California Style: Trick A’ttire

See Grace’s Column with all of its photos by downloading the October 25 Edition of the Sentinel. The download link is featured further up on the website.

Halloween is the greatest show on earth. This celebration happens once a year and across the world. It is when dress restrictions don’t count. This event is major in the evenings and people have a blast. Halloween costumes aren’t meant to be conservative and pretty much anything goes! You can truly have a blast putting one together too. It doesn’t matter where you find the costume – thrift store,, or in your closet. There are so many terrific costume ideas for Halloween. The ideas people come up with when in costume mode are pretty wonderful. The makeup and hair ideas that go into putting a costume together are quite exciting too. I can’t wait to see everyone in their Halloween attire this Halloween. Have fun finding the right costume for you. Halloween offers so much diversity and it’s happening right now in San Bernardino County.

“I can still fit into my Battlestar Galactica costume!”
-Dirk Benedict

Attorney Briggs Challenging Chino & Its City Attorney With Five Lawsuits

(October 18) Upland-based attorney Cory Briggs has recently filed four lawsuits against the city of Chino on environmental grounds and a fifth against Chino City Attorney Jimmy Gutierrez and his law firm, alleging multiple violations of the state’s conflict of interest statutes.

Cory Briggs

Briggs is the attorney of record for the Inland Oversight Committee, which has as its stated mission the reform of governmental affairs in the Inland Empire together with the monitoring of governmental entities’ compliance with open government law and the California Environmental Quality Act. As an environmental attorney, Briggs has filed numerous lawsuits against San Bernardino County municipalities, including Rancho Cucamonga, Ontario, Hesperia and Chino.
Briggs has taken a special interest in the latter as a consequence of the success and the significant payday he experienced when three years ago he took up the case of Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development, which challenged the city of Chino in court over what were alleged to be deficiencies in the city’s general plan. As a consequence of that suit, the city amended the general plan on terms consistent with the Citizens for Responsible Equitable Environmental Development’s assertions, and the city paid  Briggs $215,000 for his legal billings to the group for representing it.
Within the last four months, Briggs filed five suits in which Chino is a defendant or a real party in interest. Four of those suits relate to project approval or permits the city has given to the Watson Land Company, Viramontes Express, Hillwood Investment Properties and Stratham Homes. The fifth suit names Chino City Attorney Jimmy Gutierrez and his law firm, with the city as a real party in interest.
The Watson Land Company project approval suit alleges the city improperly approved, at its April 29 planning commission meeting, the Watson Land Company’s proposed 51-acre development at Kimball between Mountain and Cypress avenues.  According to Briggs, there were shortcomings and defects in the planning commission’s findings cited during the April 29 hearing for the project. The commission failed to advertise the hearing properly, Briggs maintained, and did not adequately inform the public about changes to the general plan’s provisions for an environmental impact report for the project.  Rather than complete a new environmental impact report devoted to the project, the city adopted the findings from its general plan environmental impact report and amended it to incorporate the Watson project. Watson is named as a codefendant in the suit, which was filed on June 21.
Briggs filed suit against both the city and Viramontes Express, the operator of a green waste processing plant on Hellman Avenue south of Chino-Corona Road, based on the city council’s June 18 approval of an agreement allowing Viramontes to up by 15 percent the 12,500 cubic yards of green waste it stores on its premises.  The city’s approval of the green waste agreement was made after Briggs launched a protest, claiming an environmental impact report for the change had to be undertaken. Briggs alleges the plant is already in violation of the  city’s zoning code. The city maintains the plant is “grandfathered in,” as it was in existence prior to the property on which it sits being annexed into the city. That suit was filed on July 18.
On August 15 Briggs filed suit against Chino, naming Hillwood Investment Properties as a co-defendant. Hillwood is undertaking, with city approval, a 409,930-square foot industrial building development at 13880 Monte Vista Avenue. The city council approved the project at its July 16 meeting, defying Briggs’ insistence that an environmental impact report for the project be completed first. He maintains the public hearing for the project was not properly advertised.
Briggs filed a second lawsuit on August 15 against the city of Chino, along with Stratham Homes, Inc,  which is planning a 94-home development on 11.8 acres at the southeast corner of Riverside Drive and Fern Avenue. According to that lawsuit, the city improperly gave go-ahead to the project without completing an environmental impact report and prevented those opposed to the project from placing their comments on the record when the July 16 hearing for the project was conducted.

