Third Student Suicide In Four Months At Oro Grande Charter School

(May 22) There has been a rash of suicides among students enrolled at Riverside Preparatory School  in the Oro Grande School District.
The school is an accelerated learning facility, with a strong emphasis on academics. Three students at the school have taken their own lives since February. After the death of the second student in February, there was widespread speculation about the cause, including concerns that the academic rigors and demands on the school’s students had resulted in morbid depression among some members of the student body.
The latest death occurred sometime late on May 21. Sheriff’s deputies in the early morning of May 21 responding to a call found the body of a 13-year-old male who had apparently committed suicide. Later on May 22, it was confirmed that he was a student at Riverside Preparatory School. The identity of the deceased had not been released by press time.
His death follows that of 15-year-old Ashley Payton, of Victorville in early February, and that of  Christopher Shutter, 16, later that month.
Speculation of a suicide pact among some of the school’s students ensued, triggering a sheriff’s department investigation in which cell phones belonging to several students were confiscated by detectives, who then evaluated the call history of the students, including determining if they had contact with the deceased, as well as evaluating the contents of text messages that had been sent over the devices.
Subsequently, public statements by Payton and Shutter’s parents indicated that Payton’s motivation likely stemmed from bullying she was being subjected to by her peers and that Shutter’s action was precipitated by grief he was experiencing.
Riverside Prep is a publicly funded charter school of Oro Grande School District featuring accelerated learning programs for all grade levels. Any student living within the state of California is eligible to attend Riverside Prep, but most of its students live within the communities of Oro Grande, Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia and Adelanto.  Enrollment is done by means of a lottery of applicants, with far more applicants than classroom seats available.
Riverside Prep entails elementary, middle school and a high school. The elementary school is located on 3rd Street in Oro Grande and is comprised of six classrooms per grade level. The middle school is located on a campus off the National Trails Highway about three blocks away from the elementary school. The High School is adjacent to the middle school.
There has also been speculation that the sheer academic intensity of the school may have been a contributory factor in the deaths.
According to the school’s website, “Our school is committed to the growth and positive development of students through an experimental learning approach that strives to engage the student, enlighten the mind and empower the future. We want our students to be the ‘Best’ without reservation or qualified restrictions. We seek to promote a diverse, challenging and supportive environment of firmly grounded, tolerant, respectful, accountable and academically motivated students.”
A sense of how intensified the instruction regimen at the school is can be gleaned from the school’s mission and vision statement, also posted on the website, which is “Good enough is not good enough; Excellence is our standard! Our mission is to empower every student to become a successful learner.”

