County’s Released Inmates To Get $1.146M In Transitional Housing Assistance

(December 7)   The county of San Bernardino will spend $1.146 million to provide transitional housing for state inmates transferred to the county sheriff’s care who are being released early for good behavior and space constraint considerations.
The released inmates, who were given sentences that are considerably longer than the time they will actually serve, are without means – either financial resources or employment – to house themselves.
According to Audulio Ricketts, the county of San Bernardino’s deputy chief probation officer, “Providing this housing will help these individuals reintegrate into the community with the objective of reducing recidivism.”
In April 2011, Assembly Bill 109, the Public Safety Realignment Act, was signed into law.
AB 109 focused on parolees who have been classified as “low-level” offenders. The bill, among other things, created a provision for the adjudication of parole violations at the local level, rather than returning the offenders to the prison system. Essentially, the realignment displaces responsibility for the supervision of these offenders from the state to the local level. Parolees categorized as low risk offenders are titled “Post Release Community Supervision” or PRCS offenders, after their current offense is determined to be non-serious, non-violent, and non-sex related. Realignment dictates that they be released for supervision to the local county where they were originally sentenced. The legislation also requires that best practices be utilized for treatment and rehabilitation.
According to Ricketts, “The department went through the request for proposal (i.e., bidding) process to solicit proposals from qualified vendors to provide temporary/transitional housing for PRCS offenders. Six vendors submitted proposals. The review process narrowed the field to Time for Change, Family Assistance Program, and Foothill AIDS Project based on their demonstrated ability to provide the best service for the population at the most reasonable cost,” Ricketts said. “These three vendors represent the first group of providers that will deliver this service. The probation department is committed to providing temporary/transitional housing to offenders that demonstrate a need for housing assistance and to find additional vendors which can provide this service. The department is entering into these contracts to provide housing for the PRCS and other mandatory supervision adults. The term of these contracts is for three years, but may be terminated by the county upon thirty day’s written notice.”
Time for Change will be paid $246,000. Family Assistance Program will receive $300,000.  Foothill AIDS Project was given a not to exceed contract of $600,000.

County Superior Courts To Reduce Clerk’s Hours Beginning February 4

(December 7)   Due to what San Bernardino County Superior Court Presiding Judge Marsha Slough called   “severe ongoing budget reductions,” the courts will reduce the operating hours of the court clerk’s office beginning Monday, February 4, 2013.
At present, the clerk’s office of the Superior Court is open 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except court holidays.
Effective next February 4, the public service hours for the clerk’s office of the Superior Court will be 8:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, except court holidays, and except for the clerk’s office for the Juvenile Dependency Court and Juvenile Delinquency Court in San Bernardino.
Effective Monday, February 4, 2013, the public service hours for the clerk’s office for the Juvenile Dependency Court and Juvenile Delinquency Court in San Bernardino will be 8:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except court holidays.
Drop boxes are provided to receive documents when the clerk’s offices are closed.
The decision to reduce the hours of operation was made by Slough.
“There are great financial exigencies facing all governmental entities in California and neither the Superior Court of San Bernardino County nor the California judicial system are exempt from having to deal with these extreme financial circumstances,” Slough said. “After careful deliberation, I have concluded that the changes set forth constitute the most reasonable and measured way to begin to meet these financial challenges while minimizing the impact on the citizens of San Bernardino County and on the court’s ability to provide equal access.

EPA Reaches $51 Million Settlement For Rialto Perchlorate Cleanup

(December 7)   The Environmental Protection Agency has reached a settlement with 12 corporate entities  and the Defense Department that will provide $51 million for the remediation of 60 acres in Rialto beset with perchlorate contamination.
The Environmental Protection Agency announced it had reached a settlement on the case with Emhart Industries, Inc., Black & Decker Inc, American Promotional Events, Inc., the Ensign-Bickford Company, Raytheon, Whittaker Corporation, Broco, Inc., J. S. Brower & Associates, Inc, Pyro Spectaculars, Ken Thompson Inc., Chung Ming Wong, BF Goodrich, and the Department of Defense on December 5.
In the late 1990s, a plume of contaminants containing perchlorate was found to be migrating through the local water table. Officials began a study into entities known to have been or believed to be engaged in manufacturing activities that resulted in the accumulation and release of the perchlorate. It is believed that the 12 corporate entities or their predecessors had operations that were ongoing in the 1940s, 1950s, 1960s, 1970s and 1980s which involved the use, storage or disposal of perrchlorate and that they engaged in activities or handling procedures that led to the contamination. The county of San Bernardino acquired a waste disposal facility operated by Broco and simply razed the facility, according to lawyers for the West Valley Water District. Perchlorate is a product used in the manufacture of both fireworks and ordnance. In very minute quantities perchlorate can wreak havoc on the thyroid gland.
The area, referred to as the Goodrich Site,  was  designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as one of its Superfund sites, which makes federal funding for the remediation available but also carries with it a requirement that the parties responsible for the contamination assist in the cleanup effort. If any of the parties deemed responsible for the contamination refuse to sponsor or otherwise pay for a share of the remediation, the EPA has the authority under federal law to have any party proven responsible to pay triple the cost of that portion of the cleanup for which they were the contaminating party.
Rialto and Colton and the West Valley Water District, which had previously sued the companies, are parties to the settlement agreement.
Emhart will put up the lion’s share of the first portion of the clean-up cost. The other entities will participate in what is anticipated to be a 30-year long undertaking that will include designing, building and operating groundwater wells, treatment systems and purification  equipment intended to arrest the spread of perchlorate and another substance, trichloroethylene, known as TCE. TCE is a health threatening  industrial cleaning solvent used by area manufacturers.



