McHenry’s Yucca Valley Platform Includes Water System & Old Town Upgrades

(September 23) Charles McHenry is running for Yucca Valley Town Council, he said, “because I love the community and with everything going on I thought I’d step forward.”
There are many issues the city faces, McHenry said, and he adjudged the demands being placed upon it by the State’s Water Quality Control Board as the most critical.
Ten years after its November 1991 incorporation, Yucca Valley was notified by the California Regional Water Quality Control Board that the lack of a sewage treatment system had resulted in nitrates accumulating in the water table. Simultaneously, the Hi-Desert Water District, which serves the Yucca Valley community, experienced nitrate traces in district wells. In 2007, the California Regional Water Quality Control Board declared Yucca Valley as a top priority for eliminating the use of septic systems.  In 2011, the town was firmly informed that it had only five years to take a definitive step toward water quality compliance, and the Regional Water Quality Control Board imposed three progressive phases of septic discharge prohibitions on Yucca Valley. Under the state mandate, phase 1 of a wastewater system must be completed or significantly on its way to completion by May 19, 2016 or enforcement action will be initiated. The first phase of the project is to cover the downtown area of Yucca Valley, the area most proximate to the heart of the groundwater basin.  Similarly, phase 2 must be completed or nearly completed by May 19, 2019 and phase 3 must be completed by May 19, 2022. The last two phases lie further out where future concentrated development is most likely to occur.
“I’d like to take care of the big sewer issue that is coming, get a plan in place and get it moving forward,” McHenry said.
McHenry acknowledged that “it is going to be expensive.” He said that technically, the town is not the lead agency with regard to the construction of the water treatment system.
“The water district has to take care of that and the financial burden,” he said, “unless the town decides it wants to take over for the district. I am not in favor of the town putting out a tax measure, as I don’t think it would be a good idea at this time. Maybe down the road. But I think the town can apply for grants and work to help the water district. They should do that to see the project gets done. The town and the district need to work closely together to make this smoother and easier for the town’s citizens.”
A secondary issue, McHenry said, is revitalizing Old Town Yucca Valley.
“I’d like to see it a little more developed,” he said. “There is infrastructure that needs to be taken care of. There are a lot of people in town whose voices are not being heard. The town council needs to talk with the business owners to find out what the Old Town area business owners want. The council is not listening to them. I have. There are a lot of tourists who come through town who do not see our Old Town area. We could bring money in here rather than it going to the next town down the road.”
McHenry, who has served on Yucca Valley’s general plan advisory committee and its traffic commission, said he believes he is qualified to serve on the city council in that “I have served on a civic committee and commission and the boards of nonprofits in Yucca Valley and worked well with people. I have voted for things that passed and did not pass. I know it doesn’t have to be my way. It has to be best for what is in the town’s interest. I am an average citizen of the town. I am used to living with the things here, like the other voters. Sometimes the right choices aren’t always the easy ones.”
McHenry grew up in the Sacramento area and attended American River College. He served for six years in the Navy. He works for the U.S. Marine Corps as a civilian employee. He is married with two children.

