By clicking on the portal below, you can download a PDF of the August 28 edition of the San Bernardino County Sentinel
By Mark Gutglueck
In what is surely a coincidence or accident of history, two San Bernardino County cities in the last fortnight took what appear to be irrevocable steps toward transferring their respective fire departments into the jurisdiction of the county fire division.
On August 19 at a specially called meeting, the Twentynine Palms City Council approved a resolution calling for Twentynine Palms’ fire protective services to be annexed by the San Bernardino County Fire District.
With councilwoman Cora Heiser dissenting, the council voted 4-1 in favor of the resolution.
On August 24, the San Bernardino County City Council voted 4-3 to outsource fire protection service in the county seat to the county through annexing the city into a fire protection district. Councilmen John Valdivia, Henry Nickel and Benito Barrios opposed the shuttering of the 137-year-old fire department.
Both the Twentynine Palms and San Bernardino changeovers yet need the blessing of the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission, which is headed by executive director Kathleen Rollings-McDonald. Both county takeover proposals are driven by financial considerations.
In 25,768-population 29 Palms, the fire department is not now nor has ever been administered by the city, which incorporated in 1987. Rather, the 29 Palms Fire Department, which has been in existence since 1957, has always been under the control of the Twentynine Palms Water District. Over the last several years, a group of residents have put pressure on the city and city council to have the city take on responsibility for the fire department.
In 2012, Rollings-McDonald and other members of the Local Agency Formation Commission staff released findings indicating that the water department’s continued stewardship of the fire department was unsustainable given the financial constraints under which it must function. District operations are entirely defrayed by an annual $80 special assessment imposed upon all residential and commercial parcels within the 55 square miles within the Twentynine Palms City Limits and the 33 square miles of unincorporated county area that also falls under the water district/fire department’s 88-square mile jurisdiction.
The city does not contribute to or in any way subsidize the operation of the fire department. Rollings-McDonald and the Local Agency Formation Commission staff came to its conclusion in some measure because that year voters within the water district jurisdiction rejected Measure H, which would have increased the special tax customers of the Twentynine Palms Water District pay to $120 per unit annually. The measure failed by a margin of 850 votes of endorsement, or 48.27 percent to 911 in opposition, or 51.73 percent, during the mail-in balloting concluded on April 17, 2012.
Thus, the department, which at its peak grew to include two fire stations and seven firefighters to cover the department’s 88-square mile jurisdiction, has been forced to downsize to function within the financial confines of the $1,244,800 in revenue from the annual proceeds of the special tax imposed on residents and businesses. Current fire chief Jim Thompson has pared operations such that the department is run out of a single fire station, employing only himself and four other paid firefighters, augmented by 28 reserve/volunteer firefighters, all of whom are aspiring professional firemen who have attended a fire academy. Nearly all of them return to their homes in the more distant areas in San Bernardino County, or Los Angeles, Orange or Riverside counties upon the conclusion of their single 24-hour shift each week.
An earlier proposal by the county to take on firefighting duties in Twentynine Palms made in 2013 was rejected after County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig said that for him to function within the $1.244 million funding limit, he would need to reduce the department to just three paid firefighters. In the interim, citizens and supporters of a locally-controlled and administered fire department have sought to wheedle, cajole, shame or beg the Twentynine Palms City council into having the city take ownership of the fire department, but a series of city managers – Richard Warne, Joe. Guzzetta, Ron Peck, Andrew Takata, and the current Frank Luckino – mindful of the city’s limited financial means and limited ability to take on further financial liabilities, advised against it. Only Heiser has said she is willing to brave the economic uncertainty and take on the fire department as a municipal division.
The water district board of directors, staggering under the responsibility of running the fire department, after years of seeking to work out a cooperative arrangement with the city for the operation of the fire department, in June called for the creation of an ad-hoc committee to consider the fire department’s fate, essentially signaling the water district would no longer go it alone in propping up the fire department. On August 5, the water district board of directors initiated on a 4-to-1 vote a service annexation application with the San Bernardino County Local Agency Formation Commission for fire protection in the city and its surrounding sphere of influence. The Twentynine Palms City Council’s vote on August 19 endorsed the water district’s request.
In San Bernardino, the fire department has been a municipal entity since 1878, nine years after the city incorporated as the county’s first city.
The decision to dissolve the fire department was a tortuous and torturous one, brought on by severe financial challenges facing the city. After more than two decades of a deteriorating local economy and several budgetary cycles of deficit spending, the city filed for Chapter Nine bankruptcy protection in 2012. Both past and current city leaders have stated the belief that some of the city’s financial challenge is attributable to what they characterize as overly generous wages guaranteed to the city’s public safety employees.
Provisions put into the San Bernardino City Charter by means of a citywide vote in 1939 – which became known as Section 186 – require that the city’s public safety employees – firefighters and police officers – be paid on a scale equal to the average pay of police officers and firefighters in ten similarly-sized California cities.
San Bernardino, the county seat and the largest city in the county, has a population of 213,708. Yearly, city officials and police and fire union heads start with a list of California cities with populations between 150,000 and 250,000. In turns, each removes a city from that list until ten remain. Salaries are then computated upon the average pay to that particular group – firefighters or fire department management or policeman or police management – in the remaining ten cities.
Despite the city’s bankruptcy filing it has continued to give firefighters and police officers raises in keeping with the provisions of Section 186 of the city charter. The city council last year put on the ballot a referendum to remove Section 186 from the city’s charter. The city’s police and fire unions strongly opposed the initiative, known as Measure Q, and in the face of the spirited campaign against it, the initiative was defeated.
In the current fiscal year, police department and fire department operations represent 68 percent of the spending out of the city’s general fund. Salaries make up the lion’s share of those departments’ operating budgets. A majority of the city council is convinced that the continuation in the escalation of public safety employee pay in a city that has declared bankruptcy and is stiffing its other creditors is both unseemly and unsustainable.
