Big Bear Mayor Obernolte Crusading Against Overregulation In 33rd District Run

(April 22) Big Bear Mayor Jay Obernolte said his campaign for California Assembly in the 33rd District is a push toward righting the state’s overregulated business climate.
Obernolte said he was prompted to seek state office “mostly because of my kids. Twenty-five years ago I started a videogame development company in my dorm room. We developed games, creating them, designing them, doing the programming, art animation and sound. We made games that are compatible with consoles such as Nintendo, Plays Station, Wi and for hand held devices, such as iPhone.  My company, FarSight Studios, now has 25 full time employees up here in Big Bear. My children have aspirations of their own and they have confided in me that they one day want to start businesses of their own, and grow them as I did, so they can have jobs, and an income for their families. But I realized that with the toxic business environment we are in, even if they work as hard as I did in the last 25 years, they would not be able to succeed because of the business environment and the overregulation in the state of California. That is why I am running. We need more business experience in Sacramento. That is what convinced me to run.”
Of the major issues facing the 33rd District, Obernolte said, “Our primary problem is economic. We need more jobs and better paying jobs. We have way too many unemployed and underemployed. People are struggling.  We need to improve the business environment in California and in the 33rd District specifically, so more businesses come here and we create jobs. We need business here. We should be creating better paying jobs rather than driving them away, which is what we are doing now.“
Obernolte said he would be able to work on the problem  “through business experience. We need people in Sacramento who know what it is like to shepherd a business thorough upturns and downturns. We need them to understand how stifling the business climate is in California. We need legislators who know what it is like to be on your knees on Thursday night praying because you do not have enough money to cover payroll on Friday. We need lawmakers who understand that businesses face a lot of issues.”
There are other issues, Obernolte said, but he maintains that “If we solve the economic problems, a lot of the other difficulties will be eliminated.”
Turning to the challenges to the state beyond the limited confines of the 33rd District, Obernolte said the major focus, “on the state level, should be preserving Proposition 13. I am appalled there have been recent attempts to chip away at the taxpayer protection provisions of Proposition 13. I find particularly galling the way we are attempting to modify Proposition 13 to increase the tax on business property. We are sending a message to businesses that they are no longer welcome in California. What I would like us to do is stand firm and protect Proposition 13.”
Proposition 13 was an amendment of the Constitution of California passed by voters and enacted in  1978 that  decreased property taxes by assessing property values at their 1975 value and restricting annual increases of assessed value of real property to an inflation factor, not to exceed 2 percent per year.
With regard to other major state issues, Obernolte said, “We need a meaningful rainy day fund to protect the state against further economic downturns. I think the governor and legislature are being irresponsible with the current surplus. We cannot rely on deficit spending. We need to close the budget deficit and when the opportunity to do so presents itself we should  pay down the debt rather than spend it on programs.”
A Republican, Obernolte said he recognizes the disadvantage his party faces in the overwhelmingly Democratic state, but expressed a belief that a sober assessment of the means available to fiscal conservatives can be the basis for formulating an effective strategy for effectuating change.
“It is clear that no matter who is elected, no one will become master of the universe once they go to Sacramento,” Obernolte said. “I find it troubling that others in this race are making promises and commitments about what they will do that they will not be able to keep.  To succeed, it will take patience and perseverance, someone who over the years in office will gain the needed seniority and respect to deal with the problems facing the state. Solving the problems for the people in the 33rd District is going to require establishing relationships in Sacramento. It will entail more than just voting. It will require planning, patience, cultivating relationships and respect, perseverance, experience and execution. “
Obernolte said he believes he possesses the requisite traits to be the most effective representative of the constituents in the 33rd District.
“I have by far the most business experience,” he said. “I am in the best position to fight against the overregulation of business that is stifling the economy of our state. As a two term mayor of Big Bear, I have the legislative experience to go into an environment where I am a member of minority party and still get things done for my constituents.”
A graduate of Edison Computech High School in Fresno where he was valedictorian, Obernolte attended Cal Tech, obtaining a Bachelor’s degree in engineering and applied science. He then obtained his master’s degree in computer science from UCLA. He is married with two sons. Prior to  his elected service on the Big Bear City Council, he was a member of the board of the Big Bear City Airport District. He has been endorsed by the Republican Central Committee, the San Bernardino County Young Republicans and the National Tax Limitation Committee.