Filippi Says Upland Must Up Its Reserves, Recover Financially & Stay Safe

(September 25) Gino Filippi said he is seeking reelection the Upland City Council “to promote financial stability and protect Upland’s quality of life through a balanced budget that will work to rebuild emergency reserves, promotion of policies designed to both attract and retain businesses and responsible management of our public services in order to ensure dependable public safety.”
Filippi said the major issues facing the city include revamping its financial circumstance, rebuilding reserves, economic development, maintaining public safety, pension reform and addressing the large number of homeless people within city limits.
Financial revitalization can come, Filippi said, by the city adhering to “a financial recovery plan was drafted and presented by (former) City Manager Stephen Dunn. The plan was reviewed and endorsed by a 10 member Fiscal Response Task Force Committee.”
Filippi said, “I am focused on keeping established businesses and attracting new business to grow sales tax revenues within the city. Last year, the BIA (Building Industry Association) recognized the City of Upland’s efforts to improve customer service with an award of excellence. Over the next 12 months Upland will experience continued retail sales growth at Colonies Crossroads, new housing developments along the Foothill corridor and near Upland’s Metrolink Station and historic downtown.”
Filippi, who has been in office since 2010 and has had support from the city’s various employees’ unions, including the Upland Police Officers Association, was less optimistic about the city’s ability to deal effectively with one of its gravest financial challenges, tha is, its unfunded pension liability, the product of what many officials now recognize as overly generous commitments to city employees with regard to their retirement benefits. The pension problem consists not just in the size of the pensions themselves, which in many cases will exceed $100,000 per year to city retirees for the rest of their lives, but the consideration that the employees are not contributing anything toward those pension plans themselves. Rather, the pensions are funded entirely by the city’s taxpayers, who pay the city’s contribution and what years ago was considered to have been the employees’ contributions. At present, the pension costs represent over $6 million of the city’s $39 million annual general fund budget. That cost is growing. For the city to buy its way out of the California Public Employees Retirement System, it would have to pay out over $90 million.
“Unlike the private sector where pension and/or salary schedules can be changed at anytime for work not yet performed (except for new hires not yet under contract) the public job in California is protected by law that can only be changed by a vote of the people at the ballot box,” Filippi asserted. “This is a concern for most all cities. Upland has however made changes in how services are delivered and has entered into new agreements with both employee groups and private firms which have resulted in savings of nearly 3 million dollars over the past 12 months. This is a work in progress and will continue to be perused.”
Filippi said he is committed to “maintaining responsible public safety.” He said, “As in many cities throughout our county, we have experienced increased calls for police, fire/paramedic, and public works services in the midst of state takeaways, budget cuts, and lingering effects of the recent recession. I remain dedicated to ensure responsible management of our public safety services in order to protect our quality of life and promote financial stability. I understand that Upland residents and businesses embrace having their own police and fire/paramedic services.”
Filippi said, “Upland finds itself as one of our County’s leading populations of homeless. Our city has limited resources available to assist those that are truly in need. Local outreach and faith-based organizations are also having difficulties and this coupled with the cutbacks in services and funds from the state and federal government has only made the situation worse. I am concerned with the criminal element that takes advantage of and victimizes defenseless women, children and men that cannot care for, or protect themselves. Personally, I believe we need to focus more on the newly homeless and helping them and I continue to work toward this effort.”
He merits being reelected, Filippi said.
“Since first being elected as the reform candidate to City Council in 2010, I have worked diligently on behalf of residents and businesses making difficult budget and policy decisions while remaining focused on keeping our neighborhoods safe and demanding fiscal responsibility. I not only bring a business approach to City Hall, I understand local government from the vantage point of both a resident and a business owner who has worked extensively with government on private/public projects. Partnerships and outsourcing of some services is good sense for a city the size of Upland.”
Filippi concluded, “Unlike many politicians I am always willing to listen and handle my constituents concerns without delay. I’m easily accessible and work hard to bring timely results. Whatever the case may be, I lead, correct, or advise to resolve problems.”

Painted Ladies