As a consequence, city manager Allen Parker, in conjunction with Mayor Carey Davis and assistant city manager Nita McKay, moved toward liquidating the fire department as part of a cost-cutting measure that would assist the city in its bankruptcy exit plan. The city sought proposals from different entities, the county, the Colton Fire Department, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and the Centerra Group, a Florida-based private company, among them. After San Bernardino County Fire and Centerra did respond with proposals, the city retained Citygate Associates to evaluate their bids.
Citygate delivered to Parker its conclusion that a long term service relationship with the county fire division, given all of the existing regional arrangements and the firefighting assets and facilities currently owned and employed by the city and the county, is the city’s best option. Parker presented Citygate’s findings to the city council.
The item brought before the city council this week did not simply call for contracting with the county fire department for service but for annexing the city into a fire protection district and then seeking from the city’s residents a $142 per year assessment on the city’s approximately 56,000 parcels, which would generate some $7.952 million in revenue under the auspices of the fire protection district. The county would then return, or in the words of critics, “kick back,” the $7.952 million to the city. Taken together with the more than $3 million to be realized by dissolving the department and contracting for the service, the city would achieve “an $11 million contribution to solvency,” according to a report by a city consultant, Management Partners.
The council’s narrow 4-3 endorsement of the plan authorizes Parker to undertake negotiations with the county and county fire district over the terms of the annexation. The council will again need to vote to ratify those terms once they are worked out and presented to the council Likewise, the county board of supervisors would need to sign off on the deal.
Assuming the Local Agency Formation Commission approves the arrangement, the city will need to get past a protest period that will include a ballot mail-in arrangement. If 50 percent plus one of the registered voters in the city object, the dissolution of the city fire department and takeover by the county fire division will not take place. If less than fifty percent plus one but 25 percent or more protest, an election must be held on the question of decommissioning the fire department.
Under a tentative proposal still to be endorsed by the county and county fire chief Mark Hartwig, the ten still functioning city fire stations would remain open, leaving the two fire stations in recent years closed by the city — Station 223 on Medical Center Drive and Station 230 on Arrowhead Avenue — shuttered. The county department would augment those ten stations with service from two county stations on the city’s periphery, in Muscoy and Devore, which the county now operates. The county would employ 41 firefighters on duty during all shifts, an increase of three from the 38 firefighters the city has per shift at present. While there is no guarantee the county will hire all of the firefighters now employed by the city, it is expected that the county will offer those below the rank of battalion chief jobs. The fate of the fire chief and the seven management level employees now employed by the city is even less certain. It has been said that for those battalion chiefs to be taken up by the county, they will need to accept demotions. That has not been officially confirmed.
The management bargaining group representing the seven senior fire department officials excluding the fire chief had prepared a counter-proposal this week but the city council did not preview it, consider it or vote on it. City attorney Gary Saenz said the group’s submission of the plan was not in compliance with the city’s procedures.
If both Twentynine Palms and San Bernardino complete the transitioning of their fire departments to the county, it will increase the number of the county’s 24 incorporated city’s relying upon the county fire division for fire service from seven to nine.
In Victorville, one of the last San Bernardino County jurisdictions where the red light camera era in Southern California persisted, is now seeing the vestiges of those systems removed. A contractor who was hired to remove the ten red light cameras at seven of the city’s intersections took out a permit to do the work on August 18 and began the removals this week.
In addition to the cameras coming down, the conductors from the city traffic signal cabinets at each of the intersections are being removed.
Across Southern California in the early 2000s, scores and then nearly one hundred cities bought into the red light camera system concept. The systems were justified as a measure that would enhance public safety while generating revenue for local cities. In most cases, that did not occur. Some reduction in red light running sporadically occurred, with what some said was a statistically verifiable but minimal decrease in more serious so-called T-bone accidents in which cars were broadsided in an intersection. At the same time, the frequency of less serious rear end collisions at intersections substantially increased. The anticipated revenue to the cities never materialized in the degree touted by the systems’ proponents. The lion’s share of revenue was claimed by the red light camera companies themselves, all of which had their corporate headquarters outside the state of California or outside the United States.
Belatedly, many municipalities learned, when they attempted to discontinue the programs, that the contracts for the camera systems imposed heavy financial penalties on the cities for early termination.
Such was the case with Victorville’s experience with Australia-based Redflex Traffic Systems. Ultimately, the Victorville’s contract with Redflex was not renewed in March by the city council and the system’s authorization ended on June 30.
Reviews of the efficacy of the cameras’ presence in Victorville were mixed. While collisions at the intersections where the cameras were employed were down by a significant 91 percent, other city intersections where the cameras were not in place saw similar 91 percent accident reductions. Simultaneously, drivers appeared to be more cautious in Victorville overall, with a 54 percent drop in accidents citywide. Nevertheless, statistics paradoxically showed that drivers in Victorville were actually running red lights more often than prior to the cameras’ installation in 2007.
In the face of substantial resident opposition, the Upland Planning Commission on August 26 unanimously recommended that the city’s general plan update be certified by the city council with relatively minor adjustments. The update was drafted by Design Community and Environment, an environmental planning company and its corporate successor PlaceWorks, with input by city staff.
In 2008 the city of Upland undertook to update its general plan, the comprehensive blueprint for the city’s development which was last revised in 1992. Initially, that effort was energetically pursued with the city introducing the plan at the Scary-Affair, Christmas parade and Upland Craft Fair in the last three months of 2008, providing a limited forum for citizen input. After two planning department-sponsored workshops, the update effort languished, during which time the downtown specific plan was written and approved. It then resurfaced over three years later at an open house in 2012. Once again the general plan disappeared from the public eye for almost three years, while the housing element was written and approved, until a notice appeared in the February utility bill this year, announcing that the plan had been completed. A public review period began on March 9 with the planning commission hearing slated for April 22. Upland Development Services Director Jeff Zwack and other officials anticipated that another public review of the document would be staged in May and that it would then go to the city council for its review and approval in June.