Four City Elders Counsel Upland To Dispense With Pension Liability

Four Upland residents with extensive financial management and business management experience have called upon the Upland City Council to move ahead with city employee pension reform and workforce reductions.
All four expressed the view that if the city does not make meaningful, substantial and immediate inroads on the amount of money it is shelling out to cover the cost of employing nonproductive personnel as well as the pensions of workers no longer employed by the city, it will in the next three to four years be forced to declare bankruptcy.
Bob Nelson, a certified public accountant and former chief financial officer for Star Medical who has taught cost and management accounting at Chaffey College, was chosen as a member of the city of Upland’s financial advisory task force last fall.  At that time he warned of the city’s growing unfunded pension liability and called for various steps to redress the situation, including imposing a hiring freeze on city staff, which he said would prevent the city from incurring any further future pensioners while efforts to rein in pension costs are ongoing. The full task force, however, rejected that suggestion.
This week, on April 14, Nelson came before the city council, using the four minutes allotted to anyone wishing to speak on items of civic import during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Nelson noted that the council was scheduled, later that evening, to approve a 19.2 percent sewer rate increase after setting in motion last month a 22 percent water rate increase. He noted that the city manager has signaled his intent to set aside a reserve fund equal to 28 percent of the city’s $39.6 million general fund.
While Nelson said the effort to set aside reserves was laudable, he expressed skepticism that the money to fill that reserve fund could be produced.
“Where is this cash cow coming from?” he asked. “We have this sewer rate increase, then water rate increases. Next, you will be considering a sales tax increase of one half of one percent. Where does it stop?”
Nelson warned that any new revenues the city takes in will be immediately eaten up by increased pension costs as more city employees retire.
“The city’s deficit is driven in large part by its pension obligation,” he told the Sentinel after the meeting. “The city needs to transition its pension system from one that provides defined benefits to one based on employee contributions. The present system is a house of cards that is going to collapse. The city is already dangerously close to a death spiral. If something is not done very rapidly, the only way out will be bankruptcy.”
At the April 14 meeting, Warren Bowers, who has lived in Upland for over 40 years and previously was the director of manufacturing engineering with an aerospace company and as such was responsible for transitioning the company’s projects from the engineering phase to the manufacturing phase and for and all of the company’s manufacturing start-up budgets, told the city council  he did not believe its management team had come to terms with the immensity of the financial tidal wave that is about to hit the city as a consequence  of mushrooming pension costs and that management does not have the will to stanch the future red ink by insisting that the generous pensions provided to city employees in the past be cut back or rescinded. “I know we have a financial crisis,” Bauer said. “I think we also have a management crisis. By management crisis, I mean we have a cultural problem in top management that runs the day-to-day operations of this city. I have a distinct impression they are not active, I should say proactive, in looking at all of the cost reduction options. I do not think they are motivated. Something has to be done about it. If that means you as a council must change top management, that is what you should do. We can’t have this same culture. We can’t have a rubber stamp. We can’t increase taxes. If you aren’t willing to make the hard calls, then let someone who is willing to do it take your seat.”
Bauer was followed by Larry Kinley, a 20-year Upland resident who worked for Bank of America for 42 years, the last 15 of which he was a manager in the problem loan administration dealing with borrowers with financial difficulties.
“The last CPA audit stated the city has suffered substantial recurring losses that raise substantial doubt about the city’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Kinley said. “Yet, when the CPA firm was here in person to review their report, no one person asked, ‘What is the cause of the recurring losses?’”
Kinley noted that when the CPA audit was passed along to the mayor and council by the city manager and the city’s administrative services director, the transmittal letter made no mention of the dire financial straits the city finds itself in. “The cover letter completely ignored the statement about the city’s ability to continue as a going concern,” Kinley said. “This is akin to presenting a financial statement to your bank listing your assets but failing to list the liabilities.  How in the world do you tolerate biased and slanted communications from your subordinates?”
Kinley requested that the council come face-to-face with its pension crisis publicly by including an agenda item for its April 28 meeting “so that the citizens can hear from the city council what its members perceive as the cause of the city’s problem and their ideas for a permanent correction.” Kinley said he wanted the council to “freely express their thoughts because this will help the citizens decide the competency level of those in office and who to vote for in the next election.”
Less than a week before Monday’s meeting, another city resident, Bill Cary, who is a processing account manager with Tetra Pak Incorporated, on April 9 sent a letter to the mayor and city council in which he expressed grave concern about city finances.
“As Upland continues to move ever so much closer to bankruptcy, it is not very evident to the citizens of Upland what you are doing to stem the tide. Someone came up with the less than brilliant idea to raise the city sales tax to cover the shortfall in revenue. This is not getting to the root of the problem and you are once again asking the citizens of Upland to pay for the mistakes that our managing city council, be it past or present, created on their own. We put our faith in you to manage and make the tough decisions. Now it’s time to do just that.  Before you can ask the citizens to bail you out, it would be best to ensure you have our house in order and can make the tough choices if necessary.  The list of total compensation from police, fire and city top staff amounts to over $18 million. Police and fire alone accounted for over $15 million of this total. In the private sector, if we run into difficult times, we have been asked to take a cut in pay and even though we didn’t like it, we knew it was the only way to preserve our jobs for the future.”
Cary continued, “If police, fire and city staff were to take a 10 percent cut in total compensation it would provide almost $2 million in savings. I know the police and fire unions will scream bloody murder and say they have already given too much. These groups need to understand that they are not helping to come to a solution because they are the problem. By running a search of salaries from other cities in California, as well as large cities throughout the country, it is evident that Upland pays a lot more than all cities listed.”
Cary said excessive pay to city employees in Upland was not limited to the police and fire departments.
“We have a deputy public works director, Acquanetta Warren, who makes $163,000 a year total compensation and she is the mayor of Fontana. Where is her allegiance directed to? Was there no one in the city of Upland who could handle the job? And why is her salary that high? For that matter, why does the public works director make $230,000 a year? It seems to me that we don’t have the money to fix or repair our streets and sidewalks.  We really don’t need either of these two individuals, at least not at these salaries. Almost $400,000 for two managers whose department doesn’t have any money to do anything is ludicrous.”
Cary concluded, “I work for a privately held company and my compensation is based on how well I do. I am paid on a commission basis and if we don’t sell we don’t get paid. If we continue to not sell we will be replaced.  When someone reduces your pay based on the company’s performance, you learn real quick how to make the tough decisions.”
In 2013-2014 the city’s pension costs stand at $6.2 million. The most reliable figures currently available show the city will incur an additional $1.5 million in pension costs next year, 2014-15, escalating to $7.7 million the annual amount city pays  into the public employees’ retirement system.