Jimmy Gutierrez

Briggs has also filed suit against Gutierrez, who as city attorney will be in charge of conducting the legal defense of the four suits lodged against Chino.  According to that suit, Gutierrez was illegally involved in drafting his own firm’s professional services contract with the city. That suit is seeking the return hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees the city has paid to Gutierrez and his firm, Gutierrez, Fierro & Erickson.
Briggs, maintains Gutierrez ran afoul of the state of California’s conflict-of-interest law when he assisted in preparing agreements for city attorney services between the city of Chino and the firm. Gutierrez, according to the lawsuit, had a financial interest in the contract between the city and his firm, which he drew up “in direct violation of Government Code Section 1090. Section 1090 states members of the legislature, state, county, district, judicial district, and city officers or employees shall not be financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members.” According to Briggs, Gutierrez directly participated “in the making of the July 5, 2005 agreement for city attorney services and the October 3, 2006 agreement for city attorney services. Briggs referenced “the well-established notion that ‘the defining characteristic of a prohibited financial interest is whether it has the potential to divide an official’s loyalties and compromise the undivided representation of the public interests the official is charged with protecting.’“
According to Briggs, Gutierrez had worked for Chino as its city attorney since 1975 under a contract that did not secure work for anyone other than him. Until 2005, according to Briggs, the law firm of Gutierrez, Fierro and Erickson – including its predecessors and attorneys – were not employed by the city. In 2005, Briggs said Gutierrez participated in the making of the 2005 agreement between the city – whose city council Gutierrez influenced and for which he  worked and was receiving compensation – and his law firm and its partners, Arturo Fierro and James E. Erickson. Gutierrez’s “financial interest in the economic well-being of his firm at the time he entered into the 2005 agreement resulted in a straight-forward violation of Section 1090, which was repeated again in the making of the 2006 agreement,” according to Briggs.
Gutierrez has declined to comment on the legal actions launched by Briggs against him and the city he represents. Gutierrez and Gutierrez, Fierro and Erickson are represented by the Los Angeles-based law firm Arent Fox.
Ontario mayor Paul Leon has questioned the motive behind the various legal actions Briggs has brought, saying that the environmental issues raised in those lawsuits are negligible ones that pose little or no threat to the wellbeing of the public. He said the suits have served as an impediment to economic development.
Former Hesperia city councilman Paul Bosacki was more blunt, referring to Briggs as a “legal shakedown artist” who files suits against major projects “and then goes away after he’s collected his legal fees for whatever bogus environmental group he happens to be representing. His lawsuits have nothing to do with legitimate environmental issues. It’s all about money.”
Nevertheless, Briggs has had some notable successes and rulings from courts that validate at least some of the causes of action he has cited on behalf of his clients.

Upland And Montclair To Merge Fire Command & Administration

(October 18) The cities of Upland and Montclair are finalizing a proposal for the partial merger of their  fire departments, one that is aimed at reducing costs and intensifying firefighting resource capability and which will be presented to their respective city councils for consideration as early as next month.
Under the parameters being worked out, the command staff and administration of the two departments will become one and the service boundaries separating the departments will be eliminated. Each department will maintain its own identity and retain responsibility for its own firefighters.

Rick Mayhew

At present the city of Upland employs 36 full time firefighters staged out of four fire stations. Montclair fields 24 firefighters and operates out of two fire stations.  Previously, the city of Upland contemplated outsourcing options for its fire department in an effort to reduce costs, including considering contracting with the city of Ontario, the California Division of Forestry or the county of San Bernardino for fire protection service. Upland also approached Los Angeles County to see if its fire department would provide it with a fire service proposal. Los Angeles County turned Upland down because the California Division of Forestry, also known as Cal Fire, and LA County Fire have an agreement that Cal Fire will not come into Los Angeles County to seek contracts and Los Angeles County has agreed not to go into San Bernardino County or Orange County for contract agencies.
In Montclair, officials previously gave serious consideration to the outsourcing of that 36,664-poulation municipality’s fire department, specifically the concept of dissolving the department in favor  of contracting with the San Bernardino County Fire Department or the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
At the root of the move are financial causes, brought on by the downturn of the economy, dwindling governmental revenue and the conflation of governmental services. As a result of the state of California’s shuttering of municipal redevelopment agencies throughout the state, toward the end of the 2010-11 fiscal year, Montclair laid off 10 employees as part of its effort to make up for its loss of redevelopment money. Throughout much of 2010-11, one of the Montclair Fire Department’s paramedic units was parked and the paramedics functioned from the department’s remaining engines, which stayed in service. Over the last year-and-a-half, what was a 27-firefighter department has lost three positions to attrition, and has not filled those vacancies, making up for the manpower shortage with overtime. In September 2012, city manager Edward Starr, in a cost-cutting move that saved the city nearly half a million dollars a year in wages and benefits, elevated police chief Keith Jones to the position of director of public safety and gave fire chief Troy Ament his two-week severance notice. In June of this year, police captain Michael deMoet was appointed to the position of director of public safety, following Jones’ retirement.  de Moet continues to function in the role of Montclair fire chief.
The Sentinel has learned that Starr and Upland City Manager Stephen Dunn have formally discussed the concept of consolidating the management of their respective city’s fire departments and removing the jurisdictional barriers between the agencies. Discussions of the proposal involving the command staffs of both departments have proceeded to the point that Starr was able to put a protocol for the partial merger in writing.
Starr said there is general agreement between him and Dunn on the matter, as well as between the command echelon of both departments with regard to the proposal.
“It now needs to go to the bargaining groups (i.e., labor unions) so they can address whatever concerns they may have,” Starr told the Sentinel. According to Starr, the Upland firefighters will remain Upland city employees and the Montclair firemen will remain as Montclair city employees. Upland, which boasts a population of 73,732, pays its firefighters higher wages and provides slightly better benefits than Montclair fireman receive. According to Starr, because Upland has twice as many fire stations as Montclair, roughly one-and-a-half times as many firemen and operates a helicopter, Upland will pick up 64 percent of the command level and accompanying administrative costs under the arrangement, while Montclair’s share will be 36 percent.
Current Upland Fire Chief Rick Mayhew will become the new Upland-Montclair fire chief and his command staff will consist of two assistant chiefs along with battalion commanders sufficient to cover each station, augmented by administrative staff consisting of an executive assistant, a clerk and secretary.
Mayhew, who has been fire chief in Upland for eight months, said the merger “is still in the discussion phase. We are discussing what operational challenges we would have and what operational benefits there are.”
Mayhew said the fire unions might or might not have concerns over such a change taking place but that those were issues “do not impact us at the fire department administrative level.”
He said that it is “not correct” to assume that the partial merger would automatically take place, but that the plan was proceeding toward presentation to each city’s respective city council. He said that if called upon by the city council to carry out the merger of command and administrative staffs and eliminate the departments’ mutual service boundaries, he could do so with “absolutely no problem.”
He said that if both councils prove amenable to the idea, it could be implemented “sometime in 2014.”
Starr said he anticipated getting full input from the fire unions by November and the plan being previewed by the city councils in late November or early December. He said votes on the proposal could take place in the first quarter of next year, with possible implementation shortly thereafter.

