Divided SB Council Commits $600,000 To Funding Homeless Access Center

By Mark Gutglueck
(May 5) A divided San Bernardino City Council this week made a further gesture toward alleviating the homeless problem plaguing the county seat, just a few weeks after a countywide survey of homelessness done at the behest of the Federal Department of Housing and Urban Development pegged the city as having the county’s highest concentration of people living on the streets.
The action places San Bernardino at the forefront of county municipalities proactively dealing with the persistent homeless problem.
The council collectively voted to approve appropriating $600,000 to intensify its efforts at managing its homeless population and creating options for those unsheltered to transition into some sort of civilized living arrangements. It reserved $50,000 of the original $650,000 budgeted for the program to pay for motel and hotel vouchers to be distributed exclusively to any city residents displaced from their homes by an emergency.
A coordinated four-hour survey known as the 2015 Point in Time Homeless Count conducted between the hours of 6 a.m. and 10 a.m. on January 22 and submitted to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development in April found there were 767 homeless in San Bernardino, with 184 in shelters, 200 in transitional housing and 383 unsheltered. That county homeless census was undertaken by the San Bernardino County Homeless Partnership in conjunction with the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, several of the county’s cities, many of its law enforcement agencies and volunteer organizations.
San Bernardino, the county’s oldest and most populous city with 209,924 residents according to the 2010 Census and which had grown to 213,708 by 2013, had the largest number of homeless of any of the county’s 24 cities, with its 767 easily outdistancing Victorville, which had the second most at 261 homeless, Upland with 166 homeless, Yucca Valley at 161 homeless, Ontario with 146 homeless and Fontana with 135 homeless.
In 2014, the city council directed the city manager to seek bids for a contract provider to offer a “centralized service access center to provide wrap-around services to reduce the number of unsheltered resident homeless population.” It then devoted the proceeds from a United States Housing and Urban Development Department Emergency Solutions Grants Program to be used as a $200,000 effort toward the creation and management of that service access center as part of the city’s so-called Homelessness Intervention Action Plan. In the same time frame the council directed the police chief, office of the mayor and the mayor pro tem to establish and recommend proper residency criteria for eligibility for the program. This resulted in a program policy giving priority to those members of the city’s unsheltered homeless population who could show they once were residents of the city.
Also in 2014, the council declared property owned by the city of San Bernardino located at 241 West 9th Street to be surplus and requested solicitation bids. When no bids were received, the council amended the 2014-2015 Emergency Solutions Grant budget, consisting of money provided to the city by the federal government, allocating $200,000 for a proposed access center and authorized the city manager to enter into negotiations with Mercy Housing Living Centers for operation of the homeless access center, designating 241 West 9th Street, also known as the Easter Seals Building, as the location for that facility.
Mercy House, which is based in Santa Ana and employs Larry Haynes as its executive director, since February 27, 2015 has served as the San Bernardino Homeless Access Center operator. Since opening, the center has enrolled 115 clients and housed 11 families while preparing to make accommodations for two more families.
With the ongoing homeless crisis continuing to grip San Bernardino, Mercy House submitted a proposal to continue operating the San Bernardino Homeless Access Center through Fiscal Year 2016-2017, and the city responded with a plan to provide for funding such an extension through fiscal year 2015-16.
According to Brandon Mims, the city’s assistant housing director, “Mercy House has extensive experience in assisting and providing services to the homeless populations of San Bernardino and Orange Counties. During the 2014-2015 fiscal year Mercy House was able to secure housing for 566 individuals, rescue 64 families from becoming homeless, and serve 4,353 homeless individuals, meeting their immediate needs and providing connections to restore stability.
“The San Bernardino Homeless Access Center provides wrap-around services in order to reduce the number of unsheltered resident homeless population,” Mims continued. “Services include a drop-in center, motel vouchers, food vouchers, information for and assistance with permanent housing, counseling and treatment for mental health and substance abuse, showers and restrooms, and basic medical care. In order for an access center to be effective, it must be open to its clients as much as possible. The proposed hours for the access center are Monday through Sunday; 6:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.”
Mims continued, “The access center seeks to provide essential services that will reduce the number of unsheltered homeless population in our community. Starting from February 27th, 2015, when the mayor and council approved the contract for Mercy House to provide the services for the access center, substantial progress has been made.”
On Monday, May 4, an item was placed on the city council agenda calling for $30,000 to be appropriated to the city administration, and $20,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant Funds be set aside for the purpose of assisting with the homeless solution program. In addition, the item, which was featured for city council consideration, called for providing $55,000 in Emergency Solutions Grant money, another $270,000 to be used to provide 14,716 hours of service delivery by Mercy House staff, provide $50,000 in family motel vouchers; $50,000 in food vouchers, $50,000 for special needs assistance and $50,000 in transportation assistance. And the item also laid out $75,000 for the creation of a “check-in center.”
According to city staff, the homeless access center does not represent disbursements out of the city’s general fund, which is used to cover day-to-day municipal operating expenses, but is covered by federal grant money available to the city in the form of Emergency Solutions Grants and Community Development Block Grant accounts.
The check-in center, according to Haynes, would be an adjunct to the access center where the homeless could store for a period of time their possessions, such as clothes, tools, and identification under a secure arrangement. Haynes said providing the homeless with such a facility would be of great assistance in helping them make efforts to actuate themselves and secure both housing and possible employment. He said that not being able to secure their belongings often represents to the homeless as much of a burden as not having shelter for themselves. “Because they don’t have that, they don’t move forward,” Haynes said. “The check-in center will provide them a point of contact.” In the past, Haynes said, the creation of check-in centers “moved dozens off the streets because of that point of contact.”
A majority of the city council favored the program. In particular, council members, Rikke Johnson and James Mulvihill expressed enthusiasm for the underlying concept, as did councilwoman Virginia Marquez, who further expressed her admiration for the work done by Mercy House. Councilman Benito Barrios proved a crucial swing vote in the program’s favor.
Two of the council’s members, however, John Valdivia and Henry Nickel, were opposed in principle to the extension and its underlying concept. Councilman Fred Shorett, while more accepting of a homeless alleviation program in general, was not sold on Mercy House’s management of that effort.
Councilman Nickel questioned the length of time the program being funded will run, citing section three of the agreement, which showed $400,000 Emergency Solutions Grants and $250,000 in Community Development Block Grants funding the project from July 1 of this year through June 30, 2017. He was informed that the 2017 date given in the agreement was an error and that the $650,000 would fund the project only until July 1, 2016.
Nickel indicated his opposition to the extension of the existing access center program, saying “This is really a $1.3 million extension, not a $650,000 amendment to the agreement. Just to be clear, I think this agreement encompasses a lot more than is included in the budget summary.”
One of councilman Valdivia’s objections was that the homeless are not taxpayers and in Valdivia’s estimation, municipal services should be reserved for those who foot the bill for them.
Valdivia asked that the $50,000 earmarked for hotel vouchers for those forced out of their residences by emergency circumstances be considered as a separate item and that it be administered by some entity other than Mercy House. “My position was that irrespective of the homeless center, this was not to be part of the access center, per se,” Valdivia said of the hotel vouchers. “There are individuals throughout our community that have catastrophic events, life loss, etcetera, to their mobile home, to their family residential unit. I am a little unclear as to why this was somehow combined with the access center funding. What I think, as an elected official, is it’s better run through organizational non-profits. I would like the city manager to make sure this is somehow separate and apart from the access center. I don’t want to think the homeless now have carte blanche access to hotel vouchers here. My position was there are catastrophic events and in the event of an emergency and loss to a property or mobile home or what-have-you, our taxpaying base, our residents here, renter or homeowner, have the access and ability to get a one-day, two-day, three-day voucher so they can at least put life together in the short term, call their insurance agent, make arrangements with family members and attempt to plug the gap on their emergency situation.”
Valdivia made a motion that the $50,000 in hotel vouchers be administered by an entity or municipal department other than Mercy House.
Valdivia, Benito Barrios, Virginia Marquez and Nickel supported that motion.
With regard to the remaining $600,000 program, Marquez was laudatory of Mercy House’s accomplishments so far and endorsed extending the contract. Councilman Rikke Johnson said, “We are taking a step in an unknown direction, but our issues are of a great magnitude in this city.”
Valdivia appealed to his colleagues not to proceed. “I see a lot of duplication in this budget,” he said. “There are a lot of other resources in our community. This is taxpayer money and tangible benefits that I believe could be used elsewhere for improvements throughout our community. From the outset I have not been a supporter of the homeless access center. I think there are other community partners that could be involved. This is not the way to go.”
He garnered support from Nickel and Councilman Fred Shorett, who pushed Haynes to disclose his salary as the executive director of Mercy House. Haynes evaded the question, saying his rate of remuneration was available on guidestar.com. A search of that website showed his yearly compensation to be $131,000.
The staff report, from city manager Allen Parker and prepared by Mims, encouraged the council to proceed. “Staff recommends adoption of the attached resolution which will amend the existing agreement between the city and Mercy House Living Centers for program operations at the San Bernardino Homeless Access Center through June 30, 2017,” the report states.
The vote to provide Mercy House with the $600,000 extension of its existing contract through June 30. 2016 passed, with Johnson, Jim Mulvihill, Marquez, and Barrios in support, Valdivia abstaining and Nickel and Shorett opposed.