At 2,230 pages, the updated general plan presages changes in the nature of the city’s zoning code, with a radical departure in housing density as evidenced in the housing element of the plan allowing 55 units on a single acre while most of the city’s existing neighborhoods have fewer than eight homes per acre and the vast majority of those built more than three decades ago have fewer than six units per acre. In addition, the plan as drafted calls for four newly defined zones referred to as mixed-use, which include placing residential units atop commercial and office buildings with reduced parking for cars and enhanced bike facilities.
Gradually, as more and more of the city’s residents became aware of the implication in the proposed new general plan, opposition to it built.
In overwhelming numbers, those animated by the controversy expressed both general disapproval of how the public was not involved in forming the vision for the plan and was then being shoehorned into a very limited set of open meetings at which its input was to be obtained. Upon ever closer perusal of the specific elements of the general plan as pertained to density, land use and restrictions aimed at modifying transportation, circulation, recreational, food and entertainment options and resident behavior, opposition mushroomed.
In response, city officials lengthened the planned consideration and examination period for the document and added two public hearing dates – one for the city council and one for the planning commission – to allow for further public input.
While a number of the plan’s aspects – including measures to reduce residents’ use of cars in favor of walking, bicycling and public transportation, and restrictions on how homes can be designed for visual effect and yards can be landscaped – elicited skepticism and encountered opposition from city residents, it was by far the increases in residential density and allowances for structures as high as seven stories in what is celebrated as “The City of Gracious Living” that triggered the most ardent protest.
This level of distrust among a significant number of the city’s residents was exacerbated by the revelation that city staff had created a “red lined” document, i.e., one containing staff’s emendations to the new general plan as originally drafted, which staff was refusing to release publicly. On July 22, Zwack acknowledged the so-called “red lined document” indeed existed, but he said it represented a work product that was not finalized, calling it a “midstream document.” He refused to release it, boosting claims by increasingly doubtful residents that city staff was being far too secretive about exactly what would be in the final draft presented to the city council.
Indeed, when the refined document was revealed by staff just prior to the planning commission hearing at which the commission’s vote on whether that panel should recommend its passage to the city council, residents learned that the protests about the high density levels permitted in residential neighborhoods had resulted in only minimal changes.
After holding public hearings on two other planning issues on Wednesday night, August 26, the planning commission got around to reviewing the proposed new general plan. In a gesture toward accommodating the widespread resident discomfiture with the increased density envisioned in the plan, the planning department added that residential projects over 15 units per acre will only be considered under a conditional use permit and will go before the planning commission. The other hotly contested issue, the community benefits program, was temporarily removed from the plan and will come back to the commission for further review. The community benefits program gives the city’s development services director sole discretion in handing out those density concessions which can boost the permissible number of units on an acre. Of some moment was that none of the planning commission members appeared to have read the entire document, as they evinced ignorance or mystification at some of its contents, and were relying upon staff’s representations as to its substance. At one point, planning commission chairman Gary Schwary expressed surprise at the community benefits element, saying at one point he wanted it removed.
Previously, resident Diane Fedele met with Zwack where he reported that edits were being made to replace language such as “sustainable” and “smart growth”. She warned him then and at the July 22 planning commission meeting that it would only look deceitful and cause more public outrage.
Ignoring her warning and in a less than deft effort to mollify the crowd, the commission responded to protests concerning the “in lieu of car use” option laid out in the plan by removing its reference in one paragraph that references the preference of having walking, biking and bus travel as the predominant means of transportation. Nevertheless, the goal of reduced car use remains throughout the document, prompting one of the general plan update’s most vocal critics, Marilyn Mills, to express the view that “These edits are just cosmetic.”
Mills was at the forefront of the opposition movement that has called for a wholesale redrafting of the plan before it is adopted. That movement included a website created by residents built around the slogan “Don’t Urbanize Upland.”
In addition to belaboring the density issue, the residents took exception with several so-called “smart growth” principles layered into the plan. Smart growth is a set of guidelines related to development now much in vogue with urban planners, which embraces densely packed residential units in close proximity to commercial uses and transportation corridors. It is based on Agenda 21, a United Nations document that envisions large population concentrations in confined areas, using shared and intensified infrastructure, amenities and resources all under the aegis of environmentalism. Many Upland residents have expressed the view that Agenda 21 and its smart growth standards are antithetical to traditional living standards and quality of life approaches in Upland.
Mills attempted to warn the commission that the new plan will embrace a “climate action plan,” known by the acronym CAP. The climate action plan, Mills said, is being pushed by a regional planning entity, Southern California Association of Governments, known by its acronym, SCAG. SCAG does not have dictatorial power over local planning and land use, Mills said, and adhering to its agenda is voluntary, she insisted. But buying into the climate action plan will entail falling under standards being set statewide pertaining to reducing vehicle miles traveled and the drawdown in the output of greenhouse gases. Once the city falls under the climate action plan regime, Mills said, there will be no turning back. “It just gets worse and worse,” Mills said. “It mandates reduction goals year after year. SCAG cannot mandate it but once you agree you are locked in. It will be hugely expensive for our community.”
Mills seemed to serve as a lightning rod for the commission’s disdain toward those resisting the general plan update. She and others had collected the signatures of 562 residents in less than two weeks on a petition saying they are opposed to the update as framed.
Schwary was dismissive of that petition, suggesting that it carried no meaning because the signers had been unduly influenced by Mills’ underlying opposition to the plan update.
The commission, after a three hour discussion and input, rejected the calls by the majority of those in attendance to hold off on making any recommendation until it is seriously redrawn. At the midnight hour its members voted unanimously to recommend that the city council adopt it.
After the meeting, Mills was scathing in her review of the commission’s action. “They are not an independent commission,” she said. “They haven’t even completely read what they voted on. They are a rubber stamp for Jeff Zwack and city staff.”
More light was shed this week on the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department’s involvement in the provision of so-called mental competency restoration services for inmates.
