implement the commission’s recommendations, achieving Crafton’s return to full accreditation in February 2011.
Marshall will temporarily replace president Gloria Macias Harrison, who is set to retire on July 2.
Marshall, who has worked in the private sector and taught business at Cal Poly Pomona, Claremont Graduate School and Azusa Pacific, acceded to the position of associate dean of business and director of the Center of Excellence at Mt. San Antonio College before coming to Crafton where she oversaw three academic divisions and helped formulate the college’s educational master plan.
“I have a deep respect for my colleagues at Crafton Hills and have enjoyed working with them for the past five years,” Marshall said in a news release. “I look forward to a new adventure and to continuing the great progress we’ve made as an educational institution.”

Voters Bring Down Curtain On Postmus-Mitzelfelt Political Dynasty

The last vestiges of the Bill Postmus Political  Machine were  vanquished in the June 5 primary election, with voters soundly rejecting five of his protégés who had sought office.

Bill Postmus

Postmus, who had taken the county by storm when at the age of 29 he was elected First District county supervisor in 2000 and then went on to bestride San Bernardino County as a political colossus as both the chairman of the board of supervisors and chairman of the San Bernardino County Republican Central Committee before moving on to become county assessor, ultimately crashed and burned in a haze of drug use and political corruption. In January 2009,  district attorney’s office investigators found methamphetamine and the hallucinogen ecstasy at his residence during the  serving of a search warrant seeking evidence of his political exploitation of the assessor’s position. He resigned from office roughly a month later and in 2010 he was indicted on bribery and conspiracy charges relating to having sold his vote in 2006 to approve, in exchange for $100,000 in political contributions, a $102 million payout to a developer suing the county. The following year he pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges contained in that indictment, including conspiracy, perjury, soliciting and accepting bribes, conflict of interest and acceding to extortion.

Brad Mitzelfelt

Despite his political fall, several of those who had launched their own political careers while serving in some capacity within Postmus’ political machine had carried on. Brad Mitzelfelt, who had been Postmus’ chief of staff when he was supervisor, was handpicked by Postmus to succeed him when he went on to become assessor. Mitzelfelt served five years as assessor before opting to run for Congress this year. In a field of 13 candidates in Tuesday’s primary, Mitzelfelt placed fifth, garnering  8,197 votes, or 11.56 percent of the total. He was well outdistanced by Paul Cook and Greg Imus, who captured  11,450 and 10,784 votes, or 16.15 percent and 15.21 percent, respectively. They will face each other in a runoff in November.
Also vying for Congress in the same 8th Congressional District primary on Tuesday was Anthony Adams, who was once one of Postmus’ field representatives when he was supervisor and who, with Postmus’ assistance, in 2006 was elected to the state Assembly, serving two terms in Sacramento before he opted not to run for reelection in 2010 following controversy that dogged him when in 2009 he voted to support then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 2009-10 budget that raised taxes by $14 billion. On Tuesday, Adams ran a dismal ninth in the field of 13, garnering, 2,438 votes, or 3.44 percent.
Three other one-time Postmus team members – Robert Smith, Russ Blewett and  Michael Orme – on Tuesday sought election to the First District supervisor’s post Postmus once held and which Mitzelfelt currently occupies.  Smith, a former sheriff’s deputy who worked as a narcotics detective before retiring to take up staff positions working for Postmus when he was both supervisor and assessor, garnered 4,995 votes or 14.42 percent in the seven man race. Blewett, a longtime Postmus and Mitzelfelt supporter who is currently Hesperia’s mayor, managed to pull down 4,922 votes or 14.21 percent.  Orme, who was a field representative to both Postmus and Mitzelfelt, garnered 2,821 votes or 8.14 percent.
All three were commandingly defeated by top vote-getters Robert Lovingood, who captured 7,377  votes or 21.3 percent and Rick Roelle, who polled 6,765 votes or 19.53 percent, as well as being surpassed by Bret Henry,  who brought in 5,106 votes or 14.74 percent. Lovingood and Roelle will meet in a runoff in November.
Around the county in other significant state and federal match-ups in this year’s races featuring open primaries in which voters were allowed to cross party lines to vote their preferences, Joe Baca polled 11,866 votes or 46.78 percent to Gloria Negrete-McLeod’s 8,643 votes or 34.07 percent in the 35th congressional district, setting up a November runoff between the two Democrats;  Gary Miller and Bob Dutton, Republicans both, captured first and second in the 31st Congressional District with 16,035 votes or 26.85 percent  and 14,987 votes or 25.1 percent, respectively;  Bill Emmerson outright defeated  Melissa Ruth O’Donnell  42,461 votes or 64.26 percent to 23,614 or 35.74 percent in State Senatorial District 23;  in State Assembly District 55 Curt Hagman trounced Gregg Fritchle 5,699 votes or  73.64 percent to 2,040 or 26.36 percent; Mike Morrell comfortably edged Russ Warner in State Assembly District 40 with 25,183 votes or 58.38 percent to 17,950 votes or 41.62 percent; incumbent Steve Knight shot past Star Moffatt in State Senate District 21 with 19,673 votes or 69.64 percent to 8,577 votes or 30.36 percent;  in State Assembly District 33 Tim Donnelly narrowly avoided a runoff in November, capturing 23,908 votes or 52.13 percent to John Coffey’s 13,119 or 28.6 percent; in State Assembly District 47 Joe Baca, Jr. captured 10,189 or 41.91 percent and Cheryl Brown had 7,024 or  28.89 percent; Ken Coble outpolled Norma J Torres in State Assembly District 52 with 7,285 votes or   42.12 percent to 6,400 votes or 37 percent.
In all those races where a single candidate did not capture a simple majority of the vote or more, there will be a runoff in November between the two top finishers.
In the three-candidate contest for Third District supervisor, the incumbent Neil Derry was significantly outpolled by challenger James Ramos, setting up a November runoff. Derry captured 15,764 votes or 32.95 percent to Ramos’s 22,479 votes or 46.99 percent.  Jim Bagley received 9,593 votes or 20.05 percent.
In the Fifth District county supervisor’s race, incumbent Josie Gonzales won outright with 12,747 votes or 62.93 percent to the 4,948 votes or 24.43 percent tallied by John Taack and 2,561 votes or 12.64 percent registered for Silvia Marroquin.
Results herein are the semi-official results provided by the registrar of voters as of noon June 7.