SB County’s Ozone Worst In Nation

(May 6) San Bernardino County has garnered the dubious distinction of being the most ozone-saturated locale in the entire country.
According to the American Lung Association’s “State of the Air 2015” San Bernardino County leads all other counties in the United States in exposing its residents to ozone. Also, according to the American Lung Association report, which relies upon air quality monitoring nationwide during the 2011 to 2013 time frame, the county was the 16th worst in the country in terms of constant particle pollution.
San Bernardino County, the lower portion of which is poised at the far east end of the Los Angeles basin and subject to an accompanying inversion layer that traps the exhaust from millions of cars and the emissions from industrial smokestacks in the troposphere which hovers above it, has long suffered from poor air quality. But with the shuttering of a number of regional polluters such as Fontana’s Kaiser Steel and efforts by both the South Coast Air Quality Management District and the Mojave Desert Air Quality Management District over the last several decades, air pollution has lessened in the region.
Indeed, according to the American Lung Association, the condition of San Bernardino County’s air has improved generally to what is considered middle level quality. Paradoxically, however, the county’s air represents a serious hazard to at-risk groups such as those with asthma, emphysema, heart or pulmonary problems or diabetes or those living proximate to air pollution sources.
In its report card from the American Lung Association, San Bernardino County was given an F for 117.7 high-ozone days, a D for 2.8 high-particle pollution days across 24 hours and another F for 12.6 days a year of high-particle pollution.
Those most seriously impacted by the county’s bad air are the 578,417 of the county’s 2.08 million people who are under the age of 18 whose tender pink lungs are vulnerable to the particulates and noxious chemicals contained therein, the 208,565 older than 65; the 51,241 with childhood asthma; the 131,342 with adult asthma; the 66,473 with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; the 94,315 with cardiovascular disease; the 144,112 with diabetes and the 392,242 living in poverty.
There was some positive news in the report. Air quality in the county’s Mojave Desert communities is improving.
Throughout the country, according to the American Lung Association report, progress is being made in cleaning the air in accordance with the goals and restrictions of the Clean Air Act passed under the Richard Nixon Administration in 1970. The American Lung Association said further efforts to safeguard the air were called for, such as strengthening “outdated” ozone standards and adopting a strong final Clean Power Plan.