The Painted Lady is a medium to large butterfly, with a wing span of two to three-and-a-half inches. They are identified by the black and white corners of their mainly deep orange, black-spotted wings. They sport five white spots in the black forewing tips and while the orange areas may be pale here and there, there are no clean white dots in them. The hindwings carry four small submarginal eyespots on dorsal and ventral sides. Those on the dorsal side are black, but in the summer sometimes manifest small blue pupils. There are different types of Painted Ladies, but in California the  West Coast Lady (Vanessa annabella) is the most prolific. West Coast Painted Ladies do  not have obvious ventral eyespots. On the dorsal side, annabella lacks a white dot in the subapical orange found in other butterflies, and is a purer orange color. Vanessa annabella has a fully orange subapical band and leading edge on the forewing. The submarginal row of hindwing spots in annabella features three or four blue pupils. The two larger pupils in annabella are the inner spots, rather than the outer spots as in other butterflies
The lifespan of a Painted Lady Butterfly is 2–4 weeks.
The life of a Painted Lady  begins when the female oviposits (lays an egg) onto a host plant. Eggs are laid, usually, singularly on the tops of the host plant leaves¸ though on occasion eggs will be laid  one on top of another or, more rarely, in clusters. Eggs are a light green color and somewhat barrel-shaped. They have horizontal lines that go from tip to bottom. After four days or so, a caterpillar will hatch from the egg. After it has emerged, it will turn around and go back to eat the chorion or outer eggshell. This first meal provides the larva with protein. It will then feast upon the leaf upon which the egg had been laid.
First instar Painted Ladies are extremely small. They soon sprout bristles and the head shrinks a bit to become more proportional to the rest of the body. Soon little white ‘dots’  form at the base of some of the bristles in the next instar. Molting, or the shedding of skin takes place in several stages. With each successive molt, it grows larger and the larval features become distinctly different. the larval period lasts ten to thirteen days. By the fourth instar, the caterpillars grow very bristley and thicken. A white  stripe is visible  along its side and spiracles, which appear as little spots on the caterpillar’s sides, form. They are part of its respiratory or breathing system.
Soon, the larva will be ready to pupate. As do most brush-foot butterflies, the Painted Lady to deter predators will find a spot usually a distance away from its host plant upon which to pupate.
A silken button will be made and the caterpillar will suspend from its last prolegs in a ‘j’ position with its head hanging downward. It can take upwards of 24 hours for this final larval molt. A little black blob will attached to the chrysalis or on the ground nearby. This is the remaining exuvia, the final ‘molt’ from the caterpillar stage. It will include the head capsule of the caterpillar. The chrysalis or pupa is a non-descript brownish or tan colour with gold flecks. Close inspection will show  the spiracles and other features of the soon-to-be butterfly.
To stand off predators, the pupa may begin to rapidly jiggle.
In about ten days, the pupa will begin to change color and then a butterfly will eclose. It will take about an hour for the butterfly to fully expand its wings. The wings are very soft and unsupportive. They will require time to ‘harden.’
An orange-red liquid will often be found either in the exuvia (chrysalis ‘shell’) or on the ground. This is called meconium and is the waste material from the pupa. It is not blood as butterflies do not have blood; they have what is called hemolymph.
During the time the wings are drying, the proboscis (tongue tubes) will uncoil and recoil, as the imago (adult butterfly) readies itself to go out into the world to begin its 2-week or so life to procreate.
Each Spring, Painted Lady butterflies begin migrating northward, much like the ‘famous’ Monarchs. In California, every few years, particularly after an El Niño, there is a massive migration of Painted Ladies that will come up from Mexico. The rains from the El Niño help to increase the growth and number of host plants, and the Painted Ladies will then have a large number of options upon which to oviposit eggs as they travel. Although they migrate annually, it is during these El Nino seasons where they become highly noticeable, with hundreds of them traveling together, en masse.
The adult Painted Lady nectars on many plants, especially the composite flowers of the Asteraceae plant family. Favored nectar sources include thistle, aster, cosmos, blazing star, ironweed, and joe-pye weed. Painted Lady caterpillars feed on a variety of host plants, particularly thistle, mallow, and hollyhock.
The Painted Lady’s mottled colors look much like military camouflage, and provide effective cover from potential predators. The small caterpillars hide in their silk nests.
The Painted Lady inhabits open meadows and fields, disturbed areas and roadsides, and generally any sunny place that provides appropriate nectar and host plants.
Painted Ladies can cover a lot of ground, up to 100 miles per day during their migration. A painted lady is capable of reaching a speed of nearly 30 miles per hour. Painted ladies reach northern areas well ahead of some of their more famous migrating cousins, like the monarch butterflies.
Male painted ladies actively patrol their territory for receptive females in the afternoon. Should he find a mate, he will usually retreat with his partner to a treetop, where they will mate overnight.