$40 Million De Facto Deficit Central To San Bernardino Bankruptcy Plan

(November 30)   The city of San Bernardino intends to carry on with normal though reduced services over the next few years while running a $40 million annual deficit, according to a document approved by the city council this week for filing with the Federal Bankruptcy Court in Riverside.
On a 5 to 2 vote, the San Bernardino City Council on November 26 approved a redrafted Chapter 9 Bankruptcy pendency plan intended to maintain the city as a viable entity yet capable of providing a rudimentary level of municipal services. The plan allows the lion’s share of city employees to keep their jobs, while deferring payments to nearly all of the city’s creditors and vendors for some time to come.
The plan’s approval was opposed by councilmen Chas Kelley and John Valdivia.
According to cash projections for fiscal year 2012-13 provided with the plan, the general fund will receive $120,424,000 in revenue while continuing to spend $166,237,000. This means the city will have a base deficiency of $45,812,000. The city will be able to transfer in $4.83 million from reserves and other sources for an actual total operating deficiency  of $40.983 million.
According to the authors of the pendency plan, acting city manager Andrea Travis-Miller, director of finance Jason Simpson, and Michael Busch, the president of the municipal consulting firm Urban Futures, Inc., “The city of San Bernardino has reached a crossroads. Continued financial imbalance between revenues and expenses have now exhausted the city’s general financial reserves and burdened it with obligations it cannot pay, obligations that exceed its current year general fund resources by $45.8 million in fiscal year 2012-2013 and that, unless addressed structurally to be sustainable, will continue to grow in future years. Despite efforts to reduce expenditures and put the city’s financial house in order, the city is insolvent. During the past two years it became clear the city’s financial position was weakening and its employment contracts, post-employment benefits and unfunded liabilities incurred over the last 15 years cannot be supported if the city is to continue delivering services crucial to protecting the health, safety and welfare of the community.”
The city council can “protect the community and make sure that the city emerges from this financial crisis as a viable, sustainable institution,” Travis-Miller, Simpson and Busch said “only [through] the difficult process of restructuring its long-term financial obligations and fixed costs.” They then noted, “The city is working with its employee unions and associations, and its creditors, to reach agreements that would restructure the city’s unsustainable financial obligations.”
In the plan, Travis-Miller, Simpson and Busch cited the precedence of the city of Vallejo’s 2008 bankruptcy filing in exploring how San Bernardino can overcome requirements contained in the California State Constitution and San Bernardino’s own city charter which prohibit the city from adopting an unbalanced budget. They suggested that by deferring payments within the rubric of the Chapter 9 bankruptcy filing, the city could technically comply with the balanced budget requirement.
“Without restructuring its finances or maintaining the protection of Chapter 9, the city could not pay its employees, retirees, bondholders or vendors,” they wrote. “This would result in uncontrolled default and, presumably, a collapse of public services. Bankruptcy protection assures that this will not happen in San Bernardino, though we cannot say how much creditors will, or will not, receive. The term ‘pendency plan’ was developed in the city of Vallejo Chapter 9 case to describe the plan the city would operate under pending the completion of the bankruptcy process.”
San Bernardino may end up extending even further the amount of time it now intends to take to pay off its mounting list of creditors and may even shortchange some of those creditors.
“Amendments to the plan or extension of the plan into future fiscal years could occur,” Travis-Miller, Simpson and Busch stated. “Because the Great Recession struck Vallejo after it filed for bankruptcy protection it had to make many changes in its plan to adjust to worsening economic conditions. During the period the city operates under the pendency plan in bankruptcy, the differences between payments required by contracts and the amount actually paid become claims in bankruptcy and are resolved through negotiations and, ultimately, the plan of adjustment submitted to the creditors for approval and to the bankruptcy court for confirmation. In Vallejo, after three years, all classes of creditors voted to accept the plan of adjustment; however, under the Bankruptcy Code, the court can confirm a plan of adjustment even if some classes of creditors disapprove, a process known as ‘cram down.’”
City staff had earlier prepared pre-pendency plans which were submitted to the council on August 29, 2012, September 5, 2012, October 1, 2012 and November 19, 2012. The version submitted on November 26 adjusted those earlier plans somewhat, specifically calling for further reductions in the police force. While the city proposed fiscal year 2012-13’s budget  include 299 sworn officer positions, 18 of those positions were unfilled when staff first began work on the pendency plan and it is anticipated that as of December 1, there will be 31 vacant positions in the department, for a force structure of 268 sworn officers. By January 1, it is anticipated the force will have dwindled, through attrition consisting of retirements or layoffs, to 258 sworn officers, with funding available for only 260 officers, maximum. The city is further awaiting a contract proposal from the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department, since Travis-Miller, Simpson and Busch maintain “there may be significant savings or adjustments in the city’s overall cost to effectively police the city.”
The plan also calls for the city’s police officers to begin paying 50 percent of their retirement fund contribution, which is currently entirely picked up by the city. This will net the city savings of $3.252 million per year. Similarly, the city’s firefighters will be called upon to make a 50 percent contribution to their retirement fund, saving the city $1.894 million. A number of other city employees will be called upon to pick up fifty percent of their pension contributions, saving the city $651,000.  The city also intends to reduce firefighter overtime by 35 percent, saving the city $921,375, by staffing fire trucks throughout the city with three men.
“The pendency plan provides a balanced general fund through cost reductions to labor, benefits, debt and other obligations,” according to Travis-Miller, Simpson and Busch. They said the plan would “promote health, safety and welfare, minimize the impact on future services, balance costs and service impacts of reductions, build fiscal sustainability and maintain competitive compensation packages.”
There has been much criticism of what is considered to be the city’s excessively high compensation of city employees in terms of both salaries paid and benefits provided, and suggestions that this in large measure accounts for the city’s current financial circumstance. To that issue, Travis-Miller, Simpson and Busch propounded, “It is essential the city maintain competitive pay and benefit programs to retain and attract qualified, motivated employees. In the past, the city’s pay and benefit packages were among the most generous in its market area, sometimes significantly above the regional market. The city has, through negotiation or through imposition of reductions covered by its fiscal emergency powers, reduced compensation and benefit packages for its employees. These include employee payment of their California Public Employee Retirement System contributions, capping contributions to employee health plans and reducing costs by changing carriers, limiting pay outs, seeking new, lower pension benefit levels for new hires and eliminating retiree health insurance for new hires. The additional, but selective, changes here continue to address situations where compensation is above market and has created excessive liabilities that cannot be paid without unacceptable reductions in service. The primary reductions proposed herein relate to retirement costs and benefit structure.”
In voting against the plan, Valdivia complained that a 260-officer police force was insufficient to meet the city’s needs.
Calling the plan “deeply flawed,” Kelly said the city needed to spur economic development to increase revenue. He said the plan was not balanced in that it made no cuts to administrative services.
In a rare show of solidarity, mayor Patrick Morris and city attorney James Penman, who as longtime political rivals have blamed each other for the city’s deteriorating financial state, urged the council to put disagreements over specific elements in the plan aside and to support the plan in a show of unanimity that would convince the federal bankruptcy magistrate hearing the city’s case, Meredith Jury, to allow the bankruptcy reorganization to proceed.
City officials did not address the possibility or likelihood that some or many of its creditors, contractors or vendors with whom the city has ongoing contracts will cease the delivery of goods or services as a consequence of the payment deferrals.