No Movement Toward Settlement In CVUSD Legal Fight Over Public Prayer

(May 5) Both the Chino Valley Unified School District and the Freedom From Religion Foundation appear to be digging in their heels over the issue of the school district board members’ and employees’ custom of engaging in Christian prayer recitals, Bible readings and proselytizing during meetings and other district forums.
In November, the Freedom From Religion Foundation of Madison, Wisconsin filed suit in Federal Court in Riverside against the district on behalf of two named plaintiffs, Larry Maldonado and Mike Anderson, and 21 unnamed plaintiffs who asserted they were alienated or intimidated at school board meetings because of overt and constant references to Christianity, including “prayers, Bible readings and proselytizing.” The plaintiffs want the intrusion of religiosity into the conducting of district business to cease.
While some district officials suggested the district could make an early and inexpensive exit from the lawsuit by dispensing with the sermonizing, at least two of the board’s members are members of the Chino Hills Calvary Chapel, a church led by the Reverend Jack Hibbs, who had successfully lobbied the board previously to include Bible study classes as part of the district’s high school curriculum. Hibbs evinces a denominationalist attitude, which holds that Christians have a duty to take over public office and promote their religious beliefs. Both board member James Na and board member Andrew Cruz were able to convince the remainder of the board that the district would not sustain any costs or liability as a consequence of defending against the suit and in January the board voted 3-2 against hiring the law firm which normally represents the district to respond to the suit. Instead, the district engaged the Sacramento-based Pacific Justice Institute for $1 to defend the district in the civil lawsuit.
The Pacific Justice Institute, founded and led by Brad Dacus, touts itself as a public interest law firm that “handles cases addressing religious freedom, including church and private school rights issues, curtailments to evangelism by the government, harassment because of religious faith, employers attacked for their religious-based policies, [and] students and teachers’ rights to share their faith at public schools.”
According to the Pacific Justice Institute’s website, it stands “at the forefront of attorneys who recognize the need to preserve religious liberty in America.” The institute has sought to make a name for itself by taking on cutting edge religious activity-as-free speech cases which ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
In addition to defending Christian ministering in public as a First Amendment-protected activity, the Pacific Justice Institute has taken on other school/educational context issues, such as challenging California law giving transgender students access to toilet facilities of their own choosing and opposing the teaching of yoga as an exercise program in public schools. Very recently, on April 30, the Pacific Justice Institute suffered a legal loss in the case of the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee v. City of Santa Monica. In that case the Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee sued the city for shutting down Christmas displays. The case evolved when citizens and residents, objecting to the city’s permitting of nativity scenes on public property during the holiday season, applied to have other religious displays allowed. The city responded by establishing a lottery for display applicants. Christians then complained when only two of the city’s 13 venues were reserved for them. In response to the complaints, fed-up city officials cancelled the display program altogether. The Santa Monica Nativity Scenes Committee, represented by the Pacific Justice Institute, sued the city. The city prevailed in the suit, which upheld the municipal ban on unattended displays in Palisades Park. The committee appealed, with the United States Court of Appeals For the Ninth Circuit ruling against it on April 30.
The case in which the Chino Valley Unified School District is a defendant has yet to proceed to trial, but there has already been some procedural wrangling, which is likely to continue for some time.
The case is being heard in the United States District Court for the Central District of California Eastern Division. The court granted continuing anonymity to those plaintiffs wishing to continue to maintain the confidentiality of their identities.
According to attorney Andrew Seidel, the attorney with the Freedom From Religion Foundation representing the plaintiffs, “The court granted a protective order which allows the plaintiffs to proceed under anonymity. This is not anything close to a decision on the merits.”
Seidel said he and the other attorneys representing the plaintiffs, David J.P. Kaloyanides and Rebecca Markert, are considering now whether to make a “substantive motion asking for an early court ruling” which would potentially order the district to cease and desist in allowing Christian prayer at the board meetings or whether to instead “proceed with discovery, asking for a lot of documents.”
Any talk of settlement or dismissal, Seidel said, must be viewed in the context of the plaintiff’s insistence that the educational system no longer be used as a venue for proselytizing.
“We are not willing to settle the case unless the district stops breaking the law, which means the board members stop using their office to preach,” Seidel said. “What we want is a consent agreement that both parties and the judge sign off on.”
A quick resolution, Seidel said, “won’t be simple.” He said the Pacific Justice Institute is locked into arguing that religious activity in the public forum of a school board meeting is protected speech. He said a motion to the court to get an early declaration contradicting that could be heard relatively soon, but that realistically, the issue will take much longer to resolve.
“If we make the motion, we could have a decision in three or four months,” he said. “If we go to full discovery, it may take two or three years. And after that, the district may decide to appeal.”
Seidel suggested it would take an act of God for the district to prevail in the case. He pointed out that a parallel case out of North Carolina within the last few days produced a ruling that “The school district in Rowan County North Carolina violated the law and the Constitution by having a Christian prayer at every one of its school board meetings.”
The court for the Central District of California would not be bound by that ruling, Seidel said, but it demonstrates the legal principles involved.
Seidel characterized the Pacific Justice Institute as a “radical Christian law firm” that was pandering to equally zealous members of the Chino Valley Unified School Board who were shortsightedly fixated on their own religious orientation and disregarding the belief systems and rights of others. “There are Christians in the school district,” Seidel said. “But there are also Moslems, and Hindus and Jews and atheists.”
His firm was not pursuing the case for money, Seidel insisted. “We did not take this case to make money,” he said. “We almost always lose money, even when we do recover costs. Those awards do not cover what we put out to follow through on these cases. Money is not the issue. Upholding the Constitution and protecting the rights of the students and having the school board concentrate on the role of educating students is the issue here. That is why we took up this case.”