Criminal Charges Filed Against SB Council Members Kelley & Jenkins

(October 18) SAN BERNARDINO—Within two hours yesterday, Thursday October 17, action by law enforcement authorities on both sides of the San Bernardino County/Riverside County line transpired to curtail the political careers of two members of the San Bernardino City Council.

Chas Kelley

City councilman Chas Kelley, who has represented the city’s extreme north end as the 5th Ward councilman since 2003, was charged with one count of felony perjury by the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s office and arraigned on the charge. At his arraignment he pleaded guilty to one count of perjury.
Eleven miles south, in Riverside, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office charged San Bernardino Councilman Robert Jenkins with 30 criminal counts related to identify theft and stalking of his one-time homosexual lover and one of his former lover’s more recent boyfriends.
Kelley, who was running for mayor, immediately resigned as councilman and pulled out of the mayoral race.

Robert Jenkins

Jenkins  is represented by attorney Virginia Blumenthal, who proclaimed her client’s innocence and arranged for a bondsman to post $25,000 bail on Jenkin’s behalf through the court Thursday morning so Jenkins avoided both arrest and being taken into custody. He is scheduled for arraignment December 17 on charges of unlawfully distributing, via computer, personal identifying information of a harassing nature; unlawfully obtaining, through fraudulent means, information of another person; stalking; and forging an official state seal or that of a public officer. Indications are that he will fight the charges and will not resign from office. He must stand for reelection on November 5.
The district attorney’s office investigation of Kelly was touched off by a complaint to the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office Public Integrity Unit received in October 2011 that maintained Kelley was diverting to his own use campaign money that had been provided to him. According to the district attorney’s office “After further investigation, the amount of under-reported monetary contributions Kelley failed to disclose was $74,222.76.”
Following his guilty plea, Kelley made the following statement: “I freely, voluntarily, knowingly and intelligently admit that from on or about January 31, 2007, through July 30, 2012, on numerous occasions, I committed perjury, by falsely stating as true the amount of money I was depositing to and withdrawing from my Friends of Chas Kelley campaign account, on the Fair Political Practices Commission Form 460 that I filed or caused to be filed for the reporting periods that occurred between July 1, 2006, to June 30, 2012, so I could hide the fact that I was using that money improperly for non-campaign related purposes.”
As a result of his guilty plea, Kelley is precluded from holding any future elected or appointed governmental position. He is scheduled for sentencing on December 13. The terms of his plea arrangement call for his serving 90 days in county jail and five years on probation.
It was also disclosed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph B. Widman that since June Kelley had cooperated with an ongoing FBI investigation in which Kelley was using his candidacy for mayor to solicit campaign contributions from donors and obtain evidence, through the recording of the conversations without those donors’ knowledge, that they were abetting him in the receiving of bribes and the laundering of such as campaign contributions.
“Mr. Kelley has generated approximately 25 recordings of this kind at the direction and under the supervision of the FBI,” according to Widman.
Jenkins, who was elected to the city council in a special election held in July 2012 to fill the Ward 2 council seat vacancy left by the resignation of former councilman Jason Desjardins, is alleged to have used his computer and home internet account to place several personal advertisements on Craigslist seeking sex partners and then diverting responses to those ads to Jenkins’ former partner or the man whom Jenkins believed his former partner to be involved with. The ads included the victims’ personal information, entailing names, addresses and photos. Jenkins is further charged with forging a San Bernardino Police Department internal memorandum, using the names of two department employees, Sgt. Tom Bielaszka and Lt. Dario Robinson, as well as city and police department seals, according to the criminal complaint.
Statements emanating from the Jenkins’ camp and Blumenthal’s office suggested Jenkins, who previously hid but now openly acknowledges his homosexuality, was set up by his former lover, who had a key to his home and access to his computer.
The developments come as a blow to the city of San Bernardino, which filed for bankruptcy last year, as well as to the city council and in particular to the Republican element of the council, which is outnumbered by Democrats four-to-three on the seven-member panel. Both Jenkins and Kelley touted themselves as conservative Republicans. Jenkins is being challenged by Benito Barrios in the November election.