Adelanto On The Treadmil To Bankruptcy

(May 22)  ADELANTO—The city of Adelanto appears to be set on an  inevitable course to become the second municipality in San Bernardino County to file for bankruptcy protection.
Two years ago, San Bernardino, the county seat and the largest city in San Bernardino County, filed for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.
And while Adelanto’s leaders are casting about for ways to keep the city of 27,139 afloat financially, there have been increasingly poignant indicators that the fiscal battle in the desert city is being lost.
Mayor Cari Thomas, city manager Jim Hart, and finance director Onyx Jones have been seeking for more than a year to formulate a strategy to redress the hemorrhaging of red ink at City Hall, but have so far been unable to do so.
As the economic downturn of 2007 continued into each succeeding year, Adelanto was as hard hit as any of the cities in the county, with the possible exceptions of San Bernardino and Grand Terrace. For five years Adelanto managed to stagger forward, but as the end of fiscal year 2012-13 approached last June, city manager Hart dispensed with any pretense that the city could truly balance its budget.  Projecting the city would end 2012-13 with a $2.6 million general fund deficit, Hart prepared an item calling for the declaration of a fiscal emergency, clearing the way for a citywide vote with regard to creating a taxing mechanism. In the meantime, the city council passed a budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year calling for spending more than what Hart knew would be available in income but provisionally balanced upon the use of reserves.  That budget projected revenue and transfers of $17,488,513 and expenditures of $17,487,446.
City officials pinned their hopes on city residents’ willingness to pass a utility tax.  A phone poll of a cross section of city residents, however, indicated that the prospect of the tax’s passage was marginal, at best. City officials had hoped to put the tax measure on the ballot this June but have since opted for shooting for a vote in November, by which time they hope to carry out an “informational campaign” to convince city residents to approve imposing the tax on themselves.
During her state of the city address in February, Thomas fired the first salvo in that effort, stating that if the tax is not approved, the city will need to consider a bankruptcy filing.
A month later, however, Thomas tempered that alarmist rhetoric, declaring that a scouring of the city’s books and review of its accounts showed that the city would remain solvent, albeit while relying to a degree on the use of reserves, through the end of fiscal year 2014-15 in June 2015.
Simultaneously, city officials are still plugging the utility tax, one that as currently proposed would entail a surcharge of 5.95 percent to 7.95 percent on residential and business utility bills.
In the meantime, the level of city services are diminishing and infrastructure maintenance, repair and construction are being neglected or outsourced. In the arena of wastewater recovery, the city joint ventured with a Costa Mesa-based company, PERC, for a $14 million expansion of its wastewater plant. That arrangement involved the use of Adelanto Public Utility Authority bond funds to finance that undertaking, though carrying the program forward became mired in problems with the shuttering of redevelopment agencies statewide in 2011-12. The city council voted in February 2012 to have PERC, a water infrastructure company that designs, constructs and operates water recycling facilities nationwide, take over the operation and maintenance of the city’s wastewater treatment facility and to design an expansion of that facility. That entailed increases in the sewer service rates paid by city residents and business operators.
Last year, Hart revived talk of outsourcing the city’s water department, again referencing PERC as the logical inheritor of the water system. Hart has calculated that the city could save money by transferring city water division employees to PERC’s payroll. This would avoid layoffs and reduce city costs. The water division employees would very likely stay at the same salary level. The downside would be that benefits to those employees would be reduced and city residents would end up paying higher water rates.
Adelanto, which formerly had its own police department, dissolved that operation in 2002 and began contracting with the sheriff’s department for law enforcement service. In entering into that contract, the city gave up the ability to internally control the cost of providing that essential service. In recent years the city has trimmed staff by  23 percent, or 19 positions, and diminished the coverage provided to city residents and businesses under its public safety service contracts as part of its attempt to remain solvent. More than fifty percent of the city’s budget is eaten up by its current contracts with the  San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department and the San Bernardino County Fire Department.
Overall in 2012-13, according to Jones, the city reduced its expenditures by $2.5 million and has carried those economies over into the present budget, which expires on July 1.
City officials point out that the city is at an inherent disadvantage with regard to its tax base. The deal the city brokered with the county years ago for distribution of property tax revenue among all of the cities governmental agencies provides the city with just 1.75 percent of the amount of money collected, such that the city sees only about $200,000 per year in property tax revenue. In the mid-1990s, the state of California instituted the so-called Educational Revenue Augmentation Program, which confiscated tax revenue from cities that had redevelopment areas in place.
By its declaration of a fiscal emergency last year, the city triggered a provision in state law that will allow it to place a general tax measure on the ballot that could be approved by a simple majority of voters rather than the otherwise required two-thirds majority.
The ballot measure city officials are proposing would impose roughly a $20 per month per household increase on utility bills. Those residents who did not pay it would run the risk of having their utilities turned off or in the alternative, have liens recorded against their properties, which after three years could result in the tax sale of their homes to satisfy the arrearages.
Last week, Adelanto city officials tried to put on a brave face once again, but moved yet closer to an anticipated bankruptcy filing by hiring Orange-based Urban Futures, Inc. as a consultant to deal with its burgeoning fiscal crisis.
Recently, Urban Futures guided the city of Stockton with regard to its bankruptcy filing. Adelanto city officials sought to suggest that the retention of Urban Futures, at an initial cost of $30,000, was a ploy to avoid bankruptcy.
Councilman Jermaine Wright, however, was skeptical about that claim and he insisted that Hart and Jones could provide the information and direction Urban Futures can offer by merely “reading a spreadsheet. We don’t need consultants to tell us we’re broke,” he said.