Publicly disclosed this week is that the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, where a pilot program for mental competency restoration was established in 2010, is now hosting a mental illness management facility that caters not just to county inmates but ones brought in from other locations throughout the state.
This week members of the county board of supervisors were informed that Los Angeles County had delayed sending inmates in need of psychiatric care to West Valley and that the department is now actively inviting 56 of the state’s other counties to ship its non compos mentis inmates to the Rancho Cucamonga facility.
Once a trial court finds a defendant mentally incompetent to stand trial and orders the defendant committed to a state mental hospital for care and treatment to restore competence in order to be processed through the justice system, the state mental hospital has 90 days to make a written report to the court concerning the defendant’s progress toward recovery of mental competence.
According to Kathy Wild, the sheriff’s department’s health care administrator, “The demand for restorative programming and treatment at the state hospital level has been increasing over the past decade so that many individuals are forced to wait in the county jail for months until a bed is available. This wait creates an extended period of incarceration for the inmate and excessive delays in the adjudication of their criminal charges.”
As part of an effort to clear the county’s jails of this backlog of inmates awaiting admission to the state mental hospital system, the county in 2010 hit upon the idea of bringing in a psychiatrist who would provide to those inmates in the county jail the same services those inmates would receive in a state mental hospital.
In recent years, dealing with mentally deranged and challenged criminals has become profitable to a limited set of medical professionals with expertise within the psychiatric sciences that can make competency certifications. Among those is Orange County-based psychiatrist Thomas C. Lester M.D., who has long been doing business as Liberty Healthcare of California, Inc.
In May of 2010, the California Department of Mental Health contracted with Liberty (State Agreement No. 09-79156-000) to establish a pilot program to provide restoration of mental competency services in a county jail. On June 22, 2010, the board of supervisors approved a revenue agreement with Liberty to allow West Valley Detention Center to be used as a site for a state pilot program to provide restoration of mental competency services to county inmates. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s department allocated 20 beds in a sheltered housing unit for use by Liberty and assigned a deputy to provide security for Liberty’s staff. On June 4, 2013 the board approved Agreement No. 13-367 to continue the program until June 30, 2016.
The state of California has created economic incentives to promote the mental competency restoration concept, which has led to some questionable actions by governmental entities and psychiatric professionals in the scramble for the money.
In April, Lester, who has realized a substantial profit over the previous four years and nine months on a no-bid contract, was given another one-year, no-bid $4.7 million contract.
When Lester first obtained what was a relatively modest contract with the county of San Bernardino in 2010 under the auspices of the experimental “pilot program,” competitive bids were bypassed. Since that time, his contract has been renewed without any competitive bidding. That arrangement has proven highly lucrative for Lester.
While the first contract Lester’s company landed with the county for the three-year period between July 1, 2010 to June 30, 2013 specified a not-to-exceed $499,977 annual cost, not including the cost of medication, the contract approved in April zoomed to more than nine times the original cost, $4,756,536 for the period from June 1, 2015 to May 31, 2016.
San Bernardino County officials were disinclined, however, to limit Lester’s profit taking, as the county likewise has a financial interest in the program continuing. By utilizing a psychiatrist to provide mental competency restoration services to inmates deemed to be mentally incompetent within the jail setting as opposed to transferring them to a state mental hospital, the county stands to obtain reimbursement of $10,857,697.44 from the state this fiscal year. .
Currently, The California Department of State Hospitals has insufficient beds within the state hospitals, thereby creating lengthy waiting lists of inmates in county jails, including those in San Bernardino County, who are in need of mental competency restoration services. To address this shortage, the California Department of State Hospitals contracted with the sheriff’s department to provide access to portions of the West Valley Detention Center to administer the Jail Based Competency Treatment Program and provide inmates, from both Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, with restoration of competency treatment services similar to those provided in state mental hospitals, for up to 76 patient inmates. It was his commitment to administer that program at West Valley Detention Center that netted Lester the current $4.7 million contract.
In April, sheriff’s captain Shannon Dicus, who was then the sheriff’s department’s official spokesman, said, ““This program would allow inmates to begin treatment faster and significantly decrease the time these individuals remain incarcerated due to a faster adjudication of their criminal charges.” At that time, Dicus did not address the consideration that a significant number of those being administered to under the program were not San Bernardino County inmates or awaiting trial in San Bernardino County courts but were rather inmates anticipated to come from Los Angeles County.
Dicus has now moved on to become the commander of the West Valley Detention Center. Taking his place as department spokesman is lieutenant Samuel Fisk. According to Fisk, “Administrative issues have delayed the referral of inmates from Los Angeles County into the program. As a result, the California Department of State Hospitals has requested the contract be amended to include participation by any California county in order to maximize the usage of the available treatment services. Currently, the California Department of State Hospitals has insufficient beds within its state hospital system.”
A combination of federal, state and school district money will be used to provide a half million dollars worth of psychiatric services annually over the next three years to students in the Upland Unified School District.
The $1,500,000 cost for school-based mental health services through the end of the school year in 2018 will be funded with 50 percent Medi-Cal Federal Financial Participation, 36 percent available 2011 Realignment revenue, and a 14 percent agency match funded by the school district..
According to CaSonya Thomas, the director of the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health, “Upland Unified School District provides a range of mental health services tailored to meet the needs of students who are Medi-Cal beneficiaries including assessments, crisis interventions, medication support, plan development, and therapy. In addition, services are provided to adolescents who are described as dually diagnosed, which is a designation to describe an individual who has a mental health disorder and a substance use disorder. Upland Unified School District provides these school-based mental health services as required under the Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment (EPSDT) program, a federally mandated Medicaid option. The intent of the program is to extend Medi-Cal coverage to their students to assist in the identification of each student’s physical/mental needs and to provide appropriate treatment in order to correct and/or improve their physical/mental condition.”