Victorville In For Fight With Golf Legend Billy Casper

The city of Victorville is on the brink of adding golfing legend Billy Casper and his corporation to its long and impressive list of legal adversaries.
In 2010, the city entered into an agreement with Billy Casper Golf to operate the Green Tree Golf Course, a major amenity in Victorville with a storied history stretching back three-quarters of a century. On its links and in its clubhouse, politicians, businessman, developers and officials discussed and even closed deals relating to major developments in the Victor Valley.
Nearly four years after Billy Casper Golf took on responsibility for the landmark, however, city officials have not seen it restored to the status of past grandeur they had envisaged.
On March 17, city officials informed the corporation that the golf course has remained in operation within the strictures of the agreed-upon annual budget and that the course has not been maintained “in reasonably good condition.”
Thus, the city said, Billy Casper Golf is “in default.
Billy Casper Golf Senior Vice President Bill Rehanek contests the city’s claim, maintaining the golf course to be in  “far better condition today than it was at the inception of our contract in June 2010.”
Casper, now 82, attended  the University of Notre Dame on a golf scholarship and  had 51 PGA Tour wins in his career, the first of which came in 1956. He is ranked seventh among golfers all time in terms of tournament wins. He was a member of the United States team in the Ryder Cup eight times, and has scored the most points in the Ryder Cup by an American player. He is widely recognized as the best putter of his era. He won at least one PGA Tour event for 16 straight seasons, from 1956 to 1971 inclusive.
On the senior circuit, Casper earned nine Senior PGA Tour victories.
Billy Casper Golf is the second largest operator of golf courses in the United States, and currently manages more than 140 golf facilities.
The city is currently involved in more than two dozen lawsuits and legal actions, including one in which it is contesting civil charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it defrauded investors in its issuance of bonds for improvements at Southern California Logistics Airport.

Abuse Of Prisoners At County Detention Facilities Sparks FBI Civil Rights Probe

(April 16)   The action of several employees at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga and Adelanto Detention Facility in the High Desert is the focus of an investigation by the FBI.
The detention center has been for two decades and is currently the largest jail in terms of inmate population maintained by the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department. The just completed Adelanto Detention Facility, wings of which were recently put into operation, will eventually house a comparable number of inmates as West Valley.
Based upon statements by the sheriff’s department and FBI spokeswoman Laura Eimiller, the FBI has interested itself in longstanding accusations of civil rights violations of prisoners at the center.
So far, the Sentinel has learned, the actions of 16 sheriff’s department employees or former employees are under scrutiny. Three have been terminated. One resigned under threat of termination.
The FBI initially undertook its investigation after receiving what was characterized as “highly credible” information that in March three deputies had participated in an incident in which inmates were handcuffed or shackled to a fence and then shocked with taser stun guns or otherwise physically assaulted.
At least one of those involved in the beating, the Sentinel is told, was a recent graduate of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Academy.
Three deputies working at the facility in the middle of their work shift two weeks ago were, in the words of one source, “walked off” the detention center grounds in handcuffs by federal agents and then subjected to an interrogation.
At least two of those deputies have recounted past incidents of treatment of inmates similar to the early March handcuffed stunnings that piqued the FBI’s interest, implicating several of their colleagues. In addition, accusations have surfaced that guards used a chemical mace on inmates in their cells at the Adelanto Detention Facility.
The sheriff’s department did not go beyond acknowledging that an investigation was under way with regard to a single incident in March of this year and that three deputies had been terminated. It made no mention of the fourth deputy who had resigned. While a spokesman for the sheriff’s department implied the department was itself conducting the investigation, Eimiller said the sheriff’s department was acting in the capacity of a cooperating agency.
There have been consistent recurrent reports relating to escalating violence, including inmate-on inmate, inmate-on-deputy and deputy abuse of prisoners at West Valley since late 2012. The sheriff’s office does not catalog a report on discipline or use of force against inmates but does collate statistics on inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-deputy incidents. According to the department, in the 18 months after Assembly Bill 109 and Assembly Bill 117 went into effect in October 2011, assaults by inmates against inmates rose 50 percent and assaults by inmates on jail staff doubled. Assembly Bill 109 and Assembly Bill 117, which constitute the legislative basis for California’s so-called prison realignment, mandated the release of prisoners from the state’s 33 prisons so that by June 27, 2013 those facilities were at no more than 137.5 percent of their design capacity. The realignment was intended to bring the state into compliance with an order by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In reducing the state’s prison population, officials in many cases sent prisoners into county facilities. That has resulted, law enforcement officials say, in increasing the number of violent and hardened criminals into the local jail population.