Open This Post To Download The September 19 Edition of the SBC Sentinel

By clicking on the portal below, you can download a PDF of the September 19 San Bernardino County Sentinel.

This week the paper has articles about:

* Christina Talley’s removal as city attorney in Colton after a series of miscues and errors that embarrassed the city council and endangered the city’s current contract for legal representation with the law firm of Best Best & Krieger;

* The latest in a series of rulings by Federal Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Jury favoring the city of San Bernardino against its various creditors following its 2012 filing for Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection;

* The city of Hesperia’s extension of discounts it is making to its developer impact fees in an effort to spur further growth in the city of 90,000 plus;

* The candidacies of Rod McAuliffe for city council in Upland, Bill Hanlon for city council in Rancho Cucamonga, Jermaine Wright for mayor in Adelanto, John Harrison Montgomery for city council in Redlands, Walt Stanckiewitz for mayor in Grand Terrace; Greg Bogh and Tom Powell for city council in Yucaipa, and Ed Graham for city council in Chino Hills; and

* Nicholas Bourikas’ resignation from the Twentynine Palms Water District Board of Directors.

As always, the Sentinel includes its county history column, its wildlife column and Grace Bernal’s column on fashion trends in Southern California

Sentinel 09-19-14

String Of Errors And Miscues Ends Talley’s Run As Colton City Attorney

(September 18) Christina Talley has been relieved of her position as Colton city attorney, the Sentinel  has learned.
The move comes after a series of acts or omissions by Talley that has put the contract for legal representation between Colton and the firm for which Talley works, Best Best & Krieger, in jeopardy.
Earlier this year, former Colton city manager Stephen Compton had given indication that the city was contemplating carrying out a review of its contract for legal services with Best Best & Krieger, to be accompanied by a solicitation of proposals from other firms or attorneys to determine whether the legal services being provided by Talley and Best Best & Krieger were cost effective, and whether comparable, or better, legal service could be had at a lower cost.
Ironically, Talley’s reaction to that circumstance, together with other issues, exacerbated the situation.
In Colton, as in other cities, members of the city council and city staff rely upon the city attorney for guidance with regard to staying within the parameters of the law.
The California Government Code, the Political Reform Act, and multiple other provisions of state law impose limitations on how a local government can operate. In addition, California cities are generally of two orders: general law cities, which follow a standard protocol of governance, and charter cities, which are subject to voter approved charters of their authority that lay down a protocol of governance that is particular to that city. City attorneys are called upon to make interpretations as to general law or municipal charters, where they apply. A goal in the provision of this advice is to bring a city into compliance with the law to prevent legal challenges to the city’s action or to ensure that the city will prevail legally if there is such a challenge. The city attorney in most circumstances is called upon to represent the city in those cases where a legal challenge ensues.
One primary law applicable to cities is the Ralph M. Brown Act, California’s Open Meeting Law, which sets standards with regard to the transparency of the governing process, and spells out the requirements a city and its officials must meet if it or they want to restrict the public flow of information with regard to official municipal action. Such secrecy is permissible only under strictly defined conditions, such as when the information pertains to labor negotiations, personnel matters, contract negotiations, real estate selling or acquisition negotiations, or pending or ongoing legal action.
Among the problems relating to Talley’s performance in Colton are those areas where it appears the city fell out of compliance with the Brown Act. The Brown Act requires that items to be discussed and voted upon by the city council be agendized prior to council meetings so that the public is given notice of the pending action and can provide input before the council takes official action with regard to it. Talley allowed non-agendized items to be discussed by the council, including ones where an apparent consensus was arrived at.
One of the more egregious examples of Talley’s failure to adhere to the law occurred at the June 3 council meeting, at which a decision to place Compton on administrative leave was made.
Compton’s inquiry into questionable financial practices, including “off-the-books” projects in the public works department in the previous months brought him close to uncovering details of how certain projects were funded, including several unauthorized projects which were being run out of the public works department.  This brought scrutiny to the actions of public works director Amer Jakher, who enjoyed a close relationship with a majority, though not all, of the members of the city council.
This brought scrutiny to the actions of public works director Amer Jakher, who enjoyed a close relationship with a majority, though not all, of the members of the city council.
In the same time frame, some council members were pushing Compton to examine the city’s contract with  Best, Best & Krieger and Talley, and potentially put the contract for city legal services out to bid.