Apple Valley Library Roof On Brink Of Collapsing

(May 5) The structural supports for the roof at the Apple Valley Library have begun to fail.
Staff at the Apple Valley Library, which is located at 14901 Dale Evans Parkway in Apple Valley, in mid-November 2014 observed cracks in the truss system supporting the roof and reported it to the county’s architecture and engineering department. The architecture and engineering department in conjunction with Dahl, Taylor and Associates, which serves as one of the county’s structural engineers, conducted an initial site investigation the following week. At that time, the actual damage was documented in six of the supporting trusses.
The structural engineer began developing the analysis immediately thereafter, conducting several additional site visits. A final report on the matter was completed in late February 2015. Following a meeting to discuss the report with the county’s risk management division, members of the architecture and engineering department and the structural engineer, a proposed repair procedure for the repair of the six damaged trusses was developed.
While architecture and engineering department personnel and the structural engineer were conducting an examination of the library on April 17, 2015, cracking was discovered in two additional trusses. Also, further damage was observed on the initial six trusses, and shifting of the fire-control sprinkler lines was also observed. Based upon the recommendation of the structural engineer, the library was closed on April 18, and the sprinkler system drained on April 20, 2015.
The board of supervisors this week declared the situation is an emergency pursuant to Public Contract Code section 22050, requiring immediate action that will not permit a delay resulting from a formal solicitation of bids. The board then approved, upon the recommendation of Kenneth Hernandez, the director of the county’s risk management division, and Carl Alban, the director of the county’s architecture and engineering department, a resolution authorizing the county’s chief executive officer, Greg Devereaux, to direct the county purchasing agent to issue the necessary purchase orders in an amount not to exceed $835,000 for the repair of the truss system and related structural repairs at the Apple Valley Library.
According to Alban, “The cost of the repairs has not been determined at this time. Funding for the repairs will come from the 2014-15 minor capital improvement program budget, with potential reimbursement from the county’s insurance carriers.

In Response To Ontario’s Airport-Return Suit, L.A. Says Transfer Is Legal & Binding

(May 7) The city of Ontario bound itself contractually to transferring control and ownership of Ontario Airport to Los Angeles in 1967 based upon a set of conditions to be met regarding the development and expansion of the airport, the city of Los Angeles said in a 52-page document filed in Riverside Superior Court on Wednesday.
After those conditions were met, the Ontario City Council in 1985 complied with the terms of that contract, transferring ownership and management of the airport to the larger city, according to the court filing.
That arrangement is binding, L.A. contends in its response filed this week to a lawsuit filed by the city of Ontario in 2013 which seeks the return of the airport to the city in which it is located.
In 1967, Ontario and Los Angeles entered into a joint powers agreement that called for Los Angeles to use its leverage with airlines based upon its control of gate positions at Los Angeles International Airport to convince those airlines to fly out of and into Ontario. That strategy worked and ridership at Ontario Airport jumped from 200,000 in 1967 to 7.2 million in
2007. Since that time, however, passenger traffic in Ontario has dwindled to just over 4 million and Ontario claims that decline has come about because Los Angeles is purposefully mismanaging the airport to benefit Los Angeles International Airport.
Los Angeles disputes that, maintaining Los Angeles has lived up to its responsibility outlined in the agreement and has transformed the aerodrome, once struggling to survive, into a viable regional hub airport serving domestic and international carriers.
“Once Ontario made the discretionary decision to enter into the joint powers agreement and thereby agreed to transfer Ontario Airport when Los Angeles met certain specified conditions, there was nothing left to be done in 1985 except to administratively perform whatever was necessary to comply with the joint powers agreement,” according to Los Angeles’s legal team, consisting of Steven Rosenthal and Joshua Stambaugh.