Thomas said “The department of behavioral health anticipates that the school district will provide services to approximately 202 students (approximately 67 annually) at an estimated cost of $7,426 per student.”
This is in stark contrast to the cost of a similar program in the Ontario-Montclair and Chino Valley Unified school districts, where roughly $2.5 million in taxpayer funds is budgeted for psychiatric services being provided to approximately 5,619 students (1,873 annually) at an estimated cost of $881 per student.
County officials said that the $7,426 per student figure for Upland Unified merely reflected the amount of money budgeted for the program based upon an initial projection of how many students in that district might need services. The budgeted amount was unlikely to equal the actual amount to be spent on the program per student in actuality, they said. The reason that the budget in Upland was based on projections, county officials said, was because the program is just being initiated there and, in contrast, it has been in place in Ontario-Montclair and in Chino Unified for some time.
“This is the initial contract for school based services with Upland Unified School District,” Karen Cervantes of the department of behavioral health told the Sentinel. “The contract includes an estimate of the cost per student as well as startup costs. Actual cost per student will depend on the amount of service individual students receive and that will vary by student. The actual cost will become clear as student services are provided. The average cost for school based services per student in San Bernardino county is approximately $3,400. The estimation of a higher cost does not incur expenses or affect the county. Any unused funds will amount to cost savings.”
The contract with Upland Unified School District for school-based mental health services, Thomas said, “is possible due to the ability of the school district to contribute the required match for 2011 Realignment funding and their ability to leverage State Department of Education funding to offer school-based mental health services to children with disabilities and to children living in foster families. Based on the critical need for school-based mental health services for students, the department of behavioral health is requesting approval of the non-competitive contract with Upland Unified School District to provide specialty mental health services to their students. [The county] purchasing [department] classifies the contract as specialized services as the school district provides services to students within their districts without utilizing any local dollars.”
Previously, in response to concern in the Ontario-Montclair and Chino Unified school districts about subjecting students to psychiatric care, treatment, monitoring and evaluation, either with or without parental consent, due to the stigma that is attached to mental illness or any indication thereof, Teresa Frausto, M.D., the San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health’s medical director, told the Sentinel “The San Bernardino County Department of Behavioral Health aims to ensure all of our clients are given strict confidentiality and receive the highest quality of care. Children in schools have very diverse needs when it comes to mental health services. Those referred for services are assessed with parental consent and provided services in a confidential manner.”
Six of the principals and employees of the California New Business Bureau came before the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors this week to register their indignation at the passage of a new county ordinance that was given first and second readings at the board’s July 28 and August 11 meetings. They asked that the board reconsider its action and rescind the ordinance.
Ordinance 4282 prohibits soliciting at any county facilities. Though the language in the ordinance does not limit the prohibition to any single county building or department, Terry Thompson, the county’s director of real estate services, submitted a report that accompanied the item on the board agenda on July 28 which stated “There have been some issues at county facilities, including aggressive solicitation of county patrons at the Hall of Records. The adoption of this ordinance will add Chapter 30 to Division 1 of Title 4 of the San Bernardino County Code to prohibit solicitation to market or advertise products, services, or property by any person, association, body politic, group or other entity on county property. The chapter would apply whether in the unincorporated or incorporated area of the county.”
The California New Business Bureau, which has offices in Norwalk in Los Angeles County, Santa Ana in Orange County and San Bernardino in San Bernardino County, offers a full line of services to start-up and existing businesses with regard to filing for corporation or partnership status, permits, licenses, establishing trademarks, registering and other applications with regard to operating a business. A major line of service at the company’s San Bernardino location, which is located across the parking lot from the county’s Hall of Records, is assisting those applying for fictitious business names in the county recorder’s office.
The California New Business Bureau’s proximity to the Hall of Records and its practice of stationing its employees near the county facility and approaching those going into or coming out of the recorder’s office, which is located on the ground floor of Hall of Records, earlier this year prompted the county to post signs informing the public that California New Business Bureau employees are not employed by the county. In response, the California New Business Bureau issued its employees identifying insignia to prevent any confusion.
In July, the county came forth with Ordinance 4282, which adds elements to the county code prohibiting solicitation at county facilities.
On August 25, Steve Duque, one of the managing partners of the California New Business Bureau, offered his view that “San Bernardino County is singling out and targeting” his company “with Ordinance 4282, which prohibits us from soliciting in front of county buildings. We find it amazing that with so many problems plaguing San Bernardino County such as pot dispensaries, gangs and drug problems and murder rates that are at an all time high that the county has decided to go after and target us, a couple of solicitors passing out business cards in front of the county clerk’s offices. Our co-workers are not only parents and heads of their households, but are also God-fearing, taxpaying, law abiding citizens of San Bernardino County. What we do has been taking place in your county for years with lawyers and bail bondsmen soliciting business in front of your court buildings, police stations and county jails, yet when we went to go get a copy of the ordinance that was passed a couple of weeks ago, the clerk at the window told us the ordinance was made specifically for the county recorder building where we are at. Why? For a safety hazard? We stand in a public place specifically made for the public. We have every permit and license required by the city and county to operate our business lawfully, yet we are the problem. I think the goal should be keeping small businesses in San Bernardino County and not running them out. We represent 18 newspapers in three different counties, and are prepared to launch a media campaign with them and the TV news to plead our case to see what the public thinks of what is being done to us by our publicly elected officials. We don’t think – we know what is being done to us by passing this ordinance is unfair and unconstitutional and are prepared to make justice fulfilled.”
Emilio Mendoza, who manages the San Bernardino California New Business Bureau office, said, “We are business people. We provide the service of corporations and tax IDs and seller’s permits. We give the people the knowledge they need to be entrepreneurs in San Bernardino County. We ask that you would promote that.”