Abuse Of Jail Inmates Is An Historical Reality In San Bernardino County

By Mark Gutglueck
(May 22) While the $180 million federal lawsuit filed on behalf of six of the county’s detention facility inmates by a legal team headed by a respected former Superior Court judge has put the issue of violence against San Bernardino County’s incarcerated population into the limelight as perhaps never before, the abuse of inmates within the county’s jail system is not a new issue.
Indeed, the dual specters of brutality at the hands of law enforcement officers against those they have brought to justice and the toleration of violence among incarcerated suspects and prisoners against each other have hung over San Bernardino  County for over a century.
More than forty years ago, allegations of the mistreatment of county prisoners was taken up by the San Bernardino County Grand Jury and  two county judges, leading to a bruising fight between the judiciary and the county sheriff.
Earlier this month, on May 7, attorneys Stan Hodge, Jim Terrell and Sharon Bruner filed a lawsuit in U.S. Federal Court in Los Angeles on behalf of John Hanson, Lamar Graves, Brandon Schilling, Christopher J. Sly, Eddie Caldero and Michael Mesa, all of whom were housed at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga between January 1, 2013 and the end of March 2014.
According to that lawsuit, Hanson, Graves, Schilling, Sly, Caldero and Mesa were subjected to horrific treatment inflicted directly by deputies Brock Teyechea, Nicholas Oakley, Russell Kopasz, Robert Escamilla,  Robert Morris, Eric Smale, Daniel Stryffeler and Andrew Cruz, as well as two civilian jailers, one of whom has been identified as Brandon Stockman and another whose identity remains unclear.  Also named in the lawsuit are San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon and the commander of the West Valley Detention Center, captain Jeff Rose,
The suit alleges that the inmates underwent treatment which amounted to “applications of unreasonable and unlawful force” that “deprived the plaintiffs of their right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures protected by the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution of the United States.”
Specifically, according to the suit, during their incarceration “the plaintiffs were subjected by defendants to beatings, torture including but not limited to extending the handcuffed arms behind the plaintiffs causing extraordinary pain to plaintiff’s body, electric shock, including electric shock to their genitalia, sleep deprivation, had shotguns placed to their heads and sodomy. All these actions were taken without any legitimate purpose. As a direct and proximate result of the conduct of the defendants the plaintiffs have suffered extreme physical and emotional injury. The conduct of the defendants was willful, malicious and designed to inflict pain.”
The treatment was institutionalized, the lawsuit states, in that both the sheriff and those supervising the jail had knowledge of the activity.
“The defendant John McMahon and the defendant Jeff Rose and their subordinate administrators sued herein had knowledge that the abusive conduct by which the plaintiffs were deprived of their civil rights were taking place and were going to take place in the future and failed to take any action to cause the violation of plaintiffs’ rights to be prevented,” the lawsuit states.
It is the institutionalization of the violence against county jail inmates that has struck an historical chord. San Bernardino County has been struggling for decades, unsuccessfully, to overcome its image as a crass backwater jurisdiction, where justice is meted out by lawmen who are quick on the trigger but slow in, if not entirely neglectful of, their duty to investigate the actual facts of the crimes they are seeking to solve, and determine the guilt of those assumed to be the perpetrators.  An indelible impression of this careless ethos was provided by the 1969 movie, “Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here,” which concerns itself with the 1909 pursuit of Willie Boy, a Chemehuevi Indian fugitive who was run to ground by three separate posses, one led by San Bernardino County Sheriff John C. Ralph.  Despite contradictory versions of events, what is known is that Willie Boy was arrested in Victorville in 1906 and spent time in the San Bernardino Jail, where he allegedly was accorded mistreatment that may have fueled his later action.
Willie Boy had amorous intent toward one of his cousins, 16-year-old Isoleta Boniface, who lived with her father, Mike Boniface, also known as Old Mike, an elder at the  Chemhuevi Indian Tribe Reservation in Twentynine Palms. On the night of September 26, 1909, the then-28-year-old Willie Boy shot and killed Mike Boniface and fled on foot with Isoleta accompanying him. Two posses formed, one from San Bernardino County, led by Ralph, and two from Riverside County, one of which was led by Riverside County Sheriff Frank Wilson.
On September 30, in the Pipes Canyon area, Isoleta was killed by a gunshot wound to the back. Law enforcement officers would claim that Willie Boy, frustrated at Isoleta’s inability to keep up with him in his flight from justice, shot her at point blank  range through the heart. When the posse brought her body back to Banning, however, the coroner, whose last name was Dickson, concluded “She was shot in the back at a distance of at least 100 yards by parties unknown.”
On October 7, the posse tracked Willie Boy to Ruby Mountain in what is now Landers. A gunfight ensued and a deputy, Charlie Reche was wounded. The posse left the scene to transport Reche for medical treatment. A third posse, one composed of citizens from both Riverside and San Bernardino counties, formed, and apparently caught up with Willie Boy near Old Woman Springs. There he died, reportedly from a self inflicted wound, while surrounded by the third posse. Accompanying that posse was a news reporter, Randolph Madison, a descendant of the fourth president. Madison took inconclusive photos of the body. Then, in a deviation from normal protocol, the posse, instead of bringing the body back for an examination by the coroner, burned it.