With Compton’s audit coming so close to the questionable use of city personnel, equipment, resources and funds,  which in at least two cases appeared to possibly benefit council members, and a move to perhaps bring in new legal counsel, the city council at its April 1, May 23 and June 3 regularly scheduled meetings adjourned into closed sessions to engage in, according to those meetings’ published agendas, “public employee performance evaluation[s] pursuant to Government Code Section 54957 Title:  City Manager.” After closed door discussions from which the public was excluded at each of those three council sessions, the mayor and council returned without the city attorney giving any indication of reportable action. Two days after the June 3 meeting, however, toward the end of the business day, Compton was informed that he was being placed on administrative leave. He was then abruptly and ignominiously walked out of City Hall by a plain clothes police officer.
No council meeting, closed or open, was held between June 3 and June 5, the day Compton was suspended. It thus appears that Talley misinformed the public when she said the council had taken no reportable action on June 3.
Subsequently, when questions about the action taken against Compton surfaced, the public was met with statements that no information could be provided to the public because it was a confidential personnel issue. It was disclosed, however, that the city was carrying out an investigation into Compton’s action as city manager.
In July, a group of Colton residents filed a complaint with the city to investigate alleged irregularities in the city’s public works department alleging potential misappropriation of public funds, gift of public funds and misuse of public funds which benefitted two city council members. The citizens provided documentation indicating that the “off the books” activity, i.e., work that had not been considered or approved by the city council, had indeed taken place in the public works division. That request was moved forward by police chief Steve Ward, who was then acting in the capacity of city manager during Compton’s absence. Chief Ward initiated an investigation and personally forwarded the request to Talley. The investigation was handed over to another Best Best & Krieger attorney, Ronald Ball, who is “of counsel” with the firm. Several weeks later it was discovered that Talley, however, neglected to provide Ball with the background documentation that had been provided to the city by the group of residents requesting the investigation. Thus, the investigation failed to focus on the “off-the-books” activity in the public works department that was at the root of the concerns expressed by the citizens group, and the final report reflected an incorrect timeline of events which discredited its conclusion that two of the members of the council, Frank Gonzales and Susan Oliva, had not benefited from the misapplication of resources in the public works department.
Ball spurned the Sentinel’s efforts to obtain his version of events with regard to the materials withheld from him during his investigation of the Colton matter.
Last month, city staff removed from the city’s website information pertaining to the city’s policy relating to the construction of speed humps, including the protocol for getting those items approved, which had been authored by Jakher as the city’s public works director. An inquiry into that action prompted the city clerk’s office to disclose that the information had been removed at the city attorney’s direction. Talley does not have authority to alter the city’s website.
Beginning in August, Talley became less and less visible in Colton. She was replaced in some venues by Marco Martinez, a partner with Best Best & Krieger. In fact, Talley’s mishandling of the Colton account appears to have impacted her standing with Best Best & Krieger, which now appears to be in danger of losing Colton as a client altogether. Talley, who formerly had an office in Best Best & Krieger’s Irvine office, where she was formerly listed as an “associate,” has been consistently unavailable at that location since August. She is no longer listed as an “associate,” but is now deemed to be “of counsel,” an indication Best Best & Krieger is seeking to disassociate itself from her.
The final straw which set the stage for Talley’s departure appears to be events at the September 2 council meeting. Talley violated attorney-client privilege by publicly disclosing the results of the investigation initiated by the Colton citizens without seeking the approval of the full council. Councilman Frank Gonzales, one of the two council members alleged to have benefited as result of the “off-the-books” activity in the public works department, convinced Talley to discuss the investigation’s results publicly during his council comments, which not only violated attorney-client privilege, but appears to have violated the Brown Act as well since discussion took place on a non-agendized item.
This disclosure further violated Compton’s right to confidentiality with regard to his status and performance as a city employee/former employee.
During questioning by the council, Talley went on to disclose that the results of the investigation would be made available to the public, once again bypassing attorney-client privilege. She also indicated that the investigation into the public works portion of the complaint was ongoing, which contradicted information provided by Ball.
Within the last two weeks, Best Best & Krieger has brought Carlos Campos, a partner in the firm and the city attorney for the city of Coachella, in to serve as the acting city attorney of Colton. Indications were that Campos, who speaks Spanish and has published articles with regard to international human rights law, was handpicked by the higher powers within Best Best & Krieger to shore up the firm’s relationship with Colton officials in an effort to salvage the contract for legal services the firm has with Colton.
Marco Martinez did not return any of several phone calls seeking input for this article.