Eleazar Duque, another principal in the company, told the board, “We are a company that has provided jobs and for the last thirteen years we have been able to abide by the rules in Los Angeles and Orange County. If you have an ordinance and write rules, we can abide by them, obeying whatever the law is, but don’t single us out and write a law to put us out of business. We provide in this little office ten jobs. Ten families take a check home. They are proud to do that and I am proud to be part of them. We continue to provide jobs. We don’t take jobs away from anybody, although some people in the county feel as though we are taking away something. No. This is a win-win-win situation; a win for the county, a win for the workers of the county, a win for the customer and a win for us because we assist and make the work easier for the county workers, we make the work easier for our clients and in turn we take a check home, which is what we strive for. We work hard. We work ethically. We don’t take anybody’s money we don’t deserve and if there’s a complaint, we have a refund policy. We want to follow the rules.”
Constance Hatten, an employee, told the board of supervisors she had moved to San Bernardino from Los Angeles County and “I struggled to find a job in San Bernardino. I searched for a job for about a year-and-a-half when I finally found a job with the California New Business Bureau. That’s when the quality of my life did go up. I am able to provide an income for my family. I am pleading with you for… this ordinance to change because if it doesn’t, my job is on the line.”
Sirena Tolman, who has worked with the California New Business bureau for eight years, told the supervisors, “I want to show my kids what it’s like to have responsibility and do something with your life and to get an education and pursue a career that they want and need. With this ordinance being passed, I feel that San Bernardino County is making it hard for small businesses, for us to be able to provide for our families and take that time and to show them responsibility. I feel they are singling us out and not letting us pass out business cards. I don’t understand what harm that does – to pass out business cards and to promote our business and promote what we do. There’s people who do it all day long. I don’t understand why the county of San Bernardino is taking it so personal that we stand out and we hand out business cards.”
Manuel Torres explained to the board members that “I have a wife and three kids. For about three years I was struggling. I was in and out of houses, trying to feed my kids. I’ve been an employee for about two years now. I’ve been blessed to work for this company. It has brought a whole new life to me and my kids. I’ve been stable since I’ve been working here. I can’t ask for anything more. I’m a taxpayer and I’m also a resident of the county of San Bernardino. I just ask you guys to let us work like everybody else and pay our taxes. We provide a service to people who do not know what to do.”
The county is buying $2 million worth of prepaid bus passes, train passes, gas cards and debit cards to be provided county residents who are eligible to receive state-mandated supportive services through the county’s human services division and its two sub-agencies, children and family services and the transitional assistance department over the next three years. According to a report by Linda Haugan, the assistant executive officer for the county’s human services division, presented by Haugan’s deputy executive officer, Art Gomez, “To help individuals meet their basic needs (financial, medical, nutritional). human services department clients are provided with a variety of support services that require the issuance of prepaid negotiables, such as assistance with transportation and basic needs for clients meeting specific criteria. In these cases human services departments provide transportation assistance by issuing prepaid bus and train passes, prepaid gas cards, and in some cases issue prepaid debit cards for use in purchasing essentials such as food, clothing, diapers and school supplies.”
The program is funded with approximately 74 percent – $1,477,000 – federal and state funds and 26 percent – $523,000- state Realignment revenue.
$520,000 in bus/train passes and gas cards will be distributed to children and family service clients. $3,000 in debit cards will be distributed to children and family service clients. $1,477,000 in bus/train passes and gas cards will be distributed to transitional assistance department clients.
Vendors for prepaid bus and train passes will include, but will not be limited to: Needles Area Transit, Foothill Transit Authority, the Mountain Area Transit Authority, Metrolink, Morongo Basin Transit Authority, Omnitrans, Riverside Transit Agency and Victor Valley Transit Authority. Vendors for prepaid gas and debit cards will include, but will not be limited to: Valero, Conoco, Ross, Safeway and Stater Brothers Markets.
Gomez said, “The issuance of prepaid negotiables enables human services departments to comply with federal and state mandates of protecting children and adults, stabilizing families and providing supportive services.”
Some of my readers are hearing impaired. They will be pleased to learn that Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, which is the main campus of the county hospital, has entered into a voluntary compliance agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office that will ensure that those who are deaf or severely hard of hearing will be able to communicate with the medical staff there…
While Arrowhead Regional is by most of the reports I have received a well run-institution, in 2012 a deaf woman told the U.S. Department of Justice that personnel there had not provided her with a certified sign language-capable interpreter so she could stay up to speed with regard to the care being given to her husband during his stay at the hospital. Subsequent to that, another woman, also deaf, lodged a complaint that while she was a patient at Arrowhead Regional, no sign language interpreter was available for her…
According to a government statement, federal investigators looked into the matter and a dialogue with Arrowhead Regional administrators was begun, leading, according to the government, to “extensive discussions with the hospital. Arrowhead Regional agreed to voluntarily resolve the allegations.”
According to U.S. Attorney Eileen M. Decker, “People who are deaf or hard of hearing have a right to clear and effective communication with physicians, nurses and all hospital staff members in order to ensure that they and loved ones receive the same medical care that is available to every other person.” I agree…
Have you heard? California’s legislators are about to hit us with a triple whammy on driving our cars. Senate Bill 16 would hike the current state gas tax by 10 cents a gallon, impose another r10 cents per gallon tax on the storage of gasoline [that’s a 20 cents per gallon total increase], raise the annual car registration fees for all vehicles by $35 and subject zero-emission cars to another $100 annual fee.
Why are lawmakers in Sacramento doing this? Because, they say, the state is out of money needed to repair state highways and roads. They need $60 billion complete the job and are looking to raise a quick $15 billion to get started.