Board Of Supervisors Overturns Approval Of Landers Solar Plant

(May 6) In a split decision, the board of supervisors this week signaled it would grant the appeal by a group of Landers residents to overturn the county planning commission’s December 2014 approval of a three megawatt solar power project in their desert community.
Power Bowman Solar applied for and obtained from the county planning commission approval of a conditional use permit to establish a three megawatt photovoltaic solar power generating facility on 35 acres in Landers, west of Sunny Vista Road, south of Herdmans Road, north of Summers Road, and east of Bowman Trail. Planned facilities proposed included photovoltaic panels mounted at either a fixed tilt or on single axis trackers, supported by steel piers driven into the ground. The height of panels was proposed to range from 6 to 12 feet, in rows running north and south on the project site. The proposed design also included inverters and transformers, mounted on small concrete pads and distributed across the site, as well as an unmanned data acquisition system to monitor and control facility operations. The project was to connect to Southern California Edison’s (SCE) existing Landers 25 kV distribution line, near the intersection of Bowman Trail and Reche Road, via a 0.4 mile generator tie line placed in the public right-of-way along Bowman Trail. The electric power produced by the project was to be sold to SCE under long-term power purchase agreements.
According to a county land use services staff report, “The zoning designation of the project site and all surrounding properties is rural living, with a 5-acre minimum parcel size, in the Homestead Valley Community Plan area. Commercial solar energy generation facilities are permitted in this zone, subject to approval of a conditional use permit. Surrounding properties are primarily vacant, and the surrounding area is very sparsely populated. There is one residence abutting the site to the north, a cluster of 7 homes ranging from 665 to 1,730 ft. away from the site to the northwest, one home approximately 800 ft. to the east, and another approximately 2,000 ft. away to the south. All property owners within 1,000 ft. from the site were notified of the project application, and none responded in opposition. The owner of the adjacent property to the east submitted a letter of support.”
The county planning commission conducted a public hearing on December 4, 2014, to consider the conditional use permit. At the public hearing, the planning commissioners posed questions and heard testimony from nearby property owners both in support and in opposition.
The primary issues raised by those in support of the project stated that it would create jobs, protect the environment, and reduce dependency on foreign oil.
The primary issues raised by those in opposition stated that the project would place commercial solar in a residential neighborhood, decrease property values, impact wildlife, impact scenic views and increase avian mortality.
Power Bowman Solar addressed concerns relative to dust, grading, avian mortality, and on-site construction at the December hearing. Further testimony from the applicant’s team sought to address concerns about visual impacts, property values, and resident safety.
At the conclusion of the public hearing, the planning commission approved the project, with members Raymond Allard, Nan Rider, and Audrey Mathews voting to approve and Randy Coleman and Paul Smith voting against.
On December 15, 2014, the Landers Association and 12 property owners filed a timely appeal of the planning commission action to approve the project. According to the appellants, the site is inappropriate for the project because it does not meet the alternative requirements, being neither unobtrusive nor built on disturbed lands; inadequate and untimely notice of the project application and hearing was provided; the project will have detrimental economic effects on the community; letters submitted in support of the project were misleading; notice was not provided to the appropriate municipal advisory council or the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms; the project was the subject of code enforcement citations as a result of work initiated prior to project consideration; and the county disregarded comments related to the California Environmental Quality Act.
According to the county’s land use services staff, however, the project would retain and transplant native vegetation at the perimeter of the facility and the panels would be screened from view and be unobtrusive; adequate notice of the project proposal was provided in compliance with the county development code and a project notice was mailed to surrounding property owners within 1,000 feet of the exterior boundaries of the subject parcels upon acceptance of the original application; infrastructure improvements required of the project will benefit the community and enhance the value of abutting properties; no empirical evidence of detrimental effects of solar energy development on nearby property values was submitted to support the appeal; widespread support, opposition, and interest in commercial solar facilities was expressed by a broad segment of the population, giving the planning commission the opportunity to render a decision in a robust factual setting; the project notice was sent to the military contact at the United States Naval Air Systems Command who coordinates with all military installations, as well as the Lucerne Valley/Johnson Valley Municipal Advisory Council, the Homestead Valley Community Council and the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council; and after the county’s code enforcement division received calls reporting that utilities were being installed and trenches being excavated without permits, a code enforcement case was opened but ultimately it was determined that the work in question, while associated with the project, was being done within the road right-of-way by a subcontractor for Northern Energy and Power under encroachment and excavation permits issued to SCE by the county’s public works division for work within the right-of-way or within the SCE easement, and no code enforcement violations were found and no land disturbance on private property was observed.
Both Tom Hudson, the director of the county’s land use services department, and Terri Rahhal, the county planning director, recommended denial of the appeal and the upholding of the conditional use permit for the project based on the findings and subject to the conditions of approval adopted by the planning commission.
Toward the close of the May 5 hearing, which included a video hook-up with the Joshua Tree Community Center to allow local residents there to offer their input, board of supervisors chairman James Ramos suggested that he could not accept county staff’s description of the property on which the solar facility is to be built as “disturbed,” pointing out that there were no mining operations, electrical substations, landfills or water treatment facilities preexisting on the property. He elicited from Rahhal a statement that it was considered disturbed because there had been some offroad activity in the area and that people had dumped trash there on occasion.
“I’m having a hard time getting over saying it is “somewhat disturbed,” he said. He then took issue with the suggestion that because the property had not been utilized it was therefore ripe for development. “It is not just vacant land,” Ramos said “There’s a lot of pristine land out there. It’s worth finding that balance between business and development and solar. I’m having a hard time seeing how that fits with rural living and single family [residential zoning].”
Ultimately, Ramos and supervisors Robert Lovingood and Curt Hagman supported and supervisors Josie Gonzales and Janice Rutherford opposed a motion declaring intent to grant the appeal, deny the project and continue the matter until June 2 with direction to staff to formulate findings for denial.