Utility Tax Opponents Decry GT City Hall “Scare” Tactics

(October 17) Opposition to Measure C, the five percent utility tax proposal being put forth by the city of  Grand Terrace, has formed.
The group, headed by Doug Wilson, Jeffrey McConnell and Mark Jolstead, have created a website and are undertaking an informational campaign aimed at convincing the voters in 12,040 population Grand Terrace, the third smallest of the county’s 24 cities, that the tax is unnecessary and that judicious budget cuts in city operations, including reductions in what the group characterizes as overly generous salaries and benefits to the city’s remaining workers, will stave off the financial crisis city officials claim justifies their call for the tax.
Calling Measure C a “business killing tax,” the group charged the city with both “scare tactics” and a disingenuous and selective presentation of data in its try to convince the city’s residents that the municipal budget needs to be supplemented with more taxpayer money.
“We believe we should live within our means and not spend more than we have,” the group’s web site states. “We don’t want the politicians and bureaucrats at City Hall threatening us and our families with closing our parks and senior center to bully us into spending more of our hard earned paychecks to help supplement theirs. We know there is another way and the ‘Yes On Measure C’ people refuse to tell voters there are other options. We have more than one option to this 5% utility tax.”
The group said the prime movers behind the tax measure are a relatively limited set of people, led by Grand Terrace Mayor Walt Stanckiewitz and councilman Bernardo Sandoval.
“There are two councilmen and their troops walking door to door telling the people that our city is going to close down if you don’t vote for this tax,” the web site states. “They are lying to their constituents that they took an oath to represent. This city will not disincorporate nor will it become Colton. This has been a nasty, untrue rumor fed to the people by these two guys verbally at council meetings and through their interviews in the newspapers over the last several years.”
The process for disincorporation is far more involved and complicated than the tax proponents have suggested, the tax opponents insist.
“Disincorporation is an option that the people of Grand Terrace will never vote for,” the web site states. “It was made clear in the April 2013 council meeting by the Local Agency Formation Commission representative that no city has ever disincorporated unwillingly in California’s history. The Local Agency Formation Commission also made clear in the September 24, 2013 council meeting that it is a years-long process and that it must go before we the people, the voters, with a 2/3 vote to disincorporate. Plus, disincorporation does not wipe out our debt. We must also at the same time that we are voting to disincorporate vote to tax ourselves to pay off our long term debt that our previous politicians and bureaucrats have so graciously left us with.”
Those in opposition to the tax say city officials are making misrepresentations to justify the tax.
“We can operate as an ‘independent’ city without this tax,” the web site states. “The political action committee that is run by Mayor Stankiewitz and his faithful sidekick Sandoval keeps saying ‘Pass this tax to keep Grand Terrace independent.’ Once again they are trying to deceive you into thinking we will disincorporate if the tax fails.”
Instead of burdening its businesses and residents with the utility tax, the city should instead “cut the budget” and outsource for certain services, the tax opponents say.
“Our very own city manager, who makes more than $200,000 in salary & benefits in this 12,000+ city, has prepared several budget cut scenarios in case the tax measure fails,” the web site states. “Each one shows that we can live within our means. We don’t agree with their choice of cuts… but since this information was presented to the council…..then why are a couple of them telling the people we have no choice? The council already passed a budget resolution that keeps us in the black if the tax should fail.”
The web site states, “City Hall will be open only 2 days a week. That’s great! Why has City Hall always believed that this little city needs a full time, fully staffed City Hall? How often do you have to go to our ‘business unfriendly’ City Hall? If you did visit….ever have to wait in line? Ever see anyone else other than you in the lobby? When this city was founded in 1978 the city was run as a ‘contract city’ for many years. We were a member of ‘Contract Cities of California.’ In other words, we contracted almost all of our services out. We contracted with experienced people, other municipalities and organizations to do our work.  We ran a very tight ship on a very small budget. The redevelopment agency big bucks came along and as the city budget grew so did the city bureaucracy. But now Governor Jerry Brown shut down all the California redevelopment agencies and Grand Terrace now has a $735,000 budget shortfall, not $1.1 million or even a $1.5 million as some councilmen want you to believe. We lived without the redevelopment money before and we can do it again! Our tax base is much higher than it was in 1978.”
By shrinking the size of government, those opposed to the tax assert, problems that loom large in Grand Terrace will redress themselves.
“How many of the current employees will stick around for a 2 day a week job?” the web site continues. “When they leave, replace them with contract employees! This is your ‘golden opportunity’ to stop the fat salaries at City Hall. All you have to do is to vote no on November 5th. If you don’t, you will be stuck paying their high salaries as well as the $8 million in unfunded pensions that we still have to pay for. And it will continue to grow. This is what’s bankrupting San Bernardino, Stockton, Vallejo and other cities across America. Stop feeding the monster now! If you don’t stop them now…the monster will continue to grow and the bureaucrats will be back to ask for more money just like the Colton Joint Unified School District did when they asked us to pass a second bond measure for our already approved new high school. Colton School District is at it again! They are currently trying to extort more money from all youth groups that use any portion of the school campuses or sports fields or the district will kick them out.”
McConnell told the Sentinel that Stanckiewitz and other city officials are exploiting the consideration that Grand Terrace is “filled with soccer moms and dads. Youth sports are a big part of this community. The politicians are threatening to close the city parks and take away the playing fields if we don’t vote for this tax. It’s a bullying tactic. It is a scare tactic.”
The tax opponents say the threat of having Colton subsume the city is a similar scare tactic. “We love our law enforcement and safe community. We don’t want to end up one day contracting with Colton Police just because they may be less expensive,” the web site states.
Stanckiewitz disputed much of what the anti-tax group said, asserting “It is easy to make blanket statements. We have answered their allegations with facts, yet they continue to spread rumors and inaccurate information.
“As far as the allegation that [city manager] Betsy Adams is overpaid,” Stanckiewitz continued, we completed a survey of fifty cities in the Riverside/San Bernardino County region on total compensation for city managers.  Betsy is ranked 39th out of 50 in total compensation.  That equates to the bottom third of the cities.  This information was obtained from municipal records available to the public.”
Stanckiewitz insisted that instituting a tax was the least expensive and most sensible way for Grand Terrace to maintain its identity as a community.
“We do not think the city will opt to disincorporate either,” he said. “It requires a 2/3 vote of the registered voters and would cost the property owners much more in property tax assessments than the utility tax is asking for.  Some residents would like to go back to county control, but that alternative comes with a steep price tag.  We have had the Local Agency Formation Commission representative out to two council meetings to explain the process.  It is not a pretty picture.”