Ambrozic Stakes Assembly Run On Medical Reform Platform

(April 15)  Steeped as Michelle Ambrozic is professionally in the health care industry, it is not surprising that she considers  health care as a major issue facing both the 33rd Assembly District and the entire state of California in her campaign for the Assembly.
“I am a health insurance broker dealing with health care on a daily basis, so I am seeing a lot of people suffer from the consequences of Obamacare [i.e., the Federal Affordable Care Act],” Ambrozic said. “I want to tackle the issue of access to health care within the district. We have hospitals going bankrupt. Seven out of ten people are unable to pay for health care insurance or are now losing the health care insurance they had before Obamacare was put into place.”
Ambrozic continued, “Specifically I see two areas with regard to the health care issue, accessibility and cost. With regard to accessibility, for many people it is becoming very difficult to see a doctor or a specialist. You can have a several hour-long wait in line. That issue is directly related to the second issue. There is a reason doctors don’t come here and there is a reason doctor’s are leaving. The inability to see a doctor is the second part of that cycle.  Employers are laying people off and those people are losing their health insurance, for themselves and their families. There are not enough people with wealth or private health insurance, particularly in Southern California, where taxes and regulation are so high. Doctors do not want to set up businesses in California’s rural areas. Medicare and Medi-Cal do not offer enough in the way of payments to make up the difference.”
Ambrozic said she had a formula that would go a long way toward fixing the problem.
“I consider the 33rd District to be a rural area,” she said. “I believe what we need to do is create in California’s rural areas something similar to California’s enterprise zones, areas that will entice doctors to operate here. We need to alleviate the tax and regulatory burdens imposed on doctors and health care providers in the form of tax relief in every rural portion of the state,” she said. “One example is the exacting seismic construction regulations put in place on medical centers and doctor’s offices and hospitals. In rural areas this is a particularly heavy burden. One cannot afford such construction requirements with this economy and this has discouraged doctors from coming into those areas and hospitals from being constructed. I would propose a moratorium on this level of regulation to give hospitals the time and opportunity to operate in these areas. The other major problem involving an intolerable burden placed upon the medical community by government is that under our government-run medical programs doctors and hospitals have to wait up to 18 months to get reimbursed for the care and services they have delivered. This is on top of the regulatory burden and the cuts in rates insurance companies are paying for those services, the escalating rates doctors must pay for their liability insurance. Doctors are increasingly reluctant to accept new Medicare patients at the same time that thousands and thousands of low income Medicare patients are coming along. They are not willing to accept new Medicare and Medi-Cal patents because they are not being paid adequately. It is not financially feasible for them to accept these new patients. We need to get money to expand Medicare and Medi-Cal. We need to make sure our state medical reimbursement rates are what they should be. We need to set up a program so that if after graduating from medical school and being licensed, primary care physicians can commit to a rural area for up to six years and have their medical school debt forgiven. If they stay that long they will build a relationship with their patents. This will give them longevity. This is already being done in several other states. Some states implement this through state funding for education. We could do that in California. My preference would be that we have that money appropriated from the California Dream Act, which is utilizing taxpayer money to further the education of illegal aliens and people who are not citizens of our state. I would rather see that funding go toward the education of Californians and California doctors.  I think that money should be redirected to covering the medical school debt of doctors willing to operate in what are considered by those working in the medical profession to be the least desirable areas of our state.  The biggest issue with this district and the entire area of San Bernardino County is that we have one of highest primary care deficits in the nation. We need to invite doctors to come here and get established in the rural parts of this district. What I would propose legislatively is that the program apply to rural areas of the state. There are other rural areas of the state facing the same issue. Their representatives in Sacramento and on their respective county boards would be very supportive of a program such as this. With Medi-Cal cuts, doctors are no longer taking Medi-Cal patients. What happens when you can’t find a doctor? You go to the hospital emergency room. So now hospitals have severe overcrowding issues. I heard recently that one patent who had gone to St. Mary’s Hospital in Apple Valley for a legitimate emergency had a wait time of 20 hours. Hospitals like St. Mary’s are providing more treatment but most of those treated do not pay their bills. We have fewer and fewer doctors participating. We need a program to bring them here and keep them here. They can’t stay in business with California’s regulatory and tax structure. To keep them from leaving we need to relieve them of taxes. That doesn’t mean the state will lose something because that is already income we are not going to have. We need to relieve the overhead costs for them and give them the opportunity to stay in business.”
Abrozic said she believes she merits the votes of those living in the 33rd District. “Looking at my opponents, I would call myself the most conservative person in this race,” she said. “I have the most experience in helping people. I work with business owners every day and I see why it is so hard to keep their employees employed and provided with health insurance. In addition to my health insurance brokerage, I work with my husband in running a construction company. I know a lot of business owners are facing the same difficulties we are. That is what sets me aside from the other candidates. I know one of the others owns a construction company. Another has a video game business. I commend them for owning and running a business but I do not believe their experience gives them a higher level of experience to work legislatively. I help people every day who are in business and trying to function under this burden of taxation and overregulation. Since we are so outnumbered in Sacramento, even if I am not successful in getting the Democrats to latch onto what I am proposing legislatively, I can be effective at the level of the district office by assisting residents with resources to get information and get someone to help them with access to health care and other services. I believe I will be more resourceful than the other candidates. I am a conservative who believes in having women in government, lowering taxes and getting things started at the local lever rather than the federal or even state level. If the people of the district vote for me they will have someone who puts the needs of this district first. I will  help them have their voices heard. I will stand for them and fight for them in Sacramento.”
Born in Miami, Florida, Ambrozic has lived in California since she was a toddler. She graduated from Beverly Hills High School and graduated from the University of Arizona with a degree in communications. She is married with three children.