County Ups Pay For Coroner’s Forensic Pathologists

( May 5) Three key members of the county coroner’s staff have been given substantial salary increases.
The county board of supervisors this week gave approval to a recommendation by San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon which provides Dr. Frank Sheridan, who serves as the chief forensic pathologist for the coroner’s division, with an annual increase of $23,823, bringing his total annual compensation to $335,093. He now receives a salary of $245,820 and benefits of $89,273.
The board also agreed to provide Dr. Chanikarn Changsri, a forensic pathologist in the coroner’s division, with an annual increase of $23,044, bringing his total compensation package to $315,301, consisting of a salary of $228,720 and benefits of $86,581. Changsri was previously being paid $101.90 per hour.
The board further agreed to increase the remuneration paid to Dr. Brian Hutchins, a forensic pathologist who recently replaced Dr. Dennis Rhee and who has less experience than Dr. Changsri. Hutchins will see his pay increased by $17,132 annually, bringing his total compensation to $242,610, including a salary of $170,068 and benefits of $72,542.
The coroner’s division investigates deaths within its jurisdiction to determine the manner and means of death. In certain instances, forensic pathologists conduct autopsies to provide expert diagnosis as to the cause of death.
On January 9, 2005, following the retirement of Brian McCormick, the county’s last independently elected coroner, the coroner’s department was merged with the sheriff’s department in San Bernardino County and the sheriff became the titular coroner. No sheriff since that time, however, has possessed the medical training or expertise normally associated with the coroner’s function. And while the coroner’s office has been merged with the sheriff’s department in other California counties, the consolidation was a controversial one for several reasons. Whereas previously murder investigations would involve the independent coroner’s office making its scientific determinations outside the oversight of the sheriff’s department, which is the law enforcement agency investigating many of those homicides, that is no longer the case. Moreover, the coroner is routinely involved in investigating the deaths that come about as the result of officer involved shootings, including ones involving sheriff’s deputies.
According to sheriff’s captain Shannon Dicus, who represents the sheriff’s office with regard to items presented by the department to the board of supervisors, “The proposed contract amendments will provide salary adjustments for the county’s three existing full-time forensic pathologists assigned to the coroner’s division. Given there are only an estimated 500 forensic pathologists nationwide, it is imperative that salaries remain competitive to enable the county to recruit and retain these highly sought-after individuals. The recommended increase of 7.5 percent is necessary in order to maintain parity with other counties. The pathologists will also be given a one-time retention incentive of $1,750, to assist the department with retention for this hard-to-recruit classification.”
The employment contracts with Sheridan, Changsri and Hutchins are for a period of three years, commencing May 16, 2015 through May 15, 2018, and may be extended for three successive one-year periods at the discretion of the sheriff.

Forum… Or Against ‘em

By Count Friedrich von Olsen
I am an adherent of the Eleventh Commandment, which forbids me from speaking ill of a fellow Republican. We are now engaged in the early run-up to the 2016 election, and it seems like a dozen Republican presidential hopefuls have emerged. There is Jeb Bush, Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Marco Rubio, Carly Fiorina, maybe Chris Christie and a few others. I will say nothing derogatory about any of them, as they certainly present superior alternatives to whatever is on the Democratic side. But I hope my readers will forgive me if I say nothing laudatory about any of them, since in the field is a candidate I would prefer to devote my words and your attention to…
Ben Carson stands head, shoulders and most of his torso above his closest competitor. I feel I need make no case that he should be our next president beyond reciting some biographical details, which upon consideration, should convince just about anyone that I am correct. You will quickly see that he is not a politician or a man of empty rhetoric, but a man of intelligence, intensity, dedication, character, action and accomplishment…
Dr. Carson was born in Detroit, after his African-American parents moved there from rural Georgia. He was in the JROTC in high school. He was offered entry to West Point but instead went to Yale. He received his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School. At the age of 33, he became the director of pediatric neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins Hospital, the youngest major division director in the hospital’s history. He was also a co-director of the Johns Hopkins Craniofacial Center. In 1987, he was the first surgeon to successfully separate conjoined twins joined at the head. Both twins survived after a 22-hour long operation that involved a 70-member surgical team performing a series of procedures mapped out by Dr. Carson, and executed by him and a group of surgeons he personally selected….
Dr. Carson specializes in traumatic brain injuries, brain and spinal cord tumors, achondroplasia, neurological and congenital disorders, craniosynostosis, epilepsy, and trigeminal neuralgia, whatever that is. He is now a professor of neurosurgery, oncology, plastic surgery, and pediatrics. He has written six books, some of which have been bestsellers. Their titles alone speak volumes: Gifted Hands, Think Big, The Big Picture, Take the Risk, America the Beautiful, and One Nation. He has served on the boards of the Kellogg Company, Costco, and the Academy of Achievement. He is an emeritus fellow of the Yale Corporation…
He has never run for or held elective office as far as I know. I personally don’t see that as a drawback. There is some question and some risk as to whether he can translate his obvious talent and ability in the medical realm to the world of governance. There have been in American History a few examples of highly competent individuals failing to live up to their perceived potential once they came to occupy the White House. I suppose such a risk attends Dr. Carson. I for one, am willing to make that gamble, as his level of achievement thus far in his life signals he promises far more in terms of vision, leadership, commitment, perseverance, intelligence and execution than any of the others, who themselves are subject to the same or greater chance of failure or inability to actuate their vision as he is…