Upland Council Calls For Constitutional Amendment Limiting Campaign Donations

(October 17) A divided Upland City Council this week passed a resolution calling upon the U.S. Congress to approve a Constitutional amendment limiting the amount of money corporations can contribute to political campaigns.
At its September 23 meeting, the city council heard from members of Common Cause and other local political reform advocates who appealed to the council to join in a nationwide effort to limit the influence of money on the political process.
While a number of laws and reforms have been instituted over the years – including the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971, the California Political Reform Act of 1974, the Federal Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 and a campaign finance limitation ordinance passed by the Upland City Council last year that was revamped earlier this year  – those efforts ran into a serious challenge as the result of a Supreme Court Decision that equates the provision of campaign money with free speech.
A group, Citizens United, which sought to be able to utilize money available to it from a disparate number of sources, including private donors, political action committees and corporations, to produce and broadcast films, including movies and documentaries advocating for and against the election or reelection of certain candidates on a national level, brought suit to reaffirm its right to do so. In that suit, Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the United States Supreme Court in 2010 held in a 5-4 decision that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent political expenditures by corporations, associations, or labor unions.
Advocates of campaign contribution limits were undeterred by that sharply divided ruling of the highest court in the land. Further strengthened by a dissenting opinion authored by Justice John Paul Stevens that stated, “A democracy cannot function effectively when its constituent members believe laws are being bought and sold,” those advocates, including Common Cause, are undertaking an effort to convince Congress to add an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that would render moot the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision.
On September 23, the Upland City Council voted 4-1, with councilman Brendan Brandt dissenting, to have the city attorney draft a resolution calling upon Congress to effectuate enforceable campaign spending limits by instilling into the U.S. Constitution, through the amendment process, the right to impose campaign donation and spending limits.
For several months now, activists have been approaching local governmental officials, calling upon them to pass resolutions asking Congress for the Constitutional amendment. Prior to Upland’s action this week, 46 city councils in California’s 407 cities had passed such resolutions.
Undoing the Supreme Court’s enabling of unfettered campaign donations is of particular relevance in Upland. Previously, the city council had enacted an ordinance applicable to city campaigns that set the maximum contribution candidates were allowed to receive from any individual, organization or entity to $2,000 per two-year election cycle.
In April, the city council revised that campaign contribution limit ordinance downward, reducing the maximum contribution candidates are allowed to receive from any single donor to $1,000 per election.
City officials collectively expressed the view that such limitations were needed to prevent big money and special interests from having undue influence over the political and governmental process. In Upland, the issue of political influence is of special sensitivity because of the city’s recent travail with former mayor John Pomierski, who dominated the city politically for a decade, utilizing hefty campaign contributions to keep himself in office and ward off any political challenges. Simultaneously, Pomierski was soliciting bribes and utilizing his position at City Hall to ensure project and permit approval from the city’s planning and community development divisions, its planning commission and council for his cronies, his political contributors and those paying him graft money. He was indicted by a federal grand jury, was convicted last year and is now serving his sentence in a federal institution.
The council this week considered two resolution drafts prepared by the city attorney. Two Upland citizens, Mary Lou Williams and Curt Lewis, as well as the Southern California  organizer for Common Cause, John  Smith, who had come before the city council on  September 23 to ask the council to pass the resolution supporting Congressional action in adopting a Constitutional amendment establishing campaign contribution limits were on hand October 14 to reiterate that call. Lewis noted that over $7 billion in political contributions had been made at all levels of government in the 2012 election year.