The thing is, in California we already have the highest gasoline tax in the country, which is a primary factor in California having the highest gasoline costs in the nation. The justification for us paying those exorbitant taxes on our gasoline was so the state could build a state highway and road maintenance and repair fund to keep our transportation system in tip-top shape. What happened? The legislature and current and past governors raided that transportation fund and used the money for doing things other than keeping our highways and roads in good condition In other words, they stole from us…
I have a solution. I will author a piece of legislation in lieu of Senate Bill 15, The Count’s Transportation Tax Legislative Reform Act of 2015. It will require the state to refund to everyone in the state the gas tax they paid over the last seven years that was not used for highway and road repairs and institute a requirement that all gas tax paid heretoforward can be spent on nothing other than highway and road repair…
Now, if you will indulge me, I will repair to the front yard where I will watch Anthony and Hudson undertake to wash my Bentley…
By Mark Gutglueck
In Hesperia, Apple Valley and Lucerne Valley, where the soil consisted of a deep and rich mixture of disintegrated granite and sediment, the climate was suitable for all order of fruit except citrus and in each of those remote communities, the late 1880s and early 1890s were characterized by the efforts of earnest farmers to cultivate apple, pear, cherry and fig orchards and vineyards.
James Goulding, a former Indian fighter, was driving a herd of cattle through Hesperia in the early 1880s and arrived hours after an unseasonable snow storm. The entire community was helping harvest a crop of red apples before the frost ruined the fruit. Impressed by the agricultural potential Goulding was sold on the area. He moved to Lucerne Valley in the 1890s and started the Box S Ranch, which became a landmark for weary mining men and cattlemen who watered their horses at his wide troughs, fed with artesian waters. His fruit orchard provided more treats and his hospitality was a legend. He lived into old age, residing in a small house to the rear of the Jackrabbit Cafe owned by Lou Cowan and his attractive wife. Dr. A
F. Robinson and his family later purchased the Box S. Ranch.
In 1890, the county board of supervisors, at the prompting of then-supervisor John A. Johnson and with the backing of Jacob Victor, approved the construction of a bridge across the Mojave River at the Upper Mojave Narrow. It was completed in September 1890, but during tests of its load bearing capacity later that month, it collapsed when a 20-mule team and a full wagon of ore gingerly attempted to traverse it, with roughly half of the townspeople of Victor looking on in horror. The following year, the county rebid the contract and by 1892, a sounder means of crossing the river at the same location was in place.
In February 1893 a Minnesota company purchased outright or bought options on property that carried with it the existing water claims around the Mojave River and a suitable site for a dam and reservoir above the Upper Mojave Narrows, seeking to build a 175-foot high and 150-foot-wide dam that would house enough water to irrigate 250,000 acres in the High Desert. When the Panic of ‘93 hit later that year, the resolve to continue the effort dissolved. A handful of the participants reformed as another corporation based in Springfield, Illinois, still intent upon a venture to harness the Mojave River. That effort, too, foundered. But in 1895, J.W. Wilson and the corporation he had formed, the Columbia Colonization Company of Chicago, bought the Victor reservoir project for a promissory note of $80,000. The Colombia Colonization Company then entered into agreements with land owners who had homesteaded 320-acre ranges to permanently provide those homesteaders with water in exchange for 280 of their acres. Questions about the legality of the water land bargains emerged and the Columbia Colonization Company subsequently faltered when it failed to deliver on its promissory note to the Springfield, Illinois company, which then attempted to reassert its water rights and possession of the dam site.
That scheme was superseded by another group of speculators, the Appleton Land and Water Company of Los Angeles, led by P. D. Hatch. Hatch’s plan was to construct a dam much closer to the ultimate source of the water, more than 11 miles above the Victor reservoir to not only control the flow of the Mojave River itself but to reroute a major portion of the water flow coming northward down the slopes of the San Bernardino Mountains in flumes and aqueducts eastward on the other side of Hesperia.
At that time, both wells and the Mojave River were being tapped by a handful of farmers who planted non-citrus orchards in what would eventually become known as Apple Valley.
Simultaneously, up in the San Bernardino Mountains, the Arrowhead Reservoir Company had formed. That company’s goal was in no small part crosswise of what were the intentions of the Appleton Land and Water Company and other speculators in the desert in that it had designs to dam up the water at a spot in the mountains and then divert the water through a tunnel to be dug and blasted out through the mountains southward to irrigate San Bernardino, Highland, Redlands, Colton and other growing communities well removed from the Victor Valley.
These competing designs and claims on the Mojave River’s water intensified in the late 1890s.
In 1899, Gifford Pinchot, head of the U.S. Division of Forestry, which would later become the United States Forest Service, personally came through the Victor Valley during a tour of California and its vast undeveloped wildlands. Upon his return to Washington, he commissioned a comprehensive survey of the Mojave River watershed. After President William McKinley was succeeded by the more conservation-minded Theodore Roosevelt, the Newlands Reclamation Act, authored by congressman Francis G. Newlands of Nevada, was passed by Congress in 1902, funding irrigation projects for the arid lands of the American West.
The act’s passage set off a second round of even more intensive and bitter legal battles between the Arrowhead Reservoir Company, and nearly all of the water interests along the Mojave River. The Hesperia Land and Water Company, led by its then-president, W. A. Field, in both legal and bureaucratic filings, maintained that the Arrowhead Reservoir Company’s proposed project would deplete, obstruct or eradicate the natural flow of water into the Mojave River. To neutralize the resistance to its project, the Arrowhead Reservoir Company, composed of its own small stakes West Coast investors who were backed by a syndicate of larger stakeholders from the East Coast assembled and headed by James Westwater of Ohio, employed Arthur E. Poole of Los Angeles to purchase options on the properties and ranches lying along the lower Mojave River, including the land held by the Columbia Colonization Company and the Verde Ranch, originally developed by John Brown and his two sons but by that time owned by E.C. Sterling. By these purchases, Poole secured for the Arrowhead Reservoir Company the lion’s share of water rights along the Mojave River through the Victor Valley, including the property that had been intended as dam and reservoir sites in the area. In 1904, the Arrowhead Reservoir Company commenced construction of a dam in the mountains.