Hesperia’s Overzealous Enforcement Costs $200 K

HESPERIA—The city of Hesperia, which has long courted controversy and the enmity of many of its residents because of its aggressive code enforcement tactics, recently made an ignominious retreat and has now agreed to shell out a $200,000 settlement to a family it formerly had cited and had tried to strong-arm for $129,000 in fines.
Hesperia officials had long lived by the credo “You can’t fight City Hall” in seeking to transform the 72 square mile desert town where many of the streets are unpaved into an urban setting similar to those in greater metropolitan Los Angeles. Shortly after incorporation in 1988, the charter city council hired Rancho Cucamonga deputy city manager Robert Rizzo as city manager in an effort to apply urban land use standards similar to those in the county’s more developed and affluent areas. But trying to conform the rustic desert landscape and a community where many properties were zoned for both residential and agricultural use proved problematic.
Citing its own authority as a municipal corporation, the city would obtain inspection warrants for non-government properties and buildings, for  non-business and non-employee housing, non-state housing, non-rental family dwellings, and private domiciles without affidavits, seeking evidence of public nuisances in what it defined as “administrative” i.e., code enforcement cases.  On occasion, those cited claimed these actions were inconsistent with state law and constitutional protections. Moreover, the city’s code enforcement protocol consisted of having code enforcement officers issue citations which would then be adjudicated not in court but before an individual hired by the city and deemed to be an administrative hearing officer. This constituted a biased forum, many of those cited alleged. And until relatively recently, at least, the city was employing Wayne Overstreet as what it called an administrative hearing officer to adjudicate the code enforcement citations. As early as June 2007, however, assistant city attorney Douglas Haubert acknowledged that Overstreet lacked the credentials to serve in the capacity of administrative hearing officer.  According to the California State Bar, Overstreet is not licensed to practice as an attorney. Haubert in 2007 said that the term administrative law judge that had been applied to Overstreet was inaccurate. The city, nevertheless, did not desist in using Overstreet in that capacity.
Indeed, city officials pressed on with what were often officious methods to convince residents to shed the more casual cultural aesthetics of the Old West and hew to the more rigid aesthetic standards of the late 20th and early 21st Centuries. On the theory that few, if any, of the city’s residents who were cited had the financial wherewithal to challenge the city’s policies, the city created a code enforcement citation and adjudication protocol that skirted the constitutional rights of its citizens.
For years the city’s calculation succeeded, and despite occasional challenges by residents who sensed they were being given the bureaucratic bum’s rush, few were willing to spend the $40,000 to $70,000 necessary to truly stand up against the city by filing suit and seeing the matter through to the final stages of litigation.
In January 2010, the Hesperia code enforcement division took up a case that to all appearances was indistinguishable from the thousands of others in which the municipality used its  authority, bankroll and control of the process to  overwhelm its citizens and obtain an inevitable adjudication in the city’s favor.
The division’s focus in this case was a property on Redwood Avenue owned by Esther Duran which her daughter, Janet, was using as a temporary rescue shelter for horses that would otherwise have been sent to slaughterhouses for euthanization or processing for the dog food or glue industries.
Janet Duran, an ambulance driver, in 2004 took up the cause of doomed horses, including wild mustangs run to ground by cowboys in Nevada and Arizona and ones being sold by their owners at auction, ostensibly to buyers interested in using them for horsemeat for as little as $5, $10, or $15 a head.