Rullings In SB Bankruptcy Consistently Go City’s Way

(September 17)  RIVERSIDE—In federal bankruptcy court, the city of San Bernardino continues to rack up victories that in total have begun to chip away at what public employee unions and the massive state public employee pension system have long maintained are their sacrosanct status immunizing them from responsibility in the financial crisis precipitated by too-generous public employee contracts in the past.
Over the last several years, many California cities and governmental agencies are beset with dwindling revenues, an outgrowth of the long stagnating national, state and regional economies. Nearly all municipalities and governmental agencies have seen some drawdown in services provided to constituents and taxpayers. Many of those agencies have experienced layoffs. Others still have negotiated employee givebacks on contracts or less generous contracts going forward.
In the face of all of this, public employee union representatives as well as the representatives of CalPERS, the California Public Employees Retirement System, have asserted that a deal is a deal, and that any contractual commitments made by cities or agencies to their employees or those employees’ bargaining units are etched in stone and cannot be rescinded, even if the financial means to make good on those commitments are drying up. Simultaneously, there have been multiple exposés about how public employees participating in CalPERS and other public employee pension systems  have utilized pension spiking to inflate the pensions they receive to annual payouts that exceed the amount of salary those employees were paid during their highest earning year while actually working. This practice, which was outlawed by the state of California in 1938, proliferated nonetheless. An employee would pension spike by waiting until he or she had been promoted to a high position, thereby receiving a high salary, and at that time collect deferred vacation time payouts, sick leave payouts, education coverage payouts, communication device payouts, clothing payouts, travel payouts, computer payouts and the like. During that year, the employee’s total compensation would reach an amount that in some cases exceeded 150 percent or approached 200 percent of his or her highest salary. That total compensation for that year would then be used to calculate the amount of that individual’s pension. In this way, former San Bernardino County Undersheriff Richard Beemer is drawing an annual pension of $290,901.96, even though his highest annual salary was $196,000.
In 2012, the pension spiking scandal had resonated so loudly that the state legislature outlawed its use by any public employees hired on January 1, 2013 or thereafter. CalPERS has nonetheless maintained that its retirees are due the pensions they qualify for under whatever formulas were said to be in place at the time those employees applied for them.
CalPERS lawyers have been leashed upon any entities, public or private, which maintain differently.
The bankruptcy filings of three major California cities – Stockton, Vallejo and San Bernardino – set the stage for whether the guarantees provided to public employees that they can collect on their benefits – no matter how generous – are as ironclad as their representatives state.
After years of financial challenges, San Bernardino filed a Chapter 9 bankruptcy petition in August 2012. In its filing, the county seat asserted it had $180 million in ongoing unfunded liabilities and a $49 million annual operating deficit. Shortly thereafter,  CalPERS contested the city’s filing, maintaining San Bernardino has hundreds of millions of dollars worth of assets it could liquidate to make good on its responsibility to its creditors.
CalPERS is San Bernardino’s largest creditor. The city currently has a $26 million annual obligation to the retirement system and it withheld more than $14 million in pension fund payments from July 2012 until July of 2013 and has continued to underpay CalPERS the amount the system’s administrators maintain is continuously due it. The city has offered to make partial payments into the system until such time as it gets back on its feet financially. Even more alarming to CalPERS was the city’s effort to forge a long-term solution that includes renegotiating the amount of its commitment to the retirement system altogether.
CalPERS deemed such an eventuality unacceptable, as it would set a precedent in California of allowing municipalities in financial straits to stiff the pension system. Moreover, the reduction of the pensions of retired or soon-to-retire employees in cities seeking to dodge their commitments to the system could severely undercut the faith of the state’s public employees in the system, a crisis of confidence that could lead to the system’s demise.
In addition to opposing San Bernardino’s bankruptcy petition outright, CalPERS asserted that the pension fund system has a special status among the city’s creditors and that it should go to the front of the line when the city begins to pay those to whom it is in arrears. The federal bankruptcy judge overseeing San Bernardino’s bankruptcy filing, Judge Meredith Jury, did not accept that, ruling that CalPERS has no greater or lesser standing than the scores of other entities the city owes money to.
Moreover, Jury consistently ruled that San Bernardino is as insolvent as it claims. In August 2013, she ruled that the city’s bankruptcy should be granted pursuant to a pendency plan by which the city continues to pay its employees and other expenses critical to its day-to-day operations but services its other debts on the basis of the limited financial means available to it.
CalPERS wanted out of Jury’s courtroom and previously pressed for leave to appeal the matter to another judge, a request Jury denied.
CalPERS took a writ to U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, where Judge Dolly Gee granted the pension fund’s request to appeal Jury’s findings directly to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
While the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s request to have the 9th Circuit here the case was pending, further efforts at mediation between the city of San Bernardino and CalPERS continued under the guidance of a court-appointed mediator, Judge Gregg Zive.
The mediation between the city and CalPERS was not the only touchy issue that grew out of the bankruptcy. The city is also involved in delicate negotiations with creditors, bondholders, service providers and vendors, as well as city employee bargaining groups.
In May, Jury expressed dismay at the lack of progress in the mediation talks and said the delay in coming to a workable arrangement with CalPERS was preventing the city from coming to terms with  both its police and fire unions, which have disputes with the city over the declining revenue available for public safety employee salaries.
In June came word that the attorneys for the city and CalPERS had arrived at some form of tentative agreement that will allow the city’s bankruptcy reorganization plan to proceed, though the terms remain secret.
A terse case status update noted that the terms of the agreement were in Zive’s possession, and an early draft of the agreement had been provided to attorneys for the city’s employee unions and the legal representatives of the city’s other creditors. That document was subject to the confidentiality restrictions imposed by Jury with regard to the mediation effort, such that no public disclosure of any of the agreement’s particulars has been made.
That secrecy is an indication that the terms worked out were less than absolutely favorable to CalPERS, and that the confidentiality is being maintained to limit damage to the pension system’s position in any future bankruptcy proceedings.
This week, Judge Jury entered two tentative decisions that favored the city in its ongoing efforts to come to terms with the union for its firefighters.
In the first of those, Jury tossed out the current bargaining agreement between firefighters and the city, giving the city authority to impose a new contract not agreed to by the firefighting rank and file. The city appealed to Jury by telling her it wanted to jettison the existing contract to allow it to opt out of a mandatory constant staffing protocol and instead institute selective minimum staffing during shifts when those firefighters’ presence is not critical, thereby saving up to $4 million in overtime pay the city shells out to firefighters in a typical year. The city also asked Jury to allow it to mandate that firefighters pay the retirement contributions that the city until January 2013 paid toward the firefighters pensions.
Jury’s ruling gave the city the flexibility to float the proposals but did not lock them in, at least as of yet. Jury said the city would need to abide by, at least for now, a city charter provision that requires city public safety employee salaries stay at an average of what is paid their counterparts in ten other similarly sized California cities. That charter provision is going before city voters in November for possible revision.
Jury also tentatively rejected the firefighter union’s motion to be let out from under a stay that prohibits the filing of a suit against the city while its bankruptcy is pending. Firefighters wanted leave to file a suit because their attorneys maintain the city had violated certain provisions of state law pertaining to the conduct of negotiations.