Reddy Putting Up $40 Million To Found Medical School Near ARMC In Colton

(April 16)  Dr. Prem Reddy and the medical foundation he created and runs will put up $40 million to create a medical school in Colton.
Reddy, who is providing the lion’s share of the financial backing for the undertaking, is one of the four members of the just created board of the California University of Science and Medicine, to be known as CalMed. The other three board members are Dr. Dev GnanaDev, the chief of surgery and former medical director at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton;  Albert Karnig, former president of Cal State San Bernardino; and Dustin Corcoran, chief executive officer of the California Medical Association.
The board is hopeful that CalMed could achieve accreditation from the American Medical Association to enroll its first 50 students and begin classes as early as 2016. The institution would be affiliated with San Bernardino County’s public hospital, the Arrowhead Regional Medical Center in Colton. The CalMed campus would be located less than a half mile from the county hospital.
Cal Med has opened a dialog with the successor agency to the city of Colton’s former redevelopment agency, which owns 21.5 acres at the corner of West Valley Boulevard and North Meridian Avenue. If the purchase can be arranged and the medical school established, medical students would be able to do many of their clinical rotations at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center.
“This is an exciting and much-needed opportunity for medical students in the Inland Empire and California,” GnanaDev said. “Because of many factors, including the extremely limited medical school spots in our state and severe shortage of doctors, we believe this project will have a significant positive impact on the economy, education and health for many decades.”