Prior to voting to endorse the most strongly worded of the two resolutions authored by the city attorney, the council discussed the advisability, practicality and propriety of having the city council, on behalf of Upland and its citizens, directly petition Congress for any action in general or particular.
Councilman Brendan Brandt, while maintaining he was not opposed to the underlying intent of establishing and maintaining campaign contribution limits, said “I don’t believe we as a city council should set a precedent of recommending amendments to the U.S. Constitution. From my perspective, you potentially set a dangerous course when you take on federal issues. I have voted in favor of every campaign finance and ethics [law] in the city of Upland but if we deal with this outside our jurisdiction, we don’t have money for that. If we [vote for the resolution],  when  every group that comes in here wants a resolution against Row vs. Wade or Obamacare, we are not going to have a defense of ‘the city doesn’t get involved in those things.’ I will write my Congressman or Senator or the Supreme Court, but I think we have set upon a slippery slope when groups come down here and ask our city attorney to spend time on things we don’t have money for. I don’t think the city council should be involved in asking for amendments to the U.S. Constitution.”
Councilman Glenn Bozar, upon whose motion on September 23 the council directed the city attorney to draft a resolution, cited the $7 billion Lewis had referenced, and said that people of all political stripe were asking “When is this going to stop? This is a genuine concern about what is going on with this country. I don’t have a problem taking a stand on this on behalf of my city or its citizens. If a poll was taken about money and how it is corrupting the political process, there is going to be a supermajority that believe this. I think we should let Congress know how we stand on it.”
Councilwoman Debby Stone said “We have to do something. We have to stop the money somewhere. If this will help them do that, I am in favor of it.”
Councilman Gino Filippi, who previously supported the drafting of the resolution, made clear he has reconsidered and that he was in the Citizens United camp as opposed to being on Common Cause’s side. The scion of a local winemaking family who had used his family’s wealth to launch his successful political career and fund his run for council, Filippi said, “I treasure my ability to invest my own money in my campaign and I’ve been criticized for that.  Upland has the strictest campaign finance restrictions perhaps of all of the neighboring cities.” He indicated he would abide by the campaign finance regulations that are already in place but would not support restricting any further limiting the ability of those who want to donate to the candidates of their choice from being involved in the political process.
The council voted 3-1 to pass the resolution, with Mayor Ray Musser, Bozar and Stone prevailing over Filippi, who voted against it. Brandt abstained.

Proponents Disputing Yucca Valley Town Clerk’s Dismissal Of Council Recall

(October 17) YUCCA VALLEY— Yucca Valley Town Clerk Lesley Copeland has declared the recall effort against town councilmen Robert Lombardo and George Huntington unsuccessful, citing an insufficient number of valid signatures on the filed recall petitions seeking a vote to remove the two from office.
Nevertheless, the leader of the recall drive has contested that finding and is now working with the San Bernardino County Registrar of Voters to ascertain whether Copeland acted properly in disqualifying over 450 of the signatures endorsing Huntington’s removal from office and just under 450 signatures calling for Lombardo’s recall.

Ron Cohen

Ron Cohen led a contingent of some two dozen activists intent on reform at Town Hall. There zeal hit a critical mass after the council voted in February to increase then-town manager Mark Nuaimi’s salary and benefit package to just under $300,000 per year and extend that contract to 2016. All four of those who voted for Nuaimi’s contract came in for criticism, including the mayor, Merle Abel, and councilwoman Dawn Rowe, Lombardo and Huntington. Cohen and his cohorts decided to concentrate their recall efforts against Lombardo and Huntington, who had been reelected to the council without opposition in November 2012, and seek to remove Abel and Rowe when they come up for reelection in 2014.
The recall committee began gathering signatures for the Lomabardo and Huntington recalls in late April. That drive entailed door-to-door canvassing, as well as signature gathering in public areas such as in retail centers and on street corners.