Harry Sheppard

By Mark Gutglueck
San Bernardino County has a much-deserved reputation for being host to self-serving and corrupt politicians. Indeed, many of its elected officials, while engaging in legitimate public service and sometimes or oftentimes doing the will of those they represent and undertaking laudable efforts, have nonetheless perfected the art of simultaneously violating the public trust, masquerading as dedicated do-gooders, while enriching themselves or their cronies. The power they possess or possessed in many cases, today and in yesteryear, renders or rendered them invulnerable to the application of justice, as those with whom they serve or served are often as corrupt as they, and no one wants or wanted to upset the apple cart. Moreover, their ability to wield the scepter they hold or held and bring home the bacon of pork barrel politics in the past persuaded and even today persuades the voters to leave them be, and they are or were returned to office to both plunder and serve.
One of the quintessentially corrupt San Bernardino County politicians, the model for many of the current crop of officials fleecing those who continue to elect them, was Henry Sheppard, a New Deal Democrat first elected to the House of Representatives from San Bernardino County in 1936. He went on to serve 14 consecutive terms until his retirement on January 3, 1965.
Sheppard was born in Mobile Alabama on January 10, 1885. He attended public schools and studied law for three years, but did not pursue that profession. Rather, he went west to work for the Santa Fe Railway, engaged in copper mining in Alaska and moved to Yucaipa, where he served as president and general manager of King’s Beverage and Kings Laboratories Corporation until 1934.
Sheppard was elected in 1936 as a New Deal Democrat to the Seventy-fifth Congress.
Among his first high profiled gambits as a member of the House of Representatives was to push for allowing expanded mining in the East Mojave Desert, a concept for which he had enthusiasm as a former miner himself and which was favored by many of his supporters.
Relatively early in his tenure as congressman, Sheppard made some political missteps, but he learned from these, and thereafter, led a relatively charmed life as a politician. It was not until the very end of his career that he would engage in a faux pas, one from which he would never recover.
One of his early learning experiences occurred when he provoked a row with the San Bernardino County Democratic Central Committee by appointing Harold Thoreson as the acting postmaster for San Bernardino shortly after Ernest Martin, the previous postmaster, died. Other members of the committee had militated for the appointment of Walter Sullivan to the position. Despite the hard feelings this generated with some members of the county Democratic party, Sheppard survived politically.
Another early mistake manifested and loomed into public view just prior to his reelection in 1938, when members of the local chapter of the American Legion in Ontario demanded a public retraction of Sheppard’s claim that the legionnaires had endorse him. They insisted they had not. Despite the momentary embarrassment and bad publicity, Sheppard was reelected.
As he matured as a politician, Sheppard learned to give the public – his constituency – not just what they truly wanted but what they thought they wanted. And he learned as well to pander to the public sentiment.
In 1939, after Congress had approved the $12.4 million San Antonio Canyon Flood Control Project which was to be constructed under the direction of the United States Army Corps of Engineers, wrangling between Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County broke out, with San Bernardino County leaders led by board of supervisors chairman C.E. Grier opposing the project as proposed on the grounds that it did not offer adequate water conservation. Sheppard joined the fray, leaping to the assistance of San Bernardino County, succeeding in having the project put on hold while changes to the project were considered.
In August 1940, during the height of a reelection campaign, Sheppard claimed he had broken his hand in an altercation in San Bernardino with a man he described as a communist.
In 1941, with the Second World War raging in Europe and a general feeling that the United States was drifting toward joining the hostilities, civic leaders from the community of Victorville, with Sheppard as their federal patron, approached the United States Army with a proposal to develop an airfield in the wide open spaces of the Mojave Desert between their town and Adelanto. As a consequence of that effort and Sheppard’s access to the Roosevelt Administration, the Victorville Air Station was completed just prior to the attack on Pearl Harbor and Army Air Corps pilots began training there in February 1942. The air station would later become George Air Force Base.
In 1942, he was instrumental in having the San Bernardino Municipal Airport converted, under Army Air Corp guidance, into what was then called the San Bernardino Army Air Field and the San Bernardino Air Depot, which was later renamed Norton Air Force Base after the creation of the Air Force in 1947.
Later in 1942 Sheppard captured both the Republican and Democratic nomination for congressman.
He remained an advocate for the mining industry, emphasizing its importance to the war effort.
In 1944 there was speculation that Democratic Senator Sheridan Downey would not seek reelection, and Sheppard was widely mentioned as his possible replacement.
With the war winding down, Sheppard went on record as opposing the U.S. Navy’s acquisition of tidelands along the California coast.
He sought to eliminate some 600,000 acres from the Josua Tree National Monument to allow a large number of mining claims to be opened for development.
In the 1948 Congressional election, Sheppard defeated Lowell Lathrop, later the San Bernardino County district attorney for 24 years.
Even when things went badly in those days, Sheppard landed on his feet. When he and his wife were snubbed at the Truman inaugural in 1949 when a White House naval aide turned them away from the reviewing stand because they did not have tickets, the story resulted in widespread sympathy for Sheppard and admiration for the equanimity with which he bore the slight.
Sheppard worked to keep California’s access to Colorado River water and in 1949 charged that Interior Secretary Julius Krug was siding with Arizona over California in the fight for Colorado River water and accused Krug’s aides of issuing “biased” reports on pending Colorado River legislation.
In March 1949, when it was revealed that the Navy was developing an aircraft carrier-based plane capable of carrying an atomic bomb, Sheppard, as the vice-chairman of the House Armed Forces Appropriations Committee, was at the rollout for the until-then top secret XAJ prototype with vice-admiral John Dale Price, the deputy chief of Naval Operations for Air, and Admiral Louis E. Denfield, the chief of Naval Operations, thus taking credit for Congressional support of the program.
In May 1949 Sheppard was key in the reactivation of Victorville Air Station.
In late 1949, Sheppard, while admitting he was “flattered” by the effort, refused to accede to a Democratic call to draft him as a candidate for California governor.
Sheppard sponsored legislation refurbishing existing, and building new, housing at Victorville Air Force Base.
In what was surely a sign of the times as well as an indication of what a political opportunist Sheppard was, in September 1950, he joined with 63 Democrats in supporting Republican Richard Nixon over Democrat Helen Douglas after she was smeared by Nixon with the accusation that she was sympathetic to communists.
In 1951, Sheppard was instrumental in getting $20 million appropriated to expand the San Bernardino Air Depot, which by that point had been renamed Norton Air Force Base
In early 1952, functioning under the assumption that Harry Truman would run for reelection that year, Sheppard headed a committee intent on selecting delegates to the Democratic National Convention that would stay loyal to the president. Meanwhile, throughout San Bernardino County, Sheppard had become something of a de facto kingmaker, able to designate candidate slates for various offices that were then given support by the Democratic party machinery.
After the Korean War ended, Sheppard voiced support for more defense spending and less foreign aid.
Sheppard took the side of cattlemen in their disputes with sheep owners seeking grazing permits in the area around Barstow and Hinkley in 1958.
He sought to have the water line from the Feather River Project routed through San Bernardino County.
He made efforts to protect the wine industry in the Cucamonga Wine District.
As co-chairman of the House Military Appropriations Committee in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he was instrumental in bringing aviation and aerospace contracts to Southern California companies and persuading military contractors to relocate their operations or portions thereof, to the greater Los Angeles area, ensuring good paying jobs for significant numbers of his constituents.
He acceded to the position of the chairmanship of the California Congressional Delegation.
After the assassination of John Kennedy, Sheppard was at the zenith of his power, a New Deal Democrat with seniority, considered to be an asset to the Johnson Administration. But in January 1964, Sheppard was unmasked as a public official who had played a convincing role as a dedicated public servant while utilizing his position to enrich himself. During a two-day period that month, he made 27 separate $10,000 deposits into 27 different banks in Washington, D.C., and communities surrounding the nation’s capital in Virginia and Maryland. Reports pertaining to the deposits reached the nation’s newspapers. He claimed that he was merely making prudent deposits of his life savings, which he had formerly kept in a safe deposit box. Instantaneously, he was no longer an asset to Lyndon Johnson and the Democrats but rather a liability. On February 20, he announced he was retiring from Congress after the completion of that term.
Sheppard did not return to San Bernardino County to live among those he had served so well, and betrayed, during his 28 years in Congress. When he died on April 28, 1969, he was residing in Rockville, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C.
There are yet streets named after Sheppard in San Bernardino County and he is honored, as well, by a legion of self-serving politicians in San Bernardino County who like him are putting to current practice his formula of giving his constituents what they want with one hand, while picking their pockets with the other.