Court Grants Twentynine Palms Writ In Battle With State Over RDA Funds

(April 17) TWENTYNINE PALMS—The Sacramento Superior Court has granted the city of Twentynine Palms a writ of mandate in its ongoing battle with the California Department of Finance in its effort to recover bond proceeds the state insisted the city must surrender to it as a consequence of the 2011 shuttering of the Twentynine Palms Redevelopment Agency.
Those bonds were issued in conjunction with the city’s effort to rejuvenate downtown Twentynine Palms as part of Project Phoenix, which was to include a community center, a 250-seat theater, classrooms, a civic plaza, a park, a paseo, residential units, a wastewater treatment plant, and improvements to the downtown fire station. The last of the bonds were issued three months before Assembly Bills X1 26 and X1 27 passed and went into effect.
Passed by the state legislature three years ago at the behest of Governor Jerry Brown, Assembly Bills XI 26 and XI 27 closed out all municipal and county redevelopment efforts statewide. A coalition of cities fought the law, but the state Supreme Court upheld the measure. While 317 of the state’s 482 incorporated cities went along with the new law without question and shut down their redevelopment agencies, 165 cities have resisted the state on the issue. That resistance ranged  from registering relatively mild protests to filing lawsuits against the state and its Department of Finance, which is the entity designated under the law to make a determination with regard to how the money that was in the possession of the former redevelopment agencies is to be disbursed.
Twentynine Palms, led by its city attorney A. Patrick Muñoz of the law firm Ruttan & Tucker, has been the most aggressive of San Bernardino County’s 24 cities in disputing the state’s action in confiscating redevelopment money and then redistributing it to other local taxing agencies or using it for education or public safety purposes.
At stake in the matter for Twentynine Palms, a city of 25,048 in San Bernardino County’s Mojave Desert outback, are two tax allocation bonds issued for a total of $8.5 million. Those bonds were intended to defray the cost of Project Phoenix.
Based on an analysis by Muñoz, the Twentynine Palms City Council publicly asserted that that AB X1 26 and AB X1 27 are trumped by federal securities regulations, meaning the money the Twentynine Palms Redevelopment Agency bonded for in 2011 must be utilized only for the purpose that bondholders were told the money would be applied toward.
The city followed Muñoz’s recommendation to have the successor agency to the redevelopment agency lay claim to the redevelopment money and declare its intent to proceed with Project Phoenix.  AB X1 26 and AB X1 27 provided for the creation of locally based oversight boards to direct the discharging of remaining redevelopment money.  In  May 2012, Muñoz drafted a contract between the successor agency and the city by which the  successor agency turned over the bond spending authority to the city with a directive that it go toward Project Phoenix. On a 4-1 vote on May 22, 2012 the city council voted unanimously to transfer the seven-member oversight board’s duties and obligations to administer the bond proceeds to “the city in its capacity as a municipal corporation.”
To reinforce that action, on February 26, 2013, the city council authorized Muñoz to file litigation against the Department of Finance so the city could move forward with the expenditure of the bond proceeds. Muñoz did so in April 2013. The city in that litigation took the position that the bond documents are contracts that created specific obligations between the city, as the issuer, and the bond purchasers, and as such are enforceable obligations such that the state cannot interfere with them. Moreover, according to Muñoz, the city would be violating IRS and SEC regulations as well as putting the tax exempt status of the bonds in jeopardy if it does not spend the money for the purpose for which the bonds were issued.
AB X1 26 and AB X1 27 contained a provision requiring any municipalities that contested the law to do so in Sacramento Superior Court.  The California Department of Finance is being represented by the California Attorney General’s Office’s civil division in the case. On December 23, the California Attorney General’s Office laid out an answer to Twentynine Palms’ legal action preparatory to an upcoming January 24 hearing on the matter.
According to deputy attorney general Michael Witmer, $12 million of the tax allocation bonds issued by the city – offered to bondholders in March 2011 – while earmarked for Project Phoenix, contained no concomitant contracts to build anything or a defined plan of how the bond proceeds were to be expended.
Witmer maintains the assertion by Muñoz and a consultant working for the city in the capacity of community development director, Matt McCleary, that Project Phoenix disbursements could be placed on the phased out redevelopment agency’s recognized obligations payment schedules runs contrary to instructions from the California Department of Finance that the project was not to be listed on the payment schedule.
The writ and documents filed in conjunction with it contest that assertion.