Rude Wake Up Awaits Chino Hills

(November 30)   Chino Hills residents are very likely to receive an unwanted Christmas gift in December in the form of notice that the city’s households will be called upon to defray a significant portion of the cost of undergrounding power lines though the city.
Those costs could be as high as $26,000 per household to be amortized over 25 or thirty years, either in the form of increased electrical rates or assessments, the Sentinel has learned.
In 2009, the board of the California Public Utilities Commission granted Southern California Edison clearance to erect a series of 198-foot high power transmission towers through the heart of 44.7 square mile Chino Hills along a long-existing power corridor easement owned by the utility as part of the Tehachapi Renewable Transmission Project. Those lines are intended to convey electrical power,  generated at what will be the world’s largest windmill-driven electrical generating field near Tehachapi in Kern County, to the greater Los Angeles metropolitan area. The $2.1 billion project is part of Southern California Edison’s effort to meet state-mandated renewable energy goals.
Fearing a host of problems from the imposition of the towers, including significant negative impacts on property values in the city, the Chino Hills City Council authorized the expenditure of over $2.3 million to employ attorneys and make other efforts to contest the Public Utility Commission’s action, including a suit against Southern California Edison  alleging the company had “overburdened” the power line easements. That legal effort failed when West Valley Superior Court Judge Keith D. Davis ruled the California Public Utilities Commission has exclusive jurisdiction regarding the route used by Edison, and the suit was thrown out. Chino Hills appealed Davis’s ruling to the 4th District Court of Appeal, asserting the city had the right to have the case heard by a jury, but in September 2011 the appeals court affirmed Davis’ decision.
Beginning last year, Edison, which has long had a 150-foot wide right-of-way for its power lines that runs for 5.8  miles through upscale Chino Hills from Tonner Canyon to the Riverside County line,  erected 12 of the towers within the city limits and another 5 in Carbon Canyon before a city appeal to the California Public Utility Commission (PUC) and Public Utility Commission Chairman Michael Peevey in particular succeeded in a temporary halt to the towers’ construction being granted in November 2011 while a potential alternative, such as undergrounding the lines or rerouting them through Chino Hills State Park, was explored.
The rerouting alternative has been discarded, such that the only realistic chance that the towers will be de-erected consists of the undergrounding of the lines. That approach, however, will be very expensive and the PUC has given indication it does not expect Edison to bear that cost alone. The primary beneficiaries of the undergrounding, the city of Chino Hills and its residents and landowners, are expected to participate in carrying that financial burden.
PUC President Michael Peevey previously asked Edison to provide cost data on a potential undergrounding by February 28, 2013. On November 15, Peevey asked Edison to provide the commission by December 3 with a detailed report cataloging the costs and scope of the materials and service contracts associated with the undergrounding alternatives, along with Edison’s cost recovery proposals.
The Sentinel has learned that Edison has calculated the cost of trenching out a six-foot wide and six-foot deep, 3.5-mile long swath through town and undergrounding a single line to be  $300 million to $473 million, and  undergrounding a double-circuit line to be $703 million to $1 billion.
Chino Hills homeowners will see annual assessments approaching $900 per year to cover the city’s cost for directly participating with Edison in undergrounding the Tehachapi Line or annual rate increases of anywhere between $800 to $1,000 if Edison undertakes the undergrounding on its own
Multiple options exist by which that share of the cost could be defrayed or amortized. One option would be to bypass the city government altogether and have the city’s ratepayers, as Southern California Edison customers, bear the cost through a special surcharge on their electric bills. Another option would be for the city to share in the burden by issuing bonds or taking out loans and using the bond proceeds or the loan to cover its portion. One formula proffered consisted of the city having its business and residential elements splitting the debt service responsibility on the loans or bonds. In this way, the debt service on an issuance of $500 million over 30 years would require total payments of roughly $1 billion, including interest. Assuming the business community would pick up half that amount over the 30-year life of the loan or bonds, Chino Hills’ homeowners would be called upon to pay $500 million to bondholders or the lending institution over the thirty year life of the obligation. With roughly 18,700 households in the city, each household would be responsible for $26,737.96 of that debt. Defrayed over thirty years, each household would be called upon to assume a yearly assessment of $891.26. Such an assessment, if passed by the city council, would be placed on each homeowner’s property tax bill.
Part of Peevey’s rationale for moving up the date for Edison to provide its figures is that the PUC wants to facilitate the completion of the Tehachapi project by 2015, and having a cost sharing mechanism involving the city of Chino Hills or a rate recovery process in place by mid-2013 is deemed crucial to that goal.