Some 49 years later, San Bernardino County’s reputation for aggressive, indeed excessively heavy handed and brutal, enforcement of the law was confirmed by Lowell Lathrop, the San Bernardino County district attorney first elected in 1950, who served six terms before retiring in 1974. In a speech before the Victorville Chamber of Commerce in 1958, Lathrop lamented that a series of rulings by both the California Supreme Court and U.S. Supreme Court had deprived his office and the county’s law enforcement agencies of the tools they had come to rely upon for making arrests, obtaining evidence, and gaining convictions. Explaining why it was growing increasingly difficult to keep criminals off the streets of San Bernardino County, Lathrop told those assembled at that day’s luncheon that sheriff’s department deputies could no longer pistol whip suspects to obtain a confession from them as they did in the past and that if they persisted in using that technique, the confessions obtained in that manner would be deemed inadmissible in court.
Lathrop was yet district attorney when 12 years later, the county grand jury took up the issue of the abuse of jail inmates. Raymond Pryke, was the foreman of the Grand Jury that had been impaneled in 1970. Today, he is 91, but evinced a remarkably clear recollection of the grand jury inquiry that took place more than four decades ago.
“I was talked into getting on the grand jury by Joe Katz, who at that time was the presiding judge,” Pryke told the Sentinel this week. “I really had mixed feelings about the whole thing. I am originally from England and grand juries are an archaic institution there. They were outlawed in England in 1931 because they are considered to be a star chamber, where the rights of the accused are completely violated, so as soon as I accepted the position, he [Katz] appointed me foreman and I was having second thoughts. I decided then that if I was going to go through with it, I would do something meaningful. But that was quite difficult because I had to get the rest of the grand jury on my side. Most of them wanted to go after welfare queens. So I had to explain to them that what was really significant were the government officials and the big wheels with all the administrative power who handle the money that needed to be looked into. It took some doing, but eventually I got their support. During that term of the grand jury, which in those days ran from the beginning of the calendar year to the end of the year in December rather than like it does now from July 1 to June 30, information came up about what was going on out at the jail at Glen Helen. I had gotten Jim Mealey, who had been  the trainmaster at the railroad yard, appointed as foreman pro tem. He was the head of the committee looking into the running of the jails and one night we used our authority as the heads of the grand jury to go down to Glen Helen at midnight, pretty much unannounced, or at least at short notice. We got there and we were met by inspector Hughes. We told him who we were and said we were there to inspect the jails and he just put his hand to his lips and pointed to where there was a microphone in the room. Then we went outside and he told us, “The sheriff knows you’re here. He’s on his way now. Look, I’ve got eight children and a lot to lose. I need to be careful here.” So, he took us back inside and number one, the first thing we see is this man in this cage. It wasn’t even a cell, and he is hanging on the bars. He was obviously insane. I said, “It’s illegal to have someone who is clearly mentally ill confined like that. Inspector Hughes didn’t know what to say. That was just the way things were done.”
Pryke continued, “Right after that was when [sheriff] Frank Bland came in. ‘It’s good to see you,’ he said, but then he wanted to know what we were doing there. I said, “Well sheriff Bland, we’re just following our instructions from Judge Katz and we are going to be doing a report about conditions in the jails and we’d like to see ‘the hole.’ That was where they kept prisoners in isolation. So, the sheriff took us down a hall where there were, if I remember, five separate doors. So he opened the doors one at a time, to let whoever was in there out and we said to each of them, ‘We’re with the grand jury and we want to know how they are treating you.’ One of them was a guy who would go along the highway with donkeys and some other animals selling things and that was illegal. So he went to court and was fined and when he didn’t pay the fine, he got thrown in jail. They wanted him to cut his hair and shave his beard and he said, “No, my hair and my beard are part of what I do,” and he wouldn’t let them cut his hair and so they put him in the hole for thirty days. I told the sheriff, ‘That seems a little extreme to me.’ I asked the sheriff, ‘What do you think?’ It was like he didn’t know what to say. I said, ‘I think you have to let him out, just like the guy you have in the cage. You can’t keep an insane person in a cage.’
“We called the grand jury together the following Wednesday morning and gave them a report on what we did and what we had seen,” Pryke went on. “Carl Davis, who was later a judge, was the grand jury advisor from the district attorney’s office. “He was really upset about what we were getting into. He didn’t know what to say. None of them knew what to say. We wrote up the report. One of the prisoners that was in the hole said ‘Every three days they let you out and they beat you up and claim you attacked a deputy and then they throw you back in.’ Everyone couldn’t believe we would just show up at midnight like that Frank [Bland] pretty much left us alone, because there wasn’t much he could do to stop us and he could always blame it on someone else and say ‘I didn’t know what they were up to.’ I don’t know what happened to inspector Hughes. In our report, we did not attribute to him what he had told us, to protect him. He had been open with us, and said, ‘This is the policy. We just follow it.’ Frank had to know that he had been talking to us, so I don’t imagine it went well for him.”