End Incestuous Quid Pro Quo Relationships At Upland City Hall, Says McAuliffe

(September 16) Rod McAuliffe said he is running for the Upland City Council to end a small group of incestuous insiders’ domination of the city.
“It is time to rid City Hall of the ‘you do something for me, and I will do something for you’ politics once and for all.” McAuliffe said. “Only then, will City Hall be able to finally get its fiscal house in order.   I am running for city council because the residents deserve to have someone who will truly represent them, rather than represent the many special interests that have taken over. I am convinced that one of the main reasons Upland finds itself in the financial disaster it is in today is because most of City Hall makes decisions based off what will please and satisfy the special interests, rather than making decisions that are fiscally responsible and best for the city and its residents.”
The City of Gracious Living is on the road to financial ruin, McAuliffe said, and aggressive action is called for.
“There are several major issues facing the city at this time,” McAuliffe said. “The most critical issue is the city’s financial condition. The city is in this condition because many at City Hall are fiscally irresponsible, wasteful, and make deals and contracts that they will benefit from. An example of this could be seen in a multi-million dollar 12 year contract with an outside company that several members of the council voted to approve without allowing it to be put up for bidding. This is just one of numerous examples.”
McAuliffe continued, “Another issue has to do with many of the city executives and department heads receiving astronomical salaries. Some of them receive salaries the same or higher as a person holding the same position in a city twice as big as Upland. Regardless of this excess, many at City Hall felt there was no need to freeze their raises. They had no trouble, however, trying to pass a tax increase on the residents, they said ‘because the city needed money.’ When that failed, they just raised the cost of the water and sewer service.”
He took aim at what he said was the city’s costly retirement plan for its employees.
“Pensions are another major issue facing the city,” McAuliffe said. “The California Public Employee Retirement System has been mismanaged so bad in Sacramento that they continue to increase the contribution amount demands on cities. If not dealt with soon, not only will the city find itself worse off financially than it is now, it could also cause the city to terminate many of its employees and lose other valuable employees to cities that are more fiscally sound. According to the Upland Budget Task Force Report that was completed this year, one of the main reasons Upland finds itself in this situation is because City Hall has continued to conduct poor negotiations. We need to negotiate contracts that will be beneficial and provide long term stability to both the city and its employees.”
Upland’s daunting financial challenges, McAuliffe said, are the result of “the quid pro quo politics at City Hall, and the lack of leadership that is needed to create an environment where people could put their differences aside and work as a team to resolve issues in a way that will be most beneficial to the city and its residents. We need to manage our budget in a way that reflects fiscal responsibility.”
He identified six steps in a plan of action that he said would position the city to turn the corner on the problems facing it.
“We need to, one, eliminate special interests from City Hall; two, eliminate excessive pay; three, eliminate redundant positions; four, operate within the means of the city budget; five, be fiscally responsible; and six, implement the appropriate cost controls to provide the proper checks and balances to the budget,” McAuliffe said.
McAuliffe said he is qualified to serve on the council through “my past experiences and education. I have nearly 20 years’ combined experience in both the public and private sector. While in law-enforcement I held several positions besides patrol. One of the positions I held was an administrative position in scheduling, at the courthouse, where we had over a seven million dollar annual budget. I was one of the people in charge of scheduling for over 100 personnel. I never exceeded the budget, and always knew how to operate within its means. As a corporate loss prevention manager, I was responsible for investigating loss and shortage throughout different parts of the corporation and, after gaining personal insight to how each sector operated, effected controls that played a significant role in the reduction of shortage and future losses for the corporation.
“I have experience both in the public and private sectors,” McAuliffe stated. “Obtaining my Bachelors and Masters degrees in business management has allowed me to become  well-versed in the theory and practice of running an efficient and lean operation. I have no trouble speaking up for or standing up for what I believe in. I realize at the same time that to take action, a consensus is necessary. I will stand up to the special interests. I will be fiscally responsible with the taxpayer money I am entrusted to oversee. I will operate within the means of the city budget. I won’t raise taxes because of the city’s financial mismanagement. I will always be accountable to those who elected me. My intent is to be the “Voice for the Taxpayers,” and ensure their voice is always heard.
McAuliffe graduated from Arcadia High School, served in the Marine Corps and obtained two degrees from Azusa Pacific University. He has lived in Upland for nine years. He is married with one child now attending Upland High School.

Hesperia Extending Growth Spur Ploy By Fee Reductions

(September 17)  HESPERIA — The city of Hesperia will not give up on its effort to induce more development through the stratagem of discounting the development impact fees it has traditionally imposed on builders, a divided city council decided this week.
Hesperia experienced explosive growth in the late 1990s and well into the first decade of the current millennium. In 2000, the population in the City of Progress stood at 62,582. Over the next ten years, there was an influx of 27,591 into the city, as indicated in the 2010 Census, when 90,173 noses were counted.
But between February 2010 and April of 2012, the city did not issue a single residential construction permit. At that point, the council voted to reduce its development impact fees as a ploy of encouraging further expansion. City officials represented the move as an ‘experiment” and “pilot program,” stating that it was understood that the discounts would lessen the amount of money collected to offset the construction of infrastructure, such as providing equipment and capital improvements for the fire department, water and sewer facilities and roads and bridges.
Residential construction in the city did pick up afterward.  Ariaz Construction undertook a project to construct a single 1,711-square-foot home eight days after the council approved the developer impact fee reduction, which was largely seen as a symbolic change. But gradually, things got moving. From April to November 2013, 21 planned homes were submitted for a plan check, and 61 building permits have been issued since October 2013.
In November 2013, Alan Colatuono requested that he be allowed to apply the discount to his plans for a 19-home tract development. The council granted that request, as it did to that of Sorrento Homes to save $5,500 per home on its proposed project.
The city calculates that since the inception of the developer impact fee discounts, it has foregone the collection of $330,000.
While the economy in general and in Hesperia in particular has not come roaring back, homes construction is picking up.
This week, the city council considered an extension of the reductions, which were to sunset later this year.
Expressing concern that the discounts were depleting the city of its ability to create infrastructure to stay on pace with development, the two senior members of the council, Mike Leonard and Thurston Smith, opposed the extension. The remainder of the council, Eric Schmidt, Bill Holland and Russ Blewett, supported the extension, saying they were hopeful it would provoke further growth.