Political Frenzy Under Way For Negrete-McLeod’s State Senate Position

(November30)   Gloria Negrete-Mc-Leod’s surprise come-from-behind victory over longtime Congressman Joe Baca in the race for Congress in California’s redrawn 35th Congressional District has inspired some intense jockeying among a handful of local politicians who are now looking at succeeding Negrete-McLeod as state senator in the 32nd  District.
Negrete-McLeod, a Democrat, has two years left in the four-year term as state senator she was elected to in 2010. She embarked on what was widely viewed as a quixotic venture to capture the California 35th Congressional District seat in running against Baca during California’s open June primary earlier this year  in the Democratic-leaning 35th District. Baca, himself a Democrat and a former assemblyman and state senator, in 1999 was elected to succeed longtime Congressman George Brown following his death in office. At that time, Baca represented California’s 42nd Congressional District. Following redistricting based on the 2000 Census, he successfully ran for reelection in California’s 43rd Congressional District five times. This year, he opted to run in the newly configured 35th Congressional District, which was slightly afield from the 43rd, but his incumbency and perceived fundraising advantage over all other challengers, including Negrete-McLeod, appeared to give him a leg up on the competition. And indeed, in the June open primary polling, Baca bested Negrete-McLeod by what seemed a more-than-comfortable margin, 12,619 votes or 47.7 percent to 9,078 or 33.93 percent. A third candidate in the race, Anthony Vieyra polled 5,058 votes or 18.9 percent. Given that this year California had switched to an open primary, the two top finishing candidates qualified for the general election, despite party affiliation. In this way, the stage was set for a showdown between Baca and Negrete-McLeod, both Democrats, in the November race.
In the final weeks before the general election on November 6, Negrete-McLeod’s campaign was infused with $3.8 million in donations from a political action committee controlled by Republican New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which paid for a $2.3 million television advertising blitz during the last week of the campaign. Baca, who throughout most of the campaign had been complacent, was caught flatfooted and saw the election slip away, with Negrete-McLeod capturing  61,065 votes or 54.35 percent to his 51,281 votes or 45.65 percent.
Negrete-McLeod is now purposed to depart Sacramento for Washington, D.C. To succeed her in the state capital, four current office holders, including one who is about to depart Sacramento herself, have now emerged as likely contenders.
The new Congress is set to convene on January 3. Negrete-Mcleod will have to resign as a state senator prior to being sworn in as a congresswoman.
Under the law, Governor Jerry Brown has 14 days to call a special election after McLeod vacates office. A special primary election could be scheduled as early as late April or early May. A victor will have to receive a majority of the vote to be elected. If no candidate captures a majority of the vote, the two top vote-getters would compete in a special run-off election.
Wilmer Amina Carter, the current assemblywoman in the 62nd District, was termed out and could not run for reelection this year. She will leave office next week. A Democrat, Carter is now considering vying for the position Negrete-Mcleod will soon forsake.  Carter will need to move to be eligible to compete in the race.
Larry Walker, who is currently the county treasurer-tax collector/auditor-controller, is  interested in the position, and is actively seeking endorsements. A former Chino mayor and county supervisor, Walker is also a Democrat.
Another Democrat,  Norma Torres, who is at present the 61st District assemblywoman representing Pomona, Claremont, La Verne, Ontario, Montclair and parts of Fontana, just garnered reelection to the assembly, this time in the 52nd Assembly District, which covers Chino Valley, Pomona, Montclair and Ontario. Torres was formerly mayor of Pomona, which is in Los Angeles County.
A fourth potential candidate is Ontario mayor Paul Leon, a Republican. Leon this week told the Sentinel, “I’m exploring the idea. I’m open to serving in the state senate. I am confident I can represent this area well at the state level. With my experience in Ontario, I feel I can be a positive influence in the state capital. I think I can repeat the stable financial model we created in Ontario and I would welcome the opportunity to lead the state back to prosperity.”
Ontario boasts the soundest economy and largest municipal budget of all of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities, with more than a half billion dollars running through all of its funds annually.
The jockeying for political position has already begun, entailing intrigue and in at least one case a humorously awkward clash of intent.
Negrete-McLeod’s endorsement is coveted. As the incumbent in the district, her nod alone will carry weight. Moreover, she has some money remaining in her state campaign war chest which cannot be moved into her federal campaign coffers. In this way, she has the option of endowing her endorsement with money that could assist in his or her electioneering effort.
There is a degree of tension, however, between Negrete-McLeod and Torres. Last year, before Baca made it clear he would seek election in the newly redrawn 35th Congressional District, Torres had offered herself as a candidate there, threatening to make the run against Negrete-McLeod. For that reason among others, Negrete-McLeod does not appear disposed to endorse Torres. Consequently, both Walker and Carter are courting Negrete-McLeod, with no clear indication of which Negrete-McLeod is likely to favor.
Walker has been assiduously seeking endorsements. At one point he called Leon, seeking his support. At that point, Leon had to inform Walker that he could not do so since he was himself considering a run for the very same slot.
Given the voter registration numbers favoring Democrats in the 32nd Senatorial District, there has been speculation that Leon might change his party affiliation from the GOP to the Democrats to make himself a more viable candidate. At the same time, Leon, one of the leading Hispanic Republican officeholders in the county, could find an upside in competing as a Republican against the other three, forcing a Donnybrook between three Democrats who end up splitting the vote of their shared partisan constituency, very possibly giving Leon a berth in a run-off.