George Huntington

In the case of both Huntington and Lombardo, the recall petitions had to be endorsed with the valid signatures of 2,461 voters residing within the town of Yucca Valley to force the recall vote. Recall proponents insist they carefully screened the signees and, in the case of Huntington, turned in petitions containing 2,712 signatures, and in the case of Lombardo 2,720.
Upon examining the petitions and the signatures, Copeland concluded 458 signatures on the Huntington petition were invalid and 448 on the Lombardo petition were invalid. Thus, according to Copeland, the Huntington petition contained 2,264 valid signatures and the Lombardo petition contained 2,272 valid signatures.
“Each petition needed 2,461 valid signatures to qualify for a recall election,” according to Copeland. “Because of the insufficient number of valid signatures, the current recall process of Robert Lombardo and George Huntington is considered complete.”
Cohen, however, did not take that lying down and he approached County Registrar of Voters Michael Scarpello to demand that Copeland’s processing of the petitions be double-checked. Accordingly, Cohen had sojourned from Yucca Valley to the county seat on October 11 and, after a three day hiatus over the weekend and the Columbus Day Holiday, again on October 15 to carry out a thorough analysis of all of the petition signatures deemed by Copeland as “unvalidated.” When he spoke with the Sentinel on the evening of October 15, Cohen said he intended to return to the registrar’s office in San Bernardino on October 16, 17 and 18.
“I am working every day, from 8 to 5, going over every single unvalidated signature, making sure they are in fact unvalidated,” Cohen said. He said that he has demonstrated to the registrar’s satisfaction that many of the signatures Copeland had disqualified were in fact valid.
“I would rather not disclose at this point how many,” Cohen said. “The ROV has already admitted there are some anomalies. We won’t know how many until we’re done. We will be completed on George tomorrow [Wednesday, October 16] and then we will move on to Dr. Lombardo.”Robert Lombardo
Cohen told the Sentinel that Copeland, in her original consultation with the registrar, had invalidated the  458 signatures on the Huntington petitions and the 448 signatures on the Lombardo petitions on multiple grounds, including claims that the signees either were not registered to vote, were registered improperly or the addresses at which they were registered were misreported; discrepancies with regard to whether signees actually lived within the Yucca Valley town limits or whether they resided in the unincorporated county area just outside town, a confusion that came about because both areas share the 92284 zip code; that some signers signed more than once; that some signers signed without an address or used a post office box as opposed to a physical address; that some signers’ signatures did not match the signature on the voters’ registration cards; and that some of the signers had withdrawn or rescinded their signatures.
Cohen said that as he has steadily gone through the rejected signature petitions with the registrar staff, previously unvalidated signatures have been proven to be valid.
For example, he said, some of the signers determined by Copeland to not be properly registered or at addresses not recognized actually lived in newly constructed homes where previously addresses for them had not existed and were thus not recognized by the town even though they were valid. Another example he gave were signatures discarded because Copeland had deemed them to be repeat signatures from the same person when in fact they were different signatures of different individuals living at the same address.
Cohen told the Sentinel that there were not a significant number of signatures that were thrown out because they did not match the signatures on file with the registrar.
The issue of recissions or withdrawals is not a major one, Cohen said. “In each case it is 26 or less,” Cohen said. On September 9, prior to Cohen’s group turning the petitions over to Copeland, a court action he had previously filed, M. Ronald Cohen v. Town of Yucca Valley, San Bernardino Superior Court Case No. CIVDS1310686, had a hearing before Judge Bryan Foster.  Cohen, who had anticipated that the town would seek to invalidate large numbers of the petitions because anti-recall advocates were out actively seeking recissions from those who had signed the recall petitions, was represented by attorneys Cristyl Meyers and Matthew Pappas. Meyers and Pappas obtained an emergency court order from Foster that the town of Yucca Valley was to immediately provide Cohen with the total number of written requests received by the town to remove signatures from the recall petitions.
Cohen said he believed it possible that Copeland’s disqualification of the recall will be overturned.
“We do not have to prove that every one of the signatures thrown out are valid,” Cohen said. “In the case of George Huntington, we need to reverse the town clerk’s finding on 197 of the signatures.  In Dr. Lombardo’s case, we need to reverse the town clerk’s finding on 189 of the signatures. The recall is not over and it will not be over until the amounts of signatures that are truly unvalidated are determined.”