Hanlon Taking Stand Against The Status Quo In Rancho Cucamonga Council Race

(September 15) Bill Hanlon said he is running for city council in Rancho Cucamonga “because we want to take control of our city government. We, the people, do not have control.”
The major challenge facing the city, Hanlon said, is thinning out the city’s top heavy managerial ranks and reducing the too-generous salaries and benefits being provided to the city’s top administrators.
“We have a real problem with our top employee pay schedule,” Hanlon said. “Our senior level employees in Rancho Cucamonga make $204,000 per year on average.  The second challenge we face is our budget. I have done a little bit of research on this. There are way too many things that are wrong. I found that we are paying significant overtime to management. Management receives one hour of leave/overtime for every hour they work past 40 hours per week.  Management by definition is salaried.”
Hanlon went on, “At Heritage Park the city was negotiating with the equestrian community for the maintenance of the equestrian services in the park. In the middle of the negotiations, the city closed the restrooms. So, while they were closed, I asked what it cost to clean the restrooms – one men’s restroom and one women’s restroom. I was told that the cost was $22,000 per year. So I ran that number. If you take $22,000 per bathroom times the 31 restrooms we have at our park and recreation facilities and you include retirement pay, that comes to $810,000 just to clean restrooms. If anyone cannot see a problem with that, they have money to burn.”
Hanlon continued, “Let’s talk about the pay schedule. The first thing you have to look at is how it compares to the rest of the county, considering people in equal positions. We need that to set some guidelines as to where we are going from here. We have to look at this very hard. We have a city manager. We have an assistant city manager. We have three deputy city managers. We have five people doing the job of two. We have to have a city manager. I agree we need an assistant city manager. But we have three deputy city managers and that is just overkill. We have to learn we are not just made of money. We can’t keep raising taxes all the time.”
Hanlon said he understands that there is a stark difference of orientation and  opinion between himself and the existing council.
“The incumbents vote 5-0 on everything 95 percent of the time,” he said. “This has been going on for four years. We don’t need yes people. It is groupthink. It is the political personification of apathy. I have gone to the council meetings and I have been an absolute bulldog when it comes to looking at what the problems are and coming up with the way to solve the problems. When I worked as the head of data management, I controlled budgets covering as many as 160 employees. I had  that many people reporting to me and I know as a member of the city council I can shed light on things. We need to examine upper management. Our administration is out of control. We have at least 92 people at the lower end of the pay scale who have not received pay raises for four years while upper management has been getting raises non-stop.”
Hanlon said that while he recognized that if he is elected “I would not be the only person and must be part of the team” he is convinced that “one man can make a difference. It has to start with one man. Everyone says this is a job that is too big and too hard and that it can’t be done. But I believe it starts with one man saying we can’t continue. I am not afraid of being that man. Everyone says the incumbents cn’t be beaten because they throw too much money, $150,000 or more at the election from unions and the trash company. I do not owe the unions any favors. I do not owe the trash company any favors. It is time that a citizen stands up and says ‘This has to stop.’”
Born and raised in New York, Hanlon attended Massapequa High School. He later attended El Camino Junior College in California. He is a Vietnam War veteran and spent more than five years in the U.S. Navy. He is married with one child. He is retired, but owns and manages property in Orange County.

Bourikas’ Departure Creates Vacancy On 29 Palms Water District Board

(September 14) TWENTYNINE PALMS — Nicholas Bourikas, a member of the Twentynine Palms Water District Board of Directors since July 2010, has resigned from that position.
Bourikas, who is known by the nickname “Bo,” was originally appointed to replace Chris Gallagher, who had resigned more than four years ago.
In 2011, Bourikas was retained in the position when he and another board incumbent, Sam Moore, were the only candidates competing in that year’s board election.
Bourikas tendered his resignation on August 27, effective September 15. The board, which had the option of scheduling a special election to fill the vacancy, elected to instead appoint his successor to remain in place at least until December 2015, at which point the current term will expire. A regularly scheduled election for the post is due in November 2015.
During his tenure on the board, the district’s management of the Twentynine Palms Fire District and the efforts to enhance its funding has been a recurrent topic of discussion and votes.
“I thank you all very much for putting up with me the last four years,” Bourikas said. “I wish the district as a whole success as we move forward.”
Those interested in applying to replace Bourikas can do so by inquiring with the water district’s general manager, Tamara Alaniz, at (760) 367-7546.