Death Claims Tim Sabo, Attorney Who Enabled Government Financing Schemes

(November 30)   Timothy John Sabo, the controversial attorney who spent much of his career working as  counsel to municipalities and local governmental agencies in and around San Bernardino County, has died.
Sabo was valued as a “facilitator” who rendered legal opinions other attorneys were often unwilling to provide to enable government to undertake projects or make funding arrangements that allowed cities and joint public agencies to proceed with policies that were controversial and subject to legal opposition or challenge.
In the 1980s, Sabo pushed the legal envelope himself by accepting work as redevelopment attorney, bond counsel and bond disclosure counsel simultaneously for several municipalities in San Bernardino County, including Ontario, San Bernardino and Fontana. Serving in those capacities entailed a considerable conflict of his functions, as he would stand to reap, as bond counsel and disclosure counsel, a percentage of the bond sales for bonds which he as redevelopment attorney had recommended for issuance. In this way, Sabo personally profited as a consequence of the legal advice he was providing as redevelopment attorney, throwing the wisdom of that advice into question. Sabo was able to function in this manner for several years, but the practice was criticized and questioned, ultimately resulting in a state attorney general’s opinion that highlighted the conflict-of-interest inherent in such arrangements. One by one, the entities that had been using Sabo in such dual or triple capacities discontinued doing so.
A scandal that materialized as a consequence of Sabo’s lax oversight within the context of his conflict-laden service as redevelopment attorney and bond counsel was that relating to the issuance of $65 million in bonds by the Fontana Redevelopment Agency in the 1980s to pay for infrastructure at the massive Southridge development in southwest Fontana. That project’s developer, the Ten-Ninety Corporation, claimed it did not have the money to pay for basic improvements such as streets, curbs, gutters, sidewalks, storm drains, sewers and the like to accommodate the development. To facilitate the project, the city council, acting as the redevelopment agency board in accordance with Sabo’s advice, issued $65 million worth of public improvement bonds together with taking out $55 million worth of loans from a glaziers’ union to pay for that infrastructure. Sabo, as bond counsel and disclosure counsel, was paid a one half of one percent commission on the sale of the bonds – $325,000. The bonds were actually purchased by the owners of the Ten Ninety Corporation, which raised questions about the accuracy of the company’s earlier claim that it did not have the wherewithal to pay for the requisite infrastructure to complement its project. The city of Fontana continues to pay $3.14 million per quarter – $12.56 million per year – to those bondholders. Sabo was never held to account for failing to fully inform the Fontana City Council/redevelopment agency board that the agency was enabling the developers to boost their profits on the development, despite his role as disclosure counsel.
Sabo, who grew up in New York, went to college at Youngstown State University in Ohio where he graduated magna cum laude in 1969, and later attended and graduated from the University of Denver College of Law in Colorado.
Shortly after passing the bar, he went to work for renowned municipal-bond lawyer James Warren Beebe. Under Beebe’s tutelage, Sabo learned first the rudiments, then the finer points and in time all of the permutations of public financing instruments and arrangements.
He eventually forged off on his own, forming his own law firm, which focused primarily on the practice of  municipal law, redevelopment law, public finance and municipal bond law. At various times, his firm included David Gondek, Alexis Crump, Stephen Deitsch and Charles Green. He and his firm were particularly active in various municipalities in San Bernardino County, Los Angeles County and Riverside County.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Sabo was counsel to the San Bernardino Redevelopment Agency, which utilized his guidance in arranging for the redevelopment of several of the city’s dilapidating districts, including the area that was transformed into Hospitality Lane, which now is one of the few areas of that city thriving economically.
Sabo was considered a leading authority on all versions of financial mechanisms, instruments and strategies within the public sector, such as tax allocation bonds, industrial development bonds, residential mortgage revenue bonds, hospital bonds, public benefit corporation bonds and capital appreciation bonds, as well as financing schemes that entailed a public agency’s formation of adjunct agencies with varying types and intensities of taxing, borrowing, lending, revenue producing and utilizing, and bond issuing capabilities.
Sabo’s clients recognized he could be counted upon to find a way to proceed with their programs and agendas, despite legal restrictions or regulations that hamstrung them.