When the grand jury’s report came out in November 1970, Bland had an immediate, and predictably negative, reaction.
“The grand jury just doesn’t know what it’s talking about,” he told the board of supervisors.
In private conversations with those he considered to be more sympathetic to law enforcement, Bland expressed himself somewhat differently, acknowledging that jails were unpleasant places and that the experience of jail and prison was intended to make a lasting impression on those consigned to them.  Whatever experience those in jail underwent, Bland maintained, was a consequence of their own criminal acts.
Within a short span of time, his department produced a written response to the grand jury report that was intended to mollify his department’s critics.  “The report is an incredible collection of half truths and misstatements. It was obviously prepared by people who, out of idealism, inexperience, and ignorance, have not obtained all the facts.“
Bland dismissed suggestions that those jailed were subjected to mistreatment, by either their keepers or other inmates. “Inmates classified to serve their time in maximum security are considered to be escape risks due to their past history of escaping, or the fact that they are facing a major prosecution in this county or elsewhere, due to the fact that they are addicted to the use of narcotics or dangerous drugs and will go to every means to sustain their habit, or they are homosexuals and must be isolated from the other inmates for their own protection and to prevent the occurrence of criminal sex acts.”
Nevertheless, evidence of Bland’s contempt for efforts to interfere with his employment of a harsh incarceration regime crept into the response, with an assertion that his approach was one that found favor with the public at large.
“The people throughout the United States are extremely dissatisfied with the present judicial system thinking only of the rights of the defendant and failing to consider the protection of society against the criminals.”
Bland attempted and succeeded in riding out the storm.
Abuse of the county’s prisoners, however, did not end, and less than a year later the sodomizing of prisoners in San Bernardino County’s jails was again a front and center issue. Whereas before Bland had been able to retreat into the protection his status as county sheriff afforded him as well as the knowledge that the district attorney, Lathrop, had his back, this time two personages in the form of county municipal court judges threw their weight behind the grand jury’s reform effort. Judges John Lawrence and Roy Chapman turned information over to the grand jury indicating that prisoners, young prisoners in particular, had been subject to sexual abuse while in the custody of the sheriff’s department. While Lawrence and Chapman’s action had taken place on the down low and outside the view of the public, in early October 1971 Lawrence turned it into a public issue when he reduced sentences for two 18-year-old offenders to five days to be served in a rehabilitation center rather than send them to jail where he said they could be subjected to homosexual attack. Bland went ballistic, calling for the removal of Lawrence unless the judge could provide evidence to support his assertion about homosexual rape taking place in the county’s jails. Lawrence, Bland told the board of supervisors, was justifying his propensity for sentencing leniency “by saying the jails are unsafe for criminals.”
Bland becalmed himself, and asserted “All young people placed in the county jails are kept separate from known homosexuals or hardened criminals.”
As the most powerful law enforcement entity in the county, Bland moved to insulate himself further from the reach of other officials, assigning the detectives in the department’s intelligence unit as well as those attached to the department’s command staff to step up surveillance efforts against members of the county bench, members of the board of supervisors, and prosecutors in the district attorney’s office. He also insisted upon his department vetting all future members of the grand jury before they were impaneled. He then made a practice of obtaining, through contact with willing grand jury members, information about future grand juries’ ongoing investigative efforts.
Bland’s efforts in this regard were successful. In 1973, when questions again surfaced about the treatment of prisoners in the jail, Bland was able to short circuit the probe by utilizing information his investigators had accumulated to prevent Judge Joseph Campbell from aggressively examining the issue. Campbell was permitted to do a walkthrough of the jail, but only at a pre-arranged time, with Bland accompanying him. Bland effectively closed out the possibility that grand jurors, or judges or any outsiders could spring a surprise inspection of the jails on him or his department, instituting a policy that all such excursions be scheduled well in advance.
Sexual abuse in the jails remained a reality in San Bernardino County, such that its actuality, or the threat of it, was institutionalized as a tool at the sheriff’s departments disposal.  An unwritten rule in San Bernardino County is that unruly prisoners and particularly ones who threaten deputies, their wives or their families with retribution, as well as those individuals arrested for threatening or overzealously questioning public officials are to be placed into confinement among the jail’s known homosexual inhabitants for what is referred to as “attitude adjustment.”