The Redwood property prior to city incorporation was zoned for agricultural use. The post-incorporation zoning was agricultural residential and the Durans were permitted under the city’s code to have up to six horses on the property per its acreage.
On January 13, 2010, a team of city employees that included two code enforcement officers, four armed sheriff’s department deputies in flak jackets and two animal control officers  descended on the Duran’s property. One of the code enforcement officers served Esther Duran with papers and the team then seized three horses and five dogs, one of which was a stray whose owner the Durans were seeking to locate. Both Esther and Janet were cited and slapped with a total of $129,000 in fees, which upon the city’s processing protocol were ratcheted up into liens against the property. Those liens resulted in Esther Duran’s mortgage increasing from $1,400 to $4,700 per month.
Unwilling to take the city’s action lying down, the Durans hired attorney Louis G. Fazzi, whose office is located in Upland, a city with aesthetic standards Hesperia so wishes to emulate. Fazzi brought several principles to bear which the city had in the past routinely overlooked in its enforcement efforts, including compliance with the city’s own codes, which actually allowed for the presence of up to three more horses than the Durans had on the property on January 12, 2010 and up to five dogs, as well as the right to due process. The city’s response was to seek a series of delays, which had the effect of increasing the Durans’ legal costs while the underlying issue – the return of their animals – remained unresolved.
Despite the cost, the Durans did not simply duck out of the fight. Fazzi persisted on their behalf, successfully removing the matter to federal court. Still, the city told the court the Durans were maintaining a substandard property and that the animals for that reason should not be returned to them. Fazzi maintained that the property was up to code and in compliance in all regards. In March, a court-appointed independent inspector went over the Redwood property with a fine-tooth comb, concluding the property was indeed up to code.
In April, U.S. District Court Judge John E. McDermott ruled that the city’s action against the Durans was improper and that their animals would have to be returned to them. Fazzi immediately brought a motion to have McDermott consider whether the entire process the Durans had been subjected to was unconstitutional.
While McDermott’s ruling was pending, the city offered the Durans a $200,000 settlement. The tendering of that offer, and the Durans’ acceptance of it, put the matter to rest, preventing a potentially precedent-setting ruling that would prohibit the city from continuing to employ the same tactics against other city residents. To back the city off in other code enforcement cases, those contesting the action will need to follow the same procedure, and foot the bill for and put up with the same series of delays, the Durans did.
Fazzi has suggested that other municipal entities beyond Hesperia would have had something to lose had the case gone to trial. Other cities have used draconian tactics against their residents similar to those applied by Hesperia. A ruling at trial in favor of the Durans could have put other cities up and down the state who have assessed similar fines at jeopardy.
City councilman Paul Bosacki indicated he was uncomfortable discussing the matter.
“What code enforcement was doing and how they were conducting business was not necessarily done with the blessing of the council,” Bosacki said. “I know I don’t get involved in the day-to-day inner workings of the city. That’s up to [city manager] Mike Podegracz and his people.”
Bosacki said he could not comment on the specifics that led up to the $200,000 settlement with the Durans. “I don’t know the details,” he said. “I can tell you that there has always been litigation against the city. Some of it has merit. Some of it doesn’t.”