In 2000, Sabo signed on with the law firm of Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, a large national law firm which employs more than 800 attorneys at offices in Atlanta, Beaumont, Charleston, West Virginia, Chicago, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, La Quinta, Lafayette, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Madison County, Illinois, Newark, New Orleans, New York, Orange County, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Tampa, Temecula and Tucson.
His association with that prestigious firm, however, did not prevent him from continuing to court controversy. One such brouhaha manifested when he took on representation of clients engaged in litigation against the city of San Bernardino, the parent authority over the redevelopment agency and economic development agency he was legal counsel to.
At the time of his death, Sabo’s actions in his capacity as counsel to the San Bernardino International Airport Authority, a joint powers authority involving the cities of San Bernardino, Highland, Colton and Loma Linda and the county of San Bernardino focused on the civilian use conversion of the former Norton Air Force Base, were under scrutiny by the FBI. Federal agents were looking into Sabo’s relationship to Scot Spencer, who until recently was the contract developer of the airport, and one of Spencer’s business partners, T. Milford Harrison. Harrison was formerly the executive director of the San Bernardino International Airport Authority.
Spencer, who served time in federal prison in the 1990s following his conviction on bankruptcy fraud charges stemming from his efforts to revive Braniff Airlines, was hired by the authority board to develop the airport on the basis of his contacts in the airline industry.
Spencer’s management of what was supposed to be a $38 million renovation of the airport’s passenger terminal and a $7 million development of its concourse was dogged by cost overruns, boosting the combined cost of the passenger terminal and the concourse to $142 million. No commercial airlines have yet flown out of the airport, despite the completion of those improvements. Instead, Spencer exploited his position at the airport, showing favoritism toward companies he owned or controlled and set up at San Bernardino International Airport, including SBD Aircraft Services, Norton Aviation Maintenance Services, Unique Aviation, San Bernardino Airport Management, SBD Properties LLC, KCP Leasing and Services, SBAM Technics, and SBD Aircraft Services, to the detriment of other aviation-related companies located there.
One such company was Aeros Aeronautical Systems Corp., a blimp builder which did work on dirigibles and other lighter-than-air craft in Hangar 695, which it had leased at the airport.
In 2008, business was booming for Aeros, and the company was making its lease payments to the airport authority on time and in full. But that year, two companies Spencer was a controlling partner with, SBD Aircraft Services and Norton Aviation Maintenance Services, entered into a subcontract with another Spencer-affiliated outfit, Unique Aviation, for the renovation and refurbishing of a then-35-year-old Boeing 727-227. Spencer claimed he needed the hangar space Aeros was using to have SBD and Norton Aviation do the work. Despite the consideration that Aeros was a tenant paying top dollar for the space it was using and that it had secured in June 2008 two successive short term leases with 30-day termination notices to undertake tests on a dirigible, Spencer used his leverage with the San Bernardino International Airport Authority to have Sabo author a letter which the airport authority’s then-executive director Don Rogers signed that essentially evicted Aeros.
In July 2008, before Aeros vacated the hangar, Spencer signed a lease for Hangar 695 at a rate less than half of what Aeros was paying for the space and despite the consideration that Aeros had yet to vacate it. When Aeros did not leave quickly enough to satisfy Spencer, who said he was prevented from completing $750,000 worth of repairs on the 727, he threatened to sue the airport authority. Before the incident was over, Aeros, which had offered the promise of remaining as a longtime paying tenant, left in a huff, never to return. The authority kowtowed to Spencer even further by providing him over $1 million worth of concessions, including the forgiving of a $155,000 balance on a previous loan, the extension of another $550,000 loan at 5 percent interest, and an ongoing $315,000 hangar rental subsidy, all of which were approved by Sabo. Sabo had also signed off on Spencer’s partnership with T. Milford Harrison, a former executive director of the airport authority.
In September 2011, the FBI raided San Bernardino International Airport Authority headquarters and offices and hangars at the airport itself, seizing hundreds of documents. An investigation into the potential delivery of kickbacks to airport authority officials was continuing at the time of Sabo’s passing.