White Skipper

The northern white-skipper is one of the speediest butterflies.
Known by its scientific name Heliopetes ericetorum, the northern white-skipper is a butterfly of the Hesperiidae family, found throughout much of Southern California, Arizona, Baja California and north-western Mexico, as well as eastern Washington and western Colorado. Its habitat consists of open woodlands, chaparral, dry washes, desert mountains and arid lands.
The white-skipper’s wingspan is one-and-a-quarter inches to one-and-a-half inches. Males have white wings with narrow black chevrons at the outer margins. Females have thicker, darker markings and have black at the wing base. Males are predominantly white in color, with marginal brown “zig-zag” markings. Females sport extensive brown markings on a cream-colored background. The forewing length on these butterflies ranges from seven-twelfths of an inch to three-quarters of an inch. There are at least two broods annually, with adults on wing from April to October.
To find females, males patrol in canyon bottoms. Females deposit eggs singly on young leaves of the host plants. Caterpillars feed on leaves
This butterfly is similar in general appearance, though larger than the Western Checkered Skipper (Pyrgus albescens). The ventral wing patterns of the two species are also distinct from one another.
Larvae feed on the leaves of mallow species, including Sphaeralcea, Althaea and Malva species. They live in shelters of rolled or tied leaves. Adult Large White Skipper butterflies like a variety of flowers for nectar, such as Rabbitbrush (Chrysothamnus nauseosus), a desert shrub with light green stems and bright yellow flowers. The large white skipper also likes Senecio douglasii flowers.
A fast-flying species, it is often observed flying swiftly down small gullies, fairly low to the ground, occasionally stopping to nectar on sage or mallow blossoms or wild buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) and fremontia (Fremontodendron). .
The butterfly ranges into the desert but most often is spotted in foothills and canyons.