Barstow Council Okays Trial Merger Of Its Bus Line With Victor Valley Transit Authority

(May 22) The Barstow City Council on May 19 approved a temporary one-year operational merger between Barstow Area Transit and the Victor Valley Transit Authority.
Currently, Barstow has a contract with MV Transit, a private company, to operate and manage Barstow Area Transit. That contract expired on December 31 and the city has extended the arrangement with MV Transit while it has looked at alternative arrangements.
Last year, San Bernardino Associated Governments, the county’s transportation agency which represents all 24 of the county’s incorporated cities and the county itself, commissioned a study examining merging transit operations with other regional transit agencies. That study concluded there could be “significant operational enhancements and administrative cost savings” if Barstow merged its transit authority with the Victor Valley Transit Authority, known as VVTA.
Caltrans, as well, has encouraged Barstow to get into a more permanent arrangement with regard to its public transit system.
An analysis shows that Barstow can expect to see substantial savings annually from merging with VVTA. According to that analysis, operational savings would total $103,003 per year, while the city could further see a savings of $263,378 on administration.
While Barstow transit contracts with MV Transit to operate its system, VVTA contracts with Veolia Transportation. Drivers currently working the Barstow route for MV would be extended an offer to take on the same routes for Veolia.
Some details with regard to the merger yet have to be finalized. Officials said they would likely be in place by July 1. Actuation of the merger would come after that date.
The five-member city council voted unanimously to approve the one year arrangement with VVTA, which was represented as a “trial run.” Depending on the success of the trial merger, a consolidation of the two transit agencies could be instituted as early as next year.

County General Line Employees Reject New Contract In Union Voting

(May 21) The union representing the lion’s share of workers for San Bernardino County rejected the latest contract offered to the various classifications of county workers by the county.  Of the 5,524 county employees who voted on the proposal, known as a tentative agreement, 3,523 voted no. The other 2,001 members of the San Bernardino Public Employees Association who are employed by the county who participated in the vote cast ballots of acceptance. Some 7,000 county employees represented by the union did not participate in the vote.
Two classifications of county workers, nursing division supervisors and managers, did accept the county’s offer.
In the county’s proposed contract, County Chief Executive Officer Greg Devereaux  asked that county workers make a seven percent contribution to their retirement fund, a contribution which here-to-now was paid for by the county. Workers were also to be required to pick up a larger share of their health insurance premiums.
The collective bargaining process is now expected to resume.
Representatives of the Service Employees International Union have been approaching county employees in an effort to convince them to ditch the San Bernardino Public Employees Association (SBPEA) in favor of the Service Employees International Union, the largest bargaining unit in the United States representing governmental employees.
Joaquin Miramontes, a union leader for Service Employees International Union in Los Angeles, said his union, known by its acronym SEIU, would offer San Bernardino County more effective representation and could obtain better terms in the employment contracts for employees than SBPEA.

Shackleford Made Chino Valley Fire Chief

(May 19) Tim Shackelford, who has twice served as the interim fire chief of the Chino Valley Fire District, last week was unanimously elevated to serve as the department’s fully designated chief, pursuant to a four-year contract.
District officials are hopeful that Shackleford’s oversight of the agency will end the spate of short-lived leadership tenures in Chino Valley. He succeeds Paul Segalla, who lasted as chief from March 2013 to March 2014, and Kirk Summers, who was chief from July 2010 to October 2012.
Summers and Shackleford resigned after their stewardship of the district clashed with the vision of the district’s board of directors. Paul Benson, whose tenure lasted ten years from July 2000 to July 2010, preceded Summers and remained on cordial terms with the board.
Shackleford has spend his entire career with Chino Valley, having been hired in 1991 just after the district formed and his father, Ray, was serving as fire chief.
Any suggestions that Tim Shackleford, 46, has been the beneficiary of a nepotistic culture in the agency were downplayed by members of the board, who insisted he had earned the promotion by his demonstration of competence, dedication and performance during his brief tenures as interim chief.

The Visitor Experience: What Should Historic Route 66 Look Like?