Henry Advocates Mutual Accommodation In 40th Assembly District Run

(April 14)     San  Bernardino Community College Board Member Katy Henry said she is seeking election in the 40th Assembly District to spur economic growth in her district and throughout the state by facilitating “the sustainable growth of small businesses” and to improve the quality of childhood education and ensure high school graduates have access to affordable quality instruction at public universities and college.
“We have been able to do a lot of things at the community college level,” she said. “There is so much more that needs to take place with education. We also have needs with infrastructure and water availability throughout the state. There are a number of areas beyond the scope of the board for the community college where I can serve.”
Henry, a Democrat, decried the tenor of partisan politics.
“There is a need for a more balanced approach because there is too much divisiveness,” she said. “In our political and governmental discussions it is either one way or the other. There is not much of an in-between stage. If we continue with these rigid position we are not going anywhere. We are not moving forward. I believe in a more collaborative approach. I have taught in an on-line environment where personality is taken out of the equation. It is all about give and take and understanding and helping others. In that environment individuals look at things in a different perspective. We need that approach in the political arena. In the middle of a political debate, people are looking at things in a certain way and the others don’t understand why they see it that way.  We have to open each other’s minds. We have to broaden people’s horizons. Everything cannot be a flashpoint. Everything in our current political dialogue is about inciting people’s anger. We have to bring people to a different way of thinking. Our effort has to be about being collaborative and building coalitions.”
Henry continued, “I think one of the issues that faces us on a statewide level but also exists in the 40th is education.  Education flows into different things – economic growth, diversity of business, creating jobs. Our work is not just about creating jobs. We need a diversity of business. We have to create a diversity of work opportunities for individuals who are getting educated.  We do not now necessarily educate our students into programs that offer them assurance of employment. There are only a certain number of jobs out there and only a certain number of types of jobs. We have jobs that are technology related. We have jobs that are not particularly technology-dependent. We have jobs in the hospitality field. There is land here that is under-utilized. We could interest corporations and employers to locate here if we had the infrastructure in place to support their business operations. Infrastructure could create opportunities for our educated students. We can’t afford to educate students here and then have them go elsewhere to go to work.  They are taking on student debt and investing money in their future and for them to complete their educations and then not be able to get a job in their field here is a tremendous mismanagement of our assets and resources and priorities. There are currently only a limited number of local jobs in the fields that many of our students are training in. We need to expand that job market locally. There is an education gap in who can afford an education and unfortunately that spread exists along racial and ethnic lines.”
Henry said there are already programs and institutions in place that should be expanded or changed to meet the demands of the community.
“We have some really good programs in the inland empire, transitional programs between high school and community colleges and even universities,” she said. “Too many students in high school do not know what it takes to go to college. That gap is increasing. We have to improve those pathways. Economic growth is often about infrastructure: roads, public safety, sewer treatment systems. San Bernardino has an aging sewer system. If we impose taxes, we are imposing taxes upon the already taxed, but if that tax creates something that allows companies to set up here or flourish and make a profit off that, people will realize the benefits and accept the tax, even if they don’t see too much of a return on it right away. It just takes time.”
With regard to the statewide issue of water usage, she said, “We can’t pit farmers against the fishing industry. If too much water is taken from the delta, the water gets warm  and the water goes down and the smelt can’t live in that environment. There are no pat answers. That issue is  too complex for pat answers. We need to have good water management practices. We have to create a way in which to turn gray water into potable water.   The north and south don’t need to refight the Civil War in California. We need to figure out a new way of things between northern and southern California. We need serious conservation. Whole neighborhoods should convert to drought-resistant landscaping. When I was in Northern California, I went through water rationing in the 70s. Water rationing is what you do when you have gone beyond the possibility of conservation. It comes when you get into the shower when the water is still cold.”
Henry said she was not interested in criticizing the others in the race.
“I run my own campaign,” she said. “I do not know the platforms of other candidates.”
She called for an evaluation of the interests of the district, issue by issue, rather than by party affiliation.
“In my district, the voter identification and party affiliation ratio is 37 to 42 in favor of the Democrats. Only one side will win. Either 37 percent are not going to have a voice or 42 percent won’t have a voice. I think no matter who wins, we need to go out into the community to meet people and survey and take the pulse of the community, using field reps to see how people feel about what is going on up in Sacramento. We need to be collaborative across party lines.”
A native Northern Californian, Henry graduated from Santa Rosa High School and obtained her AA degree from the Travis Air Force Base campus of Southern Illinois University in workforce education and development. She has a master’s degree in organization development and PhD in human and organizational techniques from the Fielding Institute. She has been working as an on-line instructor since 2001 and owns a consultancy that specializes in corporation interventional strategy. She is unmarried.