Glimpse of SBC’s Past Old Railroad Gems: Restoration And Reuse (Part II)

(October 17) By Ruth Musser-Lopez
The opportunities for converting historic structures to modern uses are only limited by one’s imagination.  Privatizing or leasing out space in a publicly owned structure may prove to be a very suitable way to finance a regular maintenance strategy, and in so doing can stabilize and extend the life of the historic property.  Though not a comprehensive list, here are some more ideas for reusing historic structures with the focus on San Bernardino County’s railroad depots.
One grand ATSF depot recently restored and reused lays at what was historically a critical juncture of San Bernardino County’s rail system. Barstow’s   “Casa de Desierto,” is a 1910-1913 hybridized 16th century Spanish/Southwest American Indian style depot and Harvey House designed by talented Mary Colter.  Like the El Garces in Needles, looters had plundered the delicate fixtures and features of Desierto and vagrants also trashed the once magnificent building.  The city of Barstow acquired, restored and reopened it in 1999, rented out space and it became  home to the Route 66 Mother Road Museum and the Western American Railroad Museum.
The Kelso Clubhouse and Restaurant is the 1920s Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad depot in Kelso designed after the Mission Revival and Colonial Revival architectural style.  It was also deteriorating in the 1980s but was restored, then reopened in 2005 and now serves as the East Mojave Headquarters and Visitor Center for the National Park Service (more info at          Built in 1937 by ATSF, the depot in Downtown Upland’s historic district is a handsome, but modest version of the Mission Revival style.  Currently, this “gentleman” is reused as the “Cigar Exchange” and the location of Pacific Wine Merchants, which caters to a clientele that includes foot traffic from the adjacent Metrolink station.
In Redlands, a more “feminine” looking Santa Fe depot was built around 1910, restored, maintained and now reused, in part, as the Rose of Sharon hair and beauty salon.
The Santa Fe depot in Etiwanda appears to have a bright future.  Currently sitting idle, it has been fenced off for protection and is located within the immediate area of a historic district actively being restored and reused by the Rancho Cucamonga community. The integrity of a historic structure’s architecture and style is dependent upon using “in kind” materials for replacement or restoration and this applies to the landscape and outdoor setting as well.  The district acts as a sort of outdoor historic building museum preserve within the traditional Etiwanda Historic district.   Historic structures are relocated to the “preserve” when they would otherwise be razed in the path of “improvements” and new community developments.
Hopes are great for restoration and reuse of the Etiwanda Depot, given the enthusiasm of the Etiwanda Historical Society.
A previous “Glimpse” column mentioned the availability of tax incentives and grants set aside for the preservation of cultural properties.   Restoration with “in kind” replacements is typically a prerequisite of such historic preservation grants.

County Wildlife Corner: The Greater Roadrunner: Geococcyx californianus

(October 17) Many of us who watched cartoons from the 50’s to the 80’s, remember Wile E. Coyote always being outsmarted by the Road Runner! That bird was just so fast, and ran circles around that wild dog!  The Greater Roadrunner, Geococcyx californianus, is known to run 17-24 miles an hour on land, and is the fastest running bird that can fly (but only for a short period of time, sometimes just seconds).
Preferring to sprint rather then fly, this species was nicknamed the Ground Cuckoo because it made a habit of running along paths in front of horse drawn carriages!  Being a member of the Cuckoo family, known for their curiosity, they won’t hesitate approaching humans.  The male roadrunner’s low dove-like coos in a descending pitch are quite attractive to the female roadrunners, along with a preet-preet call.  Adding to its odd behavior, the male also performs a unique courtship, wagging its tail while bowing and tempting the female with a morsel of lizard or snake dangling from his beak.
Even though this bird prefers arid deserts and chaparrals in the Southwestern United States, we see the roadrunner in the San Bernardino Mountains at Wildhaven Ranch. To find cover while hunting, they can also be found in grasslands, brush habitat and at the edges of woodlands in Southern California.
The head, neck, back and wings are dark brown-black, heavily streaked with white, while the breast is mostly white. Its eyes are bright yellow with a barely seen streak of bare blue and red skin surrounding the eye. His crest of black feathers can be raised or lowered for necessary displays to allure intruders away from nests, or simply to make a statement!  The greater roadrunner is about 20-24 inches in length with a 32 inch wingspan, and it can alternate with several shallow rapid wing beats with long glides if flushed from a bush or crossing obstacles.
While the male collects the nest materials of sticks, grass, feathers, snakeskin or dung; the female builds most of the construction in low trees, in a bush or a cactus about 2 1/2 feet off the ground. Their diet varies from insects, spiders, lizards, snakes, small birds to small mice.  Scanning for prey as they walk rapidly, they ascend on their target with great gusto, and may jump in the air to catch an insect!  After capturing a small rodent, they will deftly smash the head against a rock and swallow it whole, many times its prey left hanging out of its mouth while being digested!   Their lifespan is 7 to 8 years, a long time considering that their predators are species of hawks, skunks, raccoons, cats, and yes, coyotes!
Quite the character, the greater roadrunner is important to the ecosystem by eliminating pests like mice and poisonous insects. Both predator and prey, this valuable bird helps balance our natural environment while captivating humans by their comical antics in the wild!  Recalling again the absurdly complex contraptions and elaborate plans to pursue his quarry, Wile E. Coyote never did get his Road Runner, while the latter would “beep-beep” out of grasp.
Hopefully, we can continue to conserve the habitat for this funny, unusual and special cuckoo bird!
Wildhaven Ranch is a wildlife sanctuary in the San Bernardino Mountains specializing in educating the public about one of our natural resources, wildlife, in our ecosystem. Visit it at or call for tours at (909) 337-7389.