(May 23)  By Ruth Musser-Lopez
May 23, 2014.  A second “webinar” meeting of the “ad hoc” committee made up of those members of the public desiring to participate in the development of the Bureau of Land Management’s Route 66 Corridor Management Plan (CMP) was held yesterday, Thursday, May 22 from 10:30 to noon.  The “Visitor Experience” was the topic of this discussion.  Also discussed was the type of facilities and conveniences which should be available for the visitor driving Route 66 between Barstow and Needles.  The BLM administers the 50% to 60% of the Route that is on public land.
Jim Klein, BLM’s lead project consultant, initiated the conversation using a live broadcast over the internet along with phone conferencing.
The 21 participants were asked “What do you think a trip along Route 66 should be like through the Mojave Desert? We need your creative ideas and suggestions.”  Klein suggested a range of desirable visitor experiences or “outcomes” including interpretive, services, programming, events, educational activities or recreational experiences. Primary themes associated with the significance of Route 66 were listed and shown on the screen while participants considered who the target audience might be and how themes could be expanded or revised to develop exciting story lines that would be more interesting and meaningful to various target audiences.
Some of the themes suggested were the railroad era, where the original stops along the route were the water stops for steam engines on the adjacent railroad track—“book ending” the corridor are the Santa Fe Harvey Houses at Barstow and Needles as attractions drawing the Route 66 visitor.
Another theme is the 1930s depression and “Grapes of Wrath” era.  Scenic landscapes seen in the movie can still be seen almost entirely unaltered in their appearance today.  World War II and Patton’s maneuver area is another theme.  The Roaring 20s and the Prohibition is a theme that should be considered.   The “Doo Wop,”  “Googie” or Atomic style architecture of the late 1950s and early 1960s represents yet another theme.
Klein asked “Is the audience the existing Route 66 enthusiasts or should we be thinking about a future audience of the “millennial” generation. It was suggested that interviews be conducted with local business owners who now cater to these visitors in Barstow and Needles to learn who is currently visiting.  Participants suggested motorcyclist or bikers as one audience.  Another audience currently being developed is the Asian and European tourist market.  These visitors would be flown into Los Angeles, from where they would begin a “golden triangle” trip route, lured by Las Vegas, they could then see the Grand Canyon and drive back to Los Angeles via Route 66.
Organizations and businesses are interested in stimulating the economy and are hoping that new experiences along Route 66 might entice visitors not just to come but also to stay longer.
An overriding general concern of the group was the desire to keep Route 66 authentic and how to do this while protecting it.  According to Klein, a study by Rutgers University indicated that most visitors were there to see the real America, the authentic ghost towns, the deteriorating, dilapidated structures in real time, not reproductions. Klein used the example of the Sidewinder Café near Newberry Spring, saying that visitors appreciate it for what it is and want to see the old, not something new–what is there now, not a commercialized version.
While authenticity is desirable, it creates the dilemma of what to do in the way of installing new convenience stores, gas stations, cafes, overnight accommodations and new museums along the way, should visitation increase.
On the other hand, Klein said, there are some visitors who have stopped at the new gas station in Fenner and they will be heard saying “There is nothing to see along Route 66. There is nothing there.   So we want to achieve a happy medium, put a little more information without intruding.
Chris Irvin, a volunteer with the Mojave Desert Heritage and Cultural Association in Goffs, presented a method which could be used to help visitors visualize what Route 66 was like “then” in the past.    Using historic photos on a translucent frame posted at the location where the photograph was taken, one can look through the frame and see the photo of what was “then” framed in the context of the background scene of the “now.”
For example, in preparation for his African campaign, General Patton trained troops in the Mojave Desert.  One of the locations was along Route 66 between Essex and Fenner.  One of the tell tale signs of his maneuver areas are the rock alignments made by the troops as busy work—alignments bordering pathways from the tents to the mess hall tents, etc.  These alignments are not readily seen from the road. However if the visitor sees a signpost they would know to stop and see the interpretive signage which could potentially include a “then” framed photograph on a translucent background which the “now” can be seen through.
QR codes (Quick Response Code) on mounted posts in the locations of points of interest could be used to display text and photographs on the visitor’s cell phone when the cell phone reader is directed at the code. QR codes would be less costly to install and maintain; they could be inconspicuous and bullet proof.  The expense would be in developing an application that could be downloaded on visitor’s cell phone for use when touring Route 66.
These roadside interpretive stations would be in addition to visitor information kiosks that could be established in the Harvey Houses in Barstow and Needles as well as at existing area museums and cultural heritage centers.
Representing the Archaeological Heritage Association (AHA) of San Bernardino County, I asked what the BLM’s approach would be to managing the corridor in the interim between now and when the CMP is completed and approved.   I represented AHA’s suggestion that a Route 66 Heritage Commission be established by the BLM to review proposed projects along the corridor to ensure that they are “in kind” with the character of the route that we want to preserve.  “Inevitably the increased activity along the route will spark new business ventures, gas stations, cafes, sleeping accommodations, camp grounds, and rest areas such as the one the BLM installed at 5 Mile Road recently.  We recommend that the BLM engage knowledgeable volunteers, historians and, or, those trained in cultural resource management be appointed to a Route 66 Heritage Commission for the purpose of reviewing proposals and to make recommendations to the BLM, the county or other pertinent administrative authority.
“Funding will be needed to stabilize and strengthen the timber trestle bridges along the road and to install the interpretive signage.  This week, I submitted the required paperwork and became a certified write-in candidate for the position of State Senator in California Senate District 16, which district includes the Route 66 corridor between Barstow and Needles” I announced.    “If elected, on my agenda for future accomplishments while in office is state funding to correct and stabilize the historic bridges and the paved road itself so that Route 66 may eventually be used, if necessary, as an emergency route alternate to Interstate 40 for moving traffic in and out of the greater Los Angeles region.”   Potentially, there could also be funding for interpretive signage through state parks.