GOP’s Downing Wants To Make History As Youngest Bi-Racial Congressman

(April 14) Ryan Downing, who was the last candidate to emerge in the race to succeed Gary Miller as Congressman in the 31st District, is widely seen as the spoiler in the race.
Two years ago, Miller, a Republican whose former 41st  Congressional District in southwestern San Bernardino County, Northeastern Orange County and Southeastern Los Angeles County was redistricted into other districts occupied by fellow Republicans, chose to run in the 31st District, which lies within San Bernardino County and featured a 41 to 33 percent registration advantage favoring the Democratic Party. Despite that, Miller benefited from the open primaries California reinstated that year. Miller found himself competing against one other Republican, Bob Dutton, while the Democrats fielded four candidates – Pet Aguilar, Justin Kim, Rita Ramirez Dean and Renea Wickman. Simple mathematics redounded to his favor as he and Dutton divided the Republican vote two ways, while the slightly larger Democratic vote was divided four ways. Miller and Dutton proved the two top vote-getters in the June primary race and then Miller defeated his fellow Republican in November 2012.
This year, Miller opted not to run again. That brought two Republicans into the race – Lesli Gooch, who was a member of Miller’s staff, and Paul Chabot, who had previously lost out in a narrow race for state assembly in 2010. Republicans were heartened to learn that the Democrats appeared fated to a replay of the series of events that sent a Republican to Washington, D.C. to represent the Democratic-leaning 31st District two years ago. Again, four Democrats – Pete Aguilar, Joe Baca, Eloise Gomez Reyes and Danny Tillman – qualified their candidacies this year. Déjà vu seemed possible, with Gooch and Chabot potentially being able to outpoll their Democratic rivals in June to force a run-off between two members of the GOP in November.
That hopeful scenario for the Republicans was dealt a setback, however, when Downing, a Republican who lives outside the district, jumped into the race at the last minute.
Downing lives in Whittier, well outside the 31st District, which stretches eastward across San Bernardino County through a large portion of Fontana, Rialto, Colton, San Bernardino and Redlands. Members of Congress, however, need not live in the district they represent but must merely be a resident of the state in which the district is located.
Downing rejected suggestions that he is looking to be a spoiler in the race or was somehow serving as a stalking horse on the part of the Democrats to cripple Chabot and Gooch and harm their elective chances.
Rather, he said, he was earnestly seeking the office out of a sincere desire to reassert basic American principles.
“I want to try to do something by working with my constituents to help reestablish and restore the value of the Constitution,” he said. “We have had our First and Second Amendment rights trampled on. We are losing our right to free speech. Honest citizens are no longer able to carry weapons to protect themselves from criminals. The government is telling people they have to buy health care. Those are all contrary to our constitutional rights.”
As he moved down the list of issues he believes are most germane to the interests of the district voters and residents, Downing sounded like a bona fide Republican. “Changing and improving education, reducing taxation,  and jobcreation is what I stand for,” he said. “The 31st District is stagnating economically. There are no jobs here. To survive, everyone needs to bring in income. People can’t live on a $500 monthly county handout. We need to work to make ourselves competitive. We need to create free market conditions. We need perfect competition, fair competition.”
Downing said his solution to the 31st District’s malaise is “First and foremost we need a representative to go to companies and tell them we will do whatever it takes to have you put your factories in San Bernardino County and locate your warehouses here. Then we should give them incentives in the form of tax breaks to make good on those pledges.”
Schools are in need of drastic reform, Downing said.  “We need to tear down the education system and rebuild a system designed to actually teach. The community needs to hold its teachers accountable. Our students are near the bottom percentile in worldwide testing. We should have standards and goals that are strictly enforced. The people who are educating and rearing our next generation should be getting psychological evaluations.”
While he said universal medical care availability is a laudable goal, he said the Affordable Care Act was a misnomer and that there were better methods for achieving the goal of making health care available to everyone.
“Something needs to be done about Obamacare,” he said. “It does not stick to the Constitution and it is too expensive. My wife makes about $3,000 per month at her job. Parking is $400 per month. With rent and health care and taxes, her entire paycheck is gone. We need more doctors. We need to educate more doctors.  In Germany, if you want to be a doctor, they send you to school to become a doctor.”
He likened being a Congressman to two things: “Being a congressman is serving as a simple public servant. Being a congressman is like being a circus performer juggling many different hats. I believe I deserve to be elected because I am like the people in the 31st District. I am a common man. I believe the job of a congressman is to be a simple civil servant. You can call me on my personal cell phone. I will be every bit as approachable as the watch commander at the police department or the fire marshal. I will put my constituents first. I look forward to people hearing what I have to say and then giving me their yea or nay. I will be a person who does what the Constitution says. Congress should not be out of touch with the citizens. I will be in the field meeting people. People will be able to come to me and I will come to them. You will be able to catch me out in front of WalMart meeting people. I may not agree with everyone and I know others will have differences with me. But I will find a meeting point where we can agree to find some common ground. I can speak in human language. I can speak for the common man. I can speak for the common human good. That is what distinguishes me from the other candidates. I offer hope. Not Obama hope, real hope.”
Downing bristled at the suggestions of some of his opponents that he was a carpetbagger, who lived outside of the district and was illegitimately seeking to become the leader of a constituency which he was not truly a part of.
“I am from Whittier,” he said. “So what does that mean? Are they saying I should be considered a carpetbagger? That is not what I am. I do happen to live in Whittier. I have a business that takes me all over the area, particularly into San Bernardino County. I am familiar with Whittier and the people and business owners there are very familiar with me. Whittier is a strong community. The community dictates to the politicians there. The politicians do not dictate to the citizens. I chose to run in San Bernardino County because I believe I can bring to it what exists in Whittier. I could have run in Whittier where more people know me and where I might even have had a better chance. I think my talents and what I have to offer will do more good in San Bernardino County. I did live in Fontana. I went to Fontana High School. I worked at the discount market in Rialto. When I was there San Bernardino was still an All American City. My aunt still lives there. I was away for a while and when I came back, I could not believe what happened to the place.  I don’t know how government could let that happen. San Bernardino has a lot of issues but it is not entirely crippled from being something good again. Redlands and Rancho Cucamonga still offer strong communities and business districts. People who know me know that I chose to jump into a race to run against six seasoned people because I really believe people have a choice to make, to vote for a candidate that will do the most he can to carry them up the mountain while he is getting his back whipped. If I lose, I will respect what the constituents say.”
Downing said he wanted the voters in the 31st District to know that he believes that “Congress should stick to the law of the land, which is the Constitution. We have the right to land, liberty and freedom. We left Britain because the British King George was taxing us as colonists unfairly and we had become a slave to the monarchy. We are pretty much repeating that all over in America today.”
Downing, who at the age of 25 is the minimum age required to be a member of the House of Representatives, said the voters in the 31st District should avail themselves of “the opportunity to elect the youngest bi-racial candidate for Congress in U.S. History. I will work tirelessly to represent the district and return it to All-American standing. I call upon the district’s residents to really research who they are voting for.”
Born in Monterey Park, Downing attended Cal State Northridge, where he studied cinema, television arts and philosophy. He owns political consulting and signature gathering business. Married, he has two children.