Upland Mulling Multiple Service Outsourcing Options

(November 30)   Upland City Manager Stephen Dunn has been authorized to actively seek bids on outsourcing several key components of the city’s municipal services, including law enforcement, fire protection, engineering, code enforcement, computer systems, fleet maintenance, animal control, and operation and management of the city library.
Upland has long been a full service city, with in-house departments that carry out practically every aspect of its municipal function.
But in recent years the city has been beset with financial challenges, including a contracting economy that has reduced revenue into city coffers, coupled with rising expenditures such as legal costs on lawsuits in which the city has been both a plaintiff and a defendant, as well as escalating salary, benefit and pension costs for current and past employees.
On November 7, Dunn outlined separate and combined general options, including seeking concessions from employees in all of the city’s divisions and departments with regard to current and future contracts, including downward adjustments on salaries and benefits; dissolving the city’s police, fire, engineering and inspection departments and contracting for those services with outside agencies such as the county, the California Division of Forestry or the city of Ontario; selling the fire department’s ladder truck and converting Fire Station #2 to a paramedic team by going from a three-man to a two-man crew; periodic shutdowns of one fire station to drive down overtime; renegotiating the existing contract for the city’s air ambulance; leasing communication towers to cellular phone companies; and selling off certain assets for one-time revenue. If expenditure reductions cannot be made, Dunn said the city will need to explore new forms of revenue, including increasing the cost of municipal services or seeking citizen approval of a city-wide sales tax  or a parcel tax for the library.
Over the dissenting vote of councilman Gino Filippi, the balance of the council directed Dunn to explore each of those options, quantify the savings they will provide, and return to the council in January with a refined set of specific recommendations.
The city’s general fund reserves, which were earlier projected at $4.2 million, have dwindled to $932,000 and the council had previously okayed two short-term measures Dunn offered them, cutting $229,000 from various elements of general government operations, including within Dunn’s office and in that of the city’s development services division.
The council has also given Dunn permission to transfer $250,000 from the city’s gas tax fund, normally utilized for street and road improvements and required by law to be deposited in a separate bank account, to the city’s general fund, if the general fund becomes depleted. The general fund is used to pay for the city’s day-to-day operations.
A certain level of resistance against the outsourcings has already surfaced. Filippi, who three weeks ago said the city should explore all cost saving alternatives, this week balked at actually giving Dunn latitude to purposefully explore closing out the fire and police departments.
Whether the threat of just such budgetary fixes are sincere or intended to induce the Upland Police Officers Association and the Upland Professional Firefighters Association into serious bargaining mode remains to be demonstrated.  In this regard, the city’s current assumption of many employees’ contributions toward their retirement funds and the employee bargaining groups’ willingness to surrender that perquisite for those they represent is at issue. In years past, during brighter economic times, the city, while providing what was designated as its part of that contribution toward employees’ pensions, also agreed to pay that portion of the pension fund that was put up by the employees themselves. At present, the city is paying $1.6 million per year in covering what would otherwise be the employees’ burden. If the city’s seven employee bargaining groups would make that concession alone, Dunn indicated he is reasonably sure that layoffs will be avoided for at least the next two years.