Syndicated 2014, Ruth Musser-Lopez—Small quotes citing author, the Sentinel and publication date are permissible under copyright law.  Please respect the rights of those quoted herein by referencing source:  Lardner/Klein may be contacted at  Permission to reprint this article may be obtained by contacting Ruth at the Archaeological Heritage Association (AHA) 760/885-9374 or via email at

At Ovitt’s Request, County Confers $220,000 On Chaffey and Ontario High Schools

(May 20)  With the sands in Gary Ovitt’s hourglass as Fourth District county supervisor running down, this week he made a gesture to his constituency by routing $220,000 in county money to two of the public educational institutions in his district.
With the consent of all five of the county board of supervisors’ members, the county passed the aforementioned sum of money to the Chaffey Joint Union High School District to undertake three improvement projects at Chaffey and Ontario high schools.
Of the $220,000, $142,000 was provided to fund a new sound and projection system for the Hill Auditorium at the Chaffey High School Campus; another $50,000 was appropriated to fund a new sound system for the Ontario High School Gymnasium; and $28,000 was provided to fund the refurbishment of Payne Field at Chaffey High School. Payne Field is the historic baseball diamond at Chaffey High.
The item providing the funding was brought to the board by county CEO Greg Devereaux.
According to Devereaux, “As part of the 2011-12 budget process, the board set aside an allocation for each of the five supervisorial districts to finance unbudgeted local needs as identified throughout the fiscal year.
One such project identified by the Fourth District involves providing funding to the Chaffey Joint Union High School District to fund various improvements at various district facilities.”
Ovitt was a teacher at Chaffey High School. In addition, current chairwoman of the board of supervisors, Janet Rutherford, is a graduate of Ontario High School.
“The Chaffey Joint Union High School District serves the communities of Ontario, Montclair, Rancho Cucamonga, and portions of Fontana, Upland, Chino, and Mount Baldy. With over 25,000 students, the district is the fourth largest high school district in California,” Devereaux said. “The district offers a wide variety of  instructional options that provide a quality education for each student, every day. The district’s well-prepared, dedicated, and highly qualified teachers and support personnel are second to none.”

County Approves $1.9M In Well & Pump Repair Work With Nine Companies

(May 20)  The county board of supervisors this week approved nine separate contracts for an aggregate total of $1.9 million for water well and pump repair services within the county’s various service areas.
According to Jeff Rigney, the director of the county’s special districts department, the county’s “board governed county service areas and their zones provide for the maintenance and operation of domestic water and wastewater systems throughout the county that includes ground water wells, distribution booster pumps, pump stations, wastewater treatment facilities, wastewater lift stations and various in-line pumps. These wells, pumps and other equipment periodically break or malfunction, which requires specialized tools and equipment to affect the repairs or replacement. The special districts department does not have the equipment required to remove, repair or replace some of these facilities and therefore requires contracted services.”
Rigney noted that in July 2011 the board of supervisors approved three-year agreements with 10 contractors to provide on-call and emergency water well, booster pumps and waste water pumps maintenance and repair services. One of the contractors, Independent Well Drilling of Lucerne Valley, is no longer in business. It was excluded from the contract extension Rigney brought to the board this week.
In accordance with Rigney’s recommendation, the board approved:  a contract extension with Tri County Pump Company of San Bernardino in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $400,000, for a total aggregate amount of $1,600,000; a contract extension with  Best Drilling and Pump Company of Colton in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $350,000, for a total aggregate amount of $1,400,000;  a contract extension with General Pump Company of San Dimas in an annual not-to-exceed  amount of $200,000, for a total aggregate amount of $800,000;   a contract extension with Well Tec Services, Inc. of Beaumont in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $200,000, for a total aggregate amount of $800,000; a contract extension with Apple Valley Construction Company, Inc., of Apple Valley in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $200,000, for a total aggregate amount of $800,000;  South West Pump and Drilling Inc., of Coachella in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $200,000, for a total aggregate amount of $800,000; a contract extension with Layne Christensen Company, of Fontana in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $150,000, for a total aggregate amount of $600,000.; a contract extension with JIMNI Systems Inc., of Irvine in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $100,000, for a total aggregate amount of $400,000; and a contract extension with Pyramid Building and Engineering, Inc. of Hesperia in an annual not-to-exceed amount of $100,000 per year, for a total aggregate amount of $400,000.