In February 1906, it was revealed that Poole and Westwater were affiliated with the Arrowhead Reservoir Company, prompting them to announce that they intended, in a project ostensibly unrelated to the Arrowhead undertaking, to construct a dam in the Victor Valley along the Mojave River that would be used for both irrigation and power generation. There is some question as to whether that representation was a sincere one. While Poole and Westwater in fact contracted with a firm from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that had built a reservoir in Columbus, Ohio and declared the intention of initiating construction on the Victorville Dam by July 1906, by that summer, Westwater’s East Coast co-investors were expressing doubts about any large projects in California in the wake of the San Francisco Earthquake. As the Arrowhead Reservoir Company’s access to capital dried up and Poole failed to make good on the $335,000 promissory note he had provided to Sterling in exchange for the 4,000-acre Verde Ranch, he instituted a series of financial maneuvers including securing short term loans and making partial payments to prevent Sterling from reassuming title to the property. Ultimately Poole was unsuccessful and the Arrowhead Reservoir Company was not able to retain control of the Verde Ranch or its attendant water rights.
Over the next two-and-a-half years, The Arrowhead Reservoir Company continued to assert its Mojave River Basin water claims, making renewals on them every two months. But during the same time frame, Field and his Hesperia Land and Water Company claimed to have indisputable possession or control over 33,000 acres bordering the river. Field marshaled his company’s filing for one million miners inches on both forks of the Mojave, which predated the Arrowhead Reservoir Company’s competing claims by more than two years, to assert that his company’s rights to the disputed water eclipsed the rights Poole adduced. The Hesperia Land and Water Company had consistently utilized 5,000 inches of water from the East Fork every year for two decades, establishing, Field maintained, an inviolable right that would legally preclude the Arrowhead Reservoir Company or any other entity from diverting the Mojave River’s water away from the desert.
In 1909, a slew of other riparian owners along the Mojave filed suits against the Arrowhead Reservoir Company to prevent the diversion of the San Bernardino Mountain water away the Mojave River Basin. While these suits were pending, the California Supreme Court entered a judgment in a case in the San Joaquin Valley involving a similar proposed rechanneling of water from its natural drainage area which barred such diversions where they would negatively impact existing agricultural operations.
Thereafter, the company’s subsidiary, the Arrowhead Lake Company, pursued transforming the once-contemplated reservoir site into a resort, completing that project, which had only minimal impact on the flow of water northward into the Mojave Desert, in 1922.
In 1897, Victor had a population of 617. A freighting station was the major business. There was also a blacksmith and a livery, three hotels, two general stores, a wholesale liquor store, a saloon, three eating establishments and a Chinese laundry.
In 1904, at the importuning of the U.S. Postal Service, the name of Victor was changed to Victorville to prevent the misrouting of mail because of the existence of another town bearing the same name in Colorado.
By 1907, the town had grown to nearly 2,000 and a new railroad depot was constructed. That same year, there were 55 first through eighth grade students attending Victorville’s lone school, a two room affair, located at 6th and C streets. There was no local high school and those who wanted to attend one needed to travel to San Bernardino and board there Monday through Friday to further their juvenile education.
Records show that by 1908, Victroville had 79 students crowded into the two-room school and the town’s fledgling school board used its authority to sell $2,500 in school bonds to add two more rooms to the schoolhouse.
In 1908, Mrs. E.M. Potts in conjunction with a group of Los Angeles investors, sought to adapt the lime burning operations owned by F. O . Wyman in the vicinity of Oro Grande into a cement plant. Mrs. Potts undertook the project as a complement to her husband’s Southern California real estate ventures. By 1910 the construction of the Golden State Portland Cement Company plant in Oro Grande and Mrs. Potts brought in W. P. Echdahl, the former manger of a cement plant in Chicago, to run it.
By 1911, Victorville had grown to the extent that it was a magnet for mercantilism and existed as the center of trade in the area, so much so that by 1911, a de facto government for the town was established in the form of the Victorville Chamber of Commerce.
The National Old Trails Road, also known as the Ocean-to-Ocean Highway, was established in 1912, and became part of the National Auto Trail system in the United States. Running 2,448 miles from Baltimore, Maryland to California, it passed through Victorville.
In September 1913 Dr. H. E. Sweet undertook the publication of the weekly Victor News-Herald, which contained as one of its features the California Farmer Section.
In October 1913, a San Francisco corporation, of which J. R. Wilbur was president, Ray K. Barrows vice president and A. L. Dahl secretary and treasurer, filed an application at the San Francisco office of the U.S. Forestry Service for a right of way to dig a tunnel twenty miles long through a portion of the San Bernardino Mountains to divert flood waters from the Mojave River to provide power and irrigation to citrus orchards in and around the cities of San Bernardino, Redlands and Riverside, and through the wide expanse of territory in that vicinity, where an abundance of water would be useful for orange cultivation. One of the corporation’s board members was Albert Eugene Boynton, at that time the speaker pro tem of the California State Senate. Wilbur’s corporation proposed locating a reservoir for the water at Victorville and a powerhouse to be driven by the gravity fed water in San Bernardino.
The October 17, 1913 edition of the Victor News Herald warned its readership of the threat to the area’s water resource in a headline that read “WOULD STEAL THE RIVER A San Francisco Capitalist Would Tunnel 20 Miles to Drain the Mojave”
In the body of the News-Herald article it was stated : “Let us whisper right here a word that will stand. The water CANNOT be deflected. Not for a moment will the people of Victor Valley stand for any such scheme. They want that water and will fight for it to the end of time. They will not for their lives permit any corporation to take from their homes and the land that needs it the waters of the north watershed to supply to irrigation on the south.”
The day after the News-Herald’s exposé, the chamber of commerce with all due haste called an emergency meeting and at the suggestion of its reclamation committee chairman, John D. Reavis, voted to increase the chamber’s irrigation committed from five to fourteen members and to, according to the News-Herald, “to retain the most competent water attorney and engineer available.” The committee was instructed to immediately file a protest with the government against the granting of a permit for right of way for a tunnel to divert water from the Victor Valley’s watershed to the San Bernardino Valley, the News-Herald reported “on the grounds that it is contrary to law.”