County Opposes Wind Turbines On Black Lava Butte & Flat Top Mesa

(November 30)   In one of his last acts as Third District county supervisor, Neil Derry convinced his board colleagues to take a stand against a British company’s proposal to erect several score 197-foot high wind turbines in the desert north of Yucca Valley on Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa north of Pipes Canyon Road between Pioneertown and Yucca Mesa.
London-based Element Power, which has its main North American office in Portland, Oregon, has been doing exploratory work to determine whether it will seek permits for the project under the aegis of the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, which calls for 33 percent of California’s commercially-produced electricity sales to be provided by renewable sources by 2020. Element is banking upon an expedited permitting process that is available for projects applied for under the plan.
The board of supervisors this week, however, significantly complicated that approach when it collectively endorsed a resolution brought forth by Derry opposing Element Power’s application.
In making his recommendation for the resolution, Derry noted that the Black Lava Butte Wind Project was proposed to be sited where previously an electrical transmission line project known as Green Path North was to have been located.
“On December 4, 2007 the board of supervisors adopted Resolution No. 2007-367 opposing the Green Path North project proposed by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power,” Derry stated in his report to the board with regard to the resolution. “The project called for the erection of power transmission lines throughout western portions of the Morongo Basin and endangered natural wildlife corridors, sensitive habitat areas and important cultural resources. Following the abandonment of the Green Path North project, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power once again solicited requests for proposals to be filed for proposed projects on the Green Path North alignment. The Black Lava Butte Wind Project application filed by Element Power and approved by the Bureau of Land Management calls for the exploration of potential wind energy capture and transmission within the backcountry of the Morongo Basin. Element Power would first seek to ascertain the viability of wind energy development by measuring data from two meteorological towers approximately 200 feet in height that have already been constructed.”
In July 2011, Element Power erected the two 197-foot high towers Derry referred to in order to collect data on wind speed and direction at that height at that location. The Bureau of Land Management in 2010 gave Element permission to build those towers. Element hopes to determine from that data whether building a wind farm at that location will prove commercially viable.
While some endorse the concept of aggressive corporate efforts to develop renewable energy and certain environmentalists embrace the wind farm concept, others, including some environmentalists, are opposed to the project proposal.
Some opponents cite the harm they perceive the placement of turbines will have on the desert vista. They and others find objectionable the danger they say the wind turbines represent to eagles, bats, and other birds that fly through or inhabit the area. Another point of protest hinges on the possible destruction of Native American rock art and other archeological artifacts in the area. Other critics point out that the remote location of the wind field will require that the electricity be transported a considerable distance, and that a significant percentage of the energy will be lost during that line transport.
Three groups opposed to the project on environmental grounds, the California Desert Coalition, Save Our Desert, and the Center for Biological Diversity, are seeking to have that portion of the desert which was identified as an area of critical environmental concern in the Desert Protection Act introduced to Congress in 2011 extended to include Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa.
If Element Power elects to proceed with the project, it will need to erect eight miles of transmission lines and towers to deliver the energy to the California Power Grid’s existing electrical transmission lines.
Derry made reference to the transmission line and its placement in his call for the board to oppose the project.
“In order to supply the region’s electrical grid with the wind power, an eight-mile transmission line would need to be constructed over environmentally sensitive habitat,” Derry wrote. “Over 4,000 acres of undeveloped public lands would be subjected to transmission lines and networks of wind turbines. This project area required helicopter transport in order to erect the meteorological towers and further development would require the building of road infrastructure in order to reach two scenic jewels of the Morongo Basin: Black Lava Butte and Flat Top Mesa.”
Derry said that neither he nor the county are opposed to the harnessing of the wind to produce electrical power, but that such projects should be undertaken in areas that will not suffer environmental or ecological degradation as a consequence.
“As stated previously in Resolution No. 2007-367, while the county supports the use of renewable resources and encourages programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions; the county of San Bernardino also places a high value on protecting and preserving the natural resources of the California desert and as a result opposes the construction of high tension power lines through environmentally sensitive areas in the Morongo Basin, and recommends that additional power lines be located within existing energy corridors,” Derry stated.

Government Plays By Different Set Of Environmental Regulation Rules Than The Private Sector

(November 30)   While project proponents who come before city and county government are required to obtain environmental certification for their projects as part of the local governmental approval process, government-sponsored projects experience far less in the form of red tape when it comes to obtaining clearance to proceed.
Cases in point were six county projects given go-ahead in one fell swoop by the county board of supervisors earlier this month.
The major environmental regulation hoops project proponents, builders and developers are made to jump through are those contained in the California Environmental Quality Act, known by its acronym CEQA. The California Environmental Quality Act calls for developers of projects of any significant size to undertake an environmental impact report for their contemplated projects, entailing an expensive examination of the project that is compiled in draft form and then offered to the public for review, particularly those living near where the project is to be completed. The report must catalog the range of effects and impacts, together with measures to be taken to mitigate those impacts. The review of the tentative report allows the adequacy of those measures to be considered by the public and lead agency for the project.
Such is the case of projects proposed by the private sector. In the public sector, however, extensive regulations experienced by private developers are not applied as stringently. The need for an environmental impact report on public projects is often waived by the governing board of the governmental agency proposing a project within its own jurisdiction.
On November 6, county public works director  Gerry Newcombe asked and received six such waivers from the county board of supervisors. The request was so routine that it was not deemed at all controversial and was placed on the board of supervisors’ consent calendar at that week’s meeting. The multiple items on the consent calendar are deemed non-controversial and are agendized together for approval   on a single vote.
Upon Newcombe’s recommendation, the board found that  the reconstruction project on Bellflower Street, between Mojave Drive and Cactus Road, in the Adelanto area;  the rehabilitation and reconstruction project on Slover Avenue, between Cedar Avenue and Cactus Avenue, in the Bloomington area; the rehabilitation and reconstruction project on National Trails Highway, from Vista Road to one mile north, in the Oro Grande area; the raised median project on Cedar Avenue, between El Rivino Road and Jurupa Avenue, in the Bloomington area; the rehabilitation and reconstruction project on Bear Valley Cutoff, between Joshua Road and State Highway 18, in the Apple Valley area; and the median project on Valley Boulevard, from Locust Avenue to Spruce Avenue, in the Bloomington area are all exempt under the California Environmental Quality Act, Class 1 exemption, Section 15301c.